Richard Rohr Reorders the Universe



The seventy-six-year-old Franciscan friar believes that Christianity isn’t the only path to salvation.

By Eliza Griswold
February 2, 2020

Quelle: The New Yorker

Rohr is slight, with a white beard and the starry eyes of a person who spends long periods in silence. Over the past four decades, he has gained a devoted following for his provocative vision of Christianity. He runs the Center for Action and Contemplation, a meditation hub and religious school that its residents refer to as Little Vatican City. The campus is made up of a cluster of adobe casitas strung out on a dusty road outside Albuquerque; small shrines to St. Francis and St. Clare dot the land between the runnels of an ancient aquifer, which still courses with water from a nearby river, feeding the garden. Rohr wakes around 5:45 A.M. each day and spends an hour praying wordlessly. “I’m trying to find my way to yes,” he told me, adding that he often wakes up in a state of no. “As in, ‘No, I do not want to be followed around by Eliza today,’ ” he said, smiling impishly. After that, he heads to the center and leads a morning session that includes a twenty-minute contemplation, a daily gospel reading, and the ringing of a Buddhist singing bowl. The center’s classes also include Hindu and yogic methods of integrating the body into prayer, along with teachings drawn from indigenous spiritual traditions that focus on the sacredness of the earth.

More conservative Christians tend to orient their theology around Jesus—his death and resurrection, which made salvation possible for those who believe. Rohr thinks that this focus is misplaced. The universe has existed for thirteen billion years; it couldn’t be, he argues, that God’s loving, salvific relationship with creation began only two thousand years ago, when the historical baby Jesus was placed in the musty hay of a manger, and that it only became widely knowable to humanity around six hundred years ago, when the printing press was invented and Bibles began being mass-produced. Instead, in his most recent book, “The Universal Christ,” which came out last year, Rohr argues that the spirit of Christ is not the same as the person of Jesus. Christ—essentially, God’s love for the world—has existed since the beginning of time, suffuses everything in creation, and has been present in all cultures and civilizations. Jesus is an incarnation of that spirit, and following him is our “best shortcut” to accessing it. But this spirit can also be found through the practices of other religions, like Buddhist meditation, or through communing with nature. Rohr has arrived at this conclusion through what he sees as an orthodox Franciscan reading of scripture. “This is not heresy, universalism, or a cheap version of Unitarianism,” he writes. “This is the Cosmic Christ, who always was, who became incarnate in time, and who is still being revealed.”

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