Sunday, May 23rd, 5 PM
Remains of the Faith
The Life Cycle of a Religious Enterprise, and the Enduring Questions of Faith
In the liturgical cycle of many Christian faith communities, this is the time of year when the “birth” of the church has been observed. Usurping a Jewish harvest festival, the Feast of Pentecost story in the Book of Acts recounts the mythic tale when an irrepressible divine spirit alighted upon the disillusioned and fear-filled heads of the remnants of a former Jesus following; causing them to simultaneously babble unintelligibly, while spreading a gospel message. It seems the stage was set from the start.
Two millennia later the religious world is instead all a buzz about the latest Pew Research poll that further substantiates what everyone has already intelligibly comprehended. Namely, the head count of those in this country who identify themselves as religious in any sense – let alone “Christian” in any sense of the word – are in continued steady decline. Even those who are religiously atheistic fare no better. The “Nones” (i.e. none-of-the-above) – including a majority of millennials — constitute the fastest growing segment. Only Jehovah Witness and “other” Christian showed a 1% bump. Perhaps I’m part of a slightly upward trend.
To their credit, the pollsters attempted to make some distinctions between certain types of Christians communities: evangelical, Protestant main-liners, Catholic, the black church, etc. But it essentially left it up to the data to suggest little distinction between affiliation with an organized and institutionalized religion, and the beliefs of that group by inference. Affiliation is easy to track. Exploration is more elusive.
Last month, we explored the notion of a religion-less Christianity; void of the trappings, and centered instead on the core teachings of a historical Jesus, and illustrated in parables that share a common bond with those universal truths that are typically as irreligious as you can get.
In the natural life cycle of all things, the Christian religion continues in it own prolonged death throes. Denial and despair are not exactly the healthiest, life-giving responses. When institutional affiliation is dead and gone, what might remain of a “Christian” faith?
Or better perhaps, what authentic words and ways might arise to take its place?
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Conscience and Consciousness:
A Spiritual Path for Personal Transformation
“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” — Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
An aging Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD returns to Da Nang after 50 years in order to try to do something for those still afflicted generations later by the lingering toxic affects of Agent Orange. His nagging conscience leads to a redemptive act of self-healing and a common good.
Spirituality is often an amorphous and bandied about term that too often connotes the merely religious type, as somehow distinct from those who are not. Instead, I appreciate something as equally shared as it is often neglected, namely the human conscience and our sometimes-belated conscious awareness of it.
You can read this latest commentary Here.
In the last four decades, John Bennison has been a teacher, preacher, lecturer, trainer, carpenter, coffin builder, counselor, spiritual advisor, ethicist, writer and lyricist, musician and entertainer, assembly-line union worker, small business entrepreneur, residential real estate specialist, corporate cog and executive director of a faith-based non-profit organization.
He’s authored eight publications on faith and values, and as an ordained minister served as a parish pastor over 25 years. He earned his Doctorate from Claremont School of Theology, as well as his BA degree in philosophy and religion from Lake Forest College.
John contributes his leadership experience as Executive Director and Lead Teacher at Pathways, as he writes the Words & Ways commentaries and blogs on The Christian Progressive, engaging others everywhere in meaningful dialogue. He also volunteers as Director and President of the Mountain Shadow Film Society.
Meanwhile, John also continues to provide professional client services to buyers and sellers of residential real estate in the Bay Area area market (www.imaginecominghome.com).
Having raised two daughters, he resides with his spouse and golden retriever in Walnut Creek, California.