Non-Religious Christian Spirituality

thinking on james

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted; life has intruded for the last week. Just finished a short paper on the book of James and wanted to call your attention to it. Trying to see James from an intensely Jewish perspective and how his vision of the Gospel squares so well with Jesus’, but not necessarily our own–as modern, Western thinkers. Here’s an excerpt:

“Western World, Western Church
We as Western thinkers have been seduced into the notion that everything can be reduced to mathematical equations or verbal expressions that fully describe a process or object; to digitize, to reduce something to numbers that will allow the full manipulation of that object and to make it then “work” for us. To analyze, compartmentalize, categorize, to catalogue, to thrust a pin through and place it under glass to visit from time to time as an accomplished act or fact—something completely understood and tamed as we move on to new frontiers of knowledge. This process has served the Western world well in the last 500 years in terms of science and industry, but it’s been a disaster in terms of our spiritual and personal worldview. Our scientific accomplishments have come at the expense of our spiritual progress, our very ability to find the X that marks the spiritual treasure spot. And the Western church has gone right along for the Western ride.

From the deep mystical and spiritual grounding of ancient and medieval Christians, who prized direct experience with God and the other-centered lifestyles that flowed from that experience, we have come to ubiquitous “How To” books that break down our spirituality in neat categories, templates, and numbered lists. We hear speakers and pastors from more and more audio-visual venues telling us how to “do it.” We see the footprints of Western marketing, economics, science, technology, and imperialism all over our churches—from the way they are organized to the messages we impart. Western thinking is, after all, our worldview, so we’re really not even aware of it as we use it. It’s the ground we walk on and the air we breathe. Even as I try to avoid the pitfalls of this thinking, I’m using it to describe my very efforts to avoid it. It’s like thinking in a native language while trying to translate mentally into a second. Until we can actually think in the second language, we are always losing something in the translation. And here, that something lost is vital to our ability to understand the process of relating to God and each other, in other words, living in the Kingdom of God.

The Jesus-James Alternative
…the Book of James seems to act as a kind of antidote to all this. First off, James is an intensely Jewish book. The Jews, from the most ancient times to today, have a genius for practicality, for what I’m starting to call herenowness. Jewish spiritual thinking is almost entirely focused on herenow, rather than on some future time or afterlife. …Our relationship with God…is only as good as our worst relationship with one another. We love God by loving each other. We see God in the faces around us, and we demonstrate what we believe in how we live these relationships. Or better, what we truly believe flows naturally from who we’ve become because of what we truly believe.”

For the full article, go here, if any of this has piqued your interest.


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