Reviewed in the United States on May 9, 2019
Rohr believes "Without an evolutionary worldview, Christianity does not really understand, much less foster, growth or change." Instead of Jesus Christ, who proclaimed himself the way and the truth, Rohr is here to announce a new Universal Christ, who will lead the world into an "unfolding of consciousness".
Problems: Christianity has been the engine of change for the world for two thousand years. And although Rohr’s effusive prose is anything but clear, an “unfolding of consciousness” suggests he sees the Universal Christ as some form of pantheistic consciousness. Try to parse out what Rohr calls God in this: “Intuitive truth, that inner whole-making instinct, just feels too much like our own thoughts and feelings, and most of us are not willing to call this “God.”
Problems: My intuitive truth is likely to be the opposite of your intuitive truth. It’s a weasel way of saying there is no truth. And relying on feelings would be like chasing the foam on a wave.
Rohr loathes that "religious tradition ...had become...moralistic”. Apparently the ambiguous Universal Christ is uninterested in what Rohr calls “supposed moral perfection”. Rohr scolds the Catholic Church for making “the mistake of seeing "God the Father as Punisher in Chief, an angry deity who consigns sinners to eternal torment”.
Problem: Judaism had no clear concept of hell until Jesus Christ uttered such lines as, “and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” One of many, many statements about hell by Jesus, alas for Rohr’s claims. Rohr assures us that his newer, better Universal Christ will be "A forgiving God who allows us to recognize the good in the supposed bad."
Major Problems: This leaves the Universal Christ/pantheistic entity both the creator and ultimate origin of evil as well as good, and, in various ways, abolishes right and wrong, denies justice, trivializes our lives, and good luck arguing human rights.
And yet Rohr himself is an unending cascade of blame, why, almost as if some sort of ironclad morality existed. He is outraged by those who do not care for the environment and the “dear animals”, irritated by the church with its
“magical sacraments”, and he all but explodes at the “white Evangelicals and 52 percent of white Catholics” who do not vote as he prefers.
Rohr believes, "Buddha was a spiritual genius, and we Christians could learn a lot from him and his mature followers."
Major, major problems, some of which Rohr even alludes to: “There is a reason that most art shows Jesus with his eyes open and Buddha with his eyes closed. In the West, we have largely been an extroverted religion, with all the superficiality that represents; and the East has largely produced introverted forms of religion, with little social engagement up to now.”
In its first 500 years, Buddhism’s charity gave the world two hospitals. “Superficial” Christianity, in the first 50 years after it was made legal, had charity organizations in every single church in the empire to feed and aid the poor. Every single church. The ancient Greeks used to put blind women in brothels; Christianity created hospitals for them. And for the poor, and for the dying, and for the mentally ill.
Rome’s most famous physician, Galen, fled Rome the instant the plague struck. He was stunned that Christians stayed and cared for the sick, many of them dying as a result.
In the Victorian era, Father Damien volunteered to live and care for the wretched lepers on the island of Molokai. His fist words to them were, "I am one who will be a father to you, and who loves you so much that he does not hesitate to become one of you; to live and die with you”.. He did contract leprosy and die from the disease.. Even today, with all the government aid, the majority of lepers in the world are cared for by nuns and priests.
Christianity insisted on the inestimable value of every human being as a child of God. Thich Nhat Hanh, the most famous Buddhist today, teaches "All suffering is a delusion" and "There is no self". Buddha taught Anatta, the non existence of self. So there is no difference between me and you, between me and a worm.
Ideas have consequences. According to the Iris Chang's book "The Rape of Nanking" and Victoria's "Zen War Stories" Buddhism was the cause of such Japanese World War II atrocities as the Bataan Death March, the medical experiments which included vivisection without anesthesia, not to mention. burying civilians alive. Scholars argued it was the Buddhist doctrines of the non-existence of self and the oneness of life and death which were to blame.
