An April 2019 Religion News Service article titled, “For Millennials, Mysticism Shows a Path to Their Home Faiths” reveals how young (millennial) evangelicals are “[d]iscovering the Christian mystical tradition through the work of Franciscan friar Richard Rohr.” The article states:
[Anthony] Graffagnino  was one of a number of millennials drawn to The Universal Christ—a four-day conference in New Mexico’s capital last month led by Rohr, one of the preeminent Christian contemplatives of the last century. . . . millennials are increasingly finding contemplative spirituality appealing.
Whether it’s in the stillness of silent meditation, walking a labyrinth, or centering prayer; the practice of engaging with scripture through Lectio Divina, the Ignatian tradition’s Daily Examen; or a combination of Buddhist mindfulness, Kundalini breath work and Taizé prayer, many young adults are happy (to borrow a line from Van Morrison) to sail into the mystic. . . . The contemplative tradition is “expansive enough… that it leaves room as you grow,” he said. “To be Christian is to see Christ in everything.” (source)
Lighthouse Trails has been warning about Catholic priest and mystic Richard Rohr’s influence over young evangelical men for awhile now. Ray Yungen reported in his book Simple Answers that one of Richard Rohr’s publishers told Rohr that his biggest group of followers is comprised of young evangelical men. (source) That means that many of the sons and grandsons of evangelicals are under the influence of a man who is panentheistic, New Age-sympathizing, and a mystic.
Evangelical Leaders Endorsing Richard Rohr
In the midst of a current crisis where young people raised in the evangelical church are leaving the faith of their childhoods and becoming New Agers, atheists, emergent, or Catholic, highly popular seasoned evangelical leaders have helped to escalate the crisis rather than help alleviate it. In a 2018 article, Lighthouse Trails wrote about one of these “seasoned” evangelical Rohr endorsers:
In an interview between Gloria Gaither and Catholic mystic monk, Richard Rohr, Gaither said: “First of all, I want to say thank you to you [Richard Rohr] because so many of your books have been impacting my life, especially Falling Upward. I think that changed my thinking about . . . just about everything. We have studied that book in our Monday night Bible study.” (source)
Gaither isn’t the only popular evangelical leader to pay homage to Rohr.
Eugene Peterson also promotes Richard Rohr as is explained in Lois Putnam’s article, “William Paul Young (THE SHACK AUTHOR) & His Connection with Panentheist Richard Rohr.”
Another person who has embraced Rohr is Richard Foster (whose books are promoted to one degree or another by the majority of Christian colleges and seminaries). Foster had Rohr on an advisory board for a 2010 book Foster edited titled 25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Devotional Classics.
And then there is IF: Gathering. The leaders of IF are dynamic energetic women who hold large conferences geared primarily toward young evangelical women. While these women may be sincere in what they are trying to do, they promote figures such as emergent leaders Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, as well as Richard Rohr.
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun also promotes Rohr in at least two of her books, including The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (a book that many evangelical groups have turned to, including Saddleback Church, even though it is packed with the contemplative/emergent element).
As our last example (though there are many more), Elisa Morgan, the founder and former director of MOPS International, quotes Rohr favorably in her book The Beauty of Broken.
Are we saying all of these Rohr-endorsers believe in all of Rohr’s New Ageism? Not necessarily, but we are showing how much Rohr has influenced Christianity.
You see, Rohr has found his way into the deepest veins of evangelicalism.
Rohr’s Cosmic Christ
Rohr’s spirituality is in the same camp as someone like Episcopalian panentheist Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ). Rohr wrote the foreword to a 2007 book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God. For Rohr to write the forward to such a book, he would have to agree with Coutinho’s views. On Rohr’s website, he currently has an article titled “The Cosmic Christ.” One need not look too far into Rohr’s teachings and website to see he is indeed promoting the same Cosmic Christ as Matthew Fox – this is the “christ” whose being they say lives in every human; this, of course, would nullify the need for atonement by a savior. Rohr’s newest book is titled The Universal Christ. On his website next to the title of this book, it states: “Another Name for Every Thing.”
In 2016, Richard Rohr participated in an event called SAND16 US (standing for Science and Nonduality). Nonduality is a New Age term basically meaning there is no good and evil, no right or wrong; thus, all is one, all is God (which is why New Ager Neale Donald Walsch said that even Hitler will go to heaven). Rohr was invited to speak at SAND 16 US because New Agers resonate with him. Sharing the platform with Rohr were over 100 other New Agers including Matthew Fox, Deepak Chopra, Ken Wilber, and Larry Dossey.
To further explain why we see it as nothing less than a tragedy that Rohr is having such an influence over young evangelicals, consider this: Rohr is a prominent champion for the idea of a global religion that would unify the world. In a 2014 interview, he said that “religion needs a new language.” And that language to bring about this one-world religion is mysticism (i.e., contemplative prayer)! Rohr stated:
Right now there is an emergence . . . it’s coming from so many different traditions and sources and parts of the world. Maybe it’s an example of the globalization of spirituality. (Kristen Hobby, “What Happens When Religion Isn’t Doing Its Job: an interview with Richard Rohr, OFM” (Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction, Volume 20, No. 1, March 2014), pp. 6-11.)
This view ties in perfectly with the emerging church’s perspective that is so popular among millennials (and now even Gen Zs – those born around 1996) today. It’s no wonder that Richard Rohr and emerging church leaders (such as Brian McLaren) are so supportive of each other and endorse each other’s books.
In echoing the Catholic mystics Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, Rohr also advocates the concept of dharmakaya. This is the recurring theme of the “school” of contemplative prayer. Rohr states:
God’s hope for humanity is that one day we will all recognize that the divine dwelling place is all of creation. Christ comes again whenever we see that matter and spirit co-exist. This truly deserves to be called good news. (Rich Heffern, “The Eternal Christ in the Cosmic Story” (National Catholic Reporter, December 11, 2009.)
To dispel any confusion about what he is saying, Rohr makes it clear in the same paragraph what he means by God dwelling in all creation. He uses a term that one finds throughout contemplative literature, which signifies that Christ is more of an energy than a personal being. Rohr explains the term “cosmic Christ,” telling readers that everything and everyone belongs to God’s kingdom. That’s even the name of one of his books, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.
Without a doubt, Rohr is one of the most prominent living proponents of contemplative prayer today. His organization, The Center for Contemplation and Action, is a bastion for contemplative spirituality. Rohr has essentially become the new Thomas Merton to an entirely new generation of evangelical Christians; and thus, evangelicalism is being robbed of its very ability to even exist.
Other Quotes by Richard Rohr:
Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God’s own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us.― Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, p. 57
The most amazing fact about Jesus, unlike almost any other religious founder, is that he found God in disorder and imperfection—and told us that we must do the same or we would never be content on this earth. ― Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, p. 16, emphasis in original
In his 2011 book, Falling Upward, Rohr implies that we (humanity) are all an “immaculate conception” (p. ix).