Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation

079: Being the Church in an Age of Secular Mysticisms (Dr. Andrew Root)

November 15, 2023 Season 5 Episode 79
079: Being the Church in an Age of Secular Mysticisms (Dr. Andrew Root)
Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation
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Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation
079: Being the Church in an Age of Secular Mysticisms (Dr. Andrew Root)
Nov 15, 2023 Season 5 Episode 79

When atheists want spirituality, how should the church respond? In a secular age offering a buffet of spiritualities, all focused on the self and personal transformation, how is the Christian view similar or different than these alternative pathways? When everyone is spiritual, but few are religious, what is distinctive about following Jesus? And can I be a mystic without God?

Dr. Andrew Root joins the podcast to talk about the rise in secular mysticism and what it means for the church in the 21st century.

Dr. Root is the Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary. He is the author of more than twenty books. Most recently is his The Church in an Age of Secular Mysticisms: Why Spiritualities without God Fail to Transform Us.

Stay Connected:

  • NEED spiritual direction or coaching that aligns with this podcast? Connect with Cyd Holsclaw here.
  • Join the Embodied Faith community to stay connected and get posts, episodes, & resources.
  • Support the podcast with a one-time or regular gift (to keep this ad-free without breaking the Holsclaw's bank).
Show Notes Transcript

When atheists want spirituality, how should the church respond? In a secular age offering a buffet of spiritualities, all focused on the self and personal transformation, how is the Christian view similar or different than these alternative pathways? When everyone is spiritual, but few are religious, what is distinctive about following Jesus? And can I be a mystic without God?

Dr. Andrew Root joins the podcast to talk about the rise in secular mysticism and what it means for the church in the 21st century.

Dr. Root is the Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary. He is the author of more than twenty books. Most recently is his The Church in an Age of Secular Mysticisms: Why Spiritualities without God Fail to Transform Us.

Stay Connected:

  • NEED spiritual direction or coaching that aligns with this podcast? Connect with Cyd Holsclaw here.
  • Join the Embodied Faith community to stay connected and get posts, episodes, & resources.
  • Support the podcast with a one-time or regular gift (to keep this ad-free without breaking the Holsclaw's bank).

[00:00:15] Geoff: In a secular age that offers a buffet of spiritualities, all focused on the self and personal transformation, how is the Christian view similar or different than these other pathways when everyone is spiritual but few are religious, what is distinctive about following Jesus? And can I be a mystic without God? 

These are some of the things that we are talking about today. This is the embodied faith podcast with Geoff and Cyd Holsclaw, although Sid's not with us today, and we're exploring a neuroscience informed spiritual formation with a heavy accent on this episode with that spiritual formation within our cultural moment, uh, as always we're produced by grassroots Christianity, which is growing faith for every day. I'm really excited to have Dr. Andrew Root with us today. He is the author of more than 20 books. Most recently, and the one we're talking about today is church in an age of secular mysticism, why spiritualities without God failed to transform us. He is a frequent speaker and host, uh, of the quote. This is what it says on your book, the influential. podcast when church stops working. That's straight from your book. So you have to talk to your, uh, your agent or your publicist about that. Uh, and lastly, he is the Kerry Oslo Balsam, uh, professor of youth and family ministries at Luther seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Thank you so much for being on the show with us today, Andrew. 

[00:01:44] Andrew Root: Yeah, it's great. I'm still laughing about influential. I don't know if it is and I don't know who, who pulled that adjective out. But, uh,  

[00:01:51] Geoff: sure it's very  

[00:01:52] Andrew Root: for, underlining it and highlighting it. Yeah, it is in my own mind. That's  

[00:01:56] Geoff: Well, that's what I'm hoping Embodied Faith is. It's influential for all 17 people that really love it. So. Excellent. Well, 

thank you for being on when I saw, uh, that your book was coming out. I was like, Ooh, I really am interested in this, uh, topic. Could you, in your own words, just kind of explain, well, like, what is this book and how did you, how were you prompted to write it? 

It is the church in an age of secular mysticisms 

that immediately caught me. Uh, I was like, yes, what, like, so like, how did you, why are you, why'd you write this book? Yeah 

[00:02:33] Andrew Root: probably two reasons one intellectual and the other just like socially awkward and the intellectual one is I've been working a lot with Charles Taylor's work and, and just, you know, trying to move that into ministry conversations particularly. And one of the pushbacks you often get, I mean, mainly for people who haven't read. 

