Bringing Traditions Together | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Bringing Traditions Together

Dr. Beverly Lanzetta isn't afraid of life's Big Questions. The New Mexico author, ordained interfaith minister and monastic is the founder of the Desert Interfaith Church and the Interfaith Theological Seminary. She has written and edited six books on spiritual contemplation and contemporary religious thought. Lanzetta is scheduled to speak in Jackson this week at Millsaps College. I spoke with her after reading "Emerging Heart: Global Spirituality and the Sacred," which she published last year.

Tell me what a "new global spirituality" means to you.
To me, a global spirituality is about finding a common language, a way to address our human problems and our planetary problems from a spiritual perspective that is not a diminishment of our individual religions or our individual faith experiences, but is a fulfillment of them. In other words, we need to find a universal perspective that includes diversity in its whole, so that we can develop a more sacred attitude toward life.

In your book, you say that a personal sense of spirituality is often suppressed in the world of religion.
Right, and in addition to that, the collective spirituality is suppressed by the more objectified view of the world where we're looking at our universe and our planet in a materialistic dimension. And so we have suppression of personal spirituality in religions and suppression of the sacred aspect of our planet through material culture. … We stand in a place today that no human culture has before us, because we stand on the collective heritage of humanities' spiritual quest. So many people from all walks of life—science, religion and so forth—are saying that we're in a transitional period. We're in a new era between a world that's repeating and a new world that we're struggling to understand. As a world civilization, as a global civilization, we don't have as yet a unified spirit to address these questions.

All the great world religions hold peace, non-violence and love at their core. So, why do we find ourselves in this mess we're in now?

Historically, we can recognize that every religion has been developed and transmitted through a tribal environment. That tribal environment is still a part of our consciousness even though we're in a global world. So that even though every religion speaks of universality and love for all, there's an entrenched attachment to the idea of "one truth," for "my" particular tribe or historical condition. … I don't know if it's the human ego or the human condition—we have not broken out of that truly tribal sense of entitlement or desire to be exceptional or superior.

Why is it necessary to "imagine a new spirituality?"

I don't think we have adequate spiritual and intellectual tools to go forward without including a more complex view that brings together the wisdom of the world's religions, and that uses that wisdom for the betterment of the planet. … There are so many questions—environmental degradation, wars and so forth. What collective perspective can we use that is going to allow us to address these questions that actually require a sacred attitude? They're not necessarily going to be answered solely in a material way, solely in a political way, solely in an economic way. They require something deeper, something more comprehensive, and that has always referred back to an understanding of the sacred dimension of life. We need a global understanding of the sacred dimension of life that is not exclusive or turned in on itself.

At the level of "sacred" you're talking about, nothing is excluded. How do we not step into the quagmire of "that's spiritual and this is not"?

It's very challenging. How do we integrate in our beings and in our own hearts and lives, this unity that we want to see? And then, how do we take that unity and transform our world? It's hard work. But, in a sense, every change in history has been hard work. Go back to Abraham; go back to Jesus. What did they go through? What did their communities go through to bring in their new visions? I really believe that we are the recipients of a whole new way of living life. … Some people automatically go there and immediately get it. Then they have to struggle in their own beings to integrate. Some people find it very threatening and try to retrench. But I really believe in my heart that it is the way of the future.

Lanzetta speaks on "Imagining a New Global Spirituality" at Millsaps College Oct. 3 and 4, $35. Call 601-354-0767 for more information and tickets.

Interfaith Resources

• The Institute for Interfaith Dialog, Jackson, 769-251-0074
• Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference, 601-540-0949
• The D. L. Dykes, Jr. Foundation, 601-354-0767

• "Speaking of Faith" on MPB Radio Airs every Sunday morning at 9 a.m., on WMPN 91.3
• The Pluralism Project at Harvard University
• Beliefnet
• Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
• The Fetzer Institute

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