Category Archives: Big-Picture Considerations

Big Picture Consideration #5

I have spent some time wrestling with how best to share the stuff I am writing about today.

In true contemplative fashion, I am doing my best to hold two equally important (and in some ways contradictory) realities.

The first reality is that The Faith-ing Project is a labor of love for me.  I am passionate about sharing these practices with anybody and everybody, regardless of their ability to financially support this endeavor.

The second reality is that there are a handful of direct expenses involved with this.  They include the expenses of keeping this website ad-free and able to host things like audio files.  I also have a hope of upgrading some of the equipment being used here.  And the time I am investing is no small thing.  It would be nice to be free of the temptation of taking up a side hustle or second job.  Having to do that would not be good for the development of materials here.

Since The Faith-ing Project began, I have utilized Patreon to give people an opportunity to make a small monthly contribution.  In exchange for $3.00 a month, patrons receive access to a growing library of audio files which present the spiritual exercises.

If you would rather make a 1-time contribution through paypal, I can be reached at otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com

If you are in a position to support this important work with a small monthly gift or a 1-time payment, I am deeply thankful to you.  If The Faith-ing Project’s resources and email campaigns have been helpful to you, or if you share my conviction that these practices are desperately needed by the world, this financial assistance is one way to express your solidarity with me.

If you are not equipped financially to support what we are doing at this time, I would not want you to hold on to any kind of guilt about this.  I (generally) believe in the power of prayer and would ask for your prayers regardless of your financial situation.  Offering feedback and concrete suggestions on what you see here is another way to support this project.  (I feel particularly out of my element in the visual and technological side of all this)

Regardless of whether you can support The Faith-ing Project in any specific way, I am thankful for your presence here and wish you peace on the journey.

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, to join our next email campaign, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
  • Access exclusive content and help The Faithing Project continue to deliver this conetent to a world in need: become a Patron.
  • follow @faithingproject on twitter.

 

Big Picture Consideration #5: Inclusion, not Appropriation

A phrase that has landed on lots of our radars over the past couple years is “Cultural Appropriation.”

My understanding of why this is a bad thing is evolving.  It took me a while to see how it is a problem at all.  As time has gone by, I still need somebody to go slow and help me with some of the details.

The problem of cultural appropriation plays out in a few specific ways for me here, at the Faith-ing Project.  The most obvious one is my use of practices from traditions that I do not consider my own.  It is inevitable that I am going to oversimplify, misrepresent, and gloss over important aspects of all the practices that I present here, especially the ones that don’t come from the tradition I identify as my own.

I have considered whether I should be sharing them at all.  After lengthy consideration, I have decided that it is worth it, despite the risk.  There are a few reasons for deciding I should include Buddhist, Jewish, and (soon) Islamic practices here.

#1) Part of the mystic’s journey is to recognize the thing that all the major world religion’s have in common.  This is not saying they are all identical, or that they all take us to the same “place.”  But it is important to recognize their commonality.  And for me, that begins with the spiritual practices.

#2) My hope is that your time here is the launch pad for your spiritual practice, not the end-game for it.  As you dive deeper into a practice or belief system, I am hopeful that any errors you picked up here will get corrected.

#3) The real power of the internet is the possibility for interactions.  I truly, deeply, and sincerely hope that if I have misrepresented something that you will help me out.   There is a fine line here, of course.  There are certain things which are simple disagreements and can’t be authoritatively decided in this lifetime.  I don’t mind you sharing these sorts of things if you would like.  But what I am more passionate about is the places where I am demonstrably, objectively wrong about what a certain group practices or believes.    Please hear this invitation: if I got something wrong, please feel free to use the comment section of the posts, the contact button up top, or to email me at otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com

 

Big Picture Consideration #4: Beyond Words

One of the most important people in my life regularly undergoes a procedure that has the unfortunate side effect of really messing up certain parts of her brain chemistry.    One of the main areas impacted is the language part of the brain.

For a good week or two, she is very limited both in understanding and speaking.  Loving and supporting her has been a learning experience for me.  (To be clear: I have the easy part of the deal.)

I am a very word-oriented person.  It is one of my main ways of relating and of spending time with someone.  Recently, I was thinking about this learning process.  And realizing it mirrors the changes in my relationship with God.

A bunch of years ago, my main connection with God was through talking.  And sometimes listening.  So many of my practices now wordless.  I have developed this whole new list of ways to spend time with God.  It’s not different than the re-learning I have had to do with this special person: finding new ways to be together.

One of the best things I am learning is that words only get us so far.  In some ways, the spiritual activities were a little more chosen.  But the reality is that the new things I am learning to do, those not reliant on words, are some of my favorite things to do.

Consideration 3: What’s in a Name?

Names are important and powerful things.

