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Clarifying "spirituality" in America.

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Stephanos
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0 posted 10-25-2001 11:17 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

This post is a continuation of another direction from the thread "reassurance"

It's not totally my idea, I followed Interloper's lead who wrote "That excerpt of your (Local Rebel's) response to Stephanos really should be visited in another thread.  we could spend a lot of time on that  "

  

This is for those interested in going this direction.  If not, carry on you patriots!

Here is Local Rebel's response


The one part though, Stephanos, where I'd draw distinction is in regards to our spiritual status as a nation.  We indeed, are not, a Christian nation and have not been one for quite some time -- even though about 80% of the population purports belief in Christianity -- it was Bloom, in his work 'The American Religion' around 92ish who characterized us as a 'Post Christian' nation that by and large has a greater faith in the pre-Christian notions of Gnosticism rather than the institutionalized 'religion' of Christianity -- so what you'll find, inside and oustide the Bible Belt, is that people do indeed believe in personal God... which is why more and more are finding the Church experience irrelevent -- not to mention the contortions of logic required to transpose the faith language of anachronistic rituals of 'flat earth' ideology and paradigms into what has obviously, not, been a flat earth for some time now.
In order for a society to become unchurched it really requires a greater inner spirituality -- not a weaker one.  People have indeed taken it to a more personal level.


And this was to be my response (though more appropriate to an entirely separate thread):


Reb,

I am glad that we see alot alike concerning this patriotism issue.  But the idea of American being a "post-Christian" nation brings alot to my mind.  Firstly, your referring to this new blend of spirituality, you mentioned Gnosticism.  Take a closer look at the roots of Gnosticism and you will find that they were far from being free of any "flat earth" ideas.  They had very elaborate doctrines (though varying with different groups) concerning creation, God, and nature.  To name a few...1) An ineffable Deity who is pure Spirit   2) a dualism between spirit and matter which made a chain of subsequent beings (called the Pleroma) necessary for God to "touch" the material world in creation.  3)  A belief that all matter is essentially evil while spiritual things are good, due to a "split" in the Pleroma.  My point here is that they believed very definite doctrines... at least Gnosticism after the 1st and 2nd centuries did.  The earlier Gnostics were more Eastern in thought, dualistic, and or pantheistic.  So If you say that the new sprituality embraced by most Americans is more akin to the earlier forms of Gnosticism, you really have to do away with a personal God with any definite attributes ... because in the end it is all naturalism.  The claim that God is everything is just as naturalistic as the claim that God is nothing, because both deny God any uniqueness apart from nature.  So that any expression of nature ends up just as divine as any other.  If you say that our sprituality is more like the later gnosticism, you get into the far-fetched elaborate doctrines with a bit of Christian lingo thrown in just to be safe.  But even now many are going back to the Eastern thought and doing the same thing with the Christian lingo...

I know that the institutionalized expressions of Christianity have failed miserably and in many ways.  One example is how the Catholic Church was slow to see that Galileo was not a heritic by teaching that the earth rotated around the Sun.  But these things seem to be what the minds of men imposed upon the genuine revelations given by God.  God is not so dogmatic (or at least not ignorant) as men in these ways.  God always knew the Earth was not flat.  He created it.  But there are certain doctrines of Christianity which are not of human origin and cannot be disposed of while still hanging on to the buzzwords and more abstract  doctrines of Christianity, like "God is love" or "God is Spirit".    What about Jesus Christ crucified for our sins on a Roman cross, buried and bodily ressurected in three days? (a fact which even his disciples could not fathom, much less expect, or create as a "teaching".) What about the only saving relationship to God being through faith in Christ.   These summarize what Christianity is at the very core (apart from all the additions by the "church" world).  And to dispense of them, is to dispense of Christianity.  Without these doctrines, you are always forced to go back to a spirituality that ends up embracing pantheism, polytheism, dualism,  or atheism (or some mixture of these), even if some Christian language is grafted in.

