I am out of town and didn’t expect to have the space, resources and desire to dig into a couple of blog posts. But I found little space this morning and discovered an epiphany bubbling up within me. I will probably write more about the process of coming to this; I do know that the intention to treat this 40-day Lenten period as a pilgrimage produces fruit. It is one of the gifts that I think I bring. I have learned from my past pilgrimages that there truly is something about following the bread crumbs of the soul.
My epiphany is that I am really wondering if the language of religious mysticism truly is our future. I know I have said that, but in past posts that thought has emerged more from an intuitive premonition.
Today, however, it was as if I had gone around a corner and saw it clearly off in the distance. I am in Portland right now on a three day weekend (I know…does this guy ever quit working!). Yesterday as I drove toward my grandson’s house and his parents (who happen to be my son and daughter-in-law) the land that lay before me was wet and green and towering in the distance a glistening Mt. Hood, fresh with white snow, was luring me toward it despite the distance. That’s how my epiphany felt about the future of religious mysticism. I could actually taste that this was going to be the language that was large enough to make room at the table for the different extremes of religious adherence.
Here is what happened. My present work is in a community where it would be safe to say that the evangelical conservative and non-denominational churches have a near monopoly. There are handful of mainline Protestant churches, one fairly active Catholic church, and a small but engaged Unitarian Universalist church. But quite honestly we are a little like that small shelf of cassette tape players in a Best Buy warehouse where music has gone to MP3’s and iPhones. We exist, but one has to really go looking for us. In addition, in meetings with religious colleagues in town the assumptions reveal that they don’t even know I exist. “Well, do you think we would allow any of the “gay liberal” churches to participate?” they ask, completely unaware that they are talking about me.
But the point is not their politics. The point is that I think my evangelical conservative colleagues and friends actually get the mysticism thing even if they would bristle at the language as being too New Agey. The thing about my EC brothers and sisters is that the experience of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and all the emotional intimacy that goes with that lands them pretty squarely in the mystical camp. Where they fall short is that they wrongly assume that their experience is and should be normative. They are not able to own the depth and beauty of their experience and at the same time allow others to have an equally intimate experience of the Sacred, but in a way that looks and feels different.
I love to climb mountains on my bicycle—the sweat, the grinding and punishing pedaling, the rhythm of my breath and the pounding of my heart as I push myself to the limit to squeeze out every ounce of physical ecstasy is as good as….well, you know what I mean. But if I literalize my experience and demand that others have the same experience I have crossed the line. Others get to have their own experience of the mountain unique to them.
Where my EC brothers and sisters agree, however, is that experience is central. So I wonder, if the language of mysticism will one day be the tie that binds us together. I wonder if the liberal/conservative divide may someday dissolve away. I admit that at this stage I am just wondering and musing. But today felt a little different. I could see it; I could just about taste it. Like Mt. Hood towering miles ahead of me I wondered if mysticism was an invitation to our common, healing, unified future.
What do you think? What future do you see potentially coming? What are the obstacles that might get in the way?