A friend of mine have been telling me for months that I should read Kenneth Leech’s books.  Last week I caved in and picked up his “Spirituality and Pastoral care”.  Yesterday I posted the opening paragraphs of that book.

His book focuses on the Foundations of Spirituality which he describes as:

Spirituality and the Word of God
Spirituality and Silence
Spirituality and struggle

For him Christian spirituality is about three movements which he describes as “confrontation, exploration and struggle”.

We are confronted by the Word, we explore the inner geography of our hearts through silence and solitude and we struggle against the inner turmoil of our lives and the external structures of oppression.  I find this lay-of-the-land helpful for pastoral work.

In His chapter on ‘Spirituality and the Word of God’ he notes that,

“In this process of spirituality, the Bible has a central place.  But if we are to begin a movement ‘back to the Bible’, we must recognize the formidable obstacles in our path … [T]he misuse of Scripture takes many forms.  We see a meticulous study of the text combined with an utter incapacity to be challenged by the Word.  We see a fanatical adherence to the words of Scripture combined with a terrifying degree of intolerance and hatred.”

It is to the above-mentioned paragraph that Scot McKnight’s new book “The blue parakeet” gives some possible remedies. 

Then in a very funny interaction he spends some time talking about James Barr’s description of fundamentalism as ‘a pathological condition of Christianity’ he describes fundamentalism:

1. It is unintelligent because it doesn’t allow for an honest struggle and questioning within the reading of the Bible.  He quotes Coffin saying that’ if an ass peers in [Scripture], you can’t expect an apostle to peer out’.

2.  It is the religion of a crusading mind rather than a crucified mind.  “True spirituality involves a dimension of listening, of abandonment, of silent brooding, features which are conspicuously absent in most fundamentalist worship and life”.  This past weekend we celebrated a new baby’s birth and mourned a miscarriage – and it was good to worship God within the tension of those two movements.

3.  It is selective.  “It chooses those parts of Scripture which fit in with the dominant ideology.  So, for example, it often focuses more on issues such as homosexuality and abortion, on which the Bible say little or nothing, and ignores issues such as poverty and wealth, on which it says a great deal.  Being itself so entangled with the dominant ideology, it fails to see how conditioned and unfree – and therefore anti-spiritual – its biblicism is."

This description strikes me as so true and it helps me towards a more generous spirituality of the Word of God.  It invites me into honestly facing my and my community’s questions, of living with the tensions inherent in the text and in realizing that I’m biased when I enter in conversation with the text.  May I be healed of my pathological Christianity!