Community as Alternative Consciousness
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
If the Trinity reveals that God is relationship itself, then the goal of the spiritual journey is to discover and move toward connectedness on ever new levels. The contemplative mind enjoys union on all levels. We may begin by making little connections with other people and with nature and animals, then grow into deeper connectedness with people. Finally we can experience full connectedness as union with God. Remember, how you do anything is how you do everything. Without connectedness and communion, we don’t exist fully as our truest selves. Becoming who we really are is a matter of learning how to become more and more deeply connected. No one can possibly go to heaven alone—or it would not be heaven.
Of course, we won’t become vulnerable enough to connect unless we learn to trust over and over again. Einstein is said to have claimed this to be the most important question: “Is the universe a friendly place or not?” The spiritual experience is about trusting that when you stop holding yourself, Inherent Goodness will still uphold you. Many of us call that God, but you don’t have to. It is the trusting that is important. When you fall into such Primal Love, you realize that everything is foundationally okay. Unfortunately, this is often absent in our secular world today.
Foundational love gives us hope and allows us to trust “what is” as the jumping-off point toward working together for “what can be.” The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus shows us what’s fully possible. God will always bring yet more life and wholeness out of seeming chaos and death. In the words of Timothy Gorringe and Rosie Beckham, “Faith in the resurrection is the ground on which Christians hope for a different future, a transition to a society less destructive, more peaceful and more whole. Living in this hope grounds the Christian ethic of resistance and calls ekklesia to live as a ‘contrast community’ to society.” 
Building such communities in contrast to the surrounding society of emperor-worship was precisely Paul’s missionary strategy. Small communities of Jesus’ followers would make the message believable: Jesus is Lord (rather than Caesar is Lord); sharing abundance and living in simplicity (rather than hoarding wealth); nonviolence and suffering (rather than aligning with power). Paul was very practical. He taught that our faith must take form in a living, loving group of people. Community was everything for him.
Paul seems to think, and I agree with him, that corporate evil can only be confronted or overcome with corporate good. He knows that the love-transformed individual can do little against what he calls “the powers and the principalities.” Today we might call powers and principalities our collective cultural moods or mass consciousness or institutions considered “too big to fail.” We are mostly oblivious to this because we take all these things as normative and absolutely needed. It is the “absolutely” that gets us into our blindness and idolatry. Because we share in this collective evil, it doesn’t look like evil. For instance, I’ve never once heard a sermon about the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods,” because in our culture that’s the only game in town. It is called capitalism.
The individual is largely helpless and harmless standing against the system. Paul believes cultural blind spots can only be overcome by a group of people affirming and supporting one another in an alternative consciousness. Thankfully, we’re seeing many people, religious and secular, from all around the world, coming together to form alternative systems for sharing resources, living simply, and imagining a sustainable future. The “Transition” initiative is one contemporary example of this. As Todd Wynward, a former intern at the CAC, writes, “A Christian discipleship community aligned with the Transition movement and following the Way of Jesus could become a beacon of resilience, spreading good news and [much needed] social and environmental justice in its community.” 
Gateway to Silence:
We are one in the Spirit.
 Timothy Gorringe and Rose Beckham, Transition Movement for Churches (Canterbury Press: 2013), 79.
 Todd Wynward, Rewilding the Way: Breaking Free to Follow an Untamed God (Herald Press: 2015), 192-193.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace (Orbis Books: 1993), 51;
Creating Christian Community (CAC: 1994), MP3 download; and
Great Themes of Paul: Life as Participation (Franciscan Media: 2002), disc 9 (CD).