Beyond human-centred faith

I find the biggest difference with deeper greener styles of Christianity is their post-anthropocentrism. That is, they are not so human centred. Instead of limiting their spiritual focus to the relationship of God to humanity, or even more myopically, of God to the individual, a more expansive awareness is embraced. So not only is the relationship of God to the human considered but so too is the relationship of God to the non-human, and of the human to the non-human. It’s not so one dimensional. It’s much more holistic. And this post-anthropomorphism flows into Christian ritual, experience, storytelling, symbolism, ethics, theology, social organisation, and more. It flows into the life of how we worship, how we pray, and how we read and interpret the gospel. It opens up aspects of the Christian tradition that have been long forgotten and neglected.
Embracing such styles of Christianity does however involve a lot of unlearning. It involves re-examining what we’ve been told are Christian teachings and testing how intrinsic to Christianity they actually are. Is the earth truly to be left behind? Do animals only have utility value?  Is the body irrelevant or even inimical to spiritual practice? Is the Spirit of God not to be found flowing in the earth as well as the sky, in the female as well as the male, in the body as well as the mind? Can we not, with the Psalmist, joyously call on sun and moon, mountains and trees to praise God with us, as fellow worshippers? How much of our inherited, human-centred view is intrinsic to Christianity and how much is merely the cultural accretion of the centuries? It can be surprising to learn what the scriptures and more ancient expressions of Christianity and Judaism actually say.

Ken Wilber inspired musings

Dan Danforth’s comments have got me thinking about Ken Wilber’s “all level, all quadrant” view of human consciousness and behaviour. And although I don’t agree with Ken Wilbur on everything, and would assert that his “four quadrants” doesn’t mesh with Plato’s “the good, the beautiful and the true” nearly as cleanly as he suggests, nevertheless I find Wilber’s thoughts on this stimulating.

So, while some of this is in my head I thought I’d write it down, even though some of this may come across as gobbledegook if you’ve never encountered Wilbur’s “all level, all quadrant” view before. To help you orientate, though, here’s two diagrams of the four quadrants: the individual-subjective, individual-objective, collective-subjective, and collective-objective.

Different Theorists and the Four Quadrants

Ken-wilbur-four-quadrants1

Characteristics of the Four Quadrants

Ken-wilbur-four-quadrants2

Wilbur claims the top left correlates to beauty (aesthetics), the bottom left to goodness (ethics), the top right to truth (epistemology), the bottom right to … well, I’m not quite sure. I see problems with this, particularly with beauty, because beauty is not always in the eye of the (individual-subjective) beholder. Instead, I would say the good, the beautiful and the true cut across the four quadrants in some very interesting ways.

For example, recognizing beauty can be a matter of:

Personal taste
… that is, self determined (individual-subjective)

Cultural conditioning
… that is, socially determined (collective-subjective)

Genetic programming
… that is, physically determined (individual-objective)

Context
… that is, systemically determined (collective-objective)

Thus, contra Wilber, beauty cannot be boxed into the individual-subjective quadrant so easily. Nevertheless, Wilbur is surely right in suggesting all four ways of viewing the world their own validity. Integrating his own thinking and mine, I would say, beauty cannot be fully understood without taking all four quadrants seriously.

I would say the same for goodness and truth as well. If I said, “It’s cold today” your perception of the “truth” of this would very much depend on your cultural conditioning in contrast to my own. If any of you are Canadians, you should doubt the truth of my statement very much, at least by your standards. If however I said, “It’s 20C today”, well, you could check the truth of that just by Googling the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia. There are different kinds of truth.

Where am I going with this. Well, just that it becomes very interesting when you come to conversations about the “goodness” of Christianity or the “truth” of the resurrection or the “beauty” of a Protestant church.

Ahimsa, Christian style

Dalai_Lama It surprises me sometimes, that people are quite happy to listen to Buddhists speak of ahimsa, but get quite agitated when Christians speak of nonviolence.

I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s the exotic unfamiliarity of Buddhism in contrast to the assumed familiarity of Christianity, or the fact that Buddhists are less numerous and politically significant in the West, or something else entirely. But when the Dalai Lama speaks of ahimsa, people lap it up. But when a Christian speaks of nonviolence, people call it irresponsible.

