Monday, December 17, 2012

Reading Rohr with Bono: half-naked elevation, necessary decadence and life-giving drink with the devil (without moving in with him)

This astonishing section  (and astonishingly nowhere online until I hit "publish") of Richard Rohr's book, "Adam's Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation
below deserves to be read slowly, prayerfully, carefully....

and soundtracked to U2;
and with the following for context and contexture:

1)Thoughtful U2 fans will recognize  resonances of 1990s U2 (especially "Elevation" and "Mysterious Ways" as well as famous/infamous Bono quotes  about Catholic Carnival,   flesh/spirit, "a drink with the devil," incarnation, joy, beauty, sex  etc etc)  all over this reading.  See "Elevation leads to Vertigo 2.0,"  and blogs by  Beth Maynard  Tim Neufeld  for more).

 Bono, as  the extraordinary theologian Miraslov Volf  himself has said, is an "extraordinary theologian (of grace)".

 One almost wonders if the man and his "elegant wife"  in the last paragraph are not actually/  literally Mr. and Mrs. Paul  "Bono" Hewson; it is all so Bono/esque.
At  least  wonder how many "amen"s  a reading of a random line of this text would solicit from Bono.

2)Please don't hear what Rohr is NOT saying.  Don't write him off as a heretic.  Read well.
 Example: the concept of flirting..sometimes literally... with the line (flirting with the line, itself) as a spiritual discipline/"necessary training."

3)The book is on the topic of "male initiation," so the male/man language is not intended to be sexist.
It should be considered/read on the flow of the whole book.  Buy it yesterday, and buy one for Bono and wife.


Do you  think  St. Francis really stopped being the king of the parties?  Do you think David of the dance, the psalms, the harp and the many women ever stopped being erotic?  Could Rumi, Kabir, Tagor or Hafiz  have possibly written their sacred poetry if they were not sensuous and sensual men? Did St. Phillip Neri  really stop telling jokes and drinking wine?  Did Mozart ever stop having fun?  Did the cloistered contemplatives not know joy?  I don't think so.  They just moved joy and pleasure to the highest level, which is the highest definition of a mystic.  The contemplative, or saint, is the most refined and highest level of the lover archetype.

It is strange that the West has largely created cultures of conspicuous consumerism when it took as its ultimate hero and God figure a  poor and simple man.  You would think our God figure would be Dionysius or Pan.  Why do most Eastern or Native peoples of the world  consider the West to be greedy and materialistic?  Why do we produce such a high rate of physically addicted people?  Why is the search for affluence and pleasure our main concern?  Could it be because we have not blessed the good side of joy and pleasure?  Now it comes back and bites us from behind.  When I consciously seek a certain amou8nt of creature comfort in my life, I find that it satisfies me, and also will never satisfy me.  That is a very life-giving and creative tension to live in.

I  do not find the same kind of approach and avoidance attitudes toward pleasure in Hindu countries. among most Jews, and surely not among Native peoples.  The lower part of a man was not paid his dues or given legitimate permission in Western Christianity.  As many say, sexuality and sensuality is our ever-recurring and "unhealed wound,"  Like petulant schoolboys, we Christians sneak all the fun we can at the expense of underdeveloped countries, our neighbors, and the health of our own bodies and souls.  We feel duly guilty about it all, but we usually don't stop.  We priests deny ourselves sex, but then we insist on four-star hotels and restaurants.  Carnival in Catholic countries became a necessary decadence to justify receiving the ashes the next morning.  Something has not come to balance inside us, and we remain schizoid.   We go to the outer world for our daily pleasures, but we  seldom allow them to bring us to God, or even to ourselves.  We remain split.  Flesh is bad and Spirit is good in our terrible dualism.  Yet the Christian religion is supposed to be incarnation-a love affair between flesh and Spirit.  It  is really quite strange.

Ours is the only religion in the world that dares to believe that God became flesh.  The only religion that chews on the flesh of God has a very sensuous, sexual symbol for the transformation of the lover; we call it the Eucharist.  Christianity says that God is Love but does not appear to really enjoy the lover.  Despite all the Bach masses, Baroque churches, incense, vestments, and luxurious art, we still made our religion into a moralistic matter instead of a  mystical joy.  Our operative God image was much more a banker, a judge, a timekeeper, or an accountant, but seldom a real lover--in any sense that the normal man understands.  Like Michal, the daughter of Saul, we despise David for dancing half naked in church (1 Samuel 6:16); we look away from Shakers, Pentecostals, and holy rollers.  Religion should be a proper and dignified thing, we think.  The hot sins for the Baptists and Catholics
are always associated with the body.  This is no religion of incarnation.

Frankly, it is the Hindu sacred poets, Sufi mystics like Rabi'a and Rumi, the Christian saints like John XXIII, Hildegard of Bingen, Franc is of Assisi, Julian of Norwich and Therese of Lisieux, or Jewish masters, like the Baal Shem Tov, Abraham Heschel, and Martin Buber who seem to have met a lover God.  The mystics of all religions know this lover God, but they are never allowed to set the tone for the ordinary Christian, Jew, Hindu or Muslim on the street.  We are all lost in law, custom and holy wars, which largely nullified any chance of a love-based ethic for any of the three monotheistic religions.  As Paul said so strongly, reliance upon moralisms makes grace impossible (Galatians 3), and it even leads to the death of the soul (Romans 7).  Moralisms keep us making lists for God instead of making love to God.

In short, if religion does not integrate and validate the sensual, pleasure-loving, erotic part of a man, it takes devious and destructive directions.  If you do not bless it and bow to it, it turns on you and controls you, as we have seen in the recent pedophile scandal.  If you bless it, it shows its limited value and longs for something higher.  The most loving men I have met, the most generous to society and to life, are usually men who have a lusty sense of life, beauty, pleasure and sex--but they have very realistic expectations of them.  The smaller pleasures have become a stairway and an invitation to higher ones, almost by revealing simultaneously their wonderful and yet limited character.  They offer a first taste but then create a taste for something more and something higher.  This is the necessary training of the lower archetype.

The true lover wastes no time in guilt and no time in gluttony either.  As Dome Bedde Griffiths said,  "Sex is far too important to eliminate entirely, and it is far too important to do lightly.  The only alternative is to somehow 'consecrate' it."  I am personally convinced this is true.  The man who took me recently to a four-star restaurant with his elegant wife, while speaking excitedly about the food making love to him, is the same man who talks passionately about refugees, injustice and Third World issues, and he has passed these passionate concerns onto his children.  He is the lover I am talking about. -Richard Rohr, Adam's Return, pp.  128-131.

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