I'm leaving on a jet plane,
Don't know when I'll be back again...
THE PREVIOUS FIVE POSTS in this series discussed two competing spiritualities, or ways of being human, as though they were completely separate systems, isolated from one another, operating in different universes.
Before talking about how these spiritualities are put into practice, it's important to realize that in the real world—the world of practice—both often operate at once.
We've all been schooled, to one extent or another, in the priest/king model of spirituality. We've all been taught that our natural instincts are wrong, that we need to respect authority for its own sake, that right and wrong are a set of rules which must be obeyed.
On the other hand, we all have access to an emerging spirituality from birth. Since it grows naturally from our human nature and from our human interactions we can't escape it.
We all value fairness, equality, mutual loyalty, and all of the other aspects of the emerging spirituality to one extent or another.
Because of this, there are very few people whose practice is rooted purely in the emerging spirituality, and even fewer whose practice is rooted purely in the priest/king model.
We are all a mix of the two in practice.
But though there are no people who are pure examples of either spirituality, the practices themselves can be sorted out in the abstract.
The list could be ordered in many ways, but I'll begin with personal, private, practices. The first of these, in the priest/king model, is belief.
People who follow the priest/king model often practice a habit of belief.
Belief, in this spiritual sense, differs from the normal use of the word in several ways:
Belief is not the result of evidence.
In normal, everyday usage, belief is not an act of will, but a function of knowledge. If I say I believe I have screwdriver in my desk, it's because of my knowledge of my habits (I always keep one there), or because of my knowledge of the contents of my desk (I saw it there this morning).
If I say I believe Jesus was God, it is not a function of knowledge at all, it's a choice to force my mind into a certain stance, without regard to knowledge or evidence. This is not to say that people who choose to believe completely disregard all evidence, but that the part of the act which constitutes belief, in this spiritual sense, is something else: something that is often called a "leap of faith".
Often, the things to be believed are not even capable of evidence: "There is only one God," "Jesus is his son," "God is a trinity," "God created the world," "God chose Israel".
But in other cases belief is practiced even in spite of evidence which runs to the contrary: "Evolution never happened," "Teaching abstinence will lower abortion rates," "God answers prayer".
Belief is a moral act, rooted in the value of obedience.
We're speaking here of priest/king morality, of course.
In the more normal sense of the word, you would not consider me a better or worse person for believing or not believing that I have a screwdriver in my desk.
But it is extremely common for people who operate out of the priest/king mentality to view belief in God, or belief that life begins at conception, or belief in creation, as good, and atheism, or belief that life begins at birth, or belief in evolution, as evil.
Doubt in this context, is often considered a sin.
Those who practice a priest/king spirituality often see unbelief as a form of disobedience.
They often work very hard to convince themselves to believe what they are supposed to believe, and to guard themselves from information or ideas that might cast doubt on those beliefs—even, sometimes, making life decisions such as what college to go to or what community to live in on the basis of what will butress their belief and protect them from doubts.
Those who follow the emerging model, on the other hand, tend to practice a habit of questioning or skepticism.
We'll look at that next time...