written by guest blogger, Barbara Lee
As a Christian Mystic Taoist, I seek to create and nurture interfaith Community, proclaiming what Jesus proclaimed, teaching what Jesus taught, doing our best to walk in ways Jesus walked and recognizing with deep gratitude and humility the ways in which these same proclamations and teachings and journeys are found in diverse faiths! We explore our relationship with Christ while embracing the promise that this Christ also lives within us and opens us up to see the ways in which God has revealed God’s self to diverse cultures at diverse times in diverse ways over the course of human history.
The grounding center of this community is Christian Mysticism, for it is through our own lineage of faith that we move to a place close enough to God that the distinctions we draw between our religion and others become less and less important. The mystic Christian journey leads to the direct experience of God.
Mystics have very rarely separated themselves from their historical religions. Without changing a single letter, they come to understand the meaning of these religions more deeply. The goal of Christian mysticism is to become fully permeated with God as Christ was. It is about moving from a religion about Jesus to the religion of Jesus, Jesus being the original Christian mystic.
In community we identify the 3-2-1 of God, to perceive of God in the third person, the second person and the first person. The third person perspective sees God as an other, an object. All world religions have an understanding of God in these terms. In Christianity we speak of the Creator as opposed to the Created. We talk about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity. Some of us speak in terms like Ruach or Mystery. I think a genuine gift that Christianity brings to any interfaith experience or dialogue is the understanding of God in the second person, as relational and personal. We speak of a Personal Savior, our Beloved Bridegroom, the Friend we have in Jesus, the God who meets us when we are in the depths of despair. This is a profound message to a hurting and alienated world – all the more so for its boldness in offering God’s word of mercy and grace.
While both views of God are critical to our Christian understanding, I believe that the common Christian declaration of God often stops there without embracing the first person of God, even though that understanding is part of our own tradition as exemplified in the proclamation of the Kingdom Within, Christ Consciousness, God’s indwelling and various Saints’ spiritual and mystical writings.
A few years ago I attended a local Buddhist-Christian Conversation. One group of Christians made statements that began, “As a Christian, I believe…” followed by reflections of narrow fundamentalism. Another group expressed their desire to recognize truths exist in other faiths, combined with the certainty that to express such a belief would be to make one’s self an outcast and an outsider in any Christian church. Too often they sadly concluded that they would have to abandon Christianity in order to live out their new understanding of God in the world, even as it was Christ who opened them up to see those truths.
Today’s mystics grasp the reality behind religious symbols and are drawn to acknowledging the symbols of other systems. Universal justice is sought beyond one’s own system. And in the “big picture” the walls between culture/tradition and people come down. Ideally suited for mysticism, this is an overwhelming, ecstatic experience in which one is radically opened to possibility and wonder.
Barbara Lee is an accomplished author, public speaker, trainer and group facilitator who has committed her vocational journey to the non-profit sector where she is an advocate for diverse populations, particularly the marginalized and voiceless in our society. Barbara is an ordained minister who served the interfaith community of Extended Grace for nine years. She lives in Grand Haven, Michigan.