Sunday, May 13, 2012

JustFaith and Fr. Richard Rohr

We have written elsewhere on this blog about the dangers of the JustFaith program, how its theology is fundamentally anti-Catholic and actually is a front for Marxist liberation theology. This time we will look at the teachings of the dissenting priest Fr. Richard Rohr and how they are incorporated into the JustFaith program.

The first half of week nine of the JustFaith program spends 50 minutes listening to Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who has built a small New Age empire around books and talks on subjects ranging from the Enneagram, the Cosmic Jesus, Liberation Theology, and the Men’s Movement. Titled “Portrait of a Radical,” this talk seems to be a surprising detour. There is nothing in it about social justice other than a passing comment that even peace and justice activists can be happy because it’s not their job to save the world – it’s God’s.

That’s a true enough point, but it’s unlikely that’s all the JustFaith participants are meant to take from the talk. The facilitator materials, describing “Portrait of a Radical” as an attempt “to draw the viewer into a space where Jesus can be seen from the perspective of his radical, compassionate, and inclusive teachings,” clarifies the intention of the JustFaith program to leave the participant with additional messages, which are confirmed in follow-up questions: “How did this representation of Jesus’ ministry add to…understanding of Jesus as a person? As the Son of God?” (pg. 4, JustFaith facilitator’s materials, week 9: 2011-12)

Rohr’s talk is largely a challenge to the institutional church, what he dubs “managed” religion. Jesus, he says, has been largely misunderstood by European Christendom. “In so many ways, it didn’t matter what He [Jesus] said; it’s what we wanted Him to say and many people really thought He said these things that they presumed they wanted Him to say.” Rohr wants to get us back to the honest, Jewish Jesus so we can get away from dealing with Jesus as “the divine savior of our denomination.”

The Bible, according to Rohr, moves us from a violent, angry, “toxic” God demanding to be placated with human – and later with animal substitutions – blood to a God who has taken away human shame about being naked and unworthy. Far from demanding our blood, Rohr says, we are confronted with “the most  extraordinary turn-around in the history of religion – God spilling [His own] blood to get to us.”

“But how do you give away God?” Rohr asks. Nobody wants Him; He’s too frightening. Yet, God could not be content to be a theology, which we’d like because we can argue about it and “keep God as a private possession in our pocket.” So, He became a person, and “we see in the Risen Christ a God Who blames nobody…The Good News is that the end of the Bible is a totally non-threatening, non-blaming, non-violent  God” – not that God was ever violent, Rohr adds, but that we had created Him in our own image.

This “non-blaming” Jesus says nothing about the things the Church is obsessed about, such as premarital sex – He is only concerned with violence and greed….and in overcoming those diabolical possessions with possessing us Himself. “We’ve been so comfortable with violence – we’ve been comfortable with greed – since the 3rd century, since Constantine made us the established religion. It almost seems like some kind of smoke and mirrors game is going on here – some kind of shadow game, diversionary tactic: ‘Look over here, so you won’t see what He’s really talking about…”

Of course, Rohr is quick to say that he’s not condoning pre-marital sex but “the Christianity is much more about mystical issues than about moral issues.” Get the mystical issues right and “the moral issues will take care of themselves.”

That mystical relationship is about intimacy, the “emptying of self so there’s room for another person inside of me.” “It’s almost sexual, cannibalistic language, this Eucharistic language. Jesus saying, basically, “Eat Me.
Drink Me. Get Me inside of you.”

Rohr insists that faith isn’t a head thing, as opposed to doubt, but is a trust thing, as opposed to anxiety. Jesus doesn’t worry about the hot sins – like premarital sex – but worries about power, prestige, illusion, and the other things that blind us. Jesus came to say it’s radically OK, that life is great simplicity and comfort. We don’t have to control it all.

If Jesus takes away the sin of the world – and Rohr stresses the Biblical use of the singular “sin” (John 1:29) – what is “the sin”? Rohr answers that Jesus didn’t go to a brothel or to a bar but to a place of execution, a place where people try to “destroy evil” and then feel good that they’ve done away with the impure and are themselves superior. That behavior, says Rohr, is the sin of the world Jesus will take away.

There is much more in this vein. Managed religion – or institutional religion, Rohr explains – makes the law complex to keep us safe (e.g. no premarital sex). Jesus, on the other hand, wastes no time on the shadow but focuses on the ego, respecting the infinite complexity of people – honoring that people break the rules in very unique ways – but keeps his law very simple: Love one another.

One is at a loss to see how this brings JustFaith participants into any deeper understanding of the Church’s social teachings. Rather, it seems designed to reinforce within them a qualified relationship with the Church – the liberationists’ view of “church” – that either bends to the will of the social activist or is dismissed as merely “institutional” and “immature.”

