Category Archives: Faith & Spiritual Drift

The Prodigal Son, Re-revisited

I was in the process of rewriting my “About Me” page on Spiritual Drift, and I came across a few things I’d written in the past, including my belief on hell. I decided not to include any of that there (yet), but instead, I wanted to write something here about my beliefs; first off, on whether (or if) we are born “sinners.”
Well…
No; I no longer believe we are born sinners. And I certainly don’t believe we are born sinners in the hands of an angry God.
If anything, we are born, lost.
In fact…
Maybe we wake up, and maybe we find ourselves with a case of amnesia. Confused and alone. In a pig’s sty of all places. Surrounded by slop. Dirty. Aching. Scared. Hungry. Looking even at the cobs the pigs eat and wishing we could somehow fill our own bellies.
Then, we look up, across the waters, to see a small town on the other shore. Somewhere, in the back of our minds, we recognize that place. We don’t know how, we don’t know why, but somehow we just know; that village is “home.”
Maybe it’s because we feel a tug, a yearning in our chest, in our hearts and deeper still. Urging us on. Pulling us toward that place.
To “home.”
Not all of us will heed that call though.
Some will raise their eyes and look across the waters but feel, even though we are not sure where we are, why or even how we got here, it must have something to do with there, with that place, even if we recognize it as “home.” And our mind is torn: Either sorrow and shame eat away our hope, and we end up feeling we no longer deserve to return, or; even if we could, anger and bitterness arise: Whoever is there must be responsible for why we are here; and though we remain unsure of where we are, here must surely be better than there.
But, for those of us who do rise—those who see hope in the distance and let it live—we will round the waters of the vast lake and, eventually, reach the horizon, unsure of what we will say or even who will greet us. We will prepare our speeches, our prayers of forgiveness and penance, chanting them over and over again, trying to hold the guilt and fear at bay until our throat is raw and our mind aches.
Then, we see a figure cresting the horizon, rushing toward us, arms outstretched.
Are they friend or enemy?
Are we the enemy? Will we be allowed to say our prayers? Will they be heard? Will our penance be enough?
Before we can even decide, the figure descends, wrapping us in His arms.
Fear grips us and yet…
His grip is stronger.
His delight is clear.
His laughter rings in our ears.
His tears of joy stream down His cheeks and onto our bare, dirt-caked shoulder.
He calls us “son”, and “daughter.”
He takes us by the hand and leads us inside.
He says we are honored guests. In fact, He orders a feast in our honor.
He calls us “son, and “daughter.” Is this our Father?
No, it can’t be: To dare and dream that we come from such splendor, such joy, such warmth?
No.
We came from the muck and mire of a pig’s sty. We know nothing more.
We believe we are filth and yet He calls us royalty.
We believe we are alone and yet He calls us family.
He insists, we are “son”; we are “daughter.”
And we are welcome.
We are honored.
We are family.
Long forgotten is our speech, our prayer, our forgiveness and penance.
It was never needed.
It was never asked.
The only thing asked was our presence, our return, our willingness to come, to heed the pull in our hearts, to choose “home”, and to accept that we are, and always have been, loved.
To accept that we were born royalty, that we were born family, that we were not born pigs, but born “sons”, and “daughters”. That we were, are, and always will be, loved.

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How Can Everything Be Sacred?

(reprinted from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations 1/2/2018)

The three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) teach that one Creator formed all things. There is thus a radical unity at the heart of the universe’s pluriformity, resolving any conflict between diversity and the shared “divine DNA” found in creation. This theo-logic allows us to see “the hidden wholeness” in all things and to confidently assert that “everything belongs.” The distinction between natural and supernatural, sacred and profane, exists only as a mental construct.

Unless we first name the underlying goodness and coherence of reality, along with our own imperfection, we will attack evil with methods and self-righteousness that will only deepen the problem.

You may be asking, as so many have over the years, “Richard, how can you make such naïve blanket statements like ‘Everything is sacred. Everything belongs?’ What about Hitler, nuclear bombings, ISIS, Westboro Baptists, and the United States’ epidemic of mass shooters?” I agree that we can and should name evil as evil. But unless we first name the underlying goodness and coherence of reality, along with our own imperfection, we will attack evil with methods and self-righteousness that will only deepen the problem. This is Nonviolence 101. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that the importance of nonviolence became widely acknowledged.

