I’ve been chewing my way through The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg, a professor of religion and culture at Oregon State University. Borg’s is a very universal, ecumenical message. He’s Christian, and his heart is committed to his faith, but he’s not exclusivist. I love his message and want to just share one of many interesting snippets from this book.
Borg talks about what he calls “thin places”—a metaphor that comes from Celtic Christianity in the fifth century. In Borg’s words:
“Thin places” has its home in a particular way of thinking about God. Deeply rooted in the Bible and the Christian tradition, this way of thinking sees God, “the More,” as the encompassing Spirit in which everything is. God is not somewhere else, but “right here.”
Now, before I go any further, I’ll just explain that this idea is quite contrary to the Mormon belief in an anthropomorphic God. The Mormon God has a body—just like ours, although better, of course. ;) Borg’s God, however, is “right here” as well as “more than right here.”
“Thin places” are places where the “right here” and the “more than right here” intersect. Places where those boundaries become thin and blurred. Thin places enable us to connect with and experience God more deeply.
Borg says that thin places can be all of the following:
1) Geographical places – These may be special religious buildings (like cathedrals or temples) or sites of pilgrimage. I love to travel abroad and get to walk around all the beautiful cathedrals. I love that they are open—to anyone—all day. I recently sat in a little Catholic church in a tiny mountain town in Costa Rica. That was a thin place for me.
2) People – People can become a medium through which we experience the divine. For me, some of these people might include Carol Lynn Pearson, Rabbi Harold Kushner, Desmond Tutu, and former Mormon leader Gordon B. Hinckley.
3) Worship – This usually is not a thin place for me. Mormon worship services are often, umm, dull. Not always—but often.
4) Music within worship – Music is often a thin place for me. Teaching certain songs to the kids at church (“If You Don’t Walk” always does it, as does “Holding Hands Around the World”) always does it. Singing in Handel’s Messiah always does it. “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Mis is a thin place for me as well.
5) Participation in rituals or what Mormons call “ordinances” – Children’s baptisms do it for me in the Mormon church. I know some people wonder why we baptize 8 year old kids, but if you’ve ever been to one and seen the little 8 year old, all dressed in white, all excited to be doing this adult-type thing, with all kinds of family all around to support him/her in wanting to live a more Christlike life, you’d love it, too.
6) The Bible – not much of a thin place for me, but I’ve never been much of a scriptorian.
7) Liturgical words – I have very little experience with this because Mormons don’t do this.
Another “thin place” for me which is not on Borg’s list is reading good books. I am an avid reader and have had some of my most spiritual experiences while reading a book. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or non-fiction; both have the potential to be thin places for me.
What about you? Do you have “thin places”? Are any of your thin places like the ones on Borg’s list? What other things/ideas/people are thin places for you?