The Prospects For A Radical Spirituality

For many people today the quest for spirituality must take place outside the framework of institutional Christianity. Since the counter-culture of the late 1960s, there has been a marked shift away from the 'mainstream' churches into a variety of new religious movements (including new churches) while for many the spiritual landscape is increasingly idiosyncratic and syncretistic. The women's movement, therapy groups, new age, movements for peace and ecological renewal, are among many areas within which people are trying to shape a new spiritual consciousness in which the polarities of individual and social, active and passive, are transcended.

A spirituality of human liberation cannot be built by lonely militants in isolation from the common people. It is a movement which can only be built on solidarity and comradeship. It calls for the creation of what Alasdair Maclntyre has called networks of small groups of friends, local forms of community within which the virtues and the vision of a human future can be sustained. Maclntyre even invokes a new St benedict as a symbol of the future (Maclntyre 1981:244-5). Yet, as Sebastian Moore has said: 'Unlike the birth of contemplative prayer in the medieval monastery, its birth today will be political, and generate a holy rage against the suicidal policies of our time' (Moore 1986:53). So a spirituality of liberation must be characterized by solidarity. For the work of liberation is corporate work, not private enterprise. Those involved in this work are called into comradeship and communion. They will need a common spirituality to nurture and strengthen them. A central feature of such a spirituality will be the creation and strengthening of these networks of friends and pilgrims in truth and love, networks of people who guide and help one another.

A spirituality of human liberation is bound to take seriously the fact that, while there is no possibility of a return to a medieval-type sacral unity, there is today a desperate need for a sense of community and common life, and for a sense of the holy. Much of our current distress is related to the breakdown of these realities: its resolution will involve their renewal. A spirituality of liberation therefore must be marked by discontent and yearning, sanctified unease combined with joyful longing. It is this seed which contains the hope of the future.

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