I'm not even in a discussion here as to what is right or wrong in matter of belief.  I am just clarifying what is "Christian" and what is not.  There is no such thing as an "improved Gospel", or an "more enlightened Christian Spirituality".  Either it's cardinal beliefs are believed or not.  I am not here to condemn any who do not believe in Christ.  I am just asking them to be honest that they are not Christians if they are not.  It's fine if certain things about Christianity  are attractive to you even while you are miles away from becoming a Christian, but follow them to their conclusion.  We'll all be forced in one path or the other.  

This is what I meant by a "personal" God...  A God who is a person,  ie having distinctions... preferring one thing to another, saying one thing and not another.  When you say that people have taken spirituality to a more personal level, I agree.  But I have found mostly this is because their "god" has shifted from an outward ritualistic religion, to an inward one where the self is discovered to be God.  Most of the new age doctrines (and Pantheisms) end up here.  It goes something like this... you discover your own divinity, power, enlightenment, godhood, etc...  You realize that the sum of all things that all religions have been "really" saying is that we have access to the wellsprings of Divine being inside.  It's not a matter of sin and salvation anymore, it's a matter of remembering who we are in the circle of life.  Of course that is more "personal" than mere church experiences because you are now at least worshipping a personal being (albeit the wrong one according to Christianity).  That is why real Christianity would agree with you in saying that a mere churchy thing is quite irrelevant.  By the way, I wholeheartedly agree!  I don't relish all of the formalisms of religion in the name of Christ or anything else.    There is the need something more "personal".  But God is Christianity's answer to this need for a personal spritual experience.  And God does not equal church.   You are called to experience him as an intimate being, even to the point of calling him Lord, Father, Savior, Friend.  But such words are irrelevent in self worship, because the god worshipped there has no identity apart from yourself.  

I am just trying to make some distinctions as I see them.  Just to induce some different thinking if nothing else.  

Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (edited 10-25-2001).]

Local Rebel
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1 posted 10-26-2001 01:59 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Don't have the time at the moment to respond to this properly Steven but I appreciate the efforts you've put into researching Gnosticism here...

You'll note, however, what I said was the 'notions' of Gnosticism -- not Gnosticism itself.

My major and minor bits of philosophy are posted at my site for now www.geocities.com/nighthawke700/index.html -- in the philosophy section, naturally    with a couple of big essays unfinished for the time being... feel free to browse it if you want to get a better picture of where I'm coming from.

Also - you may want to put some effort into reading Bloom - and you may enjoy reading the works in my Bibliography by Spong as well.
Interloper
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2 posted 10-26-2001 11:45 AM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Stephen ~
Well put forth my Christian friend.  

I think it is also important to distinguish the difference between the Body of Christ and a building.  A church building is commonly call "the church."  In truth, "the church" is the "Body of Christ" or the people.

Reb ~
You continue to prescribe the reading of a book devoted to New Age religion.  I prescribe the book that has been in print longer than any other and translated into virtually every language on earth.  It is also the number one seller though not on the NY Times best seller list.

I prescribe a book that is eternal truth.  It has been termed the "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth."  Read two chapters and get a good night's sleep
Local Rebel
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3 posted 10-26-2001 03:28 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

If you're referring to the Bible interloper -- I have read it... cover to cover... three times...

And I've read Bloom.  Which is why I am prepared to discuss his text.

You may want to do your homework before offering any further critical analysis.
Interloper
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4 posted 10-26-2001 04:32 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Shux, Reb.  We are debating over 2 or 3 threads and not getting all the data at one time.

Let's pick one and continue.  I vote for this one
Brad
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5 posted 10-27-2001 07:05 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I'm not so sure the churchy thing is such a bad thing. By church, of course, I do indeed mean the building.

I am fascinated by ritual and I believe that they have a real function in society and that personal religious experience can be enhanced by that.

Or let me put it in my usual way. Rituals make something happen, I don't know what that is, but it's certainly worth exploring.

Brad

PS As I said to a friend of mine the other night, if most people feel they can dispense with ritual and concentrate on spirituality, I'm the opposite. I have no idea what spirituality is but I do know that rituals do something.
hush
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6 posted 10-28-2001 01:09 AM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

Brad-

Now I'm curious. What exactly do you think rituals do?

