Emilie Townes: How Do We Perpetuate Captivity?

In this video Encounter, Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes reflects on the institutions and ideas that perpetuate captivity, even if we do not realize it.

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Waking Up to Our Whole Hearts

In this excerpt from a longer piece, Johnny Sears discusses how contemporary Christians can become blinded to God's presence in the world through our desire for security.

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This is an excerpt from a longer piece written by Johnny Sears for the latest issue of Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual LifeAs you read, reflect on the how your religious communities can become spaces of vulnerability and openness. Through our vulnerability and openness, we can resist the ideas and institutions that perpetuate captivity.

By Johnny Sears

Too many people and churches and institutions are asleep to the reality of God’s presence in the world because they are in survival mode.  They’ve forgotten their identity in Christ.  They’ve forgotten the ultimate reality that the kingdom of God is already at hand and that they are God’s beloved child.  To me, this is a matter of urgency. 

The world has become dangerous and is deeply divided.  The world needs people who are awake to that which is of God within them, to God’s love and the power that has for transformation and healing.  The world needs churches and institutions that are awake to the same.  Thankfully, I also believe, along with many others, that we are in a time of spiritual awakening and the good news is that people who are awake to their whole hearts are in a position to help others awaken to theirs. 

The difficulty, as Brené Brown has noted, is that it requires a lot of vulnerability and surrender to let go of the illusions that keep us from being human beings fully alive.  Unfortunately, we’ve largely forgotten how to create safe space and permission for folks to be vulnerable.  Perhaps this should be the role and focus of the church.  Perhaps instead of trying to market Jesus the church could simply make room for people to actually encounter Jesus from their own places of vulnerability, embrace their beloved-ness, and wake up to their whole hearts.  The good news is that, although unusual, there are still people and places within and outside the church that offer the safe space we need to learn vulnerability.

Wherever you find such a safe place, I encourage you to risk communion with the God who loves you deeply that you may be empowered to love yourself and the world with your whole heart.


Johnny Sears is the director of the Academy for Spiritual Formation® and a Baptist layperson who holds a Master of Engineering degree from the University of Louisville. Johnny has served as a retreat leader and spiritual director for various groups, including the Merton Institute for Contemplative Living. He lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Becky and their two sons. 

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