Community, Transformation, and Transcendence, v.0.1

November 10, 2008 at 1:34 am (Introspection, Musings, Social Networking, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Am I walking a fine-line, a broad path, or a narrow road? 

This is something I’ve been pondering for the past couple of months.  I walk in two communities.  One is spiritual-religiosity, the other is secular-humanist.  One community is open, tolerant, and accepting; the other is closed, exclusive, and controlling.  One community values excellence, the other values tradition.  Once community values eclectic and creative social networks, the other values conformity.  One of these communities values freedom over obedience, the other values obedience over freedom.

In various arenas, I land for a time.  Sometimes gravitating between two communities, sometimes wandering.  At times you’ll find me squarely in the middle, but other times I’ll be here or there.  Much like the geolocation services I’m experimenting with, sometimes where I appear to be is not where I actually am.  Recently, Fire Eagle told me I was in New Orleans, when in reality I was thousands of miles away.  Sometimes what I appear to be to outside observers, is not who I actually am inside.

I am open to new ideas, but I treasure the absolute truth of my God, my Creator, and my Savior.  I accept people in my life who don’t agree with me, but I am not easily pulled away from the spiritual disciplines that enable me to better follow God.  I am a disciple of Jesus’, but I am have no enmity towards unbelievers.  I value spirituality over religiosity, but I have no enmity towards helpful religion.

If pushed, I will admit to being a Christian, but I’d rather define myself (If labels are necessary) as a disciple, or an apprentice of Jesus Christ.  Christianity, as a political entity, as an institution, and as a club, has gotten off track.  Christianity, as practiced in the New Testament, looked very dissimilar to today’s organized, religious apparatus.

To take the best of both of my worlds, I could foresee a graceful community of openness and inclusively.  Not a place, but a network of eclectic, thinking, believers who like to be together – in thought, action, deed, and place.  Believers on various continuum, that accept those who have not progressed at the same pace, nor at the same place as one another.  Obviously, for a network to exist, there would need to be a common theme, that theme would be to reflect the character of Jesus.

Imagine a network that is seeking the enlightenment of God’s character and wants to reflect the original values of His Kingdom.  A network that would pursue growth over behavioralistic modifications.  A Network that would value relationships over uniformity.  A network that would value others over self.

I have a problem with one of my communities.  In spite of the creative openness and the tolerance of diversity, there are still overriding issues of selfishness, power, and the politics of popularity.  People tend to be valued for the value they add to “my” life, not necessarily because someone has value inherently within themselves.  Because of this, there is great pressure to produce, succeed, and contribute.  If I’m having a bad run, I may be left by the wayside and discarded.

I have a problem with my other community.  It seems that despite the desire to be followers of Christ, as Christians, there is great pressure to focus on behavior.  It isn’t a high standard that is set, rather, it is fairly mediocre standard.  Metaphorically, if I don’t smoke, drink, sleep-around, or swear (along with a few dozen other random rules), I can be a part of this community.  But if I should step out of the community standard norms, I will be quickly ostracized.

The first community strives to accept all people, but in reality, they are only tolerant of those who are free-thinkers like themselves.  They want to be accepting of all peoples, but there is an inherent selfishness that creates a dichotomy in their values.  This tends to breed a self-centered, narrow-focused group.  Moral standards are relaxed and socio-economic strata is not very wide.  This leads to a club-like mentality, not much different than my latter community.

Face it, we are tribal beings.  My struggle lies with the fact that one tribe pays my wages and has biblical values more in line with my personal beliefs.  The other has societal values more in line with mine.  This gives me unique opportunities to evangelize both communities.  I strive to bring my Christian community towards the creative, open, and inclusive conversation; and I strive to bring my secular community towards a better understanding of what Jesus was really trying to say.

I believe the secular community isn’t rejecting Jesus as much as they are rejecting the Church.  And I don’t blame them.  The Church doesn’t always give a very relevant representation of Christ’s values.

I believe the Christian community isn’t rejecting the unchurched as much as they are rejecting the mediocrity of moral standards.  The generalized acceptance of hurtful values and practices can lead to some serious problems in people’s lives.

When the two communities come together, they clash.  The churched people seek to control the unchurched – through legislation, liturgy, lectures and logic.  The unchurched want the Christians to lighten up.  The Christians trust God’s wisdom that certain behaviors can be harmful, unhealthy, and hurtful – not to mention, not conducive to positive spiritual development.  The unchurched see nothing wrong with a little playful “imperfection” in their lives.

And thus comes the balance.  Imperfection is a part of human nature.  Accepting that in others is a powerful, and scary, influencer.  For Christians, we are afraid that if we accept someone in their sin, we will be condoning the sin and propelling someone towards eternal damnation.  Worse, we are afraid for ourselves.  We know we are weak, and thus, we are afraid the so-called “sinner” will pull us down with them.

For the unchurched, who very well may be believers, there are very real fears to be reckoned with.  We are afraid that if we give the so-called “Christian” an inch, they’ll take a mile.  Afraid of the control, we reject the spiritual formation and disciplines that could actually speak into our lives.  We are drawn to the spiritual high ground, but we reject the mediocrity we see in the cultural Christianity of everyday society.

This is why Buddhism, Scientology, Kabbalah, TM, and other Eastern/New Age spiritual disciplines have such an attraction for Western Society.  Many have a cafeteria style spirituality, they take what works for them, and they leave the rest on ice.  People build their personal spirituality, much like they build a salad at their favorite restaurant.  

It isn’t a bad conglomeration, and usually it is quite satisfying.  But best of all, it doesn’t involve conformity.  Yet, often accountability is sacrificed as the price for ultimate freedom.  Sometimes, for growth to occur, we need accountability in healthy doses with transparency, authenticity, and relevance.

On the flip side, the Christian community sometimes sacrifices acceptance of others and freedom of thought for the sake of accountability and conformity.  It is my opinion however, that we set the bar too low in the Church.  Not that we need more rules and not that we need more behavioral standards, but that we need to raise the bar on spiritual formation and the disciplines that will accomplish this.

It isn’t enough to achieve certain moral behaviors, what the Church needs is a true heart connection with the God of the Universe.  It is only through absolute surrender that we can best reflect the love, grace, tolerance, openness, inclusivity, creativity, relevance, and authenticity that best reflects the character of God.  The behavioral standards of the church are in place to protect us from the slippery slope of selfish depravity, but morality shouldn’t be our highest goal.  

Morality is for selfish reasons and leads me to greater health (emotionally, spiritually, socially, and physically).  I need more than temporal health however.  I need transcendent spiritual growth that leads me to a greater connection with an infinite God.  If my religion doesn’t bring transcendent transformation, then it is useless.

Unless one is a complete sociopath, they still operate within certain norms of morality.  That standard just happens to be different than those who claim to be Christians.  The unchurched person may not subscribe to certain “organized” religions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a spiritual seeker.  However, if the spirituality in a persons life brings greater transcendence than they have previously experienced in a church, that should give pause to those who attend churches, but aren’t experiencing transformation.

This doesn’t mean that Christianity is wrong, it just means we may be missing some elements.  What are we missing?  How can we be followers of Jesus, without sacrificing our chosen standards of morality?  How can we be citizens of the world, while still seeking, and finding, transcendent transformation?  Maybe we need to put the Eastern disciplines back into Christianity?

I wouldn’t bounce between these two communities, if I could find one that had the best of both.  What is so hard about finding a community that is true to the principles in God’s Kingdom?

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