Archive for April 2012

Civil Rights Movement: another “sign #11

April 30, 2012

The Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the gospel”  said the cardinal document of Vatican ll, Gaudium et Spes.(#4).

The next 40 years saw much of the church embracing the signs as manifestations of the Holy Spirit.The Church was not yet societas perfecta, the perfect society containing the totality of truth. The Spirit was destined to break in with even more truth, deeper insights into the nature of life, into a fuller realization of the just society. This was painful to a whole bevy of clerics who thought that they had arrived, that their seminary education was  enough to get them through, to lead eucharistric communities. They were dead wrong. Many had breakdowns, became serious grumps and unless they read and opened themselves up, they would be missing a new inbreaking iof the Holy.

A great example would have been the Civil Rights struggle in the USA. It became obvious that a movement born of solidarity with the weakest was a holy moment.After all when we looked deeply into this secular movement (filled by the way with largely black religious people) one saw a movement built on non-violence (Jesus), one which dramatically upheld the dignity of the human person. Attacking these nonviolent activists was tantamount to rejecting God. Yet many of the white crackers doing the abuse were card carrying members of some branch of the Christian church. Not many Catholics in the south but there were  many Catholic churches which indeed were segregated. They were on the wrong side of history and  of the gospel.

Gaudium et Spes was a powerful motivator. In section 38 it stated hat “Jesus taught us that we too must shoulder that cross which the world and the flesh inflict on those who search after peace and justice.”

The Church had read this particular sign and based on the reverence for the human person, a major part of the Jesus ethic. It de facto blessed engagement in the civil rights movement.

So, as was stated in the last essay, it was easy for the Synod of Bishops six years after (1971)  the end of Vatican ll and three years after Martin Luther King’s murder to say that” Action on behalf of justice is a constitutive part of the gospel.”In other words, it is central to being a Catholic Christian.

The next decades we watched as so many bishops, priests, nuns and lay people marched into Latin American history to defend the poorest of the poor.Bishops like the martyred Romero paid the supreme penalty here.He had read the signs of the times and knew his role was on the side of the marginalized in El Salvador.Yet the day he was murdered the Polish pope egged on by terrible information and a poor analysis of Latin American conditions had Romero’s dismissal as archbishop on his desk.

How could he have been so blind? Well for one his right hand man Joseph Ratzinger who had never been active in justice movements listened to the wealthy prelates and their patrons who painted Romero as some Commie dupe, a follower of Marx.

And so it went throughout Latin America. Bishops and lay leaders on the ground who had read the “signs of the times” were brave enough to “shoulder the cross” of the lives of the humiliated poor.That was where Jesus was.That was where the Spirit was. That was where crosses were.

Those decades were shining Spirit moments for the Church.The blood of the martyrs had once again been the seedbed of the Church.

Finally by the mid 80s Pope John Paul ll came to his senses, repudiated the present pope and stated that Liberation theology was necessary.

In the last decades much of the “signs of the times” witness was undone by both John Paul ll and Cardinal Ratzinger. What happened?

Very simply they replaced evangelical giants of the Council, bishops like Romero, Lorscheiders, Casaldaliga, Silva, Girardi, Ruiz, Mendes Arceo, Helder Camara, Cardinal Arns—the list is endless, with pious hacks who were blind to the signs.They retreated once again into the safe precincts of a church disengaged from history.

Justice in the World ignored by current bishops Signs 10

April 28, 2012

no-you-cant-have-faith-without-justice-so-you-cant-keep-faith-out-politics

You can’t have faith without justice, so why has the 40th anniversary of this significant church statement, signed by almost every Catholic bishop around the globe, not been celebrated and lifted up at this time in our history when we desperately need to inspire the Catholic community and all people of goodwill to seek ways to address the root causes of poverty, oppression and ecological devastation.”

 So writes the Jesuit Forum letter of April/May 2012 signed by staffer Anne Marie Jackson

Bravo for the Jesuits and the 87 year old dynamo Bill Ryan sj for daring to state the obvious:

The 40th anniversary of the influential 1971 Roman Synod document Justice in the World passed by in silence in the official Church both at the Canadian and Vatican levels. That raised some worried eyebrows, because anniversaries of an important encyclical or statement are very often used by the Vatican to re-emphasize the teaching that was the point of the document.

Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.”

You simply can not have faith without justice—the point being that the JP ll bishops by their silence do not believe this.Their limited focus is basically internal and obsessed  by pelvic orthodoxy. This is also the reason the Vatican is going after the nuns who were able to read the signs much more clearly because of their own marginalization in the Catholic Church.

It is all about “the signs of the times”—and this crop of bishops have seen the signs pass them by—the cry of women, the cry of the earth and the cry of deep ecumenism—viz.  that the Catholic Church can not possibly contain the totality of God, that there are salvific elements in all Christian communions.

The signs were abundant in the 60s and 70s—many Catholics were attuned to them. We recall nuns and priests marching in Selma, Alabama in solidarity with Dr.King’s movement.With their presence and with the accompaniment of millions of the baptized they stated the obvious: God expressed Godself when walking  for inclusion and against racism, for marching for peace in the Vietnam years instead of cheering “My country right or wrong”.

Rabbi Heschel seen above challenged the inward looking synagogue to join God in the fray.They asked him how he felt after Selma: “I felt like my legs were praying…” They were.

Today we see few bishops defending unemployed workers, supporting the environmental movement, risking their mitres to reject the sinful exclusion of women from receiving all seven sacraments. The result sadly is another “sign of the time” depressed  Catholics simply walking away and distancing themselves from a disengaged “leadership.”

Good for the Jesuits for pointing out the embarrassing silence around the 40th anniversary of Justice in the World.

New signs, new metaphors #9

April 26, 2012

Sally McFague’s metaphor of the Earth as the Body of God has much to recommend. The body is ravaged, in pain. Sin then is to ignore the body, to walk on by the pain, to refuse responsibility for caring for it. This speaks to our sense of sacrament, the divine is present in the world. Most of all, this model resonates with our contemporaries. There is a language here that communicates powerfully to fellow earthlings in ways which are much more dramatic and cogent than the “elsewhere” God. It links us in a compelling way with the earth. And to the Christian Story.

We know from our science that an emergent universe continuously “dies” so that new forms might appear.There  are profound moments of sacrifice as the universe moves to higher degrees of complexity and consciousness.Berry ( or was it Joni Mitchell in her song Woodstock)

We are stardust

We are golden

And we’ve got to get ourselves

Back to the garden

When a supernova exploded in enormous heat scattering itself as stardust into space  more than 90 elements were formed.It was only then that the Earth became possible and life and consciousness.This Berry suggests is a “sacrificial moment” which helps bring about the solar system and the extraordinary yet gradual efflorescence of life as we know it. Thank you, Charlie Darwin!

Now this new eruption is a violent happening—yet a moment of cosmological grace.It is a physical event—and a spiritual one as well.This is seen in Paul’s mysticism we have previously alluded to but also the famous Fourth Gospel: “All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being. (Jn1:3,4)God is in the process. Dying and rising, death and resurrection always.

All theologies in the end are metaphors, which serve in enabling us to understand the relationship of God to the world. None can exhaust God but it should be obvious that the distant transcendent monarchical and patriarchal God has seen its day as a metaphor capable of energizing contemporary believers. Theologians like McFague, Thomas Berry, John B. Cobb, Matthew Fox, Rosemary Radford Reuther and others are tapping into a rich vein here. A massive paradigm shift is afoot and is being fought tooth and nail by fundamentalists in all major religions. Readers of this essay might wish to familiarize themselves with their liberating thought.

The universe, our world then is “in God” though God is not reduced to the world. But what we have seen and understood only latterly is that with the coming of the post war Industrial Age, God’s body was being ravaged, scarred and torn apart. Forests began disappearing along with topsoil; species vanished, water became polluted and ozone  depleted. In the last few decades we noticed that weather patterns have been disrupted with the incidence of destructive storms, hurricanes and tidal waves increasing.  Mother earth literally was dying while mothers’ milk became polluted. Children with puffers are a common sight in our elementary schools. Radiation experts like Sr. Rosalie Bertell consistently have warned us of the damage to children in neurodevelopmental disorders, increasing congenital abnormalities and an increase in certain childhood cancers.

