Mysticism, Revolution, and Jesus
Jesus was a revolutionary who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but himself.
It’s been a while since I busted out my yellow highlighter from my bedside table. Almost as long as picking up the book that’s been buried under a stack of other neglected books.
I picked up where i left off, about 20 pages into The Wounded Healer, by Henri Nouwen (1932-1996). (Yes, it might seem I am obsessed with this Belgian priest. Perhaps I am, so what.)
Somehow I’m picking up after he speaks of “experiential transcendence” as a means to break out of the spiritual cocoons we find ourselves in.
He offers three ways: the mystical way, the revolutionary way, and the Christian way.
Revolution is better than suicide.
Transcending in the mystical way allows us to “create distance from the unrealities of our own ambitions and urges, so humanity can break through the vicious circle of self-fulfilling prophecy that makes us suffer from our own morbid predictions.” By this we become no longer isolated individuals but beings that transcend the walls and barriers we put up between us and the other; reaching out “beyond the concerns of the self; there we come to a place where all people are revealed as equal and where compassion becomes a human possibility.”
The revolutionary way is a “total radical upheaval of the existing order, together with a drastic change of direction, can prevent the end of everything.” I like this idea and identify better with the goal of “not making a better human being, but a new human being; ruled not by manipulation and supported by weapons, but is ruled by love and supported by new ways of communication.”
The third way, is Christ’s way. “In Jesus the mystical and the revolutionary ways are two sides of the same attempt to bring about radical change.” Nouwen will argue that Jesus’ appearance in our midst has “made it undeniably clear that changing the human heart and changing human society are not separate tasks, but are as interconnected as two beams on a cross.”
“Jesus was a revolutionary who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but himself. He was also a mystic, who did not use his intimate relationship with God to avoid the social evils of his time, but shocked his milieu to the point of being executed as a rebel.”
When we can see how these pieces work intimately together, we begin to see how Jesus is everywhere there are mystics and revolutionaries; from Black Lives Matter marches to parental fights with school district superintendents to kids laughing to this old minister wondering why the hell God called him to be a punk, preacher, and peace keeper.
Nouwen, Henri. The Wounded Healer. (New York: Image) 1972, pp. 20-25.
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An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”