I am still receiving daily thoughts from Father Richard Rohr. On some days his writings really grab me, pull me up short or hit me in the gut; and on others what he writes seems to tie in with conversations I have been generally having.
This week Rohr writes: ‘Almost all religion begins with a specific encounter with something that feels “holy” or transcendent: a place, an emotion, an image, music, a liturgy, an idea that suddenly gives you access to God’s Bigger World. The natural and universal response is to “idolize” and idealize that event. It becomes sacred for you, and it surely is. The only mistake is that too many then conclude that this is the only way, the best way, the superior way, the special way that I myself just happen to have discovered. Then, they must both protect their idol and spread this exclusive way to others.’
As I read those words this week, many conversations around this ‘there is only one way’ theme came to my mind. I seem to have had lots of conversations with people, a lot (but not all) have been with other Christians, who seem to be very concerned with being right and making sure we are all ‘right’ in the same way. This outlook, coupled with the idea that this one idea then needs to be protected does, I think, result in people becoming entrenched in arguments. If you feel you need to protect an opinion or a viewpoint then it becomes very difficult to really hear the opinions and interpretations of others and miss the prompting that may tell you that your opinion needs to alter slightly or even be ditched and changed altogether.
I overheard a statement in the pub the other day …. ‘I have strong opinions, but they are weakly held’. It was said in a joking manner, but I think it sums up an excellent outlook. To my simple mind and thinking, that short stament, for me, somes up how I attempt to sit with my theology and my understanding of how I should live out my theology in my everyday life.
I am starting to believe that having an outlook that says, ‘this is my opinion but I may be wrong and so I am genuinely interested in what you think’ means that dialogue stays open, that surprises happen and that understanding develops in new ways. It gives space for God to simply be God! (Of course it goes without saying that as an anglican priest this all happens in relation to my prayer and bible study life (ie I don’t just rush off with the latest great ideas …. I am a thinker and mull things over …. I don’t think i’ve made a snap decision since about 1970!!!))
So … strong opinions, weakly held ….. firm ideas, gently owned, ….. sound views, lightly embraced …. all of which needs space to listen … to ourselves, to each other and to God.