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posted
I'd like this thread to be a sharing of ideas and experiences concerning the meaning of Christianity in today's world.

Here's a context for the discussion:
1. Churches in Europe are mostly empty every Sunday.
2. Lots of people claim to be finding meaning in spirituality, while not involving themselves in any organized religion.
3. Most Catholic and mainline Protestant theologians acknowledge that God's Spirit is at work among the world religions, and that people in those religions show evidence of the fruits of the Spirit. We are encountering those religions in the U.S. and other Western countries as never before.
4. Scandals among the Christian clergy.
5. The post-modern context, which questions the validity of any and all claims to truth.

We could say more about over-arching context, but that's a good start.

So what do we tell people in response to the question, "Why Christianity?"

And let's please share from your own convictions and experience. Also, no need to try to say it all in one post. Maybe just a reason or two that makes sense to you that you can add to later.

Phil
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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OK, I'll get us going with this one and share that, first and foremost for me, it's Jesus that draws me to Christianity. I think He's what makes the difference between Christianity and other world religions, and I don't think he can be explained away by any post-modern critique.

I believe he lived, was crucified, and rose from the dead, just as the Scriptures state. It's the only thing that explains the birth of the Church, really.

I also believe that once one accepts these beliefs (or is drawn into them by the Spirit, I should say), one is blessed to come to know Christ and God in Christ--to not merely "believe" in an intellectual way, but to actually find in one's heart and mind a sense of "being-in-relationship" with Him.

It seems to me that this is at the heart of what Christianity is about, and it is, I believe, supported and deepened through liturgy, community, sacraments, doctrine--the "stuff" of organized religion. Without that faith-relationship with Jesus, however, organized religions doesn't make much sense.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Gospel
Mt 16:13-20

They shout out.... He is

Elijah.... the Baptist

Son of Mary and Joseph

Prophet... teacher..

Wise man... priest...

Each tumbling and

Crashing over each other

an incredible noise.

Suddenly... clear as a bell

One voice rises above...

He is.. He IS... HE IS..

God's Son....

The Son of the Father..

Creator, Redeemer,

Rabbi, Servant, Master,

Counslor, ..... HE IS

God's Son...

Yes, HE IS!

Now what cha

Gonna do about it?

Phil, I agree.. It all comes down to an awareness of relationship.... a living, right now everywhere relationship with the living God... and like all good things this simply must be shared... and it is in community that it is shared, strengthened, deepened..... all of that. Could it be that people are searching outside of the churches for this because the churches... mine included do little to help others develop this relationship.... instead seeming to figure they will get it by osmosis or something.... if you say the words - go through the actions enough they will be understood maybe. There is little opportunity for people to ask and wrestle with the hard questions of faith.... so they turn to places like this.

Peace,
Wanda
 
Posts: 278 | Location: Pennslyvania | Registered: 12 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Goodness, this is one of those posts where I'm not quite sure where to start. But I'll give it a go.

My personal opinion is that people are straying away from organized religions because of the dissention in the ranks, if you will. It seems that instead of being a unified body, we are scattered by differences in doctrines and dogma. It's disheartening to me and I know I'm not the only one. I do attend church, but I'd hate to have to be looking for one!

Why Christianity? For me it's because it's the only thing I have found that I sense absolute truth in. I believe and know who Christ is. I love Him...He loves me. These things I know because the Holy Spirit within me testifies to that fact. I believe He was born of the Virgin Mary, that He was crucified for the sins of the world, and that He indeed rose from the dead. Actually the Apostle's Creed says best what I believe and have faith in.

I'm honestly not sure why there is scandal among the clergy. I've wondered in the past few years if it's because (at least in Protestant circles)..it's more of a "job" than a commitment to a "calling". I attended a seminar once where the focus was on the commitment to ministry and the fella made a good point that it seemed that in the last 30 years more people are going into ministry simply because the job is almost guaranteed as the ministry is begging for folks. Somehow I don't think that's the reason God had in mind for someone to enter the ministry.

One thing I know...without God in my life, I'd see no reason for living...period.

