I have to admit, this week's session threw me a bit for a loop. Frank's overall message was an analysis of the cultural religious milieu, a preoccupation with generic spirituality, hazy eastern/new age mysticism, a prevailing belief in the unity and "one-ness" of all things. A Christian critique of these ideas isn't really new territory these days. According to Frank, "spiritual but not religious" is one of the fastest growing religious identifications, although I still have to wonder how relevant it is to deconstruct the ideas. In my own experience, non-religious (and aggressively so) folks tend to be far more common. There was a lot of talk of a deep cultural thirst for the sacred, but it's a very subtle thing on the whole.
On a side note, the title of "spiritual but not religious" is so bizarre. As if being religious is such a terrible thing. It's one of those little oddities about the current cultural climate of the west. You can be spiritual all you want. Just don't let it actually affect your life in any way.
So what does all of this have to do with one's calling? Frank sort of lamp-shaded it, so it feels necessary to expand on it a bit. The idea is that living out our calling is not just a personal venture, but a public one. It is something we do not just out of faithfulness to God and a fulfillment of our life, but as a matter of showing the glory of God through our lives, bringing truth and healing to a world desperately in need.
Living out our calling means understanding the world we inhabit. If we're to always be prepared to give an answer for our hope, if we're to effectively reach people where they are, then we have to understand where they are. This doesn't mean we have to be ready to tear down the beliefs of others. Ravi Zacharias frequently relates an Indian proverb that there's no use offering someone a rose if you have torn off their nose. Just as Paul used the altar to the unknown god to introduce Christ, we must be able to diagnose the thirsts and longings of those around us attempting to find some form of spirituality. We aren't selling Christianity, but we are crafting the approach of the message. The difference is subtle, but important.
Most importantly, living out our calling means doing so on God's terms, not ours, and most definitely not the culture's. Understanding the influences of the broader culture around us can be very complicated at times. It's like the old idea about boiling frogs slowly; if the water starts of cool and eventually comes to a boil, the frog doesn't understand what is happening until it is too late. (I'm given to understand this isn't true, but it is still a useful symbol.) It's hard to be a dispassionate observer of cultural influences when you're steeped in them all the time. Subtle assumptions and ways of thinking can be difficult to isolate, which can have repercussions down the line. We have to be wary of these things, and keeping on our toes means not just being wise to the Christian metanarrative, but also to those of the world around us. If we're to live out our calling effectively, we have to be cognizant of such influences.
Overall, this week's chapter felt like a bit of an aside, a "B story." Still, it marks an important aspect of living the fulness of the Christian life. My deepest concerns with the idea of "calling" have yet to be fully addressed, but I look forward to seeing what Frank has to say in the coming weeks, whether he addresses those concerns or not.