The Race is On: The Theological and Human Issues in the 2012 Election
13 September 2012: 1 Comment »
The nominating conventions for both parties are visible now only through the rearview window. The banners have been taken down, the balloons have fallen, the local bars are back to their normal patrons and the campaigns are now in full swing. The nominating conventions are actually a strange ritual, something of a dated hangover from …
Question & Answer
As much as I thoroughly appreciated Eternal Life and Jesus for the Non-Religious, I would welcome your thoughts regarding what has traditionally been called "contemplative prayer." I feel pretty squared away as to the prayers of petition and the question of flattering God in hopes of getting God to change the divine mind. But what about contemplation and the mystics? Is it auto-suggestion or a self-induced mystical experience? Even if self-induced, is it an authentic experience of the divine or an illusion?
If we could remove from prayer the idea of request or petition, then prayer would be defined as the awareness of a relationship with the ultimate reality, however that reality is defined. That awareness could take the form of contemplation or meditation, but it is still a relationship. Relationships can grow and deepen, but they can also fade and become shallow. Relationships require time, sensitivity and nurturing. That takes dedication, commitment and attentiveness.
“Self-induced” does not appear to me to be the word I would use. Everything we do is self-induced. If you mean by “self induced” that it is not real but delusional, that is always a possibility and one should never rule out that possibility.
That is not my approach, however. I simply bear witness that I live in a relationship with what I call the Source of Life. I practice that relationship by living life fully. I live in a relationship with the Source of Love. I practice that relationship by loving, loving wastefully. I live in a relationship with the Ground of Being. I practice that relationship by having the courage to be all that I can be. Contemplation is, therefore, not something that I do so much as it is something I am. Contemplation, defined this way, then makes sense to me. I never fall into the idolatry of pretending that I am defining God. I am trying to define only my human experience of God. I thus believe that I live in and into the reality of transcendence.
I hope this helps. Thank you for your letter.
~John Shelby Spong
Read what Bishop Spong has to say about A Joyful Path Progressive Christian Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds: "The great need in the Christian church is for a Sunday school curriculum for children that does not equate faith with having a pre-modern mind. The Center for Progressive Christianity has produced just that. Teachers can now teach children in Sunday school without crossing their fingers. I endorse it wholeheartedly."
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