Monday Morning Musings

I continue to slog away reading Karen Armstrong’s “The Case for God.” Typical of Armstrong, it is fulled with detail. I loved the first chapter on prehistoric “religion” and rituals. She argues that

The desire to cultivate a sense of the transcendent may be the defining human characteristic….

and this

Like art, the truths of religion require the disciplined cultivation of a different mode of consciousness. (and, referring to cave drawings) the cave experience always began with the disorientation of utter darkness, which annihilated normal habits of mind. Human beings are so constituted that periodically they seek out ekstasis, a “stepping outside” the norm. Today people who no longer find it in a religious setting resort to other outlets: music, dance, art, sex, drugs, or sport. We make a point of seeking out these experiences that touch us deeply within and lift us momentarily beyond ourselves. At such times, we feel that we inhabit our humanity more fully than usual and experience an enhancement of being.

If it is innate human nature to articulate an understanding of an ultimate reality, and if that ultimate reality only survives as long as there are practiced rituals the reinforce the relationship between human beings and the ultimate reality, and if human beings today are focused on other realities like sports, music, and or drugs, what then does this mean for Judeo-Christian beliefs and practices?

Last week, on the RevGals blog Mary Beth led a conversation on a book written by a Rabbi on the “Emergent” faith that is pushing back at traditional Jewish practices. Christians have been thinking about the emergent church idea since Phyllis Tickle’s book made waves and practitioners of the emerging church concept became popular (Rob Bell, etc.).

I’m not convinced that the emergent church is the future of Christianity. It seems to me that it is just repackaged traditional church led by white men in Hawaiian shirts and big black glasses. Women are NOT a part of the leadership of this movement. People of color are NOT a part of this movement.

I am convinced that Christians (and maybe Jews?) need to spend time revisioning how we practice our faith so that what we do invites us deeply into the mystery of God, enliven us and the God we love.

I’ve read Diana Butler Bass and Carol Howard Merritt on this topic. Now I’m curious to see where Armstrong is going…as she argues her case for God.

On the other hand I am also hunkering down in preparation for a major winter storm expected to hit us hard….that’s what I’m pondering – what about you?


About Terri C Pilarski

I am an Episcopal priest serving a delightfully progressive, interesting, creative congregation. I have been married more than half my life to the same man. We have two grown children, plus two dogs and two cats, although the number of four legged household members changes from time to time. I love to garden, knit, read, and play on Facebook or with my blog. I have been a practitioner of daily meditation since I was nineteen. I practice yoga five days a week and walk every where I am able too.
This entry was posted in Karen Armstrong, Monday Morning Musings, The Case for God. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Monday Morning Musings

  1. I have to confess…I snickered at "white men in Hawaiian shirts and big black glasses." My ponderings are much less "deep", and revolve mostly around how to survive another day in the house with one sick child and a recovering child. (:

  2. altar ego says:

    My ponderings are more political this morning, but I'm also a day late (more or less) putting together the church newsletter. That will pretty much occupy my day!I appreciate the thoughts you've shared as you've mused and pondered Armstrong's words.

  3. Jan says:

    "Slogging" is such a descriptive word! We discussed the first half of Ch. 1 in our weekly book study last week–what a lively discussion! So we're still on that chapter for tomorrow. Too bad you can't join us; the group is made up of people from various churches in the area. I like the idea that you and I are reading (or slogging through) this book together.

  4. I love Karen Armstrong, but she is what? Let's be generous and say she is exceedingly thorough? lol..I'm rather suspicious of this "emergent church" that I hear everywhere. It seems with 38,000+ we might better rework some of the old ones? lolHope you don't get nailed. We are on the cusp sort of. sigh…winter…it's definitely the one of my discontent!

  5. Rev Dr Mom says:

    I so agree with you about the emergent church…but I am also struggling with how we are called to be church in the 21st century.I struggle with Karen Armstrong–I guess I'm in the minority in not loving her work, but I don't. And here's a question: If ultimate reality exists only as long as there are rituals to reinforce the relationship between ultimate reality and humanity, then is it really "ultimate reality?" For me "ultimate reality" (God) exists outside of human connection…was, is, always will be. And I would guess, that God will continue to seek new ways to connect with humanity, created in God's image. FWIW..

  6. Terri says:

    RevDrMom – I quite agree with the Ultimate reality as you describe it. And, I may have overstated Armstrong's point – by ultimate being she is referring to a pre-historic, before the Judeo-Christian understanding of God…to an ultimate being that formed over time into the Buddhist and Hindu concepts of a Being invested in creation – and that that being ceases to exist, at least in its human construct, when the rituals for it end….this is something Louis Boyer talks about too in his book Ritual and Man? or something like that…I certainly believe that God exists whether or not I practice my faith or rituals that engage me in a relationship with God.I also think that God beckons me/us/humanity/creation into relationship…and it's really hard to ignore God. LOL

  7. would have to disagree about the emergent church..Karen Ward, female and person of colour, founder of anglimergent Church of the Apostles Seattle, one good example.Sue Wallace, another female example and waaay before phyllis tickle – lived with her in York & highly influenced to do what i'm doing due to my time spent with her & participating in the pioneering of Visions York.Ian Adams & Ian Mobsby – neither males in hawaiian shirts or dk glasses ") John & Olive Drane – my instructors for the Mission Shaped Ministry program of the CofE Fresh Expressions of church – both emergent & not even close to the picture you've painted! as are the founders of the MSM program- [waaay before it was recognized as emergent] by husband & wife Bob & Mary Hopkins of Sheffield uk …just a few that come to mind in response…maybe some things to search while you're snowbound ") if you're really concerned/interested…

  8. Terri says:

    Faith, Hope, and Cherry tea – thank you for these resources, I look forward to researching them and what I will learn from them.

  9. Beach Walkin says:

    i don't think we know where god is taking us. but where ever it may be… it's gonna be different!

  10. Bad Alice says:

    I like the quote. She describes very well what I feel when I'm in the grip of art. I do feel like I inhabit my humanity more fully at those times. I've enjoyed the few experiences I've had with the emergent church. Perhaps that's because I feel so out of sync with most churches. I don't know, it felt kind of like finally getting off the island of misfit toys.

  11. ElastiGirl says:

    I, too, feel a bit left out of the emergent church stuff – maybe not left out but cannot see where i would fit. I love the Reframing Hope book – gives me another perspective of being a loyal radical and celebrating that! Danielle Shroyer is an emergent church leader and I like reading and following her on twitter and her blog.

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