The Pachamama Rohrs

Environmentalism and a new theology that liberates us from traditional Christian scruples about sex while restoring pagan scruples about transgressing against Mother Nature?

Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, pictured here with Oprah Winfrey on the set of "Super Soul Sunday" in 2014, is the author of "The Universal Christ". (CNS photo/courtesy George Burns, Harpo Inc.)

“How far back and forward in time does the Christ figure extend, and who exactly is Christ?” These questions were posed by Richard Rohr in an interview with Rich Heffern of the National Catholic Reporter published on December 11, 2009. A decade later, in his best-seller The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Centre for Action and Contemplation, 2019), Rohr is still flogging the same heretical answers he gave there:

The Gospels are about the historical Jesus. Paul, however, whose writings make up a third of the New Testament, never talks about that Jesus. He is talking about the Christ. Jesus is the microcosm; Christ is the macrocosm. There is a movement between the two that we ourselves have to imitate in our life and walk, the resurrection journey.

Now, dividing Jesus from the Christ is the oldest gnostic trick in the book. It belongs to a whole bag of tricks, including the division of the New Testament from the Old, the God of Jesus from the God of Moses, redemption from creation, resurrection of soul from resurrection of body – setting the former, in each case, against the latter. That sort of thing was exposed and overthrown long ago by St. Irenaeus in his foundational work of theology, Against the Heresies.

Our recent tricksters such as Matthew Fox and Richard Rohr, however, deceive those with itching ears by way of a new ruse. They pretend that there is a seamless “movement between the two,” so that what appears to be an opposition is really just a feature of a larger and more dynamic vision, one that takes account of the vast tracts of time and space that modern science has brought to our attention. This allows them to say that they think the creation of the material world was a good thing, not (as the gnostics of old claimed) a bad thing.

Like Hegel, they even try to give the new construct a trinitarian twist, making it sound as orthodox as possible. They turn the Irenaean critique back on itself, in other words, as a cover for their gnosticism. “Western Christianity,” complains Rohr, “has plucked Jesus completely out of the Trinity,” breaking the bond between the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of salvation. The doctrine of the cross, of atonement through Jesus, displaces the big picture. It’s all Jesus, all the time, not enough Cosmic Christ; all microcosm, no macrocosm; all world to come, not enough openness to this world.

These are tricks they learned from Teilhard de Chardin, of course. “When [we] emphasize Jesus apart from the Father and Holy Spirit,” says Rohr, “then creation is just an afterthought or a backdrop to a limited salvation drama… We become preoccupied with those last three hours of Jesus’ life, when we get the blood sacrifice that gets us humans saved, our ticket to heaven punched.” This distracts us from the real mystery of Christianity, the mystery “that the material and the spiritual coexist.” It distracts us from “the mystery of the Incarnation”:

Once we restore the idea that the Incarnation means God truly loves creation then we restore the sacred dimension to nature. We bring the plants and animals and all of nature in with us. They are windows into the endless creativity, fruitfulness and joy of God. We assert that we believe in the sweep of history, humanity and all of creation that Christ includes.

Mark that. The doctrine of the incarnation is, at bottom, no more than the commonplace that the material and the spiritual somehow coexist. Rohr’s Christ, like Teilhard’s, includes all of creation. Jesus, it follows, may in his way be uniquely the Christ but he is, nevertheless, merely one instantiation or revelation of the Christ. And it is revelation, not atonement, that we should look for in Jesus. According to Rohr, “Incarnation is already redemption. Bethlehem was more important than Calvary.” From which it follows that everything is good and that we may believe also in ourselves as Christ. “It is good to be human. The Earth is good. God has revealed that God has always been here.”

We have, then, an earthy religion, an environmentally sensitive religion, a sustainable religion. We have a self-affirming religion open to a variety of forms of worship and to a variety of sexualities–perhaps even to a mixture of the two. And this, Rohr asserts, taking in vain the names of the two great theologians of his order,

is a Franciscan approach, and indeed was the theology of key Franciscan figures like Duns Scotus and St. Bonaventure. It will increasingly become mainline spirituality as we become more comfortable with an expanded view of the mystery of Incarnation in the cosmos. If we Christians had taken this mystery seriously, we would never have raped the planet like we do, never have developed such an inadequate theology about sexuality.

Environmentalism and a new theology that liberates us from traditional Christian scruples about sex while restoring pagan scruples about transgressing against Mother Nature? A new theology that is a rediscovery of the fact that God has always been here? Vive la Pachamama! What more could today’s itching ears want to hear? Unless perchance they desire the titillation of talk about the coming discovery of extraterrestrials, which Rohr thinks likely and for which he wants us to prepare by enlarging the vision of our faith.

And how exactly do we do that? By revising, among other things, our view of the resurrection along the lines that Hegel showed us. “Jesus died, Christ arose.” The transformation that takes place in this resurrection – this bifurcation –­ is precisely that “Christ’s consciousness is untied from a specific place and time.” Or as Rohr puts it in his new book: “What if Christ is a name for the transcendent within of every ‘thing’ in the universe?” What if Christ references “an infinite horizon that pulls us from within and pulls us forward too?” What indeed “if Christ is another name for everything – in its fullness?” (2019: 5)

This, of course, is nothing more than a rehash of Teilhard’s “onwards and upwards,” which I have criticized at length in Ascension and Ecclesia and elsewhere. There is no need to repeat all that here. Suffice it to say that, in the final analysis, “everything in its fullness” really means “everything returned to nothingness” or, as Teilhard has it, escaping the vexation of being trapped in “the cosmic bubble.” It also means that, for the time being, all the fullness of the Godhead rests bodily not in Jesus but in us. For divinization is not a share, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, in the immortal life of the resurrected Jesus and, just so, in the eternal joy of his divine and human sonship. No, on Rohr’s construction, it is a cosmic process of bringing “into ever-increasing consciousness” a non-judgmental love that includes everything and everyone (72). It is God realizing himself by becoming all in all.

Back in 2009, Rohr was asked by his interviewer whether “if Jesus becomes more the Christ” he also becomes somehow more remote from us. Rohr’s response was revealing of the idea that drives and governs his work. Remote? Au contraire, “everything that happens to Jesus must happen in our individual souls as well. The Incarnation means the divine indwelling is not out there, over there. It happens within us. This movement from Jesus to the Christ means that the same anointing that was given to Jesus is given to all of us.”

This psychologizing of salvation history, this dynamic movement from the universal to the particular and back again, is the classic gnostic move. It allows us to toy with, and then dispense with, the man from Nazareth who himself is God and to embrace instead the universal Man who lives within each of us, showing us that we are God and that God is us. “God loves things by becoming them” (20). “The evolving, universe-spanning Christ Mystery, in which all of us take part,” is what we must concern ourselves with, not the Jesus whom we fancy will someday return to us.

Unsurprisingly, Rohr reminds us that “Carl Jung called Christ the archetype of the soul. Jesus came forth from God, was initiated in baptism, went through a normal growing up then developed a ministry, was rejected, suffered, died and ascended – returned back to where he came from. We all go through that journey of transformation that returns us to where we began but with a freer consciousness.” Unfortunately, laments Rohr, “the Universal Christ was just too big an idea, too monumental a shift for most of the first two thousand years” (47). Our true liberation is only now taking place, aided by his own humble self.

Like the gnosticism of old, this syncretistic pseudo-scientific neo-paganism can be dressed up in Christian language, given Catholic sacramental trappings, and successfully marketed to those who want to be religious without genuine conversion to God through Jesus the Christ. If that’s your neighbor, she won’t object to finding a copy of Rohr’s book under the tree this Christmas. You might even accompany it with a copy of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, in case she missed that. (Rohr apparently didn’t, since he offers us the same sort of historical nonsense about half way through his book, suggesting that the origins of orthodox Christology can be found in imperial politics.) But if you actually care about your neighbor you might consider offering her something by way of an antidote instead. I’ve tried to provide one here, in a little book leaning on Irenaeus that shows what the unitive, anaphoric work of Jesus Christ really entails.


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About Dr. Douglas Farrow 7 Articles
Douglas Farrow is Professor of Theology and Christian Thought at McGill University, and the author, most recently, of Theological Negotiations: Proposals in Soteriology and Anthropology (Baker Academic, 2018).

31 Comments

  1. Some of our members in their sojourn “have moved beyond Christ.”

    So said Ms. Laurie Brink (a “nun” in a post-Christian cult of some particular decadent faction of Dominicans) in her key note speech at a convention of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the 1990s (if memory is correct).

    When I read this comment, and subsequently read some essays pro and con on Telhard and his “Omega Point” idea, I instantly made the connection between Laurie Brink and Teilhard.

    As those who have seen the variety of “diagrams” of Teilhard’s “Omega Point idea, Jesus is a sort of mid-journey milestone on mankind’s collective “evolution” toward its perfection at the “Imega Point.”

    In other words, Jesus is NOT “the Alpha and the Omega.”

    Hence, Ms. Brink and her “sisters” (a word that in reference to them is devoid of Catholic meaning) think that they can “move beyond Christ.”

