Last month I posted articles directly related to new books by the noted authors / theologians Richard Rohr and Serene Jones. Each in their own way emphasized the importance of the word/term “and.”
Rohr’s Emphasis on “And”
For many years now, and in many ways, the Franciscan friar Richard Rohr has emphasized the importance of “and.”
In 1986 Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation. Concerning that name, he has said repeatedly that the most important word in the Center’s name is “and.”
In his new book, about which I wrote last month (here), as well in his book The Naked Now (2009), which I have just finished reading, Rohr writes about the importance of “and” by explaining the deep significance of paradox, nonduality, and “third eye” thinking.
In The Naked Now, Rohr has a lucid section in the 20th chapter titled “The Value of Paradox” (pp. 144~9). He writes,
Because paradox undermines dual thinking at its very root, the dualistic mind immediately attacks paradox as weak thinking or confusion, separate from hard logic. The modern phenomenon of fundamentalism shows an almost complete incapacity to deal with paradox (p. 144).
Rohr goes on then to assert, “The history of spirituality tells us that we must learn to accept paradoxes or we will never love anything or see it correctly” (ibid.)
“Dual thinking” sees things as either/or--so that is the reason Rohr emphasizes nonduality.
At the very end of The Naked Now, Rohr makes 26 short statements about what he calls “The Shining Word ‘And.’” (You can also read those statements at this link.)
Jones’s Emphasis on “And”
While not as direct as Rohr, in her book Call It Grace, Serene Jones makes repeated emphasis on “and” by linking seemingly opposing concepts. Her book is divided into four “stations” (rather than parts), and the title of each is two (or three) words connected by “and.”
Jones emphasizes “Sin and Grace,” “Destiny and Freedom,” “Hatred and Forgiveness,” as well as “Redeeming Life and Death.” In addition, like both Luther and Calvin, she writes in the last chapter of her book, “We are saints and sinners, flawed and graced, the extremes always mingling in us” (p. 295, bolding added.)
Jones, a Protestant, like Rohr, a Catholic, adeptly recognizes and emphasizes the importance of “and.”
My Emphasis on “And”
As some of you know, my doctoral dissertation, completed more than 50 years ago, was titled “The Meaning of Paradox.” It was because of my early recognition of the importance of “both/and” thinking that I chose that topic--and this has been a key to my theological (and other) thought through the years.
Some of you also know that the 17th chapter of my recently published book Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now is titled “Both/And Is Generally Better and More Nearly True than Either/Or.” (That chapter was written before I read Rohr enough to cite him in the chapter.)
There is so much we could understand more correctly--and so much mistaken thinking and action we could avoid--if we just learned to appreciate the importance of “and.”
In a more “popular” book, Jen Pollock Michel has just published Surprised by Paradox: The Promise of “And” in an Either-Or World. A review of Michel’s book appears in the June 2019 issue of Christianity Today.
The reviewer concludes: “Surprised by Paradox asks us to reject an either-or approach to certain irreducible mysteries of Christian faith, assuming instead a posture of humility and wonder as we contemplate the fathomless riches of God and his grace.”