Six Varieties of Christians and Their Churches: From Tribal to Integral

December 4th, 2012
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Christians and their communities of faith exist in rich diversity today. Why are there so many different kinds of Christians and churches? There are historical aspects, political factors, matter of taste, and personality types. However, from an integral perspective of evolutionary stages we can see a quite remarkable tendency for churches to fall into one of perhaps six different altitudes of understanding. I and others often call these six stages tribal, warrior, traditional, modern, postmodern, and integral. In the next few posts I want to outline how understanding stages of faith and church can help us understand one another and act in more loving ways toward each other in the midst of all of our differences.

The Tribal Church

The tribal era of human evolution began about 50,000 years ago. Fear-based fantasy was a major part of life in these early tribes as the world was filled with demons, spirits, and ghosts who needed to be bargained with and defended against. Today’s superstitions and magical thinking are remnants of this stage. The very word superstition comes from supersisto, meaning “to stand in terror of the deity.”

Tribal consciousness is also found today in isolated tribes of the world, in every child magical worldview that sees the world through the lens of imagination unrestrained by reason, in vampire and exorcism movies, and astrology column advice. Tribal spirituality is filled with fearful fantasies and focused on the closely knit group with its magical, paranoidbeliefs and a charismatic leader. An estimated 5 percent of the world’s population lives this way.

Biblically, the tribal stages found at the beginning of the Old Testament included the Israelite and Canaanite cultures. In Western industrialized societies today there are only a few kinds of ultraconservative churches whose dominant center is tribal. There are more churches that have some elements of this stage in their mixture.

These tribal stage churches are today commonly referred to as “cults.” Well-known extreme examples in the recent past are the People’s Temple led by Jim Jones with its mass suicide of 913 Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana, and the Branch Davidians led by David Koresh near Waco. Current examples are polygamist FLDS church led by Warren Jeffs and the few remaining small churches that practice snake handling.

Every stage has limitations to be transcended and strengths to be included in the next stages. The limitations of this level of religion include slavish devotion to a leader, living in the isolation of believing that the only truly spiritual group is your own, mistaking superstition for spirituality, and the worry that an angry God will punish you. The strength of this stage is the value of belonging to a group with strong ties to one another. Whatever stage a church or individual is at, it is important to function as a tribe in some ways. A small church is like a tribe itself. A larger church will have tribes that may be called Sunday School Classes, small groups, or mission groups. When Jesus wanted to change the world, the first thing he did was to gather a few others around him to form into a new spiritual family, saying that its mission took precedence over one’s birth family. The house churches of the book of Acts served as tribal groups where genuine connections and care could be experienced.

The Warrior Church

The warrior stage began to develop around 10,000 years ago when tribes grew in wealth and power, and conflicts erupted between neighboring tribes. The warrior stage is about aggression, impulsive behavior, and violence. The world is like a jungle where the tough win and the weak lose. Beliefs at this stage are less magical and more literal. There is an absolute authority outside of the individual such as a parent, teacher, boss, minister, or a God who makes the rules that people follow without question.

Today we find warrior consciousness in the terrible two’s, high school bullying, street gangs, comic book heroes, sword and sorcery stories, and prison life. We see it in countries such as Afghanistan, athletic teams, aggressive unethical corporations, and the rise of terrorism around the world. Perhaps 20% of the world lives at the warrior altitude.

Warrior churches can be seen historically in the holy wars, the Crusades, and the Inquisition. Today the warrior level church is commonly referred to as a fundamentalist church. While the word may have a pejorative meaning, these churches use it proudly in the sense of holding to five “fundamentals” of a belief system that arose in the early 19th century. They are (1) The Bible contains the literal words of God without error, (2) the virgin birth and deity of Jesus, (3) the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, (4) the bodily resurrection of Jesus,(5) the authenticity of Jesus’ miracles or, sometimes, the pre-millennial second coming. Fundamentalism also refers to a certain mindset that warns others who do not agree with them of the danger of their wrong beliefs.

They believe God lives up in heaven but comes down to earth as an avenging warrior mixed with elements of justice and compassion. Jesus is the mighty agent of the wrath of God, making war on sin and death, and accepting his death on the cross is the only way to appease an angry God for one’s sins. Hell is the place of eternal punishment for those who did not believe in the right doctrines or act in the right way. Many evangelical Christians at the next stage, the traditional one, hold these same beliefs, but they tend to not be as angry at those who do not share their beliefs as the fundamentalists are.

Perhaps the most well-known warrior church today is the Westboro Baptist Church with its “God Hates Fags” posters picketing funerals. My church has been picketed a number of times by this group. They fax us ahead of time, warning of a protest outside our building the coming Sunday morning, and we warn the faint of heart or the easily angered of our congregation to enter the church by the back entrance. Other than that, we simply ignore them. Our fervent support of all sexual orientations as gifts from God stands as our own affirmation of gays and we have done our own picketing of groups that abuse gays. Inadvertently, this fundamentalist group has in some ways advanced the cause of human rights by revealing the dark heart of gay oppression to the nation.

The limitations of the warrior church include its narrow worldview and its fear-based, fighting mentality leading to always being at war with someone or something. Karen Armstrong says, “Every single fundamentalist movement that I have studied in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is rooted in profound fear.” This then manifests in various forms of discrimination and oppression.

The strength of this worldview is fervor—the ability to be passionate about what matters to you. Other strengths are the value of belonging and taking fervent action to advance the mission of the group.

From an integral perspective any culture, group, church, or individual has a right to be at any level and deserves our understanding and respect. Integral is the first stage that is not angry with all the other stages but rather understands them and sees their place in the evolutionary path. The tribal and warrior stages only become problematic when they use hatred, manipulation, or force to impose their beliefs on others. The warrior stage can be challenging to respect because of its militancy and oppression of others. Integral people do whatever is necessary to ardently protect others from abuse while taking care to not to abuse the abusers. The task for those moving into the integral stage is learning to not get angry about people who are angry. It is how to avoid having a warrior consciousness about warrior consciousness, to be passionate without persecuting.

Any part of us that personally remains in the fear, fantasies, and magicalthinking of the tribal stage or the angry militancy of the warrior worldview also deserves our understanding, respect, and nurture. It is not necessary to be judgmental about these parts of us, even those that we may eventually decide to change. Every stage is valuable in itself. Age twelve is not better than age five—it is just a different place in life. We value age five because it is important in itself and necessary to reach age twelve. The same is true with each evolving level of growth in consciousness. Sometimes we find ourselves becoming angry about the stage we are in. That can be a signal that it is time in our life to make a change. The anger can give us the energyto move on to the next level. However, whatever our religious tradition or spiritual path, we eventually need to get over our anger and honor every stage we have passed through. We can then reconcile ourselves to the truth that each of the past stations in our life and in the history of humankind has been the launching pad for our moving to the next stage and where we are now.

NEXT: Traditional Churches

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Paul, First of all, I am inspired spiritually by your book Integral Christianity. I just finished chapter 9. It's about spiritual states accessible to all (if we allow and practice). The God-is-in-there-deep-inside-instead-of-up-in-the-sky concept of Integral Christianity resonates highly with me. I loved the simple diagram and description of the contrast between traditional prayer (which always directs attention to God up there our out there) to the Integral Christian concept of accessing the (panentheistic) divinity deep within all beings (and things).

