I had an interesting conversation this week – someone wanting to know how life, religion and purpose fitted together. Two particular things ‘popped’ for me.
First a comment from last Sunday’s study. In How a violent Bible betrays its non-violent God, Dominic Crossan distinguished between Spirituality, Theology, and Religion.
Religion is when we organise ourselves into parishes, denominations, and world religions. Usually we devise creeds and propositions. People then choose with which religion or denomination they will align. Then the creeds etc. become faith tests to see if a person belongs/qualifies/commits to that religious structure or framework. If you can say ‘yes’ to the propositions, the system used to be that then you got to be a member of that religious club.
Spirituality is about experience. We can sense a spiritual presence; we say ‘Love surrounds us’ or ‘the Spirit is here’. From the beginning of the Bible narrative, for example, the Spirit ‘is here’
• in Genesis chapter 1’s prose-poem about how the world might have begun, the phrase ‘brooding over the face of the waters’ establishes Spirit-presence before any creating starts;
• through Ezekiel’s dream of a valley of dry bones being breathed back to life by the Spirit;
• to Jesus’ baptism which the watching crowd sensed was a Great Spiritual Moment;
• to Pentecost when Jesus’ grieving followers got a new lease of life in an ecstatic event.
All of this is the Christian story of how Spirit operates in the world. Other people who prize spirituality above religion, might use a different story to describe Spirit’s movement among human beings, but there are many similarities.
Theology is about our world view and how we therefore operate in the world. If our world view is that human beings are bad and need rescuing before they could measure up to a divine standard, your theology will include an angry demanding God and sinful humanity. If your world view is that there should be a fair and distributive justice in the world, where the poor are treated with dignity and respect and the rich are not allowed to get away with only self-interested behaviours, then according to Dominic Crossan, your theology matches the God-position in the Hebrew Torah (law). In this world view human beings are good but flawed, and need a covenant structure to remind them of their responsibilities.
People can be in the same religion, but operate within it with a different theology. Spiritual people whether they know it or not, operate also with a theology even though they may not be religious.
I said there were two things which popped for me in the conversation, but I’ll need to put the second in a blog. Look for it on http://www.standrews.org.nz/category/spirituality/ later today.
The last of our pre-election meetings went well though a filthy night weather-wise and competition from the TV1 Leaders’ debate. Given Mike Hoskings asked on morning radio about Jacinda Ardern’s wardrobe for the TV debate, you’ll be interested to know I wore a tasteful black outfit, Chris Finlayson a smart dark suit with navy blue socks, Geoff Simmond’s (TOP) jacket was tweedy, Julie Anne Genter was in eponymous Green and the Labour list candidate, Sarb Johal, wore a professional-looking light-gray suit! Panel convenor Philippa Tolley, who is taller than she looks on radio, wore black velvet. Derek Woodard Lehmann was in a navy blue jacket with taupe pants. I’m glad to have been able to let you know about the important issues of the evening!
Thank you to all who’ve assisted with and attended the housing, income, Rainbow and now this Centre for Theology and Public Issues evening. At the door, I was directing people looking for the political meeting, for dance lessons and for the mindfulness course – a cross section of what the Centre does after hours! We appreciated Centre staff’s assistance setting up each time too – thanks Laetitia, Peter and Lily. Now the Centre is full of violas for the 44th International Viola Congress.
On Sunday, the Season of Creation begins. We will be thinking about rivers and water – a hot political topic at the moment – there’s that Spirit at work in synchronicity. Andrew and Wendy Matthews will be contributing, the choir will sing a Joy Cowley poem which Vivien has set to music and we will celebrate communion. A good day to join the Gathering! See you there.