In the interview with Richard Rohr on the emerging church, there is a discussion of a very important point. It's one which goes to the heart of the current divisions in the Church and one I've alluded to plenty in the past. Where does the Church's religious authority come from? Catholicism claims it's authority as coming directly from Jesus Christ. I don't have a problem with that. The problem comes in defining which vision of Jesus Christ? Is it the Jesus Christ who ministered daily to the marginalized in the fullness of His humanity and brought us the God of love, or is it the post Crucifixion Jesus Christ who gave the keys to Peter and becomes the sacrificial victim to appease the Old Testament's vengeful God, where fearful obedience trumps love.
Like Fr. Rohr I believe religious authority will come from our evolving understanding of creation. The loving social justice Jesus slides easier into this cosmology because we are seeing the universe as an infinitely diverse, yet highly organized living thing in which each discrete unit has an important place in the over all structure. So here are the thoughts of Fr. Rohr:
That Bible, he said, has existed for 15 billion years "and has an inherent authority" reflected in Romans 1:20, 'God is revealed to things through the mind, to things as they are made.'"
The rediscovery today of the natural world, of "things as they are beyond our technology and mental constructs," will become the new authority "that we're going to be forced to appeal to, especially as we continue to destroy this planet, and we realize this is the one thing we all have in common: that we're all standing and eating off this same earth."
(Fr. Rohr is correct. As these concepts percolate down from esoteric science and into the mainstream, traditional institutions will have a tough time integrating this new cosmology because they are products conceived in the older cosmology. Theoretical physicists have been dealing with this for the last hundred or so years. To understand quantum physics they had to let go of the prior Newtonian view of physics. Quantum physics can contain Newtonian physics as a subset of quantum mechanics without negating Newtonian laws. It doesn't work the other way around.)
For Rohr, the new cosmology also recognizes that the old conception of natural order, the up-and-down universe from which hierarchical examples of leadership are modeled, no longer applies.
"You just see Jesus paying no attention to that. Nowhere is it probably symbolized more graphically than in the Roman Catholic church, which has all these scriptures about the least of the brothers and sisters, and the little ones deserving the greatest care, when in fact, what we do is dress up the big ones. We idolize and quasi-worship the big ones." (Quite literally true which is quite literally unfortunate.)
There will be an Emerging Church and once it gets going it will go 'viral' as they say in the world of UTUBE. It will be inclusive of all faith traditions because contemplatives in all those faith traditions are being shown this same future. There will be a sharing of spiritual techniques, concepts, and understandings with no demand that one need shed their own tradition in favor of any other. The Emerging Church will freely understand it is possible to add practices and understandings to one's faith experience with out demeaning or diluting the insights and truths of one's own tradition. This is happening all over the globe. It is gaining momentum, and it will have a profound impact on the future of mankind.
Pooling spiritual resources, capabilities, and training, is the one sure way to change the direction in which humanity is headed because this changes man's view of himself and his relationship to God and how he expresses this awareness. This is not a movement of tearing down so much as it is a movement of building from the past and creating the new.
It takes the fearlessness of a child like curiosity and openness, coupled with a mature faith in truths of one's own tradition. In many respects it's about finding validation for one's traditions in the similarities found in other traditions. It's about what unites us, not what divides us.
It's a concept of church and worship which could not have come at any other time because it needs the possibility of global interaction and communication. It needs a cosmology which both recognizes our common heritage and celebrates an unending creative process which is evolving in complexity and organization.
Current religious institutions will fight to return to a mythical past in which their truths were undiluted by modern culture. Unfortunately for them, more and more people will see that this return is really about reinforcing and maintaining the authority structure, and not so much about maintaining the teachings of their founders.
In Catholicism this is seen in repeated appeals to past clerical authorities to in order to shore up the authority of the current hierarchy. It almost always centers around issues of morality and doctrine, and not the direct teachings of Jesus Christ. Follow this link to see this process at work in the latest discourse from Archbishop Raymond Burke. It should surprise no one that this came at a function hosted by Deal Hudson and involved Raymond Arroyo. The 'Republican' Catholic Church is not an example of a true spontaneous emerging church. It is the perfect example of what the Emerging Church is not. As such one can learn a great deal about the opposing energies and institutions from understanding the artificial and purposeful construction of this particular brand of Catholicism.
As some last thoughts, since the emerging church will be far more about attitude than obedience, here are a couple of posts, Wild Reed and There Will Be Bread, that deal with the kind of attitudes which will foster the advent of the Emerging Truth er I mean Church.