A few more excerpts from the Rohr book, Jesus’ Plan for a New World, specifically from ‘Chapter Two: Not Business As Usual’. All relate, for me, to politics and my hope for a new world — which is wholly apart from politics, the political process, and politicians.
** “Silence is what allows the old world to become unnecessary, and you really don’t know what until you are silent. … [The desert] is where you stop simply being trapped in the world’s addictive patterns.”
** “Spirituality is about being ready. … Spirituality is about awakening the eyes, the ears, the heart so that you can see what’s always happening right in front of you.” (Similar to the Gospel of Thomas: “Jesus said, ‘Recognize what is in your sight and what is hidden will become clear to you.'”)
** “That world of denial and false security is the old world order Jesus is undercutting.”
Rohr speaks of conversion as the realisation that everything is passing away, that everything in this world and its systems is impermanent. (Reminds me a bit of Buddhist ‘groundlessness.’) It’s something one might realise at death, or with people who are dying. And once we have been converted in this way, we “know it’s all relative and impermanent and refuse to worship any system.”
I think this is related to the way Rohr interprets Matthew 13, concerning the parable of the leaven:
“The kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures [about fifty pounds!] of flour till it was leavened through.”
He says that this leaven isn’t the ‘sanitized’ yeast you buy in packets or jars in the grocery store; it’s more like a smelly, bubbly sourdough starter, which stinks up the kitchen and which actually “evokes an image of corruption! … Jesus says a woman took and hid this seemingly corrupt thing inside and it was enough to leaven, eventually, the entire fifty pounds!”
We, Rohr says, are the smelly sourdough starter inside the bread:
“And that’s what you feel like when you start living the gospel — too full of leaven for anything else. Why don’t I believe in all these other things? Why am I not excited about the elections? Every time we change presidents, people think it’s going to make a big difference. Why can’t I get excited about it? I have been salted, leavened and enlightened by a much bigger truth, that’s why.”
There at the end he sounds a bit holier than thou to me (and I don’t get how if we are the leaven, we feel full of leaven, but whatever) , but the feelings he talks about are mine. In a way, I feel utterly corrupted, unable to feel or feign excitement about a new president, any new president. My hope is not in him.
In fact, as Rohr says earlier in the same chapter, “only from the side of powerlessness could one be entrusted with the gospel,” and a president is de facto the holder of power. Rohr also says, “We can never expect Caesar to do Christ’s work. We can never proclaim the exodus from Pharoah’s palace” and likewise, “City councils are not places to go for profound wisdom; their job is to hold societies together where they are always held together — at the level of conventional wisdom — the way we always do it here in Thessalonika.” I.e., by violence.
Earlier, he says, “The apocalyptic readings that we come across in the Gospels (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21:5-33) are not doomsday at all …. They free you from propping up what is falling apart anyway.”
That’s rather how I feel about politics, religion, and culture in general. I live here, in this world, and I try to live compassionately; and at the same time, my feeling is that this system is in the process of ending, and that though to prop it up may feel like the compassionate thing to do at times — working to limit the violence as best we can — it’s so far from what I imagine life to be that to prop up the system (even a gentler, more compassionate system) ultimately feels cruel. And yet, what else is there to do, but prop and imagine? To take the system and my part in it lightly, to stay awake and open-eyed and attentive, to receive what is given, to love fervently … and to co-imagine into creation the world that is breaking through?