Independence Day in the U.S.
Father Richard makes a distinction between first-half-of-life and second-half-of-life spirituality:
Most cultures are first-half-of-life cultures, and even sadder, most organized religions almost necessarily sell a first-half-of-life spirituality. In the first half of life, it is all about me: How can I be important? How can I be safe? How can I make money? How can I look attractive? And, in the Christian scenario, how can I think well of myself and go to heaven? How can I be on moral high ground? These are all ego questions; they are not the questions of the soul. It is still well-disguised narcissism, or even sanctified narcissism, which is surely the worst kind.
I’m sad to say, I think many Christians have never moved beyond these survival and security questions. Even “wanting to go to heaven” is language for securing my future, not a shared future, or a common future for humanity; religion becomes a private insurance plan for that future. It’s still all about me, but piously disguised. It’s not really about love at all!
Any sense of being part of a cosmos, a historical sweep, or that God is doing something bigger and better than simply saving individual souls (my soul in particular), is largely of no interest. This becomes apparent in the common disinterest of so many when it comes to Earth care, building real community, simple living, and almost all peace and justice issues. For many Christians—stuck in the first half of life—all that is important is their private moral superiority and spiritual “safety,” which is somehow supposed to “save” them. It creates what I am now calling a “cult of innocence,” not any real human or divine solidarity. 
Once God and grace move us to the second half of life, religion becomes much more a mystical matter rather than a moral matter. Then it’s about union with all and participation in and with God. Indeed, this is the work of true religion: to help us transition from stage to stage, toward ever-deeper union with God and all things.
Those who fall into the safety net of silence find that it is not at all a fall into individualism. True prayer or contemplation is instead a leap into commonality and community. We know that what we are experiencing can only be held by the Whole and we are not alone anymore. We are merely a part, and as such a very grateful and totally satisfied part. This is “the peace the world cannot give” (see John 14:27).
Real silence moves us from knowing things to perceiving a Presence that imbues all things. Could this be God? When we begin to experience a mutuality between ourselves and all things, we have begun to understand the nature of Spirit. God refuses to be known as any kind of object, but only as a mutuality.
 The phrase “cult of innocence” was coined in a tweet by author and pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, and is explored in depth in Brian McLaren’s new book Do I Stay Christian?
Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 87–88, 208.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard on contemplation, action, and community.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image Credit: Perry Riddle, Lunch Hour in the Sun (detail), 1976, photograph, Illinois, public domain. Dick Rowan, California – Southern California Big Sur Coastal Area (detail), 1972, photograph, California. Flip Schulke, Inexpensive Retirement Hotels (detail), 1973, photograph, Florida, public domain. Jenna Keiper, 2022, triptych art, United States.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image Inspiration: Humanity – we find ways to connect with each other across location, age, and space.
Story from Our Community:
As a black Christian pastor in South Carolina, I have felt the pressure to deny my own emotional pain and spiritual struggle. My refusal wasn’t because of cowardice, but because I’ve seen scapegoating when black people go public in white spaces about structural and systemic racism. Some of my white brothers and sisters would rather pray and disengage than sit with the dehumanization that white supremacy has thrust upon black people living in America. Several weeks ago I decided to be vulnerable by sharing, in public, our need for truth-telling, confession, and reconciliation. It hasn’t been easy and some have responded in the typical way of deflecting, scapegoating, and making it about individuals versus systems and structures. And yet, I’ve seen people come together for meaningful conversations that can go toward truly seeking justice. —John L.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.