2014 Religious Trends
The Dawning of the Interspiritual Age
Editors' Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Spirituality community here.
For about a decade now, many Christians have been talking about a new reformation that is emerging within our faith. Phyllis Tickle, a leading Protestant historian, has been saying that we're on the brink of one of the greatest reformations in the history of Christianity, an era that she has called "the age of the Spirit." The Catholic mystic Wayne Teasdale spoke of this reformation and renewal in different terms, referring to the dawning of an interspiritual age where an increased awareness of a common spiritual essence would arise among adherents of all of the world's religions. Former evangelical pastor Rob Bell has spoken of a global shift in consciousness toward an "integral reality," an idea that he adopted from the theories of Ken Wilber.
No matter where one identifies on the spectrum of Christian faith, the undeniable reality that we're all coming to understand is that humanity is on the brink of a major spiritual transformation that has the potential to shake our faith to the core.
Many within the fold of the Christian faith will try to resist this transformation because we have been trained to believe that the way to establish the Kingdom of God is to "Christianize" the world. But at the same time many Christians, particularly those of us in the millennial generation who grew up in a radically interconnected and pluralistic society, have been conditioned for such a shift to take place. In fact, it's the kind of world that we have been longing for. A world where all humans are united in our common pursuit of and communion with God, a world where we spend more time sitting at each other's feet and learning from each other's collective wisdom rather than seeking to aggressively proselytize and convert the one another to our way of thinking and being. A world where we allow the core teachings of all faiths—love of neighbor, forgiveness, charity, and service—to be points of unity and common mission so that we might work together to make our world a more heavenly place.
It also seems clear that the dawning interspiritual age will not be one of ambiguity and relativism. It seems highly unlikely that we're all going to become Unitarian Universalists. (Sorry to all the UU readers!) In fact, I believe that it is far more likely that we are entering an age where deep commitment to one's spiritual tradition and heritage will be more highly valued than ever before. We are already seeing this trend within Christianity as many millennials are returning to liturgical traditions and ancient versions of our faith. One could argue that in the coming age the distinctions between various religious traditions will become even more defined than ever before, but instead of allowing those distinctions to become boundaries that are used to keep people from exploring, they will be used to help us find our place in our spiritual genealogy. We will discover, learn, and integrate the best of our world's vast treasure troves of spiritual insights and practices. Our identification with a tradition will keep us rooted and give us a sense of identity and belonging, a passport of sorts, as we traverse the dense plains of the world's rich spiritualities. This new spiritual climate promises to make us all better versions of ourselves by learning from one another.
It is undeniable that God's Spirit is moving in a powerful, fresh way in the hearts and minds of people around the globe. We are beginning to be awakened to the core message of the Gospel that Jesus proclaimed—that the Kingdom of God is truly in our midst and that God has invited us all to become active participants in that Kingdom in order to create a renewed world.
These are truly exciting times to be alive. As a Christian, I am excited for the potential this shift in consciousness brings, enabling us to finally see the Church united, a reality that seems to grow closer every day. But I am even more excited to have the opportunity to share the many pearls of Truth that exist within my religion with the world, as well as to receive the shining gems from the religion of my neighbor. For I believe that we are truly better together. After all, we all share a common humanity. We're all on a common journey and we're all seeking after the same thing.
In this new age, it is my humble prayer that we will see fear replaced with fascination and dogma replaced with dialogue. For once, there is real potential for a convergence of the best from all traditions; there is the chance for an unparalleled universal communion, which humanity has only imagined. The interspiritual age offers us the potential to finally see the Kingdom of God come on earth as it is in heaven. May it be so!
Brandan Robertson is a progressive evangelical writer, activist, speaker, and spiritual entrepreneur who is committed to getting Jesus second hearing among the cynical, skeptical, burned, and non-believing people. Brandan is the host of the Project:Awaken Podcast and the director of an action-oriented social justice initiative called Revangelicals for a Better Tomorrow. He is also a sought after consultant to churches, denominations, and faith-based organizations on issues of the faith of the millennial generation and issues surrounding building bridges across religious, cultural, and political divides. Brandan blogs at Reevangelical.