Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Opposite Of Idolatry

What an honor to think that all of you before me are Christ! Even the humblest peasant, maybe pondering there next to a radio, you are Christ!
St. Archbishop Oscar Romero:  Sermon of 13 January 1980

If anyone had expressed scandal at what Oscar Romero said in that sermon, he could have cited the best authority on the matter, what he said in the Gospel according to Matthew, 25:40, in which Jesus says that what you do to the least of people you do to God.  That is as radical an identification of the lowest level of humanity with God as is possible to articulate in human terms.*

The intellectual sterility and emotional puerility of popular atheism as posted about here last night shows in how stupid and barren its proposed blasphemy is.  Even that is banal.  To call it the depth of bathos would be to give it too high a status.   One of the things I've learned is that even a fairly simple level of engagement with what the scriptures actually say is beyond such goofy stupidity.  They either don't know about or they can't get what those really say so they're left to take pot shots at stuff like people who imagine they see a - usually white-European style picture - of Jesus or Mary or something like that.   What Christ looks like is someone who is destitute, someone who is burdened under terrible debt that is destroying them, someone who is sick, someone who is a victim of addiction,  someone who is discriminated against.  Our various economic schemes and political systems generate a continual stream of living images of divinity, all of them as variable as the faces of those people. "He that has pity on the poor lends to the LORD"  Proverbs 19:17.**  And, as pointed out recently,  secular, would-be liberals are as likely to add to that as anyone through their clear hatred of the underclass.  "Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him."  Proverbs 14:31

So, you can snark about images of Jesus on a grilled-cheese sandwich or a dog's anus all you want. The reality is that anyone who mistook the pattern on the grilled cheese or a tortilla or a potato chip or in the water stains on a building is missing the face of Jesus all around them in the entirely more impressive manifestation that image in living beings.   That is the real, miraculous and hard, demanding manifestation of God all around us.

*  The first theological insight I learned from Gregory of Nyssa—and I suspect the last to which I shall cling when all others fall away—is that the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is not merely a cosmological or metaphysical claim, but also an eschatological claim about the world’s relation to God, and hence a moral claim about the nature of God in himself. In the end of all things is their beginning, and only from the perspective of the end can one know what they are, why they have been made, and who the God is who has called them forth from nothingness. And in Gregory’s thought, with an integrity found only also in Origen and Maximus, protology and eschatology are a single science, a single revelation disclosed in the God-man. There is no profounder meditation on the meaning of creation than Gregory’s eschatological treatise On the Soul and Resurrection, and no more brilliantly realized eschatological vision than his On the Making of Humanity. For him, clearly, one can say that the cosmos has been truly created only when it reaches its consummation in “the union of all things with the first good,” and that humanity has truly been created only when all human beings, united in the living body of Christ, become at last that “Godlike thing” that is “humankind according to the image.”

David Bentley Hart:  God, Creation and Evil The moral meaning of creatio ex nihilo

I defy any secular radical to come up with any framing of reality more likely to lead to the elevation of the destitute, the discriminated against, the other than this.

**   I can't imagine most Christians, right-wing or liberal, even those who allegedly believe every word of the scripture is literally true in the most naive sense of that and, even a command, would want to follow that policy of lending.  I'd love to hear someone bring up that verse at some Congressional or Senate hearing on financial policy just to hear what the discussion of it would be.   Obviously, hardly anyone really trusts God to be in their credit, no matter what characters they insist on engraving on the currency.

As has been pointed out many times, the Gospel is radical in a way that secular radicalism can't begin to fathom.

It reminds me of the story that Brueggemann told of the Georgia lawmaker who insisted on posting the 10 Commandments in courthouses or some such other place.  Someone had the wit to ask him if he knew what the 10 Commandments commanded, he didn't know though he vaguely recalled one of them said something about adultery.   Since he was almost certainly a Republican he might tell it to Trump or Giuliani or Gingrich or .....

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