The Future of Christianity – Kind Of
Between all the conversations and other events that have been happening this weekend, I’ve been trying to reflect on the conversations I shared on Saturday. I was invited a few weeks ago to participate in a small gathering and discussion within walking distance of my home (gotta love Portland) that was called “The Future of Christianity”. In reality the title didn’t seem to fit the discussion but I believe the title was taken from a short video we watched to spawn discussion points. The video is a discussion primarily between two philosopher/theologians who I’m actually somewhat familiar with, though have had little more time in the past than to skim a book or two. The men in the video were Ken Wilbur and Thomas Keating, both very brilliant in their individual, yet complimentary ways.
The video talked much about Wilbur’s integral theory of consciousness, which is basically a way of describing paradigms in relation to spirituality and culture. There’s a certain incremental spectrum he uses for illustration which is rather inconsequential to my thoughts here other than to say the idea raises eyebrows (among the company in attendance) over its linear nature. In other words, it suggest a linear progression of what we commonly might think of as enlightenment, and doesn’t seem to offer room for the particular values in the categorizations it places at its lower levels. Some of these devalued categories include things like mysticism and ethnocentrism. Its true that these exhibit negative qualities in many contexts but to place them linearly as inferior values seems arrogant and rash.
Anyway, my point is not to explain the theories. (Which by the way really are rather interesting and aptly named by Wilbur in one of his books, A Theory Of Everything. Quite the title huh?) What struck me most about the day was the connections shared between participants, which in a community like this, seems to be as intentional as the discussion itself. Not only was I able to attend with two close friends, but upon arrival, I discovered that the event was something much different from the emergent church exercise I had the impression it would be. Not only did the age range have a great span but so did the particular positions held within the faiths. Not only were there representatives from many Christian denominations but there were also present (intentionally included) people from the Jewish and Islamic faiths.
Bringing together people of many faiths offers differing perspectives which is invaluable in itself and turns the imagined world of different people into a real one. At its core, the purpose of the discussion was simply discussion and to find familiarity and common ground between a diversity of cultures. At the discussion it often carried the name, the commonality of virtue. There was no problem to fix or solution to compromise on. It was simply to understand and share mutual existence. That is something most of us are good at talking about but not so good at finding in reality. In reflecting on the experience with my friend Joel, we realized that really, this was a unique moment in time, and a surreal and blessed one at that.
I’m still processing the experience even now, even beyond the great conversations we shared among beautiful souls during the day. I posted a series of quotables to my twitter throughout the event, which spawned a bit of conversation on my facebook in particular. I’d like to expand some more on some of those thoughts, particularly ones by Thomas Keating as well as the event organizer, Chuck Cooper, but will save those for a later post.