Spiritual Capitalism – Richard Rohr

The phrase “spirituality of subtraction” was inspired by Meister Eckhart, the medieval Dominican mystic. He wrote that the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition. Yet, I think most Christians today are involved, in great part, in a spirituality of addition and, in that, they are not very traditional or conservative at all.

The capitalist worldview is the only one most of us have ever known. We see reality, experiences, events, other people, and things-in fact, every thing-as objects for our personal consumption. Even religion, Scripture, sacraments, worship services, and meritorious deeds become ways to advance ourselves—not necessarily ways to love God or neighbor.

The nature of the capitalist mind is that things (and often people!) are there for me. Finally, even God becomes an object for my consumption. Religion looks good on my resume, and anything deemed spiritual is a check on my private worthiness list. Some call it spiritual consumerism. It is not the Gospel.

+Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 114.

From Me to We

Father Richard makes a distinction between first-half-of-life and second-half-of-life spirituality:  

Most cultures are first-half-of-life cultures, and even sadder, most organized religions almost necessarily sell a first-half-of-life spirituality. In the first half of life, it is all about me: How can I be important? How can I be safe? How can I make money? How can I look attractive? And, in the Christian scenario, how can I think well of myself and go to heaven? How can I be on moral high ground? These are all ego questions; they are not the questions of the soul. It is still well-disguised narcissism, or even sanctified narcissism, which is surely the worst kind.  

I’m sad to say, I think many Christians have never moved beyond these survival and security questions. Even “wanting to go to heaven” is language for securing my future, not a shared future, or a common future for humanity; religion becomes a private insurance plan for that future. It’s still all about me, but piously disguised. It’s not really about love at all! 

Any sense of being part of a cosmos, a historical sweep, or that God is doing something bigger and better than simply saving individual souls (my soul in particular), is largely of no interest. This becomes apparent in the common disinterest of so many when it comes to Earth care, building real community, simple living, and almost all peace and justice issues. For many Christians—stuck in the first half of life—all that is important is their private moral superiority and spiritual “safety,” which is somehow supposed to “save” them. It creates what I am now calling a “cult of innocence,” not any real human or divine solidarity. [1]   

Once God and grace move us to the second half of life, religion becomes much more a mystical matter rather than a moral matter. Then it’s about union with all and participation in and with God. Indeed, this is the work of true religion: to help us transition from stage to stage, toward ever-deeper union with God and all things.  

Those who fall into the safety net of silence find that it is not at all a fall into individualism. True prayer or contemplation is instead a leap into commonality and community. We know that what we are experiencing can only be held by the Whole and we are not alone anymore. We are merely a part, and as such a very grateful and totally satisfied part. This is “the peace the world cannot give” (see John 14:27).  

Real silence moves us from knowing things to perceiving a Presence that imbues all things. Could this be God? When we begin to experience a mutuality between ourselves and all things, we have begun to understand the nature of Spirit. God refuses to be known as any kind of object, but only as a mutuality.

[1] The phrase “cult of innocence” was coined in a tweet by author and pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, and is explored in depth in Brian McLaren’s new book Do I Stay Christian?.  

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 87–88, 208.

Praise the Source of Faith and Learning – by Thomas Troeger

Praise the source of faith and learning

that has sparked and stoked the mind

with a passion for discerning

how the world has been designed.

Let the sense of wonder flowing

from the wonders we survey

keep our faith forever growing

and renew our need to pray.

God of wisdom we acknowledge

that our science and our art

and the breadth of human knowledge

only partial truth impart.

Far beyond our calculation

lies a depth we cannot sound

where your purpose for creation

and the pulse of life are found.

May our faith redeem the blunder

of believing that our thought

has displaced the grounds for wonder

which the ancient prophets taught.

May our learning curb the error

which unthinking faith can breed

lest we justify some terror

with an antiquated creed.

As two currents in a river

fight each other’s undertow,

till converging they deliver

one coherent steady flow,

blend, O God, our faith and learning

till they carve a single course,

till they join as one, returning

praise and thanks to you, the Source.

