Ian Cron on Francis: Mystics and Prophets, Institutional and Emerging Church

This is the third part of a multipart interview with Ian Cron about his novel, Chasing Francis, which after three years is getting more buzz than ever. You can keep up with Ian on Twitter @iancron.

Mike Morrell: What about Francis and the institutional church? One would think he would have abandoned it.

Ian Cron: One of the things that makes Francis very interesting compared to a lot of what we’re seeing in the Post Modern Emergent conversations is that he was not anti-institutional. He actually honored the institution of The Church even in it’s screwed up state. He critiqued it with his life, not his words, and he wasn’t leaving it. He really felt like you could change it from the inside out. I recently read something by Jonny Baker about this very thing. Did you read that article?

MM: Yeah – the one in response to Kester Brewin’s series on Has What Emerged Retreated? Jonny says the idea of leaving institutions is, in his British parlance, “romantic tosh”.

IC: Heh – Yeah, he says it’s equally valid to change something from the outside and the inside. I agree.

MM: I think they both have valid points but Jonny’s really did stick out to me, that people who just want to damn “the man” and start their own thing do end up having to become institutions, and when they do, as often as not it can be just like what it replaced, if not more tyrannical, so why not at least try to make a good faith effort of working from within?

IC: This raises a really interesting point, too. One problem I’ve seen in the postmodern/emergent church conversation is you tend to have one of two different kinds of things going on: one is the emphasis on social justice. That’s a great thing unless you over-privilege social action and have no contemplative life. Someone who over-privileges social justice runs the risk of becoming an angry, disillusioned and very often, a smug activist. On the other hand, there are people who ignore social justice and only care about the contemplative life and this leads to a sort of saccharine piety. They start watching EWTN and saying the Rosary without any interest in the fact that so much of the world is starving to death.

MM: Yeah, I spent about a decade in a church movement that was very contemplative, and I feel like a lot of times we did veer into that danger where we really, at the end of the day, didn’t give a rip about what was happening in the outside world. I transitioned from that into this sort of Anabaptist, Anarchist, hardcore social justice world, and it was like a breath of fresh air to see people who really cared about what’s happening around the world, but, I did begin to encounter sort of an intolerance and almost a mocking of sincere expressions of love for God or spirituality that didn’t into the plight of the Post Modern world and things like that.

IC: Yes, you need both in tension. The commitment to social Justice should correct the excesses of the contemplative life and vice versa. That balance is very Franciscan.

MM: I can see that – there’s the deep impatience of the prophetic tradition, but then there’s the sense of “all will be well” in the mystical tradition; I think you need both to fuel the other.

IC: That’s right. And this is the beautiful polarity that Francis embodies so well.

This concludes part three.

Part One – Why Won’t This Book Go Away?
Part Two – Would Francis be Medicated Today?

The Chasing Francis interview is to be continued..!

8 Responses to “Ian Cron on Francis: Mystics and Prophets, Institutional and Emerging Church”


  1. 1 Ted Seeber August 4, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    In America- it’s pretty easy to see when social justice overrides the contemplative life- one begins to call evil good in a spirit of tolerance, to deny that sin is sin at all.

    Likewise it’s pretty easy to see when the contemplative life overrides social justice- one begins to ignore the big sins and call them good for others- because oneself isn’t materialistic and the assumption is nobody else is either.

    BOTH of these views ignore the reality that evil exists. ONLY in the creative tension *between* contemplative life and social justice- can we in Charity and in union with our Mother Mary and her Son- be “In the world but not of the world”, and thus do the real work to change the world.

    Far too many emergents in my book, have allowed social justice to override the contemplative life, to the point of trying to include everybody, even those who plainly do not want to be included.

    Far too many in the institutional church in my book, are victims of fraud and voting for fraud, because the con artist says all the right things then does the exact opposite. We make the con artist’s job easy- by fully documenting all the right things to say.

  2. 2 soma August 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I feel Christian Mysticism explains how our actions and thoughts within and without resolve themselves in the simplicity of the whole experience, when we focus on our simple unity in God’s pure consciousness and have become acquainted with God’s unity. God is outside and within ourselves in His pure consciousness, which can be witnessed inside, when we know that reality is more than what is observed outside with the senses. Letting go of what is little, Christian Mysticism enters into a larger concept of life where there is nothing to fear because we realize that conflict is the result of seeing only in part, not the whole picture.


  1. 1 Ian Cron on Francis: Mystics and Prophets, Institutional and Emerging Church « zoecarnate « Jason Smith Trackback on August 5, 2010 at 11:29 am
  2. 2 Ian Cron: Does Orthodoxy Have to be Static? « zoecarnate Trackback on August 6, 2010 at 12:55 pm
  3. 3 Chasing Francis, the Sleeping Giant « zoecarnate Trackback on August 10, 2010 at 1:35 pm
  4. 4 Ian Cron: Influences and Aspirations « zoecarnate Trackback on August 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm
  5. 5 Ian Cron/Chasing Francis Recap « zoecarnate Trackback on October 1, 2010 at 3:24 am
  6. 6 Ian Cron: Does Orthodoxy Have to be Static? | Mike Morrell Trackback on August 7, 2011 at 10:31 pm

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