The Good News of Christian Interspirituality

The Good News of Christian Interspirituality November 13, 2018

Despite protests to the contrary, faith traditions are living entities, growing, changing, and emerging in the context of environmental and cultural changes, creative visions, mystical and prophetic experiences, and divine inspiration. Years ago, philosopher Alfred North Whitehead penned “Religion in the Making.” Today, it is appropriate to speak of “religions in the making” as the faith traditions of the world find themselves evolving synergistically with one another and their environments. Even so-called orthodoxy and the old-time religion are changing, partly reactively to pluralism and social mores, and partly due to technological changes. While God responds to each of us personally, God is also the ultimate globalist. The existence of various religious communities, I believe, is not accidental or the result of sinful falls from grace, but reflects the call and response of divine inspiration and human creativity in the world’s diverse cultural contexts.

Today, the term interspirituality has emerged to describe the various hybrid spiritualities embodied among the followers of the world’s great spiritual traditions. Many people engage in multiple spiritualities, intentionally picking and choosing and integrating practices from a variety of religious traditions. This is not just the “spiritual smorgasbord” or “cafeteria” spirituality identified with the self-described spiritual but not religious, who bring together a variety of practices in the creation of lively spiritual experiences. (This is not a criticism of spiritual but not religious folks on my part, although some use these terms dismissively, but a recognition of the creative syntheses of many seekers.) This same bricolage, as Diana Butler Bass avers, is equally present in the experience of many devout and committed Christians. In fact, my own Christian faith is the result of a creative synthesis of Christian spirituality and theological reflection, wholistic healing practices from across the globe, and Buddhist and Hindu meditative practices. (I describe my own interspiritual journey in “Become Fire! Guideposts for Interspiritual Pilgrims.)

I believe that Christians can faithfully and creatively engage in multiple spiritualities. In fact, such an interspiritual orientation is built into the first century origins of Christianity. The prologue to John’s Gospel proclaims that the Divine Word/Logos/Sophia is the creative principle of all things. Everyone is touched by God. Every person reflects divine wisdom. In fact, “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9) The apostle Paul, using Greek theological concepts, affirms that God is the reality “in whom we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) Early Christians used the Greek language and conceptualities to express the saving power of Christ.

Luke’s Gospel proclaims that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52) and this is our calling, to be people of growing spiritual stature, centered in God’s presence in Jesus of Nazareth, the wisdom of the scriptures and our Jewish parents, and the ongoing wisdom of the church while opening to God’s global revelations. Today, as we confront Christian reactionary movements and nation-first ideologies, we need a Christianity of stature, Christ-centered and planetary conscious. Our “great work,” as Thomas Berry challenges, is to embrace the Cosmic Christ, becoming Mahatmas and Bodhisattvas, great souled healers, incarnating the Living Jesus to transform the world. This is not watered-down faith, but strong, planetary healing faith, growing from our individual spirituality to world loyalty.

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Bruce Epperly is a Cape Cod pastor, professor, and author of over forty five books, including “Become Fire! Guideposts for Interspiritual Pilgrims,” “I Wonder as I Wander: The Twelve Days of Christmas with Madeleine L’Engle,” “The Mystic in You: Discovering a God-filled World,” and “The Work of Christmas: The Twelve Days of Christmas with Howard Thurman.”

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