Rohr blames: "God and religion...have been used to justify most of our violence." Alas, the cruel reality of facts: Philip and Axelrod's "Encyclopedia of Wars' tied religion to a total of 6.98% of all wars throughout recorded history, a minuscule amount. And removing those wars begun by Islam cut the number to 3.23%. Let me repeat: 3.23%. And that measly number even includes the Buddhist wars.
Rohr cleverly points out: "Have you ever noticed that Jesus never once speaks glowingly of the nuclear family?"
Malachi 2:16 "I hate divorce, says the Lord God." And in Matthew 19:6: "Therefore what God has joined together, let no man put asunder". The Catholic church followed these words and utterly changed society, from an ancient Roman culture in which men could do as they pleased, slaves were considered your sexual object, and pedophilia was practiced on an industrial scale, to a culture which demanded the same morality for men and women. The nuclear families Rohr sneers at protected children for thousands of years, before our secular culture eroded marriage.
As illegitimacy and divorce soared, the consequences for children have proven catastrophic. Suicide rates for teens tripled, as have rates of depression in teens, all sorts of adolescent mental illnesses, drug use, and criminal and aberrant behavior. Failure rates in school and later in life have been shown to be ineluctably tied to the lack of the nuclear family in research study after research study. Studies as far apart as China, Sweden, Ghana and Kenya found similar results.
And yet Rohr grumbles that “we concentrate so much on the private sins of the flesh.”
Rohr accuses the Catholic church for "our silence about and full complicity with slavery." In the 2016 Global Slavery Index, the country with the greatest number of slaves today is India, with a total of 18.3 million slaves. Hinduism's pantheism insists that we were given our status today as a result of past lives; hence, any effort to aid slaves, or to improve the lot of the Dalits, the lowest caste, was wrong, and Brahmins have rioted to prevent their being helped.
Christianity alone, of all the other religions and cultures, ended slavery, and did it not once, but twice. Once, at the start of the Dark Ages, and again, with the Protestant anti-slavery movement in the 1800s. Even as the ancient world fell into chaos and barbarians swamped Europe, the Catholic church began to demand an end to slavery; Augustine called it sin, priests everywhere advised the wealthy to free their slaves.
Within a few centuries, the Catholic church ended slavery in all but the fringes of Europe. Lords had to deal with serfs, not slaves, and the Catholic church insisted on rights for serfs, which grew broader with each passing century. In 1435, when some islanders in the Canary Islands were enslaved, an outraged Pope Eugenius IV issued the bull 'Sicut Dudum' which announced that anyone who owned, sold, or transported a slave was excommunicated. Pope after pope issued similar excommunications.
The fact that there were those who refused to listen is not the fault of the Catholic church, it is the problem Rohr is desperate to avoid discussing because it upends his thesis that humanity is part of an unfolding happy consciousness: evil.
The last century was the bloodiest abattoir in human history. Among other horrors, atheist communists murdered one hundred million human beings, an unimaginable number. They buried Archbishop Andronnik of Perm alive. Archbishop Vasily was crucified. To give you an idea of the scale of the mass killings of the people trapped in the Soviet Union, one grave, found in 1989 near Chelyabinsk, yielded the remains of 300,000 people, all slaughtered during the 1930s.
Mao killed some 45 million during the famine that he created. The old, the sick went first, then the children, and then even the healthy adults, their skin like paper rags on their skeletal bodies, and, at the end, unable to move, they died where they fell, in ditches, and did so even as Mao sent vast amounts of food abroad.
Hitler set out to kill every Jew in the world; he succeeded in only gassing and starving to death some six million human beings. The pictures of those who survived the death camps make the existence of evil undeniable.
Apparently blissfully unaware of the last century, and never having read a history book, Rohr is bubbling over with enthusiasm: ”We are now...accessing more of the skills we need to go into the depths of things…through the Enneagram… or wilderness training…these tools help us to examine and to trust interiority and depth as never before”.
Yes, he really wrote that. Pop psychology as salvation, a journey into self and learning “to trust interiority”. Because it’s all about me, me, me.