How good it is to be back among you! In my January column, the last before my sabbatical, I wrote that I had become a bit of a human doing and I was looking forward to an investment in being. That is a good example of the dualistic thinking so prevalent in our world and one this month’s embodiment theme takes on directly.
Most religions of the west, if not western civilization itself, were founded upon the notion that humanity needs something outside itself to rescue it from its innate sinfulness because the body is weak. Pie-in-the-sky-when-we-die theology is popular in this country and others which disparages the body as it elevates the soul. Theologies that start with the Fall instead of the reality that we inhabit human form needing to be in relationships with other humans, teach us that our bodies are not to be trusted. Moreover, it suggests that the ills of this world shouldn’t surprise us, and since they will be cured in some perfect world yet to come, we need not concern ourselves with them.
Sadly, such dualism is not restricted to evangelical-type faiths. Progressive dualists also want to escape. It’s just that they do so through meditating, unplugging, and letting-go of any obligation to help build a better world. Their peace lies not in any would be world-to-come, but instead is found within focusing on the ‘rightness’ with their own soul.
Our religion rejects that dualism. Just as I could not spend two months in state of being apart from doing, we are not souls (i.e., essence, spirits, highest self) apart from bodies. It may well be easier to opt out of caring about the interconnected web of existence and affirming the inherent worth and dignity of each person when one’s theology is built around such a hierarchical view that privileges the ethereal over the flesh. Indeed, we are witness to how such views held by those in power, continue to oppress the bodies of the marginalized (women, the poor, the racially other, the queer, the old, the disabled).
Rejecting dualism calls us to embodiment which is commitment to this life and this world, a place of wholeness, with wide spaces for all people to live into their fullest expression and life for our common good. I hope that reminds you of our church where our ministries seek to equip us to Deepen to Our Truest Selves, Connect Authentically with Others, and Engage with Needs Beyond our Own.
Speaking of our ministry, we are embarking on a new way of assessing it this spring. Our Board of Trustees has worked hard to listen to you, collect data, and craft what it sees as the Strategic Objectives of our church. The staff has worked to establish ministries and programs which achieve those ends. Now, we want to check with you, at this early juncture, on the effectiveness of our efforts. And, because we are not in the business of dualism, the survey asks that people assess themselves as well. Please take time to complete the Spirit Map Survey
Don’t worry. This will not be an annual ask. However, we are hopeful that many of us will participate. The data gleaned is essential to helping us develop ministries to make JUC the most welcoming congregation where all who enter have opportunity to grow and where we have the most positive impact in our world.