Archeology: a fancy word for speculating about our ancestors
Another distinguished writer, again, in commenting on the cave-drawings attributed to the neolithic men of the reindeer period, said that none of their pictures appeared to have any religious purpose; and he seemed almost to infer that they had no religion. I can hardly imagine a thinner thread of argument than this which reconstructs the very inmost moods of the prehistoric mind from the fact that somebody who has scrawled a few sketches on a rock, from what motive we do not know, for what purpose we do not know, acting under what customs or conventions we do not know, may possibly have found it easier to draw reindeer than to draw religion.
G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
In the same vein, David MacCauley, Motel of the Mysteries
Frederick Buechner has met Christians who remind him of American tourists in Europe: Not knowing the language of their listeners, they speak the language of Zion loudly and forcefully, hoping the natives will somehow comprehend. They seem cocky with faith, voluble with their theology, and content with a God who resembles a cosmic Good Buddy. Their certitude both fascinates and alarms him.
Phillip Yancey, Frederick Buechner, the Reverend of Oz
The Machine almost compels a bit of hypocrisy
To fail to reach lofty goals is not hypocritical, and even to publicly defend those goals while knowing you have failed to reach them is not hypocritical if you are open about your limits.
… If stepping outside the Machine were possible, then it would not be necessary.
Irony is politically important. It is important because anything less than an unreachable ideal will be caught by the Machine, eviscerated, repackaged, and sold back to you in a form that is exactly the same apart from the way that it drains everything good from your soul. No idea, no belief, no institution, and no practice is beyond the Machine’s grasp. Only the ideal, being formless, is safe. Of course, the ideal, being formless, is also beyond our grasp, so we cannot cling to it for safety. If we try, then we will cling instead to our idea of it; and if we do that, we will soon find out that our idea was the Machine’s all along. The only way to succeed is by committing so completely that failure is inevitable. And this is the other reason why we need irony. The completeness of our failures reveals to us the depths of our absurdity. This is a gift. Will-to-power needs us take ourselves seriously. It is the product of pride and it struggles when we genuinely laugh at ourselves.
FFatalism, Is asceticism ascetic?
I was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam era, who ended up serving his country by, so to speak, emptying bedpans in Peoria. In the ensuing decades, I’ve never become a hawk, but I’ve wondered whether I was right back then, whether I was trying to retain a purity that this fallen world doesn’t really allow.
Yesterday, I read this (including the full surrounding essay) from a Priest who, serving as chaplain “for the airmen who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, and gave them his blessing”:
Ethical hairsplitting over the morality of various types of instruments and structures of mass slaughter is not what the world needs from the church, although it is what the world has come to expect from the followers of Christ. What the world needs is a grouping of Christians that will stand up and pay up with Jesus Christ. What the world needs is Christians who, in language that the simplest soul could understand, will proclaim: the follower of Christ cannot participate in mass slaughter. He or she must love as Christ loved, live as Christ lived and, if necessary, die as Christ died, loving ones enemies.
For the 300 years immediately following Jesus’ resurrection, the church universally saw Christ and his teaching as nonviolent. Remember that the church taught this ethic in the face of at least three serious attempts by the state to liquidate her. It was subject to horrendous and ongoing torture and death. If ever there was an occasion for justified retaliation and defensive slaughter, whether in form of a just war or a just revolution, this was it. The economic and political elite of the Roman state and their military had turned the citizens of the state against Christians and were embarked on a murderous public policy of exterminating the Christian community.
Yet the church, in the face of the heinous crimes committed against her members, insisted without reservation that when Christ disarmed Peter he disarmed all Christians. Christians continued to believe that Christ was, to use the words of an ancient liturgy, their fortress, their refuge, and their strength, and that if Christ was all they needed for security and defense, then Christ was all they should have. Indeed, this was a new security ethic.
Father George Zabelka, Blessing the Bombs.
Father George is right about Christian history. The Orthodox Church required a time of repentance, including abstention from the Eucharist, for soldiers who had killed even in a “just war.”
I find reassurance for my youthful conscientious objection in that, thought I was inspired more by Menno Simons (“Spears and swords of iron we leave to those who, alas, consider human blood and swine’s blood of well-nigh equal value.“) than by the Fathers of the Church.
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