A New Reformation, by Matthew Fox

So I am definitely going to write a futuristic thing in which Foxean Catholics are sparring with Old Roman Catholics, while New Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians compete for ratings online. The idea of a futuristic second Reformation is one that really does fascinate me, as it could articulate the divisions and issues withing Christendom in interesting ways, ways that highlight just how much, or how little, a version of Christianity might either choose to, or resist the urge to, deform itself to fit popular culture and/or any of several available secular/ideological consensus realities.

Fox’s observations in A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity, for the most part, are very interesting. I get a little antsy about the bits where he goes on about chakras, since it’s not always clear he’s referring to them metaphorically — sometimes he seems to be asserting them as literal energy-points in the body; I am also a little nervous about how he interfaces with science, at times, and the fact he’s worked with Rupert Sheldrake doesn’t help to instill such strong trust for me. I mean, Sheldrake is pushing parapsychology, for goodness sakes! In fact, the more I read about Fox, the less creditable he seems as a thinker.

That said, I have to say I’m pretty impressed with his honesty in A New Reformation and with Fox as a kind of radical, call-it-as-he-sees-it type of guy. You wouldn’t be likely to see me dancing to rap music at any of his Cosmic Masses, but I still think the guy has guts, nailing his 95 theses to the door of the same Church at Wittenberg where Luther posted his… a gesture which could if it were someone else be mistaken for egomania, but which, it seems to me, fits his thesis: that there is institutional corruption comparable to (or even worse than) the corruption that existed in the Roman Church when Luther rightfully stood up and called Rome on it.

Fox’s picture of the Church is fascinating, but I don’t think I should get into it anymore, for several reasons. But I will mention you that it illuminates some unsettling facts about the kinds of apparent allegiances, and the apparent conception of justice, held by the current hierarch of the Church of Rome. It’s a quick read, and I do think the fella’s onto something. Following CS Lewis’ logic, the sensible place to look for Uncle Screwtape (and his boss) would be in the shadows near a position of power, especially one in Rome. One of his most striking Theses, in fact, is the following:

Christians must distinguish between Jesus and Paul.

But you know, that means little to one who doesn’t know anything about the history of the Church, and so on. Others jump out with shocking clarity, and you have to say, ah, yeah, that’s true, like:

Jesus said nothing about condoms, birth control, or sexuality.

He was much more worried about justice, and fittingly, Fox’s theses are pretty well full of calls for the same — ecological, economic, social, and otherwise.

All that reminds me of something interesting. It’s about what he says regarding Christians and their understanding of the origins of Protestantism in the Protestant Reformation in Europe, and the following Catholic Counter-Reformation? I can’t say I’ve discussed it widely here, but it seems to me that the few self-described “devout” Korean Christians around whom I’ve brought this bit of history up, they’ve seemed not to know, or be even remotely interested, in what I was talking about.

Fox says that since it’s really a chunk of European history, it’s outside of the self-obvious realm of interest for non-Western Christians. I don’t know, though; it has always baffled me that people don’t know about that, and rather markedly don’t care to hear more when it’s brought up.

Then again, it similarly always boggles my mind when Westerners start talking about chi or samsara or reincarnation when they have no idea about how those ideas have been used to boondoggle, rip off, and justify the systematic oppression of millions of people elsewhere with great regularity.

4 thoughts on “A New Reformation, by Matthew Fox

  1. I have another one of his books.

    I haven’t read it yet.

    It’s in my “10-year” pile. (I.e., the books I’d like to get to in the next 10 years.)

  2. Ha, that’s my whole book collection.

    However, the one I mentioned above is a bit timely –lots of references to Ratzinger — so I think it’s worth reading now, which is doable. Even for me, a really slow reader, it took only an hour or two.

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