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Showing posts from September, 2020

Christendom IS White Supremacy

I read a lot of books about how Christian churches should radically change, embrace the postmodern reality, get back to biblical principles, abandon old models. A lot of these books will criticise the old models under the label of "Christendom" - that European and colonial idea where power, culture, and religion are all aligned. In Christendom everyone is assumed to be Christian by virtue of being in a "Christian country" and the church is in the centre of power, resulting in, in some cases, state churches such as the Church of England.  I agree with these criticism, but I feel like the whiteness of so many of these writers blinds them to the true sins of Christendom. It is not simply that Christendom is an old model, and we need to move on to something more relevant. I feel like sometimes that's what these writers are saying. Sometimes it feels like the criticism doesn't add up to anything more than "this isn't fashionable anymore".  But it

The Youness of the Universe

Image:  Karl Stapelfe/ESA/Hubble, NASA This is the fundamental insight of religious theism: that the reality we encounter when we encounter reality most powerfully is a Someone, is a "you". This is the insight that the universe has a quality of "youness" to it.  While other religious (or nonreligious) approaches may encounter an "it", the theist encounters a "you" - a "you" that we label as "God". There seems to be no way to judge the truth of an approach that finds a "you" versus an approach that finds an "it", and that might be a very fruitless thing to try to establish. But I think it helps to clarify this difference. What theistic practices of prayer are designed to do is to open you up to a real-life encounter with the "you" - the "you" that is always and everywhere present and always available, and always seeking relationship. The sure sense of faith that theists rest upon is not s

A Method of Contemplation

There are of course many ways to practice meditative contemplative prayer. Many people want to jump straight into silence and mindfulness, but for most people this becomes dry and feels like hard work after a while (if it doesn't for you, great! But I want to talk to those who do struggle). So often there is a need for some scaffolding, some structure of words to hold the deeper silence. I use prayer books by John Philip Newell, who for me offers a poetic language that opens up the heart. Using reading and chanting as punctuation, I use a fourfold method of prayer: intention, compassion, meditation, and communion.  This is a form of prayer that last for about an hour: Begin with speaking a written prayer and/or chanting. Intention : Then five or ten minutes of silence in which you express a desire, an intention, to enter into deeper prayer. You try to open yourself to the divine, but you are also full of forgiveness and love for yourself as your mind wanders. You let is wander if i

The revolution that nearly happened

  I recently found something out that astounded me. Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton, and Thich Nhat Hanh were supposed to go on a retreat together  in 1968. This was scheduled and the only reason it didn't happen was the assassination of King on 4th April 1968. This astounds me because I feel like that retreat might just have been the start of a revolution, a spiritual revolution that might have transformed the world.  Here were three men: one white, one Asian, one black; one Protestant, one Catholic, one Zen Buddhist; two American, one Vietnamese (at the height of the American-Vietnamese war). Sure, they didn't represent all the diversity that exists on earth (they were all men for a start) but there was significant diversity there. But also significant unity. Here were three men all committed to radical activism as well as spiritual practice - to a vision of spiritual activism that I genuinely feel could have transformed the world (and might still do). These were three men