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A More Soulful Religion

In his best-selling book, Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore describes the soul as that which makes us human. "Soul," he writes, "is revealed in attachment, love, and community, as well as in retreat on behalf of inner communing and intimacy?. Tradition teaches that soul is in the middle (between the material and the spiritual) holding together mind and body, ideas and life, spirituality and the world. And it remains patiently in the present, close to life as it presents itself day by day? .

"Care of the soul speaks to the longings we feel and to the symptoms that drive us crazy ? . A soulful personality is complicated, multifaceted, and shaped by both pain and pleasure, success and failure. Life lived soulfully is not without its moments of darkness and periods of foolishness. Care of the soul is not solving the puzzle of life ?it is an appreciation of the paradoxical mysteries that blend light and darkness into the grandeur of what human life and culture can be? . Care of the soul is an application of poetics to everyday life, the re-imagination of those things we think we already understand."

As I read this passage, I couldn't help wonder if our expressions of Christianity could use a bit more soulfulness. A bit more of the "inbetween-ness" and the "patiently present, closeness to life" Moore describes. Does spirituality really need to be so distant and "other"? Does it need to be as we so often experience it in contemporary worship settings: removed from the world, with eyes closed, shut off from everyone else in the room, and shut off from the world?

The Jesus we see in the Gospels seems so very soulful. Present and close to life. At ease with the dust on his sandals, between his toes, embedded in his clothes. So amazingly earthy as he mixes dirt with spit and rubs it on the blind man's eyes. If soul is midway between the non-material and the material, then I guess Jesus would come by that naturally. Incarnation is, after all, the ultimate meeting of the two.

As I muse about the Church in this era and how those outside its doors seem to be craving a dustier God, I wonder how long we can keep offering the distant, sanitized, unreachable Jesus. The Jesus sanitized and removed by moralism, finger-pointing politics and big-top shows. I suppose it's easier and safer to offer this floating, disconnected version of God. If we offered the connected, dirt-stained Jesus, we might have to follow suit. We might actually have to stay close, be present, and meet people where they are. Soulfully. Entering the mess and embracing people in the midst of darkness and light, mingled.

December07, 2007 at 11:49 AM

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