Last week I had the pleasure of hearing to two of myfavorite theologians. One’s aspiritualist and the other’s a social activist. They couldn’t be more different.
I went to hear on Thursday Fr. Richard Rohr at St. Philips EpiscopalCathedral. He’s a Franciscan priest. He spoke about living contemplatively. On Saturday I went to First PresbyterianChurch Atlanta to spend the day with Tony Campolo, a social activists andtheologian from Eastern University in Philadelphia.
I love both these guys. But they couldn’t be more different.
Here’s what I gathered from their lectures (I realize these nextstatements are polarizing and generalizations and do not represent the entiretheology of either theologian but they do create enough of a dichotomy to meritthis blog post):
Rohr cares deeply about thespiritual sector. Campolo cares deeply about thesocial sector.
Rohr thinks if the world would openitself to the spiritual (to awaken her mind and heart to higher forms of peace) then wars would end. Campolo thinks wars would end when we overcome evil by sending troops home, adopting children for$38/month through Compassion International, buying mosquito nets for families suffering from malaria or building Habitat for Humanityhouses for the homeless.
Rohr desires stillness. Campolo desires a fury of activism. Rohr wants prayer, Campolo wants change. Rohrpreaches that strength rises when we wait upon the Lord. Campolo preaches that strength rises whennumbers stand up for justice and social reform.
They both want wholeness. But Rohr finds it in contemplation; Campolofinds it in action.
Rohr needs God to come in the quiet, still,dark night of the soul. Campolo needsGod out on the front lines, offering food to the hungry and clothes to thenaked. Rohr meets Jesus in the garden;Campolo meets Jesus in turning over tables in the Temple. Rohr’s Jesus invitesharmony. Campolo’s Jesus invokes socialreform. Rohr wants unity. Campolo wants gospel catalysts.
So is one better than the other? Should we be more like Rohr or Campolo? Should we care more about action orcontemplation? Prayer or petition? Stillness or justice?
And this is what I love about scripture . . . theseseemingly different approaches; different perspectives, different attempts atreaching and connecting with the divine . . . are both valid. These two ways of being aren't an either/or they’rea both/and.
We need to be a people who listen for Spirit of the livingGod as well as people who stand up for peace, justice and righteousness. We need to do both. We must care about both. The world needs usdoing both.
This can’t be understated. God’s love is on the move; it’s present in our waiting and in ourdoing. God’s love is calling for us torespond, to give, to enjoy, to participate, to sit down together, to livewithin, to embrace, to follow and to dwell. It’s callingus out of our darkness, out of our slumber, out of our small-mindedness, squabbles,frustration and deep sadness. And whenwe seek this divine love, through both action and contemplation, we hear Jesus sayingwhat he said to Nathanael in John 1:51, "Then follow me, for there areeven greater things ahead.”
My prayer is that the church will become (or continue to be) a place that truly believes there are greater things ahead; and we find them through action and contemplation.