We are being rooted in a story that … holds the promise of uniting us in our common humanity
Column by Don Murray – A Word to the Spiritual Seekers
‘The moving finger writes; and having writ moves on’ could have been the theme of the August Progressive Christianity Conference, ‘Christianity: The Story Evolves.’
Bruce Sanguin, a theme speaker, set the tone with his theme of ‘Evolving Christianity.’
The universe story was front and centre throughout the conference. Along with Bruce, Nancy Steeves as the spiritual celebration leader was steeped in the cosmic drama. Gretta Vosper, a theme speaker and the head of Canadian Progressive Christianity, spoke of it. My partner Emily led the cosmic walk, a meditative walk through the 13.7-billion year history of the universe. And my workshop, ‘The Death and Resurrection of God’, was rooted in the universe story.
The conference message is that Christianity is evolving into the ‘universe story.’ It is the great unifying story. Whatever our race, colour or creed, we belong to the universe. It is a giant step forward.
That Christianity is evolving into something beyond itself need come as no surprise. Christianity has always been evolving, as a look into the story from Jesus’ time until now will indicate. Even in my lifetime there has been a great transformation in our understanding of the spiritual. In my young days we were still singing about other cultures and religions as “lesser breeds without the law” – an arrogance that now seems beyond belief.
That would be in the 1940s. Let’s look at the evolving story by decades. In the 1950s, the church was booming. New churches and manses were being built at the rate of one a week. We thought we had just about everything figured out. The church was society at prayers, and everything was fine.
In the 1960s, it all fell apart. Bob Dylan sang “The times they are a changing”, and they certainly were. The cultural revolution of the time swept over the church. Reforms started to take place with jazzed up music, etc., but people began to leave the church in droves. The death-of-God theology surfaced. William Hamlton’s: ‘The New Essence of Christianity’, and Mary Jean Irion’s: ‘From the Ashes of Christianity’, symbolized the decade.
In the 1970s and 80s, unable to cope with too much truth, both the church and society went into a circle-the-wagons mode – still a powerful force. But underneath, the creative juices are always at work. For me, the 1970s marked the discovery of transactional analysis as a way of expressing the values of the Christian tradition. In the 1980s, it was Joseph Campbell and a renewed appreciation of the power of myth, and the realization that all religions are mythic expressions of truth as the various traditions discovered it.
The 1990s was the decade of a growing awareness of the work of the Jesus Seminar scholars. Marcus Borg’s ‘Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time’ became a study book and an eye-opener for many people. We were catching glimpses of the human Jesus.
Unlike the glowing optimism that greeted the 20th century, the 21st century began and continues in more dour mood. An oppressive awareness prevailed. We knew that we were destroying the earth as a habitat for life, that corporate greed was sabotaging the world’s financial economy, and much of the world was living under the oppression and degradation of dictators.
In religious circles it was becoming increasingly obvious that the traditional religions were losing their power to speak to peoples’ souls. Gretta Vosper’s book, ‘With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe’, caught the mood for many.
We are now into the decade of the universe story. We are being rooted in a story that makes us all one and holds the promise of uniting us in our common humanity. And it can engender the will to meet the civilization-ending challenges we now face.
Hopefully, the next decade will call us to delve more deeply into the evolution of consciousness and the reality of our spiritual nature. The profound soul-transforming work of Carl Jung may become better understood. My forthcoming book, ‘The Death and Resurrection of God: From Christianity to the New Story,’ will give you a preview.
The story evolves, and our future depends on us and all humanity evolving with it.
Don Murray is a retired united minister. He lives in Shortts Lake.