This gets me to wondering, maybe we need to de-familiarize the New Testament, to help people see it with fresh eyes? To help people approach it with a beginner’s mind? What if we were to translate the New Testament a different way?

Ahimsa in the New Testament 

Blessed are the ahimsa practitioners, for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, practice ahimsa. And the God of love and ahimsa will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, ahimsa, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22)

He came and preached ahimsa to you who were far away and ahimsa to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:17)

Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Practice ahimsa with each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

Make every effort to practice ahimsa with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then ahimsa-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

What happens for you when you encounter the words of the ancient messengers this way? Do you object to the translation? Do the implications disturb you? Does it encourage? Or give you a fresh perspective? On Buddhism or Christianity?

Related articles on ahimsa

So much for ahimsa

What is glocal Christianity?

I thought it was time to revisit why I named this blog Glocal Christianity. I am sure many of you wonder what the heck I mean by ‘glocal’ and what that has to do with my style of Christianity, so here goes.

Glocalization

The word ‘glocalization’ is a portmanteau of the words ‘glocal’ and ‘local’. It’s basically short for ‘localized globalization’, and unpacks the fact that the globalization of the local (macro-localization) and the localization of the global (micro-globalization) are often intertwined.

To give some examples, who doesn’t know what a vuvuzela is now? The infliction of vuvuzela’s on the world by South African soccer fans is a classic example of macro-localization, of the universalization of the particular. Conversely, who’s heard of the expression, “The world is at your doorstep”? The existance of 45 language groups in a school near me in western Sydney is a classic example of micro-globalization, of the particularization of the universal. These are some of the experiences and truths I seek to grapple with in this blog.

Some locales more globalized than others

Now, the truth of the matter is that some locales are more globalized than others. By and large, towns are not as glocalized as cities, small cities are not as glocalized as large cities, and even within large cities some suburbs are not as glocalized as others. Of course there are exceptions, but that’s the general rule of thumb.

My interest is born of the fact that I just happen to live in one of the most multicultural suburbs in one of the most multicultural cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Glocalization is rampant. So I wonder, what does a glocalized Christianity look like?

What does glocalized Christianity look like?

First, I tell you what it doesn’t look like, at least for me. It doesn’t look like celtic revivalist Christianity, for celtic nostalgia is only one influence amongst many. It doesn’t look like triumphalist civic Christianity, for Christianity is becoming increasingly marginalized in this religious melieu. It doesn’t look like a managerie of neotribal Christianities, for we’ve got far more subcultures than Christians. It doesn’t look like emerging expressions of Christianity in less globalized locales. It has far more diversity to grapple with.

So, what will a glocalized Christianity look like? That’s what I’ve been exploring and what I hope to explore in even greater depth as my own understanding expands. As I have expressed in my blog description, at the very least I think it involves exploring what it means to follow Jesus in a multireligious, multicultural, multimedia world. And I differentiate between multireligious and multicultural quite deliberately. I think it’s equally important to explore how we disciple western Hindus and eastern Christians. In fact, I am continually challenged to do both without walking more than 20 meters from my front door. A glocalized Christianity is a Christianity adapted for contexts of extreme cultural and religious diversity. That’s what this is about, both the conversations and the art.

The web as globalized locale

Now, of course extreme cultural and religious diversity may not be your local experience. Diversity is distributed unevenly and by virtue of that we are each going to have different experiences. But, I’m gathering if you’re here that you’ve experienced at least some of the ripple effects of glocalization. And I’m gathering you probably recognize that the web itself is a globalized locale, albeit a nonphysical one. So I’m glad you’re interested in joining me in this journey of discovery, of exploring what it looks like to follow Jesus in a multireligious, multicultural, multimedia world.

 

Oh for God’s sake! Episcopal Priest Barbie?

Episcopal-Priest-Barbie Just when you'd thought Jesus junk could get no worse, along comes … wait for it … Episcopal Priest Barbie. I think I'm gonna slit my wrists now. And the piece de resistance? You can friend her on Facebook!

Despite my better judgement I find myself pining for the Spanish Inquisition at this point.

You can read the full spiel at Idol Chatter. I can't stomach reiterating it all.