Fr. Richard Rohr on Birthpangs

Richard’s recent meditation on giving birth resonates powerfully with the first few chapters of A New Kind of Christianity. I wish I could have included this quote in the book!
Those of us who are seeking to give birth to a new kind of Christian faith certainly feel some pressure and pain. The controversy engendered by my new book isn’t enjoyable for me or others on this quest. But I think it’s important to remember that it’s not easy for those who critique or oppose what we’re doing either. Perhaps that realization can help us to not become preoccupied with our own discomfort, and to actually empathize – on both sides – with those who disagree with us. Empathizing with your neighbor must surely be a part of loving him or her!
If I can risk being excessively explicit, it’s the “conservative” strength of the woman’s cervix that keeps new life from being born prematurely, while it’s the “progressive” strength of the woman’s uterus that assures the resistance is overcome in due time. One without the other would be catastrophic to our survival. This is a balance I sought to convey in my book, although obviously, I’m throwing my energies into the progressive work of being sure that the cries of a healthy new generation of disciples will in due time be heard among us.
Thanks, Richard! (By the way, Richard and I will be speaking together a couple times this year – first April 9-11 in Albuquerque. Phyllis Tickle, Shane Claiborne, and others will be there as well. Maybe you should join us?)
Excerpt after the jump …

Question of the Day:
How have you experienced “birthpangs”?
All this is only the beginning of the birthpangs.
~ Matthew 24:8, JB
“Birthpangs” is an apt metaphor used by the prophets referring to something painful that is bringing about something better (see, for example, Isaiah 13:8 or Jeremiah 21:9). The price for bringing about something better is invariably to go through the pain of birth. In most mythology, male gods create by a flick of their creative finger. Female gods often create by labor pains of some sort.
Much of patriarchal Christianity has been trying to avoid pain, as we already see in the twelve apostles (e.g., Mark 8:31-33). Males hope they can avoid birthpangs by making an “end run” around them. Maybe that is why we could not hear a lot of the transformational teaching of Jesus. It also shows us that Jesus was a very untypical male, surely not a patriarch.
If we had an image of God as a great Mother who is always giving birth, I think birth pangs would have been preached about and understood a lot more. Maybe that was the image of Mary as the “Sorrowful Mother” at the foot of the cross or with the pierced heart, for many Catholics and Orthodox Christians. Any woman, who has had a child, consciously understands something I will never understand: she knows the necessary connection between pain and new life. Jesus says it clearly, “a woman in childbirth suffers,” but afterwards she has joy (John 16:20-21)! We must allow Mary, mothers, and all women to more inform our reading of the Gospels or we might end up missing the core message.
~ Richard Rohr
February 2010