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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Do It (Part 2 of a series)

It would seem that someone has stolen western spirituality, along with its God, and locked them in a church. Or, if we ignore what claims churches make on their own behalf and take a more global view, then God is locked in churches and temples of all stripes. We could go way out on a limb and say that every church or temple does, in fact, contain the presence of God and that most if not all of those churches and temples would like you to believe that the best place to find and talk with God is within their four walls. It's understandable. That belief sustained the churches and filled their collection plates for centuries. One problem is that it simply doesn't make sense that God could be confined in this or any way, and another problem is that such assertions - whether the reason offered is a divide between sacred and secular or something even more ridiculous - create the impression that a gulf exists between humanity and God which cannot be traversed without the help of a particular building and the officials found therein. To cap the whole thing off, churches have failed to offer practices which could help one connect with God while away from the building. A more cynical person might say that churches do this to maintain and grow their power and control, a strategy that is backfiring in a big way as people leave an increasingly irrelevant church, dropping in only when crisis hits. Find a person in crisis and you will find someone looking for a church building in which to pray. We see it clearly following any national disaster - the churches are full for a few weeks, mostly during special services to commemorate whatever has happened - and then it's back to normal.

One of the results of all this is that we have gotten in the habit of turning to spirituality only in times of crisis. It's like the old joke about the busy executive who is running late for a meeting at another office. He's struggling to find a parking place, and so he decided to pray. "God, please help me find a parking place," he exclaims just as he rounds a corner and turns into the next aisle where he sees an open parking space. "Never mind, God," he cries out, "I found one!" Of course, I don't believe that's the way the Divine works, but you see the point of the story - spirituality is a last resort, used primarily when nothing else works. I believe at least part of the reason for a spirituality of last resort is that we have been taught that God is only accessible in a church building, and those places don't even have drive through windows where we can quickly pick up an order of God when needed! The truth is that very few churches offer what I am going to call portable spirituality, which I will define as a transformative spiritual practice we can do away from that church building. You may be thinking that intercessory prayer is encouraged by churches, and you are correct. However, intercessory prayer is not a transformative process in and of itself. In short, contemporary Christianity offers us nothing to do and nowhere to do it - and that's made even more problematic by churches that are primarily entertainment venues wherein those in attendance sit back and watch a show. Could anything be more passive?

In the next post in this series, we will examine what an active, vital spirituality that actually impacts people's lives might look like. Stay tuned!

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