Any of Charles Taylor's work, which is fine because it's 700 pages and it's overwhelming, but they get triggered or they get tripped up over the secular word, you know, so they're like, well, how could, how could we be in a secular age if there's a, you know, all these yoga studios everywhere and there's all this mindfulness activity. 

And it seems like everyone's talking about some kind of, uh, fitness as a spirituality. Like how could we possibly be in a secular age when everybody is. Cool being a witch, you know what I mean? Like they're just all sorts of spiritualities. And of course a big point of taylor is This is what happens in this kind of secular age. 

This kind of secular age produces, in a kind of oxymoronic way, all sorts of spiritualities. Uh, but that's what makes it secular, is there becomes all sorts of them. Buffet is the, the kind of metaphor I use. Taylor uses this Nova effect of, uh, third options, spiritualities that, that come out between, you know, a hard atheism and a kind of organized, classic forms of religion. 

So that was one of them is I've written this. Three volumes that turned into six volumes on ministry to secular age. It just made a lot of sense to have to really grapple with the spirituality dynamic. The socially awkward moment for writing this book was sitting in a meeting with my colleagues and we're trying to think about like how do we even talk or help our students think about transformation? 

What's needed for pastoral practice when it comes to transformation? And I have this idea of like what if we mind memoirs, you know, like memoirist particularly in the last Couple decades has really been Telling us stories of transformation and yet a lot of them have no need for sure for any kind of Classic forms of religion within them and and often really want to be spiritual, but don't even have God Within them and I said that they all looked at me like I was nuts. 

So I Retreated to this little monastic cell in my basement that those of you are watching the video can can see and and and typed away Uh, so, you know Being the awkward person. I feel more comfortable down here trying to taking 300 pages to try to articulate what I  

[00:04:56] Geoff: basement does look like in the background He stole some erector set like pieces and made bookshelves out of them. And now it's just all books I can't even see anything else. I love it. 

That's my kind of  


[00:05:07] Andrew Root: it's a perfect basement monastic cell because my family hates it. So no one ever comes in here except me  

[00:05:13] Geoff: There we go, it's a different kind of man cave so You, so you jumped down this process, uh, you jumped down the rabbit hole of, uh, modern memoirs. Uh, what did you start seeing? You started seeing, uh, a couple of different spiritual pathways or you call them mystical pathways, I think, 

um, that kind of created some patterns, uh, that you started noticing. 

Um, so what, what was that? What did you start seeing in these, in, 

[00:05:40] Andrew Root: Yeah. And in many ways, like I do try to map this and I've, I've told people early in my work, I was, uh, I was a major diagram a holic. I used to love diagrams until I started to read other people's diagrams and be like, this makes no sense to me. So I became a recovering diagram a holic in this book is me falling off the wagon big time. 

Like, you know, we're back to a diagram and I'm trying to map something. I hope it's not as weird as, yeah. Some of the other diagrams back in my past, but, um, but it really, I mean, in many ways, I'm stealing this from Charles Taylor too, because Taylor wants to make the argument that the conflicts we have, like our, our knee jerk reaction and the kind of the way the media frames things as everything is. 

polarized, you know, there's two sides that are in conflict around everything. But his point is, if you look closely, and particularly if you look at people who are uneasy with religion, you start to realize it's, it's more of a triangulated conflict than it is just a bipolar. There's three sides, not, not two sides. 

So picking up on that motif, I had that kind of dynamic in play of these two sides. that are uncomfortable with religion. So if, if those who believe something and he calls this believing something, believing in something beyond, and he doesn't mean that as just that kind of pure metaphysical or transcend, transcendental state. 

He means it in the sense that, uh, that religion holds that there's something beyond human flourishing, like human flourishing is important, but there's also something beyond it, like the kingdom of God or, or the apocalyptic fulfillment or something like that. There's something beyond and something that the human life should be for than just. 

having a society that runs well and where people all feel affirmed or something. And then he also says, however, if you look at the conflicts of religion, there's, um, that, that those who hold on to the, to believe in something, they often believe that there's something beyond. death, that there's some kind of a sense of heaven or just kind of some sense of salvation. 

And he says, if you look at those two commitments, you can find two different groups that are opposed to the host. Like there's one side that are what he calls exclusive humanists who really just believe that Anything, if you believe in anything beyond human flourishing, you end up being incredibly repressive in that your beliefs repress people's real search to find their real self in their, in their real identities or their real desires. 

And you end up saying that some desires aren't valuable or something like that, and they really worry about that. But if you go, there's another side that isn't really concerned with that, but they are concerned that this whole belief that there's a heaven and that God is even loving and kind, uh, that that's just. 

