Jump to content
Darren H

Your current spiritual practice?

Recommended Posts

On 1/21/2019 at 7:38 PM, J.A.A. Purves said:

Evangelicals are thoroughly unsuited to deal with the suffering of others just as all other sinful human beings are unsuited to deal with the suffering of others.  I do not mean this to be dismissive.  I have witnessed and experienced how difficult this can be.  Sanctifying empathy and the resources that can truly give healing to the suffering and to the needy comes from only one source - and His example is still the primary example we can turn to.  My faith has to be in Him.  And I am most interested in the means to His grace which I believe he made specific arrangements for sharing with us.

 

 

On 1/28/2019 at 3:51 PM, kenmorefield said:

But I worry that *sometimes* some people, especially Exvangelicals, speak as though it is always and only the church that has failed people, betrayed people, or disappointed people. 

I will hasten to add that, of course, such failures are more irksome if and when they come from people or communities who don't know they are inept--who speak and act like they are uniquely qualified or the only ones who are good at it. I think if you follow the logic of most American Evangelical teaching and preaching, you are certainly warranted in claiming that they/we *should* be better at it. 

Andrew also raised these points above. Evangelical churches tend to not be very good at pastoring people through trauma, and particularly trauma born out of violence or addiction. As Ken says, Evangelicals are not the only branches of Christendom of which this could be claimed, but I do wonder if there is something specific to Evangelicalism that triggers this experience.

I am puzzling this out myself at the moment, but I think Evangelical theology prizes certain human experiences as the centerpieces of God's design for humanity. These are marriage and procreation, vocation, and communal relationships (this latter piece becoming dominant over the past 20 years). So Evangelical churches have a radar sensitive to marriage issues, family issues, workplace and finance issues, and ensuring everyone is "in community" somehow. Therapy and pastoral counseling tend to address these issues as if fixing them resolves our core psychological disturbances.

In my experience, people with PTSD and serious addiction issues feel neglected because the Evangelical church has no real language for these experiences. So we rally around the fixed marriage, the rags to riches stories, the people who weather various recessions, the resolved family crises, etc... When the person finally having a good week after years of PTSD goes uncelebrated. The person with 6 months sobriety goes unnoticed. The person fighting sex addiction keeps everything private, etc... There are some very good contemporary theologies coordinating human experiences of violence with the person and work of Christ - but Evangelicalism does not have a lexicon for this yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, M. Leary said:

I am puzzling this out myself at the moment, but I think Evangelical theology prizes certain human experiences as the centerpieces of God's design for humanity. These are marriage and procreation, vocation, and communal relationships (this latter piece becoming dominant over the past 20 years). So Evangelical churches have a radar sensitive to marriage issues, family issues, workplace and finance issues, and ensuring everyone is "in community" somehow. Therapy and pastoral counseling tend to address these issues as if fixing them resolves our core psychological disturbances.

In my experience, people with PTSD and serious addiction issues feel neglected because the Evangelical church has no real language for these experiences. So we rally around the fixed marriage, the rags to riches stories, the people who weather various recessions, the resolved family crises, etc... When the person finally having a good week after years of PTSD goes uncelebrated. The person with 6 months sobriety goes unnoticed. The person fighting sex addiction keeps everything private, etc... There are some very good contemporary theologies coordinating human experiences of violence with the person and work of Christ - but Evangelicalism does not have a lexicon for this yet.

At the risk of making my personal experience into a broad generalization, I can attest that this accurately describes my own pastoral ministry experience and training in the three evangelical churches where I served (not as much in the mainline Protestant church, which had different issues, but actually was fairly aware about mindfulness, mental health, and genuinely helping people). For the most part, the proposed "solution" to many of these issues and experiences is participation in a) Christian, Bible-based therapy and b) community (meaning, a small/cell/home/life group or a Bible-based course/program). Theologically and historically, I can see how relationships-and-Bible-via-programs became normative in North American evangelical culture during the past few decades. So I think M. is onto something about language as being a culprit for poor practices despite seemingly good intentions, but (and I think M. may agree) there's also something about the practices themselves, the images and actions and reactions and awareness. I'm trying to come up with a concrete example of what I mean, and I'm coming up blank at the moment, but something about more than just new definitions, like a new imagination for what is. And I'm hopeful that such a reimagining of both language and practices can occur, and perhaps the poetic and aesthetic is more critical than ever in recovering/discovering them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, all, for investing time and honesty in this.

I'm realizing how much I miss the substantial conversations I remember having with so many of you... what seems like many years ago.

I want to share some things myself, but every time I start to write something I feel overwhelmed. Part of that is work-related fatigue. Part of that is my inability to paraphrase the tangle of troubles and questions that currently make up my heart. 

Let me sum it up like this: I've been trying to write a simple 1,000-word review of 24 Frames for more than a month now. Just as Michael lost his capacity to focus on film for a while, I seem incapable of writing anything but scribbles and notes these days. It feels like America's sudden nosedive into flagrant depravity on the global stage has burned something out in me. In my better moments, I know it isn't a total burnout. But the simultaneity — in November 2016 — of Anne's medical crisis and the 2016 election, within a few months of the moment when I suddenly quit my job of thirteen years because of medical complications stemming from emotional abuse in the workplace... all of that left me wrestling with several kinds of trauma. And the insane busyness of my new career — as rewarding as the work is, and as grateful as I am for it — has kept me from the time, the silence, the prayers, and the counseling I know I need. I just keep working, the days keep passing, and I don't write or heal or grow.

So I don't know how to write about faith right now. But this conversation is rich, and I'm taking it as a challenge to make the time, come back, and get involved.

I do still love this community.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Jeff. 
I am sorry to hear that you have been laboring under personal and social traumas. Thanks for sharing what's been happening to you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's good to hear from you, Jeff. I can't remember if I told you this at the time of Anne's crisis, but I once woke up to find Joanna on the floor, struggling for the first time in her life to get her heart back in rhythm during a tachycardia attack. I sped her to the emergency room, and a few weeks later we were in Michigan for heart surgery. On top of everything else we'd been through, I think it was that late-night experience that triggered my years of anxiety attacks. I'm so sorry you and Anne suffered through those times.

What you're describing rings so familiar to what I went through in 2004-2008. (The re-election of Bush after the catastrophe of the Iraq War is, to me, even more unforgivable than Trump.) That struggle you feel to sit still and concentrate? That constant craving for the adrenaline rush of political news and outrage? It wasn't until 2011 that I finally got treatment from a therapist, who told me, "Darren, this is a form of PTSD, and there are ways to address some of its effects."

Of course, as you probably know, I'm still addicted to moral outrage, although I feel like I've made some progress recently in weening myself from it. For what it's worth, I've been fascinated lately by a couple statistics: 28% of Americans think shutting down the government was worth it in order to build the wall, 28% say they will definitely vote to re-elect Trump, and 29% think he should not be impeached even if he's proven to have obstructed justice. So, just under a third of Americans really want Trump, and nothing I say to them -- including pointing out their hypocrisies -- will make the slightest difference.

I chased that political tangent for a minute because, for me at least, it's one of the core issues in this thread. I spent the first 32 years of my life developing a concept of god/truth within a culture that I now realize -- and have hard evidence to prove -- is the wellspring of American white nationalism. That realization in itself is f'ing traumatizing!

Edited by Darren H

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I finished writing Volume II of Jane Austen's Emma: A Close Reading Companion today. That in conjunction with reading Patricia Meyer Spacks's On Rereading has gotten me thinking a lot about reading as a spiritual practice that has informed and continues to inform my life.In her introduction, Spacks writes:

Quote

 

[...]"When  I sit down at dinner with a given book," McMurty writes, "I want to know what I'm going to find."

We always find frustration: early in life, the adults we depend on won't read the book to us exactly as it should be each time; later, we realize the impossibility of rereading, re-encountering, regrasping everything we have already perused. But we may discover, also, the special, increasingly complicated pleasure of literary re-encounters. Rereading: a treat, a form of escape, a device for getting to sleep or for distracting oneself, a way to evoke memories (not only of the text but of one's life and of past selves), a reminder of half-forgotten truths, an inlet for new insight. It rouses or soothes, provokes or reassures. And, as McMurty reminds us, it can provide security.

What kind of security, exactly? McMurty suggests that a book reread offers what will not change--but for most readers, rereading provides, in contrast, an experience of repeated, unexpected change. 

 

It is hard for me to express what a balm this passage was. It put the finger on something and articulated something I've been struggling with for a long time and fumbled at talking about earlier in this thread: how (re)reading the Bible alienates me from so many others within my culture who call themselves Christian. That this is so, I've too often attributed to someone (usually them, rarely me) interpreting the Bible incorrectly, but I realize it may be something deeper...not how we interpret the Bible but how we read it. I don't read the Bible for security, at least I don't think I do, and I don't necessarily derive security from stasis. I've always understood, intellectually, how changes in the Victorian period or Modernism or Postmodernism engendered anxiety and alienation, but I don't know that I've ever before the current historical moment been enough outside of the current historical moment to observe those tendencies at play in the behavior, attitudes, and beliefs that many of my fellow Christians apparently just think of as normal.

