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Matthew Fox: The Man, The Controversy
Matthew Fox: Then and Now Matthew Fox is a literary groundbreaker in the world of theology, in particular the doctrines of the Catholic Church. His 1983 first-book, Original Blessing is a solid look at the blessings of life rather than the concept of original sin. The notion of Original sin is a central tenet to the Catholic Doctrine, and in 1989 the Vatican silenced Fox for one full year because of his teachings from Original Blessings.
In Original Blessings, Fox divides his book into four sections, befriending creation (the via positiva); befriending darkness, letting go, and letting be (the via negativa); befriending creativity, befriending our divinity (via creativa); and befriending new creation: compassion, celebration, and erotic justice (the via transformativa). He states that awe and goodness will be the greatest counters to our society's predominantly pessimistic and fearful mood.
Fox believes that Jesus teaches us to live the 'beautiful life'. What he means by this is that deeds, which are done for good and moral reasons, are beautiful and are the best parts of creation. He has numerous outspoken viewpoints on such areas as the environment, humanity, good and evil, and the concepts of compassion and work. To Fox, living a spiritual life is not a matter of religion but a matter of actions. For the purposes of this report on Matthew Fox, his views on the above mentioned subjects have been divided into sections including referenced supportive quotations.
Although much is known about Fox's public personae as a former Priest, Dominican and now Episcopalian Priest, it is hard to find much information about his current life - interests, hobbies, and family life. Perhaps the best way to know Matthew Fox is through his books, his classes, and his interviews.
He is candid at all times, and seems open to the concept that his ideas are not mainstream. He has been quoted as saying that he realizes his ideas are new, and some have called him the "Maverick Priest."
Born in 1940 at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin Fox contracted polio as a youth and the experience began to change him, he appreciated more the spiritual parts of life and the wonderfulness of creation. In his autobiographical work Confessions: The Makings of a Post-Denominational Priest Fox describes his early years as a television culture from Ed Sullivan and Bishop Sheen to Elvis Presley and the Beatles, JFK and Martin Luther King Jr., Vietnam and Watergate, and Pope John XXIII to Pope Paul II. He goes on to explain this concept by stating:
My generation was bold enough to question many things and to seek spirituality over religion."
Perhaps it was this boldness, and the times in which Fox grew up and viewed the world, which enabled him to feel comfortable in the role of 'radical theologian'. Fox was dismissed from the Roman Catholic Dominican Order in 1993 and later became a Protestant Episcopal Priest. Fox continues to speak about Original Blessing and other topics of relevant to his theological followers from the pulpit of the University of Creation Spirituality (which he helped to found in June of 1984 through an organization he created called Friends of Creation Spirituality, Inc.
Fox Responds to the Outcry
Fox's response to the questions people have about his change of 'faith' can be best summed up in a series of letters which he is compiling into book format to be titled Letters to my Catholic Brothers and Sisters.
Never have so many Catholics been set so far adrift, desperately searching for answers at a time when the Church has lost much of its moral authority."
In his work Original Blessing, however Fox seems to foreshadow his own fate when he explains his theologian's view on the Western world. (33)
Western Civilization has preferred love of death to love of life to the very extent that its religious traditions have preferred redemption to creation, sin to ecstasy, and individual introspection to cosmic awareness and appreciation. Religion has failed people in the West as often as it has been silent about pleasure or about the cosmic creation, about the ongoing power of the flowing energy of the Creator, about original blessing."
Fox, who holds a Master's degree in philosophy and theology from Aquinas Institute and a Doctorate in spirituality, summa cum laude, states that it was his background of training in Paris in the late 1960s revolutionary period which began to influence his beliefs and opinions on the world and creation.
Fox On Christianity
In his own life, in an interview scenario where Fox was asked where he would like to see contemporary Christianity head, Fox replied, "I would like to see a Christianity where Jesus was at the home. That would mean a Christianity that was not about orthodoxy, correct beliefs, but more about orthopraxis (correct actions)."
Fox clarifies that correct actions involve having compassion and dispensing justice. He says that Jesus was all about compassion, not feeling sorry for a person so much as having justice and celebration of life. In the 1960s Fox claimed that it was a shame so many were using LSD to find a spiritual experience, when he himself had found an ecstatic one through the exploration of his own faith. In another interview, Fox talks about work in the context of prosperity and what it means to him:
Work needs to be an occasion for our own and for others' spirits to prosper. There needs to be joy in work...Another important dimension of work is healing. Not only is joy a part of the human heart, so is grief and suffering...Are you creating something useful that people need that relieves their suffering?"
Later in the same interview Fox makes it clear that he has no regrets about his stand against the traditional doctrine of the Catholic Church, nor about being dismissed from the Dominican Order. Fox says in no uncertain terms" question everybody has to ask at work is what is the bottom line? What am I willing to be fired for? What am I willing to die for? I can speak of that not just from theory...every one of us has to be willing to lose our job over something we believe in."
The Tasks of Humanity
In addition to living a life of compassion and learning about the Original Blessings of the world, Fox states that we must become better guardians of the earth. In "Yes Magazine" Spring 2001 edition Fox speaks about the tasks of humanity - the main tasks, he believes are to treat the earth well; to live right by bonding and creating love within the brains and hearts of people; to meditate upon spiritual practices and train ourselves in the art of mediation to calm down our 'inner crocodile brain'; to do all of these things in order to facilitate a better environment and a more loving world. The world as it is, according to Fox, is on the verge of self-destruct - from environmental pollution to human disease of the mind and body. Fox says that:
The despoiling of the Earth's health by laying waste to forests, soil, waters, other species, ozone, diversity of plants -- all this spells disaster for our species and most of the others with whom we share this amazing home we call Earth."
He concludes with the notion that "We need to ground ourselves, connecting to the Earth from which we come and to which we shall all return. The despoiling of the Earth is not only ecocide; it is also suicide."
Fox and the Future
While Fox has made it very clear that he will continue to teach his beliefs, the controversy over his words remains. Fox's book Original Blessings has been analyzed and extensively studied by members of…[continue]
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