Updated: Jan 7
Richard Rohr’s text Everything Belongs is a contemplative book about prayer. Rohr has reached the end stage of his career where his books are sentence after sentence of nuggets worth contemplating. He opens the book with a poem entitled “Inherent Unmarketability” which cues the reader that this text isn’t about “bigger, faster, better” or full of toxic positivity, but instead is a book that embraces pain, mystery, paradox, and most importantly slow through a careful explanation of the nuances in paradox.
At the onset, Rohr offers this claim” “In God’s reign, ‘everything belongs,’ even the broken and poor parts. Until we have admitted this in our own soul, we will usually perpetuate expelling systems in the outer world of politics and class.” He then spends the rest of the book offering examples and challenges of ways we can accept our own broken and poor parts so that we can accept others with their broken and poor parts. Rohr regularly reminds his readers that we cannot truly offer belonging to someone else until we have offered it to ourselves. Paradoxically, he also reminds readers that we cannot come to this belonging on our own; we need God. Another paradox Rohr explores is that of belonging to ourselves while also belonging to a group. For Rohr, the danger comes when people want to belong to a group over belonging to God.
Rohr’s message that “everything belongs” is not to undermine religion, but to give readers permission to allow for a humility in people that accepts that God is always beyond us. He rebukes the idea people can “have God in their pockets with quick, easy, glib answers.” Instead, he wants people to be willing to enter into the unknowing with God, to the place where not only is it okay to not have all the answers but the place where we don’t want all the answers. Rohr is rather aggressive in his language about certainty; for him, certainty is the opposite of humility, and he believes we can only experience depth in our relationship with God if we are willing to let go of formulas and calculations and instead accept reality and rest in mystery.
Rohr’s ability to concisely and simply claim ideas makes me want to be sure to sit with some of the comments throughout the text. One thing particularly hit me in reading this book-
“being over and against is a lot easier than being in love.”
Right now, with the state of our nation, it is easy to put energy into being over and against, and it is easy to find allies for what we’re against, but that’s not the Jesus way. I have to put my energy into what I am for, and I recognize that stance will naturally put me against some things; however, I want to make allies for what I am for rather than what I am against. I feel like I will know I have succeeded in this when I too can say,
“But the still center, my true self, does not need to oppose, differentiate, or compare itself.”
I very much appreciate Rohr’s fight against certainty and formula. His statement “God can most easily be lost by being thought found” is so powerfully simple. Rohr’s attack on our need to fight for control under the guise of truth is convicting, because if I get into a fight with someone because I think a different truth should be in control it is the same core problem as the one I am fighting against, just from the opposite side. I want to be able to be so settled in my identity with God that I don’t need to be fixed on being right or certain. He teaches us that it is only through that resting that we can be open to letting God purify our motives and begin to believe “only nonknowing is spacious enough to hold and not distort the knowing that is possible.”