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Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

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Presentation on theme: "Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil"— Presentation transcript:

1 Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

2 Premise: Evil gets away with its game by disguising itself as good.
The devil needs to wear the mask of God. Evil appears to be moral and even religious. Evil defends some great purpose. We need to understand these things about evil in order to develop a capacity for moral discernment. Where does the truth lie?

3 Three sources of evil: the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.
90% of the church’s and society’s attention has been oriented toward the flesh. Moral thinking is focused on the “sins of the flesh.” If this is our focus, we miss seeing the other two, the world and the devil. If we don’t recognize evil on the lowest level (the level of the world) then the flesh and the devil are inevitable consequences. They are out of control.

4 Prophets The prophets were the unique group in Judaism who named all three evils (world, flesh, devil). Therefore they were ignored or persecuted in history.

5 The World the lowest level of the spiral of violence: the system.
This is the way cultures, groups, institutions, and nations organize themselves to survive. This is not inherently a bad thing. These cultures, groups, institutions, and nations are where we derive our identity. These groups always move toward self-perpetuation and self-protection. (All systems protect themselves.)

6 The evil at this level is hard to expose. There is no one bad person
The evil at this level is hard to expose. There is no one bad person. It is hard to name and see. Systems and institutions circle the wagons to maintain themselves. They create their own inner logic and truth. This truth has little to do with the larger truth. (The scandals of the last decade show that even the Church is not exempt.)

7 Once we are inside our own system, there are things we cannot see or say. Good people cannot see.
(Example: nationalism. God bless America. Why not God bless all peoples?) Unless the lie is exposed at this level of the world, most people will be fooled, because we cannot see beyond our own self-interest. If we’re safe, if we look good, it feels right.

8 Tiananmen Square – Beijing – April 15, 1989
The prophetic instinct is the ability to self-critique. Systems protect themselves and the status quo (“business as usual”) because they are the status quo – the system. Tiananmen Square – Beijing – April 15, 1989

9 Then they lose their soul, purpose, goal, and identity.
They self-destruct from within. The prophets pointed the finger at Judaism.

10 Dominant Consciousness the way everybody thinks (in the system) and the way everybody is supposed to think. We can’t see the problems because we’re looking at them from the inside.

11 Capitalism an example of dominant consciousness
No sermons on the 10th Commandment (do not covet your neighbor’s goods) In the U.S. we may fail to see this as a moral problem. Capitalism and advertising are the name of the game. The only game is buying and selling

12 The one thing that drove Jesus to violence was when buying and selling took over the Temple. He said that this was the death of the religious instinct, the death of spiritual understanding. Everything becomes mercantile. At this point we can’t read reality at the level of the spirit and the soul. And…we cannot critique what we are benefiting from.

13 The Flesh individual sin, personal mistakes
Religion puts its energy at this level. But if we blame people, expecting them to change, we’re wasting our breath. Even the threat of eternal hellfire doesn’t work. Shame is located in the body, so we localize sin in the body. Rev. Pat Robertson

14 We reward things at the corporate (institutional) level but condemn the same things at the personal level. (We glorify war but criticize local street violence.) What happens when you can’t see the true nature of evil and what it is that destroys the human heart? We tolerate the objectification of people in business, advertisements, and relationships. We become impersonal. We use each other.

15 Conservatives put all the energy into this 2nd level
Everything is about individual sin. We get righteous, arrogant, upset. We try to make people feel guilty and change but we never critique the system. Can’t critique country, church, legal system, prison system, banking system, military system, etc. We get our identity from those systems. (Careful! Don’t make anything an idol.)

16 Liberals tend to blame the system but never the victim
Individual sin is always connected to systemic sin Personal responsibility is taken away from the individual Labels the individual a victim

17 The Devil is the personification of power that is hard to name – the spirits of the air – the way everybody thinks. The Devil is disguised to look as something very virtuous. There is 1) the world, 2) personal evil and 3) the “good” that emerges to control the personal evil. Devils are always fallen angels. When we worship them, they can wreak havoc with us. They are the kings, the government, the law, the legal system, the penal system

18 Devils refuse to be critiqued.
They must wear the mantle of God. They are formed to bring about good – the tax system, the military system, the economy itself. Once we’ve bought into this system, we believe we need these Devils to control personal morality.

19 “Jesus is Lord” No one told us that this is a political statement.
Contradicted the statement Roman citizens had to say, “Caesar is Lord.” Undermines the World, rearranges the Flesh, and exposes the Devil. When you dare to critique the system you start looking like a dangerous person – a rebel, an iconoclast, a heretic.

20 People don’t see that they are on bended knee before the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.
When you expose the World and the Devil, you will be hated. This is why they had to get rid of Jesus. Jesus had no undue loyalty to his religion or his state. His loyalty was to God. In Hebrew scripture the only real sin is idolatry – to worship things as God that are not God.

21 There Is a Crack in Everything
Good things can also be bad things, like fallen angels This leads us away from either/or thinking to both/and thinking Everything is broken and fallen, weak and poor – you, me, your relationships, your parents, your children, this institution There Is a Crack in Everything That’s how the light gets in

22 You don’t have to wait for them to be perfect to fall in love with the world, or you’ll never love anything. Recognizing that everything is a partial good reflects original sin. This allows us to critique and not make idols.

23 God Saves You This really means that your are liberated from the lie, the domination of the system, from needing to be perfect or right or wonderful. This liberates you to be who you really are – naked and poor underneath your clothes, like all of us are.

24 This is the great liberation.
The Kingdom of God gives us this other realm of identity – a new status, security, citizenship, and inner authority. This is the real basis of discernment.

25 John 16:7-14 The holy spirit will show the world how wrong it was about evil, how wrong it was in its judgments, and how wrong it was about who was in the right and who was in the wrong. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. (Jn 16:33)

26 Get ready to be surprised.
The last are going to be first and the first are going to be last.


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