The Heart of the Matter."
Stephanie Paulsell of Harvard Divinity School is aware of the crisis and has made a compelling argument that churches have the potential of helping to relieve it. Here is a taste of her recent piece in the Christian Century:
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ report urges us to reclaim
our human inheritance by supporting the humanities and committing to
literacy. We Christians can contribute to this project—after all,
reading, critical thinking and creativity are part of our Christian
inheritance. As we read, we can make sure that we listen for a verse
that strikes a deep chord, collect the sentences that sparkle, and hold
them up to each other’s light, letting each illuminate the other.
In To the Lighthouse,
Virginia Woolf describes the gift of the artist as the capacity to
“choose out the elements of things and place them together,” making of
these bits and pieces “a globed compacted thing, over which thought
lingers and love plays.” This is our work as Christians too.
Congregations do this when they gather for worship. Preachers do it when
they write a sermon. Is this practice shareable across the boundaries
of religion? How might we contribute to the strengthening of these
humanistic practices both in our faith communities and beyond?
Paulsell is absolutely correct. Spiritual disciplines have a deeply humanistic dimension to them. I would even go a step further. As I argue in my forthcoming (September) Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past, churches can be spaces for humanistic reflection on matters related to literature, history, philosophy, etc.... While I realize that the primary purpose of congregations is to promote the Kingdom of God and bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world, they can also, secondarily, be spaces where Christian intellectual life can flourish.
Pastors: what are you doing to teach your congregations to worship God with their minds?