Thank you so much for this opportunity to ask you questions. I am in seminary, and yesterday I preached a sermon for my preaching class. In the sermon (which was about the opiate epidemic in Vermont) I quoted you from The Wisdom Jesus when you talk about the importance of looking beyond the “fatal trap in the ‘God is light’ roadmap” (p.123), and your message that we need to find a resolution that is beyond our conception of good and evil, something, as you say, “that can hold them both.” I continued to use this concept throughout my sermon. During the critique period after I preached, I got some pushback about this. Some students were feeling that this theology was too new and different for them to embrace. They feel that of course evil is bad and must be destroyed. For me, having studied and practiced an Eastern spiritual path before finding your work, this theology (is that even the right word here?) was familiar, as was the teaching that everyone’s birthright is the ability to awaken to our Higher Self – to the oneness of God. Interestingly, your work was my introduction to Christianity. I was raised atheist, found God through the 12-steps, practiced and studied Siddha Yoga, and then discovered you and then the church. Your teaching was my introduction to Christianity. And now I have been called to ministry in the UCC, and I feel I need to tread lightly. If seminarians are having trouble embracing this, how do I move forward in offering the “hold them both” vision? Do you have any suggestions?
Thank you so much for all you do!
I am sincerely sorry that you have had to endure this kind of pushback, but sadly, it’s a microcosm of where the Church is at right now, and in my opinion one of the principal reasons that seminaries (and the churches the serve) are continuing to lose force and market share in a rapidly evolving spiritual world. The awareness of (and aptitude for) holding the tension of opposites is certainly neither appreciated nor honed in the dialectical world of dogmatic theology; it flows through the Wisdom lineage of all the sacred traditions, where its foundations lie in meditation, mindfulness training, and contemplative prayer. These experiential pathways are often in all too short supply in traditional seminary training.
But the impression that this theology is “too new” is simply not correct. It’s been around at least since the 13th century, if Richard Rohr’s reading of St. Bonaventure is correct, and it has always formed an “alternative orthodoxy” within the Christian lineage (unfortunately, not the branch of the river that surfaced in the much of the Protestant tradition). His Living School for Action and Contemplation, in which I have the honor of serving as one of the core faculty, was launched in 2013 as an “underground seminary,” restoring this Wisdom expression of Christianity to its rightful prominence and returning it to its proper contexting: not as an idea to be debated, but as a new way of seeing grounded in spiritual practice. His presentation of Christian nonduality as precisely this capacity to bear the tension of the opposites without judgment is well-rooted theologically and reaching a wide audience in today’s increasingly transformation-minded and practice based interspiritual world. It’s only the Church that seems to be missing the message.