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The Lamp and the Mirror
Illuminating Personal Theology
Lesson 1 Reflections 
25th-Apr-2006 02:08 pm
1. What are your own lenses and biases? What are the gifts and limitations they bring to the task of doing theology?

Ethnic/Spiritual Upbringing: Black Pentecostal. In the past that meant I did not take seriously the spirituality of anyone who did not follow the pentecostal worship style. Now that means I tend to assume the black Pentecostal worship style is empty, noisy emotion that keeps me from truly connecting with God. I connect with the Spiritual current best in stillness, though for years I tried to find it in the noise and emotional outbursts. I connected from time to time, but not consistently. Now that my worship is more contemplative and liturgical, I connect regularly.

That bias against pentecostalism (or even charismatic worship) has allowed me to truly commune with the Spirit on a level much closer to where I've always wanted to be. Now that I am in a liberal, liturgical church, I feel able to think in church and to truly absorb what God is saying to me. The flip side is that I am currently unable to relax and enjoy the more emotional side of worshiping God at this point in my life, because I associate so much negative baggage from my youth with it: the long hours wasted in church buildings instead of being out living, being forced to sing or recite scriptures while other youths sat in the back and slept, and being pressured to emote just like everyone else or risk being accused of being stubborn, just to name a few things. I'm sure God is flexible enough to truly talk to people who worship in the pentecostal/charismatic style; it's just that right now I am not flexible enough to clearly hear God that way. The noise and the ingrained pressure I feel to be like everyone else overpower God's voice.

2. What words do you use most frequently to describe the Divine, your spiritual beliefs, and your ethics? What do these words reveal about you?

I use "God" the most, even though I am having trouble separating that word from the male-only, judgmental, cold, standoffish image of God I grew up with. I have used "The Divine," but that feels more impersonal than I prefer. I have used "Amma," and still do when I call on God in private, but I am concerned about being mistaken for an Amma devotee when I use that term outside of my own head.

My spiritual beliefs/ethics are progressive/liberal Christian: definitely Christ-centered, but with the firm belief God can and does speak to people through other religious traditions. My recent experiences attending an Amma program and a Krishna Das kirtan have confirmed this belief, which I always had but did not often vocalize before I left pentecostal/evangelical Christianity. I am also contemplative/mystic: communing with God via reverent stillness/meditation and via personal experience, rather than via others' interpretations of who God is and how I should relate to "Him".

My confusion on how to refer to the Divine shows my ideas are fully in flux. The confusion isn't new, but my willingness to own and explore it is.
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