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blue bits. red rocks.

mystics

People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know that they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. Richard Rohr

In other words, what if the church could be a place where we found a liturgical structure that would not treat God as a product that would make us whole but as the mystery that enables us to live abundantly in the midst of life’s difficulties. A place where we are invited to confront the reality of our humanity, not so that we will despair, but so that we will be free of the despair that already lurks within us, the despair that enslaves us, the despair that we refuse to acknowledge. Peter Rollins

Nonviolence is perhaps the most exacting of all forms of struggle, not only because it demands first of all that one be ready to suffer evil and even face the threat of death without violent retaliation, but because it excludes mere transient self-interest, even political, from its consideration. In a very really sense, he [or she] who practices nonviolent resistance must commit himself [or herself] not to the defense of his [or her] own interests or even those of a particular group: he [or she] must commit himself [or herself] to the defense of objective truth and right and above all of [humanity]. His [or her] aims then not simply to “prevail” or to prove that he [or she] is right and the adversary wrong, or to make the adversary give in and yield what is demanded. Thomas Merton

“Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:10) was proclaimed by the early church as their most concise creedal statement. No one ever told me this was a political and subversive statement, until I studied the Scriptures. To say “Jesus is Lord” was testing and provoking the Roman pledge of allegiance that every Roman citizen had to shout when they raised their hand to the Roman insignia: “Caesar is Lord.” Early Christians were quite aware that their “citizenship” was in a new universal kingdom, announced by Jesus (Philippians 3:20), and that the kingdoms of this world were not their primary loyalty systems. How did we manage to lose that? And what price have we paid for it? Jesus showed no undue loyalty either to his Jewish religion nor to his Roman-occupied Jewish country; instead, he radically critiqued both of them, and in that he revealed and warned against the idolatrous relationships that most people have with their country and their religion. It has allowed us to justify violence in almost every form and to ignore much of the central teaching of Jesus. Richard Rohr

In recent elections one would have thought that homosexuality and abortion were the new litmus tests of Christianity. Where did this come from? They never were the criteria of proper membership for the first 2000 years, but reflect very recent culture wars instead—and largely from people who think of themselves as “traditionalists”! The fundamentals were already resolved in the early Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. Note that none of the core beliefs are about morality at all. The Creeds are more mystical, cosmological, and about aligning our lives inside of a huge sacred story. When you lose the mystical level, you always become moralistic as a cheap substitute. Jesus is clearly much more concerned about issues of pride, injustice, hypocrisy, blindness, and what I have often called “The Three Ps” of power, prestige, and possessions, which are probably 95% of Jesus’ written teaching. We conveniently ignore this 95% to concentrate on a morality that usually has to do with human embodiment. That’s where people get righteous, judgmental, and upset, for some reason. The body seems to be where we carry our sense of shame and inferiority, and early-stage religion has never gotten much beyond these “pelvic” issues. As Jesus put it, “You ignore the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and good faith … and instead you strain out gnats and swallow camels” (Matthew 23:23-24). We worry about what people are doing in bed much more than making sure everybody has a bed to begin with. There certainly is a need for a life-giving sexual morality, but one could question whether Christian nations have found it yet. Christianity will regain its moral authority when it starts emphasizing social sin in equal measure with individual (read “body-based”) sin and weaves them both into a seamless garment of love and truth. Richard Rohr

