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Switch to Forum Live View SBNR - what a bookstore's sales might tell the church
2 years ago  ::  Apr 13, 2012 - 12:08PM #1
WaveringCC
Posts: 5,123

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC organized a diocesan-wide Lenten reading effort, recommending that individuals and/or groups read Brian McLaren's book "Finding Our Way Again - the Return of the Ancient Practices."  With lifetime familiarity with the "ancient" practices as a Roman Catholic, I found  reading a book about them from the perspective of an evangelical leader in the emerging church movement to be fascinating and even eye-opening at times.

In the intro chapter, the author describes an interview he did at a pastors' conference of Dr. Peter Senge - an MIT professor and one of the "fathers" of systems thinking at the Society for Organizational Learning.

In many ways, the non-Roman Catholic part of christiandom seems to be way ahead of Rome in understanding that a major upheaval of the "traditional" structures of church and religion and spirituality is going on and that it might be smart to try to understand it and figure out how to understand  people's religious and spiritual needs in a post-modern and post-religion world.

  Can the organization called the Roman Catholic church experience what is called "organizational learning"?.  Dr. Senge recounted his experience in a large bookstore where he asked the manager what the most popular books are these days. The manager responded that the best selling categories were books on "getting rich in the information economy" and books on spirituality, especially Buddhism. Dr. Senge then asked the pastors at the conference why books on Buddhism sell so much better than books on Christianity. The interviewer (McLaren) turned the question back to him, and received this reply. "I think it's because Buddhism presents itself as a way of life, and Christianity presents itself as a system of belief. So I would want to get Christian ministers thinking about how to rediscover their own faith as a way of life, because that's what people are searching for today."  This is a thought that I encounter everywhere these days, especially in relation to the strong interest in eastern religion, and think that this is where Merton was headed at the time of his death. Too bad he was cut short in his writings about this.

Are Buddhists ever cast out as heretics?  Anybody know? Is "heresy" only a concept within christianity? I think it may be.  Perhaps in Islam also? Does SBNR come down to a basic question of orthodoxy v. orthopraxy and in achieving a balance?  The RCC's emphasis is all about thought - all about the head, all about belief.  Richard Rohr once noted that the RCC doesn't cast out theologians or priests or individuals because they didn't do enough to help the widows and orphans. They are kicked out for their ideas - for even posing questions. Right belief is whatever the pope of the moment believes and has been the highest priority of the papacy for most of its history since 313.  Jesus talked little of belief - he talked a lot about how to live one's life - he talked about 'the way."  And his disciples and other early followers tried to live that "way". They were little concerned with "belief."

McLaren writes that this is the only thing that he remembers from the interview. As a pastor he reflected long and hard on Senge's observation. He says "Those who reject religion are often rejecting a certain arid system of belief, or if not that, a set of trivial taboos or rules or rituals that have lost meaning for them - each the thin residue of a lost way of life.'

Is Rome trying to recapture the "lost way of life" by its emphasis on devotions and other pious practices? McLaren's book of course does not cover "devotions" as Catholics know them - litanies and rosaries and eucharistic adoration and Divine Mercy Sunday and indulgences etc, but practices such as fasting, contemplation, communal and missional practices, etc. One interesting discussion is of the practice of katharsis/via purgative. He recommends regular examinations of conscience and confession of sins - BUT, in a small groupwhere all would discuss the "hold of sex, money and power" in their lives (something the RCC hierarchy should be doing!) and receive feedback and support in attempts to overcome them and develop habits that help overcome them. He emphasizes that "purgation has everything to do with practices, not penance".  Instead of three Hail Mary's and an Our Father, this form of confession leads to insight and, hopefully, a practical and realistic program that might lead to change instead of the ritual provided by the RCC which is to "absolve" the sinner from sins and leaves them with no guidance beyond "go and sin no more."  And they come back and confess the same sins - over and over and over again.  As long as they receive "absolution", they think they are "safe." Since God's mercy is infinite, they are "saved." But they are not changed.

The RCC is also redoubling its efforts to impose its system of belief, and sets of taboos, rules and rituals - and devotions and "pious practices" that may have "lost meaning" - but by fiat. It recognizes the threat of the SBNR movement, and seems to think that by reviving all the "old" ways of doing things it will instill a renewed acceptance of all the "rules and rituals that have lost meaning" within the church.

Will it work?  Obviously some are entranced by the revival of the devotions and quite willing to accept the absolutism of the "system of belief" along with the rules and rituals. 

Will the "emerging church" develop a way to "bring back" the SBNR?  The excitement in christianity these days seems to be coming from those involved in this movement, and with the "new monasticism", which seem to be doing a better job than the RCC in reintroducing these "ancient practices" to those who are looking for a "way to live" rather than being told "what to believe".  The movement includes a range of "intentional communities" that reflect their roots, including the "intentional eucharistic communities" of those formed by Catholicism.

Thoughts anyone?

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2 years ago  ::  Apr 13, 2012 - 12:44PM #2
cherubino
Posts: 7,277
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2 years ago  ::  Apr 13, 2012 - 12:54PM #3
Buggsy
Posts: 4,728

Brian McLaren is a Robert Schuller clone.  He uses the phrase 'God's dream' which is used by Rick Warren and others in the so-called 'emergent church' movement that is attempting to create another reformation on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.  Phyllis Tickle calls this the 'Great Emergence'.  And you're right it's even spilling over into business books (you mention Peter Senge) like David Korten's "The Great Turning".  Korten by the way spends the first part of his book criticising what he calls 'Empire' - the past 5,000 years of montheism that has dominated social arrangements, religious heriarchies and economic systems.  He say this all originates in the biblical periods.


The Great Emergence, The Great Turning, The Great this and that . . .  it's all new age clap-trap trying to distill Christainity into one massive religious soup.  I notice in these books - particualry Tickle's and McLaren's (the latter having associations with Neal Donald Walsch and David Spangler) that they promote the feeling, smelling and tasting of God by adopting what he calls the 'ancient-modern' - much of it being RCC practices.


I know that sounds blunt but I have my own suspicions about these people's motives and this 'movement' that crosses denominational borders and is really has it's origins in Robert Schuller - who BTW was a big promoter of A Course in Miracles - a 'channelled' work from an entity claiming to be Jesus, according to Helen Schucman.

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2 years ago  ::  Apr 13, 2012 - 1:13PM #4
cherubino
Posts: 7,277

Apr 13, 2012 -- 12:54PM, Buggsy wrote:



I know that sounds blunt but I have my own suspicions about these people's motives and this 'movement' that crosses denominational borders and is really has it's origins in Robert Schuller - who BTW was a big promoter of A Course in Miracles - a 'channelled' work from an entity claiming to be Jesus, according to Helen Schucman.




At least one so-called progressive Catholic would agree.

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2 years ago  ::  Apr 13, 2012 - 1:17PM #5
WaveringCC
Posts: 5,123

I don't know a lot about the movement - nor about Schuller and Warren and other megachurch types. I am curious as to whether or not people think that the emerging church emphasis on praxis rather than belief will be effective at bringing the SBNR back into the pews - will it "work"? Why or why not? 


I am also curious about the ideas of those here as to whether the RCC's reemphasis on "devotions" occurring along with the increasingly hard line taken on "must believes" is some kind of response to the growing "problem" of more and more leaving organized religion and defining themselves as SBNR?  Will it work?  With some, but not most? Obviously some come back because they want the structure, the black and white clarity (whether true or not) that the RCC offers.  But they are a tiny minority, heavily outnumbered by those leaving, most to become SBNR.


The "emerging church" is obviously rooted in evangelical protestantism, but does include Catholic groups and individuals as well.  It seems not to be "New Age" so much as it is a response to the too-far-outness of New Age along with the rejection of the christian church's obsession with being on belief and increasingly in the RCC with being thought police.


If the emerging church movement does not succeed in "recapturing" the minds and hearts of the SBNR, will the christian church in the west simply decline into sect status - a small minority of people in the developed world?  (the decline is evident in Latin America now too. Once Africa catches up in terms of economic development and education, will it too begin the decline?  It's the only growth spot on the globe right now).


Dr. Senge asked (and gave an answer) why books on spirituality, especially on Buddhism (and recently on Hinduism) outsell those on christianity.  What might be some other answers to this question?


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2 years ago  ::  Apr 13, 2012 - 1:21PM #6
Buggsy
Posts: 4,728

cherubino


The mega-crutch thingy is a Schuller idea.  It's based on the idea not to offend anyone with hard-ass theology.  So you get these air heads like Osteen and Rick Warren who want nothing more than $$$ by attracting people to a dumbed-down theology that is like a pot party where everyone is smiley faced and euphoric.  Of course people flock to these things safe in the knowledge that they've secured their place in the afterlife without ever having to do anything.


The money just pours in . . . .

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2 years ago  ::  Apr 13, 2012 - 1:45PM #7
cherubino
Posts: 7,277

Apr 13, 2012 -- 1:21PM, Buggsy wrote:


cherubino


The mega-crutch thingy is a Schuller idea.  It's based on the idea not to offend anyone with hard-ass theology.  So you get these air heads like Osteen and Rick Warren who want nothing more than $$$ by attracting people to a dumbed-down theology that is like a pot party where everyone is smiley faced and euphoric.  Of course people flock to these things safe in the knowledge that they've secured their place in the afterlife without having to do anything.


The money just pours in . . . .




Of course.

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2 years ago  ::  Apr 13, 2012 - 9:55PM #8
jane2
Posts: 14,295

Wav and y'all


Interesting post but outside my ken on the Episcopal thought. My family was Irish/English Catholic but as I have related not especially pious in family life. We went to Sunday school, then private Catholic high school and colleges. We were left, though, to draw our own conclusions.