Blessings,
Terri
 
Posts: 609 | Location: Oklahoma | Registered: 27 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It was rewarding to read your reflections, Wanda, Terri, and W.C. One thing jumps out at me from your messages is the importance of this sense of faith-relationship with Jesus, without which the organized Christian Churches and their doctrines seem to be wonder-less and even spiritually stifling. Surely there are implications here for catechesis. Doctrinal formation apart from faith-experience can be a problem, for sure, but faith experience which lacks such formation is also a problem, in my view. How to do both is a tricky thing.

W.C., I didn't mean to imply something lacking in other world religions when I asked the question "Why Christianity?" What I meant was that the obvious fact of God's presence and action in other world religions provides a new context for Westerners' spiritual and religious search. Of course, I suppose my question also does imply "What does Christianity offer that other world religions don't?" only I didn't want to emphasize that aspect of it. I think some of the responses so far are addressing that without falling into the quasi-defensive attitudes of Christian apologetics or, worse, polemics. Let's see if we can continue to avoid that.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Phil... you wrote:

"One thing jumps out at me from your messages is the importance of this sense of faith-relationship with Jesus, without which the organized Christian Churches and their doctrines seem to be wonder-less and even spiritually stifling.
Doctrinal formation apart from faith-experience can be a problem, for sure, but faith experience which lacks such formation is also a problem, in my view. How to do both is a tricky thing."

Ok... I may be way way off base here.... but I think a part of the problem is that the church takes a bit too much for granted. Let me explain.... when you set out to teach someone - teach a class, it is important to find out what they already know..... an algebra teacher for example, takes it for granted that the students in his class already know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. The churches often... take it for granted that people who walk in the door already know quite a bit... and just as a kid in the algebra class would be a bit hesitant to admit that they don't know how to multiply.... the same goes with people in the church.
Church is a place where you are encouraged and helped to grow in faith.... and this requires a place that is open to both the beginner and the those more advanced. Most educational classes/groups I have participated in have no component to measure or assess entering behavior.... where people are, what they know... and are not geared to meet the different needs of the participants; or in other words to take them from where they are forward. This means that the needs of neither the beginners or the advanced are met.
Churches are usually pretty good at teaching doctrine... but they are a bit lax in the area of faith formation.... of teaching/strengthening relationship. Maybe I am wrong but I think it is the relationship/faith that holds people in community... and the doctrine that defines the community. They go hand in hand and neglecting one in favor of the other... I agree, leads to problems.

Peace,
Wanda
 
Posts: 278 | Location: Pennslyvania | Registered: 12 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
posted
Phil:

I didn't think your question meant to imply anything of the sort. But as you say, it does raise a consideration that other religions like Buddhism and Hinduism don't treat as essential, or at least not for the same reason.

Regarding religious formation/education, part of the sustaining of wonder from pure subjectivity to more intellectual reflection could be to partially treat the church's teaching as the collective experience and how this took shape to support community, still leaving room for people to feel that their own experience has a place, whether or not it is entirely congruent with dogma. If, over time, that person's experience remained basically incongruent, the church could still take some credit for the partial, benefical formation of a soul. Such a person would more naturally feel inclined to look elsewhere, and still perhaps remain friendly to and grateful for the church. Such a curriculum approach would be consistent, I think, with Vatican II instruction regarding religious anthropology and ecumenism, thereby not throwing the BOWTBW (I've been waiting to make up my own acronym for a long time). But in the real world of mortality, polemics and membership, what I just said probably doesn't wash.
 
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All - There is much to reflect on in such a question as Phil posed to open this thread and I have been nurtured by your sharing.

One theme that seems to be emerging involves such dyads as 1) doctrinal formation and faith experience 2) teaching and relationship 3) catechesis and evangelization. The creative tension, which has been well expressed in this depthful sharing, is consistent with the idea that all of these activities are encounters with the mystery of Christ and works of the Holy Spirit.

I was taught that, at Mass, we encounter Jesus in 1) the presider/celebrant/priest 2) the Word proclaimed 3) the Bread & Wine and 4) the People Gathered and that, in addition to such 1) presence, we celebrated 2) meal 3) memorial 4) covenant and 5) thanksgiving.

I use this as an example to suggest that our encounters with Jesus are so multifaceted, so manifold and multiform, and that they don't end with those encounters I've listed during Eucharist or with those realized through catechesis and evangelization, or with those found in various forms of pastoral ministry and missionary activity.

