Book of the Month
A reflection on The Rebirthing of God with John Philip Newell – Ghost Ranch – July 2014
Listening to John Philip Newell describe his new book The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings was stimulating, hopeful, humorous, and most of all, challenging. He told us, with great urgency, that Christianity must change or die. He is not the first to say this, but it is never easy to hear. How are we to change? Is there enough time left for the church? For the planet?
John Philip emphasizes that Christianity, among the world’s great traditions, has so much to offer toward healing and wholeness, if we are able to let go of narrow dogmatism, useless and warring arguments, and the lifelessness and lack of courageous leadership which characterizes so much of the church today across all denominations.
He says, “Too often in the past our approach to truth has been to assume that we have it and others do not…we are being invited instead into a new humility, to serve the holy wisdom that is already stirring in the hearts of people everywhere, the growing awareness of earth’s interrelatedness and sacredness. An essential feature of rebirthing…will be to remember that the well of truth is not ours. It is deep within the earth and deep within the heart of humanity. Our role is to be a servant at that well.”
As Jesus said, we must “be born anew.” And in so doing, we are to reconnect: to the earth, to other wisdom traditions, to the unconscious, to compassion. to the light, to the journey, to spiritual practice, to the way of non-violence, and to love.
In the chapter on reconnecting with spiritual practice, John Philip affectionately describes Casa del Sol, focusing on the “fourth side” of the courtyard, the part that is open. “For me it is an image of how true spiritual practice opens into relationship with all things. It speaks of the new monasticism to which we are being called, not closed in or cut off from the earth and the struggles of the world, but open both to the glory and the brokenness that are in all things.”
Some of you know John Philip as teacher, leader, and beloved friend. His dry wit along with his consummate study of such great teachers as John Scotus Eriugena,
Aung San Suu Kyi, Gandhi, Tiehard de Chardin, Simone Weil, and others, make his presentations both enjoyable and broadening. Spending a week at Ghost Ranch with him and Ali renewed Robert and me. We left wanting to do and be persons who might help to bring about the crucial “rebirthing” we need in our world.
“Launching” the Book Launch on a very warm and mosquito-filled afternoon at Agape Center was Marissa Danney, the summer chaplain for the Ranch. Her dynamic, yet humble, presentation reminded us of the process involved in giving birth. Can Christianity and Christians be re-born? Not without patience, not without pain, not without support. And, like any newborn, the outcome will be worth it and celebrated with little remembrance of how hard it was to get there. Because this new birth could mean peace; it could mean the survival and resurrection of this planet and all life upon it; it could mean more creativity and less mean spiritedness; it could mean deep listening for God within each of us; it could mean cooperation instead of competition; it could mean compassion and the way of non-violence. Philip often speaks of “things that have never happened before”. We don’t know what the rebirth will bring–what it will look like, how it will develop, how difficult it may be, how much it may demand of each of us. I think we can be pretty confident, however, of WHO it will look like. It will look like the GOD of LOVE.
–A Review by Carol Ingells, Casa del Sol Companion