08/03/2012 10:32 am ET Updated Oct 03, 2012

No One Prays Better Than Anyone Else

Certainly God doesn't place grades on report cards. When it comes to naked and forthright human prayer, there is clearly a refreshing absence of snobbish elites.

See? A woman is riding a Manhattan subway near Broadway at 120th Street. Although she's not kneeling in her crowded space, she happens to be praying and communicating with God as authentically as, say, any robed and enthroned bishop in Christendom.

What's the point? Truth is. Honesty is. Because spirituality and religion are presently enmeshed in a global struggle that involves new definitions, fresh "Mission Statements," and taking an unabashed closer look at lots of neat things like truth, worship, who's welcome, what's defined as sin -- and the very nature of prayer itself.

A part of our religious conflct (or civil war) is the intensely changing nature of life itself in our shattered world of rapidly changing values. We cannot close our eyes to the upward surge of violence. It engulfs us. Worldwide persecution of women gets worse and is ever more numbing. Of course, in some corners of the world women are simply invisible. I think of this every time I see a photograph of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the sole woman in a room filled -- filled -- by the usual array of men in business suits. She's invariably great, but hey, can't she have the company of another woman or so? I suppose we could bring in Elizabeth II. But seriously, Hillary is the pioneer here.

The changing nature of global life has to include "environmental disasters." Sadly there will be more. As the Los Angeles Times just pointed out in a brilliant series of articles by Kenneth R. Weiss, soon there will be 2 billion more people to feed. But how? This is the largest generation in history, with more than 3 billion people under the age of 25.

On and on the narrative grows. Clearly it is time for religion and spiritualilty (or whatever else you may wish to call it) to grow up. Church-as-usual is a description that offends me in its sheer casualness. Actually I prefer another word: churchianity. It's remarkably late, it seems to me, for such nonsense. Many well meaning but largely uninformed people reject "religion" out of hand as, say, a medieval tapestry that needs to be cleaned. They need to wake up, take a sober look at the serious issues, and choose to play a definite role in confronting our current crisis in saving global life.

I feel this is a moment of dire crisis in which to discard some outworn idolatries. Church as usual -- or anything as simply usual to be taken for granted -- is a colossal bore. Maybe it's a kind of mortal sin. Can this be wake up time for us? Can we slow down, take a very sober look at our human condition, pull together, discard some things and take on some new ones?

So much is at stake. It is sobering and challenging and points remarkably to the future. Yes, the future. See? It is out there.