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What About Telling the Truth?

An Essay on Richard Rohr & Walter Brueggermann

In this essay, I wonder whether the thought of Richard Rohr overlooks persons who are hurt
and instead focuses almost exclusively on persons who want to control, think they understand
when they dont, and try to fix things. Brueggermans concept of the prophetic imagination
fits the work of Rohr except for this major oversight. Brueggermann, on the other hand, shows
how identification with pain and suffering is integral to the prophetic imagination, which he
defines as a vision of hope and action for something better.

I have immersed myself in the thought of Richard Rohr. I view him as a spiritual leader
of wide influence. He has been an important influence on my own spiritual development.
He shows a form of prophetic imagination. Walter Brueggermann describes prophetic
imagination as characteristic of persons who see, understand, and experience the pain and
suffering in the world, see the sources of pain and suffering, and offer a vision of something
better. Rohr shows prophetic imagination when he addresses people who want to be in
control and to have things their way. His response to people with these qualities is to
suggest ways of letting go and trusting God. He expressed these ideas most recently in a
daily meditation published on October 26, 2014.

Its your ability to trust that there is guidance available which allows it to become
guidance! You realize that God is letting this happen to you now to teach you
something, to show you something, or to love you in a new way. Basically you switch
from the fixing, fully understanding, and controlling mode to the trusting, listening,
and allowing mode. Then you start allowing the Divine Flow instead of stopping it
with a no and a question mark.

Its hard for me to see holes in his main pointthat we must trust, listen, and allow.
Yet, Rohr doesnt address people who are on the receiving end of the control of people who
think they understand and who try to fix things. These are CEOs of multi-billion dollar
corporations who advise women whom they pay less than men to accept their salaries as
karma. These are politicians who create policies that hurt the poor and middle class and
enrich the already rich. These are people who are paternalistic in their work with poor and
oppressed people and describe themselves as role models for others.
Brueggermann shows an awareness of people who are at the receiving end of the
actions of individuals who control, think they understand, and see themselves as fixers.
These are people who experience hurt. In a poem called A people with many secrets,
Brueggermann wrote about the truth of grief unresolved, pain unacknowledged, the
truth of fear, hate, of being taken advantage of, and the truth of being manipulated, used,
and slandered. He states that we dont sit still in the face of these truths. He ended with
stating that Jesus is the best-kept secret of hurt.
Many people experience slander in public ways through the mass media, such as in
reports of politicians speeches and in commentaries on cable television. These include the
poor who cannot work and are labeled welfare queens and lazy, the unemployed who
cannot find work, and undocumented immigrants. Some refugees also are among the
slandered. The list is long not only of groups of people who are slandered but that are
manipulated and used. Examples are undocumented workers, young people who are under
the control of sex traffickers, and women survivors of physical and sexual assault in
intimate relationships.
There are many other people who are oppressed and hurt by individuals who abuse
their power and have control over them.
Brueggermann, like Rohr, points to trust in God as the foundation of the vision of
something better. Rohr, however, appears to address those who have power, including the
power to hurt and control. I dont mean to imply that these people dont also have their
own hurts and suffering. They do.
I am grateful that Brueggerman has an awareness of hurt and a vision of trust and
hope that we achieve by action. He also states, we do not sit still for it. No we dont. We
take action.
I am grateful that Rohr has an awareness of those who try to control and fix things. I
wish Rohr would also address those who experience oppression because they are at the
receiving end of those who control, fix, and think they understand.
As Brueggerman said, Jesus is the best kept secret of hurt. Jesus also experienced
incarnation and resurrection which all of us share, including the least of us; that is, each
of us, no exception.

Brueggemann, Walter (2003). Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter
Brueggemann (Kindle Locations 238-244). Kindle Edition.
Brueggermann, Walter (2001). The Prophetic Imagination (2
ed.). Minneapolis:
Fortress Press.
Rohr, Richard (2014, October 25). You are being guided.
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