How do we live the Gospel message in a world that often seems to not only accept, but even prefer violence, social injustice, poverty, and many other systems of oppression?
While mainstream Christianity often equates evil with individual “sins,” the Alternative Orthodoxy brings our focus back to evil’s collective nature. Often used to control others through shame and blame, the idea of individual “sin” as personal transgressions became the scapegoat for these collective evils that, unchecked, continue to ravage the world.
Most Christians have placed our attention on policing various “unclean” acts rather than addressing corporate injustice and evil. The implications have been hugely destructive, both for the individual and for society.
—Fr. Richard Rohr
Recognizing Collective Evil
“As a retired psychologist, I did not believe in evil,” writes James M., CAC community member. “One could always provide a diagnosis and explain ‘bad behavior.’ I reread the words of Jesus, who commanded us to ‘love one another’ and to help the poor, welcome the stranger, and feed the hungry. Then to witness my own government take from the poor and give to the rich—I knew this was evil.”
How do you react when you come face to face with systemic evil? For Kelly G., another member of CAC’s contemplative community, recognizing collective evil was only the first step when she felt helpless. “We have the power to choose to stand in the face of injustice,” Kelly writes. “These injustices are exactly what Jesus came to reform. When will we choose to unite and stop thinking the power to change is outside of ourselves? When will we stop seeing ourselves as helpless and subject to the status quo? Together we can be Light and Love.”
When will we choose to unite and stop thinking the power to change is outside of ourselves? When will we stop seeing ourselves as helpless and subject to the status quo?
—Kelly G., CAC Community Member
Once you’ve recognized collective evil, what do you do next? How do you make a real difference? Contemplation opened CAC supporter Diana O.’s eyes to our complicity with injustice. “Silence and meditation prepared us to open our hearts to the unexpected details of a global system in collapse, under the weight of its own greed, consumerism, and complicity with injustice and suffering. We are one with the suffering and I open to the pain.” It is by being open to recognizing evil that we may discover how to move forward.
What is Yours to Do
“It is easy in these times to see the world as evil, angry, selfish, and violent—so much hate,” writes Kathleen B., another member of CAC’s contemplative community. “But those are the loud voices. The quiet voices go softly about the world doing good whenever and wherever they can. They are the Christ light in the world. Many small candles can light up the darkness.”
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and Love your neighbor as yourself.
—Mark 12: 30-31
What do you do when your country, church, or community seems out of sync with Jesus’ teachings? Fr. Richard Rohr, the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, always says the most important word is and. It isn’t enough to just pray; we must pray and act. It isn’t enough to love when it is easy, we must love when it is easy and hard. Then, we can ensure all are invited to live together inside God’s Great Story.
Reflect With Us
How do you practice a contemplative focus on oneness? What happens when you tap into that deep level of Divine Love? Share your reflection with us.
We Conspire is a new series from the Center for Action and Contemplation featuring wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Sign up for the monthly email series and receive a free invitation to practice each month.