The spring/summer issue of the Harvard Divinity School Bulletin features essays on ecological spiritualities. Dan MacKanan, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Senior Lecturer in Divinity, provides the introduction, “Making a Space of ‘Alternative Spiritualites’,” saying in part:
“When the Divinity School committed to offering a fully multireligious master of divinity curriculum about 20 years ago, we expected to see an increasing number of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu students. That has certainly been the case. But we have also been blessed by a steadily growing number of pagans, animists, readers of the Urantia Book or a Course in Miracles, practitioners of entheogenic or queer or African diasporic spiritualities, seekers, and people who affiliate with two, three, or more traditions. This diversity … invites us to reimagine both religion and the practice of ministry.”
In other words, religion in American has expanded beyond Christianity, and beyond those “world religions.” I’m putting “world religions” in scare quotes because these were the religious traditions that were judged to be the equal of Christianity, the religious tradition which until recently was assumed by many Western scholars to be the paradigm of all religion.
So McKanan and some others at Harvard Divinity School formed the Program for the Evolution of Spirituality to explore how religion was changing (or maybe to find out how our perception of religion has expanded beyond considering Christianity as the paradigm of all religion). I think I’d want to gently critique the name of this program for using the word “evolution” in the title. That’s not a value-free word, and comes freighted with all kinds of assumptions that may not be intended by the people who formed the program. In spite of that, the Program for the Evolution of Spirituality appears to be A Good Thing; I’ll be following their future work with interest.
Their first conference, held in 2022, was on ecological spiritualities. And the bulk of the spring/summer issue of the Harvard Divinity School Bulletin is devoted to essays that apparently grew out of that conference. I’ll have more to say about some of those essays in later posts….