Finding God in the World

"Listen for the whisper of God everywhere. Work for justice. Know that your life is in communion with all life.

"The spiritual revolution, finding God in the world, is an invitation to new birth, most especially for religion. There is no better place to start than in your synagogue, mosque, temple, or church.

"And that new birth is happening. You can hear it as the earth groans for salvation, as poets and philosophers tell its stories, as scientists search the soil and the cosmos for life, as the oppressed, poor, and marginalized push for dignity and economic justice. It is time for the church to wake up. There is nothing worse than sleeping through a revolution."
Grounded: Finding God in the World A Spiritual Revolution

A Shifting Conception of God

"There is much evidence for religious decline across the West, and much attention is paid to the growth of fundamentalist religions, especially in the Global South and developing world. But, in some ways, theories of decline or growth are not really the point. Roiling around the planet is a shifting conception of God. In a wide variety of cultures, God has become unmediated and local, animating the natural world and human activity in profoundly intimate ways. Of course, this has always been the path of mystics in the world's religions, what I often call the 'minor chord' of faith. Now, however, the personal, mystical, immediate, and intimate is emerging as the dominant way of engaging the divine. What was once reserved for a few saints has now become the quest of millions around the planet — to be able to touch, feel, and know God for one's self."
Grounded: Finding God in the World A Spiritual Revolution

The Spiritual Revolution

"Spirituality is about personal experience — the deep realization that dirt is good, water is holy, the sky holds wonder; that we are part of a great web of life, our home is in God, and our moral life is entwined with that of our neighbor. But none of this is for the sake of feeling good, individual prosperity, or guaranteeing a blessed afterlife. It is about tracing the threads of the interconnected universe, about finding God in nature and in community — and, in finding God, discovering that we really are one. The spiritual revolution is a protest movement against forms of religion that have lost the binding vision of peace, wisdom, and equanimity here on earth. But for a spiritual revolution to make any real difference, it must reclaim the primal sense of religion — the 'we' — the power that binds us to one another, to God, and to the world. To encounter God here, we must walk out of buildings and discover the life of the commons."
Grounded: Finding God in the World A Spiritual Revolution

The Great Web of Belonging

"The shift from God at the zenith of the great chain of being toward God with us in a great web of belonging is the heart of today's spiritual revolution. The web of belonging originated in the big bang, when all matter burst forth across the universe, and it is experienced in the natural world in the ecosystems of dirt, water, and air. But it is also encountered in human experience through the complex relations humanity has made through time, the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind. As the American Catholic bishops insisted, the earth and the human family are linked in a 'natural ecology and social ecology,' 'the web of life.' That vision includes a spiritual ecology as well. The great web is the woven world of the planet and the people and the God who dwells therein.

"God is not a far-off Weaver of the web, like the earlier Watch-maker God, who assembled creation and left it to run on its own. No, God is part of the web, entangled right here with us."
Grounded: Finding God in the World A Spiritual Revolution


"Empathy is essentially the capacity to see others as you see yourself, the Golden Rule in practice. It is how we love our neighbors, the way to participate in the spiritual revolution. But it is hard to do. It is difficult when your neighbor wakes you up at seven on a fall morning with a leafblower; it is difficult when someone climbs into your tree and starts hacking away at the branches. And it is a difficult practice to employ on a larger scale — like imagining the planet's ecosystem, members of a rival political party, criminals, or even terrorists as your neighbor. Indeed, the farther the proximity, the easier it is to dehumanize others. The world's not so golden rule might functionally be rendered, 'Violate others as they violate you — or even before that if possible,' a dictum that has fueled centuries-long cycles of mutual destruction, patterns that now must be broken for the sake of our fragile global neighborhood. Revenge, not reciprocity, has been the story of much of human history."
Grounded: Finding God in the World A Spiritual Revolution

The Spirituality of Water

"In the not too distant future, living water might be mere theological memory — a spiritual element increasingly lost to rising generations. If nothing else, our descendants will surely interpret the spirituality of water in starkly different ways than we do now. Water is under siege all over the planet, watersheds are collapsing, streams and rivers dying, even once safe water systems face toxic threats. The story of Jesus and the woman at the well – the search for both safe water to drink and the water of salvation — may be more urgent than ever. Much depends on how we navigate these rivers of change."
Grounded: Finding God in the World A Spiritual Revolution

