Father Richard teaches that we can only practice new ways of being in the world if we maintain some degree of nonattachment from the systems around us:
I would insist the foundation of Jesus’ social program is what I will call non-idolatry, or the withdrawing of our enthrallment from all kingdoms except the Kingdom of God. This supports a much better agenda than feeling the need to attack things directly. Nonattachment (freedom from loyalties to human-made, domination systems) is the best way I know of protecting people from religious zealotry or any kind of antagonistic thinking or behavior. There is nothing to be against. Just keep concentrating on the Big Thing you are for!
Paul tries to create some “audiovisual aids” for this big message, which he calls “churches” (a term Jesus used only twice and in only one Gospel (Matthew 16:18 and 18:17). He needs living, visible models of this new kind of life to make evident that Christ’s people really follow a way different from mass consciousness. They are people who “can be innocent and genuine . . . and can shine like stars among a deceitful and underhanded brood” (Philippians 2:15). To people who asked, “Why should we believe there’s a new or better life possible?” Paul could say, “Look at these people. They’re different. This is a new social order.” In Christ, “there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
In Paul’s thinking, we were supposed to live inside of an alternative society, almost a utopia, and from such fullness “go to the world.” Instead, we created a model whereby people live almost entirely in the world, fully invested in its attitudes toward money, war, power, and gender—and sometimes “go to church.” This doesn’t seem to be working! Groups like the Amish, the Bruderhof, Black churches, and members of some Catholic religious orders probably have a better chance of actually maintaining an alternative consciousness. Most of the rest of us end up thinking and operating pretty much like our surrounding culture.
Many people, however, now find this solidarity in think tanks, support groups, prayer groups, study groups, house-building projects, healing circles, or community-focused organizations. Perhaps without fully recognizing it, we are often heading in the right direction. Some new studies indicate that Christians are not as much leaving Christianity as they are realigning with groups that live Christian values in the world—instead of just gathering again to hear the readings, recite the creed, and sing songs on Sunday. Jesus does not need our singing; we need instead to act like a community. Actual Christian behavior might just be growing more than we realize. Behavior has a very different emphasis than belonging.
Remember, it is not the brand name that matters.
It is that God’s heart be made available and active on this earth.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2019, 2021), 197, 200–201.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard on community, common ground, and purpose.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Claudia Retter, Three Fish (details), photograph, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.
This week’s image appears in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: We might find ourselves swimming against the current, but we’ve made a conscious decision to practice something different in response to an inner call.
Story from Our Community:
Through Richard Rohr’s meditations, the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy, the Enneagram, and the Cobb Institute’s webinars, I have started an Eco-Sister Farms project. This pairs USA farms with China farms in organic diplomacy and a move toward an ecological civilization (moving from industrial monoculture farming toward small biodiversity organic farming). This sisterhood across boundaries of nation-states is an expression of Francis “beyond the birdbath.” — Nancy M.
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.