Even in our everyday life, there is a weird thing that we bump into, when describing a person who is known by a different name or title to lots of different people.  For example, at a family gathering, a single person might be known simply by her first name to half the people present; she might be called ‘Auntie’ to some, and ‘mom’ to others.

When we tell a story about this person, we are faced with a number of equally unsatisfying choices.  We can choose one, and assume that everbody knows who we are talking about.  We can try to link them all together and create an awkward, hyphenated name-title that sounds only a bit familiar to everybody.  Or we can allude to her with vague words, pronouns mostly, that makes the whole thing seem vague, as if we don’t know who we specifically are referring to.

In contexts like The Faith-ing Project, there is a similiar problem.  There are many names for the object of our spiritual practices.  It might turn out that there are more fundamental differences between these various names than there are between the single person who is known as sister, aunt, or cousin.  Despite the idea that there might be more fundamental differences, there is some use in this metaphor, too.  Because the young children who call a person “Auntie” probably see a different side of the person than the adults who refer to her by her first name.  Similarly, all the people who refer to the divine by the name “God” are probably having a similiar experience.

Most of the time, I am using the term ‘God’ in these spiritual practices here.  This is the name most deeply to me.  I am not interested in convincing you that you should use that term.  If there is a name or title that connects with you, I hope that you will simply replace the word, each time you see it.  I believe that most of these exercises are relevant to most people, regardless of what word they chose to describe the highest power; I believe that there is a rich and wonderful diversity of beliefs out in the world, and I don’t think it is a viable end game to reduce all of these beautiful traditions into a single super-religion.  When it comes to spiritual exercises, though, I think there is a lot of valuable potential that most of us are disconnected from.   So my hope for you is that you will explore something a little outside your tradition, and consider whether it might inform and strengthen the tradition you are a part of.

 

Consideration #2: Personal, Impersonal, Transpersonal

Perhaps some of the broad strokes of my journey will sound a bit like yours.

The first faith comittment I made was awfully focused on the personal nature of God.  The creator of the universe has a human-ness, even a gender.

There were very good things about looking at it this way.

During the time I drifted away from Evangelical Christianity, it was easy to see the very bad things about looking at things this way.  Like many people, I call this stage my deconstruction.

This was the time I fell in love with contemplative practices.  This is the time I rediscovered meditation. Many of these practices helped me get in touch with God’s transcendence.  I suspect they were suppressed by modern Evangelical Christianity precisely for that reason: they did not fit well with this picture of God as fellow human.

This fueled my resentment.  It motivated me to develop a robust spiritual practice.  The most obvious intuitions this practice fed were intuitions about God’s otherness, God’s distance, God’s hugeness.

But it put, I hope, on a path forward truth.  I began to get reminders: God is both here and there, human an other, transcendent and immanent.

The point at which I began to trust these ideas again, that I orvercame my prejudice against these ideas, is the point at which I went from deconstruction to the early stages of reconstruction.  (I think. Maybe in time I will see this differently.)

My time embracing contemplative practices has prepared me for this sort of non-dualistic, both/and thinking.   A simple way to think about is perhaps this: in Evangelical Christianity I proclaimed my belief in a personal God.  During my deconstruction I interacted with I God I saw as impersonal. Now, I think I would say that God is transpersonal.

And so, this corner of the Faith-ing Project is devoted to practices that some of us might do well to refresh ourselves in.  This area includes prompts for word-based prayers and journaling, lenses to read scripture through, and other traditions to consider.  To explore these traditions, click here.

 

Consideration #1: What’s the End Game, Here, Anyway?

I would hope that The Faith-ing Project is something that helps you…  For a while.

However, I want to tell you that I worry a little bit.  I don’t think, across a pattern of years and decades, that rotating across a huge number of spiritual practices is a particularly wise idea.  My best understanding is that significant spiritual growth occurs when we settle down and submit ourselves to a small number of practices.  Doing the same thing, day and in day out, is difficult.  And I think that is part of the point.  The idea of submission and discipline have been horrifically abused.  But I believe that they are good things.

Look at it this way:  I believe that eventually settling down, into a monogamous relationship is a good thing for many people.  I believe there are lessons we learn in that act of submission to another person, in the discipline it takes to stay comitted, that we can’t learn anywhere else.

However, if it’s going to work, it’s wise to choose a partner carefully.  One way to choose a partner is to date lots of people and see what works.  When you have something good, commit to that!

So consider The faith-ing Project like a dating website for your soul.  Play the field for a while.  Try out an exclusive relationship, when that feels right.  If it doesn’t work out with your chosen practices, we will be here, waiting with some more.

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You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, to join our next email campaign, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
  • Access exclusive content and help The Faithing Project continue to deliver this conetent to a world in need: become a Patron.
  • follow @faithingproject on twitter.