Dave Brisbin 8.18.19
It’s no secret that religious vocations and church attendance and membership continue to decline in the US and West in general. But even so, as religious affiliation and participation declines, more and more people, especially young people are describing themselves as spiritual and finding ways to express that spirituality. And the direction of the shift is nearly always in the same direction—toward a contemplative, even mystical spirituality. Considering three stories: a Carmelite order of nuns formally shifting back to ancient rites and rituals, a young Southern Baptist man who converted and became ordained into the priesthood of the Eastern Orthodox church, and a young Pentecostal man who moved to the Unitarian church and then on to discover the contemplative Christian tradition all tell this same tale of a need for a deeper, more rooted spirituality. It’s as if we in the modern West are feeling a collective need, the presence of a missing piece of ourselves, much like the phantom limb phenomenon in which amputees still feel their missing limbs.

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We know we’re missing an essential piece and are looking to find it in more rooted and ancient forms that anchor us to something much larger than ourselves. When we look again at Jesus from a Hebrew point of view, from the Beatitudes to his time in the wilderness, we see the same longing in Jesus to find the missing piece he found in his Father. If we desire, we can let our phantom limbs guide us back to the spirituality Jesus first practiced and taught and find what he found along the way.

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