That just polarizes reality. It just edits out the fact that life is tough in and And life's a war and you're on a, you're, you're on a heroic hunt here. And so I could see these two sides as I read all these memoirs that Taylor's perspective really came to life. That there were those who were really seeking a kind of spirituality that would help them find their most inner genius self, their, their, their truest identity, their most, um, kind of find the complete affirmation for their desires. 

And then there was another side that it was really about. Transformation was what this heroic in some sense of will to power often came out, but it wasn't always just like I'm going to crush my enemies, but it was in overcoming whether it was nature or running marathons or something. There's this kind of heroic act that became a spirituality in many ways. 

Um, and so I saw those two really playing out. And then this third one of those who holds to religious belief. Well. That came out too, but it was from a surprising group of people that I, uh, was really, uh, yeah, it was really interesting. Those kind of people who were mainly kind of people would experience a radical death or, um, I mean, just the, the attic. 

The Attic Memoirs were really people who had to claim that there was something beyond. Um, and so they weren't apologetics for people who believed in religion or went to church, but nevertheless, they, they ended up finding their way, um, to claiming classic Christian practices like prayer or that there was a living God, uh, but it was from a very different dynamic than the other two. 

[00:09:55] Geoff: Well, I just want to, because I think people know the addict, um, like model, especially the, the 12 step, so like Alcoholics Anonymous. So that would be, uh, an example of what you would call it beyond or the religious, because they would say, usually say two things. One is you have to have a higher power. That you're connected to, and then you say, I am powerless to change this, this addiction and therefore, and then I identify as an alcoholic, uh, because of that, uh, and those are two kind of realities, uh, and we'll get, we'll get back to this, but since you mentioned it, I just wanted to make this as a contrast so that those are both kind of a confession of who I am and who the higher power is and a submission to kind of the inevitability of my own situation as well as a submission to the higher power. 

So that would be the beyond, but there are people who fit in, um, Your other category, like the, the inner genius category. That deal with addiction and trauma that don't like AA because of that. Like you should not identify with your ailment. Um, you should not call yourself an addict. Uh, that is demeaning. 

That is limiting. That's a self limiting belief, right? And they'll kind of go through because they want to bolster the self, whereas they feel like the AA approach is actually to demean or destroy. Is that accurate? I just wanted to, since you brought that up, I just wanted to kind of use that as a, as an example. 

[00:11:14] Andrew Root: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think underneath this whole, uh, Although the argument of this book and the kind of direction I'm trying to go is, I'm making a case practically for a certain kind of theological anthropology and that the two sides, whether it's heroic action or it's the inner genius, whether it's, whether it's the exclusive humanists of the inner genius or the Neo Nietzscheans or the counter enlightenment people, as I call them, of the, of the, uh, the heroic action, they have a very high view of self, of what the self can do. 

Where the beyond our perspective, uh, has. A very low view of the self, not in the sense that the self is bad or, or gross or I'm unable to be loved, but there's a sense that their own action cannot make things better where the other two it's, it's in you and what you act and if you can just optimize your action or you can just get over your fears or you can just find some inner drive within you, you can overcome all boundaries before you. 

But these other kind of memoirs were yeah. The transformational reality came when the self, when the person said, I give up, I surrender, that I really need something outside me and beyond me to change me. Where the other two, in some ways they conflicted with each other, but they also, they both shared that. 

Your transformation, what will change you, is you. You just have to, you just have to find it. You just have to be brave enough to find it, or you have to, uh, uh, push away the bad messages and, and you'll find it. Um, that, a motif I use is that both others say that you are magnificent, where the beyonder makes this claim that you are in need, that you need something outside of you. 

[00:12:54] Geoff: So if we were to think you, you have, you fell off the diagram chart. So you have a triangle. So at the top of the triangle would be like the religious or the, um, beyond, um, which we'll get to in just a second. And then the bottom sides, uh, you have what you call like the heroic action, uh, as well as the inner, and then on the opposite end would be the inner genius. Uh, and those, those two sometimes. When they're in conversation with each other will argue, but when a beyonder comes by, then they'll both turn and argue with them. It's like the enemy, my enemy is a friend. And it is, it is a sense in which, uh, so I want to fill that out because the way you, you wrote about it, I felt was so clear. 

