Friday, 17 August 2012

Spirituality in the 21st Century

© Godric Godricson
Spirituality in the 21st Century context is less about ‘spirituality’ or being ‘spirit filled’ and is increasingly more about ‘feeling good’ in an instantaneous sort of way. Many people seem to feel that spirituality is easily attainable; available on a shelf and that it is something that has little personal cost. This is what may be seen as the ‘self-help’ sort of spirituality that one finds in Ottaker’s (other bookshops are also available). The spirituality journey on offer may be Buddhist or ‘new-age’ in nature or from other traditions and may adopt values that are very far from Christianity. However, in such contexts ‘spirituality rarely has reference to the Trinity or to a Christian conception of God.

In saying this, I am not making an exclusive case for positive experiences within the context of Christianity in isolation and there is always a place to explore experience and wisdom from other traditions. I also know of people who are not at all consciously religious who exude a sense of serenity and  they manifest a certainty about the future which is comforting and also calming but this is to confuse matters further. I have a colleague in secular employment who denies any faith in religion who has the effect of immediately dropping my blood pressure when she speaks and I suspect that she  is a natural healer if she only understood that role within herself. However, healing, feeling good and self-help are not the same as spirituality.

In some ways people now look to the far East for a spiritual dimension in their lives and we find images of the Buddha in John Lewis as an example of where peoples feelings, hopes and expectations are in the matter of spirituality. Perhaps 100 years ago people in England may have ‘crossed the Tiber’ when they considered spirituality or even made the journey towards Orthodoxy when they considered a more spiritual direction. The direction now is clearly much further East than Istanbul.

© Godric Godricson
Yet, traditional Christian spirituality is alive (if not completely well)  without looking to the far East or to other religions and faiths. Catholic spirituality, as one facet of Christianity, is set within a strong Christian context replete with history, prayer, hymns, meditations, art and sculpture. Similarly, the Church of England has an Anglo-Catholic tradition that utilises ‘smells and bells’, as part of a rich, diverse and musical  liturgy. We also have a British Orthodox Church that is linked to the Copts of Alexandria. All of this rich heritage is already in the UK and evidences a truly Christian (and home grown) spirituality driven by the Holy Spirit. I would suggest that people may find a Spirit driven experience within the Christian Churches in the UK without trying some sort of 21st Century religious shopping experience.

However, for many people (for whom Christianity has no contemporary relevance) spirituality equates to some sort of Pelagian self help or leads to a religious syncretism where we experience  something of a religious ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ of ideas.

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