Faith on Two Feet

by Kim on May 29, 2006

It won’t go away. The spirituality craze I mean. I thought it might. This is an age of faddism, and it’s also an age when people have the attention span of a gnat, but it looks like spirituality is here to stay.

New Age spirituality is a pastiche of myths, mysticism, eco-wisdom and placebo-healing. You pays your money - it ain’t cheap - and you takes your pick.

Then there is post-Diana spirituality, a wannabe popular religion, with its touchy-feely gospel, its rituals of public pathos and its sacraments of ribbons and flowers. At a deeper level it may express a longing for a lost sense of sacredness - but it can’t deliver the goods.

As for the hooey and hoo-ha of The Da Vinci Code, it too may indicate a thirst for something “more” - which is the best spin you can give it - but what it finally demonstrates is that people who are parched will drink from even the most polluted of wells.

Meanwhile, many Christians themselves run for shelter from the Pentecostal fire and wind. Some have sold our rich heritage of prayer for a mess of Jungianism, focussing on human personality and potential rather than on the mystery of God. Others have lobotomised spirituality, reducing it to the non-rational, even the irrational, sneering at “theology”. Still others have privatised spirituality, emptying it of all social significance. If the current circuit of “quiet days” implies a God who is not in the noise and conflict of the quotidian, as if we have to be somewhere else than where we actually are to encounter God, then it is a distraction.

The best definition of spirituality I know is “faith on two feet”. It is about how each of us - heart, mind and body - and all of us, as interlocking communities of interrelating people, reflect the reality of God as revealed in Christ crucified. Therefore our touchstone will not be heightened awareness, or human growth, or being in touch with buried feelings, or with peace of mind, but the agenda of the cross - speaking truth, exposing evil, practising forgiveness, pursuing non-violence. If Christian spirituality begins in prayer, it ends in politics.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1

tortoise 05.30.06 at 8:51 am

Thank you Kim for a typically provocative post!

If the current circuit of “quiet days” implies a God who is not in the noise and conflict of the quotidian, as if we have to be somewhere else than where we actually are to encounter God, then it is a distraction.

Well, yes… but that is quite a big “if” isn’t it? After all, the Gospels do present us with quite a good exemplar for a pattern of “ministry - retreat - ministry - retreat”.

And I rather suspect that the dichotomy you seem to present between self-actualisation and Kingdom-agency is a false one: yes an over-concentration on the former will lead to a vapid individualism, but a single-minded pursuit of the latter carries a temptation to be neglectful of the self - surely a recipe for burnout!

I guess that “maturity in Christ” is the apposite image here: encompassing both an individual nurturing and a communal engagement, but remaining Christocentric through-and-through.

2

sally 05.30.06 at 10:23 am

Hi Kim,
no it won’t go away- so the challenge is how do we engage with it and show Christianity for the true spiritual path that it is.
My work takes me into Mind Body and Soul Exhibitions, but there is more to it than that, we need to acknowledge the hunger for truth and spirituality that is revealed through stuff like the DaVinci Code. I think our failure as a church to portray holisitc spirituality anf faith- running from Pentecostal Wind and Fire- in favour of being nice and middle class, is part of the root cause for our lack of engagement.
yes let us put feet to our faith, but also regain a vibrant spirituality and expression of spirituality that is sadly lacking (I do not mean lets go happy clappy… that is just fluff!).
Check out where we go and what we do…
http://www.white-fields.org.uk

3

Kim 05.30.06 at 5:19 pm

Yes, being provocative is part of my style! Flannery O’Connor said that “you have to make your vision apparent by shock - to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the blind you draw large and startling figures.” Nevertheless . . .

I hear what you are saying, Sally, but I am suspicious of all talk of “vibrant spirituality”. The church is simply deceiving itself and conning others if it makes out that spirituality is anything but a fierce and fearsome project. Think of the desert fathers (and mothers), the Carmelite tradition, and the theologia crucis of Luther and Bonhoeffer. Any talk of “holism” is sheer eyewash if it isn’t able to include, for example, the health warning of Isdore the Priest that “of all evil suggestions, the most terrible is the prompting to follow your own heart.” How would that go down, I wonder, at a spirituality exhibition?

Rowan Williams’ penetrating and disturbing classic The Wound of Knowledge: Christian Spirituality from the New Testament to St. John of the Cross (rev. ed. 1990) should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants to know what the church’s traditions have to say about spirituality

4

Beth 05.30.06 at 11:10 pm

Ah, Kim; I only had to read the first sentence and I knew it was one of yours… :)

5

Eugene McKinnon 05.31.06 at 3:34 am

Hi Kim,

About time you embraced the theologia crucis driven life. Welcome. We have been expecting you. Excelsior!

Eugene McKinnon

6

Kim 05.31.06 at 2:15 pm

Hi Eugene,

“About time . . .”?

Maybe you are just joking (you can’t always tell in e-speak, can you?) - in which case ignore the following, with my apologies - but if you really do take my theologia crucis as a recent conversion I can only assume that you have been reading a different Connexions from the one for which I have been posting a six-month. You were probably still using Clearasil, if not baby wipes, when Luther’s thought (and such commentaries on it as Walther von Loewenich’s Luther’s Theology of the Cross [1967, Eng. trans. 1976]) was shaping my own theological epistemology and ethics back in the late seventies. It has never wavered, though a trinitarian framework (I like to think) has made it both more textured and more robust. If re-reading Connexions doesn’t shift your idée fixe about where I am at theologically - you once compared me to a particularly smarmy silver-haired American telly “evangelist” (sic) - try scrolling through some of my contributions over at Ben Myers’ blog Faith and Theology. If that doesn’t do the trick, then I can only pray for another Pentecostal miracle.

7

blonde 06.01.06 at 6:43 pm

I haven’t been here for a while - it’s so refreshing to see Kim in full rant mode. I missed it. Thank you for (as ever) making me smile, and more importantly, making me think.

alice

8

Tim 06.02.06 at 7:15 pm

Very thought-provoking, Kim.

Like you, I’m leery of the whole ’spirituality’ thing. For me, it too easily degenerates into a dichotomising of the ’spiritual life’ from the world of dishes that need washing and awkard people that need someone to listen to them. I much prefer the ‘discipleship’ model, with the balance of loving God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself.

‘Faith on Two Feet’ - yes, exactly right. Thank you.

9

Eugene McKinnon 06.03.06 at 12:19 am

Kim,

I was only taking the mick out of you. I know you believe in Theologia crucis. And to make you really concerned about your silver hair I wasn’t even around when you were reading Loewenich. My parents had not even met and I showed up ten years later after they had been married for seven years.

I don’t recall comparing you to the silver-haired televangelists, but I do recall attacking you for posting a sermon on Richard’s blog and it did not mention the cross or quoting Scripture.

Speaking of which you have 48 hours to devolve to us the whereabouts of Richard Hall or I will go to the blogpolice.

Continuing to take the mick out of you.

Your friend,

Eugene McKinnon

10

Kim 06.03.06 at 1:46 am

Hi Eugene,

Shalom! I am really glad to have misread you, and I am delighted that you will continue to take the mick out of me, an entirely different thing from condescension altogether. So thanks.

About sermons . . . In my view it is not necessary that all sermons begin with a text, followed by the explicatio and the applicatio, or that all sermons refer to the cross, if that is what you mean. (To make a crucial point, however, I actually preached a theologia crucis not on Good Friday but on Easter this year!) The text-model is the classic model, and because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, it will remain so, but week after week it can get tedious for preacher and congregation alike; nor need the cross always be explicitly foregrounded. In any case, the sermon to which you refer certainly did at least deploy biblical texts, and it also issued in a call for a cruciform lifesyle.

It seems to me that more important than quoting or alluding to scripture is that sermons inhabit scripture, breathe scripture, and invite the congregation into its “strange, new world” (Barth), to inhale, exhale and get the puff to make its way around scripture’s setting and plot, so that it can participate and improvise in the further unfolding of its unfinished story.

When I myself was a young whippersnapper of an ordinand I used to be such a purist that in college sermon classes I would always criticise sermons if they didn’t have a text, preached on a “theme” (horror of horrors!), etc. Twenty-three-odd years of ministry have taught me that there are many, many ways, in twenty minutes, to raise the dead. Occasionally I have preached a thoroughly modern and secular parable the surface grammar of which says nothing at all about the Bible, or the cross, or even salvation. I did so at last Tuesday’s University eucharist, on a student’s unconventional and imaginative replies to a physics question that absolutely gobsmacked his examiners (the Epistle had been Romans 12:1ff.). “The kingdom of God is like this,” I began. At the end you could see that the penny had dropped. Jesus himself was known to base most of his preaching neither on Torah nor on halakah, but on the natural world (farmers, sheep, seeds, etc) and the village grapevine (”Have you heard about old man Scwartz and his two sons? Scandalous, isn’t it!”).

By the way, it’s half-term over here, when Richard always mitches, so don’t worry about him, he’ll be turning up soon.

Cheers!
Kim

11

Eugene McKinnon 06.04.06 at 2:13 am

Hi Kim,

Thank you for letting me know about Richard’s whereabouts. I will refrain from contacting the Swansea division of Blogopol. ;)

Good to talk to you about all this. Hopefully one day I will drop by and visit Swansea, but for now I am doing chaplaincy work at Scarborough General Hospital in Toronto and pulpit supply for vacationing ministers. I love my work. Keep praying for me.

Sincerely I am,

Eugene McKinnon

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