Richard Rohr Meditation: The Story that Defines Us

There are several levels of knowing and interpreting reality—a “hierarchy of truths,” as Pope Francis calls it. [1] Not all truths are of equal importance, which does not mean the lesser ones are untrue. So don’t fight useless battles against them. Something might be true, for example, on a psychological, historical, or mythological level, but not on a universal level. Fundamentalists think the historical level is the “truest” one, yet in many ways literalism is the least important meaning for the soul. Facts may be fascinating, but they seldom change our lives at any deep level. I do believe the “historical-critical” method of interpreting Scripture is a helpful frame [2], without which fundamentalists create a fantasy that looks a lot like their own culture and preferred class perspective.

Scholars since Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) have been making good use of a distinction between logos, or problem-solving language, and mythos. Logos language includes facts, data, evidence, and precise descriptions. Rob Bell describes how “logos language and thinking got us medicine, got us airplanes. . . . For the past three hundred years we have had an explosion of logos language. . . . But the problem is, there are whole dimensions of our existence that require a different way of thinking.”

Bell rightly says, “The Bible is mostly written in mythos language. . . . Good religion traffics in mythos. . . . Mythos language is for that which is more than literally true. . . . Evolutionary science does an excellent job of explaining why I don’t have a tail. It just doesn’t do so well explaining why I find that interesting!” [3] We need mythos language to express the more-than-factual meaning of experiences like falling in love, grief, and death.

Good religion, art, poetry, and myth point us to the deeper levels of truth that logos can’t fully explain. Early Christians knew this; but the Western Church spent the last five centuries trying to prove that the stories in the Bible really happened just as they are described. For some Christians, it’s imperative that the world was created in six literal days, otherwise their entire belief system falls apart. Christianity came to rely heavily on technique, formula, and certitude instead of the more alluring power of story, myth, and narrative.

The whole point of Scripture is the transformation of the soul. But when we stopped understanding myth, we stopped understanding how to read and learn from sacred story or Scripture. Children delight in hearing the same fantastical stories over and over again because they are open to awe, mystery, and discovery. Oh that we could all read the creation story with similar childlike wonder and open-heartedness!

Christmas Eve: Silent Night

I don’t suspect that anything about Bethlehem that night was actually silent: people teeming and bustling along as they search for accommodations or catching up with old family friends as they wait to be registered; animals bleating and braying.

.. I’d like to think that God breaking into the world would be noticeable, that it would be obvious. Surely God-loving people can’t miss God breaking into our midst, right? And yet here God enters with the glorious cry of a newborn baby, requiring bouncing and burping, feeding and cleaning