After much reflection, I must say that it is my Encounters with Jesus that have grounded my Christianity, and it is the multiplicity of ways these encounters are mediated by Catholicism that draws me back, again and again. I really could not peg one encounter as more important to me than another. I feel like a kid in a candy store trying to narrow the list down! I simply can't choose Smiler

OK - I've got it --- early morning Masses (in Latin) as a young altar boy immersed me in Mystery and Awe and Felt Presence - a knowledge without understanding, an encounter that defies answering Why? [kind of like, Why do you love your wife?]

pax, love
jb
 
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Wow JB, great post! I agree with all the posts here. There is just so much to our walk with Jesus that isn't exactly identifiable in human terms. I have grown to love the phrase that God is "working a grace" in me when it comes to difficulties and even joys in life. I also hold tightly to the scripture about being changed to the image of Christ from glory to glory.

One thing I do wish is that I had local access to ongoing teaching regarding my faith walk and doctrines. It just doesn't seem to be a priority in Protestant churches. Which, I think is what Wanda was talking about too. Or rather, the teaching doesn't involve the "whole" picture of a person's journey in this walk of Spirit and Truth.

Thanks to everyone for such great posts!

Blessings,
Terri
 
Posts: 609 | Location: Oklahoma | Registered: 27 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Regarding religious formation/education, part of the sustaining of wonder from pure subjectivity to more intellectual reflection could be to partially treat the church's teaching as the collective experience and how this took shape to support community, still leaving room for people to feel that their own experience has a place, whether or not it is entirely congruent with dogma.
I like what you're saying, w.c., only I will say that in my own formation through very conservative Catholic schools, I never experienced a diminishment of wonder or a stifling of intellectual curiosity. Perhaps that's the case in some Catholic (or Fundamentalist) families, but it didn't seem to be the case in any I was aware of. I felt free to ask all kinds of "screwy" questions about God and Church teaching, and even put things together in the way that mades sense ot me so long as I got a few "basics" stright. Perhaps you'd like to share something of your experiences in this are? I'd welcome that.

I'm not sure, at any rate, what kind of experience one could have that would be incongruent with Catholic dogma. My understanding of dogma, even as a child, was not that it defined or censored my experience, but pointed out aspects of Christian belief that were indispensable to our understanding what God had revealed through Christ. Granted, this didn't always succeed in awakening in me a sense of wonder or experiential contact with God, but it didn't negate them either, and I think it helped shape a kind of "Catholic" receptivity to grace.

--------

There's this ancient teaching that theology is reaon reflecting on faith, and that reading theology enables some kind of contact with the faith that was reflected on. Granted, there's a lot of theology written which doesn't seem to have much faith in it, but I'm wondering if this ancient assumption still has merit.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hi guys,
I've been away for awhile, but sorta keeping up. Now that the colorado fires aren't threatening my cabin directly, i can breathe and write and think.

Why Christianity? because I'm a cradle catholic. It's in my molecules. i can't even look at life separate from my catholic training. But I freely stay and grow and praise God everyday that He has given me this path. I stay Christian becaue everytime I encounter Jesus He teaches me something of the Father which is so wonderful I want to know more about the Father and Jesus is the way to know Him and so I seek knowledge of Jesus and the circle whirls higher and higher and I'm ever grateful to be caught up in it.
Why has formal religion done so pooely in teaching this wonder of knowledge of God? I have only the catholic experience to speak from, but I suspect there are parallels in all denominations. It has to do with this two-tiered system the church has so firmly entrenched. The heirarchy has lost contact with the laity. In many instances it seems as if the heirarchy looks at 'the faithful' as these neanderthals with one big eye in the middle of their forehead. Teaching is a two way street. If you cant' relate (much less like and respect) to those you tare teaching then much of the teaching is lost.

There is another sociological phenomenan that is at work here. I don't remember all the correct terminology, so bear with me. Any movement has two aspects: the first is the actual mission, the second is the institution that gets built up to make it possible to accomplish the mission. Keeping these two in balance is a terrific task. Time and again, the institution to protect the mission takes precedence and decisions are made to preserve it, even when the decision harms the mission. Because if the support system (the institution) is not strong , then the mission can't be accomplished. The clergy abuse scandal illustrates this. It was perceived that the pedophile priests had to be protected to preserve the institution, even though it harmed the members that the institution existed to serve. When people reject 'religion', they often are not rejecting spirituality, but this instituion that is out of balance with the mission. (See, I hope I didn't stray as far from the point as it was starting to look like). Staying Christian, through all the scandals and falling off of church attendance, is looking for the mission.

