I am beginning to wonder, if you were to ask the average “Christian” what their “Christian Practice” is, whether or not they would have any idea what you were asking them. Mind you, I don’t blame these good and faithful Christians for not knowing, I blame the Church for not making a serious effort to teach them for the last few centuries.
You see, whenever I hear a Christian holding forth from their perspective as a Christian I don’t hear very much that could qualify as spiritual or religious practice. I do hear a lot of politics. Now, it’s very true that Jesus was a very political guy, but there is a huge difference between being a political person and arguing partisan politics. I also hear a lot of judging going around that isn’t really based in any kind of religious practice but rather is based in fear and prejudice.
Near as I can tell, when it comes right down to it what passes for Christian practice nowadays amounts to going to church on Sunday. Since going to church is largely a spectator sport, it really doesn’t constitute a practice any more than singing along with the songs on the radio does. Those seeking to get more involved may participate in a Bible study. The truth is that I have met plenty of people who are faithful Bible study attendees who don’t seem to have the first idea of what’s going on in the New Testament. I don’t blame them, I blame the leader of the Bible study and the mainline Church’s fascination with studying the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament Epistles to the exclusion of all else. I guess those darn Gospels just take too long to plow through for the religious ed folk and the clergy. Truth is, in Bible study even though one gets to at least say a few words now and again it’s pretty much a spectator sport.
What about prayer? Prayer is certainly a spiritual practice. Beyond worship as prayer and intercessory prayer (which most churches incorporate into their worship), prayer isn’t really taught in churches. Oh, they may teach something they call “devotions” wherein you read from a book of devotions every day but, gee whiz, that sounds an awful lot like a spectator sport too. Add to it the truth that whoever is producing the worship materials, Bible study materials, and devotional materials determines what your practice will contain and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of opportunity for new insights, growth and transformation.
I suspect that the dead, musty air that passes for Christian practice accounts for the average Christian’s belief that spiritual practice amounts to judging and criticizing others, trying to manipulate the world into compliance with a particular agenda, and getting into arguments about what they imagine God wants – never mind that their practice doesn’t include any time listening to what God might be trying to communicate. In fact, most Christian practice is an oxymoron in that it is neither spiritual practice nor Christian.
At one point in my life I was happy with the Sacramental life as the totality of my Christian practice. There is at least a measure of reflection inherent in that practice, but one can choose to live the Sacramental life and never have contact with another human being, much less care about their life – and caring about one another is the point of the spiritual journey. Unfortunately, it’s awfully hard to care about someone while judging them, which leaves many Christians in the dark.