Hopefully this is enough to persuade anyone who was uncertain about this program. The program's books are written by New Age and dissenting priests who preach a Christianity unlike that which the Church has taught for 2,000 years.


Geremia said...

The name "JustFaith" is problematic for two reasons:
(1) When is the Catholic faith unjust?
(2) Sola fide (faith only) is a heresy.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Years ago I lived in Cape Elizabeth, Maine and St Bartholomew's had a Lenten Program that I signed-up for after I learned they were going to read and discuss a Fr. Rhor text.

I did what I could to correct his errors and I ended-up copying and printing orthodox Catholic Doctrine to distribute as part of my effort to respond to his many questionable assertions.

I can not remember the name of the book but I can remember that at the end of that Lenten Program, I put his boot inside the inverted lid of a metal trash can, soaked it in lighter fluid, set it on fire, and took a series of photos as it burned to ashes and then I sent the series of photos to Father Rorh with a warm note; "I just finished your book."

kwilk1984 said...

This very much confirms and enhances what I have always thought about the "JustFaith" program. To be honest any parish that hosts this does not receive attendance from me.

Anonymous said...

Is Rohr even interested in Truth anymore? How could he not already know better? Apostasy may not be too strong a word in this case. Seems that more flattering attention (and $) flows from being a "cosmic" celebrity than from being a faithful Catholic priest.

Anonymous said...

The church is wide. It's supposed to be. The church as a whole has many times had to stretch, to adjust, to step back toward the message of Christ... that beautiful call to come close to God, to be compassionate to each other. Goodness, part of why Jesus came in the first place was to draw the church back to a call to connection with God, when the church was lost and had become more about business and money and politics than God, humanity and faith. Even if the words or ideas cause you struggle, try to stay open, it's okay to struggle. The church NEEDS both conservatives and radicals. We need people who can keep the lights on, and we need the people who remind us that God matters more than the lights, and who live a life that speaks that. The choice of our new pope to call himself Francis kinda highlights the beauty and importance of the radicals. :) I hope you have a blessed day.

Anonymous said...

I feel incredibly sorry for you, firstly for doing such a shameful act & then sending it, & secondly for being so proud of such a thing. You poor man!

L-Alleluja tal-Milied said...

You have just encouraged me to read Fr Rohr's books. I am a Catholic priest and I realise that Rohr has given us something which New Evangelisation is all about: something that is Good and New. Christ's message is all about seeing differently and growth. I see Rohr as being one who is much deeper that all the studies I did in the seminary - what the church has emphasised in its teaching for so many centuries. Fr Richard has given me new breath, something like what Pope Francis is doing to the Catholic Church so nicely. Thanks. God bless you.

William said...

Thank you for this. You have reinforced my view of Richard Rohr as our generations prophet. I have never felt closer to God as I have since discovering this wonderful priest. I know it was not your intent to honor Father Rohr and that's okay. For many he is the right message at the right time. Pope Francis seems to be on the same page.

Anonymous said...

I attended a seminar given by Fr. Richard Rohr and CAC. It indeed was attended by many people, 600 in all both Catholic and non. It was inspiring and frankly healing. I venture to say most of us are weary of a God we learned to fear and a Church which dictated our lives rather than point us to the One Who could lead us. I was so afraid I might accidentally eat meat on Friday and commit a mortal sin, I missed the love and compassion of my Heavenly Father who would leave 99 sheep to look for the one lost. I did not learn how much God loved me, how personally I could come to know the face of God, Jesus Christ, nor did I learn that there was NOTHING.that could come between me and the love of Jesus Christ. Actually, I was never encouraged to read Scripture. God is ALL. God is Love. He cannot be contained, therefore to refer to Him as anything less is limiting.

Unknown said...

Thank-you so much for your article. I was exposed to Just Faith as part of the Aspirant Year for the Permanent Deaconate Formation in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. From the very beginning, I was uneasy with the program and its new age themes and rituals. Just Faith does not seem to me to be Christ centered or based on Church Doctrine. When we viewed "Portait of a Radical" in our May 2013 Session, I was stunned. My reaction when a comment or concern was solicited was "I don't understand how this film provides a deeper understanding of the Social Justice teaching of the Church." The response from the deacon instructor was, "Yes, OK. Any other comments?" I consulted with my pastor and, with his support, wrote a respectful email expressing my concern about the Just Faith Program and another comment from the deacon instructor regarding women not being permitted to celebrate all of the Sacraments. I was promised by the Formation Team that they would address my concerns. 3 months later, I was dismissed from the Aspirant Program. Quote, "You're not welcome in the program anymore." Pray for our Church. God bless