Richard Rohr on Christian Morality

In recent years and elections one would have thought that homosexuality and abortion were the new litmus tests of authentic Christianity. Where did this come from? They never were the criteria of proper membership for the first 2000 years, but reflect very recent culture wars instead. And largely from people who think of themselves as “traditionalists”! (The fundamentals were already resolved in the early Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. Note that none of the core beliefs are about morality at all. The Creeds are more mystical, cosmological, and about aligning our lives inside of a huge sacred story.) When you lose the great mystical level of religion, you always become moralistic about this or that as a cheap substitute. It gives you a false sense of being on higher spiritual ground than others.

Jesus is clearly much more concerned about issues of pride, injustice, hypocrisy, blindness, and what I have often called “The Three Ps” of power, prestige, and possessions, which are probably 95 percent of Jesus’ written teaching. We conveniently ignore this 95 percent to concentrate on a morality that usually has to do with human embodiment. That’s where people get righteous, judgmental, and upset, for some reason. The body seems to be where we carry our sense of shame and inferiority, and early-stage religion has never gotten much beyond these “pelvic” issues. As Jesus put it, “You ignore the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and good faith . . . and instead you strain out gnats and swallow camels” (Matthew 23:23-24). We worry about what people are doing in bed much more than making sure everybody has a bed to begin with. There certainly is a need for a life-giving sexual morality, and true pro-life morality, but one could sincerely question whether Christian nations and people have found it yet.

Christianity will regain its moral authority when it starts emphasizing social sin in equal measure with individual (read “body-based”) sin and weave them both into a seamless garment of love and truth.

via Danut Manastireanu, who says that the quote is adapted from a talk by Richard Rohr with the title, “Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil.”

  • Scott_F

    Is the “tory” going to be the only analogy allowed by ministers from now on. Adam Hamilton attempts to use “stories” to resolve theodicy. My new minister’s first sermon was all about “story”. This poor little analogy is going to stretched and mutilated beyond all recognition. I think my problem with it is that it used so shallowly. For instance, in the above, Mr Rohr drops “sacred story” in as if that explains everything.

    I wouldn’t mind if occasionally someone tried to draw a fresh perspective out of an otherwise dead horse of a Bible verse but it is becoming so pervasive that it loses all its potential and diminishes to the point that it is just annoying

  • Cheryl

    Richard Rohr is an evil and self-aggrandizing man who has called Christianity a “junk religion” because its centrality is Christ on the Cross. His religion is himself.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      You seem to have misunderstood him. Here’s the context: http://davidhulonhood.typepad.com/onedesperateman/2013/08/quote-fr-richard-rohr.html

    • Rob Malloy

      You have to read a lot of Richard Rohr’s stuff before you get an accurate sense of what his perspective really is. What he criticizes is the “junk religion” that stays stuck at an immature, smug, judgmental level, which is exactly what Jesus criticized the Pharisees for. As a follower of Jesus, Rohr is encouraging us all to pursue spiritual maturity, to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind…”

  • Stan Theman

    Why is Rohr obviously gay? In fact, a grossly disproportionately high percentage of Franciscans are, of all political and ideological stripes. What’s the attraction?


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