Thursday, October 30, 2008

Culture As A Basis of Revolution

What's the last political revolution you can think of that made a significant change to the way we understand the world? Which dictator or tyrant has overthrown a regime in order to show us the way to be more fully human and truly free? I can't think of any. A great thinker and professor of mine says that political revolution is just the changing of the hats. It's true. The new guys might have a slightly different look, but in the end power, money and might still rule. The basis of the system remains intact. What would a real revolution look like, you might ask. Simple answer: it would look like Christianity. If you've just stopped reading it's because you're not really open to thinking; you're more into reacting. You're not a free thinker... or you think being a free thinker means that all thought must originate in your own brain.

Really, the last (and I would argue only) revolution to hit our world is Christianity. Christianity is the last cultural change that actually put the world as anyone knew it on it's head. Have you ever read the beatitudes? The meek will inherit the earth. What!?! Who thought of that? - Um... God. The world looks different and less frightening when you begin to see that the world isn't fundamentally about the marketplace, politics and power, it's about culture. Culture expresses a worldview and our most fundamental beliefs about man. Christianity flies in the face of all the other answers our world has tried to give to the question of man. The secular world has produced such responses as Nazism, Communism, racism, Fascism, sexism, ageism, the gospel of health and wealth, consumerism, utilitarianism, Atheism, etc. What have all of these -isms had in common? They all fundamentally misunderstand who and what the human person is. Why? Because we don't understand the human person and his deepest longings and desires by becoming a society of navel gazing narcissists. The meaning and dignity of human life isn't self-contained. It's other contained. Our dignity comes through our being created for something greater than this life. Created for eternity...created for another... created for love.

"Love, love, love, blah, blah, blah..." you might be thinking. I don't blame you. Our world has reduced the word love to an utterly pathetic puddle of sentimental goo. We need to really ask, "what is love?". Again, Christianity has an answer for that. God is love. It's the ever existent (outside of time and space) eternal exchange that takes place in the Trinity. Um... yes, it's a mystery. The key to understanding a mystery is that you don't understand it from outside - you enter into it. It's messy and unclear, but more real than empirical science. In fact, this reality is the basis by which empirical science can express truths. What I mean to say is that unless there is something grounding all of existence (and therefore humanity too) we can't prove anything - we're reduced to pure relativism. If we're reduced to relativism, then empirical science doesn't tell us anything about the truth, but merely about a set of physical parameters that can be predicted and reproduced. Thus, we would be left claiming to know nothing about humanity... kinda like Barack Obama... he doesn't know when life begins.

Now, the key to being able to speak about the Trinity is to recognize that it is always infinitely greater than what you can say about it. That's just the problem of speaking about something infinite and eternal. Unless you're greater than infinite and eternal (which implies that the other infinite and eternal is really finite and temporal) you don't have the tools to exhaust the subject. That doesn't, however, mean that we can't say anything. We can say "God is", for example. We can say all kinds of things about God. But what does this have to do with a cultural revolution? Everything! If the interior processions of the Trinity are not the basis of existence, then existence is entirely disconnected from and unrelated to love. But wait, there's more! If, we can say that God the Father gives himself, in all eternity, completely over to the Son, who receives all that the Father is and has and makes a return of all that he has received in gratitude and obedience, then we can say that their giving and receiving constitutes (eternally - so always-already) the existence of a third... a Holy Spirit: a name which both describes and defines at the same time. He is Holy (i.e. not possesses holiness, or feels holy, or looks holy, but "IS" holy). He is Spirit - the spirit of the eternal exchange of love between Father and Son that is so real it expresses itself in generation. Existence that is so powerful it can create... hmm... then that means that being created is synonymous with being loved. That is to say, all of creation is the direct result of a freely given, and unmerited act of love. Wow! I'll be damned if that doesn't fly in the face of all those -isms mentioned above. Can you imagine being loved for no other reason than because you exist - and being loved for who you are?

