There is a middle space in churches that is almost impossible to speak of. Why an impossibility? Because in speaking both sides, right and left, will find cause for offense. And that is both the genius and the dizzying riddle of Christianity. A third way constantly calling us out of our misaligned binary bent to sort life into this “box” or that “box” and calling into surrender deeply down into love. That surrendered spaces lies between two poles.
One pole holds all things relative. A Gnosticism of sorts. Where every individual is captain and commander, each a final arbitrator of all truth. As Pope Francis phrased it, “…a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience to console and enlighten but ultimately keeps us imprisoned by our own thoughts and feelings.”
I read recently read a review of a book written by a woman unhappy in her marriage. Her quest for fulfillment became sexual experimentation in all its forms outside of her marriage. The reviewer, in her closing comment, made a salient point … where do we cross over from “finding ourselves” to increasingly damaging forms “self absorption”? A good question that we should all in turn answer.
Easy to think of the author’s quest as just her quest. And in a sense it is. We muddy waters quickly when we seek to legislate private sexual morality. However hard to imagine that life as healthy. Hard to imagine concepts of “family” or “commitment” or “fidelity” or “common good” alive within that particular lifestyle choice.
And the other pole is, to quote Pope Francis again, “a supposed soundness of doctrine [that] leads to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism whereby instead of evangelizing one analyzes and classifies others … exhausts energy in inspecting and verifying.”
This position … clearly intent on “inspecting and verifying.” Here we fall in love with church ins-and-outs, not God. There are refreshing few in formal church circles with whom true dialog is possible. Just dialog. Many more are interested in defending their view of Christianity. Conversion. Argumentation. As Seth Godin phrased it … “The narcissism of small differences” … where we pull up differences instead of celebrating common themes.
The Middle Space:
Swedenborgian theology clearly speaks to a third way, as does all enlightened faith, all parts of the church universal. That third way …. a deft centering on key concepts and teachings – compass points as it were. A clear call to live them out into the world. And a deep surrender to the “self-evidencing reason of love.”
And what would that theology offer to the author noted above? That there is a joy, and a freedom, and a liberation. A place for one’s soul. A shining place of deep abiding peace. Heaven. Beyond our worries and concerns and compulsions. One where our true selves come to life once we open to centering our lives on the better angles of our nature. A place where God seeks to be as we are opened to the overwhelming miracle of that Presence.