Recently I have had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time laying out on the warm Florida beaches. Considering it is the middle of January, it was quite the change of scenery to say the least, and while the sun was warm, while the beach was white, while the water of the Gulf was calm, and while it was a wonderful time spent with family, the most profound and wonderful thing that I have taken away from the trip is something else entirely. While I sat on the beach, I began reading an absolutely fascinating book by one, John Phillip Newell. The book is titled “The Rebirthing of God” and I highly rate it and suggest it freely to anyone and everyone. However, it was not necessarily the book that made the weekend such a marvelous experience, but rather the ideas and the questions that the book posed that lead, almost like a pathway, to the heart of the divine, to the heart of my purpose in life, and to the point of understanding just where we are headed in this crazy thing called life.
To say the book is breaking the shackles of traditional Western Christianity is an understatement. Within the pages, Newell totally and utterly breaks apart much of what holds the structures of Western Christianity up, in fact, he goes so far as to mention a story told by Carl Jung, founder of analytical society, who as a young boy saw a vision of a giant turd (yes I said a turd, as in poop) falling down from the throne of heaven and crashing into the local cathedral, destroying the structure utterly. For Jung, this symbolized the destruction of the Western Christian structures of things such as original sin, detachment from caring for the earth, a distrust in science, an inability to tap into our spirituality, etc. etc. Newel proposes that we are in the midst of the great turd falling, in fact, he goes on to say that the turd has already fallen, the structures of Western Christian Tradition as we know it are collapsing before our very eyes.
With each passing day, I encounter more and more people asking the kind of question that asks, “There’s got to be something more to God and this whole religion thing right?” “There has to be some other way of understanding or explaining God that doesn’t make the divine seem like a vindictive monster right?” All around us, people are becoming more and more comfortable, and in fact they are being empowered, to ask these questions and genuinely seek out the answers. So what does this have to do with my experience this past weekend? What does this have to do with the heart of my purpose and calling?
I’m glad you asked! I tend to agree with Newell. From my experiences, from my conversations with others, and from what I have been taught in my years at school, I can see a shift coming. I can see people’s understanding of God changing. I believe in a God that unfolds as we grow more and more into the sacred flow. I believe that as we get caught up in that current, and as we get deeper in, the more and more the divine shows different facets of itself. It’s almost as if the divine is saying…
“Ha! You thought you knew me! You thought that I fit into this box, when in reality, I don’t belong in any boxes. My essence and my presence breaks those boxes apart, shatters what you thought you knew, and helps you pick up the pieces to form a new thought process and to form a new you that is closer to your true self then it was before because you are closer to the source of all things now then you were before.”
We are in the midst of a massive unfolding for many people. The sad fact is, Christianity as we know it from the Reformation, has become stagnant. There’s a reason churches are experiencing mass exoduses. There is a reason that young people are leaving the church. There is a reason why Christians are labeled as “Out dated” and “Not with the times”. It is because Western Christianity has become more focused on putting God in a box, rather than being taken up in the sacred flow to where God is taking it next, however, the thing with rivers is, even if you damn it up, eventually, given enough time, that river will break through. It may start as a crack, and then a tiny whole appears and a little trickle gets through, but eventually, that whole damn will utterly bust apart under the pressure and the magnitude of the water behind it. I believe that we are in the midst of that damn cracking and breaking down. I don’t know about you, but I am sick of seeing a dead and lifeless churches. I am sick of seeing people hear a gospel message that only maintains the status quo. I’m sick of being someone who sometimes just goes with the path that doesn’t “rock the boat”. I’m tired of a structure that does not take seriously the implications of what a radically and never ending God of love and mercy looks like. I’m tired of seeing people misinterpret the Bible. I’m tired of people using God as a scape goat. I’m tired of seeing people using God as a way to make themselves look better or feel better. I’m tired of watching people, day in and day out, live like zombies, shackled by the weight of their lives, shackled by the fear that if they speak their doubts or ask questions that they will be condemned by loved ones. I’m tired of that kind of Christianity.
Which is where the Divine comes in. This past weekend I felt a very strong urging to help my fellow brothers and sisters deal with this shift, and this is nothing new for me, I’ve had this urging before, as far back as high school in fact. I’m not saying that it is going to be easy. I have gone through an experience where my theological understandings and my faith itself felt shattered and I had to pick up the pieces. It’s hard work. it takes investigating. It takes conversations with others (especially those who you don’t agree with.) It’s tiring. It leads to questions. Sometimes you ask yourself “What if God isn’t real”. That’s all part of the process.
I have begun that process in my own life but I am far from finished. With each passing day, the Divine shows me more and more of how It is interacting with me and the people around me. It’s almost as if my understanding of the world and of life continues to expand with each passing day. I feel as though my role is to help other people along this process of breaking down, discovering, and reforming. (By the way, that’s where the word reformation comes from). The Church has experienced this in the past, this is nothing new. The Church will go on. The Church will survive, not only that, the Church will move forward into a new understanding of the Divine. Are you going to join me in this shift? Are you going to go through this process of breakdown, discovery, and reformation? Are you going to do the hard work ahead of us to help others better understand and interact with the Divine? The shift is coming, there’s not doubt about that, are you going to be one of the pieces in the damn trying to hold it back, or are you going to jump head first into the Sacred Flow and let it take you where it will?
This is a personal blog and does not necessarily represent the views of Community Church or any groups mentioned here