CREDOS: Empowerment — VI

Pope Benedict XVI summed up the Vatican’s attitude in 1983, when he wrote of the relationship between “personal experience and common faith of the Church.” Both are important, he said: “A dogmatic faith unsupported by personal experience remains empty; mere personal experience unrelated to the faith of the Church remains blind.” The mystical impulse in Judaism is reasserting itself. The founding text of Kabbalah, the Zohar, conveys the message that God’s power depends on humanity’s actions. God needs our worship.

The Hasidim pray ecstatically; they dance with the Torah; they fast to achieve a higher spiritual state. Orthodox Judaism, of which they are a branch, is on the rise among young Jews who trade Friday-night dances for a more intense religious experience.

The same issue is very much on the minds of America’s Muslims. Forced to define themselves in the face of an alien majority, the second generation has turned increasingly observant. It has not been lost on them that the way to fit in present-day America is to be religious. America-born Muslims are shedding the cultural accouterments of the many countries from which their parents came.

“There are many ways to be spiritual,” says Megan Wyatt, a blond Ohioan who converted to Islam three years ago. “People find it in yoga. For me, becoming a Muslim gave me the ultimate connection to God.”