It was about ten years ago when I began saying publicly, “I believe that the future of the Church will come from the dialogue between our rich, historic religious traditions and the emerging spiritualities of our time.”
I was reminded of this belief once again by the most recent edition of The Pause, the weekly e-newsletter of the NPR program, On Being hosted by Krista Tippett. While I enjoy and appreciate much of the content of The Pause, it was less the content of this past edition than the source of its content that piqued my interest.
You will likely recognize the name of Walter Brueggemann, the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary, and the author of The Prophetic Imagination. If you have been around Presbyterian circles for any length of time you will likely have heard him quoted from the pulpit, studied him in classes or even heard him provide the keynote address at one of Cascades Presbytery now-defunct summer conferences. He is certainly considered one of our tradition’s theological pillars.
Krista Tippett had created a blog dedicated to reflecting on Zora Neale Hurston’s quote, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” One of her wise subjects was one whom we claim as one of our own—Walter Brueggemann—in an extended interview and podcast.
Again, for the purposes of this blog I am less interested in what Brueggemann had to say in this interview with Krista Tippett than I am in the simple fact that Ms. Tippett relied on our good friend, Brueggemann, to bring depth, wisdom and insight to her newsletter.
On Being is largely funded by a number of organizations that should give us a real sense of hope that spiritual reflection, religious values and theological dialogue are not disappearing from our culture as some seem to fear in this climate of church decline.
Just look at this list of funding partners to the program On Being:
- The Fetzer Institute—helping to build the spiritual foundation for a loving world;
- The Kalliopeia Foundation—working to create a future where universal spiritual values form the foundation of how we care for our common home;
- The Henry Luce Foundation—in support of Public Theology Reimagined, and;
- The Lilly Endowment—dedicated to its founders’ interests in religion, community development, and education.
It is clear that none of these institutions is solely dedicated to the Reformed tradition and to our particular Biblical narrative. But I find it unbelievably hopeful that there are major institutions (beyond the Church) which are dedicated to building a spiritual foundation, to creating a future of universal spiritual values, and to supporting public theology.
On Being is broadcast over 400 different public radio stations around the country reaching millions of people every week. The fact that her work and her interviews are largely supported by organizations that are dedicated to furthering the spiritual depth and theological integrity of our world speaks to how much the work and language of the Church has been adopted by institutions that claim no specific religious identity or narrative.
But this is a good sign, in fact, a great and hopeful sign.
If Krista Tippett is listening to and calling on Walter Brueggemann I have faith that the future is very bright.
Something good is happening. Theology no longer belongs only to the church. Spirituality is not just the language of the religiously faithful.
It appears that God is on the move.
Our job is to try to keep up!