|by Tom Bohache|
|A Community-Building Spirit
Last issue, I talked about how American society has suffered from extreme individualism that blocks out community. I suggested that what is needed is a turn from narrow individualistic agendas to a value system that sees everyone and everything as interconnected. When we look at two recent religious festivals, we can see that interconnectedness in action. Shavuot is the Jewish feast of "Weeks," when the Hebrew people have historically asked for and celebrated God's blessing on their crops and their land and, ultimately, on them as a people of faith. The later Christian feast of Pentecost marks the coming of God's Spirit to the early church as they too were celebrating Shavuot. I believe that in today's postmodern world it is not inappropriate to learn from these anciently-rooted festivals. In many ancient faith traditions, Land/Earth/Creation and Spirit are intimately connected. Spirit creates and then sanctifies what has been created. The earth and all its wonders are given to humanity in trust for future generations; humankind is called to be caretakers of the good earth, its vegetation, and its animal life. Spirit is constantly invoked in all of life's passagesbirth, adolescence, partnership, procreation, aging, and death.
Liberal Protestant theologian Jrgen Moltmann sees this creating, animating divinity as the Spirit of Life. It is this Spirit that mystics throughout time have linked to vitality, freshness, greenness, airy-ness, and openness. It is this Spirit that is seen scripturally as both the Divine Wind or Breath and Holy Fire. It brings in its wake "community" (Greek koinonia), our ability to be social beings in love with one another and with all of creation. This Spirit empowers us to live together, work together, love together, and grow togetherinto a "community" (which etymologically means "built together"). Indeed, often this Divine Spirit allows us to build together what has been scattered by racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, classism, and homophobia; for a Spirit of Life is the direct opposite of a spirit of death which promotes scattering, uncertainty, infighting, fear, and confusion. This Spirit nurtures the diversity which, when divinely planted, can support a unity that is not uniformity.
From his years in a concentration camp, Moltmann asserts that this Spirit of Life is on the side of communities that fight for justice; its greatest enemy is the apathy and conformity that force one to give up hope. Many of his comrades surrendered to death when they stopped caring about their torture and imprisonment and gave in to what their captors demanded of them. He points out that in today's world Spirit is obliterated by a lack of peace and fellow-feeling among nations and peoples. The negative aspects of human nature are sometimes fueled by confusion and the adrenaline rush that comes from conflict; some megalomaniacal world leaders are even excited by power and domination, while many onlookers simply love the drama.
I believe that part of being a world community or a spiritual community or a resort community or a queer community is saying "no" to discord and confusion, to power dynamics and competition, and "yes" to Spirit and its gifts. The result will be community that is truly Spirit-driven in its vitality, freshness, and openness, in its ability to be creative and caring of those around us. For when we build together a world of peace, we will indeed build a world that is safe for everyone, where every person and her or his individual gifts and talents are respected and honoreda place where everyone has dignity and no one has to "lord" his or her position or material goods over another. In a world like that, the only transgression against the Divine Spirit is the attitude of "can't," for Spirit has no "can't" in its vocabulary. Rather, Spirit is a resource of endless possibility, kindness, and generosity. May it be so!
For Further Reading:
Jrgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation (Fortress, 1992) Matthew Fox, Original Blessing (Bear and Company, 1983) Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us (HarperCollins, 1991) Karen King, Women and Goddess Traditions (Fortress, 1997) Jace Weaver, Native American Religious Identity: Unforgotten Gods (Orbis, 2002)
The Rev. Tom Bohache, Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Rehoboth, is a speaker, teacher, and writer on the intersection of sexuality and spirituality. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 5 May 20, 2005