On 23 April 2021, Richard Rohr gave a keynote address on zoom at the Renaissance 2021 Spiritual Directors’ Conference. He titled his address “Why  is so much evil called ‘good’?”

Rohr’s address needs to be heard in its entirety, along with the half hour question and response session at the end. It can be viewed here:  https://vimeo.com/567215104

But, aware that some people will not find the time to listen to the whole talk, I have excerpted some of Fr. Rohr’s words and added a few comments of my own which I will post starting this morning. Please note these are highly selective quotes from an excellent address and as such do not do justice to Fr. Rohr’s thought which the reader will only begin to grasp by hearing all of Rohr’s reflections.

He begins by describing Rene Girard’s “scapegoat mechanism,” explaining that,

in our effort to maintain a personal sense of purity and superiority, all human beings and cultures project their inner negativity and their fear onto someone or something else and attack it there.

Rather than seeing honestly the darkness that is part of our own lives, we project it out onto others, pointing the finger of accusation and blame at those we deem evil so as to avoid facing the evil in our own lives. We refuse to see our own failing or to take responsibility for our lives and instead become

blamers instead of repenters.

A “repenter” is someone who is willing to acknowledge their own complicity in evil and face the dark shadow side that, Rohr argues, is a part of every aspect of life.

None of us is innocent. We are all in need of repentance.

Remember the hated tax collector in Luke 18 who Jesus praises. His only prayer was “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus says that man went home from the temple justified, not because he did it right but because he knew he was complicit in the evil of the world; we all are. The tax collector is a stand in for universal humanity.

We have made the preaching of the Gospel into a matter of blaming and accusing turning it into a moral matter instead of a mystical matter. It sets us up for endless weighing and measuring. Who’s good enough? Who’s not good? And always placing ourselves on the upper side.

In order to move beyond the “blamers” syndrome, we must be willing to accept our own need to stand with the tax collector and repent of the “burden of sin” in our own lives. But, at the same time we need to remain aware of the glory of the human creation and the beauty and nobility for which we came into being. It is a challenging vision and so Rohr asks

How do we possibly help carry the weight of glory and the burden of sin?

This delicate task will only be achieved as we learn to navigate life with both what Rohr calls  

the dualistic mind and the non-dual mind.

He argues that,

If you don’t have dualistic clarity, you just have fuzzy thinking, or “spiritual by-passing.” But with this mind alone, we end up attacking our own sin in others and you walk away feeling pure and holy.

We need both truth and justice.

Rohr goes on to outline three necessary steps in this process which I will offer tomorrow.