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Thursday, 11 November 2010

Theology, politics an spirituality

I have been reading Barry Harvey's dense but significant book Can These Bones Live? A Catholic Baptist Engagement with Ecclesiology, Hermeneutics and Social Theory (Brazos, 2008).

A few notes on ideas and passages that struck me particularly in the second part of the book relating to the issue of spirituality.
 The fear of God entails accepting our very existence as gift, and to accept this is to come face to face with our contingency, our vulnerability as creatures, And from  this fact, says Nicholas Lash, nothing follows. Here we are. This is how things are. That's it. No safety belts, no metacosmic maps or guidebooks, no mental cradles for our 'ultimate' security. (pp252-3)
The spirituality promoted by state and market, by contrast, seeks constantly to capitalise on our fear of death, so that they might manipulate our creaturely vulnerability and anxiety to consolidate their hold upon our loyalty. Popular piety corrupts the insatiable human longing for wholeness and integrity with the lure of security, safety, stability and predictability through the eradication of tragedy. ... In some ... the lust for mastery runs roughshod over our created solidarity with one another and with all the world, as we are alternatively encouraged, enticed and threatened to seek safety and stability by taking ownership of the people and things around us.  For others ... the quest for security serves to drive them further and further away from the pain and disappointment of day-to-day contact with others, in a vain attempt to carve out an inner world of safety and tranquility within themselves. They flee to the inner garden of the soul to be alone with Jesus. (pp.256-7)
The discipline of unselfing divests us of the illusion that "I" exist apart from creation, apart from history, apart from a community, apart from a tradition, apart from the habits and relations that comprise my dealings with others. It is a discipline of demythologizing the working assumptions of contemporary existence, foremost among which is the idea that each of us is free to make up our own story, that our lives belong to ourselves instead of being a gift. (p.260)
 On Remembrance Day the following passage seems highly relevant:
 ...our own speech betrays us, for while the making of offerings to blood-thirsty gods is not generally a part of the working vocabulary of most nations, the language of martyrdom and sacrifice ... most certainly is. Time and again those in the military who have died for their country are extolled as having made "the supreme sacrifice." The question immediately arises: (Note: or it should but mostly doesn't) To whom do we offer this sacrifice, if not to the gods? If we respond to the God of Abraham ... then it would seem we are tacitly admitting that Christ's sacrifice was not sufficient ... If we say instead that we offer it to the nation-state of which we are a part, we are granting to a part of the created order what belongs entirely to God ... (pp268-9)

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