Soul Food

One of life’s little incongruities:

I was sitting eating my lunch this afternoon in a commercial food hall in North Sydney. During the course of my meal, a group of five businessmen at the table on my left started talking rather animatedly. One of the men let out a volley of, “I can’t believe Jesus was such a good guy because…” I didn’t catch all of the conversation due to the noise; however I noted that they were back to discussing business five minutes later. Hmmm. Zipping in and out of secular and spiritual issues with hardly batting an eyelid. Interesting, I thought.

About fifteen minutes after that, an inter-religious discussion started up between two business women at the table on my right. One woman was curiously probing her female colleague about her Muslim faith and showing great signs of interest. The enquirer didn’t appear to be a Christian. It struck me that, here I was, in one of the most secular settings you can imagine, surrounded on both sides by alternative religious discussions. This was after I had spent last night composing a letter to a young (totally unchurched) teenager who’d been conversing with me and other youth leaders about her ghost experiences the previous week.

And my local minister considers alternate spirituality / new religious movements to be a side issue – the implication being it shouldn’t concern most Christians, and leaders don’t need to speak about it too often.

4 thoughts on “Soul Food

  1. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. This is a great witness to the fact that we need to not only weave our faith into our lives, we need to base our lives on that faith. At any moment, we may be in a restaurant with someone of another faith, a non-believer, or even another faithful person. There’s no way to know who may overhear what is being said.

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  2. People in the “secular” world talk often about faith, religion and even spirituality. Although this talk has increased in the last decade, I’ve heard it and spoken it in situations like the one you mentioned, for the past 25 years of secular work.
    Perhaps church employees need to get out more.
    bill

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  3. Nice comment Bill!
    Without doubt many ministers need to get out more, but at the risk of getting on a soapbox, I didn’t think theological education in most contexts encourages a sociological outlook, so they are simply not trained to be attentive to changing life-patterns outside the church.
    That said, there is a language issue here. For me, neither of the discussions you witnessed are what I would call examples of “alternate spirituality / new religious movements.” The first is a great example of the lack of a secular-sacred divide, the latter was an inter-faith discussion, but in terms of major religions.
    It’s not just semantics. To me there are two conceptual hurdles a lot of ministers and church folk need to cross. The first is that the secular-sacred divide no longer exists, the second is that in society the option is no longer christianity or non-christianity, but that other religiious options are widespread and well represented. If people don’t buy that, then they are seeing the world as a polar split between church and atheism and all the well intentioned discussion of “apologetics to new spiritualities” will seem marginal.

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  4. Fernando,
    I stand corrected on the semantics. In defence I typed that one out in a bit of a rush. That last paragraph of yours touches on some issues very close to my heart. I cry inside everytime I hear evangelists issue call to give up godless lives (read: atheism) and embrace God to followers of other religions in multi-religious contexts. Ahhrg, the frustration! There’s more to being relevant that giving amusing anecdotes in your gospel presentations.

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