Thomas Merton said it was actually dangerous to put the scriptures in the hands of people whose inner self is not yet sufficiently awakened to encounter the Spirit, because they will try to use God for their own egocentric purposes (This is why religion is so subject to corruption!). Now, if we are going to talk about Lent being a time of conversion and penance, let me apply that to the two major groups that have occupied Western Christianity—Catholics and Protestants. Neither one has really let the Word of God guide their lives. Catholics need to be converted to giving the Scriptures some actual authority in their lives. Luther wasn’t wrong when he said that most Catholics did not read the Bible. Most Catholics are still not that interested in the Bible (historically they did not have the printing press, nor could most people read, so you can’t blame them entirely). I have been a priest for 42 years now, and I would sadly say that most Catholics would rather hear quotes from saints, Popes, and bishops, the current news, or funny stories, if they are to pay attention. If I quote strongly from the Sermon on the Mount, they are almost throwaway lines. I can see Catholics glaze over because they have never read the New Testament, much less studied it, or been guided by it. I am very sad to have to admit this. It is the Achilles heel of much of the Catholic world, priests included. (The only good thing about it is that they never fight you like Protestants do about Scripture. They are easily duped, and the hierarchy has been able to take advantage of this.) If Catholics need to be converted, Protestants need to do penance. Their shout of “sola Scriptura” (only Scripture) has left them at the mercy of their own cultures, their own limited education, their own prejudices, and their own selective reading of some texts while avoiding others. It has become laughable, as slavery, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia have lasted authoritatively into our time—by people who claim to love Jesus! I think they need to do penance for what they have often done with the Bible! They largely interpreted the Bible in a very individualistic and otherworldly way. It was an evacuation plan for the next world—and just for their group. Most of Evangelical Protestantism has no cosmic message, no social message, and little sense of social justice or care for the outsider. Both Catholics and Protestants (Orthodox, too!) found a way to do our own thing while posturing friendship with Jesus. Richard Rohr

…for people who have truly learned to trust creation one of the first lessons is how beauty and _im_perfection go together. Every tree is beautiful; but if you approach it closely enough you will see that every tree is imperfect. The same is true of the human body: every human body is beautiful, but every human body is imperfect. In nature, in creation, imperfection is not a sign of the absence of God. It is a sign that the ongoing creation is no easy thing… Matthew Fox

The sacred texts of the Bible are filled with absolute breakthroughs, epiphanies, and manifestations of the highest level of encounter, conversion, transformation, and Spirit. The Bible also contains texts which are punitive, petty, tribal, and idiotic. A person can prove anything he or she wants from a single line of the Bible. To tell you the truth, the Bible says just about everything you might want to hear—somewhere! Maybe this sad and humiliating recognition can be your ashes today. Like a phoenix you can rise and rebuild your knowledge of Scripture in a prayerful, calm, skillful, and mature way. Then you can read with head and heart and Spirit working as one, and not just a search for quick answers. Maybe one of the biggest mistakes in the history of Christianity is that we have separated spirituality from theology and scripture study. In other words, we put the Scriptures in the hands of very immature and unconverted people, even clergy. We put the Scriptures in the hands of people at entirely egocentric levels, who still think “It’s all about me,” and who use the Bible in a very willful way. It is all dualistic win or lose. The egocentric will still dominates: the need to be right, the need to be first, the need to think I am saved and other people are not. This is the lowest level of human consciousness, and God cannot be heard from that heady place. Perhaps it is not accidental that we place the ashes of Ash Wednesday precisely on the forehead. Richard Rohr

Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams. Dostoevsky’s Father Zossima

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man. Albert Einstein

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Spirituality is about seeing. It’s not about earning or achieving. It’s about relationship rather than results or requirements. Once you see, the rest follows. You don’t need to push the river, because you are already in it—and floating along! The life is lived within us, and we learn how to say yes to that always-existent Life. If we exist on a level where we can see how “everything belongs,” we can trust the flow and trust the life, the life so large and deep and spacious that it even includes its opposite, death. Richard Rohr

What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside down? What happened to the smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered (by those in power) dangerous? Robert Capon

What Jesus was about was starting a revolution. He called this revolution, ” the Kingdom of God.” This revolution isn’t centered on getting people to believe particular religious beliefs and engage in particular religious behaviors, though these may be important, true, and helpful. Nor is it centered on trying to fix the world by advocating the ” right ” national agendas, theough these may be noble, righteous and effective. No, the Kingdom of God that Jesus established in centered on one thing only: maninfesting the beauty of God’s character and thus revolting against everything that is inconsistent with this beauty. The Kingdom is centered on displaying a beauty that revolts. Greg Boyd

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I have a nagging hunch that the gospel’s power in our own time is about to be manifested in a manner as repugnant to the sensibilities of the society at large, and all of us who have accommodated ourselves to it, as the early Christian message was to Roman paganism. Our society is possessed, Christians as much as anyone. We are possessed by violence, possessed by sex, possessed by money, possessed by drugs. We need to recover forms of collective exorcism as effective as was the early Christian baptism’s renunciation of ‘the devil and all his works.’ Walter Wink

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