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Alternative Orthodoxy
Alternative Orthodoxy

Alternative Orthodoxy: Weekly Summary

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Alternative Orthodoxy

Sunday, February 2–Friday, February 7, 2020

Franciscan alternative orthodoxy has never bothered fighting popes, bishops, Scriptures, or dogmas. It just quietly but firmly pays attention to different things—like simplicity, humility, non-violence, contemplation, solitude and silence, earth care, nature and other creatures, and the “least of the brothers and sisters.” (Sunday)

As part of our emphasis on orthopraxy over orthodoxy, the Franciscan tradition taught that love and action are more important than intellect or speculative truth. Love is the highest category for the Franciscan School. (Monday)

Throughout history, the Franciscan School has typically been a minority position inside of the Roman Catholic and larger Christian tradition. Not everyone shares our way of thinking, but it has never been condemned or considered heretical—in fact quite the opposite. (Tuesday)

The Franciscan alternative orthodoxy is basically saying that no atonement is necessary. There was no bill to be paid; there was simply a union to be named. (Wednesday)

The universal Christ is one of the crown jewels of early Franciscan theology and part of our alternative orthodoxy. (Thursday)

Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of ecology because he granted animals, elements, and the earth subjectivity, respect, and mutuality. He called them Brothers and Sisters and Mother. (Friday)
Practice: Eight Laws of Change 

While orthodoxy is about correct beliefs, orthopraxy is about right practice: doing the practices and living the lifestyles that end up changing our consciousness. Francis of Assisi said to the first friars, “You only know as much as you do!” [1] Franciscan teaching, which is based in Scripture, has freed me and many others to live more embodied, loving lives.  

The Franciscans are not alone in their emphasis on practice. In his book The 8 Laws of Change: How to Be an Agent of Personal and Social Transformation, author Stephan A. Schwartz offers life-practices he gathered from observing the Quakers. Their actions—grounded in contemplation—have had a profound impact, helping to abolish slavery, promote gender equity, and reform prisons and other institutions. Schwartz writes:  

How could this small group of people create movements that ultimately involve millions, tens of millions? This is a tiny group whose beingness is so powerful that enough people personally change their choices so that the desired change becomes society’s new norm. In studying the histories of these great social transformations, eight laws—I hesitate to call them laws, but because they are constants in each case, I think they have earned the term—begin to emerge. . . . Taken together, they reveal how individual choice linked in consensus becomes the strategy of beingness that creates change. Adherence to these Eight Laws is not the unique domain of Quakers, of course. But in their efforts, it can be clearly seen.
Here are the laws:

First Law. The individuals, individually, and the group, collectively, must share a common intention.

Second Law. The individuals and the group may have goals, but they may not have cherished outcomes.

Third Law. The individuals in the group must accept that their goals may not be reached in their lifetimes and be okay with this.

Fourth Law. The individuals in the group must accept that they may not get either credit or acknowledgment for what they have done and be authentically okay with this.

Fifth Law. Each person in the group, regardless of gender, religion, race, or culture, must enjoy fundamental equality, even as the various roles in the hierarchy of the effort are respected.

Sixth Law. The individuals in the group must foreswear violence in word, act, or thought.

Seventh Law. The individuals in the group and the group itself must make their private selves consistent with their public postures.

Eighth Law. The individuals in the group and the group collectively must always act from the beingness of life-affirming integrity. [2]


[1] “The Legend of Perugia,” Saint Francis of Assisi: Omnibus of Sources (Franciscan Press: 1991), 74.

[2] Stephan A. Schwartz, The 8 Laws of Change: How to Be an Agent of Personal and Social Transformation (Inner Traditions/Bear & Company: 2015), 17-18.

For Further Study:

Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014)

Richard Rohr with Tim Scorer, Embracing an Alternative Orthodoxy: Richard Rohr on the Legacy of St. Francis (Morehouse Education Resources: 2014), Participants’ Workbook and DVD 

Richard Rohr, Franciscan Mysticism: I AM That which I Am Seeking (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2012), CDMP3 download 

Richard Rohr, In the Footsteps of Francis: Awakening to Creation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), CDMP3 download 

Richard Rohr, Returning to Essentials: Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015), CD, MP3 download

Image credit: St. Francis of Assisi (detail), Jusepe de Ribera, 1642, El Escorial.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Francis loved God above all and wanted to imitate Jesus in very practical ways. Action and lifestyle mattered much more to him than mentally believing dogmatic or moral positions to be true or false. Francis directly said to the first friars, “You only know as much as you do!” —Richard Rohr
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