Our Aboriginal peoples who kept this wisdom alive are barely surviving. The “free enterprise” turbocapitalism has left a world in ruins. The modern myth of Progress, in Berry’s words, has created Wasteworld rather than Wonderworld. The market mania of ever expanding Gross National Product has produced a Gross Earth Deficit. Up until the past few years virtually no one could challenge this economic fundamentalism, this founding myth of capitalism. The Dow trumped the Tao and the venture capitalist and robber barons who brought us Worldcom, Enron and the 2008 bankster-driven catastrophe became the saints of the modern world. The largest Canadian newspaper the Toronto Star contains two Wheels sections glorifying fossil fuel depletion. There is no Ecology section in the paper.

And then something happened. The Great Turning began. This phrase of Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy well describes the global awareness that a kairos was upon us. Almost in a relatively short span humanity seemed to shake itself from its trance, rise from its autism. All over the world people began to name the shadow side of modernity described above. A spiritual revolution began which linked the human being to each other, to the earth community and to the cosmos.

As the Bard said, the readiness is all and it seemed that the human community was finally ready to hear the cry of the earth. For years the ecoprophets had been drowned out by the humming of the technological world, submerged by the arrogance of the neoconservative moment which had trumpeted corporate power, patriarchal control and the economics of empire. Finally the damage done to every part of creation became abundantly clear to all and the Holy Spirit of Resistance broke the global trance. No longer could global warning be denied with any seriousness. A former vice-president, Al Gore in 2006  produced a film called An Inconvenient Truth which was literally shown all over the world to great acclaim. A DVD was produced in November 2006 and is in constant use  in schools. Governments at every level started to move though predictably the Canadian government under neocon  Stephen Harper lagged behind others. Harper previously had described the  Kyoto Accord which limits greenhouse gas emissions as “essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of  Canadians.” He then  uttered a dire warning that such a priority was too expensive.

One would have thought that the Catholic Church, inspired by “the signs of the times” Council and the newly discovered “forgotten God”, the Holy Spirit would have embraced the cry of the Earth .

Sadly, it did not, has not and remains a captive of a pelvic theology and a very weak episcopal leadership recently commented on by Richard McBrien,the Notre Dame theologian and  our foremost ecclesiologist.

If there are any reasons for the bad patch the church is now going through, it is the appointments to the hierarchy and the promotions within made by John Paul and Benedict. By and large, they have all been conservative. That’s why so many Catholics have left the church, are on extended vacations, or are demoralized or discouraged.”

Demoralized and discouraged because “the signs of the times” are so evident to so many Catholics but the institutional leadership refuses to see.

The Cosmic Clock Signs 8

April 25, 2012

Carl Sagan, the late, brilliant American cosmologist who died at age 62 in 1996  in his book The Dragons of Eden (1977) introduced us to the now famous cosmic clock. It was an ingenious way to telescope the 14 billion year history of the universe into a single year. At this scale the Big Bang took place on January 1 at midnight, and the current time is mapped to December 31 at midnight…

The first fact that stuns you is that we are very late newcomers on the scene. This is a humbling reality.When you discover that all of recorded history  occurs in the last ten seconds before midnight.

Holy feces, Batman! check our egos at the door.

Humans from the crudest inception have been around for one-tenth of 1% of earth’s history….and Jesus is born at 11:59 and 56 seconds.Wow! And is salvation history just in the last two thousand years?

What does this do to our Creed? Our idea of God? Jesus?

This amazing story jet fueled by Darwin  describes an amazing process of complexification, diversification and novelty.

Christians believe that this indeed is a wild place, unpredictable as hell.Much easier to believe in the safe landing of heaven than deal with random genetic mutation, natural  selection over eons. No wonder Darwin had a breakdown knowing that the static God, the transcendent Unmoved  Mover, the God unrelated to the cosmos and creation was really dead.I mean who needs a God  unrelated to us, presiding over from the death and destruction  inherent i natural processes and in human history

It is now obvious that the old symbol system which served us well for centuries can no longer hold our new understanding of the universe. The old wineskins have simply become porous, dried up and cracking under the strain. New wineskins are dramatically needed.

