Friday, May 18, 2012

Emergent Conversation about Christians Leaving the Church

Today is the third segment of my interview with Reverend Steve Brannon. We are continuing our discussion by introducing the Emergent Conversation.

To read more about leaving organized religion and this interview with Steve Brannon, click the links below. Or, you may listen to the recorded interview "Are You Spiritual.. or Religious?:

Part 1 -Don’t Rock the Boat Lest You Want to Leave the Church Fellowship
Part 2 - Why Religion is No Longer Working for Most People
Part 3 - Emergent Conversation about Christians Leaving the Church
Part 4 - Why Words Are So Powerful

Yvonne: Steve, I love the way your book gives us the freedom to explore. Over and over again you say to seek the spirit within you; ask the Holy Spirit for direction and guidance. The law is written on your heart, so go there and find it!

Steve: The most exciting thing for me is not for someone to sit down and tell me what they’ve gotten all excited about reading scripture or any kind of wisdom book. I love to have them tell me what the Holy Spirit taught them or guided them into. If a new revelation has come to you, or a new understanding has come to you, I want to hear it! Let’s talk about this stuff. Now that’s reality, a spiritual life is reality. This relative plane that we are living on is not the real world. There’s a solar vibrational level and a higher truth to be found when we enter the silence within. I love it when people come out of their silence and are bubbling over. They are excited and their faith is growing. They’ve got something to say and I want to hear it!

Yvonne: Absolutely. Talk to me about the Emergent Conversation. How does The Two Agreements fit into it?

Steve: The Emergent Conversation or the Emergent Movement started around 1998 with some youth ministers from main line churches who saw the trend regarding what’s going on in Christianity and a big exodus of youth. Kids who were raised in church get to their twenties and bail. Not only are they not going to church anymore, they have really turned against it. They will never go back and they have no intention of following the religion of their parents. These ministers wanted to know what they could do about this. After they began talking, they got pretty liberal with their questioning. They began looking at the traditional ordained church that Christ commissioned and they wanted to get closer to it. As they did, they saw that the many dogmas and doctrines that had found a place in modern-day Christianity were not present in the first church. They’ve just been put added over the years. The church today has become contaminated by programs, doctrines, dogmas.

These leaders put everything on the table. They questioned whether there is a literal hell or heaven. Everything teaching was open to discussion. Well you can imagine this made quite an earthquake so to speak. The clergy in the larger organizations and seminaries started speaking out, writing books against the Emergent Conversation, and warning people about it. But again, if your belief system is so rigid that it can’t take a question, that’s a red flag. The first church was chaotic. They didn’t have a guide book. The Emergent Conversation was comfortable with chaos and realized that thisis just what you go through when trying to get some answers and being open to Spirit. You try some things and they don’t always work. All is not lost. The Holy Spirit is there to protect us, to guide us, to teach us. So the question is: are you going to be reliant on what you say you believe and stick to it even when it’s not working? Or are you going to rely on spirit to lead you? or are you going to go by your own understanding? The life line of Emergent is the Internet. Australia, New Zealand, and the UK are some of the larger, stronger areas of the Emergent Conversation. The US is rather slow about catching on, but once it got started in local faith communities, many congregations would sell their church building, take the money, and go help meet the needs of the community: those who are homeless and hungry. They started to practice what they saw happening in the first church and knew what was expected of them, which was not to keep up huge cathedrals, but to meet needs and actual taking some social justice stances.

Yvonne: Like that radical rascal, Jesus, did. He wasn’t one who hung out with religious people. He ministered to the people who needed him—those who recognized their need for a healer or someone to show them a better way. He was not one to be enshrined in a temple and wrapped up in religious theology.

Steve: No not at all. To be honest, a lot of folks would be pretty leery of having Jesus as a neighbor with all the people hanging out on his front porch.

Yvonne: They definitely would. They wouldn’t even recognize him.

