In the most recent issue of the great “culture jamming” magazine Adbusters on “Spiritual Insurrection” the great Canadian thinker, writer John Ralston Saul has some very interesting things to say about Canadian spirituality. First of all I think he pretty much nails the contemporary Canadian spiritual temperature when he says we have been forced to decide between the fale dichotomies of “rationality and superstition . . . Logic and religion.” The result he says is instability:
With this comes a growing desire for stability – for old habits. Why? Because we now live in an atmosphere of instability which most citizens find impossible to handle. Unstable employment. Unstable funding for old age. Unstable housing. All of this in the name of an inevitable, logical progress which does not include people. So people fight back in unpredictable ways. The explosion in evangelical churches is just one of these.
But the real point here is that the either/or version of life – of how we imagine ourselves – doesn’t work. There are other options. Other ways of looking at ourselves and our choices. Spiritual ways, which is not to say religious ways.
He then gives the example of the Aboriginal peoples and spirituality as a possible solution. Why?
Because the established system in the West – the one I have been describing – is profoundly linear. The Aboriginal, on the other hand, is deeply circular or spatial. When they speak of the spiritual, they are talking about the wholeness of existence. They are speaking about humans as an integral part of the physical.
While I agree with Ralston Saul on Aboriginal spirituality and the lessons we can learn from it, I can’t help but wonder what the church has to contribute to this conversation. Perhaps Ralston Saul sees the church has being so synonymous with the “estabished system in the West” that he overlooks it as a dialogue partner. Perhaps he is right to think that way. Maybe we in the church are still untangling ourselves from the systems he speaks of, perhaps even systems we helped create and perpetuate. But that was then and this is now. So I ask the questions: Does the church have anything to offer Canadian Spirituality? Can we speak to the instability that Ralston Saul speaks of? Does the church’s message, the good news, speak to the wholeness of existence, or do we deal in the dichotomies between spiritual and physical? Are we offering systems and institutions or profound relationships not only with God and each other but with all of creation? and less we get lost in some nebulous discussion about spirituality we must also ask what or who is the heart of Christian spirituality?