I was just like, Ooh, I want to preach a bunch of sermons to help me clarify that. But it was like, on the one hand, there is the, the heroic action self that kind of finds their, their true selves in the external world. You were saying like in the, um. Sometimes in their own, like physical pain or illness, but then oftentimes an adventure, certainly in vocation and accomplishments. Sometimes this is, uh, you know, the act of life, you know, you're finding yourself in what you do and what you have or something like that. Um, so could you fill that out a little bit? Like, how has that looked at us as a spiritual pathway? Uh, how does that link for like the common person? Like, what does that look like in everyday life? 

[00:14:12] Andrew Root: Yeah, and this is one of the interesting things is that these actions, why I think they're mystics, you know, like to use that kind of phrase is because they use mystical language. Like there's a sense where they feel taken up and unified in themselves when they do this. But, you know, like just two examples that come out is, uh, one is around nature in this and you have all sorts of these memoirs. 

Where people walk, they like, you know, they, they, they walk hundreds of miles and, and kind of facing nature and facing their own, um, whether they can conquer it or not changes them. Um, so, uh, Ryan, our wind is an example I use in this book where she's a Welsh woman who loses her house and she's homeless with a husband who is battling a terminal disease. 

And she ends up just walking this like for six or nine months or something. She walks this, uh, this path. And she has this real dynamic where she says, I don't believe in God. I don't, I don't believe there's any God at all, but this walking, this facing nature, this living just on the land and in that part of the UK, you can wild camp and, and just facing those elements changed her. 

They transformed her. There's a kind of mystical experience, but without. God. But it was inside her ability to do something she never could before. Another example is a kind of vocational sense where you really chase your what you think will fulfill you. So there's a memoir called Yes, Chef, um, where this guy just tells the story about how he became one of the Top chefs in New York City, and it really had, it cost him everything, but it was all kind of the heroism of burning your boats in going for the one thing you want to be the best at in the world and having that singular direction and, you know, there's no other moral code or anything that can set terms for you just doing this thing just Being great at this, that can become a kind of spirituality. 

So you feel a certain sense of transcendence as you meet your goals, as you kind of grab them with both hands and you feel empowered, um, or by this kind of nature walk. But you can see there's a kind of sense of a will to power of what you can conquer, of what you can overcome. 

[00:16:23] Geoff: And that is oftentimes like that the power of positive thinking or kind of name your goals and claim it. And there's probably all sorts of like Christian spiritual analogs that we could kind of look at. Um, you know, but this like the, the long, the ultra long distance runners or the, you know, bodybuilders extreme. 

Uh, but then also, uh, Like being the apex at a sport or athlete or a job or something like that, where you're just, you're giving it all, um, and you're finding your truest self or something like that through that external activity. So that'd be the one side of the triangle. On the other side of the triangle, you have, uh, the sense of, well, you don't. Look out into the world for that transcendent, you you're looking inside, you're turning inside. There's this inner genius that you need to discover that you need to uncover that you need to return to. Um, so can you fill that out a little bit? Like, what does that kind of spiritual pathway or that journey look like? 

[00:17:18] Andrew Root: Yeah, I mean, there is a sense of accomplishment in them often, you know, like external accomplishment or else, you know, there wouldn't be a memoir to tell of like, you know, where you started, where you ended up. But the kind of drive of the transformation is that you realize That you have what you need, that you are really special and that there, it often there's this connection of messages that have been negative that you, that you've had people not affirm your, who you are as a person or who your identity is or your, your ability to express that identity. 

Um, and you've found a way to really find your voice and speak your most genuine. your most genuine self. So an example I use in the book, which I think is a really great memoir, but is Brandi Carlile's memoir. Like she has this kind of deep sense of finding that she's, she's known herself as always kind of been, um, uh, excluded in some ways. 

And, and she finally finds her inner voice. She finds her inner talent. She finds her ability to express her most truest self. Um, and that does. Win her a kind of performative self dynamic, but it uh, it is it's more internal There's a sense of a of internally finding who you really are. Um, another example of this is there's all these romance uh memoirs where where people fall in love and that changes them and and they realize uh that they Who they really love is this person or you know, they realize that they they fall in love that they They didn't know that they could love someone of the same gender, and then they fall in love with that person, and in that kind of finding truly who they are, um, changes them. 

Um, so there is this sense of kind of, and this is again why I call them mystics, because there's a kind of path where you find this union, this connection. You find that you're one with the universe in some way. Um, but again, what's really just odd is no one would have ever thought you could have these kind of mystical union experiences, uh, at least within the West, I probably should say without there being some God at play or some divine force at, at play. 

And for both of these other, you know, the, the heroic action and the inner genius that that's not necessary. Um, you don't really need God, you need spirituality, but you don't really need God at play. 