( Bet you're sorry I came back, huh?)
 
Posts: 38 | Location: kansas | Registered: 22 January 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hey Ana Smiler

I'm glad you're getting a bit of rest from those fires..hope everything is okay there for you? You bring up some good points.

The heirarchy has lost contact with the laity. In many instances it seems as if the heirarchy looks at 'the faithful' as these neanderthals with one big eye in the middle of their forehead. Teaching is a two way street. If you cant' relate (much less like and respect) to those you tare teaching then much of the teaching is lost.

Yep. I attend Methodist and it's definitely that way with us. I can't speak for other Protestant denominations, but in our case it's true. It's almost as if we have a three-tiered system. We have the laity (who for the most part are very dedicated to Christ and His mission)...then we have the pastors...then we have the upper-echelon who, in my dealings with them, have not one clue what's going on in the individual churches nor the individuals within those churches. It's almost like a board game. The pastors are moved to and fro as the Conference (uppers) sees fit. The members of the church are pretty much at the mercy of those decisions (although the uppers would adamantly deny this statement...I know better...was a member of the Pastor Parish Relations Committee who recommends hiring or "replacing" of pastors). It's as though the higher one goes within the system, the less reality of the "church" they see..it becomes a business. This relates to your second paragraph about the institution being more concerned with preserving the institution rather than preserving the mission. I will say, however, that we've had a wonderful District Superintendent for the last few years (DS's have districts they "oversee" and then represent in the Conference). He truly seems to try to keep his finger on the pulse of the churches he's in charge of...and that makes for a HUGE difference in the connection between the individual church and the Conference.

And.....I'm GLAD to see ya Big Grin . Thanks for the post!

Blessings,
Terri
 
Posts: 609 | Location: Oklahoma | Registered: 27 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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A priest friend and I recently met and discussed this very question, "Why Christianity?" He echoed a lot of what's been shared, especially the parts about a distinction between mission and institutional support thereof (good one, Anne!), and the struggle to catechize and evangelize in a way that meets people where they are, honors their experiences, and presents the teaching to them in that context, as several of you are noting. One interesting comment he made was that for all the mistakes that have been made in all these areas, we haven't managed to totally scare people away yet. Wink

W.C., I might mention that in Catholicism, at least, following Vatican II, our method of catechesis shifted drastically from "indoctrination in the doctrines" to a more subjective/experiential one. Kids in religion classes were asked to remember pleasant sunsets, times when they felt loved, etc., and efforts were made to help them connect these kinds of experiences with aspects of the tradition. Seems the way to go, only what we found was that those graduating from this process didn't know the basics of the faith--e.g., the 10 Commandments, laws of the Church, etc. There's been a backlash since those days (70's and 80's), with a kind of "back to basics" mentality growing. All of which to say is that good catechesis which honors the kinds of issues you're raising is a tricky thing, especially when you're dealing with all sorts of people in all sorts of situations--a point you made. Maybe everyone should be in spiritual direction? Wink

Shalom to all!

Phil
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Warning: Rant about to be pounded into the Cathedral door. Read at your own risk.

Why Christianity?

I don't know. I just don't know anymore. Why indeed? All I know is that I don't think I can really describe myself as Christian anymore without some significant qualifications--i.e. I'm a panentheistic Christian mystic, or Buddhochristian, or a mystic drawing from both Christian and Eastern traditions, or a mystic, with most my worship activity in Catholic settings.

The problem is not that I don't want to follow Christ or his teachings. It's not that I don't love the Church, the fellowship in the huge family of his followers. It's just that realistically, "Christianity" as experienced by most, is the inherited, constructed religion ABOUT Jesus, rather than the living faith OF Jesus.

We've lost the wild faith that Jesus (and the mystics) taught us. Much of my exploration has been centered in early Christianity, the early Church. I miss the wild mysticism of the Desert Fathers, the Alexandrians, some of the Gnostics, Dionysius the Areopagite, Eckhart (yes, Phil, I know), the Cloud... We have hidden the teaching of theosis in the most obscure language, on obscure pages of big, big books. Are we afraid that someone might learn something? Maybe they'll misunderstand? Or maybe they'll understand too well?

