The one and only test

The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience or devotional practice [is] that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine [makes] you kinder, more empathetic and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness this [is] good theology. But if your notion of God [makes] you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it [leads] you to kill in God’s name, it [is] bad theology.

Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase

A profoundly disruptive prophetic ‘presence-in-the-world’

In a world where the Church no longer dominates Western culture and where ‘strong’ dogmatic statements are no longer heeded, the Christian is left to bear witness by faithfully following the way of Jesus as a prophetic ‘presence-in-the-world.’ … the story of Christ … is enacted rather than dogmatically stated and yet, in its ‘performance,’ is profoundly disruptive.

Thus Philip Sheldrake in Explorations in Spirituality: History, Theology, and Social Practice, summarising some thoughts of Michel de Certeau.

Not sure the Church has fully grasped this, but it seems to me what being a disciple entails.

God visits us right where we are

Commenting on the story of Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:11-22, Barbara Brown Taylor (in An Altar in the World: Finding the Sacred Beneath Our Feet) notes that

even though [Jacob’s] family had imploded, even though he had made his brother angry enough to kill him, even though he was a scoundrel from the word go – God decided to visit Jacob right where he was, though Jacob had not been right about anything so far and never would be.

God visiting us right were we are, no matter how messy our life may be, that’s what the gospel is all about. That’s why it’s called ‘good news’.

Repressed and stifled

When the female voice is repressed and stifled, the entire community can easily find themselves cut off from the sacred feminine, depriving themselves of the full image of God.

Thus Rob Bell in What We Talk about When We Talk about God in the context of his reflections on male and female being equally created in the image of God and Isaiah’s use of feminine imagery in talking about God.

Secondary realities that are to be strongly resisted

Here’s another insightful quote from John Swinton’s Raging with Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil:

Sin, evil, and suffering … are secondary realities, intruders into the goodness of the world. As such they require, indeed demand, to be resisted in faith and hope rather than resigned to with stoicism and despair. Goodness is our original state …. The turn towards evil drags us into a state that is alien to the desired purposes of the creator. The presence of evil separates us not only from God, but also from our true selves. As such it needs to be strongly resisted. Resistance relates to the faithful participation in Christ’s redemptive movement in the world now and in the future. Evil is that which blocks and fragments Christ’s work of reclamation, restoration, and redemption and prevents human beings from experiencing the loving presence of God in and for the world.

A love that hangs on

God showed us in Christ a love that abides, that perseveres, that remains present to us, however bad things are, for however long it takes; a love that sticks around, a love that stays put, a love that hangs on. … In the resurrection, God made clear to us in Christ that nothing – neither death nor life – can separate us from God’s love. And in the sending of the Spirit, God promised to be with us always, to the end of time, and to empower us to be Christ for others and find Christ in them, beyond our own strength and courage.

Samuel Wells and Marcia A. Owen, Living without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence