1/16-1/21/2023: MLK & Chenu on the Failures of the Church & the Value of Non-Dualism

January 16, 2023. Dr. King on the Failures of Religion.
King had issues with churches who “hide behind stained glass windows” and refuse to engage in issues of social justice. He said: I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular. St. Augustine perpetuated this bent away from activism by espousing instead an “introspective conscience.” Matthew reminds us that the late Pope Benedict XVI was also “thoroughly Augustinian and thoroughly dualistic in his mindset,” propelling the Church in an unholy direction of mysogyny, homophobia, and a fear of Einsteinian relativity, liberation theology, and creation spirituality.

Intolerance, corruption, dogma, and…
A group of Gen-Z youth speak of their reasons for choosing spirituality over religion. Gen-ZSpeaks/GenZ Magazine.

January 17, 2023. Dr. King Criticizes Organized Religion, continued.
One of King’s stinging statements about the Church has become prophetic: If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust. King bemoans the tepidness of the Church: So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. 

January 18, 2023. MLK, Jr. and M.D. Chenu Critique Today’s Economics.
Today we meditate on the disturbing fact that the richest 1% of people in the world acquired 2/3 of all the world’s wealth since 2020. Dr, King understood that wealth is gained through the exploitation of the poor. Said he: The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor—both black and white, both here and abroad. Meanwhile Chenu said that the system itself is often evil: Suppose that an enterprise begins with a capital of a million (francs) and after ten years has increased to five million: if these five million belong to the capital as such the fault is due not to the avarice of individuals but to the evil of the system.

January 19, 2023. MLK, Jr. and M.D. Chenu Oppose Dualism–and Pay a Price.
Whereas King called dualism “strange” and “un-Biblical,” Augustine said that “spirit is whatever is not matter.” By contrast, Aquinas defined spirit as “the elan or vitality in everything.” This attitude is at the heart of creation spirituality. Chenu wrote a book on education that was put on the Index of Forbidden Books in1942 and he was ordered to sign a document claiming that “dogmatic formulas express a truth which is absolute and unchanging.”  In contrast, he proposed that a historical consciousness is about relativity and relationships rather than absolutism.  

“… in the final analysis…our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional; every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole.” Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech opposing poverty, racism & militarism, one year before his assassination. Democracy Now!

January 20, 2023. Why Non-Dualism Is Important, MLK & Chenu, continued.
Great thinkers are advocates of non-dualism. For instance, theologian Rosemary Ruether agrees that the foundation of patriarchy is dualism, while Thich Nhat Hanh said that if Christianity could recover its non-dualistic tradition, it could come alive again. Mystics are intimately connected with the fruits of non-dualism. Julian of Norwich defines mysticism as “oneing,” the antithesis of dualism. And Meister Eckhart refers to God as “the One” and encourages us to “separate ourselves from all twoness.” He says that in breakthrough, “I learn that God and I are one.”

The Rev. Glynn Cardy of The Community of St Luke Remuera, Auckland, NZ, reflects on the message of mystics, especially Dorothee Soelle, on oneness with the Divine. YouTube

January 21, 2023. Non-dualism: Chenu & Aquinas on Passions as the Seat of Virtues.
We meditate here on the power of passion or, as Aquinas said, Passions are “the seat of virtues.” Rabbi Heschel said, “It is to the imagination and the passions that the prophets speak, rather than aiming at the cold approbation of the mind.” Dualists insist that we must “transcend matter with its limitations,” but Chenu says, “To admit that God creates is implicitly to confess that matter is divinely willed and therefore good.”

