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.”
By Eliza Griswold
February 2, 2020
As G. K. Chesterton once wrote, Your religion is not the church you belong to, but the cosmos you live inside of. Once we know that the entire physical world around us, all of creation, is both the hiding place and the revelation place for God, this world becomes home, safe, enchanted, offering grace to any who look deeply. I call that kind of deep and calm seeing “contemplation.” The essential function of religion is to radically connect us with everything. (Re-ligio = to re-ligament or reconnect.) It is to help us see the world and ourselves in wholeness, and not just in parts. Truly enlightened people see oneness because they look out from oneness, instead of labeling everything as superior and inferior, in or out. If you think you are privately “saved” or enlightened, then you are neither saved nor enlightened, it seems to me!
Rohr, Richard. The Universal Christ (p. 7). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
1. God is like a flow, a movement, a community: not a particle but a relationship.
- 2. Faith is moving with the flow, with stillness and love in the heart, trusting that you are small but included in a larger and compassionate whole.
- 3. A walk with God in daily life lies in embracing the world lovingly, subject-to-subject: other people, animals, the earth, and yourself. All things have inwardness as well as outwardness.
- 4. There is no need for overly precise definitions. No need to encase God in a philosophical box. Be careful not to make God a thing. All our ideas about God and most other things are lures for feeling, lie fingers pointing to the moon. Trust the moon.
- 5. There is no need for tribalism, either. No need to argue with or against people of other religions or no religion. Imagine God's love on the analogy of a light shining through stained glass windows. Each living being, each culture, each religion, reveals some of the light, always in a different color.
- 6. Live lightly on the earth and gently with others. All are sisters and brothers in the dance. Give them space to be themselves, Stillness and love are enough.
- 7. If you are Christian, let "Christ" name the living spirit of God embracing the cosmos: the primordial nature of God: filled with potentiality for life on our planet and in other realms, too. John Cobb said this in Christ in a Pluralistic Age many years ago, speaking of Christ as the Logos. Trust the Logos.
- 8. Jesus is a manifestation of Christ. The cosmic Christ is revealed but not exhausted by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is a good shortcut to the cosmic Christ, but not the only way.