[00:19:36] Geoff: And so that would be kind of like the main difference between the top of the triangle, which is, 

um, so instead of saying in different ways, you are the author of your life. So go fulfill that adventure, accomplish that goal or find, dig inside, find your true self, uncover the, the, the, you know, the genius within you are the author of your life, but instead the. What you're suggesting, and I agree with, you know, through the spiritual traditions as well, actually, um, You receive yourself from beyond like, and so the kingdom of God is breaking in as Jesus, you know, uh, you know, 

announced. And so there's not something that kind of, um, You know, burbles up, you know, from within us or around us, but actually it's coming from outside. Uh, and so, and you labeled the kind of the practices as those of like confession and surrender, um, rather than. Uncovering your inner genius or going out with heroic action and doing something in the world. Could you kind of, what is the contrast that you're trying to name there? Uh, and 

then what are the spiritual traditions that you're kind of like pulling from? 

[00:20:41] Andrew Root: Yeah. Well, to start there, I mean, yeah, for good or for ill. I mean, there's a deep sense of a kind of early protestant, um, kind of Lutheran sensibility here in, in, in Luther sensibility of whatever will change itself. I mean, I think this is a really unique, unique, probably not the right word, but maybe an important theological perspective inside this kind of late capitalist neoliberal time where we're all kind of. 

Our own little performers in some sense, our own little businesses, and it feels like competition has become every part of our lives constantly, all the time. And thanks to social media, we're getting like immediate feedback on how we're doing with the meal we just cooked or the walk, you know, our whole lives are broadcast. 

And I think there's something really timely about Luther's assertion that. Whatever will save you is not within you. It's foreign. It's outside. It has to come and meet you. And the more you act, the more vigorously you act to try to save yourself in whatever way, or to satisfy yourself, or, uh, to find your own accomplishments, the more you'll spin your wheels and get stuck. 

And I think this, this is one of the major claims I'm trying to make here, is that these other forms of transformation, I'm not a hater of them. I actually think they do some nice things for people. They do help people cope with stress and they do, they do help maybe infuse meaning and purpose with people. 

We, I'm definitely not a hater on them, but I just don't think that they can go to the depth that we really need, that they can really deal with, um, Yeah, the struggles we have inside this neoliberal age. And so it is a recovery of this low anthropology that says none of our actions in themselves will ever save us. 

That the action we need to take is to surrender and stop and to wait for, for God's action. Is to wait for something beyond us and to be beckoned from beyond us. And the very thing that will save us is outside of us. So it is, it is beyond us. And, uh, yeah, I mean that's a hard message I think in this time. 

To say that you need to, to stop, first of all, is a hard message, and then to say that you need to make a confession and surrender is hard, but there were these memoirs, you know, and again, they were, these were not memoirs of the kind of religious leftovers, you know, like the people who are still going to church, or people who are trying to make an apologetic for Christianity, these were people who were far outside the church, but discovered something really quite Profound is that they realize and this again why the addict is probably the quintessential person here They realized that the more they tried to act to substantiate their self the more it spun them Entrapped them in themselves, which is one of those big moves of the addict is you realize all your most clever actions just Make mayhem and and ruin your life. 

They don't connect you to something deeper. They don't they don't bring the kind of salvation or The kind of communion and connection that you're yearning for but there were other ones too You know, there were these memoirs of people who had had great loss Like there was one called the wave about this woman who loses her whole family in the in the tsunami and it's It was really one of the most moving ones I read. 

It was just, it was unbelievably moving. But her big transformation comes at the end, where she's been running from her grief, just continuing to run from her grief, keep herself busy, never, never look into the grief, never look into it. It's just too, she lost her two young children, her husband and both her parents in this, and she couldn't do it. 

And the memoir ends with her back in the same ocean, like seven years later on a boat trip in a huge, um, Blue whale surfaces and she, first of all, is on that boat thinking, I can't do this. My, my youngest son or my oldest son, Vic loved whales. And as soon as I see that whale, I'll think of him and I'll, I'll just crumble in grief. 

So she'd spent her whole life and she was going to do it in this experience too, just kind of blocking herself off. from the grief. But this was the first time she just surrendered to the grief and she found something reach for her that was far outside of her and, and change her. Um, and so there's, and then of course there's these memoirs of people who are actually going to die. 

Um, like when breath turns to air and unwinding the miracle where these people surrender to the fact that they're finite. And that they're going to die. And these books end with the most beautiful articulations of love for their children and what will come next. But the transformation is not do more, optimize the self, perform better, they're let go and open your hands, uh, to receive God. 