That means I can use a deep aspect of the UL perspective to access and activate various energy or energy-like responses or resources which have traditionally been called "spiritual," and, in turn, attributed to "God." In the sense of accessing and applying some sort of energy (perhaps even actual electromagnetic frequencies?) in the "name of God," and in the "game of God" (spiritual practices related to Ultimate Reality) the UR quadrant is also used, even though the "object" of "spiritual energy" is only observed through practice/yoga, rather than through a scientific tool such as a microscope or meter. The concept of "energy" in relation to spiritual experiences seems to add a third person perspective to the previous second person (traditional prayer) and to the first person prayer of floating to the core where divinity is (True Self).

As such, a previous stage -- the modern church, with its embrace of science -- helps support my UL experience of God. Because I can look to quantum theory and other energy-related scientific knowledge to create useful metaphors of spirit, in the form of energy fields and quantum "upacking" (unfolding, like a "fountain flowing deep and wide"), etc.

As Ken points out, the traditional prayer is, however, still very useful because it reminds us of love relationships and helps us see the God in others, so we can, to use Rodny King's (now "green") phrase "just get along" better. It kicks in the LL perspective. And a God-with sense. 

On the other hand, the Integral concept of God-within seems add juice to the traditional second person relationship which was becoming somewhat routine and dry. Too much self-and-other leaves a gap between self and other, including a gap between self and God -- the pitfall of "duality."  

Like so many other people who are willing to evolve spiritually, I have been shifting to "going deep" (instead of only up or out) for some time now. Your book, however, seemed to validate my intuitively-driven spiritual growth.  It reminded me that I am not the only one who is going in this direction. I am not traveling, evolving, alone. I am in good company. You call it "Integral Christianity." I identify with it. 

In short, your book helped free me to feel more comfortable about coming to God from different angles. Or all/and instead of either/or. 

This liberation came at a good time for me. 

My 80 year old mother just had a post surgery setback which was discouraging. A second surgery was needed to address internal infection in the intestinal area. The good news is that a small hole was found to be the source of the infection. Hopefully the sewing up of this hole will prevent further bacteria from producing internal infection. The bad news is that at 80 years of age the stress of a second operation and of the need to continue fighting off the existing infection, plus the possible psychological effects of discouragement or mental fatique, all combine to create risk. Modern medicine and mom's own natural healing system need all the help they can get. 

As a loving son, I felt called to provide psychic healing. I previously practiced intense meditative healing toward my youngest son who needed healing from a nearly fatal car accident two years ago. I believe that an actual energy transfer took place which helped account for my son's full recovery. I had "seen" strands of light weaving together his neurons (he had "brain sheer"  from the accident). Also a few healing visions occured while I was in a deep, meditative, and prayerful, state. His recovery was unexpectedly full and rapid. 

So now my mother needed my help. But after the second surgery she requested that we all go home and get some rest. She had agreed ahead of time for me to zone for a couple of hours at her post-surgery bedside, but she changed her mind. At first, I was hurt that my "gift" had been declined. Then I realized that it was not about me. Mom needed healing, even if I couldn't have the close proximity factor that I had hoped for.

I adapted. On my 2 and a half hour drive home, I did subtle body healing meditation, envisioning light around the affected area of the intestine, seeing myself wave my energized hands over her body and touching her forehead and face for comfort, placing white light around and into/through her whole body. Finally, in a deeper part of my mind's eye, I saw her holding her babies (myself and my younger brother when we were babies. I could feel her mother-love and sense of treasure. I allowed the same love and nurturing she gave to myself and my brother to come back around to her. I related to one of my mystical experiences of how I hugged a tree, only to have it hug me back -- a weird instant karma experience. I allowed this experence to apply to mom -- her own good karma now helping heal her. As I was doing this imagry, I noticed that parts of my drive home were being incorporated into the healing images. I have called this practice "Acting Through" (in both Allsville Emerging, and in Be Whole Now). I was acting through the symbolism of the realities around me. The white lights of approaching cars matched the sense of planting healing light within mom's wounds and infected areas. Later, the movement of the car in relation to the road and to the unfolding vista became a kind of visual metaphor of the waves of healing energy. It was as though my trip home was also a healing "trip." It worked in both an UR way (of physically getting me home) and in a deep UL way of getting "home" to love and healing -- at the same time. The deepest karmic vision occured near the end of my trip. It was the grand finale of the healing meditation session. 

Paul's book had come at the right time to empower me to provide direct psychic healing. Even if it turns out to have no external effects, it at least healed me of my sense of rejection or powerlessness, and firmly reestablished the power of love and of spirit. I experienced my love of my mother in a whole new "light" (figuratively and literally). 

Thanks Paul, for helping me feel more comfortable in my own "skin" (as in wineskin and worldview) when it comes to my overall sense of spirituality, and as regards to this specific healing prayer practice/intervention. 

Darrell

Good stuff, Paul! I endorse your work in my Spirit Speaks blog

(in this blog post http://spiritspeaks-theofilia.blogspot.ca/2012/02/warrior-of-world-in-action.html)

Helen

Thanks, Helen.  I enjoyed the wide-ranging spirituality on your blog. Thanks for being such a spiritual adventurer. Love and light, Paul

Hi Paul,

I am thoroughly enjoying your book, integral Christianity, particularly when you write about the state experiences that Jesus experienced.

I have a question about the miraculous. Jesus is often referred to as a healer, and to yourself mention that you regularly visit a healer.
Do you I think it is possible through say, the practise of reiki or prancing healing or something similar, to attain the same level of regular, conscious miraculous events that are written about in the New Testament? Not just by Jesus, but the apostles too by transmission.

I hear second hand stories from the church all over the world that say healing miracles occur... But then there are so many other conflicting views of faith healers using placebo effects or adrenalin tactics etc.

It's one thing to hear of someone's leg growing an inch, quite another to call a decaying corpse out of a tomb! Or see a man born crippled leap to his feet before your very eyes. Are these just part of the parable, told from a mythical or magical point of view (like Moses parting the Red Sea) or are these events actually possible today through connection to spirit? If so how? What are the mechanics? The practise one should adopt?

Or, is this all just B.S?

Love your work. Trying to introduce centering prayer in my church as a way to experience the 1st person perspective of God :)

Louis

Paul, I've enjoyed this  overalll discussion a lot -- exploring Christianity from different stages or "depths" of understanding. I realized that I had an earlier post that may have reflected a deeper or higher stage understanding of the traditional concept of "The Second Coming." I even postulate a "Third Coming," and attach each "Coming" to down-to-earth concepts of "access," "application,"  and "assimilation" -- what I call (altogether) the "3 stages of mastery" (of mastering "whole-mind activity," "wholeness,"  or of mastering virtually any skill, for that matter). 

Here's the link to my related discussion:  

 

The Second Coming and Integral Life

Thanks, Darrell

Bài viết khá thú vị, hi vọng bạn sẽ có nhiều chia sẻ thú vị nữa. Thanks!

Ghé thăm trang của mình nhé: uc browser

I would be interested to know what this says. Sounds like a beautiful language. Or is it spam? Could the writer, or anyone else, translate for us?

Hi Paul,

Try pasting it into translate.google.com.

 

"This article is quite interesting, hopefully you will be more interesting to share. Thanks!
 
Visit of yourselves"

HI Paul,

I  want to send you a very big and heart-felt thank you, for your very clear and excellent book, you Integral Life posts and the very generous way in which you are willing to engage and dialogue online with correspondents.

I also want to let you know that the Sydney Integral Christianity group has found  your book very helpful  in 2012   over a few meetings, as we  co-operate together to understand  what an evolving Integral Christianity may mean in our local and Australian  context and our own church environments.

I am confident we will continue to find it helpful as we  meet again in 2013.

