Community

Valuing and fostering deep relationships that center on service to others
author01

Personal Transformation

Making a conscious and dedicated effort to develop one’s own body, mind, and spirit
author02

Social Transformation

Pursuing justice and beauty in the world through the creation of networks for good
author03

Purpose finding

Clarifying, articulating, and acting on one’s personal mission in life
author04

Creativity

Allowing time and space to activate the imagination and engage in play
author05

Accountability

Holding oneself and others responsible for working toward defined goals
author06

Something More

Reaching for what matters most
author07

Further Reading

Other related resources

Discussion

Your thoughts
Valuing and fostering deep relationships that center on service to others

Community

author01

To me, community is the foundation for the other 6 experiences.

Community provides the motivation, the energy, the accountability, and the joy of spiritual experience. The journey is meant to be experienced together. Of course there is place for solitary reflection – for me it serves as a crucial preparation and deepening for my time in community, where the revelations of silence are brought out into light.

Ideas for unaffiliated spiritual community

  • New Community Manifesto – A group that get's together to celebrate an eclectic mix religious ceremonies of different traditions
  • Article Group – A small group where an article is discussed every week. It's like a book club but less ambitious and more realistic for busy schedules. Each member is given a week to choose and present an article.
  • Writing Group – Each member writes a creative peice to be shared and discussed at each meeting.

Case Studies

Making a conscious and dedicated effort to develop one’s own body, mind, and spirit

Personal Transformation

author02

Character development is sacred.

Whether it's taking care of the environment, speaking in kind tones to our friends and family, or preservering through difficult times, self-discipline and self-development is a noble and moral struggle.

Ideas for unaffiliated spiritual community

  • Mindfulness retreat – In January of 2016 I hosted an Introduction to Mindfulness retreat in Chattanooga. Mindfulness can give us the ability to choose instead of react.

Case Studies

Pursuing justice and beauty in the world through the creation of networks for good

Social Transformation

author03

Many who grew up devout feel that their religion prioritized trivial doctrinal arguments over love and goodness.

Compassion and social justice are tangible evidence that actual good can be done in the world. Since it is experience based instead of mere theory, it cuts through postmodern relativism and seems to get to the heart of what we're intended to do as humans, giving relief to people who see value in multiple religious perspectives.

Case Studies

Clarifying, articulating, and acting on one’s personal mission in life

Purpose finding

author04

Hijacking religion in the name of airplanes

Remember when Harold Camping said that Jesus was going to return in May of 2011? If I had been one of those who believed it wholeheartedly, I think that would have been one of the happiest people on earth (before May 21, when Jesus didn't come). Seriously, wouldn't life be filled with purpose? Imagine that it was up to you and a few others to save the world. The few, the proud, the worldsavers.

There obviously is something very attractive about exclusive religion. We all want to be the enlightened few that "get it" among the billions of dishonest and deceived.

What's more important than saving the world? My favorite stories are about regular people who risk everything to accomplish something extremely important. I like these stories because, deep down, thats what I want.  I think a story about me and a few friends (the protagonists) going against the rest of the world (the antagonists), to save a few from eternal destruction, would be a very compelling story. Especially if it were true. Everyone wants to be Noah.

But this understanding of our role in an eternal narrative, especially one that demonizes other narratives, can be dangerous. In my opinion, 9/11, the crusades, Waco, and other forms of religious violence and extremism result from exaggerated views of our exclusive role in human history.

Its already easy to dislike people who are different from us. How much easier is it to do so if we think our eternal salvation depends on it? Its natural to see ourselves as protagonists. What's dangerous is our tendency to see everyone else as antagonists. Thats the arrogant, divisive, often violent attitude that atheists are so quick (and correct) to criticize about religion.

Before you think I'm only cynical, I don't think the desire to be important is bad. Nor do I think that it is always bad for religion. I think the desire to be significant has been the motivation for some of history's most noble accomplishments. They are well documented.

The point is, we often derive our sense of purpose from our religious or spiritual identity. This is natural good, as long our purpose is love. We need to be careful about who we name as antagonists. We are often too quick to label entire groups as the enemy, whether that group be Muslims, immigrants, Atheists, Christians, Jews, etc. This defensive, us vs. them mentality is fear based. Let’s try a purpose based on empathy and love.

Case Studies

Allowing time and space to activate the imagination and engage in play

Creativity

author05

Go through the motions much?

To some, doing the same practices every week at religious services is comforting. Increasingly for millennials (and others), there's value in expressing ancient ideas in new art forms and ceremonies, drawing on personal and multi-cultural experience to challenge stale ideas and to provoke new thought.

Case Studies

Reaching for what matters most

Something More

author07

"This list is incomplete. There is a seventh theme."

"These groups reach for it in their manifestos about the power of being together and part of a greater whole. When we gathered 50 of their leaders, we heard them return again and again to the ‘common thread,’ the ‘collective well-being,’ and the ‘circle that encompasses us all.’

These fledgling communities are cultivating an experience for which they largely lack language. In fact, they are often startled by the gravity and a raction of what they find. Religious institutions have a powerful gift to share with them. Here we call it, Something More."

My understanding of this "Something More" concept is heavily influenced by Atheist Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who defends the value of religion in his book The Happiness Hypothesis.

In his fascinating study, Haidt has identified an emotion he calls "Elevation." Distinct from happiness or other emotions, elevation is the name he gave for when we feel uplifted, in awe, or inspired, and it serves as the opposite of disgust.

People experiencing elevation often express the desire to do something good, but interestingly, compared to nommoral admiration, people are less likely to follow through with an altruistic act of service. The most salient quality of elevation, they found, is the desire to connect and bond with others. According to the study, "Elevation may fill people with feelings of love, trust, and openness, making them more receptive to new relationships; yet, given their feelings of relaxation and passivity, they might be less likely to engage in active altruism toward strangers."

To me, whether this emotion comes from God or is simply biological is mostly irrelevant. Instead, the finding represents a foundation of spiritual experience all humans can enjoy, effecting connection and bonding between people of different beliefs.

Case Studies

Further Reading

Other related resources

Discussion

Your thoughts

Foundation for a
New Spiritual Community

This year I read an article from Fetzer.Org called Something More. The purpose of the article is to identfiy innovators who are re-imagining religious community. The article identified seven key spiritual experiences millennials seek. Taken together, they offer a roadmap for facilitating a meaningful unaffiliated spiritual community.