Dan Barker, Fort Morgan Times

January 14, 2022

“‘For 1,600 years, wisdom, paradox and mystery were essential parts of Christianity,’ says Richard Rohr in his latest work, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See.

But for the past few hundred years churches and church leaders have become more and more ‘professional’— as has happened in Islam, Judaism and other religions—which has meant they have concentrated more on keeping order than anything else.

Recently, religions have tended to focus more on doctrinal conclusions than giving ‘people a vision, process, and practices whereby they can legitimate those truth claims for themselves—by inner experience and actual practices.’

Rohr says the purpose of this book is not to change doctrine, but to help people open themselves up to the old knowledge that Christianity had before it became defensive of its doctrine in the wake of the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

The wisdom of the early church is still available, although often hidden, for those who want to seek it.

Essentially, it is a matter of reinvigorating the ancient wisdom by living in the ‘naked now,’ to be ‘present’—i.e., aware of and responding—to one another and the entire universe.

In order to become present, we must learn to perceive beyond our prejudices and expectations. Rohr invites the reader ‘to try on a new pair of glasses and to keep your lens clean . . . How you see is what you see. And to see rightly is to be able to be fully present—without fear, without bias, and without judgment.’

That requires metanoia, the Greek word used in the New Testament which is often translated as ‘conversion’ but which literally means transforming your mind, he says.

Devout people used to know how to make immediate, unmediated contact with the present moment, right where they were, and that is the clearest path to encountering God, Rohr says.

This path is through real prayer, which is not the kind of speeches some preachers make, or a way to manipulate God into granting favors, as if God were a magic lamp.

‘As long as you think of prayer as merely “thinking holy thoughts” or even “meditating on pious images,” you will normally remain in dualistic consciousness,’ Rohr writes.

Dualistic thinking is the kind of thought which puts everything into categories—i.e. us vs. them, good and evil, black and white—but it is necessary to go beyond that kind of thinking in order to understand what Jesus had to say, Rohr says.

Dualistic thinking limits us to worrying about doctrine, rather than how we can transform our lives. If we can go beyond this kind of thinking, we can start to enjoy the Kingdom of God now, he says.

Unfortunately, churches have become focused on telling people what to know, rather than how to know, he said. Religion is kept on the level of a social contract which holds the culture together, but does not necessarily transform people at any deep level.

Monotheistic religions have fostered group order, consistency, organization and membership requirements while trying to hold everything together inside one rather clear explanation, Rohr says.

Living spirituality lost out, and Westerners are now seeking to fill their spiritual needs in other ways, whether in Eastern religion or support groups, conferences, books or do-it-yourself spirituality, he notes.

I have to say I have known too many faithful Christian ministers who have become disillusioned as they find themselves wrestling with church councils over trivial doctrinal matters, and with the church building fund as the center of many discussions. What Rohr says certainly fits their experiences, when they find themselves more as business managers than ministers of deep spiritual matters.

This book can seem a bit fragmented, because Rohr is trying to come at the idea of changing the way we think from several different directions. It is more for those who have never encountered the idea of contemplative prayer—kind of a primer—than for those who are already on that path, but it is well worth the time. Give it a try.”

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