Tuesday, March 18, 2008


this is a book written by richard rohr. it is subtitled the freedom of letting go. it was published originally in german, is written by a man anne lamott says "has the best heart in the world," and i bought it last week when i went to hear her speak. there are many things in this book that grab me, touch me, and strike a chord in me. i want to quote some parts of it, knowing it's hard to completely understand a paragraph when taken out of context of the whole work, but still conveying powerful (to me) ideas...

"Despite all our theology, when this sort of question [how we define God] arises the dominant culture normally carries the day. Or rather, what ultimately prevails is the human ego. We always seem to find a way to keep things firmly in our grasp. And so we've created 'God' to go on playing our game: a God who fits into our system. A God who stands outside our system and calls to us is something we can't endure. Thus, for example, we've continually required a God who likes to play war just as much as we do. We've required a domineering God, because we ourselves like to dominate. And since we're so fixated on this, we've almost completely forgotten and ignored what Jesus told us about the nature of God." ( p. 22 )

"Like many other poeple I've continually wondered why Jesus came to us as a man and why he chose twelve men as disciples. I have only my interpretation for this and no proof that it's right. But I think that if Jesus had come as a woman, and had this woman been forgiving and compassionate, and had she taught nonviolence, we wouldn't have experienced that as revelation. 'Oh, well, a typical woman,' we would have said. But the fact that a man in a patriarchal society took on these qualities that we call 'feminine' was a breathrough in revelation. So he spent three years teaching twelve men how to do things differently--and they almost never caught on. And for two thousand years many men in the Church have never caught on, because we men wanted a God of domination. We've needed a God who would allow the Germans to kill the French and the French to kill the English. A feminine God wouldn't have gotten the job done. The Sermon on the Mount was oft neglected. In the men's Church there is little room for turning the other cheek and forgiving one's enemies." ( p. 27 )

"You don't make up your mind to become powerless. If you deliberately set your sights on it, that will only strengthen your own ego. We can't convert ourselves; we get converted. We have to settle in the world in such a way that circumstances, reality, can get at us. If we're all white Anglo-Saxon Catholics with the same education and biases, no one gets converted, and everybody legitimizes everybody else in whatever stage of 'nonconversion' each one is in." ( p. 41 )

"In my opinion there are three primary things that we have to let go of. First is the compulsion to be successful. Second is the compulsion to be right--even, and especially, to be theologically right. That's an ego trip, and because of this need churches have split in half, with both parties prisoners of their own egos. Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control. I'm convinced that these are the three demons Jesus faced int eh wilderness. And so long as we haven't looked these three demons in the face, we shoudl presume that they're still in charge. The demons have to be called by name, clearly, concretely, and practically, spellingout just how imperious and self-righteous we are. This is the first lesson in the spirituality of subtraction.

That lesson has many social and political implications and leads us to letting go of our political mythologies--for example, that we're the best country in the world, as many Americans believe. Pretty soon we've got to overcome nationalism. We also have to give up the compulsion to possess so many things and to have our own private stock of everything. The fact that not every one of us needs our own auto or washing machines would naturally make a good argument for physical community." ( p. 41-2 )

the thing i like about this book is that i agree with much of what he says, while i also see myself in much of what he says. he emphasizes again and again that the gospels are not about self-control (a masculine ideology) but they are about self-surrender. he says we are all who have gone before us and all who will come behind. it is poetic, but it is also heart-wrenchingly real and feels true my core. not easy...but true. God as an attachment parent. this is what i'm thinking makes sense...

this man also talks about how in worshipping our church, we are worshipping false idols. he says God is all we should worship. he talks about how, as christians, this means we have to accept that there are other ways to God than through christ. that we cannot worship the messenger over the message. i haven't fully grabbed ahold of that one. i sense its truth, but have to spend a little more time with it before i feel like i really understand the implications of that.

but in the meantime, i am inspired by this book to move forward with volunteer efforts before i start the hs volunteer group next school year. and i will keep on meditating...because i DO believe that it is through emptying ourselves that we find what is our basic truth. being active has sure helped that. but writing has, too. everything in balance, i suppose.

a little theology lite this morning...served on a large bed of faith.


*Jess* said...

"he talks about how, as christians, this means we have to accept that there are other ways to God than through christ. that we cannot worship the messenger over the message."

I totally agree with this!

Anonymous said...

come get your award mama!!