Ritualized worship, meditation, and methods of belief are the chief reason that I put as much distance between myself and church as possible... and I'm interested to know what you think about ritual without spirituality? Or ritual as a means for attaining spirituality? I'm not sure I'm following what you're trying to say.

To me, rituals always seemed mechanized... once they become a part of personal ingrained habit, they are something that doesn't really matter anymore. Of course, I always connected ritualized religion with things like being told that if I don't get baptized I'm going to hell... or that people are worthless without the presence of God and Jesus in their lives... not to mention the ritual of giving your money to the church and paying hefty tuition to put your children into Catholic schools where they get a nice sheltered existence (despite the fact that most Catholic school products I know are hard-core partiers) and introduction to the world of predjudice against gays, pro-choicers, and all things liveral, as well as the aversion of earthly pleasure.... I'm going to stop now... I'm combining the institution with the idea, and in my opinion, that's a misperception, especially since most churches I've been exposed to have been Catholic, a religion I have an almost vehement opposition to. But you think the churchy thing is good? I'm having some trouble swallowing this concept... I'm hoping you'll elaborate?

I eat only sleep and air -Nicole Blackman

Brad
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7 posted 10-28-2001 04:44 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Uh well, I don't know if I can make this clearer:

Ritual without Spirituality:

1. Ritual without spirituality is a form of Performance Art.

2. The repetition of ritual can create much the same feeling as what athletes call being "in the zone".

3. We don't hesitate to enjoy the religious festivals of other cultures as a spectator sport, why not see our own tradition and culture in this way?


---------------------------

Ritual with Spirituality:

1. Spirituality can be enhanced by making the ephemeral part of our tangible lives. When we privilege the Spiritual above the Mundane so much that we don't have to do anything, we don't lose the Mundane, we lose the Spiritual.

2. Ritual and dogma aren't the same thing. Ritual can be a transforming event, dogma is the maintaining of the status quo.

3. Ritual is not routine, it is the breaking of that routine (working, getting food, taking care of others), it is the moment we can refocus our lives and rethink our priorities.

-----------------

Community and Sincerity:

1. I am not convinced that Church, a public institution, necessarily leads to the exclusion and hatred of others. It does or can create a sense of belonging -- an 'us' -- but that doesn't mean we have to demonize 'them'. We don't need Church to do that. But Church can show that there's more out there than us or me.

--It just doesn't necessarily do that.

2. All rituals have to be done sincerely. I don't care how many times you throw a basketball at a hoop, it's hard to get it in the basket unless you're trying.

Uh, I think.  

Brad
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8 posted 10-29-2001 12:02 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Hush,

Any Christian that told you that you are worth less simply because you are not a Christian was wrong.  Your worth is not defined by another human being.

One does not "attain" spirituality.  It might help if you would define what you believe "spirituality" is within the concept of organised religion.

You say rituals are mechanized.  Well, they do become a habit and like any habit if we don't think about what we are doing when we are doing it, that habit or ritual has lost its meaning or importance.

For instance, many churches use the "Lord's Prayer" as part of the church service.  The Catholics call it an "Our Father."  If one simply recites the words, mechanically, without thinking, the words lose their meaning.  However, if one recites the words while thinking of what they mean and how they apply to themselves and their relationship with God, then it has great menaing.

My best friend is a Catholic and we have very interesting and animated discussions.  His children were sent to Catholic schools all their life and I don't see they act any differently than any other child.  They just got a good education in a strict environment.

To say that Catholic kids party like others is the same thing as saying Baptist kids party like others or that Minister's children party like others, or anybody parties like anybody else.  Christians don't lose their desire for fun in the practice of their beliefs.  

Yes, and Christian's make mistakes and do "bad" just like anybody else.  The difference is in something that you would have to experience to understand.

The churchy thing.  An interesting term indeed.  Really its just a group of like minded people.  They can meet in a building called a church and they may adhere to a certain ritual when they meet.