Steve: They would be nervous with all the unsavory types coming out the door over there. That’s what this conversation wanted to pursue. Get back real go back to the roots as best as possible. The Two Agreements says that it’s well and good to follow the true teachings of Jesus, but not to get bogged down into the institution. That’s not what Jesus wanted. I don’t see where he said that he wanted to start a new religion. He really wanted folks to understand one thing: when you see me, you see the father. I am the father are one and I am one with you.

What you can do while you’re here on the planet is enjoy life as you enter the kingdom. It’s already here. It’s in you. It’s all around you and that kingdom is peace, joy, exuberance, and the knowledge that you have right standing with the power that puts you here in the first place. So don’t live in fear. You are one in the same with that energy and you have right standing. You can stand boldly and proudly as a divine being. It’s a sad thing that our children are being taught that they are less than divine.

Yvonne: They are taught to fear the god we have made in our own image—a god that is quite brutal and abusive. Look at the God that has been created through Christianity and in some belief systems and you have to think “if I had that kind of parent I would never go see him. I would never have anything to do with him.” Why have we made God, who is love, out to be a horrible, mean, unloving, punishing parent? We as humans treat out children much better that the Judeo-Christian God treats his kids?

Steve: Psychiatrists have had a field day with that one over the years. Why do humans want to beat themselves up so bad? Why do they feel so guilty? There’s been many books written on that. Some of them, Escape from Freedom, is a title that jumps out. Guilt and fear are things we have to deal with. We need to be healed in our minds first. Then it will go to our hearts, and then it will go into our body. Our first healing is right here realizing, professing it, and affirming it. I really am into affirmations. I like affirming “I AM ONE with God. I am one with the one who put me here, my creator. I am one with the source. I am one with life force.” Affirm that and feel it down in your gut, feel it in your heart, and get some healing going there. Yvonne: That always generates joy and gratitude generates all the fruits of the spirit. We were talking about how Jesus was with the outcasts of society. He was not hanging out in the temples. You also minister to some less fortunate people.
Steve: He went to where there was a need.

Yvonne: There’s a need everywhere, but the people who can be helped are the people who realize they need help.

Steve: That’s a very good point. There’s not very much help for a person who seems to already have all the answers. In The Two Agreements the word “mystery” is used throughout. My belief system leaves room for mystery. To say, “I do not know” is a full, complete answer. I always allow room for the Holy Spirit to keep filling me up and giving me answers. I enjoy working with folks who are bound together with a common purpose to help one another be well and live well. Some are focused on getting a need met and are living in what I might call a “teachable moment” or being receptive. There are always new questions coming up.

Part of my ministry is with inspirational support groups for folks suffering from depression and other mood disorders. There’s always a need for healing, understanding, and support there. Depression is the number-one crippling illness in the country. It’s not heart disease or diabetes or cancer. The number one illness that puts folks on disability and causes the loss of career or job is depression. I decided to work with that population and create the inspiration support group. We are a plurality of faith systems. We have folks in the Jewish, Christian, Catholic, and other faiths, yet we have created an understanding family. There’s a lot of laughter and hugging; there’s a lot of joking and kindness going on. Folks would never believe that this is the room where the depressed people meet. They would say, “Wait a minute! Isn’t that supposed to be depressed people down there?” The janitorial service at one of the buildings where we were meeting actually asked that question.

There are two things that all of us want to believe and feel: that at least one other person on the planet loves us just like we are. The second thing that we need, not just something we want, but something we need is to feel that someone understands us, gets us, just the way we are, no matter what is going on with us. These folks need that.

Yvonne: Depression many times is a result of our seeing ourselves as separate from God or separate from others and feeling the emptiness that comes from a mindset of not being understood or accepted. So, it makes sense that when people who feel rejection learn about oneness and become part of a family that cares about them, they would laugh and rejoice. It’s a natural bi-product of being loved.

Steve: Exactly, exactly. If you removed the judgment and condemnation out of Christianity and present the love that Jesus said would identify them (they’ll know you by your love for one another) we’d be looking at a revolution.

Yvonne: I know we would. That is the soul reunion or coming back to God we are experiencing in the ascension process. Realizing that we never were separate means accepting that we brought all this suffering on ourselves. Religions and dogmas teach and emphasize the illusion of separation.

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