I've even heard arguments (or made them myself) that rereading the Bible is important because it provides the *opportunity* for re-encountering (God, Jesus), and I will confess that the lack of freshness in the encounters was spiritually disturbing and emotionally upsetting. But Spacks goes on to point out that although we talk about a text changing, what changes is what we bring to it. So if I don't re-encounter Jesus or God when reading the Gospel of Mark for the umpteenth time, perhaps that has less to do with the text losing its potency than the fact that I haven't changed as much since the last time I read it as I did between my first and second readings. 

There's a comfort in that in that it gives me a way forward with the discipline of spiritual reading. It needn't be/shouldn't be mandated reading in the hopes that I will somehow be reminded of the Jesus who hasn't changed since I was sixteen nor that I will randomly encounter the real Jesus in a passage I glossed over the first dozen times. Rather I can (and probably should) focus on reading that will prompt me to question, interact, wrestle...and hence grow. I've always felt alienated from people who had (or wrote) books about their fifty most comforting Bible verses or about what passage to read in such and such a situation. Knowing that "all things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose" did little for me when I was in the midst of some painful situation that the prooftexters wanted to remind me would work out just fine. But actually having to confront what I thought was meant by "Women should remain silent in the churches" prompted me to read more, think more, pray more, because I was looking for answers to questions I actually had rather than for re-assurances that my answers were as certainly true today as they were yesterday.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

J.A.A. Purves wrote:
: Coming from my evangelical background, the differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy appeared to be very small compared to the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism/Orthodoxy.  Our landing in the Catholic Church probably mostly has to do with our being persuaded by Newman's work on the development of doctrine and our understanding of the doctrine of the universal visible Church.

Catholicism and Orthodoxy certainly overlap with each other and *not* with Protestantism on a number of issues. Indeed, my path to Orthodoxy was cleared in many respects by the debates I had with SDG in this forum (and its predecessors) a decade and a half ago.

The Orthodox certainly believe in a universal visible Church, though -- this came up in the catechism at my church just yesterday, when someone asked about the differences between Orthodoxy and Protestantism! (my priest grew up Plymouth Brethren) -- so I'm not sure how we'd be different from Catholicism on *that* front.

: Put another way, Protestant/evangelical theology rejects salvation "as a process."  Instead, salvation must be instantaneous upon the first moment of faith. 

A fellow Protestant convert to Orthodoxy once described this as the "punctiliar" sensibility of Protestantism, and especially evangelicalism. I have also eavesdropped on e-mail exchanges between evangelical theologians on the fact that evangelicalism tends to emphasize "justification" *way* more than "sanctification" in its understanding of "salvation".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

HolyCow what a great thread. I have nothing but the utmost respect for everyone here and what they have posted. I haven't read thoroughly yet, but I am inspired to add my no-cents/sense worth.

As for myself, I am solidly (as much as I can find consistent definitions) in the Nones, veering into the Dones. I, too, have the conservative evangelical background—So. Baptist, Presbyterian, Columbia Bible College influenced, non-denom, Word of Faith (never as a believer in Word of Faith, just hanging with my neighbors), Pentacostal melange. I've been involved in the arts my whole life, been a professional for almost as long as I've been "saved". (I don't really believe in a punticular salvation anymore, but it is a definition of a part of my life, so I keep it, with caveats.

I've grown weary of so much of US Christianity, I don't think I have time nor would you have interest in reading the list. And it has amended over the years. These days I am tired of the whole Christian and Arts discussion. Just when I think we have made progress I am slapped with throwbacks that make me think we are still in the 70s/80s. Schaeffer/Rookmaaker unknowingly influenced concepts. I know a couple of guys who are trying to liberate the arts in the Church, bemoan "utilitarian" uses of the arts in Church, but then turn around and put their own utilitarian ideas on what they consider "the right" kind of art. I just can't do it anymore. I have less reductionist conversations with non-Christian artists. Not always, but more often.

As for the atonement discussion, I've long been a fan of the Christus Victor ideas, but have been recently been turned on by something I've never heard of before, Scapegoat theory.

I don't really believe a systematic theology is truly helpful, but there is so much bad theology driving bad behavior going on in the Church, I have no idea how that can be corrected, r at least turned more to humility and less like lines of demarcation.

I don't think many Christians actually believe the worldview they preach or teach. But it makes for great contrast for why the "world" is wrong and "we" are right.

