Thursday, July 28, 2011
Divine Experience as a Growing Phenomenon?
Perhaps where I live, and work (on the North Shore of Boston spending most of my time in Salem, MA) as well as what I do (pastor a church in Witchcity); this influences my experiences with other people over much. In 25 years of pastoring on both coasts of the United States, spending a great deal of time with people from many spiritual traditions and world-views, and traveling with some frequency to the UK, I have seen a increase of what appear to be other-worldly experiences in the lives of the people I know.
This circle of friends includes skeptics, Muslims, Pagans, Christians of conservative and liberal traditions, people of eclectic 'pick and choose' faith systems, Americans, Welsh, English, Native Americans, people from the Middle East and the Far East, politically conservative, politically liberal, socialists, capitalists, anarchists, artists, politicians, scientists, drunkards, drug addicts, sexually promiscuous, gay, straight, teetotalers, soccer moms, traditional "nuclear' families, soldiers, social justice activists, married, divorced, single, those who attend church, and many who feel betrayed by the church.
Strangely, in this wild mix of friends and acquaintances, it is almost in every circle that people are experiencing these "divine interactions" (if that is what we want to call them).
Glenn who has been with The Gathering a couple years now tells a story about sitting on the beach in Antigua at sunrise. Suddenly, a blinding light rose up not from the horizon, but from within him. He lost all sense of time - whether it was a second or a minute he didn't know, but in that flash a sense his own sinfulness followed by the great forgiveness of God were made evident to him.
Glenn was not a follower of Jesus at the time. He is today, and Glenn loves to study the Bible. This phenomenon was his transition to living a life in the spiritual pursuit of Christ.
Phenomenon like this dot the landscape of human experience. Some people like Glenn know what to do with their experiences. Others have these experiences and are confused by them, or are uncertain of their meaning. Others still choose to attribute no meaning to them, but merely chalk them up as a moment of touching the divine.
My limited experience with people from a fairly wide spectrum of religious, ethnic and lifestyle backgrounds leads me to believe that many people from many world-views are currently experiencing spiritual phenomenon, and they are not all sure how to interpret their experiences. This may not be happening more than at any other time in history, and I certainly have no evidence to support such a statement, but I would surmise it could be simply by the fact that the world's population is larger than any previous time.
I think the experience of these phenomenon has ramifications for Christianity, and I will follow this post up with some of those thoughts.
What do you think?