Ken Wilbur (as quoted by Richard Rohr), talks about four stages of spiritual and moral development.
Cleaning up is mostly about the need for early impulse control and creating necessary ego boundaries—so you can actually show up in the real and much bigger world.
Growing up refers to the process of psychological and emotional maturity that persons commonly undergo, both personally and culturally
Waking Up refers to any spiritual experience which overcomes our experience of the self as separate from Being in general… The purpose of waking up is not personal or private perfection, but surrender, love, and union with God. This is the Christian meaning of salvation or enlightenment.
Showing Up means bringing our heart and mind into the actual suffering and problems of the world
As I reflect on this it occurs to me that most of American Christianity is stuck in the cleaning up stage of development, meaning it is stuck in spiritual infancy.
Faith is primarily a matter of “behaving”. Of believing the right things, saying the right things, and doing the right things. Sadly in too many cases the “right things” are more a matter of right-wing social and cultural norms, than they are about the Bible. Even the grim and cruel concept of retributive justice emerges more out of a culture of domination than out of the Gospel itself.
Turn or Burn
And so faith is not an encounter with something bigger than one’s self, not an experience of being loved, not a matter of union with Love, but a matter of following rules, voting for the right person, earning safety from God’s wrath. And it should be no wonder that those whose lives are all about living under the authority of a malevolent God choose an authoritarian ideology. Where might makes right, and obedience and loyalty to the “great leader” or to “the party” are everything. Where reality is shaped and controlled by those who speak for “god” or “the party” or by a totalitarian leader. Questions are not allowed. Truth does not matter. Only the approved narrative, the alternative reality
This kind of faith is powerful, in its own way, and persistent. It is a faith that makes us dependent in an unhealthy manner. It is a faith that controls with promises of power and affluence, or abandonment and destruction.
Leave and perish
Question and perish
There is of course a element of this necessary in faith. We do in fact need to “come to our senses”, like the prodigal child, and realize that perhaps the mess we are in is not the only option. That hate, and racism, abusive power, guns, violence are not things we have wallow in.
But this is a starting point! It is a matter of getting up, out of the mud and corn cobs, and offal, dusting ourselves off, straightening our clothes, and starting the long journey home.
This is how we start growing up. Developing a faith that is our own. Developing relationships that are built on love, trust, and truth. Knowing that we are an individual within a community. Developing the capacity to think, and question, and seek the truth. Moving out of the “bubble” created by others into the world as it is.
And then we wake up. We wake up to Sacred, to love. We encounter, we experience the Sacred. Not as a concept, not as a book, not as a set of rules, not as a religion, but as a powerful reality that comes as wind and fire. That overwhelms us, and shakes us, and leaves us utterly transformed. And utterly in Love. Once we were blind but now we see.
And then we show up. We live love. We don’t pretend the world is different than it is. We don’t create our own reality. We don’t try to force the world into our mold. We don’t let the world force us into its mold. We show up, seeing the world as it really is, with all its beauty and ugliness, with all is hate and love, with all its despair and hope, and we live lives of love, and generosity, and compassion, and forgiveness and truth.
We heal the sick (and fight for healthcare)
We clothe the naked
We feed the hungry
We house the homeless
We welcome the stranger
We fight for justice
We insist on truth
We embody, as best we can
Today it is my prayer that I “show up” for love
I hope you will join me