Saturday, July 9, 2011

Polairities: Religious Seekers and Finders both Right

Barry Johnson
More and more, I am seeing my experience as a spiritual seeker among those who believe they've found the Truth to be an uncovering of polarities.  Barry Johnson, a leader in the hot field of polarity management, defines polarities as "situations in which both conflicting points of view are true."  Polarities are unavoidable  problems which cannot be solved, but can only be managed, he says.

Some of the polarities I run up against in my experiences recounted in The Bishop and the Seeker are
  • Self vs. Group
  • Action vs. Surrender
  • Intuition vs. Standards
  • Union vs Communion with God
I hope to be using the concept of polarities in the future as I seek to "manage" these conflicts in my own life and in my several spiritual communities.

Rural Virginia Blocks Interfaith Retreat: Evil or Polarities?

WaPost photo of Laura George

The week after I met Laura George, the Washington Post ran a piece (7/8/11) on her suit against the rural Virginia county that blocked development of her interfaith center in the wake of opposition from Christian churches.

I had wanted to meet Laura because of the similarity of our missions to narrow the cultural tensions between those who might be labeled "spiritual" and "religious."  Depending on your point of view, the quest of her Oracle Institute to reach out to Evangelicals has been beset by a run of very bad luck, by forces of darkenss, or by a case of polar value systems inflaming each other where they could have been enjoying the kind of party Bishop Thomas and I had in the encounter chronicled in our book, The Bishop and The Seeker.

Pentacle logo of Oracle Institute
represents five major religions
At the very least, the story is a case of really bad marketing. Laura's institute selected for itself a name, a logo, and a  building ("the Peace Pentagon") guaranteed to raise red flags of  "new age sorcery" in a conservative Christian environment.We discussed Oracle’s use of the Pentacle icon, which Laura says stands for spiritual unity among the five primary religions (Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam). I counseled her to consider focusing instead on the values she has in common with the local folk. She says she seeks to teach no particular beliefs, but only to focus on the centrality of love. What does the Bible have to say about that? And in her interest in sustainable communities, there is much she could learn from the locals, I suggested.

I met Laura on the 4th of July in her aptly  named town of Independence. Just the day before I attended church in the nearby community of Pulaski. Their Bible Study discussion of whether our thoughts can be sins proceeded from much more literal interpretations of the Bible than my own. But I think some new thinking may have been provoked on all sides. Indeed, my own family--which includes agnostics and Buddhists--had a rich discussion of the topic afterwards at lunch. Values and beliefs that seem opposite can have connection points at many levels that are invisible when one is taking sides. My prayer for Laura George is that her institute will have an opportunity to expand on that dynamic--whatever name or shape her building finally takes.