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The Future of Christianity
The Future of Christianity

In the End, a New Beginning

Monday, November 28, 2022

Even if our traditional religious architecture crumbles—physically or conceptually—even then God can raise something beautiful from the rubble. —Brian McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration

In this talk on the church’s future, Richard Rohr encourages trust in the mystery of faith:

It is no accident that the liturgy has the creed at its core, a statement of faith that repeats: I believe, I believe, I believe. Regardless of what it is, we must find our real belief system. What are we passionate and enthusiastic about? What are we filled with God about? Being reactionary against what’s wrong might excite people, but it does not convert anybody, does not transform anybody, and does not draw the soul. We all know what’s wrong, we all know what should be changed, but more change, no matter how progressive, will not bring about soul transformation in and of itself. Our call to change is now obviously much deeper.

Our faith also offers us a foundational belief that life is a succession of dyings and risings. At the center of the Eucharist, we proclaim, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.” [1] That is the saving pattern! It is not a mystery of faith; it is the mystery of faith. It will never change. But Western people, trained in the philosophy of progress and problem-solving, don’t really believe that anymore. We much more believe that we can overcome the paschal mystery. That we can create a family, a parish, a church, an institution, a country that will not have to go through the dying of things.

It’s not true! It’s not true that everything’s getting better and better. That fallacy is being taken away from us. But we can return to the pattern of our faith and the pattern of reality: that things die and things resurrect and both are good teachers. Christ must be recognized and welcomed in both places—in the dying of things, and in the ecstasy and the loveliness of things.

The way down always teaches us. We need times where the soul is broken and we need some place we can go and weep and mourn. But we must have healthy people there who don’t let us sink into that negativity as a way of life. As people of the church, we are called to be agents of transformation who witness and accompany change with the wisdom of the soul.

Jesus never told us to put our trust in the larger institutions of culture or even the church. That doesn’t mean they are bad or that we should abandon them, but we must recognize that they are also subject to the paschal mystery, the dying and the rising of all things. And I think we must be honest that we’re at the downside of the curve. All the indices suggest that we are at the end of the dominance of the United States, Western civilization, and even of Christianity. The question for us becomes: What will we do about it?


[1] This memorial acclamation was still used during Mass at the time of this presentation.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Creating a Church for the 21st Century, conference presentation, August 6, 1993.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Christopher Holt, Newgrange Triple Spiral (detail), 2014, Ireland, photograph, Wikimedia. Joanna Kosinska, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Nasa and ESA, M104 Sombrero Galaxy (detail), 2003, United States, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: From a past shrouded by time, we hold the known candle of our present moment toward an unknown and expansive future. Past, present, and future— Christ is present in each.

Story from Our Community:

There was a time when I considered leaving the Church. The Daily Meditations have freed me to continue my spiritual journey honestly. Yesterday at Mass, as often happens these days, I was overcome by an intimate and passionate welling up inside of me. As I observed the rich ritual and the beautiful statues, time seemed to stand still, and I literally felt grace filling me and spilling into the space and people around me. I thought of the hundreds of times I have sat in a Catholic church, surrounded by loved ones and strangers. I felt the comfort of my long-ago deceased parents and their constant gifts of love. Richard Rohr’s words, whether in books, the Daily Meditations, videos or other means, have been a great source of inspiration and comfort, especially when doubt, anxiety, and fear creep in. Thank you! —Jody G.

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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.

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