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Self-Critical Thinking

Prophets: Self Critical Thinking

Self-Critical Thinking
Monday, February 16, 2015

The Hebrew prophets are in a category of their own. Within the canonical, sacred scriptures of other world religions you don’t find major texts that are largely critical of that religion. The Hebrew prophets were free to love their tradition and to criticize it at the same time, which is a very rare art form. Even today, one of the most common judgments I hear from other priests is, “You criticize the Church.” But criticizing the Church, as such, is just being faithful to the pattern set by the prophets and Jesus. That’s exactly what they did (see Matthew 23). The only question is whether one does it in a negative way or in a way that is faithful to God. I pray that I am doing the second. You pray too!

The presumption for anyone with a dualistic mind is that if you criticize something, you don’t love it.  Wise people like the prophets would say the opposite. The Church’s sanctification of the status quo reveals that we have not been formed by the prophets, who were radical precisely because they were traditionalists. Institutions always want loyalists and “company men”; we don’t want prophets. We don’t want people who point out our shadow side or our dark side. It is no accident that the prophets and the priests are usually in opposition to one another (e.g., Amos 5:21-6:7, 7:10-17). I think it is fair to say that the prophetic charism was repressed in almost all of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity. None of us have been known for criticizing ourselves. We only criticize one another, sinners, and heretics—who were always elsewhere! Yet, Paul says the prophetic gift is the second most important charism for the building up of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11).

Human consciousness does not emerge at any depth except through struggling with your shadow. I wish someone had told me that when I was young. It is in facing your conflicts, criticisms, and contradictions that you grow up. You actually need to have some problems, enemies, and faults! You will remain largely unconscious as a human being until issues come into your life that you cannot fix or control and something challenges you at your present level of development, forcing you to expand and deepen. It is in the struggle with our shadow self, with failure, or with wounding, that we break into higher levels of consciousness. I doubt whether there is any other way. People who refine this consciousness to a high spiritual state, who learn to name and live with paradoxes, are the people I would call prophetic speakers. We must refine and develop this gift.

Gateway to Silence:
Welcome, uncomfortable truth!

References:
Adapted from Way of the Prophet (no longer available);
and Prophets Then, Prophets Now (CD, MP3 download)

Image credit: The Way of the Prophet by Mike Van, concept by Vivienne Close.
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