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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

spiritual contours...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jonny Baker has posted ('here' and 'here') a helpful list of words which, he suggests, map the contours of contemporary spirituality. It's a list well worth looking at and spending time with.

As I reflected on it, I noticed that the list had a very positive gloss, as might be expected from someone such as Jonny who is contextually engaged with contemporary spirituality. Personally, I am drawn to pretty much everything in Jonny's list, and relate much more to the contours he paints than much of what passes for 'spirituality' in churches. I'm certainly not 'down' on contemporary spirituality and find exciting signs of life and the hand of God in much of what I contextually engage in.

However, missional engagement also requires us to be prophetically critical of our cultural context for the sake of the Kingdom, and I wonder if there are negative (or less positive) contours that we also need to identify if we are to have integrity. As a comment on Jonny's post, I suggested that one such 'negative' could be that much contemporary spirituality has a tendency to be consumerist - 'Mind Body Spirit' fairs, for example, can be intensely consumerist and focussed on paying (or charging) for spiritual experiences (which is why, incidentally, dekhomai offers everything free to highlight the place of gift in the midst of the marketplace.)

Last week I was speaking at a gathering of church-type people about contextual mission and contemporary spirituality, and one person levelled the charge that it all sounds very selfish! He may have a point, though I did challenge him to level the same charge at church people too, who can be just as precious and 'selfish' about their traditions and ways of expressing faith. Maybe consumerism isn't simply a contour in contemporary spirituality, but more a foundation of contemporary culture which we've all unwittingly been seduced by. But even so, we must be prepared to expose it and allow the challenge of Christ to speak to it, rather than pretending it isn't there.

I wonder if, as well as adding to Jonny's 'positive' list, whether there are other contours of contemporary spirituality that we might feel the gospel (in the fullest 'Kingdom' sense of that term) challenges?...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:21 PM


"Maybe consumerism isn't simply a contour in contemporary spirituality, but more a foundation of contemporary culture which we've all unwittingly been seduced by."

Absolutely... and I completely agree that "the church" has been as seduced by it as the rest of culture!

commented by Anonymous Mark B, 6:45 PM  

You have written about spiritual consumerism in your post. Spirituality requires a slow culture - spirituality cannot exist in a fast culture. In this context I want to post a part from my article which examines the impact of consumerism/speed on our minds and environment. Please read.

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be spiritual or peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be spiritual or peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.

A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.

Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




commented by Blogger sushil yadav, 1:02 PM  

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