Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity   by Roger Wolsey

published January, 11 2011

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Chapter 12

Progressive Christian Spiritual Practices:

“The Push-ups of Love”

Have a talk with God – Stevie Wonder

Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:24b-25

            As profoundly powerful, transforming, and life-changing as agapé love is, it certainly isn’t easy to love everyone this way at all times.  It is difficult to sustain.  We cannot live and love in this way without a lot of help.  The people who were involved in the non-violent and transforming Civil Rights movement in the U.S. would have burned-out early on if they hadn’t engaged in certain practices which helped to keep them inspired, unified, and on board with the path of non-violence and loving their enemy.

            They met frequently for church meetings.  They worshipped the God who loves them unconditionally.  They studied the Bible to reminded them of Jesus’ teachings.  They sang songs to help drive home the message of nonviolence into their bones.  They practiced not retaliating when people lashed out at them.  They participated in “hassle lines” and role-playing exercises[1] to prepare them for how to behave non-reactively when they would attempt to order food at the segregated lunch counter’s at Woolworth’s.  They simulated situations where they might normally be inclined to react with aggression and to instead employ actions and behaviors that would defuse and de-escalate tensions.  Even simple things like smiling, focusing on breathing and counting to one hundred inside their minds were used.   

            Let’s explore some of the spiritual practices that can help feed souls and nurture love.  A spiritual practice is only good to the extent that it helps us be more loving.  Feel free to experiment with and try these with that in mind.  Spiritual practices and disciplines are actions or activities that we can engage in to help us experience the Divine (inner and/or outer).  If you do them more than once, they have the potential to become habits – and stating new habits is kind of scary.  As Orison Swett Marden said, "The beginning of a habit is like an invisible threat, but every time we repeat the act we strengthen the strand, add to it another filament, until it becomes a great cable and binds us irrevocably, thought and act.”

            Jesus was a practicing Jew.  He honored the Jewish customs, rites, and rituals on his own terms.  He did them because he wanted to – not because he felt he had to.   When Jesus went to the synagogue in his hometown to preach that first sermon, he did so because it was his custom, his habit  He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” (Luke 4:16)  That approach should be ours as well - not to do spiritual or religious things because we “have to,” but because we want to, and because they’ve become part of who we are.  The following are some practices that can foster and nourish unconditional love: ......

[1] I learned about this from Dr. Vincent Harding when I was a student at Iliff.  Harding, a Quaker, was one of MLK’s speech-writers and advisors.  He helped prepare a group of us for how to protest against Colorado’s infamous “Amendment 2.”  Sadly, the majority of voters had passed and it allowed discrimination against GLBTQ persons. Happily, Colorado’s Supreme Court eventually overturned it as unconstitutional.  You can read more about hassle lines here:

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