The Conservative Soul: Fundamentalism, Freedom, and the Future of the Right Paperback – October 9, 2007

if the acceptance and love of others as they are is the essence of Christianity, then the acceptance of our loneliness and doubt in a world far beyond our understanding is the core of all non-fundamentalist religion.

pg 219  Andrew Sullivan, The Conservative Soul

 

What religion can be at its most sublime is the fusion of that wonder we should really feel all the time in the presence of God. What religion can be at its most sublime is the fusion of that wonder with practical life. It is the marriage of the poetic and practical modes of experience. This does not require the imposition of fixed rules and doctrines, although they may be helpful guides from time to time.  It requires a constant reimagination of the potential of life  lived on earth as if it were heaven. It requires letting go of our desire not to let go. Jesus saw it in children. One of his most radical teachings was the notion that only if we become like children will we enter the kingdom of God.

Children love rituals, and their games are full of them. Perhaps because they are not yet fully formed, every moment matters more. We older types have sometimes become inured to the wonder and mystery of everything.

pg 222

 

These moments may come upon us when we least expect them. We may see flashes of eternity in the simple grin of a child in a game of hind and seek, in the approach of the tide on an autumn  afternoon, in the eyes of a lover in sex, or in grandmother’s ritual– but we know them when we see the. The key is to be open to them, because they happen all the time, all around us. But we are too “busy” to notice.

The opposite of this kind of faith is fundamentalism: the constant recourse to abstraction and authority or text.

Living in the Spirit (Richard Rohr)

In very real ways, soul, consciousness, love, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. Each of these point to something that is larger than the individual, shared with God, ubiquitous, and even eternal—and then revealed through us! Holiness does not mean people are psychologically or morally perfect (a common confusion), but that they are capable of seeing and enjoying things in a much more “whole” and compassionate way, even if they sometimes fail at it themselves. [1]

.. Our effort is not a self-conscious striving to fill ourselves with the important Christian virtues; it is more getting out of the way and allowing [Christ’s] Spirit to transform all our activities. Christ will do the rest. His Spirit has joined ours and will never abandon us.

Mary Karr: Astonished by the Human Comedy (Krista Tippett)

and then, as I often do, once I’ve worked on a talk, I just — at some point, you have to just let go of the outcome. And you say, “Look, if they boo and they throw things, it’ll last for 20 minutes. And then it’ll be over, and I’ll have an anecdote. It’ll be fine. I’ll go back to my life.”

Ms. Tippett: In Now Go Out There, you said, “The opposite of love is fear,” and you told these graduates that “fear can take that expensively educated brain of yours and reduce it to the state of a dog growling over a bone.” But you did say, “Ask yourself who’s noticing how scared you are,” and that that’s where your soul is. And if you can get curious about it, you get less scared

..  you note the connection between “breakdown” and “breakthrough.”

Ms. Karr:Right. [laughs] Is it a nervous breakdown or a nervous breakthrough? That’s right. That’s a good question.

Ms. Tippett:Because you had both, right?

Ms. Karr:Well, I think every nervous breakdown is a nervous breakthrough, if you let it be. I really do. I really believe that. I believe that it’s the old Hemingway saw of: “All of us are broken, and some of us get stronger in the broken places.”

Ms. Tippett:Yeah, here’s something else you said. You called the place you went the “Mental Marriott.” [laughs]

Richard Rohr Meditation: The God Particle

And even for those who seek, God often seems to be elusive. Why? Perhaps it is because God is closer than we can objectively or outwardly see.

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). This same God who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) chooses to dwell inside creation.

.. It’s not just that God dwells inside you, but God is at the center of your spiritual makeup, an integral and enduring part of who you are. God is not added to you, but you are added to God. God is the foundation onto which your soul is built. Everyone you meet is also a God-particle wrapped in a soul.

.. We find God by peeling away ourselves. God is hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44) buried in the center of our souls, and we can find God when we tear away the onionskin layers of self.

If we persevere in clearing this well of its clutter, we’ll discover that the water of this inner well—the water in which we’re swimming—is God. We’ll find ourselves floating in God, encompassed by love. In a wonderful reversal, soul is now wrapped in God, and God moves to the outside as described in John 7:37: From our “innermost being will flow rivers of living water,” which is God’s self spilling out into our life and into the lives of those we touch.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Another Power

We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.

[As Christians,] it is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography—our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. . . . “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). [3]

Parker Palmer broadens this shared responsibility to those of other faiths:

All three traditions [Christianity, Judaism, and Islam] are misunderstood because some of their alleged adherents engage in hateful and violent behavior that distorts and defies the values they claim to represent. At their core, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and all of the major world religions are committed to compassion and hospitality. . . . In this fact lies the hope that we might reclaim their power to help reweave our tattered civic fabric. [4]

The Hebrew prophets, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammed first appear to be “nothing,” outside the system, and really of no consequence. But like leaven and yeast, their much deeper power rises, again and again, in every age, while kings, tyrants, and empires change and pass away.

Richard Rohr: Vocation

The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world but to fully belong to it. It’s not possible to save the world by trying to save it. You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift—your true self—is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs. —Bill Plotkin [1]

Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. . . . That insight is hidden in the word vocation itself, which is rooted in the Latin for “voice.” Vocation does not mean a goal I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. . . . I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity. —Parker Palmer [2]

.. The motivating energies of ego and soul are very different. The soul’s impulse comes quietly and generously from within; we do not look for payment, reward, or advancement because we have found our soul gift, our inherent gladness. To be an oblate—someone who is offered—is quite different from seeking security, status, or title.

.. I have found it difficult over the years to tell people when something is not their gift; it is usually very humiliating for the person to face their own illusions and sense of entitlement. One sign that something is your vocation is that you would do it for free, even if there is no reward or social payoff. This clarifies a vocation quite quickly.

Richard Rohr: Body and Soul

“Just remember, on the practical level, the Christian Church was much more influenced by Plato than it was by Jesus.” He left us laughing but also stunned and sad, because four years of honest church history had told us how true this actually was.

.. For Plato, body and soul were incompatible enemies; matter and spirit were at deep odds with one another. But for Jesus, there is no animosity between body and soul. In fact, this is the heart of Jesus’ healing message and of his incarnation itself. Jesus, in whom “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14), was fully human, even as he was fully divine, with both body and spirit operating as one. Jesus even returned to the “flesh” after the Resurrection; so, flesh cannot be bad, as it is the ongoing hiding place of God.

.. In the Apostles’ Creed, which goes back to the second century, we say, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” I want to first point out what it is not saying and yet what most people hear. The creed does not say we believe in the resurrection of the spirit or the soul! Of course it doesn’t, because the soul cannot die. We are asserting that human embodiment has an eternal character to it.

.. Christianity makes a daring and broad affirmation: God is redeeming matter and spirit, the whole of creation. The Bible speaks of the “new heavens and the new earth” and the descent of the “new Jerusalem from the heavens” to “live among us” (Revelation 21:1-3). This physical universe and our own physicality are somehow going to share in the Eternal Mystery. Your body participates in the very mystery of salvation.

.. Many Christians falsely assumed that if they could “die” to their body, their spirit would for some reason miraculously arise. Often the opposite was the case. After centuries of body rejection, and the lack of any positive body theology, the West is now trapped in substance addiction, obesity, anorexia, bulimia, plastic surgery, and an obsession with appearance and preserving these bodies.

.. The pendulum has now swung in the opposite direction, and the fervor for gyms and salons makes one think these are the new cathedrals of worship. The body is rightly reasserting its goodness and importance. Can’t we somehow seek both body and spirit together?

When Christianity is in any way anti-body, it is not authentic Christianity. The incarnation tells us that body and spirit must fully operate and be respected as one. Yes, Fr. Larry, our Platonic Christianity is now feeling the backlash against our one-sided teaching.