“Society’s conventional image of a mystic is that of a person who withdraws from the world in order to journey inward. . . . The mystic is stereotyped as a guru sitting in splendid isolation on a mountaintop, utterly unconcerned with the world’s affairs. But theologian Dorothee Soelle, herself something of a mystic, argued that . . . the mystic is uniquely motivated and qualified to respond to social and economic injustices. Genuine mystics . . . says Soelle . . . have been liberated from the three powers that typically hold humans in bondage: ego, possession, and violence. . . . The genuine mystic understands that his or her connection with the divine is likewise a connection to all other humans and, indeed, to all of creation—a relationship, as Soelle said, that ‘borrows the eyes of God.’ Patterns of opposition and resistance bred by the division of I and not-I [therefore] collapse to be replaced by ones of mutuality and community. . . . [Soelle] grew up under the Nazi regime and, like many Germans of her generation, never got over the shame of belonging to a nation that willingly collaborated with mass murderers. She was especially worried by the acquiescence of so many people who claimed to be Christian, and eventually concluded that part of the explanation was that they had compartmentalized their faith, transforming it into a private and ‘otherworldly’ thing. Convinced that such privatization is a perversion of faith, Soelle worked as a theologian to demonstrate the social responsibility of religion and as an activist to put her theology into practice. She became one of the Cold War’s leading anti-nuclear voices, a dedicated opponent of both [U.S.] involvement in [the] Vietnam War and Soviet-style communism, and a proponent of liberation theology. The spiritual fuel of these activities was her conviction that the mystical worldview is revolutionary enough to resist ‘powerful but petrified institutions’ that trade in oppression and violence.” Kerry Walters and Robin Jarrell
” . . . a person is considered righteous
by what they do and not by faith alone.”
James 2:24 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Does your version of Christianity address the powers of ego, possession, and violence?
- What powerful, petrified institutions trade in oppression and violence where you live?
- Imagine living with the guilt of “belonging to a nation that willingly collaborated with mass murderers.” Do you honestly face up to the shadow side of your country’s history?
Father, may I be a mystic who makes a difference in this world of people loved by you.
For More: The Silent Cry. Dorothee Soelle. Trans. Barbara and Martin Rumscheldt. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2001.
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“What is considered good, sound, orthodox theology is a Western theology that emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus with its natural and expected antecedent of an individual sanctification…. The critical issues and discussion in theology lean toward understanding issues relevant to individuals and Western sensibilities. …Theologies that speak of a corporate responsibility or call for a social responsibility are given special names like: liberation theology, black theology, minjung theology, feminist theology, etc. In other words, Western theology with its individual focus is considered normative theology, while non-Western theology is theology on the fringes and must be explained as being a theology applicable only in a particular context and to a particular people group. Orthodoxy is determined by the Western value of individualism and an individualized soteriology rather than a broader understanding of the corporate themes that emerge out of scripture. Because theology emerging from a Western, white context is considered normative, it places non-Western theology in an inferior position and elevates Western theology as the standard by which all other theological frameworks and points of view are measured. This bias stifles the theological dialogue between the various cultures. …We end up with a Western, white captivity of theology. Western theology becomes the form that is closest to God.” Soong-Chan Rah
Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied.
‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’”
Moving From Head to Heart
- Christianity began in the East and was entirely Jewish. Much of today’s church is Western and Gentile. Imagine the difference in perspective. Has your theology ever been challenged like Peter’s was?
- Many churches in the U.S. are mostly white, suburban, middle-class and led by men. Imagine how unreflected the concerns and problems of people of color, urban and/or poor people might be in such churches. Have you tried listening in your church with the ears of a poor person, a minority or a woman?
- Considering “non-Western theology” as theology “on the fringes” only feeds our tendency as Westerners towards ego-centricity as individuals and a culture. Do you try to learn from those parts of the world, or from cultures, that are different from yours?
Abba, make me aware of my biases and prejudices, and help me transcend them. Help me know you better as my horizons expand and I think in new ways.
For More: The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”
“Women’s theology uses technical terms to single out oppressive patterns of social and mental behavior. Patriarchy, or rule of the father, refers to social structures where power is always in the hands of the dominant man or men. Under patriarchy women never have equal access to power in the social sphere. Androcentrism, or male-centeredness, refers to ways of thinking that privilege men: it makes men’s way of being human normative for all human beings. In androcentric thinking women are always derivative, off-center, less than truly human. Today it becomes clear that the liberating goal of feminist, womanist, mujerista or Latina, and third-world women’s theology is not reached by simply integrating women into a society and church were patriarchal structures and androcentric theory still prevail as a norm. …Rather, the whole structure of church and society needs to be transformed to make space for a new community of mutual partnership. The goal is a new justice. On this frontier, theology glimpses an ancient, unassailable truth with new clarity: God loves women and passionately desires their flourishing. When violence is done to women, to their bodies or their spirits, it is an insult to divine glory. When liberating advances are made that overcome bias and promote the dignity of women, it is a victory for the reign of God. Struggling to claim their human dignity on every level, women find the God of life walking with them and supporting their efforts, for the holy One who sprung the slaves out of Egypt and raised Jesus from the dead is unrepentant in siding with those deprived of fullness of life.” Elizabeth Johnson
“There is no longer male or female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Do you believe that God passionately desires the “flourishing” of women?
- Are you committed to “promoting the dignity of women?” Is your church?
- “While women make up one-half of the world’s population, they work three-fourths of the world’s working-hours, receive one-tenth of the world’s salary, own one one-hundredth of the planet’s land, and constitute two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults. Together with their dependent children they comprise 75 percent of the world’s starving people and 80 percent of homeless refugees.” (Johnson) In this light, do you think it an exaggeration to speak of women as “deprived of fullness of life?” Are you O.K. with “the norm” of how things are for women?
Sophia, God of Wisdom, may those of us with power, use it for the flourishing of women, and in so doing, extend your reign in our world.
For More: Quest for the Living God by Elizabeth Johnson
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)