New Spiritual Communities and Movements
Date: November 16, 2005 , Originally published November 10, 2001
Author: Dr. Marianne Tigges
Category: Theology reports
Content of the article
Possible Dangers and Difficulties in the New Spiritual Movements
The new spiritual renewals are not perfected entities but are constantly being adjusted. That is why it is necessary to speak, at least briefly, of their dangers (cf. supplementary M. Tigges mentioned above p. 295 ff).
Whoever has strictly and decidedly formed his daily life and activities according to the life style of new spiritual movements, must do this decisively or otherwise he will not succeed in a radical renewal of life. But any specific orientation can over a long period of time blind one for other experiences. Therefore, I think it is important that the new spiritual renewals be conscious of this danger of overemphasis and one-sidedness. Erroneous developments and aberrations must be taken into account unemotionally. Protection from that is afforded by openness towards other experiences, a world-wide exchange of experience and supplementation through contact with other spiritual movements. The knowledge from this complementariness serves as protection from elitist exaggeration, which can be a very high, but ongoing hidden danger especially of spiritual people.
Claim of Exclusivity of Specific Tendencies
It has already been pointed out that the new spiritual movements make the Church real. In this sense, they can be a "mini-church". But that is exactly why they must not isolate themselves in self-sufficiency and withdraw from the great duties of the Church. They must not consider themselves as "the" Church. Otherwise they will become a sort of sect, that is in danger of devaluating everything outside the movement and of claiming exclusivity, which can lead to arrogance and intolerance. Such communities also soon lose their affinity to the Church in a concrete sense: to the local parish, to the diocese and to the universal Church. Such a concrete standing in the entire Church is an important criteria.
Flight into the Intimacy of a Small Group
One of the dangers is also that the new spiritual renewals become a refuge, in which mainly those people gather, who with right look for security but, at the same time, flee into such an intimacy of the small group. They are shy of the frequent conflicts with the problems and challenges of modern everyday life. It is surely legitimate if some individuals, up against the excessive demands and the stress of this process of conflict, find protection in these communities for a time or even for always; however, this must not have a deep imprint upon the community as such. Spiritual communities must not become loop-holes for people, who cannot cope with these confrontations. These people deserve safe protection and encouraging closeness, but they also need support and encouragement. Otherwise, the spiritual movements and communities will turn into problematic refuges for "drop-outs", who will in the end fail to live a Christian life.
A Mixture of Human Desires for Reformation and the Impulses of the Spirit
Someone who ventures with such sensitivity and intensity into the "spirit of the times", as many of the new spiritual movements do, must especially be solidly grounded in order to be able to carry out the necessary discernment of spirits. The strong openness to the outside and the call to put into effect the message of Jesus in everyday life can also lead to activism. A still greater danger might be to mix one's own desire for reform with the impulses of the spirit. Here becomes apparent the necessity of making the doctrine and practice of a "discernment of spirits" to be again at the focal point of ecclesiastical proclamation and of ecclesiastical life. This is particularly true in view of the mission entrusted to the laity in a world, increasingly complex and ambivalent to belief (cf. Statement of the German Bishops' Conference concerning the Lineamenta for the Bishops' Synod of 1987, 3.3; cf. also the opening lecture of Bishop Karl Lehmann at the general assembly in the fall of 1997 in Fulda "Wachtman, how much longer the night?", concerning the mission of the Church in view of offenses against order in society and state, chapter I).
In order to be able to positively contend with these and other dangers and difficulties, the new spiritual movements and communities remain dependent upon a climate of goodwill and encouragement within the Church, especially on the part of those who hold office.