Progressive Revival

From Timothy Shriver over at OnFaith 

When Barack Obama takes the oath of office on January 20, he’ll not only become Commander in Chief. He’ll also become the first ever Pastor in Chief.

We’ve never had a Pastor in Chief, but that’s because we’ve never had a faith moment like this before. Spiritual hunger is everywhere. The fastest growing religious group in America is “spiritual but not religious,” as people from all faith backgrounds strike out on their own in search of ultimate meaning. Spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra draw huge crowds and write multiple bestsellers. The megachurches are exploding. The internet offers millions of searchers new ways to find prayers, inspirational readings and rituals. Even The Washington Post has joined with its own entry, On Faith.

With a growing spiritual hunger also comes a need for a community of support and belonging. That’s where President-elect Obama comes in. He already captured the sense of the times by making his campaign about faith and purpose, resisting the politicized debates about the teaching of evolution or the role of prayer in schools. In their place, Obama spoke of issues like overcoming fear of difference and finding common ground in the search for unity. 

This is a big shift. For the longest time, the big faith question has been how to deal with the battle between faith and science. Over the last century, as it became increasingly clear that science offered the best explanations for the way the world works, religious believers decided to go on the attack. The battle over evolution theory is the best example of creed pitted against credibility. People of faith spent decades trying to argue for the accuracy of the Bible against the scientific consensus of the entire world. And that argument spilled over into politics, making for little progress and a lot of division.

Those are losing battles in an increasingly irrelevant debate. Times are different, because now we’re living at the dawn of a spiritual age. The great thinkers of the last several hundred years argued that we must free our thinking minds from our believing minds. But in today’s world, we’ve realized that our thinking minds aren’t enough–that no matter how clever or advanced or rational we may be in our heads, we need our hearts too. The scientist-theologian Blaise Pascal was among the first to anticipate the emergence of a post-rational faith when he wrote that “the heart has reasons that reason doesn’t know.”

The reasons of the heart form the core of the fastest growing church of today–the church of the heart. And that’s the church that has Barack Obama as its Pastor in Chief. Better than others, he understood that Americans are hungry for ways to connect the longings of their hearts with a larger purpose. He spoke of unity and hope not as platitudes but as ways to live. He awakened believers and non believers alike to the hope within each of them. He led a spiritual surge.  read entire post…

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