Another Watershed – April 2016

It was in April 2016 that two men with very different Christian backgrounds got together and shared a lengthy podcast. I was familiar with some of the thoughts of both men and could relate to much of what I had heard them say in the past – Rob Bell and Richard Rohr. Even as I listened to this for the first time I just knew that this was another personal watershed.
The original podcast (1 hr 25 mins) can be found here.

Richard says that he was always too serious – the little adult – pleasing his German parents – very responsible – what else but to go off to seminary!

Rob says that Richard has shaped his thinking – he has put language to what he and his wife have felt – their original village elder.

As Rob said, people know what they don’t want to be a part of, but at least for some of us, there is a ‘sacred hum’ within. People know what they are leaving, but what exactly are they headed into? What are they going to hand to their kids?

I have long enjoyed using bullet points as “Food for Thought”. What follows are just some of my thoughts as I reviewed what I had heard and considered how it related to some of my own experiences.

  • I love the picture of the tricycle and its three wheels of scripture, tradition and experience and that the front wheel of experience wins every time!
    How much weight should we give to each?

  • How we see reality is going to determine what we pay attention to. We all operate with a bias. What place “Belief Persistence”? To what extent do we only pay attention to scripture that fits our own agenda?

  • Wall Street as an example of a traditional system that oppresses the majority of people?

  • To what extent can we thank modern psychology, shadow work, ego work and spiritual direction as tools to critique experience?

  • How many fundamentalists came from broken homes – shattered foundations – and then found something that seemed to be stable? What place the need for a feeling of security? Is this why the patrolling of the borders of who is in and who is out of church becomes so important for some people?

  • We have all come from different backgrounds. How important is it to understand people’s backgrounds and their church history?

  • My thoughts on the Trinity have always been a bit ‘outside the box’. Interestingly Richard says that Jesus is not God and that we miss the real revelation that he came forth from God to take on humanity, but then says that the divinity of Christ is essential.
    I’m no scholar but as someone who has always been bothered by the teaching of the trinity, this is something I would like to explore further.

  • What do people think of the idea that we have made Jesus into an exclusive Saviour instead of an inclusive one? Could this be a mistake?

  • An interesting suggestion that we are adopted sons and daughters – an inheritance – something I have understood for more than 25 years – but that this concept was replaced later by justification by faith. This needs to be reconsidered.

  • Do we realise that the Christian revolution hasn’t taken place yet?
    This could be the start of a really interesting discussion?

  • Why is there such a massive disillusionment with Christianity? Why are there so many mentally ill people today – people who are emotionally unhealthy? How can we live in constant insecurity, fear and with the good news of how we as individuals can get saved from our awfulness? I sense that this is linked to the place of Evangelicalism – see “An Outside Observer of American Evangelicalism”.

  • There is only one reality. Any final distinction between natural and supernatural; between sacred and profane; is a bogus one.

  • Richard as a Catholic suggests that the Protestants took some of the worst Catholic theology like original sin and replicated it. When you emphasise the fly in the ointment instead of the ointment itself it leaves such a big hole. What hope is there in the ideas of total depravity?

  • Richard talked about ecumenism and the myth of redemptive violence. Where are the world leaders who even have an understanding of what that means? One telling phrase for me – “You don’t have to know what you are for, you just need to know who you are against; who doesn’t belong; who are the bad guys (like Catholics before Vatican 2 in the early 1960’s – we were not anti Protestant – we just sort of ignored you as a massive sea of heretics who left us in the 16th century – we didn’t criticise you, we just pitied you – as the Mother Church)”. I was treasurer of an Anglican church in the years following Vatican 2. Ecumenical efforts at a local level were very interesting for a couple of years until the local Catholic clergy felt that some of their congregations were beginning to ask too many questions!

  • How many Protestants know much about the history of Christianity – especially of the first 1000 years? I would go further and ask how many Christians know very much about the history of religion in general?

  • What place Transformation? The suggestion that the separate self is the real problem while the majority of religious people treat the shadow self as the problem, which leads to denying, pretending and projecting instead of transformation?
    What place masks? See also “Transformation is More Than a Change of Mind” by Richard Rohr.

  • The need to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves?

  • Christianity hasn’t done a very good job of exposing the ego?

  • There is a kind of radical narcissism (extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration) or self-centredness that has characterised bishops, priests and clergy. When you walk around thinking you speak for God, wearing vestments that make you special, people look up to you! The ego soon feels at home.

  • The shadow self – the wounds, doubts, fears, mistakes, regrets – the temperamental limitations that lurk within all of us. If we don’t own them we end up projecting them onto others?

