by: Teresa B Pasquale on August 20th, 2012 | 2 Comments »
In my last article I discussed The Wild Goose Festival as a paradigm shift. Now I want to explore the shift in a greater, and lengthier context as I lead into describing (in coming articles) the way it is informing and being informed by a larger global culture, a larger spiritual and religious culture, and shifts within all which also lead to increased conversations within and outside of all current contexts of identity. We are restructuring the world, in tiny steps so small that it is often hard to see at the micro-level.
I think the greatest piece of this is the understanding that there is something bigger and better in God than we ever before conceptualized. We are beginning to see that within “my Christianity,” “my Judaism,” “my Islam,” “my Buddhism” there is a small sliver of God we are allowed to see, illuminated both through our own personal sacred texts and our visceral experiences of God in relationship to the faith we have learned (or as I sometimes call it, “faith of origin”). The second half to this is that we are realizing that my sliver of God-light and your sliver of God-light emanate from the same source and that saying that is no longer easily poo-pooed as heretical within my tradition but enhancing the basis of my traditional understanding with a God greater than we have ever been able to see or frame in our world-view before.
We are able to see that God can be many things to many people and to say that doesn’t make me a heretical Christian but makes me a Christian able to see God’s light from many different angles–like a prism refracting and dividing the sun’s light and sending it outward in millions of different directions.
The Bible is littered with reference to this oneness. God refracts it through many voices and this theological idea is found in many of the teachings of Jesus such as, “there are many rooms in my father’s house,” (John 14:2).
Two books which have informed this philosophy–previously and presently–in my life are You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield and the newly published God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Mirabai Starr (who I can say is my favorite translator of ancient texts). They are two voices of many more who are fostering this conversation within and between traditions, and I will be discussing more on both books in detail in a upcoming articles as well.
We are, currently, living in a broken and divisive world which is beginning to see the ridiculous in it’s own rigidity–slowly and haltingly. We don’t like to see outside of what we “know” and we fight it with all our might. So often the battle for new ideas comes through histories of bloody battles, and violent reactions of those afraid of change and awakening.
I was watching The Matrix last night and reminded of how often, many of us, would prefer to live in a fictional reality than eat the blue pill and see the truth. Even the rise in reality television and viewership is a depiction of that fact. We’d rather sit in front of a television and watch the half fictional “true lives” of not-so-real people then face up to the reality of our dented world.
Inquisition: The Pain of Rebirth
I am in the middle of working on a piece of book-length fiction titled Barefoot Saints based on the lives of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and a friendship as well as a legacy born out of the violent sputtering of a world on the verge of changing–fighting off the “different” and “foreign” and “unwanted change” with violent means. The Inquisition (a 700-year battle against changing times and a growing world-view) was a series of reflections of a society fighting it’s own evolution.
The Spanish fought to eradicate Judaism (which was the cultural heritage of both John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila only two generations backward in their family tree) by humiliating and threatening Judaic practice out of the Jewish population in their country. They fought to smother any permutation of God that did not fit their rules or system (including Islam of the Moors, Judaism, and any version or subculture of Christianity that did not look like the Roman Catholic Church as it was).
I see so many reflections of where we are historically with this time and in my research and the lens of this comparison I stumbled upon the book God’s Jury by Cullen Murphy (of Vanity Fair) which wittily and wisely articulates this very comparison. I see these hysterical, absolutist, fundamentalist sputterings in the world as the last violent struggle of a society trying to avoid the change of perspective which is being propelled forward by a broadening of understanding and, with that, an opening of all fields for re-assessment. Religion being at the top of that priority list.
God doesn’t need to change. The only thing that needs to change is our perception of God, which has become so rigid it is stagnant. We must begin to trace the refractions back to the source and see the sun more clearly in it’s entirety if we are going to move beyond the prehistorical tribalism we exist in right now. Otherwise we will hate and marginalize the human race out of existence.
We must change. And as Gandhi famously said, we must be the change.
Emerging Christianity: A Leavening Bread + An Action of Feeding and Being Fed
The “change” in the Christian context is called many things but the general terms that have been floating to the surface are: emerging church, emergent church, the great emergence. Each term has it’s own labels and semantics which have been applied to them already–as we are always want to do when we create change, blow open the old, create an open space and then narrow the scope with terminology so that we can understand the change and discuss it.
It is so hard to explain God’s full light.
I like to stick with the words themselves–rather than an end result. I think the end result will be new containers (as Richard Rohr calls them) but hopefully ones whose contents are both old and new. We tend to want to throw everything away and start from scratch but in doing that we run the risk of just becoming a reaction to something rather than an action of doing it better.
That is why I like to stick with the words that evoke action (not the container itself–although that will come): emerging, emergence.
These words reflect something alive, moving, and growing. It evokes imagery of birth, rebirth, and a process of unfolding new and, like a good pastry dough, folding in the existing layers so that each work together for the full leavening of the bread.
What I think is beautiful about action verbs (being the ex-English major I was and a lover of all things literary) is that they describe a process, an experience, and the movement of a thing. Like bread, faith is food that is both satiating to the giver and the receiver, the teacher and the student, the leader and the congregation. I see what is emerging in faith as just that–food (bread) that we are both making and receiving, simultaneously. Something that is both/and, and all.
Emergence is the space in which Christian and Jew and Muslim can talk, where Buddhist and Hindu can join the conversation, and where, as we fold greater understanding and depth of God into the dough, it grows, it expands and there is more food for everyone.
I see what is emerging is a dialogue that asks for a place for all at the table. I hope we can all continue to conversation and leaven the bread together–that is what I see as the ultimate experience of “communion.”
In my next article I am going to discuss some of the forums where being the change is taking place in restructuring and reframing the educational experience around religion and faith including Florida International University’s Religious Studies Program, Claremont’s School of Theology and their Abrahamic Traditions Seminary Program, as well as Richard Rohr‘s Living School for Action and Contemplation meant to expand the lens of Christianity in what he titled an “underground seminary” (open to students from all faith traditions)–the latter of which I am in the application process for! Wish me luck and send me prayers on that front–the application packet goes out next week.