When I was a very young boy, there were two deities that watched over me. Both were gray bearded old men. One was Santa Claus. He watched to find out if I was naughty or nice. If I were nice, I’d get really good presents on Christmas day. If I were naughty, I’d probably still get presents, but not the presents I wanted. The other was God, whom my grandmother new personally. If I were good and believed in God’s son Jesus, I could go to heaven when I died. If I were bad, God would send me to burn in hell forever when I died. That meant you had to wait until you died to find out how you were with God. Santa paid off every year. If those were my choices, I’d take Santa any day!
One day, when I was a college student, a friend talked to me about a Jesus who would walk with me and help make life easier and more joy filled. He didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t heard before, but the meaning was different and my life was changed. Since then, my understanding of God has changed several times. With each change God became bigger, more loving and more inclusive. At age 6 years old, I could not conceive of God in any other way. I had not developed enough emotionally to understand God or Santa differently. By the time I was in college, I could understand God in a different way. The content was the same, but the context and meaning had changed. So it is with all of us.
Spiritual Update Needed
We find ourselves in a time of great transition and potential peril. For many years philosopher and teacher Ken Wilber has made the argument that traditional religions hold the spiritual truths that can and should transform the world. Unfortunately, those truths are still couched in a world view of two or more millennia ago – the world was flat, the sun was born each morning and traveled across a dome, died each night, and the stars and clouds were a part of the dome that existed just outside our reach. Maybe no one still believes that. Humanity has grown, developed, evolved intellectually and emotionally. The context has changed.
It is estimated that 20 % or more of Americans claim to be “Spiritual but Not Religious”. They’re not wanting some watered down and impotent version of religion. What is needed is not a religion that is pre-rational, but one that is transrational.
Four Things For Religion
Wilber says the religions have to do four things: they have to GROW UP, WAKE UP, SHOW UP and CLEAN UP.
Grow up: don’t check your brains at the door when you enter to pray or worship.
Wake up: wake up to the true nature of Spirit and the relation Spirit has with us.
Show up: you can’t sit and be holy. Spirit lives, moves and acts in and through us.
Clean up: recognize and transform the shadow side of ourselves.
Though what I have to say applies to all of the major and traditional religions, since I am Christian and want to say a little about each of these four on-going tasks from that perspective
To grow up means to hear the words of Jesus: “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” The word “perfect” means “mature”. Act your age. Hear the texts with intelligence. Question them. You’ve been taught or have learned what they mean, but ask, “What else can they mean in today’s world?” Maybe when you were a child, God was the big guy in the sky who punished those who were bad and rewarded those who were good. Hopefully as an adult that has changed. James Fowler wrote a book called Stages of Faith in which he described six stages through which people grow as they mature. The sacred texts hold different meaning and power as individuals make their way through those stages. Can you recognize your own path of faith development?
The Bible says that humanity was created in God’s image. For the Christian, God exists as one in three forms: Creator (Father), Incarnation (Body – the Son) and Sustainer – Holy Spirit. We need to wake up to whom we really are. We, too, are triune – made in God’s image:
We are Soul/Psyche. It is psyche that co-creates the world in which we live. We participate in creating reality by our spiritual nature.
We are incarnate in that Christ is in us. The Apostle Paul uses the phrase “Christ in me” and other such phrases to emphasize that Christ is in us and that we have the mind of Christ.
We should use it. We absolutely are Spirit. It is Spirit that sustains us, that keeps us going. An infant doesn’t know living from dying but we all know of infants who fought with all that was in them to stay alive. And it is Spirit that sustains us as we transition from one form of life to another. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Before Moses was, I am.”
Finally, we have to clean up. What needs to be cleansed from us? What are the parts of ourselves that need to be embraced rather than hidden? What are our prejudices and against whom do we discriminate? Whom would we curse rather than bless? How burdensome are the grudges and angers we carry? They are a weight and detriment to our own development. Others may not need or even want our forgiveness, but we need (not should) to forgive for our sakes. What’s more, we need to forgive and embrace ourselves, those parts of ourselves that we’ve tried to hide from ourselves but may be apparent to others.
It is my firm belief that our country and our world will survive in the long term only if we grow up, wake up, show up and clean up. The Incas predicted the end of the world. Actually, what they predicted was the end of the world as it has been known. They predicted the transition from homo sapiens to homo luminous – from the knowing or wise ones to the enlightened ones. If enough people practice these four tasks, humanity and world will continue to mature and perhaps even make the leap to homo luminous.