Simplicity by Richard Rohr (book review with quotes)

Simplicity by Richard Rohr (book review with quotes)

Simplicity by Richard Rohr book review and quotes

Both my husband and I enjoyed this book by Richard Rohr, who is a Franciscan priest much appreciated by contemporary protestants of all stripes. He is calling Christianity to re-examine business-as-usual which I think is a terribly good idea.

I marked many passages to share with you, and already shared one with you here on my blog before. Here are the rest:

  • “…the church body cannot ask of its members what it has not exemplified; and the members cannot ask of the body what they will not risk themselves. Who goes first?”
  • “There is always room from more simplicity.”
  • “…and that’s the real meaning of fasting: to be emptied of your own images.”
  • “I believe that we have…transformed the Gospel into self-control. On the other hand, I am convinced that the Gospel itself is about self-surrender.”
  • “It was a woman who said yes, so that Jesus could come into the world.”
  • “Our conclusion isn’t left or right, but rather the option for the poor. If you begin to analyze things intellectually, you always find truth on both sides. But we think the Gospel has given clear directive to stand on the side of those who are victims. We call this the ‘bias toward the bottom.'”
  • “In my opinion, there are three primary things that we have to let go of. First is the compulsion to be successful. Second is the compulsion to be right– even, and especially, to be theologically right. That’s an ego trip, and because of this need churches are split in half, with both parties prisoners of their own egos. Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control. I’m convinced these are the three demons Jesus faced in the wilderness. And so long as we haven’t looked these demons in the face, we should presume they are still in charge.”
  • “There was once a TV program called ‘Life on Earth’ in which the whole history of creation was telescoped into a year. The earth began in January. Around April the reptiles first made their appearance. In September came the mammals. I don’t remember all the intermediary stages, but I know homo sapiens, the ‘wise men’ as we like to style ourselves, emerged in the last three minutes of December 31. That means the whole Judeo-Christian tradition was played out in the final milliseconds of December 31. I find it hard to believe that God was speaking for the first time in those final milliseconds. St. Bonaventure called creation ‘God’s fingerprint.’ We’ve forgotten to study this fingerprint because we’re so busy with our theological theories.”
  • “As I like to say, ‘When God’s kingdom comes, your kingdom goes.'”
  • “We’ll never conquer evil if we launch a frontal assault. If we do that we may incorporate into ourselves the energy and the weapons of evil. We can end up turning into what we hate. That’s why Jesus told us we have to love our enemies; otherwise we become just like them.”
  • “Jesus’ commandment isn’t, ‘You shall be right,’ but ‘You shall love one another.”
  • “I have a rule of thumb that says that those who believe they are holy aren’t.”
  • “I personally believe that we rather totally missed Jesus’ major point when we made a religion out of him instead of realizing he was giving us a message of simple humanity, vulnerability, and non-violence that was necessary for the reform of all religions – and for the survival of humanity.”
  • “We need to be concerned with following Jesus, which he told us to do seventeen times, and less with worshiping Jesus– which he never once told us to do.”
  • “The only person who prays well is the one who prays often.”
  • “It’s very important that we bring the contemplatives and the activists together in the Church. Because neither is credible without the other. Both incorporate only a half of Christ. … This means that the Christian life must be a constant journey back and forth between the radical way inward and the radical way outward. We all begin on one side or the other. That’s why we all have to be converted to come to the place where they meet. Ir’s the path of the true Church and the way of Christ.”
  • “For me there are four important new interpretations of the Bible: The first is to read it through the eyes of women. Women normally don’t start right off by asking questions about power and control. Second, there’s the reading of the Bible through the eyes of the poor. At the beginning of this century 70 percent of Christians lived in North America and Europe. In the year 2000, 70 percent of all Christians lived in the Third World. And therein lies a great hope for the conversion of the church. The third kind of exposition is through community, instead of the endless individualistic interpretations of the prosperous West. I came to know this above all in Africa, but also in other countries, where men and women still think as a group, as a tribe, as a people… The fourth new way of reading the Bible is with the eyes of the mystics, with the eyes of contemplatives.”
  • “I believe that religion is the safest place to avoid God, because God wants to lead us to self-surrender, and all too often religion teaches us only self-control.”
  • “Jesus would never have broken through as the fresh Word of the Father if he had, for example, acted non-violently in a feminine body. It would not have been Divine Revelation because we expect and demand that women be patient, nurturing, forgiving, healing, self-effacing, and self-sacrificing. Women are expected to be nonviolent in a violent male society…That is why [Jesus] had to come for us in the body of a man.”
  • “The Father that Jesus knew looks amazingly like what most cultures would call ‘Mother.'”
  • “Our ego finds incredibly imaginative ways to avoid letting go–even as we claim to believe in the absolute authority of the Bible. Let’s all be honest and admit that our various denominations have one and all been only selectively obedient and have picked out only certain Bible verses that backed up our theological biases.”
  • “We’ve taken what for Jesus was a journey into the unknown and turned that into a life insurance policy. I’d be glad to find a clear economic plan in the Gospel; but the only thing Jesus gave us unequivocal enlightenment about was the great danger of wealth. He said quite clearly that we’re not supposed to get rich.”
  • “I believe circumstances change us, not sermons. We’re changed when we move on to a new place and when we expose ourselves to the truth of a different standpoint, one that’s not our own.”
  • “Religion is a very dangerous business. I believe it is the surest way to avoid God. The scribes and the Pharisees in the Bible illustrate this well enough.”
  • “We’ve turned the Gospel into a kind of spiritual capitalism… and spiritual possessions are the most dangerous of all.”
  • [Being a Christian] never depends on whether we say the right words, but whether we live the right reality.”
  • “Meister Eckhart said that the spiritual life has more to do with subtraction than addition. But in the capitalistic West, we keep climbing higher up the ladder of spiritual success, and we’ve turned the Gospel into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. What we should do is get ourselves out of the way! Then God will be evident.”
  • We all have to start from the assumption that our path too leads into the wilderness and that we have to look exactly the same three demons in the eye: the need to be successful, the need to be righteous or religious, and the need to have power and get everything under control. Until we have starred down these three demons within us, there is no possibility of getting out of the wilderness and proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Otherwise we’ll be proclaiming our own kingdom. We use the Gospel to enthrone ourselves, and then the inner and outer ways split apart. God calls us to take the path of inner truth… Less really is more. Only those who have nothing to prove and nothing to protect, those who have enough space in them to embrace every part of their own soul, can receive the Christ. And Christ himself will lead us on this path.”
  • “I believe… that the Gospel imparts to us in the first instance a process and not a specific series of propositions about faith. If we turn the Gospel into a series of dogmas, we’ll spend our whole life defending them.”
  • “A large percentage of Christians are still afraid, as if God need us to defend divine truth, as if God needed us to defend God’s work.”
  • “What we need here is not excessive self-consciousness but authentic contemplation…. This is what will happen when we expose ourselves to silence and stop exposing ourselves to the judgements of the world; when we stop continuously ‘picking up’ the energy of others; when we stop thinking about what others think of us and what they take us to be. We are who we are in God–no more, no less.”
    Do I hear an amen? It seems to me his thoughts are right on the mark, and I will read more from him in the future. You may want to too. I give this slim volume five stars.