Berry’s thinking would appear to be a window into a much needed new paradigm. So far Rome has treated him as a non-person.

Diarmuid O’Murchu, another evolutionary thinker the Vatican appears to have ignored  puts it this way:”At this cultural moment there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that that the boundaries of sacred space (Jerusalem, church, mosque, synagogue) and sacred word (Bible, Torah, Koran) cannot hold the spiritual energy embodied in religions”(Religion in Exile).

The Church, and in particularly the Catholic Church with its highly centralized Roman theology seems incapable now of breaking out of the fall/redemption model so beloved by fundamentalists  and indeed the Vatican bureaucracy. Church documents today resemble the preacher who, when he could not convince his audience wrote down in his notes,”At this point, shout louder.” Examples are many but the following will have to suffice here. In Dominus Iesus (2000) this statement:

As an innocent lamb  he merited life for us  by his blood which he freely shed.. In him God reconciled us to himself and to one another freeing us from the bondage of the devil and of sin.

and from the Catholic Catechism, Adam and Eve are real people:

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

Sally McFague on the other hand is a theologian who has given the ecumenical ecological community new ways to look at God—as friend, lover, mother and embodied in the world as God’s body. This last metaphor is particularly apt for us today since it is creation-centred rather than redemption oriented. It is focused on the incarnational presence of God in nature. McFague states the obvious: how utterly holistic this way of thinking is  when compared to say, God as king, judge or lord. Monarchical models like these connote distance, power, hierarchy and patriarchy. They are out of tune with our age. They say nothing to the nonhuman, sensate world. “God’s body” (and remember it is metaphor) connotes intimacy, closeness, care, nurturance and sustenance. Though not reduced solely to the Body (pantheism) God is absolutely present. This body may be poorly cared for, unattended and suffering. Vulnerable to be sure. Here the metaphor hints at the suffering love of Jesus on the cross. This is a God at risk in the evolutionary process but again, not reduced to it. One major plus for this model would be that it suggests that God loves fleshy bodies surely an antidote to the anti-sexual and negative anti-body teaching too long associated with a male celibate Catholic leadership.

Isn’t this exciting?

The biblical record with the Divine unfolding in creation and history where in Paul’s words (Romans) ‘we come to know the invisible nature” of God was merely preparing us for this New Story.

Freeman Dyson phrased it well:

The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in someone sense must have known we were coming.”

Thomas Berry and the new story Signs 7

April 24, 2012

For those who see everything in terms of God  the entire world is one grand sacrament.Every thing and every historical event appear as sacraments of God  and God’s divine will.

So said Leonardo Boff, the brilliant Brazilian theologian.Boff grasped the great strength of the Catholic vision. God is always mediated. God comes through not down.There was a giant in our community who devoted his life to the huge issue of human-earth relations. The  earth, the cosmos is our essential sacrament.The Body of Christ is the entire universe. Look what we are doing to it!

Thomas Berry, Passionist priest  died on June 1, 2009 and left a body of writing which continues to inspire us,His impact has been and continues to be enormous.He understood before any that we faced our ultimate crisis in the continuous degradation of the planet.

Coterminous with Berry’s gradual appearance on the global radar was the impact of the Apollo moon shot  in 1969.Many of us can recall with utter amazement the breathtaking shots of our Mother Earth, “the big blue marble” beamed back to earth.The British astronomer and cosmologist Fred Holyle predicted at the time, “”Once a photograph of the earth taken from the outside is available a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” Earth Day began the next year.

Berry who was born in 1914  had been radically influenced by the  cosmic musings of Teilhard de Chardin (d.1955), the Jesuit paleontologist whose visionary work on the evolution of the cosmos brought him into conflict with the Vatican still tethered to the biblical redemption story. VAtican ll in a sense was a time for Catholics catching up to Protestants as a biblical religion, hence the focus on “salvation history.” As if God had not always been active, saving and recreating.

Here came Berry shifting foci to the universe as the primary religious reality and the primary sacred community, the primary subject of incarnation and the primary unit of redemption. Whew! A slow theological turn had begun.