Thanks for all your inspirational work,

With love and peace,

John O’Neill

 

 

Thanks, John,

I just looked up your other encouraging posts and realized I had totally missed all of them. However, I could not access your post on Integral Christian Mysticism from 2/19/12 on the Intgral LIfe site.  I hope to find a way to read it.

I have been so impressed with the progress of integrally-informed Christianity in Sydney. I just today also heard from Peter Atkinson in Sydney and am quite excited about what he has shared with me about integrally-informed Catholicism. I'd very much like to hear more about what is happening in God's wonderful down under land.

Again, thanks for the heartening work you all are doing.

Much love and light to you all,   Paul

 

Thanks Paul.

I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to access that post on Integral Christian Mysticism either.

All I’d like to say about it now , is that the more deeply I read your book, the more I discovered that mysticism  is at the heart of your understanding of Integral Christianity and it’s future. I share this understanding and hope for the future.

With love and peace,

John

Amen to that, my dear brother.

Paul,

Enjoyed the piece very much. And as a view of Integral Spirituality through a purely Christian lens, I think it's extremely important work.

However, wouldn't some of the African/Yoruba and other spiritualist/nature religions fall under the above "Tribal" category? My feelings are that not all of these would be considered (or would appreciate being considered) "fearful, paranoid and cultish."

As one of the founders of the Integral Church in St. Petersburg, FL, I'm heartened by the fact that Integral Spirituality is getting more attention (on this site and beyond), but want to respectfully remind you that there are Integral Churches out there not based on Christian doctrine. 

We look forward to leading this edge together!

Sincerely,
Joran Slane Oppelt
Integral Church (Saint Petersburg)
http://integralchurch.org

Joran, I apologize if I have not been clear throughout all my books and posts that I am speaking about the Christian faith. With the exception of Unitarian Universalists and Spiritualist groups, the word “church” appears to be primarily used in our culture and religious studies in association with Christianity. I use the word Christian quite often in my writing, but I do not repeat the adjective “Christian” every time I use the word “church,” assuming it would be clear that I am not reflecting on non-Christian religions. Perhaps I need to do that.

The other end of that wording challenge is that there is a Christian denomination that goes by the name “Christian Church.” I am usually careful in the context to make sure my readers understand my occasional reference to the Christian Church denomination is different from my reference to the Christian church in general.

You ask, “However, wouldn't some of the African/Yoruba and other spiritualist/nature religions fall under the above "Tribal" category?”  Whether a particular spiritualist, African, or nature religion could be considered in a tribal or integral stage would clearly depend on what stage they were actually in, not by what name they go by. The use of the word “tribal” and its attendant descriptions is widely used in integral circles and prominently by Steve McIntosh to describe any worldview that exhibits the characteristics of humankind’s historical tribal stage of development.

All stages have both strengths and weaknesses, including integral (whose weaknesses will become more and more obvious as we live with it longer.)  Openly, and without disparagement, naming weaknesses is a particularly integral function that differentiates it from the postmodern stage which tends to not like criticism of anything except that which is not postmodern.

Unfortunately, it seems that almost any word can have negative connotations.  All of my stage names, tribal, warrior, traditional, modern, and postmodern have been used derisively. I do not intend them so. That can be a helpful aspect of Spirit Dynamics (and Wilber at times,) which uses colors as names. However, that means one has to learn and memorize more meanings behind the colors in an already complicated system. It is only a matter of time until “integral” gets bad breath, too, if it already hasn’t.

Thank you for bringing this up and sharpening my awareness of the challenges involved. I am always looking for better ways to communicate.

Many blessings on you and your ministry,

Paul

www.revpaulsmith.com

Paul,

Thank you for the response.

I completely understand that frustration. I guess we're another one of those groups attempting to co-opt and repurpose that word, "church." For that matter, I suppose the same is true for the word, "ministry."

My concern remains about the "Tribal" religions, and I'm thinking specifically about the group of Yoruba (Santeria, Candomble) that have had their protective spirits (a structure of that stage) colonialized over the years into Catholic Saints. This is a group of faithful that is reverent, but not necessarily fearful, and a "tribe" whose traditional sacred powers (and their traits) have been transposed ("syncretized") onto figures like St. Sebastian and St. Anthony. They definitely don't have a charismatic leader (unless you consider that to be the medicine man), and to the trained eye, they definitely don't look like most cults. Stephen Prothero discusses them at length in his recent book, God is Not One. Strictly academic stuff, but a great read.

I think your point about strengths and weaknesses at every stage (including Integral) is spot on.

And "bad breath?" Wow. What an awesome double entendre that is. Our daily spiritual practice, then, not only helps us return to a state of "good breath," but also acts as Listerine? ;-)

Sincerely,
Joran

I appreciated your descriptions of an Integral Church in the Christian culture.  I do sense there may be many more integral churches than you may be acknowledging that are evolving into  the stages of understanding you describe. After all, I believe the Bible expresses that wherever two or more are gathered in Christ's name, then Christ is there also.  I take this to mean anywhere that two or more people gather to genuinely explore the stages of spiritual understanding that you have outlined as consistent with Integral Thought and Life and Integral Christianity, then there is in essense an Integral Church.

Thank you for your thoughts and insights on how the Integral Church is evolving and including.

Phil, I hope that you are right and that there are more integrally-informed churches than I think there are.  Yes, it is true that where two or three are gathered together Jesus is there, too. However, that is true no matter what stage of spiritual devilment those two or three are in, from warrior to beyond integral.  Of course Jesus’ presence would be understood differently in each stage.

The difference is not that Jesus is there or not, but rather, as you say, if they are “genuinely exploring different stages of spiritual understanding.” In my experience, integral is the first stage to attempt to understand all other stages. Previous levels either ignore or discount the presence of other perspectives.

May we continue to press toward the hope of more and more Christian communities moving on to whatever next place Spirit is calling them to.  Blessings, Paul

Paul, Thanks for your very useful comments here. Many help me sort through my own confusions as a Christian-in-the-modern-world. I now see that I feel most comfortable in the "Integral Christian" "clothes."  

While many of your concepts and observations are helpful, this statement resonated the most highly with me (tommorrow it may be another statement, but for today, at least, it was hands down this); 

"At integral, in addition to some of the previous beliefs, sin is a case of mistaken identity – manifesting the wrong identity, our False Self, in unloving attitudes and actions by not being true to our Highest Self, our divine identity. Healing and wholeness emerge as we embrace our True Divine Self and manifest it in the world."

Just this past Sunday during the church service, I so wanted to add an "and deeper" to the very good theme of "the wait is the hardest part" and "lean into hope" (by doing creative and bold things to help others in need). The "going-deep" aspect of helping self and others deal with suffering was a missing part of an otherwise wonderful sermon.

Not that the sermon was lacking -- just that I wanted the "go-deep" part. This is because my concept of God is the transpersonal part of Self that is deep within -- at the core, who I really Am.  Accordingly I choose to not emphasize a God/self dicotomy, even though I access God and Christ in 2nd person prayer. I see/sense/intuit a contiuous fluid outflow or unfolding between God or Self and self.

In fact, the standard "get self out of the way to follow God" statement or two in the sermon actually bothered me. To me, an effort to suppress self, gets in the way of spirituality -- creates an unhelpful higher resistence than what seems needed for optimal spiritual growth. To me, the process of connecting or centering deeper allows the egoistic self to kind of disapear without killing it or suppressing it. Similar to Hu Ning's criticism of intentional "mirror wiping" back in the Zen Buddhist faith traditon. There's no real need to suppress self if part of self is Self or (adult) Child of God. 

Your above definition for "sin" from the Integral Christian's seems to closely align with this "It's largely about going deeper" value that I currently bring to my lifelong Christianity. 

