Monday, December 21, 2015

REVIEW ~ of revised & updated Confessions: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest

Blog review of revised and updated autobiography
Matthew Fox

Matthew Fox, heart friend and colleague first published his autobiography on his birthday, December 21st, winter solstice 1995.  Now in 2015, on his 75th birthday Matthew has revised and updated CONFESSIONS: THE MAKING OF A POSTDENOMINATIONAL PRIEST by adding the past 18 years of his life to this incredible telling.  It is no accident that Matthew was born on December 21st, winter solstice, the day we observe creation welcoming the “new light” as days begin to lengthen.  Matthew’s birth is timely; the gift of his life, precious, a “new light” for us not only to observe but also to take to heart.

I started working with Matthew at the University of Creation Spirituality as co-director of the Doctor of Ministry Program after he published CONFESSIONS in 1995.  So the added 200 pages that tell the story of his last 18 years are much of the time that I have known him.

With the assuredness of his heart’s convictions and the undergirding by his vast intellectual capacity and extremely well read and informed mind, his creative soul insists on combining, correlating, finding, developing, sharing, leading with new metaphors, new myths that have the power to bring Christianity into a new way of being.  Matthew believes that it may be too late for organized religion as we have known it and he hopes it is.  It is time for something new.  This is a new day where all belief systems are coming together to create a new thing.   

Matthew states what he believes: Principles of Creation Spirituality (316).  In these last 18 years he has doggedly stood by those Principles in every written document, book and lecture.  He lives and breathes these Principles and challenges the Church and each of us to embrace them and begin to exemplify them.  In so doing, we might still have an opportunity to save our Earth home.               

In his Confessions we witness his courageous heart. He has a large heart and a willing persistent spirit as he demonstrates by taking on organized religion that has been amuck in patriarchy far too long. I am a woman who has been oppressed by that patriarchy. It is not only women who are oppressed.  Men suffer oppression and the poor who seek liberation suffer at the hands of patriarchy.  This oppression touches all of us.  Reading Matthew’s remarks about the need for change, his historical reporting of the papacies that have wounded the church by their actions and silencing the voice of the already oppressed.  And then, like a breath of fresh air, we witness the hopeful spirit of Matthew’s courage when Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Jesuit training, first from the Americas with intellectual curiosity and a heart for the poor is selected for the Papacy.  He chooses the name, Francis, another first. Matthew writes “Letters to Pope Francis: Rebuilding a Church with Justice and Compassion” stating his expectations for this papacy (433).  Way to go, Matthew.

I believe that Matthew Fox’s name will be recorded in history as one theologian who made a significant impact on the way that Christianity is experienced and understood in the 21th Century. He has a courageous heart; a large heart for justice and compassion; a heart that longs for justice and compassion for all of creation and he is specific to the needs of women, children and the LGBTQ community.  He puts himself on the line for the oppressed.  When I read his writing I find words for what my heart has always known and has never been able to voice.  If you are seeking to understand your own personal spiritual unrest you may very well find a comrade in Matthew’s words that are clear, firm, loving, compassionate, direct and forward reaching.

Reading these pages I experience the light of wisdom and profound care of his courageous heart.   What a relief to have such a powerful and relentless advocate!

In reading CONFESSIONS I came to think of Matthew’s Mind as a huge mansion; each room a treasure of codified knowledge garnered from personal experience as activist/prophet and from tireless hours of research.  He takes elements from each room and mixes them together in precise alchemy of the Wizard and challenges us all. One of the wonderful gifts of this book is the descriptive overviews that Matt provides for many of his books.  He lists the main points, sometimes offers an outline, or enough detail to wet the appetite and entice the reader. Each book is a work of scholarly art based on thorough research and knowledge along with his vast ability to pull all that he knows together into deep teaching that we might understand and embrace wisdom not only with our minds, but also with our hearts. 

I was surprised to learn of a Children’s book; a Seuss-like telling of the creation story, In the Beginning There Was Joy (395).

Matthew’s creative presentation is inviting, for example, when presenting Hildegard anew at the time of her canonization and being made a doctor of the church, he wants to present the power and true presence of Hildegard.  Matthew seeks a way to bring this twelfth century genius and leader into the twenty-first century.  He selects a methodology of placing Hildegard in a room with various twentieth century thinkers of note. Hildegard meets folks like Mary Oliver, Howard Thurman, Einstein, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Dorothee Soelle and the final chapter is a question: “Is Hildegard a Trojan Horse Entering the Gates of the Vatican?” (427). 

Another aspect of Matthew’s writing that I find delightful and I am thrilled to see him doing is RAPPING. Matthew shares a rap that he created for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2006 (405) and one that he shared at a poetry slam in Oakland, CA. on the State of the Church, 2006 (411).  They are both “stoppers!” They encourage the reader to “stop” and hold the energy of the words that stirs ones heart to justice and compassion.  They embrace ALL and that’s what I love about this “new light” that shines through Matthew Fox, a solstice child by design.

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