The real purpose of healthy religion is spirituality, namely to inspire and train people to get in touch with their deepest selves in order to serve others through good work and good relationships that are reflections of one’s deepest values.

Democracy Now! anchor Amy Goodman and Right Livelihood Foundation Executive Director Ole von Uexkuell discuss the international activist laureates of the 40th Right Livelihood Award.

Another name for this deepest self is Christ or Buddha or image of God inside us.

The essence of spirituality is about developing the mystic (the lover who says Yes to life) and the prophet (the warrior who says No to lies and injustice in its many enactments).

When people are looking for spirituality and do not readily find it in organized religion they will of course look elsewhere.  In upcoming DMs, let us listen to some of these mystic-prophets who have lived among us in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. 

Consider this poem from Dorothee Soelle, a teacher of mysticism, feminism and liberation theology at Union Seminary in NYC for 10 years.  She grew up in Germany during WWII and ended up with a very different understanding of life and religion than did her countryman, Cardinal Ratzinger.  

Print of a revolutionary Mary, inspired by the Magnificat, by lithographer Ben Wildflower. Purchase HERE

every day I am afraid
that he died in vain
because he is buried in our churches
because we have betrayed his revolution
in our obedience to authority
and our fear of it
I believe in jesus christ
who rises again and again in our lives
so that we will be free
from prejudice and arrogance
from fear and hate
and carry on his revolution
and make way for his kingdom

Soelle laments what has happened to Jesus’ “revolution.” She is afraid on a daily basis that he might have died “in vain,” for he is “buried” and his life “betrayed.” How? By our obedience to and fear of authority.

“No one should comply with an immoral law.” Mural of Monseñor Oscar Romero. Photo by Franco Folini is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

And where is this revolution buried?  “In our churches” where too much obedience can kill the soul and the promised kingdom.  Perhaps her understanding helps to explain the dive in church attendance among Protestants and Catholics today, especially among younger adults. 

But there is also going on a deeper interest in spirituality and mysticism.  Or as Carl Jung put is, “only the mystics bring what is creative to religion itself.”

Soelle’s belief is that Jesus’ resurrection is ongoing “in our lives,” or it is not going on at all.  It not a past event, and this will one day empty us of fear, hate, arrogance. Thus would the divine kingdom/queendom be born.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 271.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Polish protestors chain themselves to logging machinery to protect the Puszczy Białowieskiej forest during breeding season. Photo by Greenpeace Poland on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you fear for Jesus’ revolution that moves us from prejudice and arrogance and fear and hate?  How would you describe it at work today?

Recommended Reading

Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations

As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us I wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice.  This revolutionary book does just that.  Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations.  Study and practice these teachings.  Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth


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14 thoughts on “Dorothee Soelle on the Revolution of Jesus”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you begin by saying: “The real purpose of healthy religion is spirituality, namely to inspire and train people to get in touch with their deepest selves in order to serve others through good work and good relationships that are reflections of one’s deepest values–and our deepest selves are expressed in words like “the Cosmic Christ,” “the Buddha Nature,” or the “Imago dei” or “Image of God.” So, the essence of spirituality is about developing the mystic (the lover who says Yes to life), and the prophet (the warrior who says No to lies and injustice). Then you tell us that in upcoming DMs, we will listen to some of these mystic-prophets who have lived among us in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Dorothee Soelle is our first mystic, and You share with us a poem she wrote that I repeat in part: “every day I am afraid / that he died in vain / because he is buried in our churches.” This poem reminds me of Nietzsche’s Madman in Thus Spoke Zarathustra who said: “God is Dead, and we have killed him, you and I!” Soelle laments what’s happened to Jesus’ “revolution.” She is afraid that he might have died “in vain,” for he is “buried” and his life “betrayed.” Soelle’s belief is that Jesus’ resurrection is ongoing “in our lives,” or it is not going on at all. It not a past event, and this will one day empty us of fear, hate, arrogance. Thus would the divine kingdom/queendom be born. Thank you Matthew !!!

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    Fear only begets fear. If we are to be the only one shining light in a room, will we not illuminate the room for all others even if they prefer to stand in the shadows?

    Let’s not fear ‘what we are to be’ and if that is called the revolution so be it. Does ‘eternal and everlasting’ ever fear for itself? Then why should we? If we fear, is it not just out of a weak faith and human frailty that is not yet fully conscious of our true nature? We only need to ask the Lord to raise us up out of fear so that we can be full participants in the revolution which is Life itself. — BB.

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    Theology is basically a study of the human knowledge we have in our relationship, with God. The This study is limited, in that it must meet the approval of our Institutional evolving Church. We need to “Grow in the knowledge of God”. The knowledge of God and God’s relationship with Her creation is, what could be called “LIfeology”. Although God could be transcendent of Life, for living things it could satisfy our yearning for Life’s fullness. Life is an experience all living things live, move and have our being. Life is the Spirituality all living things follow, simply by living. In writing about Life’s experience and The Religions of the world, as well as Science, we have to be alive. Truth and Life cannot be separated. We are set free by Life’s experience except for one condition, all living things must be in time space evolving as the Way to return to our beginning of the fullness of Eternal Life.

