Throughout my career, I have been drawn to the subject of religious and spiritual development — what we should mean by spiritual development, how spiritual development functions in people’s lives, and what significance religious and spiritual development has for our well-being as individuals and as communities. And I have been struck by how relatively impoverished our ordinary ways of talking have become when discussing religious and spiritual development — largely because, too often, the focus has been on beliefs and institutional practices or what I call a ‘belief-institution’ way of speaking about R-S development. As an alternative, I am struck by the many faith patterns that exist and how recognizing individual faith patterns is essential to our understanding one another — with faith patterns referring to far more than beliefs and institutional practices. And I am struck by the dynamic changes that individuals can make to their overall faith traditions so that the term religions becomes misleading because it fails to capture the ever-changing nature of faith traditions. I have, then, both in my writing and speaking, been an advocate for what I call a ‘faith-tradition’ way of speaking about religious and spiritual development. A faith-tradition way allows us to notice the tremendous intra-group differences among large groups identifying themselves as Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or whatever, and, more important, it holds promise for each of us to get to know one another through understanding each other’s distinct pattern of faith.
I have also devoted a good deal of time to the study of spiritual exemplars — those individuals who are admired around the world for their character, their noble purposes, their embracing diversity, and the faith they show that keeps them focused and able to take on great challenges. By studying and writing about spiritual exemplars, I believe I have made a contribution to better understanding what we should mean by spiritual development.
Here is one example of my writing about spiritual development, a short article written for the Tufts Magazine. You can read it by clicking on the following link:
Crisis of Faith: http://emerald.tufts.edu/alumni/magazine/summer2007/columns/kids.html