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The Franciscan Way
The Franciscan Way

Letting Go of Churchiness 

Monday, September 4, 2023

In the CAC online course The Franciscan Way, Richard Rohr explains several different emphases in Franciscan alternative orthodoxy: incarnation instead of redemption, cosmos instead of churchiness, poverty instead of perfection, the bottom instead of the top, the humility of God, and an emphasis on the union of humanity and divinity in Jesus instead of just his divinity. In response to the question “Which one of these do you think the world is most ripe for at this time?” Richard replies: 

I wonder if it isn’t “cosmos instead of churchiness.” There is such a universal disillusionment with churchiness, which is the building and maintenance of churches and services. We’ve overplayed the church card for much of the last thousand years. It’s like the messenger overtook the message. Once we divided Christianity into Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, all of the individual churches had to prove they were the one true church. All that did was preoccupy us with the churchy conversation, while taking our eyes off the cosmos, off of what was right beneath our feet, in front of our eyes, and the very whole of which we are already a part.  

We naturally participate in the universe. We have the reptilian brain, we have the mammalian brain, we have the neocortex. We have the sensate connection with the plant world and the animal world. We’re just involved at every level with this entire universe around us. I’m told that the atoms and molecules that existed at the Big Bang are the same atoms and molecules here right now, and all they’ve done for 13.8 billion years is change form, that nothing dies.   

Nothing dies; it just keeps changing form. So, we have a natural foundation for what we call resurrection that isn’t a unique belief of Christianity—it is in the very shape of the cosmos. What this leads us to is a whole new partnership with what we used to negatively dismiss as “mere science.” Sadly, we split the universe when we did that. We said that our form of knowledge was the only true form and all those other knowers were ignorant unbelievers. We can’t do that anymore. We now know that truth is one, and we’re all seeing it from different angles and at different levels. Just because one group uses the vocabulary at one level, and those in our group use the vocabulary at a different level, what right do we have to say our vocabulary is the only true description of the universe?   

Religion is no longer a spectator sport, an observing of some distant, far-off truth, but it’s an observing of what is true in me, and what is true in me is true of the cosmos. It’s all one reality. Frankly this makes the job of evangelization—if we want to use that Christian word—much easier because we’re not bringing in an extraneous message. We’re simply naming what is.   


Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Franciscan Way (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2020—), online course.   

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Chemistry of Self 3 (detail), digital oil pastels. Izzy Spitz, momentary peace (detail), digital oil pastels. Taylor Wilson, Transfiguration (detail), cyanotype. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Amidst our life complexities, we stop, we breath, we look for the pockets of peace. 

Story from Our Community:  

I come from a conservative Christian background—I am the son of a pastor, a former youth pastor and a founder of a Christian nonprofit. When I stumbled onto CAC in a Facebook post, I felt an immediate connection. My spirit said, “yes.” I recognized so many of my own private insights written down and given voice in CAC content. I couldn’t stop listening—and agreeing. I now listen to multiple podcasts, read Richard Rohr’s books, and I have enrolled in two CAC classes. My heart and life have been changed forever. Some people in my family support my evolving faith, while others are quite concerned. I am so glad to have finally been introduced to this “alternative” way. Thanks for what you do. —Greg A. 

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