Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dara Malloy and The Globalisation of God

"What the Celtic monastic paradigm establishes beyond doubt is that this form of spiritual community can achieve not only personal transformation but the transformation of human society. Personal and social transformation can take place without war or violence, without an imperialist or colonial agenda and without any top-down imposition of ideas. Celtic Spirituality offers the possibility of avoiding dogmatism, fundamentalism and all other temptations to control or change the behaviour of others from the outside. It emphasises change in oneself and invites an heroic commitment to one's own transformation" pg. 185.

My first encounter with Dara Molloy took place when I googled "Celtic Priest" one day. Up popped Dara's name and website (which is linked  here) and I decided to take a peek.  As I read about Dara, I was fascinated to learn that Dara lives on a small, remote island off the coast of Ireland, Inis Mor. I've been to similar islands in Scotland in the past, Jura and Islay to name a few, and believe me they are tough, rugged places, and not for the weak of heart. Almost like living on Skellig Michael! And yet what else would one expect from a modern day Celtic priest? Living apart, on the edges of the culture, just like the Celts of old. This raised my curiosity level a few more degrees. And as I read more about Dara, his interesting spiritual journey, his distinct take on the world, I realized this was a person I wanted to learn something more about. We spoke on Skype several times and therefore, I was delighted when my copy of The Globalisation of of God (2009) finally arrived in my mailbox. 

The Gobalisation of God  (GOG) is an interesting as Dara Molloy the person. GOG is a fascinating blend of  history, theology, spirituality and cultural and social analysis. A clue to the main argument of GOG is contained in the cover image. There, a parasitic cuckoo chick kicks out the indigenous egg from  the nest. So too, GOG goes onto convincingly demonstrate that Roman Catholicism "kicked out" and destroyed the "local" expression of Christianity in Ireland. This was a tragedy because the ecclesiatical colonisation of Ireland destroyed a vital and distinctive brand of Christianity.

This book is an entertaining read, with many unexpected twists and turns. Personally, I found the sections on Celtic Christianity and the Celtic Church to be the real strengths of the book. Obviously Dara knows the history well, and he writes with great poise. For example, Molloy outlines in a fresh and convincing way, how the Celtic Church thrived for nearly 800 years on its own, in splendid isolation, without any outside interference from Rome. There are terrific sections on the hermits of Egypt, St. Patrick, St. Columba, St. Columbanus and others. There is also a super chapter on Pelagius, detailing his intellectual brawls with Augustine. Yet,  as I hinted at in the opening quote above, the real brilliance of GOG is the way Molloy holds up the model of the Celtic Church. In so doing, Molloy provides a way forward for faith communities. The kernal of that message is to "go local", to build a spirituality from the ground up, from the community around you, and the relationships you share. Other key principles include simplicity and respecting diversity; believing that life is sacred; staying close to the natural environment; emphasizing simplicty.

GOG will challenge you, and I think Dara is onto something significant here. Although I don't agree with everything theologically that Molloy says, (what Celt would?) GOG got me thinking more about a bottom-up approach to spirituality. Dare I say an earth based AND people based spirituality. It made me question my relationships with people around me, and what I am doing to be connected with what is going on "locally". We've discussed before how one of the worst features of Western Christianity is that its too often individualistic and brain centered. Here's another example where the Celtic Church of the past can be a model for the present. The focus on relationships with people, communities, and the earth  help to keep the faith relevant, issue based, rooted in people, and something more than just some intellectual formula.

GOG reminds us of just how great spirituality can be. We have a phrase here in Hawaii, which is "local style" and describes the way folks do things differently than others.  This is another way of saying we need not do things in a cookie-cutter fashion like Wall Mart or Home Depot. Local customs, traditions, and styles should be celebrated-even in church. Else such structures are no different than McDonalds or some other franchise.

This book is a must for all Celtic lovers, and especially those who are interested in Celtic Christianity. You can order The Globalisation of God from Dara's website or Amazon.

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