Image credit: Galapagos Before Sunset (detail) by Iris Diensthuber, summer 2007
From the Bottom Up: Introduction
A New Reformation
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
As I see it, religion is at its best when it leads us forward, when it guides us in our spiritual growth as individuals and in our cultural evolution as a species. —Brian McLaren 
Yes, we live in very troubling times; and we are fortunate to be alive now when we have so much possibility for growth in love. Many say we are in the midst of a spiritual awakening. Theologian Harvey Cox calls it the Age of the Spirit. He writes: “Faith is resurgent, while dogma is dying. The spiritual, communal, and justice-seeking dimensions of Christianity are now its leading edge. . . . A religion based on subscribing to mandatory beliefs is no longer viable.” 
There is a wide and multi-textured resurgence of the older and essential contemplative tradition. Many are returning to our mystical roots. Science has become one of religion’s best friends as it often validates the consistent intuitions of the mystics. Neuroscience helps us understand how our mind works and the impact of meditation and prayer. Critical biblical scholarship now has the help of anthropology, sociology, history, and archaeology.
There is a broad awareness that Jesus was clearly teaching non-violence, simplicity of lifestyle, peacemaking, love of creation, and dying to the ego for both individuals and groups by offering a radical social critique to the systems of domination, power, and money. There’s a growing recognition that Jesus was concerned about the transformation of real persons and human society here on earth. Christianity is meant to be a loving way of life now, not just a system of beliefs and requirements that people hope will earn them a later reward in heaven. There is a new appreciation for “many gifts and ministries” (1 Corinthians 12), “together making a unity in the work of service” (Ephesians 4) instead of concentrating power and knowledge in a top tier of male leadership.
Spiritual globalization is allowing churches worldwide to benefit from these breakthroughs at approximately the same time, which of itself is a new kind of reformation! The internet has opened up possibilities for learning, connecting, and networking with faith-filled, committed, loving people all over the world. As Brian McLaren says, now “we can migrate from organized religion to organizing religion—that is, religion organizing for the common good.” 
Christian denominations and world religions are realizing they are more alike than different. Consciousness is evolving. Christian theologians are predicting that this century will open up Trinitarian and practice-based spirituality, with a focus on the Holy Spirit, which many call “the forgotten member of the Trinity.” And we have a pope in Francis who is truly a man of the Gospel instead of a mere church man, someone at the top who genuinely cares about those at the bottom and our precious common home, the earth.
Of course, when there’s movement forward, there’s always pushback. But that’s just a call for more action steeped in prayer. Here at the Center for Action and Contemplation, we seek to support individuals and communities in deepening authentic spirituality and engaging compassionately with our world.
Gateway to Silence:
Create in me a new heart, O God.
 Brian D. McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Convergent: 2016), xi.
 Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith: The Rise and Fall of Beliefs and the Age of the Spirit (HarperOne: 2009), 5-6.
 McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration, 14.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The Emerging Church: Beyond Fight or Flight,” Radical Grace, Vol. 21, No.4 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008).