On Renewing America’s Spiritual Foundation

March 5, 2017

I grew up in Asia, where rich spiritual traditions infuse everyday life, in a mixed-race family with no formal religious upbringing.

An atheist most of my life, I discovered spirituality at the age of 40 after having three children. The evolution likely began years prior, with a thread grasped in my teens through bouts of insecurity and depression. It took on a more tangible shape as I became a parent. Curious about my budding family, I began reading on parenting and human development, brain science and psychology, and, eventually, spiritual texts from the Tao Te Ching and Autobiography of a Yogi (one of Steve Jobs’ favorites) to the beautiful and varied spiritual translations of Stephen Mitchell. My conversion arrived overnight through a serendipitous experience that I cannot explain.

I joined San Francisco’s City Church simply to have the company of a spiritual community. I had never been to church before, and it was not at all what I expected. I discovered it to be a wonderful and welcoming space that embraces spirituality and science, mysticism and scripture, analysis and intuition, doubt and faith. The fact of its Christian affiliation was incidental to me at first, but has grown in depth and meaning over time.

To me, City Church and communities like it represent the urgently needed potential renewal of Judeo-Christian spirituality in the United States — from a too-often rigid, exclusionary and orthodox heritage, to what Malcolm Gladwell describes as a “generous orthodoxy.” It is a spirituality that respects and embraces our evolving secular culture, that is tolerant and inclusive, and that is centered on the values of love, kindness, and forgiveness that are embodied in Jesus’ life and teachings. Never dogmatic, this school of spirituality is always reforming itself, and always moving towards love, hope, and renewal.

A wonderful pastor at City Church, who happens to be Korean American, started a Facebook Group for Progressive Asian American Christians recently. Within two months, it had thousands of members. I saw this as a promising sign that core to our present political awakening is an awakening to the political importance of building a strong, gracious, generous and incorruptible spiritual foundation to our nation. It could and should be one that can serve to guide us, as it did in our founding days, when the powers that be are failing us and even tearing us asunder.

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