And there's a, uh, you know, the text, Be Still and Know I'm God, um, I just learned recently doing work for another project that a way to translate that in Hebrew is, uh, It is a contemplative move, but it also means put down your hands.  

[00:25:37] Geoff: Hmm.  

[00:25:38] Andrew Root: still and know I'm God. Put down your hands and know I'm God. 

[00:25:40] Geoff: interesting. 

[00:25:41] Andrew Root: Both put down your hands stop fighting me, but also put down your hands and stop doing all this. 

Stop trying to perform all this. Just put down your hands and know that I am God. And that's what I ultimately see in that Beyonder path is this, the other two are really putting up your hands and either, you know, fighting or doing. Um, and the Beyonder path, you put down your hands and you Put yourself in a place of confessing that you need something outside of you to meet you 

[00:26:10] Geoff: I love how, uh, Hebrew is a very, like visceral embodied kind of language, you know, like all of our translations, it talks about like hearts and feelings, but like, really it's like your guts and your kidney and your like stomach, like all these, all the emotion words are like actually parts of your body. So I want to switch gears and that kind of asked, and this might be a hard question. 

I'm not like setting a trap or anything, but so you're using. Like addiction language and the surrender language to kind of illustrate that. But I know a lot of listeners on this podcast, we did have a lot of episodes that talk about trauma and how do we move through trauma or toxic shame. Um, And I know those pathways often for people are, um, ones in which they're recovering a sense of agency and needing to build up a sense of self that has been destroyed through the abuse, the trauma, um, and the, and finding themselves and, and I wrestle with them and we talk about the, like dying to yourself for carrying your cross language that Jesus offers, uh, and then other people saying, you know, You know, like my work is to find myself, um, outside of this abusive relationship or beyond this toxic situation. Uh, and so have you run across memoirs or situations where, you know, that could kind of address that? Um, Like how, I just wondering how, how the sense of confession or surrender might fit with, uh, what you're, what you're talking about and how might 

fit in kind of those other recovery narratives beyond just like addiction. 

[00:27:41] Andrew Root: yeah, I think it's a really important question and I do think that like these Well, and it may be the way I'm trying to frame it does kind of go against the current of where we're at and I think there's good reason that we're worried about you know certain kind of narratives that that under end up kind of hurting people in this way or make people feel like Yeah at the core of their being they're not good enough or something like that But there is this just interesting I think cultural dynamic is that, um, if we don't have a certain theological perspective that That, uh, can, can open us up to something outside of us and then connect us to something deeper than those ones that seem liberating. 

I mean, this is, I guess, my perspective, the liberation of just love yourself and find your inner self and or, you know, find yourself as a, find how, how, how capable you are by running marathons, you know, um, those will ultimately demand more and more action. And we do know like. Depression and burnout are just everywhere in this cultural context, that it will always demand that you do more, that you push further. 

And so, I don't think these, I personally don't read the Christian tradition where it says kind of surrender to self, is that the self doesn't have value, but it's trying to that we are the kind of creatures who need others that need to be found with others and needing being the kind of creatures who need others. 

So to confess isn't to say, um, I'm awful, I'm terrible or other people are better than me. The kind of confession and surrender I mean is. I am not the kind of creature that can substantiate my own being. I need to be in relationship with others. I need to be in community with others. But that really does mean that we have to have a different perspective than thinking of the self as always performing for recognition. 

Always trying to overcome something to prove something. That it's always about W's and L's. You know, are you taking more W's? Are you taking more L's? Like that kind of Perspective. I mean, I do worry about this. Maybe this is controversial. Is that a lot of our, um, a lot of our kind of therapeutic language, which is really needed for important reasons in this time. 

But if we're not careful, we don't recognize how much this, the therapeutic movement is also really embedded in certain, certain capitalist  

[00:30:15] Geoff: Mm hmm.  

[00:30:16] Andrew Root: that it really, um, is, is. Yeah, I mean, in many ways wants to solve problems to optimize the self to help you kind of hack issues. And I'm particularly thinking about like apps you can use to, you know, to kind of get your You're, you're, you're better help right now, you know what I mean? 

Like Freud or Jung wouldn't have ever imagined that you could somehow solve the human discontent and angst that's within us, you know, that there, there's something about the human spirit that is always wrestling with and yearns for something beyond and to. I think all other spiritual traditions, you know, have, have had this kind of sense of surrender, whether it's been kind of certain forms of Buddhism or certain forms of Islam. 

