A Lever and a Place to Stand
Richard Rohr, Hidden Spring
My friends tell me that one of the memories they take away from my leadership seminars — and sometimes my preaching — is a few of “Croucher’s Global Statements”. Okay (give a dog a bad name …) here’s another:
In my humble opinion, Franciscan Fr Richard Rohr is the English-speaking world’s #1 contemporary Christian prophet.
There, now that that’s off my chest, let’s have a quick glance at this book.
Richard is “with-it” (he’s au fait with Emerging Church thinking, a la Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren and so on), ecumenical (I love his sometimes oblique but devastating critiques of church hierarchies), erudite (he’s a voracious reader and, these days, author), irenical (but the conservatives and liberals each regularly “cop a serve”) and very “grounded” and friendly (we’ve been privileged to have him stay with us in Melbourne).
The thesis of A Lever and a Place to Stand is simple, but not-so-simple: Without a genuine contemplative stance, we’ll never adequately challenge the oppressions, materialism and sectarianism of our modern world.
But activism without contemplation/meditation is mostly the preferred shortcut moderns take to “attack” the world’s problems, hence, for example, imperialistic disasters like Afghanistan, the incarceration of more people in US prisons for drug-related offences than were in Russian gulags a generation or two ago, the selfishness of “born again/right wing” Christianity in the US and elsewhere, which attacks issues like gay relationships, for example, with conservative hermeneutics and bigotry rather than empathy … the list goes on.
Our better-educated political and religious leaders know more and miss the point more. “Information is not the same as transformation.”
Complexity the other side of simplicity is just as bad as simplicity this side of complexity (again, both liberals and conservatives tend not to “get it”). The contemplative stance journeys us to simplicity the other side of complexity, the land Jesus and the saints and mystics inhabited.
Following his two key mentors, “Father” Francis and Thomas Merton, Rohr says the “fixed point” in the analogy — the place to stand — is a contemplative stance. “Don’t just do something, sit there!”
Inner authority/integrity is what people are looking for, not “ordination” and/or ecclesial status. There’s a great danger in “outer authorities” taking the place of inner “contemplative seeing”.
To practise what he preaches, Rohr spends every other Lent in a hermitage, communing with God in stillness, silence, solitariness, and scripture (and nature).
Every paragraph has “quotable quotes” in it. Let me conclude with just one:
“Since 9/11 it seems that church has frequently become one more place for frightened people to hide … to give ourselves a quick fix of surety and of ‘God is on our side’, so that we would not have to look at this issue with any subtlety or repentance whatsoever. What if the president had called a worldwide convocation of Islamic peoples to ask them, ‘Why do you hate us so much? What are we doing wrong? What could we do better to show you that we are your friends?’ Unthinkable isn’t it? It’s even unthinkable to people who go to church each Sunday. Why? I believe it is because most organised religion is still a ‘first half of life’ religion.”
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