I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.


  1. Karen 7 years ago

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share some of your favorite moments from Richard Rohr’s important and eloquent book, Polly. I just ordered a copy for myself!

  2. Lauren 7 years ago

    I agree! Thank you for the quotes. I too am ordering a book. Loved ‘thy kingdom come – my kingdom go’ ;) pretty simple !

  3. Joe Herring 7 years ago

    Rohr is very popular with my colleagues in the Diocese of Atlanta, and I much appreciate your selections from his work.
    Jesus’ temptations throw light on many of our own. STONES TO BREAD. ” If you are Messiah, you’ll feed Israel in its desert
    now, as Moses did then.” Jesus was hungry, so the bread would have fed Jesus, not Israel. Temptation : use personal resources to serve oneself, not ones mission. JUMP OFF TEMPLE. ” The angels will rescue you. Your ministry could be pain-free ( crossless ). Temptation : seek a cost-free commitment to God. GET COERCIVE POWER. “Use Satan’s means to achieve
    God’s ends. ” Temptation : to act as though ends justify means.


  1. […] A book about redemption, freedom, or transformation: Simplicity by Richard Rohr (my 5 star review here) […]

  2. […] book by Franciscan monk Richard Rohr is extremely progressive for a Catholic. I liked the other book of his I read better, as it was less theological, but I appreciated this one for its contemporary thought and […]

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