What would it take to actually hear a priest shout out "GOD is LOVE" from the pulpit, the three words that this sick, war-torn world needs most to hear? Or GOD LOVES YOU? Or YOU are the BODY and BLOOD of CHRIST? There's been glimmers, flashes. But is there any attempt to communicate mystical truth other than sign and symbol? St. Francis said, "Use words when necessary!" It's pretty bloody necessary! We need words! And we need the ability to speak freely, really freely, without fearing, God forbid, that it might conflict with a 4th-century council!

Why is the Gospel activity of lay preaching condemned? If the priests can't tell the truth, let me! I will! But if any of us contemplatives were to really say, REALLY say, unguarded, what God has shown us in the deepest part of our soul, the non-dual Godness and Goodness of ALL, wouldn't we be thrown out of the Church as quickly as Jesus was brought to the edge of the cliff from the Galilean synagogue?

Look at the faces of God's children squeezing back into the pews from the Eucharist, tell me, how many are *JOYOUS*? As though there is any sense at all of commUNION with DIVINITY? 1 in 20? 1 in 50? Less? We need a Church that isn't afraid to help guide us into deep truths, rather than mouth Sacramentary prayers and hope it "takes."

Otherwise, we will go to the East and the New Age, to hear someone, ANYone say something that sounds like it might be worth listening to, no matter how jumbled the revelation (or error) is. Or if we can't do that because of fear, guilt, or plain ignorance that there's a THERE there, we'll just sit on our fat duffs eating Twinkies, watching cop shows, soap operas, paying our taxes, funding our wars, perpetuating our culture. That is why the Churches of Europe are empty, and why people are seeking "spirituality" instead of organized religion.

A handful of nerdy intellectuals might be able to dig deep enough find the heritage that was once alive, but woe to us want to live in it! Only a desperate love that won't let us give up keeps us returning. I guess that's why.

And of course the most important reason, that NO one loves you like Jesus does.

Love to you all,

jon
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Jon:
[QB]Warning: Rant about to be pounded into the Cathedral door. Read at your own risk.
LOL! Smiler

signing my name to your protest on the Cathedral door
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Jon...
All I can say is Amen!

I've got the hammer and nails.

Wanda
 
Posts: 278 | Location: Pennslyvania | Registered: 12 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I've got the hammer and nails.
signing my name to your protest on the Cathedral door

Let's see now...I got the extra pencil here to sign with...and um...do ya need some help with that hammer?!? Wink

Seriously Jon I think you've ranted in good company here...it's a frustration to be sure!!

God bless,
Terri
 
Posts: 609 | Location: Oklahoma | Registered: 27 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Jon said,

"We need a Church that isn't afraid to help guide us into deep truths..."

For me, this is the key to the re-formation of Christianity! I would modify what you said slightly to "...guide us into deep communion with God - Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer!"

I make these changes because I have seen so many who chase endlessly after "Wisdom" without any interest in encountering its Source. I have known those who can quote the mystics and sages of history, yet have no love.

The Church is called to be, was created to be the Body of Love in the world.

That is why I have dedicated myself to be one of the "guides" within the Church by offering spiritual direction. I believe such work, as well as true pastoral counseling, to be the work that can help transform the Church.

John
 
Posts: 38 | Location: Deerfield, IL | Registered: 07 January 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I'm new enough (just one post yesterday) and don't quite have the hang of the board yet--like how to quote....

Anyway, one of the spiritual ideas that has always made sense to me is that God is looking for us just as we are looking for God. Consequently, for all sincere seekers, God will communicate in a form most likely to be understood. Furthermore, if we follow those promptings, God will be waiting for us for as long as it takes. This is my belief, and I won't ask others to believe the same until they know it in their hearts.

It seems to me that what we can do as humans who gather in communities of faith tradition or communities of discussion is to provide ways for people to seek, communicate, and then follow. That's being done right here.

And in the meantime, I find the word "Christianity" and the term "Christian" to be confusing as it is used in so many different ways with so many different underlying assumptions. I have felt at times that they were words/concepts used to exclude people, like myself, who might not want to sign on for anything that I haven't come to know in my heart first. I have great respect for the gospel message, but I think I might just be out of the running with some definitions and assumptions of 'Christian' I have heard in my life.

