Speaker: Matthew Fox

Fidelity vs Faith: Bowing to the Heart Over Authority

“Our self-expression is meant to be the manifestation of the silence of our hearts.”

Matthew Fox is a pioneering spiritual theologian, author, and perhaps the only man alive who has had this theology systematically singled out and denounced by two successive Popes, only to see a third Pope incorporate it into Church doctrine. His courageous stance on issues like the sacredness of our relationship to the environment, the divine feminine, gay rights, and other controversial issues have sparked a spiritual revolution in the United States and around the world.  

Fox is the leading exponent of Creation Spirituality, a more expansive and inclusive perspective on Christian doctrine that brings it closer to the mystical foundations underpinning all religious traditions, and which traces its inspiration back to Catholic visionaries like St Francis of Assisi and Meister Eckhart. His forthcoming book, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic--and Beyond, is about a medieval mystic woman who lived through the plague of the Black Death, and draws out insights and principles relevant to our modern COVID-19 era. "A theologian way ahead of her time," he writes, "Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness."

While Matthew’s life has been full of innovation in work, worship, and education, his heart has been anchored firmly in fidelity to service and reconnection, even in the face of opposition and resistance from prevailing Church dogma.  Along the journey, he’s been consistently regarded as one of the most spiritually influential living people, and received numerous awards and accolades, including the Abbey Courage of Conscience Peace Award, whose other recipients include Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa, and The Dalai Lama. 

Matthew began his religious training in the Catholic Dominican Order pursuing a Doctorate of Spiritual Theology in Paris at the suggestion of Thomas Merton, the groundbreaking Trappist monk known for his extensive interfaith studies and explorations of mysticism across traditions.  This openness to a diversity of views and emphasis on direct experience perhaps set the stage for the first conflicts with the Catholic Church, when Fox later taught a holistic pedagogy in collaboration with a feminist theologian, a Jungian psychologist, and a physicist.  

Some time later, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (future Pope Benedict XVI) had Fox’s work and writings investigated for heresy -- an investigation that turned up empty after examination by a team of Dominican theologians. When Fox questioned the doctrine of “original sin”, Ratzinger banned Fox from teaching for a year. When Fox failed to condemn homosexuality, embraced feminist theology, and worked “too closely” with Native Americans, the conflict culminated in his expulsion from the Dominican order for “disobedience” several years later.

Matthew was received into the Episcopal Church where his innovative outreach and instincts for interconnectedness drew inspiration from rave parties as a vehicle to bring liturgy and church worship back into the lives of young people. He created a series of “Cosmic Masses” where he consciously reinvigorated Western ritual through ecstatic and visceral celebration over music and pre-modern dancing. These worship parties continue to this day and have been held in well over a hundred venues, including the Parliament of World Religions, and touched tens of thousands of participants through a spectrum of themes, including “The Black Diaspora”, “Rumi and Sufi Wisdom”, and “Economic Justice” among many others.

One of his greatest contributions has been to clarify and amplify the principles of Creation Spirituality, a paradigm shift brought out in his book Original Blessing that upgrades and reformulates prevailing dogma with broad, positive, and inclusive principles.  Fox’s conception draws on a close reading of Biblical sources, early medieval Christian mystics, and modern science, even as it seeks common ground with faiths and spiritual traditions from around the world. Many highly regarded spiritual figures have proclaimed that this work represents a rescue and recovery of a form of spirituality from within the depths of Christian heritage that has profound relevance for our modern times.

Matthew is the author of 38 books, including Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic -- and Beyond (forthcoming), Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, and the The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science and Spirit Meet.  His books have been translated into 68 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide. 

Join Rahul Brown and Aryae Coopersmith in conversation with this powerful voice of faith and conscience.

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