Banner image: M.D. Chenu (Marie-Dominique Chenu) from biography in Backward View and Martin Luther King (photographed during his “I Have a Dream” speech) Wikimedia Commons

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

Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes

In this book, Fox gathers scholars from various cultures and traditions such as Helen Kenik, Jon Sobrino, Nicolas Berdyaev, Rosemary Ruether, M. D. Chenu, Mary Jose Hobday, Ronald Miller, Monika Hellwig, James Kenney, Justin O’Brien and others to approach creation spirituality from many traditions and many angles. 
“An exciting and important book…a pleasant alternative to the oppressive burden of the fall/redemption tradition.” ~ New Review of Books and Religion 

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6 thoughts on “1/16-1/21/2023: MLK & Chenu on the Failures of the Church & the Value of Non-Dualism”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall:
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall:

    For this week I have chosen to focus my comments on our Daily Meditation for January 20, 2023. Why Non-Dualism Is Important, MLK & Chenu, continued.
    King says religion succumbs to fear when it separates matter and spirit, body and soul, the sacred and the profane.” And then Matthew goes on to list a number of non-dualistic spiritual teachers, etc. Such as:
    Catholic Feminist theologian, Rosemary Ruether says that the foundation of patriarchy is dualism. (Thus to deconstruct dualism is to move beyond patriarchy and open the doors to women.)
    Thich Nhat Hanh declared that if Christianity needs recover its non-dualistic tradition, the gems and treasures it holds could come alive again.
    Julian of Norwich defines mysticism as “oneing.” Oneing names mystical experience where we taste the non-dualism of God and us.
    Meister Eckhart calls God “the One” and calls us to “separate ourselves from all twoness.” That is mysticism. His term for the “oneing” that is a mystical experience is “breakthrough. In breakthrough “I learn that God and I are one.”
    Dorothy Soelle says that mysticism—”the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God”–eradicates the masculine hierarchical consciousness that renders patriarchy possible.
    Chenu championed the non-dualism of Thomas Aquinas, saying that Aquinas: “was a champion of creation spirituality [who] trusted the Creator and the creature to work dialectically with the spirit of creation.”
    Now, one thing I might add is if you are really looking for union, or non-dualistic oneness with God, the Hindus are the masters at this. For instance, the 8th century Hindu Sage, Shankara taught Advaita Vendanta and enlightenment is called “Nirvana” (also among Buddhists and Jains) which literally means to be “extinguished”–like a flame blown out. But the most vivid image is of a drop falling into the ocean, with us being the drops, and God being the ocean, and once we fall in to the ocean of God, the drop becomes one with the Ocean BUT retains no more of its ego or identity because then Atman (the self) is one and identical to Brahman (the Supreme God).

  2. Avatar

    My sense is that one way of nurturing the value of nondualism is to cultivate the mind, heart, soul connection. Often in the face of paradoxal dualities and the conflicts that arise within these, we humans have a tendency to respond from the mind only, with its intellect, rational, logical reasoning functions… without connecting to our hearts, with its intuition, imagination and passionate functions… and henceforth we miss the opportunity to respond with the collaborative co-creative, transformative power of love within our souls.

    Divorced from our heart, our mind has no way of knowing what the needs, wants and desires of our soul are. When we connect with our heart, we begin to understand what this is, and then our mind can help us get there. We can appreciate the minds brilliance, without giving it licence to run our life. Rather, in all our processes of decision making and our potential choices of responses to all the paradoxal and dualistic conflicts that we have to face… we can allow the heart that knows how to hear and listen to the voice of our soul, and allow this fuller aspect of our true divinity incarnate within our humanity to retain the last word… which always comes from the sacred union of mind, heart and soul space of collective, collaborative, co-creative, transforming love, compassion and mercy.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall:
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall:

      Jeanette, Such a simple and clear comment on the relationship between the head and the heart !!! “Divorced from our heart, our mind has no way of knowing what the needs, wants and desires of our soul are. When we connect with our heart, we begin to understand what this is, and then our mind can help us get there.”

  3. Avatar

    I’m behind reading several of Matthew’s books on Creation Spirituality, especially the one on the “Cosmic Christ” and “Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes.”

    Amen to Jeanette’s Comment today!

  4. Avatar

    I am always grateful to Matthew for his teachings and reminders of our oneness, at a time when divisiveness in our body politic seems to reign. It takes a lot of letting go of my tendency to want to be “right” and then to be free to see the sacred in everyone. It is a whole lot easier to see the sacred in nature! But freedom of heart and spirit means seeing the whole in all its terror and beauty.

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