Not enough time to finish reading everyone's sharings. Will later, though.

Joe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/12/2019 at 5:35 AM, jfutral said:

These days I am tired of the whole Christian and Arts discussion. Just when I think we have made progress I am slapped with throwbacks that make me think we are still in the 70s/80s. Schaeffer/Rookmaaker unknowingly influenced concepts. I know a couple of guys who are trying to liberate the arts in the Church, bemoan "utilitarian" uses of the arts in Church, but then turn around and put their own utilitarian ideas on what they consider "the right" kind of art. I just can't do it anymore. I have less reductionist conversations with non-Christian artists.

Thanks for sharing, and I'm so with you on this. Living in the UK and exploring theological aesthetics from a non-US and non-Reformed perspective has been wonderfully liberating regarding the relationship between Christianity and the arts. So often the language of "dialogue" is used regarding Christianity and the arts, but then the scholar or critic ends up using utilitarian methodologies which simply turn art into illustrations for a particular theological perspective. Art isn't allowed to actually speak in the so-called dialogue, and if it is, theology still has both the first and last word in the conversation. I'm more interested in a genuinely dynamic egalitarian conversational approach to Christianity and the arts, what Michael Oakeshott describes as an "unrehearsed intellectual adventure."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Went to Catholic schools from primary to uni, including units in theology as part of gen. ed. requirements.

Sunday Mass (Novus Ordo) and days of annual obligation (one for Confession);

With family during annual memorials, the rosary.

At bedtime:

- the readings for the day and any memorial from the Daily Roman Missal;

- the entry for the saints of that day from Lives of the Saints;

Given additional time,

- a chapter and devotional entry from the Catholic Prayer Bible (NRSVCE) and commentaries from the Catholic Study Bible (NABRE);

- a chapter from the Catechism or part of a novena found in the same Missal;

- a chapter from a classic, such as Imitation of Christ;

When traveling and given limitations with what I can bring, The Shorter Christian Prayer and the rosary.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice to see this thread resurface. For what it's worth, I've just about finished Richard Rohr's new book, The Universal Christ, which is exactly the book I needed to read. He mentioned in a recent interview that his publisher forced him through seven or eight edits, which apparently exhausted him, but the work shows. It's by far the best thing I've read by him -- it feels like the culmination of his life's work and thinking (he'll celebrate his 50th year as a priest in 2020). I'm grateful for this book if for no other reason than it presents a version of the Christ story that feels intuitively right to me, and it's given me a way to reclaim the vocabulary of Christian religion. Highly recommended.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/17/2019 at 6:19 AM, Darren H said:

For what it's worth, I've just about finished Richard Rohr's new book, The Universal Christ, which is exactly the book I needed to read. He mentioned in a recent interview that his publisher forced him through seven or eight edits, which apparently exhausted him, but the work shows. It's by far the best thing I've read by him -- it feels like the culmination of his life's work and thinking (he'll celebrate his 50th year as a priest in 2020). I'm grateful for this book if for no other reason than it presents a version of the Christ story that feels intuitively right to me, and it's given me a way to reclaim the vocabulary of Christian religion. Highly recommended.

This is really encouraging to read, and quite the endorsement. How does it compare to Falling Upward, a Rohr book you mentioned in our "Growing Older" thread as being significant for you?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Falling Upward is a small book with one very useful central idea -- the order/disorder/reorder model that I mentioned in that other thread. It's the kind of book you might gift to someone and encourage them to read over a weekend. The Universal Christ is much more ambitious. It's a plainspoken but exhaustively researched and supported expression of Rohr's theology of "the Christ." (The joke-y pullquote is "Christ isn't Jesus's last name.") It really feels like the summation of a life's praxis.

Forty pages in I worried that the book would only be a presentation of this one idea -- that "the Christ" was/is God entering our universe -- but he then provides historical context for this understanding and traces it through central ideas like the life and death of Jesus, sin and grace, religious practices other than Christianity, salvation, and the life/culture/politics of the church. I've scribbled notes on more than half of the pages in my copy -- it's one of those books.

I'd be curious to hear what non-protestant friends think of it. I was raised in a culture that was ignorant of church history from, say, the 2nd century to Billy Graham, so I relish the sections where Rohr presents theological notions that sound almost blasphemous to my evangelical ears with Biblical passages (that I get to reread with fresh eyes) and historical traditions of theology about which I'm completely oblivious.

The Liturgists podcast did a great two-part interview with Rohr about the book.

Edited by Darren H

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...