Monday, January 03, 2011

Adult Christians?

I founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in 1987 because so many peace and justice people, frankly, disappointed me.  They were angry, pushy, and often dualistic thinkers on the Left. They too often perpetuated the problem in new form instead of healing it at any deep level.

As adult Christians, we need to do things from the heart space, not from the ego’s need to assert itself or win any argument.  We do not need to be better than or holier than anybody else.  There’s no long term moral advance if we merely please our own ego or if the energy is oppositional.

To purify our own motivation, and to be honest about our intentions, is the big hump between the first and second halves of life.  In the second half of our spiritual journey, we might continue to do the same things but now from a very different place:  We don’t need to win or need to be right.  We just do what we are called to do, but then let go of the results, and leave that to God.  This is what some call “pure action,” where I act without demanding any particular response or results.  One can only do that when they are doing God’s work and not just their own.

Richard Rohr, adapted from Adult Christianity and How to Get There (CD/MP3)

Rohr reminds me so clearly of one of the things that drew me to the Franciscan way in the first place—that following Francis following Christ is a way to draw together the threads that are so often disparate, disjointed and at odds with each other in the church, and yet which, in me, are as necessary, though as different, as air and water.

As Rohr says of “peace and justice people” sometimes we in the church can be angry, pushy, dualistic thinkers. Evangelicals and Catholics, Charismatics and Reformed churchmen (yes, mostly men!) are too prone to suspect each others’ doctrine and ecclesiology, spirituality and outreach, while maintaining their own style as the only way to go.

One of the marvellous things about Francis was that he transcended all these barriers. He was a man of deep passionate Scriptural knowledge and devotion, a Spirit-filled worshipper who danced along the woodland lanes playing an old twig like a fiddle, and making up praise songs in the troubadour style; yet he had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and his Eucharistic spirituality was so given over to the crucified Christ that he, Francis, eventually ended up marked with the stigmata. He was a man who had no patience with empty, corrupt tradition, yet he would never allow himself to be ordained Priest since his view of the priestly calling was so high as to make him feel forever unworthy of such a role.

As followers of Francis in our own time, perhaps we need to keep these things in mind. Only by examining ourselves with total honesty, passionately refusing every excuse for angry, pushy, dualistic thinking; and pledging ourselves, as our Principles state, “to fight against the ignorance, pride, and prejudice that breed injustice or partiality of any kind.”


  1. Very... Nicee... Blog.. I really appreciate it... Thanks..:-)

  2. Such a good message from Rohr and you as well, Mike.

    I am afraid I must appear as a turncoat to my more rabidly liberal friends because I sometimes I find some of their arguments less than convincing. As I get older, it is true that it all becomes a whole lot more grey in tone. There are plagues in all houses, alas. Sometimes it all sounds like a battle for supremacy rather than a seeking of common ground and mutual respect.

    The British Dominican friar Timothy Radcliffe has written good stuff on this theme.

  3. He has indeed! His Lent talks here last year were amazing, and his book Why Go To Church? is one of my own favourites.

    Your experience with some of your more liberal friends is all too familiar... Battles for supremacy do us no credit, whichever colour of church we espouse. What do we think our Lord was saying in John 17.23?

  4. "This is what some call “pure action,” where I act without demanding any particular response or results." This is so true and necessary, this Holy Detachment or non-attachment to outcomes. It's quite a practice, but well worth all of one's effort, isn't it.