“Because the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings” – Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Someone asked me the other day if the Holy Spirit would breathe new life into a church whose members had done so many bad things. The question made me wonder if the Spirit was Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu of whatever… Probably none of the above. It made me wonder also about signs of renewal in the various religions of the world, and if the Spirit of God was stirring them.
I’ve read enough about Islam, and spoken a few times to a Sunni Imam in Dublin, to know that change is taking place within that faith. Over the past half century or more, lay organizations have emerged and social justice as a religious duty has come to the fore within the Muslim world. For example, the objective of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is to build a society of equality and justice based broadly on the principles of the Koran. This is new for Islam. And threatening for fundamentalist Islam.
A Buddhist ‘Reformation’ has been taking place, especially within Japan’s largest Buddhist denomination, Soka Gakkai. The movement, in defiance of its priesthood which excommunicated 11 million of them in 1991, has reappeared in the form of Buddhist humanism and the conviction that all life is sacred and interconnected, The Boston Research Center, a Soka Gakkai think-tank out of Harvard University, supports a range of programs that promote global sacredness and citizenship. This is new for Buddhism.
Buddhists and Hindus find it difficult to offer a list of their beliefs. Professors of world religions, like Huston Smith, have searched in vain for the Hindu equivalent of the Nicene Creed. In Asia, religion is a matter of seasonal spirituality, ethical insights, and stories handed down from previous generations.
A new “post-Western Christianity” appears to be emerging, especially in the ‘coloured’ nations of Africa, India, Latin America, and Asia. These peoples find doctrines which are heavily influenced by Greek philosophy to have little appeal. They want to follow the Jesus they find in the Gospels.
Western spiritual writers like Jean Vanier, Richard Rohr, Henri Nouwen and Ron Rolheiser offer a “postdogmatic” spirituality of faith and trust in God. And when they use the word ‘belief’ they usually mean trust and faith in the presence of Jesus rather than assent to a dogma. Pope Francis seems to be on that page also.
Judaism is undergoing analogous changes that are stemming from its Hasidic tradition. Gabriel Mayer, an influential American Jewish blogger, mixes elements of Hasidic, Asian, and Sufi spirituality which attract thousands of young Israelis who see themselves as “post-denominational”, and are in dialogue and cooperation with traditional Jews and Muslims on justice and peacemaking.
I don’t believe the Holy Spirit confines herself to the Catholic Church or the Vatican. She is ecumenical, interfaith and worldwide, and of no faith at all. God’s Holy Spirit is breathing through the various world religions today, seemingly moving the human spirit in new directions toward a worldwide common good.
People today are more interested in ethical guidelines and spiritual disciplines than in doctrines and laws. They are becoming less patriarchal, as women assume leadership positions in many religions that have barred them for millennia.
So, where is the Holy Spirit leading humankind, and the religions of the world, on this Pentecost Sunday? Toward community and the common good? Toward a spiritual and ethical globalization? Toward global awareness of justice and peace for all?
Fr. QQ 06/02/17