Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Not one of us…

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

Wow! If Jesus said this, he was surely not expecting the religion of niceness, of pretty words and feel-good experiences that we have become. He knew that Big Truth always divides before it can unite a few at a deeper level. I think most of the thousands of sermons I've heard in my life have been about “being nice” in one way or another. That's how domesticated the gospel has become—as if Jesus were a Divine Miss Manners, and the Church existed to maintain proper social order and class. Yet many are entirely content at the level, and Church has not usually been a passionate search for God. The word nice isn't found anywhere in the Bible, to my knowledge.

There's nothing more dangerous to true religious thinking than conventional thinking, easy conformity, being like everybody else in our social group. There's no depth or power at that level. Mass consciousness is never going to be ready for anything that asks them to “die” or that does not make them feel secure and superior. So we have settled largely for civil religion and cultural Christianity. It's so much more comforting to be nice and “moral” at a small level—than to be faithful to Big Truth—which cuts us all open like a sword.

Richard Rohr OFM, adapted from Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction

I recently spoke with a Christian who had arrived in the UK from Vietnam. Having been here for 18 months, he explained that he had not heard a sermon or any discussion on the subject of suffering.

For many Christians in the West, our model of the Christian life implies that we should be riding high on a success-oriented spirituality. We rarely reflect on the tribulation which Jesus predicted would be our normal Christian experience (see John 16:33; 1 Thessalonians 3:3)…

…suffering is part of our Christian calling (1 Peter 3:9). Peter is repeating what he said earlier, that we are following the example of Christ (1 Peter 2:21). Just as the psalmist predicted, God’s people will face pressures of all kinds, but to experience God’s care and blessing we should refuse to allow evil to set the agenda (1 Peter 3:10–12; Psalm 34:12–16).

Jonathan Lamb, WordLive

Fond as I am of Fr. Richard Rohr, he always makes me uneasy when he uses expressions like, “Mass consciousness is never going to be ready…” There is a thread in his writing sometimes that sounds almost Gnostic, though I am sure from his deep and rigorous treatment of Scripture that he doesn’t mean it in anything like the way it comes across. Maybe it’s just my own over-sensitivity, but I am always very conscious that as Franciscans we must continually be sure that we are on the side of the little folk, the plain people who don’t have the advantages of education, or standing in the church; the poor, in fact: those who suffer.

But as our own Vicar here in Wool, Rhona, said on Sunday as she preached on Mark 7:1-23, our hearts must always be open to precisely those people who don’t meet our expectations, who seem to reflect “mass consciousness” all too uncomfortably. We cannot allow (James 2:1-7) our own ideas of what conforms to our social or religious expectations to get in the way of the vast scandal of the Gospel, that the first shall be last, and the hearts of little children will teach us, and those who are not “one of us”, in Margaret Thatcher’s phrase, are our sisters and brothers in the Kingdom of God (Mark9:34-40).

1 comment:

  1. Mass Consciousness = 'the world', i.e.'those who are worldly or belong to this world'. Yes we must lose our expectations of 'domesticating' the world to the Gospel in a political sense. The result is a 'domesticated' and unfaithful Church.

    In a sense the Gospel is violent with love and terrifying with truth for those who oppose God in a willful manner. Fr. Rohr correctly points out the inconsistency of being a church which shuns its own suffering and settles for 'niceness'.