“You Wrote Books About Paganism?!?”

The late Kenneth Leech used to tell the story about giving a lecture at a seminary in America on the topic of race relations, and afterwards a seminarian seemed surprised to learn that he was the "same Kenneth Leech" who wrote books on spirituality. Apparently, the mind of this seminarian couldn't equate a social-justice Christian with a contemplative-prayer Christian.But yes, Leech-the-expert-on-racism and Leech-the-expert-on-mysticism were one and the same.I often have a similar c … [Read more...]

Five Approaches to InterSpirituality

Brother Wayne Teasdale, author of The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World's Religions and A Monk in the World: Cultivating a Spiritual Life, coined the new word "interspirituality." Sort of a mash-up between "interfaith dialogue" and "spirituality," interspirituality refers to the possibility or practice of integrating spiritual exercises and practices from more than one faith tradition into one's own expression of spirituality.Obviously this covers a wide … [Read more...]

The Fear of the Lord and the Love of God

As a young man growing up in the American south, I heard the phrase "God fearing" a lot. As in, "He's a God fearing man."I think it comes from Psalm 111:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," or its near corollary, Proverbs 1:7: "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."So someone who is "God fearing" is someone, presumably, with wisdom or knowledge: who knows better than to sin, or for that matter to do anything that would offend the Almighty.It's not really … [Read more...]

Seven Ways the Mystics Inspire Us Today

One of my favorite quotations comes from Karl Rahner: "The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist."It's a prophetic statement, from a man who died in 1984. When paired with the demographic realities of the last 30 years (Americans who identify as Christian comprised 85% of the population in 1985, but only 70% of the population today, while the so-called "nones" — people without religious affiliation — grew from 8% in '85 to 16% today), it's fair to say that Rahner's "fut … [Read more...]

Do You Need a Spiritual Teacher?

A reader of my blog wrote the following message to me: I have been meditating for about a year now. I have been working with a meditation teacher who has been helpful, but, even though we are of the same Christian faith, he leans too far into the Yogi tradition for my comfort level. My experience with Centering Prayer has been very positive and what I have read and heard about the Christian Contemplative Path resonates with me. To really deepen my practice, do I need a spiritual teacher? If so, … [Read more...]

Seven Hopes for the Christian (and Church) of the Future

In his 1981 book Concern for the Church, Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner made his famous prediction, "the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all."A third of a century later, has Rahner's prediction come to pass? The "not exist at all" part seems ominously real, as more and more congregations face declining membership, a shortage of priests, nuns, monks and volunteers, and difficulty raising enough money to pay for clergy salaries or building maintenance. But I t … [Read more...]

Interfaith-Friendly Christianity?

Jesus, following the law of his people, instructed his followers to "love your neighbor as yourself."But then he upped the ante by telling the story of the good Samaritan — in his society, the Samaritans were the social outcasts. Yet here was a parable in which the social outcast was a better neighbor to a man in need than the community and religious leaders who didn't want to get involved.The message is simple: Our neighbors are not just the people who look like us, act like us, or en … [Read more...]