The Divine Dance – Review
The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, by Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, November 2016. SPCK, ISBN 978-0-28-107815-8, 220 pages. RRP £9.99 (paperback)
In this book, based on Richard Rohr’s recent talks, he and Mike Morrell call for a “spiritual paradigm shift”, a move from a concept of God as a static omnipotent monarch to the flowing relationship of the Trinity, the “dance” of the title. As they point out, there is nothing essentially new in this; the depiction of the Trinity as a dance in which we are invited to participate was explored by the Greek Fathers. But it has rarely been taken up by the mainstream churches, and we have instead been limited to a basically monotheistic, even pagan, image of a critical creator.
Rohr and Morrell suggest that now is the time when such a shift can and will take place, when our understanding of faith, including other faiths, of science and of our own psychology has prepared us to welcome the changes that it would bring. And now is also the time when such a transformation is most needed, when our disconnection from one another, from the natural world, and from our own deepest selves leaves us grieving and broken. Only by recognising the ubiquity of Trinitarian patterns, by accepting the cycles of life, death and rebirth, and by finding meaning in relationship instead of detached judgement, can we fully experience our faith.
The book is essentially an extended meditation on these themes, itself something of a circular dance, with ideas appearing, being elaborated upon, and receding, only to reappear in a later chapter. It is a hugely joyous book, informal and gentle, illustrating the authors’ belief that:
“A Trinitarian spirituality leaves guilt and shame in the dust, recentering Christianity on – dare I say it? – realization and rest.” (p.173)
As a Green Christian, struggling sometimes with traditional expressions of doctrine, I found, as Rohr writes, these insights to be a truly sustainable “basis for grounded eco-spirituality”. As his medieval Franciscan predecessor Bonaventure recognised, everything in nature is a footprint revealing the nature of God, while our contemporary growth in gender awareness brings us insights often denied within a patriarchal tradition.
“Creation just keeps unfolding; the evolution of planets, stars, species and human consciousness has never stopped since the very beginning, but our hierarchical, masculine-without-feminine, and thus static notion of God did not allow us to see it!” (p. 147)
Green Christianity is, of course, not only about environmental sustainability but also the peace and social justice with which it co-depends. Rohr’s insight that “God is not transactional, and God is not needy” (p. 135) leads to a much-needed understanding that God’s justice is always restorative and that “God’s ‘favourite place is in “solidarity with the ‘other’ – those on the margins of power” (p. 131)
The book ends with an appendix of Seven Practices, simple exercises of prayer, physical movement and sharing to embed its ideas and insights into our daily lives and thoughts. For me, the process of reading and considering this book has been an experience of renewal, and an important step in my Green Christian journey.