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Thomas Merton made an interesting observation about southern Protestant spirituality when he noted that the glossolalia movement sprung up in southern churches about the time the Civil Rights Movement was reaching its peak. He said "the irony of it is that it seems to have been an ultimate protest against the inacceptable realities and challenges of the historical situation-a convenient resort to immediate inspiration rather than the difficult and humiliating business of hearing and obeying the Word of God in the need of one's fellow man."

Rereading this phrase caused me to reflect on an incident that occurred during a speaking engagement two years ago at a large southern Methodist church. I presented Clarence Jordan in both of the Sunday morning worship services with at least five hundred people in attendance at each event. I was surprised to hear from the pastor that some of the people did not care for the politics they heard from Jordan. What is noteworthy is that I was invited to speak by the Director of Spiritual Formation of that large congregation and this event was billed as a Spiritual Formation event.

Spiritual Formation, Faith Formation and Discipleship are hot buzz words for an increasing number of churches across denominational lines. Despite this trend, there appears to be significant resistance to hearing how spirituality plays itself out in the arenas of politics, public policy, economics and peacemaking. This has caused me to wonder if our pursuit of "spirituality" is often a means of avoiding the realities of our own historical moment by becoming more spiritual and less relevant to the challenges we face as a society and as a church.

Dallas Lee notes that Clarence Jordan himself observed what he saw as a kind of docetism in the church's tendency to dodge responsibility in human affairs by "substituting worship for obedience, liturgy for service, contemplation for action, programs for people, piety for compassion and a futuristice orientation for the reality of the present."