Christianity Divided by the Cross – Marcus Borg

American Christians are deeply divided by the cross of Jesus – namely, by how they see the meanings of his death. At the risk of labels and broad generalizations, “conservative” Christians generally believe a “payment” understanding of the cross: Jesus died to pay for our sins so we can be forgiven.

Most “progressive” Christians (at least a majority) have great difficulty with the “payment” understanding. Many reject it. Some insist that rather than focusing on Jesus’s death, we should instead focus on his life and teachings. They are right about what they affirm, even as they also risk impoverishing the meaning of Jesus by de-emphasizing the cross.

It is the central Christian symbol. And ubiquitous. Perhaps even the most widely-worn piece of jewelry. Its centrality goes back to the beginnings of Christianity. In one of the earliest New Testament documents, Paul in the early 50s summarized “the gospel” he had taught to his community in Corinth as “Christ crucified” (I Cor. 1-2). In the New Testament gospels beginning with Mark around 70, the story of Jesus’s final week and its climax in crucifixion and resurrection dominates their narratives. All four devote more than a fourth of their gospels to Jesus’s final week. And all anticipate the end of Jesus’s life earlier in their narratives. It is as if they are saying: you can’t tell the story of Jesus unless you tell the story of the cross.
Full blog post by Marcus Borg…
https://www.evernote.com/shard/s47/sh/9ce9c577-e24d-4f02-b1e7-60e98f0fdc8b/e146d70b7f9cc38c82fb54c223cd1220

God Does Justice by Restoring Things Instead of Punishing Them – Richard Rohr

God Does Justice by Restoring Things Instead of Punishing Them

Meditation 40 of 52

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me … he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.  — Isaiah 61:1

In this reading from Isaiah, the prophet describes the coming Servant of Yahweh. It is precisely this quote that Jesus first uses to announce the exact nature of his own ministry (Luke 4:18-19). In each case Jesus describes his work as reuniting things that have in any way lost their divine state, or been marginalized or demeaned by society.

Jesus’ ministry is not to gather the so-called good into a private country club and punish the outsiders, but to reach out to those on the edge and on the bottom, those who are “last,” to tell them they might just be first! That is almost the very job description of the Holy Spirit, and therefore of Jesus. Some call it God’s unique kind of justice or “restorative justice.” God justifies things by restoring them to their true and full identity in Himself, as opposed to “retributive justice” which seeks only reward and punishment. To receive unearned love is their only punishment.

Adapted from Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr, pp. 36-37
(available in Pocket Edition, Larger Edition, and Spanish)
(También disponible en español.)

The Daily Meditations for 2013 are now available
in Fr. Richard’s new book Yes, And … .

Fowler’s Stages of Faith Development

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stages_of_faith_development

Faith is seen as a holistic orientation, and is concerned with the individual’s relatedness to the universal. Fowler defines faith as an activity of trusting, committing and relating to the world based on a set of assumptions of how one is related to others and the world.

  • Stage 0“Primal or Undifferentiated” faith (birth to 2 years), is characterized by an early learning of the safety of their environment (i.e. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). If consistent nurture is experienced, one will develop a sense of trust and safety about the universe and the divine. Conversely, negative experiences will cause one to develop distrust with the universe and the divine. Transition to the next stage begins with integration of thought and languages which facilitates the use of symbols in speech and play.
  • Stage 1“Intuitive-Projective” faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche’s unprotected exposure to the Unconscious.
  • Stage 2“Mythic-Literal” faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic.
  • Stage 3“Synthetic-Conventional” faith (arising in adolescence; aged 12 to adulthood) characterized by conformity to religious authority and the development of a personal identity. Any conflicts with one’s beliefs are ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies.
  • Stage 4“Individuative-Reflective” faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect on one’s own beliefs, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith, but this also increases the awareness of conflicts in one’s belief.
  • Stage 5“Conjunctive” faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems. The individual resolves conflicts from previous stages by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent “truth” that cannot be explained by any particular statement.
  • Stage 6“Universalizing” faith, or what some might call “enlightenment”. The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.