Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Moving of the Spirit

I have been in a bit of an argument on facebook lately about a general understanding of the Holy Spirit.  Now, that is not what the conversation was ostensibly about, but I think on a deeper level, that is EXACTLY what it is about.

People are talking about the "I am spiritual but I am not religious" people.

If there is anyone out there with that mindset, let me apologize before I even begin.  I am making glowing generalities here, and as we know, for each generality there are a ton of exceptions.  That being said, I will step where angels fear to tread!

When I hear "spiritual but not religious" I think of two things:  One is the person who has been pushed out of the organized church by rules and laws that seem to be arbitrary or downright un-Christian.  (I am assuming Christian church here.  Other churches/masques/synagogues will need another discussion.)  The other is the person who like some of the things about Christianity but is not too happy about some of the other things.

I believe we all can, and do, fall into these categories at some points in our lives.  And I do not think we are ever totally immune from them.  I guess that is the wonder of the church; it is the perfect gift given by God placed into the hands of imperfect people.  If it were run by perfect people, we would not need the Church, but because we are imperfect, we need the Church more than ever.

One of the principles of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is that they do not invest in "Unmediated experience of the Spirit."  What this means is that a person cannot just say, "I want to be a pastor!" and start a church or "I think we should invade Canada!" and get denominational sanctioning.  There is a fairly elaborate process for becoming a pastor; it involves interviews, essays, and multi-person panels.  And finally, a person must be called by a church before that person can be ordained.  Ordination is just that; the community, following the leading of the Holy Spirit, ordains that this person will be recognized as a leader.  As far as invading foreign countries, I am a bit fuzzy on that polity.

Rejection of Unmediated Experiences of the Spirit prevents the loose cannon (or loose canon!) from imposing his/her ego upon the community.  It requires the faith of the community to trust in the process.  And from what I have seen, when entered into with faith, it usually works.

I see the second instance happening when congregations (and denominations for that matter) get caught up in adiaphora.  Adiaphora is the lifting of unimportant details to high levels of importance.  Truthfully, I don't care if people wear shorts to church!  I had a congregant who just about had an aneurysm because people took off their shoes and would walk up to communion barefooted!  Again, I didn't care if they wore clown shoes, as long as they were part of the community.

I can see where too much attention to Adiaphora could drive people way from organized religions.  I pray, but I don't kneel.  I pray before meals but I don't often to the "bow your head" thing.  I believe it is possible to commune with God in nature, but it is also important to be able to commune with God while dealing with a cranky congregant.  Adiaphora helps us to remain focused (just like a list can) but when it becomes worshiped, then it a hindrance.

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