Evil lurks powerfully in the shadows, in our unconscious complicity with systems that serve us at others’ expense.

Further, Christianity has far too easily called individual, private behaviors sins while usually ignoring or even supporting structural and systemic evils such as war, colonization, corporate greed, slavery, and abuse of the Earth. All of the seven capital sins were admired at the corporate level and shamed at the individual level. [1] This left us utterly split in our morality, dealing with symptoms instead of causes, shaming people while glorifying systems that were themselves selfish, greedy, lustful, ambitious, lazy, prideful, and deceitful. We can’t have it both ways. Evil lurks powerfully in the shadows, in our unconscious complicity with systems that serve us at others’ expense. It has created worldviews of entitlement and privilege that were largely unrecognized until rather recently.

Once you can clear away the web of illusion you will be able to see that every created thing is still made in the image of God.

Only contemplative, nondual consciousness is capable of seeing things like this without also being negative or self-righteous. Once you can clear away the web of illusion you will be able to see that every created thing is still made in the image of God; every being has the divine DNA or essence. There is no profane place, person, or creature. We can even find the sacred in seemingly secular human endeavors like sex, food, work, economics, and politics.

“Christ is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11). To see this is to have “the mind of Christ.”

[1] See Richard Rohr, Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2005)

Do Better

Well, here I am: writing to get back into the habit of writing. I can’t believe it’s been over a year since my last blog post; over sixteen months since my last published book, These Threads of Faith; and, almost 2 ½ years since I’ve spent time with the Drifter Series in, The Privilege of Sin.
It’s not like fodder hasn’t been there. There’s been plenty of grist for the mill. But the muse has just been…gone. Setting pen to paper, or in my case fingers to keyboard, only filled me with a sense of frustration and bewilderment. With the past year’s events I’ve often been more irritated than inspired. 2017 couldn’t have been over with soon enough.

So now, here we are: 2018. Everything is new. Everything is filled with a renewed sense of hope and optimism. Everything is waiting to be reopened, reborn, like the first buds of spring.
Yeah, I know, I don’t believe that either. Continue reading Do Better

On Hanegraaff and Orthodox Christianity: Or, a Church Service Worth Attending

Hank Hanegraaff, the “Bible Answer Man”, has recently converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity and apparently this is causing quite a stir in the evangelical community.

On returning from a trip to China several years ago, Hanegraaff remarked, “I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord, and I learned that while they may not have had as much intellectual acumen or knowledge as I did, they had life. I was comparing my ability to communicate truth with their deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Since that time,” he added, “I’ve been impacted by the whole idea of knowing Jesus Christ, experiencing Jesus Christ, and partaking of the graces of Jesus Christ through the Lord’s Table.”

One of the recent articles I read on the subject was from Ed Stetzer. Writing on Christianity Today’s website, the focus of his article was on the possible reasons why the Orthodox liturgy is so appealing to evangelicals today. One of the things he says is,

The early church was indeed more focused on the Eucharist and was more liturgical in structure, nature, and expression. There are things we can learn from that today, but we have to also acknowledge that much of what we see was, indeed, cultural. As a missiologist, I’m not drawn into early Christian cultural forms and am concerned that some are equating them with eternal truth.
The evangelical bent towards Western individualism has opened the door to an ‘every Bible for itself’ mentality where, combined with the digital age, rogue armchair theologians can be equipped with major influence without proper ecclesiological accountability. It’s a bit of a “me version” world of Bible translation. Lacking a central definition and protection of truth can cause (and has caused) much of evangelicalism’s problems.
In Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, that is not typically the case. In these church structures, there are tighter reigns on vetting truth and defining orthodox beliefs. Some see the Church organizationally as a means to preserve biblical truth from the changing tides of cultural waves.
The question I want to answer: Are we looking for the right things? Do we want to model with exactitude the cultural form of the early church? Is that the ultimate value?”

Personally, I’ve not been drawn toward the Orthodox faith, but I can see the appeal in a return to the “structure, nature, and expression” of the first century church (or the few centuries after). The difference as I see it though is Continue reading On Hanegraaff and Orthodox Christianity: Or, a Church Service Worth Attending