Avoidance

I was struck by yesterday’s reflection from Fr. Richard Rohr. Here’s the text of it:

“There seem to be two typical ways to avoid conversion or transformation, two diversionary tactics that we use to avoid holding pain: fight and flight.  

“Fight” is what I’ll call the way of Simon the Zealot. It describes people who want to change, fix, control, and reform other people and events. The zealot always looks for the political sinner, the unjust one, the oppressor, the bad person over there. Zealots consider themselves righteous when attacking them (whoever they are at a given time), hating them, even killing them. When they do, they believe they are “doing a holy duty for God” (John 16:2).  

“Zealots often have good conclusions, but their tactics and motives can be filled with ego, power, control, and the same righteousness they hate in others. They want to do something to avoid holding pain until it transforms them. Such people present Christianity as “a cult of innocence” as opposed to a movement for solidarity.  

“As long as they are the problem (whoever they are), and we keep our focus on changing them and correcting them, then we can sit in a reasonably comfortable position. But it’s a position that the saints call pax perniciosa, a dangerous and false peace. It feels like peace, but instead is the false peace of avoidance, denial, and projection. The Peace of the Crucified comes from holding the tension.  

“This brings us to flight, the second diversionary tactic. This is the common path of the “Pharisee,” the uninformed, and the falsely innocent. Such people deny pain altogether and refuse to carry the shadow side of anything in themselves or in their chosen groups. They allow no uncertainty nor ambiguity as they scapegoat and project their own wounded side somewhere else!  There will be no problems. It is a form of narcotic, and at times probably necessary to get some people through the day.  

“Both fight and flight people are subject to hypocrisy, projection, or just plain illusion: “We are right; you are wrong. The world is divided into black and white, and we alone know who is good and who is bad.”  

“Resurrected” people are the ones who have found a better way by prayerfully bearing witness against injustice and evil—while also agreeing compassionately to hold their own complicity in that same evil. It is not over there—it is here. It is our problem, not theirs. The Risen Christ, not accidentally, still carries the wounds in his hands and side. The question becomes: How can I know the greater truth, work through the anger, and still be a life-giving presence?  

“That is the Third Way beyond fight or flight, which in a certain sense includes both. It’s fighting in a new way from a God-centered place within, and fleeing from the quick, egocentric response. Only God can hold such an act together within us.”

(I encourage you to sign up for Fr. Rohr’s daily emails – https://cac.org).

Fight, Flight, or a Third Way. That’s exactly what we are dealing with in the world today. And it’s not anything new either. These three options have always been humanity’s choices on how to deal with reality, challenge, and potential transformation.

As Christians we claim to be all about transformation, yet it seems as those Christians of many strips resist transformation. Probably because it is scary. We have to die in order to be transformed. How many analogies have you heard related to this. Yet, hearing about it is far different than going through it.

I believe it was Phyllis Tickle who talked about the great societal change that happens about every 500 years. Intellectually, I think that’s easy to absorb. We just look at history and we see the truth of what she is talking about. But going through it is quite different. It’s no longer about a distant past that we don’t have a direct relationship with. It’s about us – right here and right now. It impacts our lives. It forces us to face some ugly truths, to face death (in a variety of forms). We have to face the death of our control, of knowing what’s happening and what going to happen, and so much more.

And so the great divisions that are going on in our society should surprise no one. We are seeing responses to societal upheaval in the forms of fight and flight. Our call is the third way. This is always been Jesus’ way though. Jesus didn’t take sides between the Temple authorities and Rome, or those who wanted revolt versus the empire, or the Zealots and Pharisees. Rather he presented a third way that gave no legitimacy to either of the other two options. This is our call. To stop fighting and flighting, but to live a third way. That’s not easy. It’s easy to get sucked into the fight and flight that happens. But those ways lead no where. They are the way that ends in death.

The third way is life giving. But the third way also faces death. We have to embrace the deaths that are coming – death of our control and knowing being the primary things we hold onto for dear life. The third way says that death isn’t the end, it’s a step in the process that leads to resurrection, new life. That’s our call.

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