Fr. Rohr on Emerging Christianity

In Rohr's daily meditations, he writes:


We thought that we overcame racism in the 60’s; we thought the church overcame triumphalism at Vatican II, and now forty  years later we are right back into this regressive and dualistic thinking all over again.  This is the nature of the ego if we have not formed a contemplative mind, a big mind, that sees everything together, with the eyes of God.  I predict, with some historical certainty, this judgmental thinking will continue to happen in every group, in every denomination if we see everything with a dualistic mind.  No new emerging church will emerge very far.
The judgmental mind is not looking for truth; it is looking for control and righteousness.  For some reason when we split and refuse to receive the moment as it is, we end creating and even reveling in those splits as our very identities.  These are the culture wars and the identity politics we suffer from today.  They will not get us very far spiritually, because they are largely ego-based.

I share Rohr's cautious cynicism.  Human nature is painfully predictable, and dualistic thinking seems stamped into our fundamental patterns of thought and behavior.  Probably some kind of evolved survival instinct: we have to see the world in good and evil, black and white, correct and incorrect, Next Generation and Original Star Trek...

"We end in creating and even reveling in those splits as our very identities."  I'm totally convicted.  Once, I was "the other," now I'm "the other other."  And the self-differentiation continues, ego-driven to be sure.  But there are other motivators too: among them, passionate desire to experience and stand for something better.  Maybe even something so trite as wanting to make the world a better place?

One of the things that attracted me to Emerging Christianity in the first place was its idealism: a sustained attempt by a whole host of Christians to avoid the liberal/conservative continuum altogether.

It's a nice ideal, and I think it's still worth the effort for the right personalities, but I'm afraid the religious environment we inhabit - at least in the West - leaves little room to function pragmatically without making some stances on particular issues.  I believe some positions are worth taking.  And once one makes those stances, there's little question about where one is positioned on the spectrum - like it or not.

Can we move beyond the dualism?  A lot of people make a lot of money off it...

Next, Fr. Rohr writes:

Whatever “Emerging Christianity” is going to be, it will have to be much more practice-based than doctrine-based.  Where has this obsession with believing correct dogmas and doctrines gotten us?  Presently, the Roman church, and fundamentalists of all stripes, are right back into it.  It creates great dramas on both sides.  Maybe that is why God is humbling us at this time.  The obsession with being right and having the whole truth has not served the Gospel well at all, nor has it kept us humble and honest.
If you go to the four Gospels and read what Jesus actually taught, you will see that He talks much more about the “How” (practices which we ourselves must do) rather than the “What” (which just allow us to argue and try to be verbally right).

We have talked a lot about orthopraxy vs. orthodoxy in Emerging circles, and it's an important counterbalance.  That counterbalance has been attacked relentlessly for being an overcompensation, to the detriment of orthodox belief.

Some criticism I have heard even articulates this: "Orthopraxy is easy, you just get to be nice!  Orthodoxy means giving up your own reason and sensibilities."

Really?  Orthopraxy - "right living" - is EASY?!  Please, show me someone... um.  Jesus?

I agree, despite my loose theological allegiances, that intellectual and spiritual humility are important.  I agree that I am NOT smarter than 6,000 years of scribes, prophets, mystics, priests, clerics and scholars.  I agree there is so much more I don't know than what I know, and that ratio will never change (or it will continue to shrink my end of the ratio).  I agree that there is truth I cannot grasp...

But orthopraxy without orthodoxy makes the world a better place.  
Orthodoxy without orthopraxy just makes you a prick.

Props to Rohr, though I'm sure he'd disown this post...


Ken said...

I would rather act like Jesus and know nothing of Him, than know of Jesus and act nothing like Him.

Peter J Walker said...

I second that, Ken!

Brand New Day said...

Hey Peter - I luv ya man and I luv your sass :)

Hey: the thing is that Emergence is not just a shadow side to a dualism pairing - it is a different way of thinking about the world. It is saying that the world works a little different than we were told that it does.

Some people find Process thought a helpful way out of the old cosmology and meta-physics arguments that go round and round without leading anywhere.
It resonates with both 'relational' truths and 'evolutionary' thought.
For some, that comes together in Emergence thought. Here is the thing: we have to remember that it does not originate in nor is it most suited to Theological frameworks. That is where folks like you and me have to do some translating.

Two examples:1) the book "Emergence" by Steven Johnson is about " the connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software." You have to start there - I love Richard Rohr. LOVE HIM. But we can not be too quick on this one. (for many reasons)
2) Phyllis Tickle talks about it here and it's implication for the future of denominations.

ya know what - this is getting too long ;) I am going to blog about it over at my place and let's compare notes.

Peter J Walker said...

Bo! I totally agree with you that Emergence is an alternative way of viewing the world. Yes, the world works differently. However, dualism is our modus operandi, and few of us have managed to shake it yet. That's a longer culture-shift than 1996-to-now.

Agreed - lots of translation work to do. But what makes it so difficult is we're learning how to ride this bike WHILE we're supposed to be teaching how. It inevitably leads to confusion, mistakes, retractions and frustration. But we need to keep at it.

Cool dude, good to chat with you!

Brand New Day said...

Pete - you make a really good point. We are learning while we are doing :) all of us who are at it! (oh how nice it would be to think that the answer was to keep doing what we HAVE been doing - only harder, better, and more sincerely).

Here is the ONE thing that I am going to push for: that we need to repent of the way things HAVE been. The old dualism are actually hurting us. It’s not just that they are ‘old wine skins’ or value neutral or ‘fine if not a bit antiquated’. No. They ARE the problem.

These are not just empty thought constructs - they are SYSTEMS that come heavily impregnated with values and behaviors - both permissions and superstitions. This is why a book like The Argument Culture: Stopping America's War of Words by Deborah Tannen is so useful for getting away from the us-them, either-or, in-out, left-right, creation-evolution, liberal-conservative (etc) splits. I would go so far as to say even the natural-supernatural, spiritual-secular, and clergy-laity splits as well.

These are OLD ways of thinking and are not based on Emergence. That is why I am so enthused about what is coming and what is possible. But first we have to repent of the ways that we use to think ;)

whatcha think?

Peter J Walker said...

I agree! I don't want to come across as defending dualism in any way. Only acknowledging it's prevalence and the difficulty in rejecting it.

Having said that, I just scheduled a post for later next week that is a militant, political posture against the fear-based hate-mongering from Glen Beck/Sarah Palin conservatives who demonize Obama, lie about his religious affiliation (as if it matters) and gather the "faithful" in holy war against the Democratic Party and any government programs that attempt to right social disparity.

So while I dislike dualism, and I admire and aspire to Brian McLaren's attempts at transcending these party lines, there are practical necessities (in my view) for fighting head-on against hate/fear/intolerance militarism, and crony-capitalism.

Until culture is largely through the window, out of these old unhelpful paradigms, we have to push for something new while trying to hold ground in the existing matrix. It's difficult, but to leave behind all of "this" means everything we actually believe in gets rolled over by war, jingoism, cronyism, and multinational corporations.

It's like moving to the electric car: we'll probably have to drive hybrids for awhile...

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