Now Catholics could join everybody else  win a single Creation myth. The science now was there but it needed a numinous dimension which the Bible might add.

The ramifications for theology became obvious.If the earth has been evolving for 14 billion years, what does this say about the Jesus story and our fixation with “the personal savior orientation” we all grew up wituh.one can readily see that the Vatican looked askance at Berry.He pressed on. The facts loomed large: how are we to think about the 115 billion galaxies out there, estimated to be 15-20 billion years old.It is obvious from the hints at my last essay that after Darwin,einstein and Hubble our theology ha lost a  vital connection with the new scales of time.

It is obvious that the traditional story we have literalized in scripture has lost power. Next to the majesty and the mystery of the New Story it lacks fire, juice and any trace of elegance. It has little purhasing power.Any creation story must now be told in light of the new science.

Here  the atheist Carl sgan gives us some perspective. With his Cosmic Clock he placed us in astrophysical time.What if we could compress the 15 billion year lifetime of the cosmos into a single year. To this we turn next time.

Readings: Thomas Berry

The Dream of the Earth  1988

The Universe Story  1992

Signs pt 6-beyond Fall Redemption

April 23, 2012

An arrogant “donkey-bishop”, Catholic variety, had the gall to sneer at the United Church when a friend came to talk to him.Typical of too many of the JP2 brand of imposed bishops, this man was full of hubris in impugning  a fellow Christian community. So convinced is he of the fullness of truth within the precincts of Catholicism, that he cannot envision any other Church adding anything to wisdom.It is of no import to him that for every one who enters the Roman Church three are leaving because of the failed leadership and hubris official spokespeople like his lordship.

As stated in a previous essay,  one of the stunning new movements of the Spirit, one of the obvious “signs of the times” in the post Vatican ll era has been the deep understanding that the Holy has been speaking forcefully through the earth and indeed the cosmos.

But one would ever know this at the parish level in most Catholic churches. In  Catholic parishes  we are spectaculat undertachievers in hearing the summons of the Spirit as she appears in ecological movements. We obsess about the Serra club (a group dedicated to fostering male appliocants to the prieshood); we should  have a Sierra Club in every parish in North America.

There are many reasons for missing the Spirit call in the midst of the rising cry of the earth in our time. One alluded to in a previous essay was our tardiness in moving away from the “fall redemption” theology we all grew up with. This focused on the Crucifixion and the price paid for our salvation by Jesus.The desire for this “personal salvation” and the excessive fear of hell and hope  for the heavenly realm trumped everything. Redemption has usurped creation for too many of us. Focused on heaven, we have forgotten the earth and the summons of the immanent God.We have devalued our material order. Given the sacramental nature of Catholicism this is a stunning lapse.Fr.Richard McBrien in his book Catholicism sums up the sacramental principle for us:

No theological principle or focus is more characteristic of Catholicism or more central to its identity than the principle of sacramentality. The Catholic vision sees God in and through all things: in other people, communities, movements, events, places, objects, the world at large, the whole cosmos. The visible, the tangible, the finite, the historical—all these are actual or potential carriers of the divine presence. Indeed, it is only in and through these material realities that we can even encounter the invisible God,

Prescinding upon this, Leonardo Boff states the obvious:
For those who see everything in terms of God  the entire world is one grand sacrament.Every thing and every historical event appear as sacraments of God  and God’s divine will.”

One would think that churches, and in particular, Catholicism  would change over time to reflect this  orientation. The Earth is our central sacrament Yet we still are stuck with the Nicene Creed, a fourth century summation of belief. This hardly names our present reality and leaves this generation cold.

Notice here below how the United Church has changed to reflect this new “sign of the time.”It has moved beyond  the strictly human obsession with ourselves as the sole locus of ethics to a more encompassing  cosmic theology which addresses both ecocide and biocide. Seminaries are still pedalling outdated curricula.

A New Creed

We are not alone,

we live in God’s world.

 

We believe in God:

who has created and is creating,

who has come in Jesus,

the Word made flesh,

to reconcile and make new,

who works in us and others

by the Spirit.