I voice some of this in the following excerpt from my own book about a proposed model community that integrates spirituality and democracy: 

(from Allsville Emerging, pages 194-195)

Listening to the Heart, Deeply

 

Invariably, during philosophical discussions about the wisdom

of listening to one’s heart, someone mentions how the

heart can make a person do impulsive and foolish things,

such as killing another person when finding one’s lover engaged

in an act of infidelity. The crime of passion is often

attributed to listening to the heart. The discussion usually

results in a declaration that the disagreement of whether to

listen to the heart or not is a result of semantics regarding the

meaning of “heart.”

 

Generally, there are two distinctions made by the proponents

of listening to the heart. One distinction is that reacting

to the heart (as in the above example of a crime of passion)

is different than really listening. To this argument, the proponents

of not listening to the heart, counter with something

like, “But my broken heart would say to kill the man who is

cheating with my lover; that’s why I shouldn’t listen to my

heart.”

 

The other distinction made by the listen-to-the-heart camp

is that one must go deep within the heart to get the correct

guidance. The impulse to kill is seen as being from a shallow

part of what is being called “the heart,” not the true heart

(center/core) of the self. This distinction (of deep vs. shallow)

is where the semantics problem comes into play. Which

“heart” are we talking about? The jealous and possessive

one that the listen-to-the-heart camp attributes to the shallow

pseudo-heart? Or the “true” heart deep within?

 

(end excerpt)

Thanks again, 

Darrell

Beautifully and deeply said, Darrell. Thanks, Paul

Thanks, Paul for your compliment and support of my spiritual growth journey (deep into Self, or Home to God). Both in my comment here and in another comment I made, I voice the belief that there are no real (ultimately real, that is) gaps between us and God, and that even the existence of a diety-as-being is secondary to mind/spirit's/Mind's mastering of spiritual "functions" or "responses." 

Below is that same line of thought articulated near the begining of the God and Wholeness section of Pascal and my book-in-progress (nearing completion) called Be Whole Now (homage to Ram Dass's Be Here Now). Thought it would "flesh" out the insights emerging in the current discussion about "Integral Christianity." 

from Be Whole Now (not yet publshed): 

 

The practice of calling upon a deity has been helping broken people feel more whole for thousands of years. Perhaps the fact that “God” works in this kind of psychological or ontological (helps with one’s “being”) way is proof enough for the existence of God.

Or perhaps a god does not even need to exist in order to be “real.”

The word “exist” means “to stand out.” Does a god have to stand OUT in order to be real? What if my god, first and foremost, rests IN me? Transforms me from the inside out? Is THAT god any less real than a kind of magician god who makes objects appear out of nowhere?

I explore this concept further in the following poem (from my unpublished book of poems, The heavenly strains.) :

Flight of the Bumbling Be

Thank you, Lord

for this precious gift;

the gift of not caring if you exist.

Does the fat bumble bee care

if the scientists can explain

his aerodynamic invalidation,

his nonexistent reason

why he can fly?

You fly in the bumble bee.

You fly in this bumbling be.

I am so awkward at being the me you make,

so fat with sin,

that I shouldn’t be able to lift off

from this worldly place, this pollen pad

where appetite coats my legs heavily

and my wings are way too small.

But I do fly,

I don’t care if you exist.

I am carefree.

You fly me.

Whether God is given metaphysical plus ontological reality status, or ontological reality status only, the fact remains that the concept of, and relationship with, God has been around for quite some time. And for good reason. As we said in our opening remarks, God helps broken folks feel whole. God works.

Perhaps it is more productive to focus on the “God Response” instead of on the existence of God. In the above poem, the God Response could not be denied, whether or not the notion of a supreme being “flys.”  

God, the God Response, and wholeness all tend to happen at the same time. So much so, that an experience of God (“God”) without an opening up to God (the God Response)  and without a sense of wholeness (at least in some emergent form of wholeness) would hardly count as an experience of a divine being at all. The presence of God in the form of an experience of a form/being, the presents (gifts) of God in the form of opening up to God (and in the form of godly responses), and the “pre-sense” of God in the form of “slipping into” a state of wholeness, all converge more-or-less at the same time.

I have elsewhere suggested that in a functional sense God and wholeness, or “whole-mind activity” could be considered synonymous. Call on God, and you call on wholeness. Shift to whole-mind activity, and an experience of God is there. Divinity might be a way of tapping into a wholeness response that we all possess, but one which we might have difficulty accessing and applying and assimilating/integrating into our lives and into our world.

 

(end excerpt)

Thanks for a making a good discussion platform for sharing the above excerpt. 

I would love for you to critique the God and Wholeness section of Pascal ("Layman") and my book. We have a working copy stored at Google Docs. I suppose I would need your email to send notice of approval to read the document ... that is, of course, if you would be interested and/or able to do so at this time. As upstart authors, we would love the feedback from an accomplished writer as yourself. I am impressed by what I've seen of your concepts and writing here.

I can't speak for Pascal, but I personally would love to be guided by you, or to even ride your coat tails (if at all possible) as we enter the writing-about-God-and-religion-and-other-spiritual-matters arena. "Wholeness" certainly seems in the same ballpark as you performed your excellent-sounding book. I'm going to order you book from Amazon before leaving my online session today. As I said before, I'm looking forward to studying your thesis more in-depth, by reading your book. 

Darrell

Hi Paul,

I think your opening paragraph is at the heart of it all.The next stage for the church is the Integral path and as Paul said in Romans 12:2....be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind and also let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus(Phil. 2:5).We as Integral Christians have to find new ways of bridging the gap between the different stages, and at the same time pushing our own evolutionary edge.I believe that the  the opportunity that lies before us is with those of us who feel that their center of gravity is Integral  and  move  this forward to find new ways to relate with other Integral Christians inorder to build  a peer group that can spiritually support us in creating change in culture. Recently I was involved in a men's holon group.The purpose of the group was to create an inter-subjective space between us in our dialouge,which we had on the phone.I believe that this could be a means for each to develop in a context larger than themselves and also lay down the grooves for further development.If anyone would like to participate in a collective phone call let me know.

lOVE,

jIM

 A great idea, JIm. Count me in.  Thanks for being a catalyst in this. Integral Christians can feel a little lonely without a local church or group to travel with. So until then, we might as well use this great gift of modern technology from phone to internet.  Blessings, Paul

Thank you for putting your ideas from the book here. Wilber in Integral Spirituality talks about the conveyor belt system where a religion can or should accommodate all levels. With your different churches one has to move from the one to the other as one evolve. Why not have all in one? That makes more sense to me. What happens to the young ones in an Integral church? You might have answered this somewhere, but I seem to have missed it. The other problem is the belief of the historical Jesus. Why insist on the post-rational levels with the historical Jesus?

Thank you for these good questions and pardon the long answer since there are three of them. First, you suggest that having all the stages represented in one church would mean one might not have to change churches to move to another level.

That might be interesting, but this gets complicated when one thinks of the group dynamics in actual churches.  In my experience all churches have a dominate center stage with a few members in a previous stage and perhaps some moving to the next stage. My church has a dominant integral center, with a few folks in postmodern, and perhaps a few at something of a traditional stage. There are also a few looking forward to what comes next in post-integral church. 

There are those that visit us from out of town at one of the fine hotels surrounding us in our midtown Kansas City setting in a beautiful traditional church building, expecting a traditional church. They  may see a woman preaching, hear a sermon from the Gospel of Thomas, and notice two men holding hands.  They often  walk out before the service is over – sometimes before the first hymn! We are not willing to give up those things because if we did, we would then be a traditional stage church, not an integral one.

