When I moved to East Tennessee from “up North” in 1988, I expected an adjustment period—and was not disappointed. Soon after, a fellow Yankee ex-pat installed me into her “Culture Shock Hall of Fame” for pointing at a tub of lumpy whitish stuff at a breakfast buffet and asking incredulously, “Is that ... yogurt?” To me, gravy was a thin, dark brown liquid poured over turkey. I’d never seen the pork-sausage concoction Southerners generously spoon over their melt-in-your-mouth biscuits.
I should have remembered this “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore” lesson when I began choosing a church. After all, this is the buckle of the Bible Belt. I innocently attended one church’s visitor’s day, welcomed by genuinely friendly faces. Then, during the sermon, the minister got so frenzied he literally pounded the pulpit, loudly condemning sinners who were “going to hell!” I thought he was performing some sort of Bible-thumping-pastor parody and started giggling. I soon realized the delivery was not deliberately comedic.
Imagine, then, my delighted surprise when I finally found my way to a Unity service, where the minister mentioned “Mother-Father God” and the “indwelling divine.” I was more than hooked. I was home.
That’s how I imagine many people must react when first hearing the ideas of Creation Spirituality taught by Matthew Fox (the subject of this issue’s “Listening in With ...”). Fox started his career as a Catholic priest, articulating what he’d learned from a French theologian in a distinguished Catholic college in Paris. Creation Spirituality (not to be confused with creationism, the theory battling evolution) ignores the church doctrine that we are all born with original sin and favors the idea that we are all born as original blessings, each possessing innate divinity.
As Fox explained in his 1991 book, Creation Spirituality, these teachings form both a tradition and a movement, “an amazing gathering place, a kind of watering hole for persons whose passion has been touched by the issues of our day—ecologists, ecumenists, artists, native peoples, justice activists, feminists, male liberationists, gay and lesbian peoples, animal liberationists, scientists seeking to reconnect science and wisdom, people of prophetic faith traditions— all these find in the Creation Spirituality movement a common language and a common ground on which to stand.”
While scholars believe the genesis of these ideas was the tradition of the historical Jesus (also favored by Christian mystics), Fox’s work didn’t sit well with Cardinal Ratzinger, who booted him. A dozen years later, when the cardinal became Pope Benedict XVI, Fox traveled to Martin Luther’s church in Germany to nail 95 contemporary theses to the door (echoing Luther’s famous 1517 action), calling for a new Reformation.
Now that’s an act of pounding I can appreciate.
Katy Koontz, Editor