There's always been a sense that there has to be something beyond. And, um, in some ways, only a kind of therapeutic capitalism doesn't. And I, again, I think we have to be real dangerous, uh, on guard against the danger of spiritual abuse in this. Um, and. And we have to be very careful with that. But I think these traditions also point to something that's, that's more liberating than just do more, um, uh, you know, optimize yourself. 


[00:31:35] Geoff: just brainstorming, you know, but I think there are certain kind of like therapeutic modalities that could follow into one side or the other. It was where you have more of the Uh, cognitive behavioral therapy, which I'm going to change my thoughts. I'm going to have a better mindset. Um, and we're going to go do this. Um, you have some, um, maybe more somatic traditions or psychoanalytic, you know, where it's like, we're going to find that true self that had been lost in childhood or society has, you know, denied those desires. And we're going to uncover these layers and kind of, you know, find that again. Uh, and then we'll celebrate that. Uh, And I do think that there is, uh, I think all these have like roles for community, um, such that, you know, for the heroic action spiritual pathway, you have those that are cheering you on who are have the same or similar goals. We're going to do this together. We're going to optimize. We're going to share notes about how to, uh, how to do this. Uh, and then you have, uh, the communities, um, This is going to sound negative. I don't, I don't know the right word of, of communities of affirmation, which is, Oh, you found yourself now I will celebrate with you and then you'll celebrate with me on my community. Um, and, and so there's the, the shared kind of affirmations. 

Um, and again, at one level, like that's not wrong, right? All of human interactions function like that. Some have, right. Uh, but I think. Um, there's true surrender because I think a lot of like the, the. The kind of interpersonal neurobiology and a lot of the attachment or, you know, some, not all of the trauma work will basically say, well, you, you can't get out, out of where you are without someone else. Who's not you, uh, you didn't get into your mental illness primarily by yourself and you're not going to get out of it by yourself. And that's where I see, and you know, this is for another discussion, but you know, that's where I think Christianity, especially Judaism, you know, there is a person of some kind try you in person beyond who is able to draw out, to repair or to affirm my true self. Who is in no way indebted to me. Uh, like doesn't need me, doesn't need my reciprocal affirmation. Doesn't need my contribution to their life project. And so I can't, I don't have to be suspicious of, are they really just, you know, what, right. Cause we, we believe God, you know, in one sense doesn't need us, right. 

That's one of the Christian affirmations, but still delights in us. This is the key kind of point does not need us, does not need our affirmations of God so that God feels loved and understood and seen, you know, and yet. Delights in us and sees and hears and understands us, um, and longs to be with us. And as we're trying, you know, as repairing all the breaches and the release. 

Right. So this is a fundamental Christian, you know, I think that deep down those other ones that you're kind of, they just run out of gas. Like you can only affirm your true inner genius for so long before you're still going to. 

Burnout, be frustrated or not find enough people who affirm you. And then you got to go on the offensive or you just, 

you're going to get to the top of Mount Everest. 

And then what the, you know, what are you going to do with your life? You reached your heroic action and this happens all the time, right? Then the burnout is immediate. 

I don't know what to do with my life anymore. I accomplished all my goals. I'm a billionaire. I'm a millionaire. I don't, I'm lost. And then all of a sudden existential crisis kicks in. 

All right, well, we could go on and on and on. We're on the same 

[00:34:58] Andrew Root: Yeah, yeah. No, that's, that's, that's a great synthesis. Yeah, that's great. 

[00:35:03] Geoff: Well, uh, any last thoughts? Um, that I I really want to touch on the low anthropology piece, but I, you 

probably know the work of David's all, he wrote a whole book called low 

anthropology. So we had them on the podcast earlier. Listeners can go find that one, but I do think this goes hand in hand with what you're saying and you're both kind of Lutheran influence. 

That probably has something to do with the two. Um, 

what are just to end on a practical note, what would be kind of the practices of confession and surrender then for people, uh, you know, we don't want to say. At the beginning, let's see, I wrote it down, uh, you know, Beyonders say that human flourishing isn't the only goal now, but certainly human flourishing isn't negated or impeded by, you know, and we believe in Christ who is the true human, that we find our humanity in him. Right. Um, so, but what would these confessions or paths of surrender kind of look like? 

[00:35:59] Andrew Root: Yeah. At it's, at its most practical, I think, and, and this has been true of all six of these books, is that there really is a beckoning to back to what it means to actually be in a disposition of prayer. Um, and, and to live in a disposition of, of prayer, which is in prayer itself is a surrender, you know, it is, it is a surrender to something beyond you to, to, to pray is to, to make a confession that you can't do this, that your own action, um, can't get you where you need to be, that you are, you are, that you are confessing that you're the kind of creature that needs God's intervention that needs to be cared for. 

