Emerging Church

By Richard Rohr

Returning to Essentials

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hospitality is the practice that keeps the church from becoming a club, a members-only society. —Diana Butler Bass [1]

Practical, practice-based Christianity has been avoided, denied, minimized, ignored, delayed, and sidelined for too many centuries, by too many Christians who were never told Christianity was anything more than a belonging or belief system. Now we know that there is no Methodist or Catholic way of loving. There is no Orthodox or Presbyterian way of living a simple and nonviolent life. There is no Lutheran or Evangelical way of showing mercy. There is no Baptist or Episcopalian way of visiting the imprisoned. If there is, we are invariably emphasizing the accidentals, which distract us from the very “marrow of the Gospel,” as St. Francis called it. We have made this mistake for too long. We cannot keep avoiding what Jesus actually emphasized and mandated. In this most urgent time, “it is the very love of Christ that now urges us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

Quaker pastor Philip Gulley superbly summarizes how we must rebuild spirituality from the bottom up in his book, If the Church Were Christian. [2] Here I take the liberty of using my own words to restate his message, which offers a rather excellent description of Emerging Christianity:

  1. Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.
  2. Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
  3. The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
  4. Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
  5. Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
  6. Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
  7. Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
  8. Peacemaking is more important than power.
  9. We should care more about love and less about sex.
  10. Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (eternity is God’s work anyway).

If this makes sense to you, you are already inside of Emerging Christianity.

 
References:

[1] Diana Butler Bass, A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (HarperOne: 2010), 64.
[2] See Philip Gulley, If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus (HarperOne: 2010). This list is adapted from his chapter titles.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Emerging Christianity: A Non-Dual Vision,” Radical Grace, vol. 23, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), 3, 22.

You are invited!

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The Jesus story is the universe story

By Richard Rohr

The Mystery of the Cross
Sunday, April 23, 2017

It is a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. —1 Corinthians 2:8

Jesus’ life, death, and raising up is the whole pattern revealed, named, summed up, and assured for our own lives. It gives us the full trajectory that we might not recognize otherwise. He is the map. The Jesus story is the universe story. The Universal Christ is no threat to anything but separateness, illusion, domination, and the imperial ego. In that sense, Jesus, the Christ, is the ultimate threat, but first of all to Christians. Only when we follow Jesus through his life, death and resurrection will we have any universal and salvific message for the rest of the earth.

The lead up to and the follow up from the cross is the great interpretative key that makes the core pattern clear. It’s no accident that we have made the cross the Christian logo, because in the revelation of the cross, many great truths become obvious and even overwhelming, even though we do not want to see them.

Those who “gaze upon” (John 19:37) the Crucified long enough—with contemplative eyes—are always healed at deep levels of pain, unforgiveness, aggression, and victimhood. Contemplative gazing demands no theological education, just an “inner exchange” by receiving the image within and offering one’s soul back in safe return. C. G. Jung is supposed to have said that a naked man nailed to a cross is perhaps the deepest archetypal symbol in the Western psyche. [1]

The crucified Jesus offers, at a largely unconscious level, a very compassionate meaning system for history. Without such cosmic meaning and soul significance, the agonies and tragedies of Earth feel like Shakespeare’s “sound and fury signifying nothing” or “a tale told by an idiot.” The body can live without food more easily than the soul can live without such transformative meaning.

If all our crucifixions are leading to some possible resurrection, and are not dead-end tragedies, this changes everything. If God is somehow participating in the suffering of humans and creation, instead of just passively tolerating it and observing it, that also changes everything—at least for those who are willing to “gaze” contemplatively.

We Christians are given the privilege to name the mystery rightly and to know it directly and consciously, but in many ways we have not lived it much better than other religions and cultures. All humble, suffering souls can learn this from the flow of life itself, but the Christian Scriptures named it and revealed it to us publicly and dramatically in Jesus. It all depends on whether you have “gazed” long and deep enough at the paradoxical mystery of life and death.

 

Gateway to Silence:
I am crucified with Christ.

References:

[1] See Jerry Wright, “Christ, a Symbol of the Self,” C.G. Jung Society of Atlanta Quarterly News (Fall 2001), 6-8. Jung wrote extensively about Christ as archetype; Wright’s essay offers a brief overview of key ideas and resources. Available at http://www.jungatlanta.com/articles/fall01-crist-symbol-of-self.pdf

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 185-187

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