For 2 years in my early thirties the children and I did live in Buddhist Bangkok where I learned a certain serenity. It's been awhile since I've read Merton but what I have taken from him is an existential Catholicism, in which we pursue the best within each of us. All of who we are matters.


I totally eschew this return to devotions as irrelevant. If I remember correctly what is now Mercy Sunday was once the Sunday within the octave of Easter, far more relevant than some experience of a Polish nun!! A few years back I remember talking with a priest I trusted about "formal" prayer and telling him I was one of the Lord's chatterboxes. His excellent response was "prayer is raising our hearts and minds to God".


Not sure what I think about SBNR--seems a bit of an oxymoron in some ways. The given virtue of hope sustains me. What does not sustain me is the idea of constant sin and so-called repentance. Perhaps the hierarchs need this to sustain them. Even in high school and college we were taught to seek good and virtue as opposed to almost-extraneous SIN. Reason rules. And I do believe in so many Gospel values.


J.


 

discuss catholicism
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2 years ago  ::  Apr 13, 2012 - 11:42PM #9
newsjunkie
Posts: 5,741

Most people don't go out to movies any more. They download them on the computer. There are a lot of other activities that people don't go out and do with other people any more. So I don't think a whole lot of people are going to feel a need to go out and pray with other people. A lot of SBNR people get more spiritual nourishment from being outdoors, or doing charity work, or sharing a meal with friends, or any number of things than they would from attending a group prayer event of any number of types. I don't see them going back to church, but I guess time will tell.


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2 years ago  ::  Apr 14, 2012 - 8:13AM #10
WaveringCC
Posts: 5,123

Apr 13, 2012 -- 9:55PM, jane2 wrote:


Wav and y'all


Interesting post but outside my ken on the Episcopal thought. My family was Irish/English Catholic but as I have related not especially pious in family life. We went to Sunday school, then private Catholic high school and colleges. We were left, though, to draw our own conclusions.


For 2 years in my early thirties the children and I did live in Buddhist Bangkok where I learned a certain serenity. It's been awhile since I've read Merton but what I have taken from him is an existential Catholicism, in which we pursue the best within each of us. All of who we are matters.


I totally eschew this return to devotions as irrelevant. If I remember correctly what is now Mercy Sunday was once the Sunday within the octave of Easter, far more relevant than some experience of a Polish nun!! A few years back I remember talking with a priest I trusted about "formal" prayer and telling him I was one of the Lord's chatterboxes. His excellent response was "prayer is raising our hearts and minds to God".


Not sure what I think about SBNR--seems a bit of an oxymoron in some ways. The given virtue of hope sustains me. What does not sustain me is the idea of constant sin and so-called repentance. Perhaps the hierarchs need this to sustain them. Even in high school and college we were taught to seek good and virtue as opposed to almost-extraneous SIN. Reason rules. And I do believe in so many Gospel values.


J.


 



Actually, the book is not rooted in Episcopal thought, but is written from the viewpoint of an evangelical Protestant with no formational experience in either liturgy or the "ancient practices" the book discusses. The book was recommended by the new Bishop of EDOW. But, one of the things I most like about the Episcopal church is that it is open to learning - it has the humility to understand that it is not infallible and so does not close its ecclesial mind to the viewpoints and insights of others as does the RCC.  The RCC closes off all discussion and silences many of its most insightful and creative thinkers.  Merton was one of those and he was beginning to get into a lot of hot water with the PTB when he died, so was never officially silenced.


Is SBNR really an oxymoron? I attend an Episcopal church, but if pressed, would probably say at this time in my life that I am SBNR.  The rapid growth of those identifying as SBNR seems to be a backlash to the overemphasis of organized religion on control - mind control, thought control - not just the RCC but many christian and non-christian religions. Do the SBNR sense that religion is simply a tool that can help one on the spiritual journey-  that it can be a guide in the spiritual journey, but one that must be left behind when organized religion begins to see itself as the center, pointing to itself instead of to the moon.  What is it all about, really? It's about relationship - first with God, which is the foundation for all other relationships. Spirituality is about that relationship and the way to live as Christ did. Religion, especially in the RCC, is all a head game - it's all about believing fallible men and "obeying" men instead of God.  Many SBNR understand, if only intuitively, that when religion becomes an obstacle in the journey instead of a help, it's best to find a different way.


All of the mainline Protestant religions, along with the Baptists and many evangelical churches have joined the RCC in their concern over the dropout rate from organized religion. The "emerging church" movement which is rooted in evangelical Protestantism is an attempt to address that dropout rate - sometimes by integrating traditional religious practices with more "new agey" kinds of practices.  I find it fascinating and amusing at times that the evangelicals have discovered monastic practices - the "new monasticism" is part of this "emerging church" movement.  It will be interesting to see where it all leads. 

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