No offense meant to anyone who has a very solid definition of Christianity working positively for themselves. Also no offense to anyone on this thread. I don't mean this to sound like a challenge to any particular person or church. I just wanted to say something from the perspective of someone slightly outside the mainstream.

I guess I've used a long-winded way of saying 'Why Christianity?' If you find it gets you to a place where you can meet God, then it's right for you.

shanti
 
Posts: 144 | Location: USA | Registered: 01 September 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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From William H. Shannon's Thomas Merton's Paradise Journey: Writings on Contemplation
quote:

For Christianity, doctrine is of primary importance; in Zen, it is accidental. But there is a possible point of meeting for the two; namely, at the level of experience. Zen gives priority to experience; but so does Christianity, if it is properly understood. It is true that Christianity, unlike Zen, begins with revelation. But it is a mistake to think of this revelation simply as doctrine; it is a self-revelation of God calling to experience God in Christ. Granted, this revelation is communicated in words and statements, and Christians have always been profoundly concerned with the exact meaning of these statements and their precise formulation. Nonetheless, Christian theologians, at least in their better moments, have always understood that no conceptual formulation can adequately embody God's self-revelation. We must admit, however, the fact, to which history testifies all too well, that obsession with correct doctrinal formulas has often made people forget that the heart of Christianity "is a living experience of unity in Christ which far transcends all conceptual formulations".
From Thomas Merton to Erich Fromm in an unpublished letter dated February 7, 1966:
quote:
We had some discussion on the question of a non-theistic religious experience. The point I was trying to convey was that religious experience in the Jewish, Christian, Zen Buddhist, or in a general mystical human way, is an experience that may not be different as in the case of a theist or a non-believer. I am not denying the significance of various conceptual frames of reference, but I do believe that when it comes down to the phenomenon of the religious experience itself, the theological frame of reference is not as crucial as it may appear to be.
What, then, is the significance of various conceptual frames of reference ? And why be profoundly concerned with the exact meaning of these statements and their precise formulation as pertaining to revelation?

Let me make two analogies, one from my experience in the corporate world, one from my experience with personality psychology.

On any corporate venue, where I had the privilege to serve as leader, I emphasized strategic planning and the articulation of a mission statement.

Because the size of my financial institutions was typically small, never did my mission statement advocate cost or price leadership in the marketplace. I simply could not compete with the financial behemoths, which had decided advantages over me due to scale economies. My approach, therefore, always required product differentiation; that is to say, I inventoried the ways I could be different in order to better serve.

In my study of and experience with the psychology of personality, especially with the typologies of Jung, Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram, but certainly also many others such as I used with my workforces, the lesson was much the same. The highest and best use of the self-knowledge we gleaned and self-awareness we gained from such testing often involves the proper discernment of how we are different. This exercise in differentiation, again, answers the questions of how we may better serve and so can influence our choices of vocation, avocation and ministry.

Exercises in differentiation, therefore, seem to have an important role in determining how we can best serve, individually and corporately, in the marketplace or behind the cloister wall. Differentiation, as such, is the inventorying of our unique giftedness; this is what St. Paul was doing in 1 Corinthians 12.

We must not lose sight of the fact that there are many gifts but the same Spirit, that even in our diversity of ministry we share a unity of mission. In the banking business, I stressed this to my employees and told them they had no excuse for forgetting same inasmuch as it is written on every coin they handle as e pluribus unum !

Doctrinal formulations, possibly, could be viewed as 1) corporate mission statements, and might best be considered 2) articulations of how we intend to serve, based on 3) an inventory of our giftedness and derived from 4) an exercise in differentiation. To me, therein lies the significance of various conceptual frames of reference and the answer to why we are profoundly concerned with the exact meaning of these statements and their precise formulation as pertaining to revelation.

Maybe the purpose of doctrine is realized when we identify our giftedness? Maybe the reason for setting ourselves apart from the world is in order to be of service to the world? Maybe this is true for the hermit and the eremitic life, for the monastic and the cenobitic life, for the contemplative and the missionary, for the Church in the Modern World, for the bank president and the bank teller?