Um, so at its core, I think it's a disposition of prayer, but that also means that a huge piece of this, and I think you've really said this well, as we were just closing, is how The whole modern project, late modern project is really set up to instrumentalize all of our relationships. So everything becomes intermittent instrumentalized. 

Um, so you're my friend, as long as we, you know, or we're on each other's teams, as long as we're kind of, we're all pulling on  

[00:37:05] Geoff: on your podcast, right. You're going to share my post on social media, right? 

[00:37:10] Andrew Root: there's a quid pro quo to everything. And I think one of the things that with this kind of lower anthropology or the sense that you have to put down your hands, put down your hands and receive something is it means that the relationships we have can just be gift and that they don't every relationship doesn't have to be instrumentalized. 

So we're really called to our neighbor just to be with and for them as a witness to a God who is with in for us. Um, and you know. You know, I think this is the kind of core of the, the Christian move or the dialectic at the core is that when you, when you confess that you are in need, you find this God coming to minister to you. 

Um, and so this is, I think, ultimately the kind of spirituality or mysticism, um, that we, we get that can really bring us back to a living, speaking God is to learn to be able to narrate. Prayerfully tell our stories of our need, um, and then as a community try to be present in those, hear those well, um, put down our own hands to fix and just live with, and walk with and pray for. 

Um, that ultimately is really what I'm, what I'm hoping for out of this. 

[00:38:22] Geoff: I really, I really like that. I remember, um, that statement on prayer. Like, are we still really praying? I found myself in a weird situation lately where it's like, I kind of want to distinguish prayer and meditation because I feel like everyone's talking about 

meditation and it's like, I just want to be like, I'm so glad you're meditating, but are you still praying? Right. 

Uh, and I remember a long time ago, in different circumstances, there was the sense I was with a whole group of people. Um, and all of a sudden I got the sense of like these people, and they're talking about spiritualities, but. The practice of prayer has stopped. And not only that, the idea of prayer has been slightly scorned. 

Like, Oh, you still like pray like a child asking 

his dad for help. Like you still do that. And I was like, yeah, I still do that. And it was like, I think my path is now going somewhere else. And I kind of had to leave with this group of people, but it was that 

kind of that practice of prayer. So anyways, thank you for that. 

Thank you for writing this book for all of you who are listening or are watching on YouTube. Um, it's very suggestive book. Um, it is the church in an age of secular mysticisms and then an. And even longer subtitle. I love long subtitles. Uh, why spiritualities without God fail to transform us. Uh, and, and really I just, for everyone who's listening, it's, it's failed to ultimately and like, um, in a lasting way, transform us. 

Certainly they're 

like steps on the path. And 

many of us have probably bounced around between heroic action. And I'm going to, I need to push through this and try a little harder and sometimes you do. And then other times you need to rest and find it. Like, who am I really? Like I've been running around like, so. 

Those aren't wrong or bad, but they're incomplete is what I would say. And I think that's what you're saying too. 

[00:40:06] Andrew Root: Yeah, absolutely. Is what I'd say.  

[00:40:08] Geoff: Well, thank you so much for taking time. Where can people find you or get ahold of your book and other things? 

[00:40:13] Andrew Root: Yeah. Just to live in the complete performative contradiction of talking about optimizing the self and winning recognition.  

[00:40:21] Geoff: Actually, Andrew never leaves his basement. You can't find him. 

[00:40:26] Andrew Root: You can find me right here.  

[00:40:27] Geoff: be the last time you hear from him. He is, he is off.  

[00:40:31] Andrew Root: out. People can. I have a website. If you google me, my Andrew Root, you'll find it. It's andrewroot. org, which makes no sense that it's a org, but it is. Um, and, uh, yeah, you can find me there. Uh, that's probably the  

[00:40:43] Geoff: It's org because it was cheaper than com when you went around and got the website. That's why 

[00:40:48] Andrew Root: that's  

[00:40:49] Geoff: I know. Cause I think I have like Jeff whole squad. net. So I was like, well, that's cheaper 

[00:40:53] Andrew Root: yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. That's exactly what it was.  

[00:40:56] Geoff: well, thanks again for, for everything. Thank you for putting all your work into your teaching and ministering and, uh, helping shape and form students and, and then write books. 

So thank you so much. It's been a pleasure. 

[00:41:06] Andrew Root: Yeah. It's been a great conversation.