If love is the soul of Christian existence, it must be at the heart of every other Christian virtue. Thus, for example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement; fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love.
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What some now call 'emerging Christianity' or 'the emerging church' is not something you join, establish, or invent. You just name it and then you see it everywhere- already in place! Such nongroup groups, the 'two or three' gathered in deep truth, create a whole new level of affiliation, dialogue, and friendship...
Egoic consciousness is the one we all normally operate with, until we are told there is something else! Every culture teaches egoic consciousness in different ways. At that level it is all about me, my preferences, my choices, my needs, my desires and me and my group as the central reference point.
The recurring theme of all religions is a sympathy, empathy, connection, capacity between the human and the divine - that we were made for union with one another. They might express this through different rituals, doctrines, dogmas, or beliefs, but at the higher levels they're talking about the same goal. And the goal is always union with the divine.
I think it's almost necessary for most people to have the freedom to pull back, and then re-enter at an adult level, where they are neither playing the victim nor creating victims, but just participating in calm, adult behavior. Because an awful lot of churches just aren't there at adult Christianity, this seems to be the norm anymore.
True gospel authority, the authority to heal and renew things and people, is not finally found in a hierarchical office, a theological argument, a perfect law, or a rational explanation. The Crucified revealed to the world that the real power that changes people and the world is an inner authority that comes from people who have lost, let go, and are re-found on a new level.
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If you work with such people almost on the level of spiritual direction, you see that they are people who prefer a world view of order and even punitiveness. And for some reason, there's a feeling that the male psyche is going to give that to them. And if that's your view of religion, which it is for many people, if they've never come to the mystical level, religion is for social order and to maintain social order.
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People will often, almost always, prefer a male God. A male image of God gives them this sense of security, safety, order, no nonsense. So that's where their psyche is at. Probably it's something that they've got to go through. Not that there isn't a need for order in the world, but the mystical level seems to be the mature level of religion, and there the question is not order but union - divine union. And so, without some integration of the feminine, usually you never get to the mystical level.
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We cannot avoid the globalization of knowledge and information. When I was a boy growing up in Kansas, I could never think about a Buddhist, or a Hindu, or Muslim, or even a Protestant - I grew up in such a Catholic ghetto. That's not possible anymore, unless you live in a cave or something. So either we have knowledge of what the other religions and other denominations are saying, and how they tie into the common thread, or we end up just being dangerously ignorant of other people and therefore prejudiced.
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What healthy religion is saying is that the real life is both now and later. You have to taste the Real first of all now. The constant pattern, however, is that most Christians either move both backwards (religion as nostalgia) or into the distant future (religion as carrot on the stick) and consistently avoid where everything really happens and matters —the present moment.
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There has to be a womp on the side of the head that defeats and undercuts this game of performance. It has to fall apart. Now unfortunately, that very often does not happen until what I call the second half of life, when there's been enough death in the family and you start experiencing your own physical deterioration.
There are three things we have to let go of. The first is the compulsion to be successful. Second, is the compulsion to be right-especially theologically right. (That's merely an ego trip, and because of this "need" churches split in half, with both parties prisoners of their own egos.) Finally, there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control.
Modern culture is in so much trouble, where people don't have a deep inner life, or any deep experience of their true self in God, who they were before anyone said anything about them, before they received their first medal or ego identification. That's why suffering is so important, because suffering is when those little rewards are taken away from you.
Christianity is a lifestyle - a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into an established "religion" (and all that goes with that) and avoided the lifestyle change itself. One could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain in most of Christian history, and still believe that Jesus is one's "personal Lord and Savior" . . . The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.
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Because I am a part of the Big Picture, I do matter and substantially so. Because I am only a part, however, I am rightly situated off to stage right""and happily so. What freedom there is in such truth! We are inherently important and included, yet not burdened with manufacturing or sustaining that private importance. Our dignity is given by God, and we are freed from ourselves!
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Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any real issues of ego, control power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be pretty much like everybody else. We often given a bogus version of the Gospel, some fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of "Christian" countries that tend to be as consumer-oriented, proud, warlike, racist, class conscious, and addictive as everybody else-and often more so, I'm afraid.
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It is crucial that Jesus is led by the Spirit. There are two wildernesses, two darknesses in the spiritual journey. One you go into by your own stupidity, by your sin, blindness, ignorance and mistakes. We all do that. But there's another darkness. The holy darkness is the darkness that God leads us into, through and beyond. This is a necessary darkness for the journey. In a certain sense, God's darkness is a much better teacher than light. There comes a time when you have to either go deeper into faith or you will turn back, when you have to live without knowing or you lose faith altogether. So we have the Spirit leading Jesus into the wilderness, to face the essential darkness.
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