Dr. King proposed that “human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”
This seems to be another way to say that to conform to what is can result in abandoning one’s creativity and uniqueness and responsibility.
It is the maladjusted, those who resist adjusting to a bad system and use their imagination and creativity to find alternatives and make them happen, who usher in the way of the future, the way of healing or salvation.
Non-dualism in a time of dualism constitutes such a resistance.
Dr. King challenged dualism in his struggle to educate segregationists and Jim Crow diehards sixty years ago when he criticized the “unbiblical” and “strange” separation of body and soul, spirit and matter in those who resist the progress of justice and compassion and awareness of the suffering of others.
But strife and conflict often accompany refusals to submit to structures that perpetuate injustice.
Dr. King was a person who was “maladjusted” in the face of structural injustice. He inspired millions in his time and since to move beyond adjusting or fitting in with the limited options society sometimes offers us.
M. D. Chenu was that kind of person also–“creatively maladjusted.” He dared to think out of the box of absolutes and designed an education program for aspiring clergy that took into account the needs of the people.
The price he paid for this was steep–his book was put on the Index in 1942.
Later he was silenced and exiled for supporting the “worker priest” movement. That in turn resulted in his being banished in 1954 from living in Paris, an exile that continued right up to the time of the Second Vatican Council in 1962.
But there he made his mark and contributed profoundly to it. In his exile, he could write things like this: “Our being is born of love.”
That is the meaning of transcendence and all beings share in that love, “every creature loves the all more than himself and God more than the all.” We are part of “the ecstatic re-creation of creation.”
Chenu learned to “live on the margins” and existing on the margins, today’s science instructs us, is where the deepest creativity occurs in nature.
Adapted from M. D. Chenu, “Body and Body Politic in the Creation Spirituality of Thomas Aquinas,” in Matthew Fox, ed., Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes, pp. 210-212.
See also: Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.
Also see Theodore Richards, Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner image: “Maladjusted.” Symbol from a poster quoting Martin Luther King’s statement: “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” Photo by Duncan Kimball. Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
What experiences have you undergone of exile or “living on the margins”? What was born of such experiences?
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
Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet
Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow. Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Living in Sin