Richard Rohr on Incarnational Christianity

Years ago, I proposed that those of us looking for an alternative to the labels “evangelical,” “mainline,” and “liberal,” instead rally around the term Incarnational Christian. In today’s email meditation, Richard Rohr writes something along those lines:

Paul, a good Jew, quotes Deuteronomy, “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Romans 10:8), and begins with a challenge that we still need today: “Do not tell yourself that you have to bring Christ down!” (Romans 10:6). He knew that God had overcome the human-divine gap in the Christ Mystery once and for all. God is henceforth here, and not just there.

This is Christianity’s only completely unique message. Full incarnation is what distinguishes us from all other religions. This is our only real trump card, and for the most part, we have not yet played it. History, the planet—and other religions—have only suffered as a result. Incarnationalism does not put you in competition with any other religions but, in fact, allows you to see God in all things, including them! It mandates that you love and respect all others.

The mystery of the Incarnation is precisely the repositioning of God in the human and material world and not just part of that world. Common variety top-down religion often creates very passive, and even passive-dependent and passive-aggressive Christians. Certainly that is very common in my own Roman Church. Bottom-up, or incarnational, religion offers a God we can experience for ourselves and a God we can see—and must see—in everyone else. Any God on a throne does not achieve that purpose, but merely makes you fight other “thrones.”

HT: Rollie Bible

  • Craig

    “God-flesh cult” has more edge.

  • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

    There is a lovely line in Updike that also captures this, “Seven Stanzas at Easter.” I’ll just quote a portion.

    Make no mistake: if he rose at all
    It was as His body;
    If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
    The amino acids rekindle,
    The Church will fall.

    It was not as the flowers,
    Each soft spring recurrent;
    It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
    Eleven apostles;
    It was as His flesh; ours.

    I think, Tony, it is wise to continue posting about this and thinking about this, because I think it’s why the discussion that has engendered so much anger and heat (and some little light, though only a spare quantity) in recent months is all about this. And it’s why I’m maybe a little upset at your recent tweet regarding how, if you’re so triggering, why don’t people stop reading your blog?

    Because I hope they don’t. I hope people in their flesh — and the emotion that comes with a trigger, the trauma recurrent and the fear and the sudden sadness or discomfort — that is an incarnational response, one that can’t be written off mentally but only lived in our flesh. I am not triggered by you, but I know people who are. And I would hope that they don’t stop reading. I pray that they can see you for who you are, and you can see them for who they are. I really do. I think the Incarnation is one fruitful way to get there.

  • j Dog

    This incarnationality is in no way unique or first seen in Christian thought. Mystery religions, Hindu thought, Buhddism, etc. were all over and full of themes that Christian thought has absorbed or adsorbed. Sorry if you are not interested in seeking the roots of Christian thought and want all Christian ideas to have a birthright that is completely untainted but…

    This line of thinking is sooooo impoverished and is very similar to folks who want the earth to have been created in seven days wham bam slam, because evolution implies a universe that has huge capabilities for change, and frankly that is a mindblowing and stressfull proposition.

    Yes Christian thought has a very unique and deep take on incarnation, but like so many other veins of thought, the variation between different groups within the christian community differ as much as christians and other religions do. Even on such an important concept as this.

    Christ and Paul should be lauded more for their spin on universality and clearly evolving and forming a new species from Judaism. They could not have done it without “incarnating” some fucked up mystery religion shit.

    We are here to EAT! And become something that is neither who we were when we started eating nor what we ate, but a new kind of creation. Even the animals know this. Even other religious/spiritual folk know this. And we know that that that is all that any other folk who are trying to be holy are doing, so please don’t try to think them away. We don’t have to put everything into boxes, Venn diagrams are way cooler and produce beautiful visions if you color them right and meditate on their future…


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