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Everything Belongs
Everything Belongs

We Create Exclusion or Belonging

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Richard Rohr describes how exclusion works. Everything does not belong when people and systems project their evil elsewhere:  

If our egos are still in charge, we will find a “disposable” person or group on which to project our problems. People who haven’t come to at least a minimal awareness of their own shadow side will always find someone else to hate, fear, and exclude. Hatred holds a group together much more quickly and easily than love and inclusivity, I am sorry to say. [1] 

Sadly, the history of violence and the history of religion are almost the same history. When religion remains at an immature level, it tends to create very violent people who ensconce themselves on the side of the good, the worthy, the pure, the saved. They project all their evil somewhere else and attack it over there. [2] 

Something has to be sacrificed. Blood has to be shed. Someone has to be blamed, attacked, tortured, imprisoned, or killed. Sacrificial systems create religions and governments of exclusion and violence. Yet Jesus taught and modeled inclusivity and forgiveness! 

As long as we try to deal with evil by some other means than forgiveness, we will never experience the real meaning of evil and sin. We will keep projecting, fearing, and attacking it over there, instead of “gazing” on it within ourselves and weeping over it.  

The longer we gaze, the more we will see our own complicity in and profitability from the sin of others, even if it’s the satisfaction of feeling we are on higher moral ground. Forgiveness demands three new simultaneous “seeings”: I must see God in the other, I must access God in myself, and I must experience God in a new way that is larger than an “Enforcer.” [3] 

Author Cole Arthur Riley, creator of Black Liturgies, considers the toll that exclusion takes:  

Exclusion operates by the same rule of mutuality as welcome, for it harms both the excluded and the excluder. If you are the hands of exclusion for long enough, you learn acceptance only at the hands of someone else’s exile. You learn belonging as competition, not restoration. It is also a kind of restlessness, for the energy you expend forbidding others to walk through the door of community is only matched by the energy you expend competing to stay inside yourself. This is maybe more dangerous; no one ever perceives the doorkeeper as needing an invitation themselves.… 

I wonder if God feels as alienated from us as we do from [God]. Sometimes, it cracks me up to think of the stories that describe Christ just boldly inviting himself over to people’s houses for dinner. Roaming around telling people to stop everything and follow him. Multiplying food, but making everyone sit down in groups to eat it. He knew how to make his own belonging. Do we? [4] 


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, CONSPIRE 2016 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2016), conference talk.  

[2] Richard Rohr, A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 125. 

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2008, 2022), 210, 211. 

[4] Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us (New York: Convergent Books, 2022), 74–75. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Field Study 2, oil pastel on canvas. Izzy Spitz, Everything at Once, digital oil pastel. Izzy Spitz, Wings, digital oil pastel. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Everything belongs: our messes and dreams, our hues of green and yellow, our curves and lines. 

Story from Our Community:  

I am so grateful for your teachings each day. They deepen and expand and challenge my understanding and intention. I feel held in a world I intuitively know I belong in. Your gift of including so many other wisdom voices and of unflinchingly acknowledging the grievous history of Christianity as lived by so many people for so long heartens me and renews my intention to live “the basic shared life” of peoplehood. [To Father Richard:] I want to offer my personal gratitude to you for your honesty and for who you are, for the work you’ve done. —Karen E.   

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