What Do We Do with Evil? Weekly Summary — Center for Action and Contemplation

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What Do We Do with Evil? Weekly Summary

What Do We Do with Evil?

Saturday, October 17, 2020
Summary: Sunday, October 11—Friday, October 16, 2020

We don’t seem to understand what evil is, how it operates, or what we can do, personally or collectively, to reduce its power over us and its impact on our world. (Sunday)

For Paul, sin is not primarily individual fault, but the negative matrix out of which both evil and enlightenment arise. (Monday)

Both Thomas Aquinas and C. S. Lewis taught that the triumph of evil depends entirely on disguise. Our egos must see it as some form of goodness and virtue so that we can buy into it. (Tuesday)

Paul’s “powers” and “principalities” are almost certainly his premodern words for what we would now call corporations, institutions, nation-states, and organizations that demand our full allegiance and thus become idolatrous. (Wednesday)

Jesus’ social program, as far as I can see, is a quiet refusal to participate in almost all external power structures or domination systems. (Thursday)

Universal solidarity is the important lesson, not private salvation. (Friday)


Practice: From Place to Ground

As long as we are preoccupied with the sins of “the flesh,” those things we’ve done, said, and gotten wrong over the course of our lives, we will never find the courage to face the larger problems of “the world” and “the devil.” This gentle meditation exercise by mindfulness teacher Rhonda V. Magee invites us to connect with ourselves, our ancestors, our neighbors, and our common humanity. From that place of solidarity, we may be able to imagine our collective salvation and to work towards it. 

Taking a position for a meditation practice, whether seated, standing, or lying down, bring your awareness to the position of the body in this moment. Feel the connection between the body and the ground. Take a few moments to ground yourself intentionally in the here and now. With a few very deep breaths, imagine the flow of the breath extending through the height of your body, from head to toe, and through the width of your body, from side to side.

On an in-breath, begin deepening awareness of who you really are.

Call to mind your connection to your parents, and through them, as best you can, your grandparents, and the great-grandparents whose names you know or do not know. And so on.

What do you know about your own ancestral heritage? What do you not know? . . .

What parts [of this story] have been hidden, denied, buried, or left out?

Breathe in, examining what you know and do not know about these aspects of your place in the social world. . . .

Now consider the actual community in which you live. For now, think of this as one aspect of your “place” in the world. Consider the fact that every person in that community is a member of a broad, rich lineage within human history. And see how those differences pale in comparison to the things the communities’ members share in common.

Take a moment to consider the ways that different histories reflect common experience as human beings.

Think of the peace and cooperation that silently exist in your community, to whatever degree they exist, and the ways in which your life has benefited from thousands of moments of participating in a community that practices “getting along.”

Now breathe in and out, feeling the deeper ground of your existence, and that which you share with us, with the rest of the world. Allow the awareness of your common humanity to infuse your sense of your place in the world in this very moment.

On the next in-breath, call to mind what you know about some one particular aspect of your lineage. And on the next out-breath, release what you know, and sense into the common experience of breathing that all human beings share.

Continue this cycle, breathing and alternately considering aspects of your place in the world and the deeper ground of your human existence, all held by the ocean of awareness.

When you’re ready, gently bring yourself back into simply sitting and breathing. Transition out of the meditation with gentle kindness.

Rhonda V. Magee, The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities through Mindfulness (TarcherPerigee: 2019), 59–61.

For Further Study:
Walter Brueggemann, Tenacious Solidarity: Biblical Provocations on Race, Religion, Climate, and the Economy, ed. Davis Hankins (Fortress Press: 2018).

John Dominic Crossan, God and Empire: Jesus against Rome, Then and Now (HarperSanFrancisco: 2007).

Richard Rohr, St. Paul: The Misunderstood Mystic (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), CD, MP3 download.

Richard Rohr, Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2005), CD, MP3 download.

Richard Rohr, What Do We Do with Evil? The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (CAC Publishing: 2019).

Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, 25th anniversary ed. (Fortress Press: 2017, 1992).

Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium (Doubleday: 1998).

Image credit: Black Cross, New Mexico (detail), Georgia O’Keefe, 1929, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL. www.artic.edu
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The apostle Paul is an utter realist about life on this planet. We must fully recognize and surrender to this foundational reality before we try to think we can repair the world (tikkun olam in Hebrew) with freedom and love. For Paul, his insight is symbolized in the scandalous image of a man on the cross, the Crucified God who fully accepts and transforms this tragic human situation through love. If this is the reality to which even God must submit, then surely we must and can do the same. —Richard Rohr
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