To be a radical is to advocate for thorough or complete change to the systems and institutions that threaten our evolution as a species. The religious, political and social structures that have traditionally undergirded society are in need of constant adjustment and upgrade, an overhaul of sorts, especially if we are to advance and flourish in this post-christian age.
The word radical isn’t as dangerous as it sounds. It comes from the Latin radix, meaning “root,” the same as radish, which isn’t particularly revolutionary. It refers to going deep, which is what I try to do. I want to get at the root of Christianity, which, for me, is Jesus’s teachings on love and inclusiveness. It’s about the poor being able to lead decent lives. It’s about caring for those who suffer. And it’s about justice. I believe Jesus calls on us all to be mystics — that is, lovers of God, of creation, and of each other — but also to be prophets or warriors, people who defend what we cherish. So to be radical means to go deep, the way roots go deep, but also to “uproot,” to question whether we’re doing enough to bring about justice. - Matthew Fox
The mystics and prophets must be the dominant voices that we listen to if we are going to embrace the new future that is pushing its way into our present reality.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who was a real scholar of the prophetic said that the primary work of a prophet is to ‘interfere'. We need to interfere with injustice — whether it’s ecological, economic, racial, gender-based, or social. The radical prophetic voices that are emerging today need to be willing to challenge the status quo and question the long held beliefs and traditions that have shaped our moral and ethical constructs.
Our fear of disruption and change exacerbates our suspicion of any kind of deconstructive conversation and consideration. Hence why the radicality of the mystics and prophets confront and expose our insecurities when they conjure and propose alternate futures.
To constantly question the old concepts and traditions is the only way for us to find the new answers that will help to explain our unsatisfied yearning for a full and enjoyable life.
For many years now I have been asking questions about religion and how it has over-promised God to the masses, while suffering under the weight of an inflated view of its role as a kind of social and spiritual conscience. Don’t get me wrong, religion has done some great things for society but it has always suffered from its arrogant stance as the primary answer for human wellbeing ignoring the science practices that are now contributing heavily to the existential conversation. Spiral dynamics is providing us with a new comprehension of the spiritual opening the door to new realms of enquiry.
Some of the big questions I am currently asking are ???
What is the new place that religion should hold in a post-christian world?
How do we hold to our sacred writings and interpret them in the light of our equally valid cultural exegesis?
Can we overcome our dualistic predilection towards binary positions of exclusion or can we adopt a fully inclusive world view?
Have we cannibalised the beauty of our sacred canon by proof texting the hell out its meaning? Excuse the ‘hell' pun!
One of the big rocks of my protestant tradition has been what theologians call ‘original sin’, the idea that all humans are born into a state of sinfulness. This notion supposes a God who is harshly punitive, and that because of two peoples action around eating the forbidden fruit the entirety of the human race is condemned, at least until the brith of Jesus. Matthew Fox calls this a ‘preposterous idea’.
We’re born as blessings, as expressions of the love and creative power of God and the universe. We’re capable of making wrong decisions, of choosing evil from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When we do, we slip and fall. But that doesn’t affect our being. It’s like learning to walk. We fall then, too, but we get back up and try again. - Matthew Fox
Augustine, a fourth century theologian came up with the idea of ‘original sin' in a time when Christianity took over the Roman Empire, and if you are going to run an empire original sin is a helpful idea, especially if you want people to question their self worth and existential well being. If we look at the rest of creation we can see that they have a really healthy understanding of being and belonging, happy to be alive. It’s only humans who torture themselves with guilt, shame, regret and everything else that goes with a negative view of our innate essence. Our original wounded-ness is real but not because our forbears ate an apple, but simply because all birth and re-birth is traumatic.
Otto Rank was a brilliant Jewish psychologist of the early twentieth century. He said that everyone comes into the world wounded, because leaving the comfort of the womb after nine months is traumatic. Separation from the mother is our original wound. And when that bell of separation is rung again later in life — by divorce or death or something else — we re-experience the trauma. For Rank the only salve is 'unio mystica', the mystical union that we experience in love and art.
To be radical is to suggest a new reading of the script handed down from our ancient progenitors. Maybe ‘original blessing’ should be the new mantra that graces the lips of the religious and deeply spiritual, reminding us that we are fundamentally ‘good’ even when we act out to the detriment of our fellow earth citizens.
Be radical by choosing the good over the evil…you can do it.
This blog has been inspired by the writings of Matthew Fox. ‘The Mystic and the Warrior'
The image is the album cover of ‘Radical Face’ music…check it out