Several years back it was a goal to personally stay abreast of current events and newsworthy items. The benefits of such a goal allowed for engagement on a variety of fronts and topics. However, the evolution of this process has lead to stress. Watching the news is not so much for information as it is stressful. People are worked up and on edge.
Twice weekly I meet with two separate groups of adults for casual discussion and camaraderie. One group is all men with a spectrum from traditional to progressive (conservative, liberal) viewpoints. The second is a mixed group of men and women whose viewpoints would be considered left of center. Invariably, with both groups, the discussion goes in diametrically opposing directions. These opposing viewpoints become a real challenge for those of us seeking to maintain a sense of spiritual centeredness in an age of growing fear and anxiety.
Reverend Clay Stauffer reminds us that all human beings, whether we admit it or not, hunger for the spirit. We are spiritual beings. We long for something deeper and more meaningful. We long for connection, not only with each other but also with God. But the great irony is that we are too busy, too preoccupied, too restless, too fearful and too anxious for this to actually happen. There are a lot of closet Christians.
One of my favorite writers, Henri Nouwen says, “the spiritual life is not a life before, after or beyond our every day existence. No, the spiritual life can only be real when it is lived in the midst of pains and joy of the here and now.” When you think about this statement it is an accurate description of the challenges facing today’s Christians
On more than one occasion, June, my wife, has nudged me under the table or silently pinched my arm when I have boldly taken on some political rhetoric or something contrary to God’s word. “One way to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that most of us have an address but can’t be found there.”(Norwin). It is like we cling to our “holy huddles” where we readily express what God’s word tells us, but become autistic when outside those huddles. Outside of our huddles we are not good at being present. Presence and civility are the challenges. This is our spiritual crisis and one that must be identified and taken seriously.
Some hints I have learned when in a group with mixed ideologies that are not God centered: Guard your integrity and remain civil. It is tempting to become an attack dog when you are confronted with something that goes contrary to the Spiritual Truth. Remember, you have the “Good News” and you want to share it. Begin by practicing reflective listening. “This is what I hear you saying.” Using this response, repeat back to the individual his/her major talking points. Secondly, if possible, discuss places, situations etc. that practice or promote the viewpoints being espoused. For example: “Have you reviewed what this philosophy has done places like Denmark, France or Detroit?” “How is that philosophy working.” Follow this reflection with the results the philosophy has produced. Be outcome driven, stay away from gender, race ethnicity, and other social issues and be driven by behavioral outcomes. “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.
Good observations and advice, especially about repeating back what you think you heard. June used to kick me under the table, too. That’s what wives and big sisters do…