The discussion last Sunday, of our most recent book, for such a time as this – Young Adults on the Future of the Church, edited by Kathryn Mary Lohre, was lively and insightful – in fact, time ran out while discussion was still active. Tim Hayes led the exchange between nine participants who called in from as far east as New Jersey, and as far west as Seattle, Washington, and many points in between. What follows is an edited form of the conversation.
I was impressed by how committed the young writers are to their faith traditions; they seemed to be leaders in their faiths. I liked the last chapter especially.
I was moved by the dedication and compassion of each of these young authors, their sincerity and depth of thinking. As a generation, they brought a sense of inclusivity, less isolation. I love the chapter, “Who is my neighbor?” and “Listening to God.” How important it is to not think of anybody as “the other.” All are beloved children of God.
Q. Spiritual Tinkering topic. Has anybody had that experience in their own life? i.e., I’m going to take this ritual that I like, and that belief that I like from another church and weave them together.
This is a good observation of what’s going on right now. Young people take a little bit from this religion and a little from that and roll it all in one to make something that makes sense to them.
Q. How does your faith tradition respond to spiritual tinkering?
I think it would be frowned upon in Christian Science.
Examples from my own family – I have a sister and son who love CS and think of it as the foundation of their beliefs. They have studied other traditions, some not Christian, but they relate to some Christian ideas. Wayne Dyer brings out the similarities of other faith traditions. One Christian Scientist said to me, why would I want to read all these other books when I have Science and Health?
As Christian Scientists we are part of the greater whole. We are Christian Science Christians. We can recognize our unique message, without being isolated.
I think the book, Proof of Heaven, is such a good example. I think there is a greater broadening awareness and value for other people being able to teach us. The author, Eben Alexander says Love is what life is all about. It’s a book most Christian Scientists can talk about.
I read and reread it. He was right on about so many things. He caught the vision. It inspired me and reaffirmed my core beliefs.
I wonder if we are so open to that book because, in many ways, he agrees with what we believe as Christian Scientists?
In my church people will often refer to other books they are reading that cast light on spiritual concepts.
Q. Does your denomination seek to increase its racial and ethnic diversity?
We (First Church, Cincinnati) with the parents’ permission, pick up children from the inner city and bring them to our Sunday School. We do a lot to support them. It is not an easy undertaking. The congregation has to adjust to the different lifestyle of the children. We have picked up as many as fifteen. How do you approach the children when they don’t read the Bible at home? You have to be willing to learn about their culture.
Way out of our comfort zone. When it comes to our faith traditions, we tend to look for comfort, not for being pushed out of our comfort zone.
Yes, it takes great humility, great listening, great awareness not to become frustrated by the differences in lifestyles. These students are seeking higher answers. Because we have done that, because they know us, we’ve had CS lectures in their communities, they were open to us and they came. We need to open up, be the friend, be the supportive caregiver.
Q. The Scandal of Main Street steeples. There were all these different churches on different corners in the same small town. Why, if they are all Christians, are they so separate? Is there unity among Christians? Is it important? What do we sacrifice if we move toward unity?
Christians can come together, but they need to expand. “Our God given unity is in our diversity. Only multiplicity of vision offers hope.” (p. 136) We must be willing to come together, to still have a self-identity as a faith tradition within the whole. My desire is to really understand that nothing can separate us from the love of God. I find myself constantly talking to other people about grace. There is a strength that comes from our in-depth study of these concepts. I have several friends that really want to hear my ideas on grace. We are opening a Bible study via Madelon Maupin on the Internet. I have had to grow up and really study and open my heart to the Bible. Now I really have communication with other Christians.
The Bible is our core teaching. That’s our bridge to other Christians. If we just say, there is no matter, that doesn’t do it.
Our church meets at the RR once a month. We’re studying the book of John. My children gave me the Interpreter’s Bible for Christmas. That helps me. We have to be students of the Bible or we are not real Christian Scientists.
I have enjoyed a Bible that puts the books in chronological order. The Daily Bible in Chronological order, New International Version. I have found it very interesting just reading through it, a chapter a day in the New Testament.
New Living Translation is sometimes recommended as a Study Bible. It asks good questions.
Q. Chapter six, “Who is my Neighbor?” asks, How are you living all that reading you are doing? “Are we not betraying God and the Christian Community when we fraternize too closely with people of another faith?”
To me the heart of the matter was on p. 66, “How do we tend to respond to the otherness that’s around us? … are we shutting ourselves off… We are called to collapse the distance between ourselves and our neighbors through acts of gracious love and hospitality.”
I teach a three-month program to inner city students. The director wants them to have Science and Health, says it’s the only thing that will save them in the end. Students come up and tell me, I’ve been looking for this all my life.
We need to be fearless and confident that there are those who are seeking. The woman who does the pastries at our Kroger store wants Science and Health as she faces surgery. I’ve been praying that everyone already has the Christ within them.
Q. Chapter Nine. “How should I pray?” – homosexual, bisexual, transgender. Are we called to love everyone? What are we sacrificing if we open our hospitality to everyone?
When the Board of Directors of The Mother Church, went around the world, including Seattle, the question of sexual orientation came up. One of their answers totally moved from sexuality to spirituality. We should look at a person’s spirituality. I don’t think spirituality has a sex. The answer takes the issue out of materiality.
Making spirituality more important than sexuality is good. Yet for people who are living in this world who have been discriminated against because of their sexuality, it may be important for a church to make a statement that says, You are OK. Is loving everyone, without making a statement, enough?
Please take note: through January, 2015, book discussions will be held every other month.
November 16 – The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.