    This is also Richard Rohr in a nutshell, as is clear from Professor Farrow’s description of Rohr’s ideology.

    One critic of Teilhard called his work “cargo cult” ideology. The phrase “Cargo cult” was originally concocted in reference to a group of indigenous Pacific Island people who had discovered an abandoned an old airstrip on an island (if memory serves it was from the Second World War), and having no idea what they were looking at, having never seen an airplane or an airport, concocted a theology to explain it’s existence.

    What is impressive is that such mediocre ideology is preferred to the liberation of Jesus.

    But then again, it is pointed out that Teilhard, a paleontologist, who tried to combine his enthusiasm for human evolutionary theory and his religious ideas in what I would cal a “speculative theology,” was also involved in, and by some accused of participating in the fraud, of the “Piltdown Man” evolutionary hoax.

    But just a word to Richard and Laurie and Pierre Teilhard:

    Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Farrow!

    Yes, as he stated in a National Catholic Register interview, Rohr wrote this book “with nothing to lose.” He is 76 years old, the cancer is back…”the most difficult book” he has ever written. The book is dedicated to his deceased companion of 15 years…a Labrador Retriever…who “was Christ” to him.

    For further consideration of Rohr’s book (by Michael McClymond):

    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/universal-christ-richard-rohr/

    My own review is quite brief.

    An alternate subtitle for Richard Rohr’s “The Universal Christ?” “Finding Joy in Spiritual Stagnancy.”

  3. Unfortunately, this “Syncretistic pseudo-scientific neo-paganism dressed up in Christian language, given Catholic sacramental trappings and successfully marketed to those who want to be religious without genuine conversion to God through Jesus the Christ” is what is being fed to those who attend retreats offered by various religious orders. The Bible, the writings of the great Saints and Doctors of the Church are no longer relevant in our “enlightened” world.

  4. We are not living in a world of science fiction. Things are as they appear and the Catholic story is tho only one I know that holds together in all its elements, making sterling good sense.

  5. Aging and young New Agers could be heard crashing to the floor slain by the Spirit of the Age. Giddy with such marvelous knowledge that all that is and done reflects the Messiah. The Cosmic Jesus. Franciscan Gnostic Fr Rohr had a predecessor Matthew Fox OP [yes even the Dominicans]. Roundly sanctioned by then Prefect CDF Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. Jesus is everywhere not in the manner of the Word maintaining existence rather that the essence of God is perceived in the essence of created things. The only entree to perceiving anything of the essence of the divinity is through prayer and the moral life. Embrace of the Cross. That unfortunately for Fr Rohr and giddy disciples is much too distasteful. Pray the high risk deluded turn to Christ for salvation.

    • Matthew Fox was expelled from the Dominican Order. The Western Dominicans were appalled by his his New Age nonsense in the Bay Area and demanded that Fox be disciplined. The Central Dominican Province tried to work with him since he was one of their own but finally threw in the towel and recalled him to Chicago. Fox disobeyed, of course. He went on to become an Episcopalian priest (actually, an Episcopagan, literally), doing drug-fueled rave Masses.

      • These two incidents of priests turning to love of nature rather than the God who created reveal the Dark core of ecological conversion promoted by our dramatically kind Holy Father whose compassionate moments are captured by the press for public consumption. Faithful Son we have a choice. Do we incorporate compassion for the less fortunate with a new spiritual dialogue with nature, saving the planet and normalization of rampant homosexuality, shelving the monumental murder of the innocents in the womb and now post partum [deemed sacred political soil by Nancy Pelosi] accommodating the City of Man as well as in the City of God, the Church as appealed to by this Vatican? Bishop Strickland of obscure [for New Yorkers] Tyler TX who clever as a snake innocent as a dove wisely argued at the recent Synod he does comply with compassion for the less fortunate and in compliance with His Holiness is implementing discernment and direction for sole purpose of pronouncing and implementing the message of Christ revealed and defined in the Apostolic Tradition. There are the requisite leaders among the 149 pray they will be as pronounced as Bishop Strickland and Archbishop Chaput.

  6. Thank you for pointing out the connection between heterodox spirituality and the Culture of Death. Paganism is creeping into the Church not only on the “left,” but also on the Catholic “right,” with mindfulness. Use of New Age or Buddhist/Hindu techniques leads to a non-Christian anthropology and heterodoxy, as Spain’s bishops’ conference recently pointed out. People flock to these techniques because they hunger for union with God and have not been taught about true Catholic mysticism — or they have found the path to union with God too difficult and seek a shortcut. So, we get Centering Prayer, and now mindfulness as a supposed preparation for deeper spirituality. Readers who are interested in learning about the true Catholic tradition of prayer may want to join my Facebook group Authentic Contemplative Prayer, or read my book, Is Centering Prayer Catholic? (Short answer: no.) Rohr’s teaching is on the extreme, even within the realm false spirituality among Catholics; many others teach an incorporation of pagan religion which is much more subtle. We need to be steeped in the truth about prayer and continual conversion in order that we may not be led astray.

