When believing in good ideas actually makes things worse…

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This quote has really been convicting me lately. I feel like there is so much to be said, but I will let Rohr do what he does best and try to stay out of the way.
“We operate with the assumption that giving people new ideas changes people. It doesn’t.Believing ideas is, in fact, a way of not having to change in any significant way, especially if you can argue about them.
Ideas become defenses.If you have the right words, you are considered an orthodox and law-abiding Christian.
We burned people at the stake for not having the right words, but never to my knowledge for failing to love or forgive, or to care for the poor. Religion has had a love affair with words and correct ideas, whereas Jesus loved people, who are always imperfect.You do not have to substantially change to think some new ideas. You always have to change to love and forgive ordinary people. We love any religion that asks us to change other people. We avoid any religion that keeps telling us to change.”
— Richard Rohr
What say you? Agree? Disagree?

4 thoughts on “When believing in good ideas actually makes things worse…

  1. Nathan D

    I  agree that too much discussion around new ideas and their nuances can lead to inaction. We can stay in the think tank and never actually get any thing done. We won’t change and neither will we change lives.  

    In a way , he uses an idea and resulting beliefs to confront ideas and beliefs. 

    I think change can be born from ideas and made mature through acting upon them.  I also believe action can work new ideas into our heart. It’s the chicken or the egg scenario. 

    We need both. We need balance. We need Great thoughts and ideas to help us see who we really are and action to help us experience those ideas as real. Without both we are simply trading one form of legalism for another.

  2. Thanks, Nate. You bring to light a great point about what influences true change: having a new idea or acting on a new idea. I think there is much value in what you said about “action working new ideas into our heart”. For example, we become more generous by opening our wallets more, not by talking about how generous we need to be, listening to a sermon on generosity, or even taking the steps to create margin in our personal budgets. We are truly generous in the act of being generous.

    What you said at the end there is where I have been challenged most. We need action to cause the ideas to be real, or to experience them as such. This, I feel is Rohr’s main point. Merely thinking about how generous I need to be, knowing what it means to be generous, or planning how to be so is not truly becoming it. The very substance of our faith/religion is found in the acting of it.

    My fear (and this is a fear because I find the proclivity in myself), is that we will become satisfied with thinking the right things because it makes us feel like we are right, good, and true. And, as a result, we will seek to use that idea to control someone else, rather than seek to change ourselves.

    Sorry for the long reply, but this seems to harken back to new testament idea of belief. More than mental assent, it carried with it the idea of wrapping yourself around something. As a result we “believe” (mentally affirm) in the resurrection, but we don’t Believe in it.

    Whew! Ok.

  3. I definitely agree. It reminds me of what James says: “Faith without works is dead”. I think we don’t always know what work we should be doing. And so we get stuck with ideas of what we should be doing in our heads and cling to them feeling this is as close as we may get to doing “good”. But I’m learning that some times just by doing something good and beneficial for others, however small, can change how you do everything. And eventually one may find themselves doing the “good” they have always thought about, planned to do, heard about in sermons, etc. I think that “love one another” is probably one of the greatest ideas ever and put into action can be even more powerful. But as good of an idea as it is, without the associated action, it is just words on a page. Jesus was a great example for us, of course, because there was always action associated with his words. Many times the action was first and because of the disbelief of others he had to use his words to explain what he was doing.

  4. Part of the “problem” is that in English, faith and faithfulness have been divorced, whereas, when the Bible was written, the words were the same. It was impossible to truly have faith without being faithful and vice versa. As Nathan said, it’s a balance. As Natasha said, it’s like James said. As Ellis would say, it’s a tension.

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