The Call to Contemplative Christianity

Not everyone is called to broaden the scope of their contemplative practice. For some, a life following the prescribed regiment of a specific denomination and community will be spiritually satisfying and an abundant practice. But other people are impelled outward, perhaps by a natural spiritual curiosity, perhaps by the challenges of the dominant culture, or perhaps because of wounds inflicted by their spiritual community of origin. The Church needs people of both types. (Consider St. Paul's metaphor of the Body in 1 Cor 12:14-26).

For people who are satisfied with their spiritual practice, it is enough to acknowledge and accept the existence of diverse Christian expressions humbly, and continue with peaceably with their particular religious observances.

The spiritually restless are in a more complicated (and more dangerous) position. They are continuously under the strain of considering new ideas, and trying to integrate them into their contemplative practice. They regularly reevaluate and reinterpret their practice and history, trying to determine the best things they have received through it, the best way to express that heritage in their current situation. Often, their journeys lead them into frustration with the familiar, and bitter quarrels with the visible church.

The challenge for such individuals is to find a place of stability and maturity in their contemplative practice where they can effectively minister to both younger restless types and people of a more conservative outlook.

Worldly Challenges to Contemplative Practice

The secular forces of our age are actively fragmenting inherited religious identity and spiritual practice. Secular pursuits demand more and more of our time and energy. The noise of entertainment and advertising fills our unstructured moments. Political, national, and social ideologies demand our heartfelt allegiance. Hundreds of causes demand our attention, assuring us that the fate of the world hangs on our piecemeal contribution. Meanwhile, religion is a purely personal matter; public discourse on religious beliefs and contemplative practices is, more or less, taboo.

The time that was once naturally filled with contemplative practices orienting the Christian heart for Jesus is now occupied with other pursuits. Many people still think of themselves as Christians, but this means less and less to the actual functioning of daily lives.

Moreover, the spiritually restless interpret the complacency and ineffectiveness of the visible church in this culture of noise to be spiritually stagnant, and find contemplative practice and spiritual fulfillment in other religious identities.


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