When decluttering a dualistic approach works well. ‘Keep’/’Don’t keep’ is the basic division. Then in the ‘don’t keep’ there is recycle/donate/sell – not so dualistic, more tri-alistic (if there is a such a word!). Life in general requires more subtlety and integration, a more holistic approach.
Dualisms keep on coming up. Maybe it is just that we like tidy categories. The Church struggles with spiritual/secular dualisms seen in the spirituality versus social justice split, where, when spirituality embarrasses, we find haven in good works of social justice. To solve the latter split, most mainline churches have a church arm and a social service arm. These used to be more unified when home bottling and jam making supplied rest homes from domestic kitchens of church goers – outlawed now by hygiene regulations. Professional human resource practices are required today, so volunteers are less able to substantially assist. Gradually, connections can be lost.
Another crucial dualism plaguing the church is the academic/individual faith split. Since the first modern university was founded (1810), academic theology is more professional education of clergy than wisdom seeking. Thus, the dualism chasm has widened between university scholars and church goers. Different language is used each side. ‘Talking past each other” happens. It was a fascinating story to follow in my doctoral studies. I discovered massive concern about the split between theory and practice in theology in the United States and worldwide.
Now more academic analytical, critical thinking is available to the wider public through published works of progressive thinkers. Few put this together as a wholistic package, however. It can therefore seem, on reading a “progressive” book, that the ‘stuff’ learned in church over years is useless, primitive or old fashioned.
Not so. Within the church-learned material is deep wisdom which still speaks to the human condition. Mining this for its riches requires as much intelligence – cognitive intelligence and spiritual intelligence.
Each side of the chasm contains people who distrust the other side. Contemplatives can think of pragmatics and academics as too head-orientated. Academics can think of regular Christians as lazy thinkers, in denial about reality. Cruel and intimidating statements emerge out of arrogance found on both sides of the chasm. Chasms need bridges to get us across the divide. Joy Cowley’s poem The Bridge speaks into this dilemma. (It is reproduced here in continuous lines to save space)
“There are times in life/ when we are called to be bridges,/ not a great monument spanning a distance/ and carrying loads of heavy traffic/but a simple bridge/to help one person from here to there/over some difficulty/such as pain, fear, grief, loneliness,/a bridge which opens the way/for ongoing journey.
When I become a bridge for another,/I bring upon myself a blessing, for I escape/from the small prison of self/and exist for a wider world,/breaking out to be a larger being/who can enter another’s pain/and rejoice in another’s triumph.
I know of only one greater blessing/in this life, and that is/to allow someone else/to be a bridge for me.”
St Andrew’s could have much to offer as a bridge, if it chose. Sunday Gatherings are moments when we stand on the bridge between head and heart, sacred and secular, academia and sagacity(wisdom). This Sunday we are looking at the first Pillar of six which undergird St Andrew’s’ life: Worship and Spiritual Practice. Afterwards we join in the Community brunch – bring some tasty food! At 3pm Judy Dumbleton will bring us a delightful organ concert. See you there!
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