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Center for Action and Contemplation
A Benevolent Universe
A Benevolent Universe

Is the Universe on Our Side?

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Father Richard Rohr describes three different worldviews people adhere to:

Underneath the religious or belief systems we hold, there are often three possible worldviews: The universe is against us, the universe is for us, or the universe is neutral.

The latter says that reality is indifferent. There is no God against us or for us; we’re basically on our own in the universe. Many good and even religious people subscribe to this worldview. Life has sadly convinced them that there probably is a God, and God might even be just and good, but this God is not actively involved in our lives or history. We can go through all the rites and services, follow all the rules, but if the grace of God hasn’t deeply touched us—which is the full meaning of conversion—we will have no meaningful awareness of the divine.

That’s the malaise of much of Western Christianity today. Many people keep up the external observance of reliance upon God, but underneath depend only on themselves. “Nothing’s going to happen unless I make it happen,” such people say to themselves. There is no active trust in the presence or the reality of God, or that God makes any real difference. This form of secularism is insidious because we can’t get at it. All the right words and ideas are there, but there is a foundational sense of an indifferent universe and an indifferent, distant God.

If someone stays in an indifferent universe for long, they usually move to the second worldview where reality is perceived as hostile, destructive, or judgmental. Not only is God not involved but God has to be appeased. For such people God is somehow actively against humanity: watching us, judging us, critiquing us, and certainly not on our side. Many Christians claim they don’t believe that, but it’s clear that they do from the fearful way they live.

The third worldview can only be given by grace, though it has a great head start with a loving and merciful family system. In this group the universe is not against us, nor is it sitting out there indifferent. Somehow, it’s on our side! Reality can be trusted. We don’t need to pull all the right strings or push all the right buttons. Grace is everywhere. It’s good to be here. Life is perhaps difficult, but it is still good and trustworthy at the core.

Until we meet a benevolent God and a benevolent universe, until we realize that the foundation of all is love, we will not be at home in this world. That meeting of God, that understanding experience, cannot be communicated by words. It is a gift given through encounter with Spirit. Its inherent character is best described by three overlapping characteristics: faith, hope, and love. When we experience those virtues, allow them to transform us, and are able pass them on, we are participating in the very life of God.


Adapted from Richard Rohr, Jesus’ Alternative Plan: The Sermon on the Mount (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 1996, 2022), 122, 123, 124. 

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled – Sandia Mountains (detail), 2022, photograph, Albuquerque, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge photo.

Image Inspiration: when i began photographing birds during the pandemic it was meant to fuel a creative need. as i continued it began to fuel a life need, a missing connection to nature. i not only felt a need to see different birds but to see the change in nature around me. a connection to my own heritage – wondering again and again if my ancestors roamed the same fields, came across the same animals or took meditation in the same plots. —Benjamin Yazza (photographer), Albuquerque, New Mexico

Story from Our Community:

Nine years ago, I was staying with my elderly mother in the hospital overnight, as I had done many times before. I had recently finished reading Therese’s “The Story of a Soul.” As I wearily got off my hospital cot every fifteen minutes to reassure my mother and prevent her from climbing out of bed, I told myself do this little thing for her with love. When I lay down again I suddenly felt the greatest sense of peace. I felt that I was among the stars outside. I knew that this wonderful sense of peace would eventually pass, so tried to dwell in the moment while it lasted. I was filled with gratitude, calm, and well-being. I attribute this mystical experience to the love of Therese. —Barbara M.

Share your own story with us.

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.

Listen to the prayer.


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