Someone from a modern and postmodern stage visits us and loves the straight, gay, transgender diversity but has difficulty with those who raise their hands during an awesome hymn accompanied by our thundering pipe organ,  or clap during a groovy praise song with our band.  They like it when we call God “Mother” but have trouble with all the passionate love songs to Jesus and the talk about him as if he were really hanging around. And so it goes.

      Each stage has its own set of beliefs and practices which often are not compatible with the others, even though every stage is filled with good people trying to follow a Christian path as they understand it.Therefore different people at different stages almost always prefer to be  a part of a church that is where they are in their spiritual development.

You ask, “What happens to the young ones in an integral church?”  Today’s youth are usually raised in a modern or postmodern society and educational setting. It is only when they go to church that they often encounter a traditional level of thinking and practice. So they often end up leaving when they get old enough  because their church doesn’t seem to make sense in today’s world.  Youth raised in an integral church move right into that stage's beliefs and practices without having to give up previous warrior,  traditional, modern, or postmodern beliefs and practices  because they were never taught them.  If the Sunday School lesson is on Noah and the flood with God wiping out all but one family of the human race, we explain that was simply the way people thought about God then, and that Jesus came to tell us that God was loving and kind, not vengeful.

Your third question was “Why insist on the post-rational levels with the historic Jesus?”  I will give an answer and you can correct me if I misunderstood your question. I assume that by “the historical Jesus” you mean the modern stage understanding of the Jesus. The modern level tends to discount the mystical, post-rational Jesus because the tools of historical criticism are not currently adequate to experience or understand it.

I advocate a post-rational Jesus because he both included the rational and transcended it.  Jesus appealed to the rational mind when he offered clear contrasts to a previous way of understanding God and his way.

Jesus modeled and taught a post-rational level because he was first and foremost a mystic. Magical thinking is prerational. The authentic mystical is transrational and transcends both a “supernatural” and a “rational only “belief system. He prayed at subtle levels of conscious  to a 2nd-person manifestation of God whom he called   “abba” or “daddy.” He talked to the dead, Moses and Elijah, in personal mystical encounter. He healed from a flow of subtle level energy pouring out of his consciousness. He came from a nondual state of consciousness when he spoke from his complete identification  with God as in “I am the light of the world” and “If you have seen me you have seen God.” He modeled that divine identity for all of us and taught us that we can also move into the same transrational mystical state as we come to embrace our own oneness with God. We then can agree with Jesus’ words to us when he said, “You are the light of the world” and “You are gods.”

Let me know if I have understood your questions and if this helps you understand my perspective. Much love and peace, Paul

Hi Paul,

You are addressing some very interesting questions.  This issue of whether to encourage multiple stages within a single church or to rely on trans-church migration networks is somewhat thorny.  Obviously (as you say) the social reality is that people tend to gather around a particular "center of gravity".  And if we want to encourage healthy versions of each level then that requires a great deal of tailoring the circumstance to suit their needs and appropriate challenges.  However it seems like the development toward integrative stages also requires a lot of basic human exchange between people at different levels -- provided this occurs in a integral context.  

So what do you think could be done to help people tolerate and spiritually profit from sharing a faith-space with people whose apparent values rub them the wrong way?  

Although separating people (flexibly of course) according to temperament and understanding is an excellent method of keeping a cool, productive system -- what are the benefits of immersing people in the hotter friction between contrasting value groups?  It seems that many of the most dynamic phases of historical Christianity were those in which the "universal-organic" sense of Christendom was brought to the surface by post-rational leaders trying to orchestrate the multifarious spiritual and bio-cultural energies of many people at many stages. 

If we envision a pastoral situation in which the relgiious guides are post-rational / high-integrative and the community of worshippers is understood to be the general flock of "first tier memes" -- then how would we handle that situation?  What historical antecendents inform us meaningfully?  What modifications to the structure of "church" might be necessary to better act as a simultaneously container of the naturally (somewhat) antagonistic understandings of various cultural temperaments?

Peace,

Pascal.

 

 

 

 

I really enjoyed this post!

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Hey “Layman” Pascal, I love your interactions on the Integral site.  So I hereby “ordain” you and will call you Reverend Pascal to counter what I suspect is a tongue in cheek title you have bestowed upon yourself.

So, Reverend Pascal, now to your thoughtful comments.

Larger churches often function as a place where several stages can exist with some degree of diversity. Their leaders are often at a higher stage. I know some of them and they tell me that. What they lose however, is the ability to actually evolve institutionally to a higher stage.  They are simply stuck where they are because they must satisfy their congregation of diverse stages. This means corporately they will look like first tier with no hope of that changing.  I think that’s a dead end.

The pressing need for Christianity today is for churches that will move to the conveyor belt function. In order to move a church along towards on integral direction or whatever the next stage is for that church, the leaders usually have their hands full steering the congregation in that new direction. The bigger the church, the less likely significant change can occur because of the great difficulty of change in an institutional setting. Most leaders of large churches have to actually leave their current church if they come to a new place of spiritual development themselves to keep from stifling their own spiritual growth. (My post on this website on this subject is called Leading Change and Causing Trouble http://integrallife.com/v/search?keys=Leading+Change+and+Causing+Trouble

The challenge is “thorny” as you said because everyone needs a group where they feel nurtured and supported in the journey they are on before they can face others who differ. And as they grow, relating to an increasingly bigger world is vital.  A group that is busy relating to others with a different agenda can dilute that initial support. Smaller churches must look for ways to interact with those who differ. Here in Kansas City we have a very active interfaith community which serves that purpose in some ways.

Here is perhaps the biggest reality factor about church stage diversity in my experience:  I find that the numerous pastors and church leaders I interact with already feel guilty that their churches aren’t “diverse” enough. They still feel the leftover old postmodern guilt trip that was experienced by many churches and leaders who didn’t have enough African Americans, or Caucasians, or poor folks, or rich folks, or some other group to prove they were truly inclusive.  I don’t want to send any signals to the pastors and church leaders I am in touch with that, in addition to the other “inclusive “ requirements, they now need to have people from each stage in their churches to prove they are integral.  It really doesn’t work that way.

I have found that I can’t provide what traditional folks want in their church, even though I love them, affirm and support them in their journey.  At our church, the doors are open to all who want to join us in the journey we are on. If you’re not on that journey, you will be much happier in some other church. I have a whole list of other churches I recommend for those looking for something other than where we are.

As church people become integrally informed, I find they quite naturally begin to feel at home with those who differ and they find those very folks in their own families and where they work and live.

Thanks, Rev, those are my reflections and thanks for your gracious interaction.

 Much love and light,

Layman Paul

"Layman Paul,"

Thanks for your complementary thoughts and thoughful compliments (and for my unexpected ordination!).  You conjure up a colorful and dynamic (and pragmatic) vision that I might call Musical Churches -- wherein leaders and congregations are flexibly rotating in and out of local institutions as their needs and understandings evolve.  Of course this is already what happens!  But you've rendered it more conscious and thereby, hopefully, more valuable, more vital & smoother. 

