In my latest phase in my faith journey, I’m convinced God led me to stumble across the work of Franciscan friar Richard Rohr because, wow, has his stuff blown me away. He’s shown up on a handful of podcasts I’ve listened to, including Pete Holmes’s You Made It Weird and Pete Enns’s The Bible for Normal People.
Across all these guest appearances, he’s used this same analogy over and over that has really stuck in my head lately: the three boxes. The three boxes refer to the general faith journey people go through. Some stick in one box their entire lives while others go through all three at some point.
Rohr calls these boxes the following: order, disorder, and reorder.
Order refers to the faith that is handed to us at the beginning. We generally know it as the general doctrine and biblical rules we grow up with in stuff like Sunday School and small groups. For those in the Order box, they generally accept faith matters at face value and don’t particularly question much anything. More to the point, these folks are generally comprised of fundamentalists that would instantly write off any such questioning as heretical.
Disorder, then, is an “unboxing” of everything that was handed to us, and not necessarily in a good way. We dismantle this doctrine or that biblical mandate because it seems whacked out, and to take it even further, some people think that if one pillar cannot stand, the whole faith building comes crumbling down.
Finally, Reorder analyzes each piece of faith closely and puts it back into a new container that is more rich and deeply understood than the traditional Order box.
Most people live their lives in one of the first two boxes. Where I think a lot of older people and precious generations really stuck to their guns with the Order box, my Millennial generation rolls around in the mud of Disorder. What’s of growing concern to me is letting that Disorder box get out of control, especially when it comes to raising kids. Some people would rather kids NOT be raised in a more traditional Ordered box, which is a post for another day!
Now, let me make something clear: the Reorder box is NOT reshaping faith in a way that caters better to a person’s individual needs. This is why I begin the post with the proverb that I chose. In the Order box, faith looks like one thing (a river and a mountain), then in Disorder it looks totally backward and broken (NOT a river and NOT a mountain), and through careful examination in the Reorder box, you find things look 99% the same that it did in the Order box. You just understand it better now and have a deeper appreciation for having explored it. (The river / mountain is itself once again!)
I think Rohr and I are on the same page, then, that I think we should all seek to live our lives in the Reorder box. Folks new to the faith might be better served by starting in Order, but ideally, we move from Order to Reorder without necessarily dwelling in Disorder.
So, how do we analyze where we are? I believe I only just recently entered Reorder myself, and I’ll share my journey through the boxes in another post. To help assess where you’re at, check out these questions.
For folks who might be stuck in Order:
Have you been in the faith for a long time and have never taken the opportunity to learn deeply about what it means to go through the regular motions associated with religion?
Have you ever written anything off as heretical?
Have you ever told somebody “This is the only way to do it”?
For folks in Disorder:
What did the church do that you found abhorrent?
Who in the Order box seemingly barked orders at you, without understanding the meaning behind what they are saying?
How has the LGBTQ issue affected your views on the church?
That last question is super specific for a reason: I genuinely feel like it’s the biggest driving wedge in the Millennial church today. Most students that I graduated with from my Christian university and no longer associate with the church because of that very issue. Doesn’t matter if you’re straight yourself, I feel like folks on both side of the sexuality line struggle a ton with this issue. (Which is why I give it so much attention!)
Okay, well, this post got way heavier than I intended. Friar Richard is way more jovial than I probably made him out to be, so if you want a much more cheery explanation of his three boxes, check out any of his guest appearances on the podcasts mentioned above. Catch you in the next post!