To quote a friend of mine, “there are two types of people; those who grow up thinking their family is normal and everyone else’s family is abnormal and those who think their families are abnormal and everyone else’s family is normal.” I think there is a lot of truth in that statement. It says a lot about perspective and gives us a insight into “normal.” Personally, I grew up thinking my family was abnormal. Compared with the “normal” lives of my friends, my family seemed odd. That was until my junior year of high school when I took a class on comparative religions and I learned that there was no such thing as a “normal” family because just as every individual is different, so is every family.
It was helpful in that class being with people from so many different cultures because we were able to talk about why we believed what we did and what that meant in how we lived out our faith. We were able to come to understand and respect each other in a very deep and meaningful way. But that was because not only did we listen to each other we were able to connect with each other in our areas of commonality and were able to be honest about our areas of curiosity.
This is a core aspect to growing in one’s faith. Being honest, in a classroom setting, the times when I felt the most growth in my faith, was during my classes on other religions. I say all of this as we continue our journey over the next four weeks looking at differing spiritual types. The way we listen to differing spiritual types is very important, because in order to grow from the experience we have to listen without judgment or contempt and, most importantly, without the expectation of conversion. Rather we listen, compare, ask questions and try to grow.
This week we are going to start by looking at what Corinne Ware calls “kingdom spirituality.” I call this spirituality the Mystic Thinker. There is a huge comfort in the unknown aspects of God while there is also a continual seeking for a deeper understanding. This is the spiritual type of many activists who believe that the fight in a particular cause can literally transform the world. The downside of this spirituality is that it tends to be a bit myopic. Like someone who has a PhD and is an expert in one area, often this spirituality allows an individual to focus solely in one cause. Moreover, when I think of people in this spirituality I think of the civil rights activists, environment activists, yes, even groups like Westborough Baptist Church, whose single-mindedness drives their spirituality.
Now being fair to the Westborough folks, they whole-heartedly believe what they are doing is divine and right, but their single-mindedness blinds them to a possibly bigger vision of God. This is the problem with this spirituality in that the single-mindedness can lead to some very bad outcomes. This is where the balance is needed.
If you would find yourself a Kingdom Spiritualist, you would need to modulate your understanding by challenging yourself being in conversation with a more heart-driven spiritualist. We will talk more about that in two weeks! There have been a lot of great people that come from this type of spirituality. Corinne Ware speculates that possibly John Calvin and Martin Luther were in this type. But more than the names, a lot of leaders are found to have this type of spirituality because they tend to give everything they have to their cause.
As you think of your spirituality this week, think of how you view God and think of whether or not you might fit into the Kingdom Spirituality.
Click here for a link to the book This I Believe
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen