Where could a “spiritual” religion take us?

This past week as I was moving some books around I picked up a copy of D. Elton Trueblood’s The Essence of Spiritual Religion.

I have no idea how long I have owned the book or the last time I looked at it but the title attracted me that day as I am sure it must have when I first came across it.

Trueblood wrote the material in 1935 when he was the Acting Dean of the Chapel at Harvard University. It was reissued in a paperback edition in 1975. Perhaps it was in the mid to late 70’s that I found it. I recall that sometime before that I became acquainted with Trueblood’s books The Humor of Christ and Philosophy of Religion.

But, back to The Essence of Spiritual Religion.

As I was looking over the pages and noticing where I had placed bookmarks, I was drawn to the last chapter and want to share a bit from there. I don’t think you can count it as a spoiler, but maybe more of a “tease.” I find it very interesting where he thinks “spiritual religion” can take us.

“Spiritual religion, rightly conceived, will never be an escape from life into a private Holy of Holies where the individual is selfishly concerned with his own spiritual state. The person who accepts the notion of the sacrament of common life will, indeed, have his Holy of Holies to which he retires, but his experience there will make him more sensitive to human wrongs rather than lull him into a mood of apathetic resignation. He finds on every hand outright denials of human brotherhood and his deep conviction concerning the spiritual nature of man as man makes it impossible for him to share in these denials.” (p 142)

“What does spiritual religion have to do with class distinction? Spiritual religion sees it as completely evil because it hinders and dwarfs the growth of ‘that of God in every man.’” (p. 152)

“All this shows why it is that spiritual religion is bound to affect our economic and social order. We begin with our reverence for the divine capacities in human life, we go on to see that we must break down all barriers which hinder the nourishment of the Seed [of God], and we are thus forced to the conclusion that some economic and social systems are necessarily bad, for they involve the very barriers to fulfillment which must be broken down. Any system which makes the lives of some men mere pawns for the ambitions of others is absolutely and terribly evil and must eventually be destroyed.” (p. 154)

From chaplain to professor of philosophy to social critic to prophet.

How might Trueblood’s path (and his understanding of spiritual religion) encourage how we practice our spirituality?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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