The only way that man, as well as the rest of creation (puppy dogs and baby seals included), has any dignity or worth, is if at the heart of all creation and all existence is this freely given and unmerited love. That is what drives and sustains the world. That is the deepest longing of man's heart. That is the basis of what Christianity knows and proclaims to be the foundation of human dignity and culture. You see, man is not only created from this divine love that is eternal, freely given, and undeserved - but he's also invited to it. He is invited to share in this eternal exchange. Now, put that at the heart of your worldview and you'll get a cultural paradigm shift that will keep things spinning for at least a couple thousand years. That's what we call the Catholic Church. Christ came to show us what we were really made for and to free us from slavery to sin so that we could have access to this eternal exchange of love. In the end, Jesus Christ reveals to us not only who God is, but he "fully reveals man to himself."(GS 22)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Anthropology in Action

Recently, some friends of mine have successfully created a promotional video that focuses on a unique kind of life giving love. It's the kind of love that exists for others. Their video highlights the real and everyday activity and love of sisters. They are real women who have dedicated their lives to Christ. Through that dedication their lives have become beacons of light, of life, and hope to so many - especially the marginalized. This is the kind of love that serves as a light for an anthropology of being-as-gift. What I mean to say is that their lives are the lived expression of this anthropology. It cannot remain stuck in the world of ideas. It must be lived out, because ultimately it is not about an idea, power, or any other thing than a relationship with a person - God, revealed in and through Jesus Christ! Since love of Christ has become the center of their lives these sisters radiate the joy, fullness of humanity, and beauty of hope. To see it for yourself check out

Monday, September 3, 2007

Thoughts For This Blog

My intent for this blog is to keep up an online forum for the discussion and exposition of what I believe to be the only adequate anthropology of man. I begin this with the words of Etiene Gilson: "Man is a metaphysical animal". This statement highlights the fact that, while we must make an account of the subjective experience of our lives, we must recognize that our existence and being can only be understood in light of love - that is to say that we are all from and for another. We are the result of the unmitigated gift of self of another and called to respond to that gift in a return of love. That is to say that man has the possibility of imaging the reciprocal nature of God's love and therefore become co-creators with God. Our imaging the love of the Trinity is always greater in dissimilarity than similarity.
My contention is that the unending and reciprocal love of the Trinity is the dominant principle of all being and reality that must be explored and entered into in order to avoid reducing our experience merely to the political expression of power and authority. Power and authority must be at the service of love or they remain insufficient means of change in our world because they never revolutionize our world to the very core of being but only constitute a change in the external structures that govern the application of power and authority. To quote a friend and professor, " doesn't go to the heart of the issue but only changes the color of the hats."

In his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, John Paul II stated:
Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer "fully reveals man to himself". If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly "expressed" and, in a way, is newly created. He is newly created!
As this encyclical set the tone for his entire pontificate John Paul II began by pointing out the link between Wisdom and Love. This would set the stage to a more complete exposition of the inseparable link between faith and reason. When reason is correctly formed it does, in fact, lead man to the truth. There is, however, a limit to how deep one can penetrate the depths of truth and reality on the terms of reason alone. Reason, nonetheless, sets the stage for an understanding and an acceptance of Revelation. This must be the link between philosophy and theology. This is where man can proceed from simply asking the preeminent questions of life, such as "why do I exist?", "where do I come from?", "why, if God is good, can there be evil?". Ultimately these are the questions that a healthy society asks. These kinds of questions lead us back to the source and heart of all existence - i.e. Love. They cannot be answered simply because they always presume the interplay of a communion of persons and the subjective experience of this encounter with the other.
Upon his first arrival to the United States John Paul II commented on the great number of developments in the fields of technology, medicine, science, but he also asked a very sincere and pertinent question. He proceeded, "but where are your poets and artists?". It is the poets and artists who delve into these preeminent questions of life that must be asked by all thriving societies and cultures.
"God is love"58. Above all, love is greater than sin, than weakness, than the "futility of creation"59, it is stronger than death; it is a love always ready to raise up and forgive, always ready to go to meet the prodigal son60, always looking for "the revealing of the sons of God"61, who are called to the glory that is to be revealed"62. This revelation of love is also described as mercy63; and in man's history this revelation of love and mercy has taken a form and a name: that of Jesus Christ. (RH)
While much remains to be said this, I believe, is a good starting point for such a blog. Again, my hope is for the building of an "adequate anthropology" in the light of the work of John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Jean Cardinal DaniƩlou, and others who have recognized that the beginning of our search for man and his place in the cosmos must begin with the reality that we have all first received our being from another and that this utterly gratuitous gift elicits a response in love that calls us out of ourselves into communion with God and the world around us.