A New Story is Evolving


The Death and Resurrection of God Cover

Photo from woodlakebooks.com

by Don Murray

“The moving finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on.” Though penned over 150 years ago, these words from The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam could be the theme for the fast-moving, radically changing age in which we live.

As religions lose their hold on the contemporary psyche, a New Story is evolving. It is The Universe Story. It is the great unifying story. All religions and all people come under its umbrella. Whatever our race, colour, or creed, we all belong to the Universe. Whatever else you are, you are “a child of the Universe.”

With the exponential increase in our awareness of the vastness and wonder of the universe, the numinous quality of the age-old fascination and awe at all those pinpoints of light in the night sky is re-emerging in scientific dress. As Michael Dowd said in a recent United Church Observer interview, “we are in the early stages of what historians will one day look back on and say is religion’s evidential reformation” – a spirituality based on scientific evidence. It is a giant step forward in human knowledge and awareness.

We have stepped out of the box of any particular religion seen as a self-contained revelation of truth and salvation. Now we are free to value our traditions as sources of wisdom that can broaden, enrich, and help fulfill our lives. We are now more aware, more conscious, more objective to all the knowledge and wisdom that is available to us. To use the imagery of the astrological ages of Pisces and Aquarius, we have risen from being submerged in the waters of consciousness to now being carriers of that water.

Our present age is not a bolt from the blue; it has evolved out of all that has gone before.

As one born into the Christian tradition, I can trace its evolution in the course of my lifetime. Christianity has always been evolving, as a look into the story from Jesus’ time until now will indicate. However, the pace seems to have quickened in the last century or so.

In my young days, we were still singing about other cultures and religions as “lesser breeds without the law” – an arrogance that now seems beyond belief.

That was in the 1940s. I can summarize the evolving story by decades. In the 1950s, the church was booming. New churches and manses were being built at the rate of one a week. We thought we had just about everything figured out. The church was society at prayers, and everything was fine. The theology of my seminary days was “neo orthodoxy” – Barth, Brunner, the Niebuhrs, Tillich, and all those guys; and they were all guys.

In the 1960s, it all fell apart. Bob Dylan wailed, “The times they are achangin,” and they certainly were. The cultural revolution of the time swept over the church. Reforms started to take place with jazzed up music, etc., but people began to leave the church in droves.

The death-of-God theology surfaced. For me it was a personal experience. Amidst my general unrest, one instance stands out. It was a Sunday morning in early December, 1962. I had just preached on “The God behind the child.” As I walked down the aisle I was thinking, in my youthful arrogance, that that should convince them. Then, before I got to the door for the usual handshake, it hit me: “the person who is not convinced is me.” When I read in William Hamilton’s The New Essence of Christianity, “the unrest of the modern world has come to rest in us,” I spent weeks, perhaps months, pacing the church aisles at every opportunity. Something deep was going on in me. Mary Jean Irion’s From the Ashes of Christianity was a great comfort. She gave clear voice to what I was thinking by spelling out in beautiful sequence the demise of Christianity during the last 500 years.

In the 1970s and 80s, unable to cope with too much truth, both the church and society went into a “circle-the-wagons” mode – still a powerful force. But underneath, the creative juices are always at work. For me, the 70s marked the discovery of Transactional Analysis as a way of expressing the values of the Christian tradition. In the 80s, it was Joseph Campbell and a renewed appreciation of the power of myth, and that all religions are mythic expressions of truth as the various traditions discovered and expressed it.

During the 80s, I was putting my thoughts together by writing For Unbelieving Christians: Rethinking the Faith in Today’s World (1987). The church, however, was much too busy coming to terms with homosexuality to pay much attention to the deeper issues that rumbled below the surface.

The 90s was the decade of a growing awareness of the work of the Jesus Seminar scholars. Marcus Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (1994) became a study book and an eye-opener for many people. We were catching glimpses of Jesus in the full power of his humanity; an important step toward bidding farewell to traditional Christianity.

Looking back 100 years, the 20th century had begun in a burst of optimism. A Christian magazine had the audacity to name itself The Christian Century – and it still flourishes under the same ironic banner. One hundred years later, the mood was more dour. An oppressive awareness prevailed. That knowledge that we were destroying the earth as a habitat for life, that corporate greed was sabotaging the world’s financial economy, and that dictators were oppressing much of the world was seeping into our consciousness.

In religious circles, it was becoming increasingly obvious that the traditional religions were losing their power to speak to people’s souls. Church membership continued to dwindle, but the search for other avenues of spiritual nourishment grew ever stronger. Yoga, and other body/mind/spirit spiritualities were taking root. Gretta Vosper’s book With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than what We Believe (2008) caught the mood of the decade for many.

I had discovered Carl Jung in the late 1980s and was wrestling with his thinking. When I read Answer to Job, I knew that if I could get my head around that it was all I needed to know. There are, of course, other things in the mix, but Einstein (the quantum universe) and Jung (the psychic universe) have laid the groundwork for how we perceive reality in the 21st century. I began looking at the Bible through Jungian eyes by writing Celebrating Eve: Christianity as a Pathway to Wholeness (2001). However, appreciation for Jung’s thinking has not yet reached critical mass. But surely it is coming.

We are now into the decade of the Universe Story. The marvels of a universe that has been evolving for 13.7 billion years are being displayed before us. The Hubble telescope has shown us the vastness, beauty and wonder of the big world; the Hadron Collider the complexity and mystery of the small world. Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry’s The Universe Story has now come alive. We are being rooted in a story that makes us all one, and that holds the promise of uniting us in our common humanity. And it can engender the will to meet the civilization-ending challenges we now face. It is fast taking on the numinous quality of a profound spirituality.

Hopefully the next decade will call us to delve more deeply into the evolution of consciousness and the reality of our spiritual nature. The profound soul-transforming work of Carl Jung may become better understood.

My recently published book, The Death and Resurrection of God: From Christianity to the New Story, is my attempt to bridge the past and the future.

The Story evolves, and our future depends upon us and all humanity evolving with it.

Don Murray is a retired United Church minister, educator, workshop facilitator, columnist, and author. He served pastorates in the Maritimes for 32 years and was Program Director and Executive Director at Tatamagouche Centre for eight years. He and his partner, Emily Kierstead, live near Truro, N.S. where he writes, enjoys fiddle playing, singing and participating in various leading-edge groups.

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Categories: Don Murray, Evolutionary Christianity, Religion, Spiritual Growth

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One Comment on “A New Story is Evolving”

  1. Marilyn MacDonald
    January 29, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    Don,
    You have done it again – put in to words many of us have thought and felt for a long time.
    Thank you! A privilege to learn from you.
    Sharing the journey,

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