A New Pentecost
An Interview with Matthew Fox
time has come to let the fundamentalists have the church.
So says Rev. Matthew Fox in his new book "A New Reformation" where he
presents his own 95 theses in the tradition of Martin Luther who posted
his articles of reformation on the church door in Wittenburg. According
to Fox, it's time for progressive Christians to initiate a Luther-like
divorce from our more fundamentalist counterparts. Let them have "the
church, with its buildings and museums, its debts and payouts for pedophile
offenders," he writes. "We who believe otherwise and are not fundamentalists
will take Christ." (p. 54)
"I think it is time for some churches to say, 'let the homophobes go,'
because we're putting too much time and energy into trying to keep this
thing together called church. Because the issue of treating other human
beings with respect and dignity and as other Christs is not a place where
we can compromise, why are we trying to compromise? I think we should
let it go," Fox said in a recent interview with Whosoever.
By letting go of homophobia and other fundamentalism holding the church
back, a new Pentecost, a rebirth of the church, will take place. That
new church will be rooted in the Creation Spirituality that has been Fox's
bailiwick for the bulk of his career. For thirty-four years an ordained
priest, and never shy of controversy, Fox hit the headlines when he was
silenced, then expelled from the Dominican Order by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
(now Pope Benedict XVI) for founding the Creation Spirituality movement.
Dating back to the 9th century BCE, Creation Spirituality is the tradition
of the historical Jesus, rooted in the wisdom tradition and carried on
by spiritual mystics throughout the ages. It is a tradition, Fox said,
that is feminist, welcoming of the arts and artists, wisdom centered,
prophetic and caring about eco-justice and social justice and gender justice
Creation Spirituality begins with the idea of original blessing instead
of original sin - a concept that did not exist in early Hebrew spirituality
but was later given to the Christian tradition by Augustine.
"Augustine's ideology of original sin is based on sexuality. He had
a problem with his own sexuality and so today's pope had the same problem
Augustine had 16 centuries ago which is kind of pitiful," Fox, who is
now an Episcopal minister, said.
Pitiful too, was Fox's reception at Wittenburg in 2005 when he went
to nail his own 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Germany. The
fathers of the city didn't want them to do it because they said it would
interfere with tourism. Sure enough, while they were there, Fox said a
big tour bus arrived full of people speaking English. They turned out
to be from South Africa. Their tour guide took them to the door and explained
the history of the door in ten minutes. When she finished Fox invited
the group to join them as they made modern day history.
"The tour guide got all huffy and said they were on a schedule and they
got back on the bus," Fox said. "Religion has become a tourist industry
where we go to all these places where we once had heroes that did something
but don't think about doing anything today, in fact, don't interfere with
the commerce involved in going to these so-called sacred places. It's
so appalling that it's laughable."
However, Fox is dead serious about the need for a new reformation.
"I call it an effort to kick the ecclesial cadaver to see if there's
any life left in it. Protestantism needs waking up. I think it's very
sleepy and it has allowed fundamentalism to roll over it, which is profoundly
anti-intellectual. Fundamentalism has nothing to do with the intelligent
Protestant tradition of a Martin Luther or a John Calvin or a Ralph Waldo
Emerson or anyone else. It's so scared of science, psychology and anything
else it's just off the wall."
A truly transformed Christianity will embrace the lessons of science
and "fly on two wings," Fox said - the wing of the historical Jesus and
the wing of the Cosmic Christ.
"The historical Jesus calls us to compassion and to critique our cultural
values and to substitute values of justice and peacemaking. The Cosmic
Christ calls us to connect to all other beings in a sacred way and calls
us to interfaith because the Christ is not just about Jesus but about
the spirit that works through all traditions and all cultures," he said.
To fly on those two wings, Fox presents his own 95 theses or articles
of faith, calling the church to return to state where it recognizes its
role as prophet, aids the poor and marginalized, cares for the earth,
and honors the Christ present in each person.
Fox's personal favorite among the 95 is the first one: "God is both
Mother and Father" underscoring the importance of gender. "Meister Eckhart
says all the names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves,
so if we only see God as Father or male then we're giving a very distorted
message to our culture and especially to our children," he said. "In many
ways that's absolutely fundamental. If we can't bring back the balance
of yin and yang, or male and female, as applied to divinity then we're
not bringing it back as applied to ourselves and this is clearly one of
the real problems of our species today is that we have a distorted view
of masculinity. "
Distorted also is our view of sexuality. Theses 70-73 deal specifically
with the inclusion of gays and lesbians within Fox's new vision of Christianity.
70: Jesus said nothing about condoms, birth control
71: A church that is more preoccupied with sexual
wrongs than with wrongs of injustice is itself sick.
72: Since homosexuality is found among 464 species
and in 8 percent of any given human population, it is altogether natural,
for those who are born that way are a gift from God and nature to the
73: Homophobia in any form is a serious sin against
love of neighbor, a sin of ignorance of the richness and diversity of
God's creation, and a sin of exclusion.
It is imperative in Fox's view, that a reformed Christianity recognize
and celebrate the gifts of its gay and lesbian members. By demonizing
gays and lesbians, Fox said, fundamentalists are draining energy and time
from other issues that Christianity must deal with like poverty, war and
"A church that is busy condemning homosexuals is committing suicide,"
he said. "It's destroying its own source and resource for spiritual leadership.
Instead of trying to chase homosexuals out of the seminary like the pope
is trying to do, it's much smarter to sit down and ask, 'what spiritual
wisdom do they bring to the larger community?'"
Until this and Fox's other challenges to the church are answered, he
writes that we will not be able to "let go of religion and begin to get
serious about spiritual practice."
Learn more about Matthew Fox at his Web site: Matthewfox.org
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