  • Some mystics suggested that our wounds are our glory – the hole in the soul through which God gets through!

  • John 15 – I am the vine, you are the branches. We must not define ourselves as separate from the body of Christ – the need to remain connected. People thought it was important to be correct – but we are saved by being part of the body. A point of view that raises many questions?

  • Connected instead of correct – a different game!

  • The only problem with the shadow is when we refuse to admit that it is true. If we are lacking humility and honesty we will be caught by our own shadow.
    Consider the power of the recovery movement – you sit there with others and name the shadow and let it be what it is!
    We were trained to repress and deny the shadow – the need to look good.
    People struggle – the epiphany when they realise – when they meet others with a similar wound – me too! Why isn’t this just so obvious? The importance of sharing?

  • Are these the people who break through and heal others?

  • The ego wants two things – to feel separate and superior.
    Youngsters look for ways to show they are special – tattoos emphasising our differences?

  • Fully transformed people do not need to define themselves as different. Once we know, we don’t have to win anybody else’s approval. Enjoy it if people like us but . . .
    It creates a different kind of person.

  • The process – the path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines!
    This is something I would like to explore in greater depth. I find the thoughts of Barbara Brown Taylor on “Lunar Spirituality” to be particularly significant.

  • Richard suggested that Jesus the Christ became the Jesus who walked among us. We then tried to create a church to climb back up the stairs he came down.

  • How many people, once wounded, can never again play the escalator game?

  • So many attempt to achieve perfection – they may pull it off in the young heroic years but it involves denying an awful lot – projecting a lot of one’s shadow or woundedness on to other people. I have shared something of the stories of several Bible college students as they dealt with some of their conflict. In at least two cases that has now led to atheism.

  • How many of us really don’t like being around handicapped, poor or smelly people?
    Are we ready to stop the game of denial and recognise who and what we are?

    Can we really bear each others wounds? That’s a high level of seeing – few people get there before the second half of life.

  • We first have to create our own container, our identity, our ego structure and boundaries – mainly by avoiding the dark side?

  • We can’t tell teens subtle things about their shadow – the container isn’t strong enough.
    Maybe we need to consider the idea that God doesn’t have grandchildren?

  • Some who have had to face suffering early by being rejected, get there quicker (or they may become bitter). Some people know from an early age that the world is not the way everybody thinks! Is that why I rejected the teaching of the trinity when I was 13?

  • Those wounded by culture ironically have a head start in understanding the gospel?

  • Three boxes – Order – Disorder – Reorder
    Conservatives get trapped in the first box – they have a desperate need for order.
    Liberals, Progressives and Academics get trapped in the second box (taking it apart – on-going deconstruction often without any corresponding reconstruction).
    Kids who have been formed in the post-modern era are almost born in the second box. That’s one reason it is hard to be a parent today.
    Richard wasn’t born in disorder – an easier way to grow up.
    Rob was raised Evangelical.
    This could be the starting point of a major discussion – something that brings back memories of long discussions several years ago based on ‘Fowler’s Stages of Faith’ and other similar material.

  • You must become dissatisfied with being centre stage, else you never grow up!

  • We were taught by the Jewish prophets who railed against the priesthood, the kings and Jewish religion. It is always to the glory of the Jewish people that they had the courage to incorporate it into their sacred texts. But the Christians have made the prophets into people who foretold Jesus (and not truth speakers). Maybe 1½% of the prophetic message is foretelling Jesus – that’s dishonest with the text! They are critiquing Israel every step of the way!
    The capacity of the Bible for self-critique is unique!
    History is normally told by the conquerors – but this is a history of how Israel screwed up!
    If there is a good king in the OT, his son isn’t!

  • Rob and friends started a church at 28 – 3 years in and a group within the church got together to have him removed – always some out for him. He wrote “Love Wins” about 10 years in – always somebody saying he didn’t belong!
    In his early 30’s he was trying to help – why were people so passionately against him? It took him down to disorder on a massive scale – in a very high profile religious setting where everyone was watching.
    It brought about, “Oh, this is how it works” – emerging with a joy – and gradually being able to laugh in its face.

  • We are not alone – what we were given was mainly transactional and not transformational.
    People just got on the elevator and tried . . . they couldn’t see it was all about self!
    Organised Christianity doesn’t have a lot of authority because it hasn’t done its job of transforming people!

  • Transactions – someone does something for you that you need to be grateful about and that’s supposed to change your life?
    That’s so different from, “everything you have been searching for, you have had all the time”.
    The Prodigal son – “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours”.
    Rest in that – there is no competition.