More than 20 percent of Americans define themselves as "Spiritual but Not Religious" and many of them are fed up with the traditional doctrines, dogmatism, and moralism of Christianity. McLaren, named in 2005 as one of Time magazine's top 25 evangelicals, continues his quest to reach out to this contingent of seekers who may have lost their faith or are venturing out on a new spiritual journey. He wants to address those who, in his words, have no interest in fake spirituality, forced spirituality, hyped spirituality, or inflated spirituality. Taking a cue from Father Richard Rohr, he quotes him:
"The goal of all spirituality is to lead the 'naked person' to stand trustfully before the naked God. The important thing is that we're naked; in other words that we come without title, merit, shame, or even demerit. All we can offer to God is who we really are, which to all of us never seems like enough. I am sure this is the way true lovers feel too."
McLaren begins with a brief account of his religious upbringing in a Christian fundamentalist home and then shares three spiritual experiences which opened him up and led him to realize that only spiritual practice can strengthen, sustain, and deepen us as truly spiritual people. At the same time, McLaren makes it clear that he doesn't think that we have to pit religion against spirituality because the Spirit moves freely and cannot be confined anywhere.
The core curriculum offered on these pages is divided into four stages: Simplicity (The Springlike Season of Spiritual Awakening); Complexity (The Summerlike Season of Spiritual Strengthening); Perplexity (The Autumnlike Season of Spiritual Surviving); and Harmony (The Winterlike Season of Spiritual Deepening). Even more important than the Seasons are the 12 spiritual practices that are "simple, doable, and durable."
Simplicity: The Springlike Season of Spiritual Awakening
Here: The practice of invocation and presentation, awakening to the presence of God.
Thanks: The practice of gratitude and appreciation, awakening to the goodness of God.
O: The practice of worship and awe, awakening to the beauty and joy of God.
Complexity: The Summerlike Season of Spiritual Strengthening
Sorry: The practice of self-examination and confession, strengthening through failure.
Help: The practice of expansion and petition, strengthening through weakness.
Please: The practice of compassion and intercession, strengthening though empathy.
Perplexity: The Autumnlike Season of Spiritual Surviving
When: The practice of aspiration, exasperation, and desperation, surviving through delay.
No: The practice of rage and refusal, surviving through disillusionment.
Why: The practice of lament and agony, surviving through abandonment.
Harmony: The Winterlike Season of Spiritual Deepening
Behold: The practice of meditation and wonder, deepening by seeing.
Yes: The practice of consecration and surrender, deepening by joining.
[. . .]: The practice of contemplation and rest, deepening by being with.
McLaren gives sum and substance to these practices by spelling them out with poetry, film references, theological observations, biblical commentary, quotations from a variety of writers, alternate words to the twelve, cultural criticism, personal anecdotes, and prophetic insights. In a valuable three-part appendix, her presents suggestions for group practice, material on body prayers, and 12 prayers for the key words. Check out his website for more ideas: www.brianmcclaren.net.
McLaren concludes: "Twelve simple words, formative words that can help us grow an incandescent life with God, a life of vital connection with the whole regenerative community of creation. You have probably anticipated where these twelve simple words must lead — to one word that enfolds them all, the final word, love."