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A Call to Religious Futurists
by Dr. Richard S. Kirby, Aug 3, 2007
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We have now celebrated 20+ years in a rather specific field of religious futures as an arena of community, of spiritual practice, of shared research....

In the last seven years, I have experimented with Rabbi Moshe Dror in the creation of a Joint Chaplaincy service to the World Future Society (WFS) as well as to the World Network of Religious Futurists (WNRF). I report to you, as I said in my year 2005 essay on the first 25 years of religious futures, that I believe we are just beginning to learn this chaplaincy process. I now foresee the next seven years of building on what we have learned so far about how to serve, to inspire, to bring healing and courage and faith and genius, to all the members, past present and future, of WFS.

The chaplaincy program is easy to understand, and to misunderstand - but it is more than performing wedding ceremonies, baptizing babies born during the assembly and burying the dead. It is more than holding prayer meetings in the hotel room and having a chaplain's station in the center of our WFS floor on the Hilton.

One way we think about chaplaincy is in terms of the three 'P's - pastoral, priestly, and prophetic. These are three religious functions that have evolved during the thousands of years since the so-called axial period when the Hebrew prophets, Lao-Tzu, Confucius and Gautama Buddha flourished.

The pastoral or shepherding function is easiest to understand as it means looking after people - evidently a caring, nursing, function; but it contains the practice of spiritual direction Chaplains pray with people, which points to the priestly or sacerdotal or mediatorial or sacramental role. Worship..... the high adventure of the human spirit, says Alfred North Whitehead of worship.

And this implies the living God's nature, which points us to the prophetic, or the idea to discern the fresh Word of God to the nation or group.

From the beginning, the WNRF has been a kind of prophetic group, and prophetic means the disclosure of the ideal, or the will of Spirit at a particular time. Dick Spady calls this Zeitgeist.

It may sound a little boring to speak of these dimensions of religion or chaplaincy, but there is a way of simplifying them while doing justice to the best of modern thought about spirituality and community, about the idea of the holy and the Quest of the Sacred.....this way of simplifying them is to say that it is all about love.

It is love or compassion that leads pastors or rabbis to be caregivers. It is love of God and people that leads the priest to enter the holy of Holies and lead the people thither here all good things dwell. It is love which causes the prophet to tell the people a more excellent way, to lead them away from disaster, to lead them into ways of truth.

It is love which leads us to form a new habit of saying to each other - "I love you".

It is love of the Absolute Ideal that lead the spiritual aspirant - whether in old ays or New Age paths - to renounce evil and do good, as Isaiah and Buddha said; it is love in the end that leads the Hindu to say "Harmlesness [Ahimsa] is the whole of my religion."

It is love of humanity that leads the best political leaders to find ways where people can live together in healthy and flourishing communities - cities of God which we now prefer to call Cities of Love.

It is love of God which leads the nun and monk to take vows, and saints to embrace radical holiness.

It is love of God which according to the spiritual teacher Narada leads us to follow the way of the Lover of God [Narada Sutras: "Now we expound the love of God."]

It is love of God which causes the emergence of the new face of marriage - not the secular but the spiritual one - the new form of dyadic love, where husband and wife are the two bases of a triangle, whose apex is God's glory. We are only at the dawn of the Spiritual Couple and their joint Path of Holiness and humility.

It is the PREVENIENT love of God which, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit- says St. Paul - causes us to respond and to turn to God with a part of ourselves which stands ready to consume the whole of us in the process called Theosis.

It is the love of the group, the congregation, the family, the World Future Society, which causes the manager or chaplain or visionary or artist to seek the HIGHEST GOOD for the organization.

Now for the practicality.

It starts with very simple arithmetic. One plus one = Three! This is what we might call God's arithmetic as we hear the Christ of St. Matthew saying, "When two or three are together in My Name, I am there with them."

We look at the task of religion, and its Eastern counterpart Yoga - apparently both words mean binding - as a form of healing of the soul and/or personality with what one writer called the unlimited spiritual resources of the cosmos.

We can see that our DUTY - the Indian word is DHARMA or spiritual calling in work and life - is to love God and each other. Easy to say. How?

We look for each meeting with another as an I-Thou and not an I-it meeting. We love the soul of all we meet. We practice deeply authentic conversation, which becomes revelation; we seek the soul and spirit of our friends, family, colleagues.

Organizationally, we have a very easy task: it is to elicit by humble questioning that is - love's listening -- the complete knowledge of the "soulscape" of our members, our colleagues, our brothers and sisters. This means to hear their ideals, their hopes, their skills and talents, their own calling. And then we gradually create teams matching talents, matching need to skill, helping the society as a whole grow.

To grow is to advance in quality. We understand chaplains as Universal Quality Enhancers. We continually ask the question - what would be the ideal futurist, what would be the ideal futurist society? This is the question that Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic, St. Benedict of Nursia et al asked in their day; here today the Academy of Jerusalem has scholars who are looking for a different kind of 'religious order'.

We emphasize the creativity of the organization by restructuring it as a second -order think-tank.