We Are Dirt

"If we understand that we are dirt, that God is the ground of all that is, well, then, we might think twice about how we treat soil. If water is the river of spiritual and physical life, we will care about what we are doing to watersheds. If air sustains us and we are made of stardust, then the sky and what happens to it matters. Knowing our own roots is the first step in knowing ourselves and recognizing our common humanity. Making a home is a radical act of claiming a place in the world. Being neighborly is the path to empathy, of enacting the Golden Rule. Building the commons, the 'we' of our world house, is to pull the vision of heaven out of the clouds to earth here and now. We are constantly creating a sacred architecture of dwelling — of God's dwelling and ours — as we weave nature and the built environment into a web of meaning. Awe and action are of a piece."
Grounded: Finding God in the World A Spiritual Revolution


"The language of 'spirituality' is certainly different from the language for God and faith that many Christians used as children (or the language their parents used). Because it is a new language, it fosters misunderstanding. Religious people sometimes dismiss 'spirituality' as vacuous or vague, too closely related to 'spiritualism' (the practice of communicating with the dead), Wicca, or some other New Age faith. Others tag spirituality as consumerist or individualistic, lacking intellectual content or any sense of commitment, a fad, 'Oprah religion.'

"But spirituality is neither vague nor meaningless. Despite a certain linguistic fuzziness, the word 'spiritual' is both a critique of institutional religion and a longing for meaningful connection. In a variety of guises and forms, spirituality represents an important stage of awakening: the search for new gods. As the old gods (and the institutions that preached, preserved, and protected the old gods) lose credibility, people begin to cast about for new gods — and new stories, new paths, and new understandings to make sense of their new realities. In the process, the old language fails, and people reach for new words to describe the terrain of their experience. 'Spirituality' is one such word, an ancient word, to be sure, but a word that is taking on fresh dimensions of meaning in a fluid and pluralistic religious context. To say that one is 'spiritual but not religious' or 'spiritual and religious' is often a way of saying, 'I am dissatisfied with the way things are, and I want to find a new way of connecting with God, my neighbor, and my own life.' It might not be a thoughtless mantra at all — in many cases, it may well be a considered commentary on religious institutions, doctrine, and piety."
Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening

The Great Returning

"In earlier American awakenings, preachers extolled 'old-time religion' as the answer to questions about God, morality, and existence. This awakening is different. Yes, religio is 'old-time religion,' but it is not about sawdust trials, mortification of sin, and being washed in the blood of the Lamb. The awakening going on around us is not an evangelical revivial; it is not returning to the faith of our fathers or re-creating our grandparents' church. Instead, it is a Great Returning to ancient understandings of the human quest for the divine. Christianity of the Great Returning is the oldest-time religion — reclaiming a faith where belief is not quite the same thing as an answer, where behavior is not following a list of dos and don'ts, and where belonging to Christian community is less like joining an exclusive club and more of a relationship with God and others. Religio is never satisfied with old answers, codified dogmas, institutionalized practices, or invested power. Religio invites every generation to experience God — to return to the basic questions of believing, behaving, and belonging — and explore each anew with an open heart."
Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening

Christian Practices

"In God's kingdom, there will be no barrier of space or time between us and God's presence. Intimacy with God, as in the intimacy of prayer, will be the very nature of God's kingdom. In the here and now, prayer creates connection and relationship with God, even as it embodies the sure hope that God is our eternal friend.

"All Christian practices work in this way. The practice of hospitality opens our hearts to those who are strangers; it anticipates that, in God's kingdom, there will one day be no strangers. The practice of forgiveness cleanses our souls from guilt and shame; it anticipates that, in God's kingdom, all will be forgiven. The practice of charity shares what we have with those who suffer want; it anticipates that, in God's kingdom, there will be no more hunger, pain, sorrow, or fear. The practice of stewardship creates a generous spirit; it anticipates that, in God's kingdom, money and possessions will cease to exist and that all is God's. Practices shape us to be better, wiser, more gracious people now, even as these very practices anticipate in our lives and communities the reality of God's kingdom that has entered into the world and will one day be experienced in its fullness."
Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening

The Twenty-first Century Christian

"Relational community, intentional practice, and experiential belief are forming a new vision for what it means to be Christian in the twenty-first century, a pattern of spiritual awakening that is growing around the world. We belong to God and to one another, connected to all in a web of relationships, and there we find our truest selves. We behave in imitation of Jesus, practicing our faith with deliberation as we anticipate God's reign of justice and love. We believe with our entire being, trusting, beloving, and devoted to the God whom we have encountered through one another and in the world. We are; we act; we know. Belonging, behaving, and believing — shifted back to their proper and ancient order. This is the shape of awakened Christianity, a faith that is a deeply spiritual religion. No longer merely religion, but religio. The Great Reversal is the Great Returning of Christianity back toward what Jesus preached: a beloved and beloving community, a way of life practiced in the world, a profound trust in God that eagerly anticipates God's reign of mercy and justice."
Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening

The Village Church

"In my journey, I have come to think of some congregations as the new village church, a place where pilgrims can remember Christianity. There, the beauty of saintliness is, as theologian Edith Wyschograd suggests, 'the flash of sanctity' amid the mundane — the holiness of a reenchanted world. Even as old villages are vanishing, some Christians are remaking the tradition of the village church as they reconstruct spiritual community around this ancient American ideal. And, perhaps not unexpectedly in this transient age, their new village church is spiritually mobile: a pilgrim community on a journey together."
Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith

Host and Guest

"One of the oldest themes in Christian literature about hospitality is the deliberate confusion of the roles of host and guest. This role-switching emphasizes an important point: as a pilgrim of Christ, you will sometimes be the host and sometimes the guest. The second-century writer Diognetus, reminding his readers about Christian identity, said that 'Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.' Or, as the great early Christian preacher John Chrysostom put it, 'Don't you know that we live in a foreign land, as though strangers and sojourners?' "

"Christians have always been hosts and guests, natives and strangers, citizens and sojourners. . . . In a time of hate-filled extremism, some Christians still long for a world of nonviolent love, of reconciling peace. Of human wholeness, of true brother and sisterhood, in God's compassion. For them, hospitality opens the way to practicing peace, doing a tangible thing that can change the world."
Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith

Pilgrimage Stories

"Unlike the stories of Puritans and revivalists, mainline testimony is not a spirituality of arrival, of the certainty of securing eternal life. Mainline testimony is the act of getting there. Pilgrimage stories. Testimony is not a formula of salvation; rather, it is a way of being, a map to an undiscovered country. And, in telling the stories of our lives, we find we are not alone on the journey. Other pilgrims are on this road, too. Pilgrims have always told stories along the way. And, in those stories, we may well hear God ringing in our ears."
Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith

Faith as a Spiritual Pathway

"Generative Christians seek a life organized around love for God and neighbor. We recognize their longing for change. And in many quarters Christian communities are once again embracing the ancient insight that the faith is a spiritual pathway, a life built on transformative practices of love rather than doctrinal belief. We are, beyond mere romanticism, recapturing wisdom from ancient Christianity. How our ancestors interpreted and practiced the way, however, holds some surprises and challenges for us today."
A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story

The Glory of God

" 'The glory of God,' Irenaeus wrote, 'is the human person fully alive.' Irenaeus was not simply being cranky, attacking Gnostics because they interfered with his authority. No, he tried to articulate a very difficult part of the Christian way of life: to remember in all things that, beginning with Jesus's humanity, the 'body is a sacred gift.' Salvation works itself out within the context of this world; it is a process of honoring creation, of acting humanly toward God, ourselves, and our neighbors."
A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story


"Quests were, of course, nothing new for Christians. Early Christians practiced pilgrimage and understood faith as a quest for God; medieval believers did likewise and further developed spiritual quests into literary forms and poetry; and Reformation people imagined faith as a journey back to the primitive church, a quest to recapture the purity of New Testament belief. Before 1650 the idea of spiritual quest had a certain open-ended quality, of going but never quite arriving. Premodern Christians tended to emphasize the adventure encountered on the quest rather than the object of the journey.

"Modern Christians, however, defined quest as a finite intellectual search in which their questions would be answered; exploration took a backseat to a journey's completion. In the modern mode Christians were less interested in pursuing God than they were in pursuing knowledge about God. For in their world knowing about God equaled knowing God. Modern quests were also sensory quests; metaphoric, poetic, and mystical quests largely fell from spiritual fashion. Modern Christians embarked on quests to see, touch, hear, or feel God — and they developed specific practices to do just that. They needed assurance through their senses, a kind of divine data that enabled believers to know God. And they were optimistic that such sensory evidence existed and would enable them to discover truth."
A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story

A Faith of Words

"Christianity is a faith of words: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' God speaks creation into being, the Spirit whispers life into the world. Wisdom is God's name and holy words impart the way of holiness and the mystery of being. Saints and martyrs witnessed through their words voices so powerful that torture and death could not silence them, and they sometimes continued to speak when their tongues had been cut from their mouths. Through scripture, theology, prayers, and hymns, the church proclaims God's presence in the world.

"Throughout church history, however, the words of women and children, of the poor, the sick, and enslaved, have often been silenced by words of the wealthy, learned, and powerful. And if no one listens, you learn not to speak. When such voices are lost, the Word is diminished."
Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community