It was interesting to hear about the combination of guilt and pluralistic social ethics you observe among pastors ("Are we diverse enough???").  This certaintly seems to show us the classic green situation.  Vision-logic emerging but not deepening adequately or dynamically enough.  And, as you say, it seems almost too much to burden such people with the additional demand of stage-inclusiveness.  But even looking at them in the moment of their entanglement with "simple diversity" we must wonder how successful this is in a basic human spiritual sense.  What kind of follow-through, embodiment, enactment, en-heart-ment accompanies their diversity concerns.  I simply don't have the data to answer this myself -- so I wonder.  Is congregational diversity operating merely at the most superficial level of including "obvious representatives of the popularly discussed social categories"?  Or is it getter deeper than that?  And what makes the difference between a diversity-oriented religious setting in which the concern is merely to officially possess the "optics" and status of diversity vs. a setting in which diversity is dynamic energy of spiritual growth and group empowerment?  There must be situations in which the first approach is eating up the energy that could be used for the latter.  

Perhaps Green is being trapped or primarily utilized too superficially to fulfill itself in its natural progress toward an integrative altitude.

I don't expect you to have the answers to these ponderings but you would certainly know better than I what kinds of diversity experiments have succeeded in "accomplishing something real" and which ones seem, regardless of their idealism, to be stuck at the nominal level of superficial-sentimental social ethics.

Interfaith enterprises must have had many successes and many failures in terms of bringing groups together in the fire of their similarities and differences.  Churches that are, or even just fancy themselves to be, progressive must be in a similar situation.  What things are being done to help people work directly to forge a common spirituality that acknowledges and works with the natural antagonisms between different types?  Does it make any difference to have open discussion about the need to share our faith with people who we don't feel comfortable with?  Are congregation members willing to struggle alongside each other in trans-egoic efforts or is the urge just too strong to have our religion feel comfortably within our lifestyle and values? 

It seems we do a lot of work to pool our observations of the results of experiments in flexible intra-faith mobility and experiments in trying to make dissonant situations workable.

Thanks again,

with Loving Light & Illuminated Love,

Reverend (or Rear-End) Pascal

Pascal, Will be interesting to see what Paul says about your "How does our church Be Whole Now, now that we went and let some participants get all 'deep' on us?"  question (somewhat paraphrased! -- partly to plug our book)  but here is a thought I had: 

 If members in a chuch have a sense that they are sponsoring/supporting a contemplative or "deeper" ministry for those interested, then whatever insights the contemplatives share will be more likely to be seen as having come from "our" church, rather than from "them." 

The implication will be also that it is okay if you don't want to take this contemplative option, and even okay if your theological or experiential descriptions are less deep. In many situations within or outside of the church people compliment someone by saying that he or she is deep or just said something deep. The person giving the compliment acknowledges that there seems to be something likely true about what the person just said or says generally. Yet "deep" suggests that much of what was said "went over my head."  The transaction is not all that uncomfortable. The person giving praise is okay with not being at a real deep level of understanding. The implication is that it is both good to be deep and perfectly okay to not be. There is generally no animosity during such transactions. 

I could see the same thing happen on a larger, mulitiple-person, scale -- as long as the "deep" ones don't rub it in the others' faces, acting superior, etc.   I suppose that psuedo-deep persons might be inclined to flaunt their advanced training and insights, but truly deep congregants would have transcended such ego characteristics and would be more humble and perhaps quieter. If contemplativeness was actually supported by the church, why would a person feel the urge (as I sometimes do in my church) to yell out (or articulate with lots of words) "we need to wake up to these deeper understandings."   

The support would offset insecurities or such outbursts of "righteous indignation" ("wake up," etc.). 

Also, I suppose the insecurity could come from those more action-oriented, less deep, congregants. They might occassionally dis the contemplatives as being wierdos or egg heads. In order to justify their own less-deep views. Such small-minded activists tend to say "get real" when anything more real is articulated. There tends to be an eqivocation between complex ("fancy") and artificial in order to hide the fact that I might not be up to the task of understanding what you just said. And if I can't quite understand it, I might be overly vulnerable to the unknown -- and the unknown scares the shit out of me. Therefore, I know what's "real" and you are just an egg head idiot. (I'm dramatizing here, not calling you, Pascal, an idiot!). The dynamic I'm describing here is what I've heard called "counterphobic."  I think the concept of counterphobic has a lot of useful applications for understanding some human behavior and is helpful to "forgive them, for they know not what they do." 

But the " supportive big brother" method (we mention it in the book, as a way to mentally approach a bad habit while attempting to change it) would be at work if the church membership is, in fact, supporting the contemplative mission. "They may be egg heads, but they're our egg heads -- our brothers and sisters." 

So, buy-in would need to happen in the church as a whole. If the buy-in is low, but the church administration pushes the contemplative mission forward anyway, then a kind of sucking sound (like Ross Perot once claimed he heard, in relation to international free trade agreements/treaties) may be heard of an us/them psychological divide variety.  

One place to look into your concern might be any writings about how participants in the Snowmass Interreligious Conferrence interface with their regular church/synogogue/mosque/ashram/temple etc. when they return home to the regular folks in their various chosen faiths. Most of the Snowmass participants are "deeper" and are in a leadership role. How do these leaders bring back the news without causing their own congregants to smell something fishy or to attempt to de-fund (or otherwise withdraw support or even obstruct)  the leader's Snowmass retreats. The Snowmass insights are apparently shared without making its participants a big suspicious "them."  

Recall the Saturday Night Live skit of old with Steve Martin and (I think, Dan Akroid) where they point their finger at something unidentified and say (with ignorant tones) "What the hell is that?!"  If the leaders who participate at Snowmass got that treatment when they returned home, I doubt they would be able to continue the retreat. If every time they shared the events of the retreat with thier congregations they heard only "What the hell is that?" I'm assuming the whole Snowmass participation thing would soon end. 

Darrell

Paul, I totally agree with your assesment of a transrational (rather than pre-rational) Christ. Even if that happened to be an inaccurate assesment of the actual/historic Christ -- it would be the "Christ" I access during 2nd person prayer. I tend to see dieties, such as Jesus, as means to access certain frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum (or an even larger spectrum). This does not mean that all the 2nd person love and warmth disappears in some sort of scientific flatland interpretation of "energy." Rather, it is a means to access unconditional subjectively-experienced "energies," such as unconditional love, etc.

Accordingly, even the being status of Christ has, for me, a transrational flavor. It's/He's  the Christ who walks with me -- the functioning Christ, or the "Christ function" -- that I find to be of a deep and abiding usefulness. Even in matters such as the exact identity of Christ, I am comfortable with a transrational view.

But I do believe that Christ himself (the historical Christ) meant by "I am the way..." that  "I am the WAY"  -- not "I (and I alone, no other persons or processes) am the way." I believe that the historical Christ was telling us that the "real me" is at my transpersonal core. As such, whenever we access, apply, and/or assimilate (into our lives -- in terms of stage-advance)  that transpersonal core within ourselves we are "walking with Christ," or are being hugged by Him. 

Whether looking out onto Christ, or assessing what the historical Christ was really trying to tell us, the pre-post fallacy that Ken discusses in Integral Spirituality and elsewhere is an important conceptual tool for a truely evolving Christian (IMO), and allows one to feel comfortable with the moniker of "Integral Christian."  "Transrational" then allows us to use the intellectual method of pluralism called the Integral "map" or "operating system" which Ken brings the topic of understanding spirituality in general and Christianity in particular. 

P.S. I'm looking forward to buying and reading your book. 

Darrell

Hi Darrell,

Very well said. We are on the same page. Grace and peace, Paul

Paul, Speaking of "Grace," my favorite definition of faith is "applied grace." Recently I read Mindell's book Dreaming While Awake. Actually, I was prompted to make sure I read that particular book during a spirit-guidish precognitive dream. A deceased friend and mentor directed me to the significance of the book, which happened to be written in my deceased mentor's writing style. I thought I was reading one of Harry's book. But in terms of the ideas, I thought I was reading one of my own books (actual or books-to-come). 

