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Contextual Antecedents of Spiritual Mutism March 18, 2006

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

Since I will be entering grad school in a few months, I need to practice creating academic sounding titles. This is my first effort.

The meaning of the title has to do with exploring those things which contribute to an individual’s or community’s inability to create and initiate emotional expressions.

Spiritul Mutism – A spiritual mute is someone who is a spiritual person, has spiritual depth, and contains within them spiritual meaning. This person, however, is extremely or perhaps even completely limited in their repertoire of expressing that spiritual depth and meaning.

I contend that much of American Christianity is spiritually mute. This may come as a surprise with all the exposire faith gets inthe media these days. However, much of what I see is agenda-driven, denominational exaltation, or politcal pandering. Many American Christans limit their spiritual expression to two things:

1. Chruch attendance
2. Parroted statements proting their denomination or their political party.

If that is all there is, then that person is spiritually mute.

Contextual Antecedents – These are the forces at work which move to silence the spiritual voice in a person or communtiy. I will briefly explor two of these: media culture and church culture.

Media Culture – American have so much media available to them for so cheap that becoming a passive consumer is nearly irresistible. Media and technology are terrific, but the seduction is powerful. Technology is good whe it makes our lives easier, but it is bad when it does our thinking for us. It is wrose when ot does our thinking for us and we continue to hold to the belief that we are doing our own thinking. Media and technology is never more powerful than when its influence is invisible.

Christians are finally finding ways to master technology and media rather than becoming a slave to it. This is good news, but not nearly as pervasive as it needs to be. Rather than people of faith being absobred by media and therfore becoming spiritually mute, they need to use the very same media in relevant ways to express their spirituality.

Another problem with media is that is it actually used to prmotoe spiritual mutism. The media culture has also empowered political and denomnation propaganda. Through various media, political and denominational Christians have found been able toset up strawmen and broadcasting incompatible dualisms with terific rhetorical power. When media is used this way it gives the illusion of spiritual communication, but it si the kind of communication that mutes true faith expression.

Church Culture – The Reformation brought the Bible into the hands of people. That was a good move. It has always been God’s desire for Himself and his visions and dreams to be nearere and nearer to his people.

The problem is that what people have done in response to the church structure is to outcource what implications the Bible makes on their lives. Below is a list what is being outsourced by some:

Biblical interpretation
Spiritual formation for children
Spiritual formation for teens
Leadership in the faith context
Family Ministry
Distribution of help to the poor

You know that the list could go on and on. America is all about outsourcing – getting someone else to do what I could, but I still get to take credit for the finished product. OK, that’s a real cynical perspective, but we have been trained to find a better way to do things, maximize productivity, and get the most bang for our buck. That naturally bleeds into spirituality.

So, if we outsource most of the space in our lives and the opportunities for spiritual expression, then why would we ever speak? All the expression is being done for us. We are much better at spiritual delegation than spiritual expression.

OK, it is for this reason, the epidemic of spiriutal mutism, that I like so much of what the church that is emerging is doing. Their worship fosters the freedom for multiple forms worship expression. Their emphasis on social justice provides context for expressions of faith to the poor and broken that goes deeper than colonizing and converting to modenrity. Their emphasis on holistic community life that goes outside of the Sunday morning chuirch attendance model. Their emphasis on faith in the home is crucial and maybe their best feature.

No wonder seminaries are fuilling up while pulpits ares being abandoned. People are resisting their spiritual mutism they are being instiuttionalized into. No wonder why the nuber of unchurched, but fully committed Christians spiking. They aren’t going to be silenced by the sublted and nuanced silencing of their institutions any longer.


1. Paul - March 18, 2006

I believe and therefore I speak. What is wrong with this picture?

2. Angie - March 20, 2006

Very academic title. So much so that I almost didn’t read the post!

But I’m glad I did. I’ve seen spiritual mutism, but didn’t know what to call it. I see it in people and preachers inviting me to their church who can talk it up for hours without getting into the subject of personal relationship with God. I see it in stiff perpendicular bodies and expressionless faces that sing “Oh, How Beautiful Heaven Must Be…” More and more I’m thinking that this is a product of all you’re talking about.

I am a nomadic Christian at present (going to different churches but no church home, yet no problem finding spiritual fulfillment & community w/o church). I don’t want to abandon church as institution totally… although it’s hard to find good reasons to hang on to it. But I see the only remedy to that being STRONG LEADERSHIP that facilitates and guides and provides a place (as a springboard) for us to live out our faith in the way we are able to express it. Am I emergent? I don’t know what I am, but it feels very unsettling.

3. Bek - March 20, 2006

very interesting post. yes, i’m finding that often programs are fostered, but personal spirituality is not. but i didn’t know that, until i had an experience (and am still having one) in which i understood what spirituality was. if we don’t know any different, how can we change? and if the people who are changing are rejected, then what about the rest – how will they ever get it? b/c plently of people are stuck in “church” and not God, and will stay there for life if they never see anything else. that woulda been me…..if not for the grace of Jesus Christ…….

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