Elevated Spirituality

Just yesterday the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released findings from a recent survey about the frequency and scope of people changing faith traditions and/or leaving established religion totally. This story did not focus solely on Christianity, but it certainly seemed to note that it was in Christianity that the biggest change was happening (Zach has done a nice job offering a broader context for the study). It was, in essence, another opportunity for media to place a negative focus on Christianity. There is, to be sure, quite a few areas where the public life of Christianity needs to be reformulated, where new voices need to be heard and sought out. Brian McLaren, in this press conference, begins that conversation, and it is one I welcome whole-heartedly. And here McLaren himself talks about the significance of the Pew Study.

But this morning, after reading the article A Spiritual Graduation by Roland Martin, I am left with even more questions than before.

For instance:

– Why is this article on faith filed under the politics section of CNN?

– In this elevated, or graduated, spirituality Martin is talking about, what is the center? Is it the self? That is how I interpret it.

– Finally, if it is God directing Martin to where he would have him go next, why then does he finish the article with this line: “That could simply be God’s way of saying that you have graduated, and it’s time to elevate yourself to the next spiritual level?” (Italics and bolding mine)

There does seem to be a movement within Christianity, spurred on by either the consumerist approach to church (which culminates in a church on every corner – as available as convenience stores) or the increasing awareness of the global church and the realization that no one expression of church has a corner on the truth (a nod to emerging folk, for sure).

For what it is worth, I have spent considerable time in three branches of Christianity – Quaker, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian. And each has molded me in a unique way. I certainly would not be who I am today if it were not for these three different expressions of faith. So I resonate with Dr. Cornel West and his advice to Martin. I am just not sure, though, that the subsequent step is to elevate myself to the next level. Especially when that elevation somehow transcends the church.


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