“Progress is the soul of the universe” de Chardin
For 20 years, I was a pastor in evangelical churches. It was a common exercise for me to stop and examine “why” we were doing what we were doing. Even more so, now that I am outside organized religion, I have been examining the nature and practices of what used to be a normal part of my life. In my estimation, what drove us primarily was recreating the past.
For most of us, we had an experience. At some point in our recent history, we were a part of something bigger that dramatically impacted us and caused us to change the trajectory of our life. At other times, we might have read or studied other groups in history that made dramatic discoveries and changed their practices and we mimic them to a fault.
Most religions takes these experiences and understandings and makes the mistake of trying to “go back” to that previous time. Whether it is “old-time religion” or orthodoxy or 1st century Christianity, going back goes against the flow and nature of the universe which is adapting, and expanding as it moves along into the future. Any effective models of the past were responding to their culture of their time and imagining the future. Any time we go back and try to recreate the past, we create a hobbled and limited future for ourselves.
I have witnessed countless congregations over the years desperately clinging to an image from their past of how it should be. Agents of change were dismissed immediately and subdued before they could “cause any problems.” Often styles of music became the battleground, but even understanding of theologies all sought to preserve the individual group’s idea of what should be preserved or returned to.
I pay the most attention these days to people that have gone through a deconstruction of their faith. Some of them feel lost and want community to return to. So often, they return to an orthodoxy of the past to hopefully reground them in something that might have worked better at some point in history. But, ultimately they haven’t adapted to their current environment and the ongoing, progressing, expansive nature of the universe. They are simply recreating a different moment in history that doesn’t mesh with our current conditions.
I agree with visiting the past, but only to be present with the darkness we find there so that we might heal from the trauma of the same past. I don’t want to recreate someone else’s problems by retrofitting some one else’s methodology to a current, evolving trajectory.
If religion survives in the future, it will be full of mystics, not historians. It will be philosophers, not theologians.
As long as I can remember, religion has been about control. Fear causes us to sense that we need to wrangle the circumstances and situations of our lives. All this only leaves us with trauma and sickness and problems that we now have to address. Progress requires us to step into the flow of the universe that is expanding and cannot in any practical way be managed. It is daunting, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating.
The communication device that we imagined in Star Trek episodes is the obsolete flip-phone of the past. We can appreciate the past. We can learn from our successes and failures. But, we must lean forward and face the future.
About 13 of my friends took a shot at this idea of Leaning Forward and The Way Forward when we created an online conference. We considered what the world and religion might look like in the future. We talked about healing our trauma from the past, we talked about the environment, and then we talked about being and becoming such as a mystic might do. The recordings are available for $10.
I wish you well as you join the flow toward the future!
Be where you are, be who you are,