Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ray Plankey and God in All Things

Ray Plankey is the founder of CCIDD, where we now have landed these past few days. Ray began his career as a rocket scientist, literally, working on the first ICBM’s back in the 1960’s. Responding to Pope John XXIII’s call for North Americans to be missionaries to Latin America, he decamped for Chile. Over time, he began to realize that the important dynamic of reverse mission was not being attended to. The standard (and spiritually dangerous!) notion that the norteamericanos “bring God” to the pagan masses in the south is simply not true. While the northerners may bring valuable education and insight, they also receive valuable education and insight—at least if they are paying attention.
This is a central dynamic in Ignatian spirituality, to “seek God in all things.” As a pilgrim spirituality, people of Ignatian bent continually look for what God has already been up to, especially in situations we might not have thought to check out before. When we’re doing this well, it makes us profoundly humble, as we perceive the vast variety of ways humanity has perceived and responded to the Holy One. God does play in 10,000 places.
But sometimes our religious formation militates against this insight. While people who experience themselves as forgiven, redeemed, and transformed in Christ rightly seek to share this experience with others, the older missionary tendency is to think that unless “God plays in 10,000 places, always exactly the same way,” that we betray our call. We then ignore our own blindnesses, and, historically and still, this is where Christians turn from the path of Christ to the path of the Conquistador. Not only might we not see what God is up to in a new place (or newly in a familiar place,) we might well destroy God’s handiwork in God’s own name. I cannot imagine that God looks benignly on such atrocity.
So Ray founded the CCIDD in the 1970's to foster experiential learning in the service of reverse mission, that the people who come here are open to the possibility of growing in empathy by meeting people, pay attention to what is happening within themselves as they encounter God in a new place, and be enabled to communicate this experience (along with knowledge of a more academic kind they also get here,) to others when they get home. Good system. I wonder how our churches would change if we thought of this as the norm for training clergy?
Ray says the Latin American Church has a prophetic message for the norteamericano Church. A prophet, by definition, is a person who communcates what's on God's mind to the people. First, of course, a prophet has to have some grasp of what God's up to. A humble prophet still speaks clearly and with conviction, but doesn't claim to possess the totality of God's self-communication. Yup--that's what the Church could use more of now. Humble prophets.

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