Tuesday 27 May 2014

Christian converts and the re-enchantment of everyday life - a shopping list of suggestions


No all Christian converts can join a church - most Christian churches are not worth joining and most are not Christian but anti. Among those who do join a church not all can be active or devout. Not all real Christian churches provide an all-round experience - some are dry, cold, black and white; others are excessively communal for some people - others are not communal enough.

In sum: everybody should be a Christian, but not everybody (here and now) can or should join a church.

So what then? How on earth can the Christian convert (or the cradle Christian, for that matter) get support, be encouraged, experience relatedness, joy, connection when there is no church - or no church that provides this kind of thing?

How, in sum, can a Christian convert experience that which many crave - the re-enchantment of everyday life - when they are pretty much 'on their own'?


I can only offer a shopping list of suggestions. In no particular order.

1. As a general attitude: approach your religious life as a process of trial and error - make trials, expect to make errors; repent, learn, try again.

2. Meditation - various methods. Much depends on the purpose - if aiming to get power: bad; if aiming for joy and cheer then it depends on how; if aiming for communion with God, to understand, to feel divinity - then Good.

3. Prayer - very varied. From short repetitions or short spontaneous prayers (thanks, requests etc) to long formal prayers, written prayers, improvised/ inspired prayers. All Christians will pray to the Father in the name of Jesus - some Christians add others.

4. Read scripture. Some people are systematic (from the start to the end), others have a plan (for example the evangelical plan or reading the Bible by LAGER: Luke, Acts, Genesis, Exodus, Revelations); others just read what they feel drawn to read - some read in small intensely considered passages; others take in a large sweep of text to get a 'feel' for things.

5. Focus on the work of specific persons, and the people who are recommended by them or who have been influenced by them. E.g. CS Lewis, Father Seraphim Rose, Terryl Givens.

6. Attend churches sometimes for specific reasons (rather than 'joining' a particular one) e.g. for the joyous liturgy, the teaching sermons, the music, the people.

7. Read inspiring devotional Literature/ Poetry/ Essays - Herbert's poetry, Pascal's Pensees, Traherne's 'Centuries of Mediations' that kind of thing.


Then reverse the prescription of Robert Burton and Samuel Johon who tried to avoid melancholy and: Be Solitary, Be Idle (unstructured time). Feel life happening.

Seek quite, rural, peaceful journeys, mornings and evenings - or night.

Either try for multiple daily spiritual injections of the above - or else a period of some days of total immersion in the above (a retreat).

Fast from the Mass Media.



Seijio Arakawa said...

Recently I was challenged to explain what, exactly, (in the absence of joining a Church) the bottom line difference in my views has been, compared to before I was religious. I ended up describing it as a choice (which has to be re-made, day by day) to see life as as a dialogue rather than a monologue, with everything that I do being my side of the conversation.

This -- a consciousness that good or bad things that happen, or that one even happens to notice, are one side of a dialogue with a Being, and that one's actions are the answers to this -- also makes it more clear what is a sin or not. So, some things (and some attitudes of mind) that would be perfectly innocuous in a monologue-world consisting of objects to be manipulated, in the sight of God basically and obviously amount to answering untold blessings with a rude gesture.

It also makes clear the purpose of prayer, and what role petitionary prayer does and doesn't play. It is perfectly reasonable and commonplace to ask for things in a conversation (whether the request is granted or not), but the purpose of having a conversation does not reduce to receiving things from the partner in the dialogue, and to view a dialogue like this collapses it into a monologue, and the dialogue-partner into an object or prop to be manipulated (even if it is the Greatest Object).

It also seems like a useful metaphor for understanding the synergy between God and man (at a practical, not theological level); in a conversation, obviously both sides engage freely and will have something substantial to contribute. Either side can even introduce an entirely new topic. Yet there is also the distinction between actually contributing something substantial, and trying to derail the conversation entirely.

George Goerlich said...

We seem to be in a similar state to that of the early church, where Christians who maintain their ideals and refuse to worship the world's idols should expect to be hated and persecuted. Jesus may ask "forgive them for they do not know," about those truly ignorant, but it does not suffice for the aware convert. It becomes a daily struggle of maintaining principles despite constant pressure.