I’ve only just read “Immortal Diamond: The Search for our True Self” by Father Richard Rohr as a Kindle e-book. I was impressed. Impressed enough to believe he has something worthwhile to say, but wary enough not to accord him automatic sage status. Then again, I don’t think he would want that anyway.
This is not an exhaustive review; merely an ecclectic response to his first chapter; and more an informal than a rigorous one. To speak or write before thinking carefully is hot always the best choice, but it won’t be the first time I’ve done it.
There is much in his first chapter that resonates deeply within me. Here are a few quotes that might give you an idea of where I am coming from:
I can no longer wait for, or give false comfort to, the many Christians who are forever “deepening their personal relationship” with a very small American Jesus – who looks very much like them. I would much prefer to write for those like Jane Fonda, who said recently, “I feel a presence, a reverence humming within me that was, and is, difficult to articulate”.
I have far too often seen the immature and destructive results of people who claim to have found God and who do not even have a minimum of self-knowledge. They try to “have” God and hold on to their false and concocted little self too. It does not work.
I guess I share Father Richard’s distrust of and impatience with the beliefs and practices of many of my Christian fundamentalist brothers and sisters. It’s always dangerous to make sweeping generalisations though. I have met people of mature and generative faith who belong to this group. I have also cringed away from many, many, whom Father Richard’s complaints seem to fit to a tee.
So much for divisive whinging! We move now to a more uplifting and uniting message:
“Rejoice only that your name is written in heaven!” (Luke 10:20). If we could fully trust this, it would change our whole life agenda.
The wonderful news of the Christian Gospel expressed concisely and unambiguously! I can never hear this too often and was pleased to see it a platform of his message. And a little later, a sentence which even Martin Luther would be proud to own:
You do not create your True Self, or earn it, or work up to it by any moral or ritual behaviour whatsoever. It is all and forever mercy for all of us, and all the time, and there are no exceptions.
The Gospel, pure and simple. For this, Father Richard gets good marks from me. At this point he begins to prick some balloons, in his considered critique of human-centred religion that reflects back humans’ view of themselves:
God is the great Allower, despite all the attempts of ego, culture, and even religion, to prevent God from allowing. . . . God’s total allowing of anything has in fact become humanity’s major complaint. Conservatives so want God to smite sinners that they find every natural disaster to be a proof of just that. And then they invent some of their own smiting besides. Liberals reject God because God allows holocausts and torture and does not fit inside their seeming logic. If we were truly being honest, God is both a scandal and a supreme disappointment to most of us. We would prefer a God of domination and control to a God of allowing, . . .
Delicious! This critique devastates, in my view, the implicitly and explicitly expressed view of people who insist arrogantly and ignorantly, that God is obliged to fit our human ideas of who he should be and what he should do. So many stumble, in my humble opinion, at the “problem of evil” because they construct “god” by imposing their own views onto the divine.
While these things Father Rohr writes resonate strongly within me, I am not sure I buy into the whole package. But then again, why should I need to?
This Rohr idea, for example, does not sit so comfortably with me:
God-in-you already knows, loves and serves God-in-everything else.
Some will think I am arrogantly talking about being “personally divine” and eagerly dismiss this way of talking about resurrection as heresy, arrogance or pantheism. . . .
Well yes, some might. But maybe they do not understand what it is you are really saying. I am not sure what you are really saying, but the lights of caution begin to flash when I read lines like this. At first glance, this view of people as containing God within them is not necessarily heretical, but it could easily conflict with the Christian understanding of original sin. This concept sets out my neediness and utter dependence on God’s grace and mercy. Without it, why do I need that grace and mercy?
The concept of ‘original sin’ is a difficult one, and I am confident it is a stumbling block for a lot of people when they encounter Christianity. While Father Richard seems on one level to provide a more agreeable detour whereby people who struggle with the belief that humans are intrinsically flawed from the outset might avoid such unpleasantness, it doesn’t gel with lived reality for me. My life experiences have reinforced the deep Christian understanding that every single one of us is flawed in some way and dependent on God’s grace and mercy.
One doesn’t need to be in complete agreement to read the ideas and arguments of a person of the calibre of Father Richard Rohr. Sometimes a bit of discomfort can be a good thing, and in that sense I recommend the book to you. Who knows? Could it be you (and I) have something to learn?