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    Powerful empires and bad religion do not cause revolutions, but rather everyday common ordinary folks, whom arise out of the grass; rooted in love, compassion and mercy are the ones whom cause revolution. These one’s know that true revolution is really about willingly entering into the mystery of evolution.

    What comes to mind in response to todays query is the Persian poem “The Conference of the Birds,” written by the Sufi poet Farid-ud-Din Attar. The poem is a powerful parable about the painful yet beautiful human journey of facing fear, excuses, longing, attachments and the letting go of ego in order to discover the mystery of the ecstatic, irrational love of the Divine within, all for the common good of the whole.

    There are many valleys of troubles that spur them into flight… anarchy, discontent, upheaval, desperate conflicts over territory, water, food as well as the poisoned environment and the unhappiness that all of these things are causing… much like what we see unfolding in the world today.

    Throughout the journey they encouraged to trust in the Spirit of love… “When you feel empty, you have to open your heart and let the wind sweep through it. Love… loves difficult things. We’re on our way.”

    I gifted my grandchildren with a newly beautifully illustrated version of this poem for Christmas this year.

  5. Avatar

    Please consider changing one word in your opening statement, i.e., the word “train” to the word “help.” TRAINING does not instill inspiration or creativity, but mindless obedience.
    Here is the sentence as I consider it:

    “The real purpose of healthy religion is spirituality, namely to inspire and HELP people to get in touch with their deepest selves in order to serve others through good work and good relationships that are reflections of one’s deepest values.”

  6. Avatar

    Matthew, your DM today reminds me that the Holy Spirit of Love~Light~Life~Wisdom~
    Truth~Peace~Justice~Healing~Transformation~Freedom~Creativity~Beauty~Joy~
    Compassionate Service~Loving Diverse Oneness… has been kept Alive to the Present day by many mystics, prophets, saints, justice and light workers within and among us… Our human and eternal souls are still evolving here in our Sacred Mother Earth and in our multidimensional/multiverse Cosmos… Humanity and Sacred Mother Earth may be going through challenging but deeper spiritual transformations and evolution that we’re consciously becoming more aware of and cooperating with in Loving Diverse Oneness, Compassionate Service, and Joyful Creativity in our daily lives within, through, and among us…
    ????

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    I once spoke with a minister-friend of mine who said that there will always be pain and injustice and war in our world. If you believe this, I asked, then why do you (and Jesus!) invite us to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Why pray this if we don’t believe it can come to pass? That makes no sense.

    I choose to believe this way, as apparently Dorothee Soellee does too:
    “I believe it is up to us…[what the world becomes and that it]
    can be achieved …
    the possibility of a meaningful life for all people.
    i believe this world of god’s has a future amen.”

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    Dorothee Solle identified the emergence of christofascism. I have not read her work yet but my sense is that she is a theologian for our time. Christofascists who are in a position to impose legislation on society are a major threat to nature and civilization.

    According to Wikipedia her book “Beyond Mere Obedience: Reflections on a Christian Ethic for the Future” is where she first wrote about christofascism.

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    I mourn the outrageous cover-up of God’s revolutionary love that occurs in so many churches, so many
    hearts, including, at times, my own. I fear the implications of the epidemic cover-up, including the damage that human-made, structural violence visits upon the planet and all creatures.
    One potent spark of hope I find is Jesus’s powerful gift of intuition (especially clear to me in the Gospel of
    Mark) which equipped him with keen comprehension of his friends’ strengths, weaknesses and resilient
    potential for transformation even while he knew several of them/us would egregiously betray him.
    I find hope in my practice of living every moment, day and night, in the presence of Love – a practice
    I’m not good at, at all. But it really doesn’t matter how badly or, at times, well I might do because the point gets to be that there is this immense brilliant Love Who knows me and I believe, each of us by heart and Who never gives up on any of us, no matter how many times we might fall down under the mounting pressures of psychological, social and deepening fascistic violence in our world. The forgiveness and renewed sense of divine empowerment we are offered as we dare to pick ourselves up after our first or one thousandth fall, become new springs of revolution.

  10. Avatar

    As, I read these comments on Matthews meditation I am deeply grateful . that I live in these holy times. I love and appreciate the people who wrote them. I send love and light to this wonderful community . Peace and all good things. I am a sister who is very grateful for my life and this important moment in history. Blessings

  11. Avatar

    If you do acts of compassion and social change with an expectation that you will “fix” the problem, get everyone back to the right path, heal them permanently, seal the hole you’ve found in the damaged world once and for all, you will fail.
    People are wounded and will keep messing up.
    If you help people, do it because you want to help them now, here, in this moment of shared human interaction, without worrying about what they’ll “do with it” tomorrow. Like Eckhart said about worshiping God, do it “without a why,” without expecting something back, without demanding a return on the spiritual/compassion investment. Give it your best, and let go. Try to set aside your own woundedness so that you can give kindness to others without NEEDING/expecting something from the act.
    Of course, since we’re ALL wounded, this is incredibly difficult to do. We can try to fill the holes in our own souls with kindness to others, secretly hoping (expecting?) to fill all our wounds with happy “successes”/reciprocations. But people often don’t “turn out” the way we want them to. They persist in being spectacularly messed up. The thing is, we do, too.
    So, we just have to be more gentle, patient and understanding with others and with ourselves.
    Change and healing is difficult for everyone.

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