Wisdom for Liberals from Father Rohr

“In my experience, liberalism creates suspicious people more than loving people. They begin by asking, “Who has the power here?” instead of, “How can I serve here?” Life is an issue to be informed about or fixed, but seldom a mystery to participate in — even in it;s broken state. That is probably the core difference between a mere liberal and a truly transformed individual.

Liberals need to find that rare abaility to live happily in a broken world, and still work for its reform. It is a work of art that I believe only spirituality can achieve. Mere ideology is not sufficient to the task. Behind every cynic I meet, there was once a youthful idealist who could not make his ideas work outside of his head. Liberals seem incapable of being a part of a tainted anything: food, institutions, histories, explanations, groups churches, and most expecially authority structures of any kind. Soon they themselves cannot lead — or follow good leaders, because they mistrust power and leadership itself. Yet, history makes it clear that good leadership is necessary for real change.

American liberalism, in my opinion, has no practical goal beyond maintaining personal and social freedom. “I choose, therefore I am” might be it’s operational belief system. The problem for the peace movement is that you cannot build any new social structures or enduring constituencies within this belief system. Such movements deconstruct from within, as the highly opinionated individualists quickly come into conflict with one another’s freedom to think. What they lack is a spiritual center, a Reference Point outside of the private “I”.

We religious folks would say they lack God, especially a God who gives source, pattern, and external goal. As a result, we each become our own source, pattern, and goal. The First Commandment was not accidentally the first, because if you don’t have “one God before you,” you will always become your own god. For this reason, it is difficult to build anything cohesive or compelling among liberal people. There is no authority beyond the individual opinion and recent research, and in fact, the very word “authority” is considered bad. Compare that to the true “liberalism” of a Martin Luther King, or a Dorothy Day, or a Cesar Chavez. They all had an authority beyond their own — and a Center outside of themselves.”

Richard Rohr — Contemplation in Action

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