We create mission statements for the WFS, we review them quarterly, this is how we grow - by the pursuit of excellence.

And to close we at WFS are at the wavefront of SOCIAL EVOLUTION because we are part of the great New Thing, which is to inquire into, to form, the sanctification not of the so-called individual but the group. Anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, philosophy of science, ethics, political science, etc., have shown us how radically interconnected life is. Our separateness is a kind of illusion. If that is so, then the idea of an individual's separate spiritual development is at best an illusion and at worst a definite error.

So the new face of religion is the old face of religion too - it is the development of holy groups such as congregations, Sat Sangs, 12-step programs, WFS! And the WFS must now take its place among those who are defining the Mental Olympics, or more exactly, the Olympics with a Heart. Concurrently we will have the creation of the Periodic Table of the Elements of Prayer....and the construction of a Laboratory of Mathematical Inspiration as a contribution to the design of the architecture, an arts and the capital of the 'Temples of Tomorrow'.

We are slowly and methodically designing a chaplaincy service for NASA - and preparing the second seven years of the WFS chaplaincy.

"Yes, yes," you say, "this religious stuff is all very well for people with nothing better to do - don't you know I am dying here? Don't you know I am in danger of penury, destitution and bankruptcy? Don't you get it? It's all about money, man, Cash is blood."

Yes, I think I do get it. I have long, if reluctant, history of work in finances... FWG, FISIG, to the Thalers, a fictional piece. Sermons on facing bankruptcy, anyway money is a social invention and can be, should be, shall be and is being reinvented.

So our new conclave is to work with banks and bankers and Venture capitalist firms and set their bar still higher in terms of wealth creation. And a part of that is the reinvention of the concept of the Senior Citizen as a Wisdom Bearer. One of the first things these wisdom bearers will do is reinvent the world of medical finance, with a Hippocratic Oath for patients, and a Plutocratic Oath for financiers; the emergence of a new cadre of physicians devoted to the deep, deep integration of issues of medical finance with issues of medical ethics: the new field of medico-financial ethics.

Well, there is a limit to the extent to which a religionist can abandon some of the traditional categories and activities associated with ministry, pastorates, priesthoods, episcopates, denominations, religions. We heard this afternoon from architect Cindy Frewen Wuellner about urban futures research, about future models of gated communities, model villages, urban landscapes ranging from the sinister or dystopian to the mythically lovely.

But what could not be avoided was the discussion of mutual benefit, which in turn led to the questions of how sacred architecture reflects the need of cohabitants to have a commons where they can share not just problems but ideals. The older name for this was 'church,'! and so we are looking at the future of ecclesiastical architecture as a vital part of social architecture.

And this leads to the even more divinely intimate subject of the Altars of Tomorrow. We should have a WNRF competition of sorts to inspire the best altars design for the best experience of the inspiration leading us to the New Things for the community. Here is a truly great task for the WFS and particularly WNRF.

About seven years ago I wrote a pair of linked essays on the Altars of Tomorrow and the Laboratories of Spirit. Our task is to link the two and equip scientific labs with chaplains and clergy, and to teach scientific method to the priests in their altars. We will know them by their fruits.

We are healers, co-healers, experimenters in the new thing Spirit is doing in our lives. But we begin that Path of Healing not on the heights of illumination, but in the seemingly dismal valleys of recovery from habits leading us away from God. This suggests to me a deeper collaboration between WNRF and the 12 step programs such as AA, Al-Anon and its spinoffs.

And what of Christ - asking as Bonhoefffer said, Who is Christ for us today? I have at hand a quaternary of viewpoints on this subject - the evolutionary Christ in the thought of Barbara Marx Hubbard, the esoteric Christ in the thought of Carol Parrish and the experimental Christology of philosophy + theology + anthroposophy, i.e. what some called Christosophy. The fourth element is the Christ of Judaism, which is being defined for our time by Yitzhaq Hayut-Man.

But we are healers of others too - and I think here of the Animals of Tomorrow...two extremes for future animals' life - their heavens or hells -to be compared. Either they live a life of torture, or live a life being member of a home.

We are a community in search of excellence, hence our 16 awardees for the Earl Award. And soon we must develop the website for our Hall of Fame.

Finally, we need to be a comedy club, because humor and joy are closely connected, and are signs of grace. In the past we have heard great teacher say 'Enter the Path," 'Be thou a Yogi,' 'Follow Thou me," and in that spirit I offer this invitation - enter the community of religious futurists - join us, find your soul; manifest the spirit of yourself as ideal futurist, make new friends in the society of the ideal future in embracing the Absolute Ideal with its beauty, truth, wellness, authenticity, fellowship, creativity, bliss and peace....and love. Be a chaplain trainee, be an Associate of the Academy of Jerusalem: 'strive to be happy'.

Be a healer of humanity, be a saint, feast on divine wealth - come be among us now and from now on.

This address was given to the Religious Futurists' meeting, Monday July 30th 2007, at the Minneapolis Hilton.



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