“Sojourners” has an important interview this month with Cynthia Bourgeualt.
Here are two excerpts. But the whole thing is worth reading at: http://sojo.net/magazine/2014/02/pursuit-wholeness
Bob Sabath: What need is your vocation responding to in the world today?
Cynthia Bourgeault: I would say that I’m creating a bridge between contemplative Christianity and action. I bring forth some of the skills in the contemplative path to help avoid the usual pitfalls of burnout, violence, judgment, and hypocrisy, and also to bring forth some of the prophetic and compassionate skills in the action traditions to help contemplatives move beyond the sense that the domain of their wisdom is “inner” work. There really is no inner and outer: There’s one world.
What would you say to Christian social justice activists who see themselves primarily concerned with faith and action, who perhaps have had a difficult time working with the inner journey and almost see it as getting in the way?
I’d say come back and see me in 15 years. I don’t think anybody ever becomes a prophet thinking that they may be wrong and the rest of the world is right. There’s this real sense that, by virtue of my mantle as a “prophet,” I have the moral high ground. I see what’s wrong. I have to take it on myself to speak up about the ills and the excesses. Along with that, from the point of view of that mesoteric level, is identification. I’m very bound up in the energy of my role. I’m actually using that role as a source of motivation and that creates identification, which is a violence in its own right. It also quickly lands a person in burnout and anger, which are the basic shadow sides of social action. It’s very hard for people to understand how to work like a Gandhi, like a Dag Hammarskjöld, or even like Jesus. The very zeal that impels us toward action also fatally skews it.
The shadow side of contemplative practice can be a quietism and a spiritual narcissism, a kind of premature oneness with God. But that’s not where it’s intended to go. I would say that everybody needs to sit down on the cushion of practice, whether their initial temperament is toward the more activist side or the more contemplative side, and to understand how each of these pillars holds the space for one another and for something new to begin.