In one section, Mindell addresses the Taoist (I think) notion of not-doing or non-doing as a fluid, grace-full, way of "doing," as opposed to effort-bound pushing the river, etc. 

Applied Grace. Letting God help us do what we decide to do. Prayer on the move. A different "doing" than "I have to get this damn job done." 

I had the calling to pray during my churche's services, and to count prayer as a kind of doing, which brings Ground of Being energy to the service, much as an electrical ground wire might help an electrical device work or work better. It had not dawned on me that sitting there vibing might actually be a kind of non-doing doing, or an application (to a situation) of grace. My "job" will be deep meditation to infuse the scene with Presence. It is something that I am considering "doing" on a regular basis. I did "do" it during last night's healing prayer service. Accessed and spread Presence during a deep meditative state. 

Thanks for your sponsoring of discussions which help inspire such sensed "calings." If I really believe in tapping into something like energy from an electromagnetic spectrum, then sitting there "vibe"ing really is a form of doing something, of applying something like "grace" to a physical setting. Obviously, I am still wrestling with my modern rational mind in a way that I can give myself "permision" to do such a transrational practice in which others may wonder, "Why is Darrell zoned out?" or might even add "He always was a bit wierd. Now he's gone off the deep end."  

But do I believe what I believe, or not?  

Thanks for helping bring me to this decision "place." 

Darrell

I really appreciate this conversation. As a "conservative charismatic" gone contemplative and integral, I really appreciate this topic. I have never felt the need to throw the baby out with the bath water, and still deeply enjoy charismatic worship, and conservative doctrine. Nonetheless, I also have grown profoundly in my understanding of the good news, we Christians call the gospel, through my own study of Buddhist thought and Advaidic Hinduism. So much so, that I sometimes wonder how I ever comprehended the gospel without them. I agree with Paul, that God as 2nd person seems very threatening to many of our contemplative Christians. Likewise, God in 1st person seems thrteatening to many conservative Christians. I find myself in the strange position that I feel absolutely comfortable with both groups; but unable to bring their perspectives together, except in my own head. Thanks again

Clay, I feel like I'm in about the same psychological and spiritual "space" as you describe above. Comfortable with both 1st person and 2nd person encounters of God, but find no easy way to bridge the two. 

Having said that, I am working on using the modern metaphor of "energy" and "energy fields" as a bridge of sorts. God-as-energy is accessible during an individual subjective state (UL), and may be interpeted as a Being (2nd person perspective of the LL quad).

So, while Wilber warns not to use "energy" or some such simplisitic or reductionistic "paradigm" as a bypass of the quads, I find "energy" to be such a compelling and useful metaphor of "spirit," that I cannot help but use it in the same manner that many spiritual people use it :  God's healing energy, etc.

I discuss the advantages of "Thinking Like Energy" in a book-in-progress (temporarily shelved but still in progress) called Christians Thinking Like Energy. The modern concept of energy and its various characteristics lends itself so well to the ancient concept of "spirit," that I see the concept of energy as a good way to help modern rational minds "wrap" their minds around "spirit," spiritual, and spirituality.  Thinking Like Energy would roughly equal "thinking like spirit." Acting Like Energy would roughly equal "acting like spirit" or acting spiritually. And Being Like Energy would roughly equal "being spiritually transformed," or being "Godly," 

And if the concept of energy functions well as a meaningful metaphor, why allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good (by insisting that "energy" is just another objective, flatlandish, concept that is not suitable foder for UL development.). I'm willing to risk an UL/UR conflation, as long as it "works." Thus, I say "Yes,"  to "spriitual energy."  

Accordingly TLE might be a bridge not only between the 1st person UL quad/perspective and the 2nd person LL quad/perspective, but between both of them and the UR quad/perspective. Finally the no-specific-location aspect of energy fields makes it home in the LR quad as well.  TLE might be useful cognitive tool to help integrate the enacting-and-living spaces of all 4 quads.  Like any "tool," TLE would have its  limits, I'm sure. But if it is useful (even if only a kind of "gimick" to liberate the "thinking like matter" mode of the modern rational mind), why not use it?  

Darrell

Paul,

As you describe, the challenge of postmodern (or translineage) practice is the lack of depth.  I would add that it's not only the lack of depth, but the outright resistance to it that is the problem.  With ten thousand "surfaces" to play with, escaping from the labyrinth or hall of mirrors is going to be a very tall order.

Where's Ariadne when you need her? smiley

Joe Camosy

 

Sure she will appear, I believe it: D

Perhaps she has appeared in integral form to help with the spiritual maze we are in. I have certainly found a deeper path to freedom there.

Hi, Paul, I also wanted to chime in and voice my appreciation for your series on different stage manifestations of Christianity and the church. I think this type of values clarification and worldview differentiation is a powerful gift that Integral can and does offer, so I wanted to thank you for, and encourage you in, your work in this area.

Concerning the postmodern stage, what do you think of the emerging church movement?  (This Wikipedia article also gives a clear description of this distinctly postmodern approach.)  For the most part, it seems many involved in the emerging church would not be attracted to, or likely to fall prey to, the prosperity gospel (at least as delivered by folks such as Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen), so I was a little surprised to hear you describe the prosperity gospel as postmodern.  Can you say more about what you are perceiving, and why you identify the prosperity gospel as postmodern, or appealing to postmodern church goers?  (Perhaps it would make sense here to differentiate between a postmodern church -- say, one informed by postcolonial values and poststructuralist philosophical thought -- and a Boomeritis church, which tends to involve a mix of Red (or Purple) with Green to a greater extent...)

I've been involved recently in discussions on "Integral Ministry" -- what it involves, what it can offer -- so I am following your work with interest, and look forward to reading your next piece on the Integral church.

All the best,

Bruce

Thanks, Bruce, for your questions. The first concerns the prosperity gospel as a postmodern phenomenon. It is based on the partial truth that we can “attract” to us whatever we want. This postmodern “attracting prosperity” comes in two different settings, both of which are of recent postmodern origin even though one occurs in a traditional setting: traditional Christian groups such as charismatics may embrace a kind of “name it and claim it” theology. The other is more obviously postmodern because it occurs in the postmodern “law of attraction” movement. It is a valuable 1st-person truth that we have more power to change our lives than we usually think. I am grateful for these groups for bringing that to our awareness.  

However, these two versions of the prosperity gospel leave out 2nd-person and 3rd- person realities. The 2nd-person intersubjective part of Wilber’s Big Three understands that other people also affect our real world. The 3rd person objective reality means that the physical world also shapes  our lives in very real ways. When the tornado strikes, we did not personally attract it. The weather patterns did and perhaps our contribution to global warming as well.

Your second question was about the emerging church movement.The emerging or emergent church movement is a recent and lively movement that attempts to engage postmodern people, especially the unchurched. It remains to be seen if it is actually postmodern or a more traditional level that seeks to engage postmodern persons.  It has great potential.

The emerging church movement contains a great diversity in beliefs and practices. Some have focused on ancient rituals, art, drama, and social activism. It is a fluid network of churches with little organization but that may be changing as the movement grows. Perhaps the one thing emergent churches have in common is their disillusionment with all the varieties of traditional church. They want to move beyond the traditional.

I am grateful for the growing emergent church movement and find myself cheerleading for them. They seem to offer a somewhat small, and therefore accessible, next step in spiritual evolution for those in the traditional church. It seems currently like a launching pad for the great hunger for something more. I guess that’s why it’s called emerging.

How can the emerging churches and movement keep from becoming just like the “liberal” mainline churches? That can be accomplished by making the life, teaching, and presence of Jesus central, encouraging authentic spiritual experience, and continuing to interpret the Bible  within an overall integral framework.