I have seen misinterpretations of corporate mission statements and their twisted and contorted perversion into tools of greed. I have seen misapplications of personality typologies and their wrongful employment in labeling people by defining their limits and confining their growth possibilities. I have also witnessed, as history testifies all too well, that obsession with correct doctrinal formulas [that] has often made people forget that the heart of Christianity is a living experience of unity in Christ and such an obsession, even when it is not a twisted and contorted perversion of doctrine into a tool of power, might simply result from confusing uniformity with unity. Sometimes it comes from that lack of centeredness, which results in a false need for boundary defense, which derives from a fear-induced attempt at preservation of a sick identity structure, whether of an individual or of an institution.

Well, I have gone on enough. I will close with another quote from Shannon about Thomas Merton:
quote:
There are lingering elements of the "Catholic" narrowness that becloud parts of The Seven Storey Mountain. Thus, in a chapter entitled "The Problems of Unbelief", he has words of scorn for people "who cannot believe in the revealed word of God," but "swallow everything they read in the newspapers". Some fifteen years later he piped a very different tune in an essay he wrote for Harper's magazine which bore the title "Apologies to an Unbeliever." At the very beginning of that essay he tells the "unbeliever," "I recognize that I have been standing on your foot, and I am now at last getting off it, with these few mumbled sentences."
Ah, but this problem is ubiquitous insofar as I know I have often stepped on the feet of my children, spouse, siblings, employees, friends and other infidels, as pertaining to a multiplicity of ways that they were not like me Wink

How may I be of service?
jb
 
Posts: 2881 | Registered: 25 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Of course, there's some risk in trusting this, since some people find archetypal domains opening which nourish and heal and sometimes lead to further disorientation and letting go of beliefs that don't necessarily fall within the church's map, unless its a pluralistic one. I'm wondering if there isn't a tendency to a subtle, unstated view of these inner domains as threatening or evil (which I believe does exist) rather than admit that the common human interior life may be more inclusive than the church can permit.
That shouldn't be the case in Catholicism, w.c., and that's an example of an area where doctrine can actually affirm the value of inner exploration with an implicit trust that it won't necessarily lead to conflicts with Christian teaching. There are ancient metaphysical teachings in Catholicism concerning the soul, its faculties, and its openness to the realms of nature, plant, and animal life, and the cosmos as well, all of which is viewed as good. I cover this in some detail in my doctoral thesis, God, Self, and Ego which can be found through the link on the home page to books by Lisa and I.

There is also an optimism that if one sincerely follows the leadings of truth and life, one will be led to Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.

This relationship between doctrine and inner exploration need not be antagonistic, although I realize that it often is. In my case, at least, Catholic doctrine has encouraged me to trust that inner exploration and openness would not lead me away from the God affirmed by doctrine; it's encouraged and supported a deeper surrender to the Spirit, in other words.

Which brings up a quote from Merton to Fromm, posted by JB.

quote:
I am not denying the significance of various conceptual frames of reference, but I do believe that when it comes down to the phenomenon of the religious experience itself, the theological frame of reference is not as crucial as it may appear to be.
I see where this is coming from and agree that religious experience per se is not a consequence of doctrinal belief, nor does the latter necessarily lead to it. It certainly can play a role in helping one integrate it, and even hold oneself open to other experiences.

Among the other recommendations for the Church presented in this thread, there is surely one emerging about the need to teach a doctrine that is completely affirming of the depths and heights of human experience, its goodness, and the abiding presence of God therein.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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shanti, so good to have you join the discussion. Smiler

You might check the faq link at the top right of each page for more info on quoting and other kinds of tags that you can use. Those "Instant UBB Code" buttons below a text area can also come in handy.

quote:
Originally posted by shanti:
[QB]I'm new enough (just one post yesterday) and don't quite have the hang of the board yet--like how to quote....

[quote]Anyway, one of the spiritual ideas that has always made sense to me is that God is looking for us just as we are looking for God. Consequently, for all sincere seekers, God will communicate in a form most likely to be understood. Furthermore, if we follow those promptings, God will be waiting for us for as long as it takes. This is my belief, and I won't ask others to believe the same until they know it in their hearts.
I completely agree with you, and am certain that that's what has contributed, in part, to the emergence of different religions around the world.

