Action and Contemplation: Part Two
Love at the Center
Friday, January 17, 2020
When we named the Center for Action and Contemplation, I hoped our rather long name would itself keep us honest and force us toward balance and ongoing integration beyond the first generation. However, over the last thirty-five years, I have witnessed how many of us attach to contemplation or action for the wrong reasons. Introverts use contemplation to affirm quiet time; those with the luxury of free time sometimes use it for navel-gazing. On the other hand, some activists see our call to action as an affirmation of their particular agenda and not much else. Neither is the delicate balance and art that we hope to affirm.
By contemplation, we mean the deliberate seeking of God through a willingness to detach from the passing self, the tyranny of emotions, the addiction to self-image, and the false promises of the world. Action, as we are using the word, means a decisive commitment toward involvement and engagement in the social order. Issues will not be resolved by mere reflection, discussion, or even prayer, nor will they be resolved only by protests, boycotts, or even, unfortunately by voting the “right” way. Rather, God “works together with” all those who love (see Romans 8:28).
Though “Love” is not in our Center’s name, I hope that it is the driving force behind all we do, just as it was for Jesus who knew God’s love intimately and fully, and for the early church who proclaimed that “God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). In our vision statement, we profess both our hoped-for role for CAC’s future and the energy that drives us:
Amidst a time of planetary change and disruption, we envision a recovery of our deep connection to each other and our world, led by Christian and other spiritual movements that are freeing leaders and communities to overcome dehumanizing systems of oppression and cooperate in the transforming work of Love.
We never could have become the organization that so many of you trust if we didn’t continually return to Love as our source. It is where we rest in times of anxiety, find strength in times of trouble, discover joy in good times and solace in bad ones. “Love never fails” to help us grow, question, and forgive—both ourselves and others.
The only way out and through—for either side of any dualism, including that between action and contemplation—is a kind of universal forgiveness of Reality for being what it is; it thus becomes the bonding glue of grace which heals all the separations which law, religion, or logic can never finally or fully restore.
We are all on this journey together and we are all in need of liberation (which might be a better word than salvation). God’s intention is never to shame the individual (which actually disempowers), but solidarity with and universal responsibility for the whole (which creates healthy people). That is an act of radical solidarity that few Christians seem to enjoy but to which the CAC is committed to fostering.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Not the Center for Activism & Introspection,” Radical Grace, vol. 4, no. 6 (Center for Action and Contemplation: December 1991-January 1992).