Thursday, 5 February 2009

Spirituality, resistance and leadership

I'm in Rome for the last but one session of the management course run by the Craighead Institute which I've been following for the past 18 months.
One of the areas we will be looking at over the next three days is "resistance" and I brought with me to read in the train Dorothee Sölle's Mystik und Widerstand which goes deeply into issues of mysticism and resistance.
Depending on whether you are trying to bring about change which you see as necessary or whether you are resisting what you see as bad practice or wrong thinking will of course colour the way you think about resistance. It can be both a positive and negative force, conservative and radical, and discerning between those forces is not easy at all. For instance, do I resist change because the change doesn't serve my personal interests; because I prefer the status quo; because my power is undermined by the change or because I truly believe the change is wrong and won't bring any real benefits given the pain and upheaval of change?
It strikes me that these are also issues which the churches in the secularised west are facing as they see their traditional place in society changing and sometimes try to hold on to the temporal power and status, while claiming also to stand for religious values. It's not an easy path to tread with integrity and if we look at churches in situations of resistance in history it's easy to see that it has been a painful path, a journey upon which many of those who you thought shared your faith will not join you.
If you too are having problems picking your way through the moral minefield of Christianity in a post modern world you may find Simon Barrow's essay on the subject interesting.
Towards the end of his essay he says this:

One of the major tasks of radical Christianity ... is to break open the text again for those for whom it has become buried in ideology. [5]
In conclusion, it is important to remind ourselves that there are discernable and valuable subversive traditions within Christianity (Quakerism, Anabaptism, liberation theology, radical evangelicalism, progressive Catholicism, and so on), which revolve around from what I'd call ‘the Jesus trajectory’ - and which undermine both top-down churchianity, the Christendom settlement (the dangerous alliance of the church with power) and knock-down metaphysics.
You can't read such radical traditions as generating simple spiritual, moral, theological and political prescriptions, of course. And I wouldn't want to. It's more about cultivating a new and ethos for living, alongside and with others. Far more challenging.