I'll bet you have your own ritual which you perform every day.  In fact, I'll bet you have two or three rituals you practice every day.  I'll further wager that you have a certain ritualistic phrase you use almost daily


Brad,

You are correct.  A "ritual" without sincerity is worth less than a "ritual" done with total sincerity.

Local Rebel
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9 posted 10-30-2001 02:39 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Ritual can be taken in many directions.  It plays into the group dynamic and depends largely upon the leadership.

Ritual could lead a group to a kind of spiritual healing -- leading those not feeling spiritual into spirituality -- as I think a large portion of the country experienced on the Friday after September 11th when we participated via electronic communication in the national prayer service -- indeed much of the Western world participated.

Ritual can also lead a group out West to Utah to establish the Mormon Church -- or into the Southeast to establish Southern Babtistism -- or to the trajic conclusion of the Jim Jones cult, the black sneaker crowd, or even taken to the ultimate extreme -- Nazi Germany.

It all boils down to who is leading it and why -- which plays into Brad's other thread on judgment and false prophets.
Interloper
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10 posted 10-30-2001 12:34 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Reb,
You hit the nail right on the head!
Stephanos
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11 posted 10-30-2001 11:45 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Ritualism is good in it's place.

As far as Spritual belief goes however, it can never become the "whole show".  Or it should never become the whole show.  But the disappointing fact about rituals is that they do end up becoming the dominating factor of religious life, slowly and unconciously.  You may like Brad say "this is not such a bad thing".  It's kind of like art... well and fine.   Then please call it art.  But Church leaders don't call it art, they call it truth, and they call it God.  What ends up being cold, calculated, and rote, is touted as fiery, dynamic, and alive.   Now if there are many who are not satisfied with ritualistic religion, who feel an emptiness in going through motions, and who feel that in regard to art  there are surely better  museums to be found, then there must be a problem.  

The possiblities...  1)  Christianity is false... the religionists are a bunch of play actors and their doctrines were formulated much like art through the centuries, by humanity and for humanity.  So to disbelieve them is of no more consequence than not believing in the "tooth fairy"  2)  "Christianity " (in the ecclesiastical sense) is correct in everything.   Ritualism is the way spirituality was meant to be.  And those who are disgusted by the error and hypocrisy are decieved and lost for eternity in Hell.  or  3)  Christianity is correct in it's cardinal doctrines about Jesus Christ, salvation, faith, Heaven, and Hell, since such doctrines did not originate with humanity, but were revealed by God.  While they hold the truth, they often "hold the truth in unrighteousness", having too often discredited the very things they teach.  And so neither the "Church world" is wholly right, nor the "outsiders of Christianity".   But Jesus Christ remains right.  And the world will never be able to point to a faulty "church" as an excuse for not listening to his saving word.  Neither will the church be able to trust in her elaborate rituals, money, or even good works for righteousness.  Without him, both the religious and non-religious world is lost.  With him and trusting him, any can be saved.

The last one is surely the one I know to be real.  I'm not debunking all ritual.  I agree with Brad to the degree that it has it's place.  The early Christians (even in their simplicity and raw power of faith) had a ritual of commemorating the death of Jesus by taking the bread and the wine as representing his body and blood on the cross.  I like rituals which are alive with faith and vitality in what they are representing.  When they become removed from their nourishing roots, filled with apathy, boredom, or self-righteousness and braggadocio, they are utterly without my desire.  

Two deceptions I see... 1) ritualistic religion is the fulfillment of what Jesus Christ intended and the way to salvation.  2)  since ritualistic religion is so unsatisfying, the claims of the church regarding Jesus Christ cannot be true, so my own way will be the way of salvation.

(each side of error reacting to the other)

Stephen.


[This message has been edited by Stephanos (edited 10-30-2001).]

Interloper
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12 posted 10-31-2001 04:30 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Stephen,

You continue to impress me with your presentation, choice of words, and faith.

God bless you my friend.
Brad
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13 posted 11-01-2001 01:47 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I like art.  

But true, it's not the same thing.
 
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