Which is one of the reasons I asked, "Why Christianity?" if this is so.

quote:
It seems to me that what we can do as humans who gather in communities of faith tradition or communities of discussion is to provide ways for people to seek, communicate, and then follow. That's being done right here.
I like to think so. It's nothing earth-shaking, but these kinds of discussions are going on all over the world, now. In many ways, the Internet is facilitating some of these exchanges better than formal inter-religious conferences.

quote:
And in the meantime, I find the word "Christianity" and the term "Christian" to be confusing as it is used in so many different ways with so many different underlying assumptions. I have felt at times that they were words/concepts used to exclude people, like myself, who might not want to sign on for anything that I haven't come to know in my heart first. I have great respect for the gospel message, but I think I might just be out of the running with some definitions and assumptions of 'Christian' I have heard in my life.
I do understand, having been told many times that I, a Roman Catholic, was not a "real Christian" because I was a Roman Catholic. Obviously, that's a kind of fringe character I was dealing with, but less drastic examples can be found (such as when Catholics have told me I'm not a "real Catholic." Eeker )

The problem is that there really IS something called Christianity, which naturally implies that there are some movements and traditions which do not fit the description. Where to draw the line isn't all that difficult, in my opinion. But how we draw it and communicate about that is really very important, especially concerning what we imply about salvation, damnation, and other spiritual issues.

quote:
No offense meant to anyone who has a very solid definition of Christianity working positively for themselves. Also no offense to anyone on this thread. I don't mean this to sound like a challenge to any particular person or church. I just wanted to say something from the perspective of someone slightly outside the mainstream.
Absolutely no offense taken nor communicated, I'm sure of that. In many ways, it seems to me that views "slightly outside the mainstream" have become, more or less, mainstream, so you're in plenty of good company, there. Wink

Phil
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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from johnboy

quote:
Ah, but this problem is ubiquitous insofar as I know I have often stepped on the feet of my children, spouse, siblings, employees, friends and other infidels, as pertaining to a multiplicity of ways that they were not like me [Wink]

How may I be of service?
jb
Well, you could start by getting off my foot!! Big Grin

Excellent quote selection and commentaries on them!

BTW, your signature seems to be evolving! Wink And nice home page, only I can seem to find a contents index anywhere. Is there some kind of Flash plug-in I need to enable (I've disabled most of that along with Java to speed web surfing)
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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BTW, your signature seems to be evolving! And nice home page, only I can seem to find a contents index anywhere. Is there some kind of Flash plug-in I need to enable (I've disabled most of that along with Java to speed web surfing)

There is no index.
There are no contents.
The audio-visual is kataphatic.
The textual approach is apophatic.

Apokatastatically yours,
jb
 
Posts: 2881 | Registered: 25 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hello Phil, and thanks for the welcome. Hello to everyone else, too!

Phil, I think you are so right when you mention that ideas from outside the mainstream sometimes actually *become* the mainstream. Just think of the word "simplicity." It's an actual life ethic and/or religious tenet for some religions and philosophies, but there are catalogues where, for a mere two thousand or so (currancy of your choice), you can transform your home into a "more simple" place. Smiler

I guess my real dilemma is this: Does Christianity mean you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? Does it mean that you pray to Jesus? Does it mean you're baptised by water, by the Spirit? Must you be a Trinitarian? Must you not? Are you saved? Are you not?

Also, is it productive to talk about "Christianity" as a complete entity when there are so many different denominations, some with widely diverging views on what it means to be a Christian?

I am a person who has her head poked in the door. I think the Sermon on the Mount is one of the greatest pieces of advice ever given to the world. Because of this, I am constantly wondering if I am a Christian. But then, I show up at a Christian worship service of one kind or another and find out that on the back of the ten commandments there are 10,000 more!

And I don't think it's any better in the non-Christian world, either, so I hope I don't come across as someone who is picking on Christians. I just have this little nagging question in my mind....

From my perspective, as long as one's heart is open to the Divine, the religious denomination is a cultural/linguitic framework for carrying the Divine (call it grace if you will) into the world.

It's been my pleasure to sojourn with many people of many different religious persuasions. I see lots of common ground. I'm not completely blown by the wind on this and have regular pit stops as well as a spiritual identity, but I do feel called to a life of varied religious experience.

Hmmm....I think I have *said* a lot when I meant to ask a lot. Wink

shanti
 
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