My friend Brian McLaren, prominent emergent spokesperson, is charting an excellent, evolving course for those who will follow his lead.  At this time it remains to be seen how many will.

I would like to dangle integral church in front of them as an enticing natural next step for those open for more.

Paul, thank you for your response.  After writing to you, I realized you were probably talking about the New Age "manifesting" and "power of attraction" movements of Byrne, Abraham-Hicks, and others, which indeed are popular among (culturally rather than philosophically) postmodern individuals. I was thrown by the words, "prosperity gospel," which I associate with folks like Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn, neither of whom are very likely to appeal to postmoderns.

This is something of an aside, but I do think better care should be made in our circles to differentiate between postmodern and "Boomeritis" cultures, since the latter is only incompletely postmodern and is in that sense a v-Memetic hybrid or subculture (which tends to be shallower, less sophisticated, and more narcissistically tinged).

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on and knowledge of the emerging church movement.  I'm something of a cheerleader for them as well; I think something new and interesting really is emergent, and I agree with you that that emergent sensibility could very well flower eventually into an Integral one.  Or, at least, the prospect of an Integral Church might appeal to some (leaders and believers) involved in this movement.  I brought it up because I think it represents an interesting postmodern-leaning tradition and a fertile field for further cultivation, in addition to the other movements you mentioned.

Right on, Bruce -- what you said about not conflating "Boomeritus" and Green-as-a-whole. I made the distinction to Helen that sociologists Ray and Anderson, in their 2000 book The Cultural Creatives, differentiate a "core" and larger subgroup within the CCs. The core group is more deeply spiritual, and much more likely (now that I read Paul's account of an "Intgegral" Christian church) more "integral." I told Helen that I did not feel that some of Ken's down-on-green criticisms that I recently heard (in an interview) about the CCs (apparently glumping them in with the Greens, and, as you just now said, with only the Boomeritus part of the Greens). For such a brilliant man as Ken, he seems to have a few Archie Bunker moments!  Probably good reasons involved (intellectually distancing Integral from fuzzy thinkers/thoughts in/from the Green/CC groups) but the ends may not justify the means of steriotyping. The better approach is what you provided: a clear distinction between the fuzzy and shallow parts of the Green/postmodern/CC groups. 

I have been trying to process the "Why so down on Green?" issue for the past year or so, off and on, in various blog posts and comments here at IL. Layman even sided with me about advocating the use of Green as cultural staging area for evolution. At one point he suggested a "chartruse" (sp?) identity for folks like me who are willing to use green energies and initiatives in order to help the world evolve. In fact, he and I used a hippie book, Ram Dass's Be Here Now, as inspiration for our own, more "integral" update on wholeness --- Be Whole Now. I told Helen that CCs are not just hippies -- they are evolved hippies. The evolution leaves them in many ways closer to integral than Ken and others here seem to realize. 

Off the topic, but I too am really impressed by Paul's stage look at Christian Churches. Not only does the man know his stuff, but it really resonates with me as being true and useful concepts and information that helps me sort through the inevitable confusion that comes with cultural change both within and outside of the church or religion in general. 

I am going to buy Ken's  DVD interview of Paul. Plus will probably also buy Paul's book. It's just too useful for me, as a practicing Christian, to not bite the bullet and make these purchases.  

Thanks for your comment (the middle part). It needed to be said!  

 

Darrell

Your synopsis is right on Paul.You can see how Jesus had skillful means to relate to those around him in such a way as to be true to the Absolute, and create the space that would allow  others to follow a higher calling and be transformed to the image of Christ which is a reflection of true humanity.I like what you said about the well concept.Following one spiritual path and going deeper so that eventuality our inner man becomes our outerman.Inorder to change culture the inner and outerman must be the same.

Paul,I would love to hear your thoughts on what a Post-Postmodern/Cosmic Christanity would look like.

Every evolving,

Jim

 

I agree with your "right on" comment/praise to Paul. In fact I used the hippy era phrase of "right on" in a somewhat related way above, prior to seeing your use of the phrase here. Although my "right on" was directed primarily to a truth that Bruce (Balder) spoke above. But I extended the "right on" feeling to Paul as well. I find his concepts and information very helpful to me as a practicing Christian. 

Interesting that I just recently saw a mild paralel between Integral's "methodological" pluralism and the "method"-ic approach that John Wesley brought to Christianity in the form of Methodism (the denomination of church I happen to attend). Both bring a bit of intentional and coherent discipline to plurality or openness. One was in a spiritual/religious arena and earlier time (Methodism). The other was more intellectual/philosophical and of a different era. But when you look at the difference in Integral inclusiveness or plurality as compared to some fuzzy-thinking new-agey types within the larger postmodern group, Integral brings a "method" to the madness of (often) confusing evolutionary changes. All heart (which tends to be fuzzy and inadequately differentiating at times, also to engage in pre/trans fallacies of a romantic/regressive nature) or all head (nothing but intellectualized details/"trees" and not enough intuitive "forest" sense) will not "work" (for the purposes of evolution) as well as a healthy integration of the two. Integral brings some head to the new-agey, post modern heart. 

This insight about a more coherent, intellectual, or "methodolical" contribution and need (IMO) applies also, of course, to Paul's wonderful contributions here (to both the Integral community and to the Christian church). 

Therefor,  I second your "right on." 

Darrell

Hi Jim,

Nice to hear from you again. My post next month will deal with the post-postmodern stage which is the integral one. For a fuller development, my book Integral Christianity is all about the integral Christian stage and Chapter Fifteen is my understanding of integral church. Cosmic Christianity, as you label it so well, probably awaits for further stages which are just now emerging.

Paul,

Great overview! What is your read of the Unitarian movement in general?

Mark

Thanks, Mark. A very relevant question.

The Unitarian Universalist Church is solidly in the modern stage. However, even though they are still often referred to as a “church,” they no longer identify themselves as a Christian church but as a “liberal religious tradition.” In its primarily ethical/intellectual approach, the modern level may leave the religious path altogether and opt for a more philosophical path. The Unitarian Universalist movement is an example of this, providing a rich setting for those wanting such an approach.

The modern/postmodern religious person desires to be radically inclusive and intellectually encompassing. One may do that by dropping the Christian tradition as the UU folks have done. However, one may also do that by staying in their religious tradition and moving to an integral version of it. Integral Church decides to remain on the evolutionary escalator and maintain its Christian roots. The purely philosophical path has great difficulty embracing all three faces of Spirit and usually settles for a 3rd – person face of Spirit like panentheism which is beautifully true but partial.

The modern/postmodern spiritual motivation tends to not limit oneself to one path but attempts to include all of them, or none. That’s one path. However, there is more than one authentic spiritual path. The wisdom of Zen puts it this way: “Chase two rabbits, catch neither.” Most of us don’t have enough time and energy in this lifetime to pursue more than one rabbit. There is only one river, God, that runs underneath everything. We can dig one well deep and tap into the River. Or we can dig twenty different shallow ones that may or may not get us there. Some drill many wells a few feet deep and then complain they could never find water. What they may not have tried is digging deeply in one path.

If a person is already familiar with a Hindu well, or a Christian well, or a Buddhist well, why not keep digging deeper in that well! All the great religious traditions of the world now are beginning to offer “deeper” integral and beyond wells. All of these paths make a rich contribution to the world mix.

I personally am most drawn to the path I know most about – following Jesus. The integral and beyond stages of that are immensely satisfying to me. I bless all of those who choose other traditions and those who choose none.