    • Amen, Miss Connie.
      The “Wellness” site connected to my health insurance recently offered a discount for users who attested to practicing “relaxation breathing ” daily.
      The site was complete with a Taoist symbol and helpful quotes from the Dalai Lama submitted by insured members.
      It’s feeling more and more like a time portal has sucked our culture back to the seventies.
      🙁

  7. Dr. Farrow,

    You just outlined (contoured) Pope Francis’s (gut) worldview. Down to his reconstruction of foundational doctrines of the Church. Such as – let me think – bodily resurrection!!!

    This papacy has pushed the Overton Window so far to the (political, social, and theological) Left there’s little point – for the likes of us/me – to stretch one’s neck to take a peek through.

  8. The great attractiveness of these false beliefs is that, under the “hyper-mystical” appearance of a new-and-much-better-Catholicism, they appeal so strongly, ruthlessly and brazenly to our megalomania (ravenous appetite for power), self-worship and hyper-sexually charged narcissism. That’s an impossible hybrid of good and evil as one, by placing Jesus-God and each one of us as “one single true god”, leaving, as said already, the True Jesus completely and permanently out. How satanically convenient!

    It is the same, exact, duplicate, identical thing that happens in the minds of all ruthless criminals and serial killers. All these false beliefs are the Serial Killer Path To Divinization Theology at work. It includes everything from New Age to Liberation Theology, etc. We are not just being fed “heart-warming, pretty, popular and super attractive” trash, we are being fed dehumanizing, corrupting, mostrifying poison. It all comes from the Original Serial Killer himself, Satan, the Eternal Loser who wants company in Hell through self-righteous, proud parasites that spread this ultimate poison.

    The best way to show Catholic love to these false self-deluded apostles and their followers is to never ever compromise with them and preach and live the words of St. Catherine of Siena: “God is God and I am not!!”, which does not exclude God’s intention to divinize us but instead directly opens the door to it on this Earth through total humility before the Absolute ONE God! Humility!! We will never be THE God but we will grow in His divinity for all eternity. AWESOME!! My God! I would give a trillion trillion trillion lifetimes for that!! For eternity!!

  9. Now I know what Jesus would have been like if, instead of being born 2020 years ago to a Jewish girl descended from King David, he had been born in the 20th century as Marianne Williamson and then run for next year’s Democratic presidential nomination.

    Thank you, Yogi Rohr.

  10. How very sad that someone like Oprah Winfrey will help influence thousands of lost souls to read and believe this sinfulness. The world needs our prayers – let’s remember to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet every day, along with our daily devotions.

  11. Does anyone know if Fr. Rohr has even been questioned by his provincial superiors at the OFM Our Lady of Guadalupe Province?

  12. “Once we restore the idea that the Incarnation means God truly loves creation then we restore the sacred dimension to nature. We bring the plants and animals and all of nature in with us. They are windows into the endless creativity, fruitfulness and joy of God. ”

    “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.”

    God does truly love creation, the cosmos.
    He sustains it every moment in His great love.
    If we believe this world view then we respect creation,
    we are good stewards as rational beings who can discern God’s great creative love
    in creation.
    Creation is not God and if we worship it we are simply idolators, slaves to the sarx.

  13. Yep, onward and upward, as though a vicious God deprived the peoples of the past from adequate knowledge of how to live a happy life. Now we need to be “liberated’ once again, (will the sixties ever end) from an “inadequate theology about sexuality,” led there by a space cadet who has no problem worshiping a rock and aligning himself with those who put the unborn through meatgrinders. Love, Marriage, chastity, and procreation are never enough for those who want fornication and sodomy thrown in the mix as well and will find any silly pretext of comic book theology to accomplish it.

  14. The Name of the Person, before and after His death and Resurrection, is Jesus Who is The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. “Christ” describes His purpose on becoming a Man. His job description.

  15. The transformation that comes from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ requires a human being to have faith and unconditional trust in Christ. Only conscious humans have the capacity for this. Those who are the habitation of the Spirit of Christ are capable of influencing the world with what Christ came to accomplish. All of nature benefits from their influence, and rejoices (Isaiah 55:11-13).

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