Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Pope's New Book

Pope Benedict XVI has release a book on the Christian identity of European culture. Apparently this was a work under preparation while he was Cardinal Ratzinger. Available only in Italian so far, it will be exploring that question with which Hans Kung began his heretical "On Being A Christian." Why be a Christian? Why not just be human? George Weigel has examined this issue, especially in reference to European culture, in his superb "The Cube and the Cathedral." And these are issues not only for Europe--we in America need to face the questions of culture, of ethos, of atmosphere, of social and interpersonal communication, of art, of expression, of language, and thus of ethics. We must answer the question: Why be a Christian?


Anonymous said...

Is Christianity like a mindset that God has given Man to choose if he wants, like a computer program? That is what it sounds like whenever someone talks about Christian ethics - that they are a type of mental reprogramming that will make humans into better creatures...but I thought God created all things good? You may argue that we are fallen but I don't fully understand how the Christian Ethics works on the world that does not have Christianity? Are they somehow left to be Lucifer driven animals until they get "touched" by the rationalizing pricipal of Christianity?

Perry Lorenzo said...

Well, Jesus give us His word that we are to be the Salt of the Earth--to flavor and beautify the world. Or that we are the Light of the World, a City on a Hill--to enlighten the world. Just look at how the Christian Faith tamed and transformed the Europe of the Romans and the Barbarians!

Anonymous said...

So Christianity takes the view that it was destined to come into the world at an apportioned time (2000 years ago) to lead the world toward "the city on the hill" or at least teach them how to allegorically be a people set apart, destined for holiness or heaven? What was it before that "moment of grace?" God's experiment...God's petri dish...or just a long wait for an unthinkable kind of rip in the fabric of reality via an otherworldy miracle. I don't know, sometimes if you think of these things too deep, it feels like all these holes just start emerging and leaking all the Faith out of the sieve of Hope.

Perry Lorenzo said...

Actually before that time there was the whole history of humanking on this planet . . .created by God, fallen, and going its own way. Especially, there was God's revelation to Israel--to Abraham, to Moses, to the People of Israel, to the prophets, all teaching, forming, and sanctifying one portion of humankind to be ready for the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. This whole process theology knows as "Salvation History". In no way were or are we God's petri dish. We are rather in God's Petrine Ministry!

Albertus M said...

Christian ethics - that they are a type of mental reprogramming that will make humans into better creatures.

I think a better way to start is that Christianity is not a set of rules, but first it is a relationship with the One who loves us.

When a married couple has a healthy marriage, things like "Am I supposed to get her another card for our anniversary" or "Do I really have to hug her when I walk in the door" don't come up. Instead, actions like that happen (or not) as a natural outcome of their mutual love for each other.

In the same way, Christianity properly begins with a realization of who we are in relation to God (he created us), why we are here (to participate in his love for us). The "way to act" eventually comes from living out our authentic relation to God, our neighbor, and the rest of the created world. It is not just a set of rules, like a computer program, that could just as easily be one arbitrary way as another. Rather, it is based on who we really are, and on what God has revealed to us about himself and ourselves as we truly are and are meant to be -- God's beloved children, created for complete happiness with him for eternity.

Anonymous said...

Well, for some of us, the thought process makes it difficult to fully comprend the meaning of salvation history and a relationship to someone who we can't fully perceive or even conceive except in dim shadows of the world around us. And though there are lots of shadows...the mystery of a tree or a lady bug for example...the desire for direct contact is so frusteratingly unfullfilled that it can lead to a sense of hopeless despair, despite that you may love your wife when she walks through the door. For some, actions speak louder than words but the simply act of speaking to another the words "I love you" can not be matched...sound carries with it a power that touch alone seems to require in order to bring completion for my soul. And yet, hope doesn't all drain away, perhaps because there are the reminders of beauty that hold my gaze or cause me to contemplate the profundity of the world around me, whether in nature or in man. It is like waiting and praying for the revelation of grace and finding it in small quantities and thereby hoping beyond all hopes that it might possibly point towards more, something greater and even better than just the little glimmer of joy.
Someone else I have read expressed it as such -
grace is everywhere for those who are able to sense its presence and are generous in their search for it in what might seem strange places. David Tracy describes the phenomenon of an encounter with "a classic" work of art (think the Cathedral at Chartres) "When anyone of us is caught unawares by a genuine work of art, we find ourselves in the grip of an event, a happening, a disclosure, a claim to truth which we cannot deny and can only eliminate by our later controlled reflection." He adds: "We are shocked, surprised, challenged by its startling beauty and it recognizable truth, its instinct for the essential. In the actual experience of art we do not experience the artist behind the work of art. Rather we recognize the truth of the work's disclosure of a world of reality transforming. if only for the moment, ourselves, our lives, our sense of possibilities, and actuality, our destiny."

I guess that is one strong reason to be Christian, even if it isn't the best or most meaningful.
Because it seems to lend narrative to beauty and render it meaningful, knowable and in its own way, the I love you many people so long to hear.