Emerging Christianity seems to be willing to recognize that it is at the energetic level, the life level, the love level, the lifestyle level that the living mystery of God and Jesus is passed on. It is not just getting the words right, and making a verbal affirmation of your belief in words and creeds. Verbal belief systems ask almost nothing of us in terms of actual change of mind and heart and lifestyle.
The broader Jesus scholarship that we are now enjoying widens the view to include previously neglected perspectives: the essential Jewish lens, the feminist/womanist lens, the lens of the poor, the unique lens of every minority, and the lens of sincere secular seekers, who often point out our own blind spots to us. You cannot see what you were never told to look for from inside.
I personally do not think Jesus ever intended to create Christianity as a new or separate religion. I think he was trying to reform and restore the Jewish religion, and in that he offered us the criteria by which to reform all religion forever…
The contemplative mind is really just the mind that emerges when you pray instead of think first. Praying opens the field and moves beyond fear and judgment and agenda and analysis, and just lets the moment be what it is—as it is.
We really have to be taught that mind. We now are pretty sure that it was systematically taught—mostly in the monasteries—as late as the 13th and even into the 14th century. But once we got into the oppositional mind of the Reformation and the rational mind of the Enlightenment, the contemplative mind pretty much fell by the wayside. The wonderful thing is that it is now being rediscovered across denominations, and there is no select group that holds it or that teaches it. Catholics still use the word “contemplation,” but usually have not been taught the practice, even monks and nuns and priests…
The contemplative mind does not need to prove anything or disprove anything. It looks for wisdom by saying, “What does this text ask of me, what do I need to change in me?” Not, "how can I change others?"
The contemplative mind lets the terrifying/wonderful moment be what it is and primarily ask something of me, not always using it to convert others.
The contemplative mind is willing to hear from a fresh beginner’s mind, yet also learn from the old and solid Tradition.
The contemplative mind has the humility and patience to think “both/and” instead of “all or nothing.” We call this non-dual thinking. It easily leads to a “Third Way” mentality, neither fight nor flight, but standing in between where I can hold what I do know together with what I don’t know. And then I let that wonderful mix lead me to wisdom instead of easy, quick knowledge which largely just creates opinionated people instead of wise people.
Richard Rohr, adapted from the CAC webcast, Nov. 8, 2008:
“What is The Emerging Church?”
I can’t help but feel that Rohr has put his finger here on something very important for us to realise as we look at the Church at the beginning of the 21st century, shaken by internal strife and the rumours of schism, increasingly threatened from without by the minions of political correctness and jobsworthery, yet strangely full of new life and hope on the level of individual fellowships, congregations and groups.
The political model of doing church, just like the Thatcherite business model of running public services, is beginning to fall apart at the seams, showing the creaking framework of false assumptions that holds it all together. We are rediscovering Christ, after all these years!
The Principles, Day 5, reads: “The [Third] Order [Society of St. Francis] is founded on the conviction that Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of God; that true life has been made available to us through His Incarnation and Ministry; by His Cross and Resurrection; and by the sending of his Holy Spirit. Our Order believes that it is the commission of the church to make the gospel known to all and therefore accepts the duty of bringing others to know Christ, and of praying and working for the coming of the Kingdom of God.”
That is our simple calling. If we do that, if, like Francis himself, we drop everything and follow our Lord, taking him at his word, then all else will fall into place, and as the Lord commissioned him, we will help rebuild his Church. What Rohr calls “the contemplative mind” is in many ways just that: being prepared to look from within outwards to the suffering and broken world with the eyes of the indwelling Christ, who said, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17.20ff NRSV)