 

We trust in God.

 

We are called to be the Church:

to celebrate God’s presence,

to live with respect in Creation,

to love and serve others,

to seek justice and resist evil,

to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,

our judge and our hope.

 

In life, in death, in life beyond death,

God is with us.

We are not alone.

 

Thanks be to God.

 

and here are three books tro consider:

 

The Dream of the Earth  Tom Berry–A primer on ecology an the New Story

Gaia and God     Rosemary Ruether  More on the New Cosmology

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth- Matthew Fox

 

 

 

The Earth: the fundamental sign of the time

April 22, 2012

The veteran folk singer Tom Paxton  appeared at Hugh’s Room in Toronto on Friday April 20. My wife Joan and I attended his concert an and he remarked that on Earth Day (today)  he would be in Tarrytown, NY joining 92 year old Pete Seeger for a concert “in honour of the planet” and to aid environmental projects in the Hudson Valley to which Seeger has been active for decades.

Paxton sang this song which he penned for the first Earth Day 1970.This will serve as an introduction to maybe the greatest and most important “sign of the time” which the Roman Catholic Church has failed to attend to in recent history

Whose Garden Was This?

Words and Music by Tom Paxton

Whose garden was this?
It must have been lovely.
Did it have flowers?
I’ve seen pictures of flowers,
And I’d love to have smelled one.

Whose river was this?
You say it ran freely?
Blue was its color?
I’ve seen blue in some pictures,
And I’d love to have been there.

[Cho:]
Ah, tell me again I need to know:
The forest had trees, the meadows were green,
The oceans were blue and birds really flew,
Can you swear that was true?

Whose grey sky was this?
Or was it a blue one?
Nights there were breezes?
I’ve heard records of breezes,
And you tell me you’ve felt one?

Whose forest was this?
And why is it empty?
You say there were bird songs?
And squirrels in the branches,
And why is it silent?

[Cho:]

Whose garden was this?
It must have been lovely.
Did it have flowers?
I’ve seen pictures of flowers,
And I’d love to have smelled one.

This staggering fact of ecclesial amnesia bordering on autism will serve as a warning as how potentially irrelevant the Roman Church has become in the eyes of millions of its adherents in the past forty years.This omission from the main stream of church life stands out as one of the reasons the institution has become so uninspiring  to so many people.

In this first essay on the topic, we ask a simple question: on this holy day of “ordinary time” how many sermons in Catholic Churches will be preached on the topic? How many dioceses can one name where this issue of global warming/climate change has had pride of place?

Well, all is not lost. powerful Catholic voices have been raised to join “the words of the prophets written on the subway walls and tenement halls”, words, songs,literary flares in the secular night to warn us of the impending catastrophe.The good news is that below the radar great voices have kept insisting that the Spirit’s presence has been present animating and energizing the lives of humans and nature

One voice however  stands out in the Catholic pantheon, one voice which was never diverted from other worthy signs, one voice which resolutely proclaimed that the globe must confront “the environmental crisis”.We will look at the work of Catholic priest Thomas Berry

 

Signs of the Times pt.4

April 20, 2012

So we have charted the demise of the Holy Spirit over the past 500 years. We have looked at the deleterious effects of this Christomonism. The person of Jesus simply can not bear all the weight that is placed on him.it’s as if history stopped when Jesus “died for our sins.”—full stop, end of story. Hardly. Not only does  this not make any sense—as we were not around  at that time but this undue emphasis on the Christ event seemed to foreclose the future and as Jurgen Moltmann reminds us, “Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving”. Well not much forward movement when you are constantly looking through the rear view mirror.We would then have an Easter church—but no Pentecost.

Look at the history of the early Church and the absolute proof that the failed Jesus cult was anything but.The greatest proof of Easter and Pentecost is the growth of the Church.The promised Comforter seems to be afoot building up the Body—but the Spirit should never be seen as totally the preserve of the Church which increasingly became bureaucratized.

Now on the other hand a too facile emphasis on the Spirit leads to a certain amount of craziness—as we have seen in the outbreak of excessive Pentecostalism. Utterly convinced that through their tongue speaking, exorcisms, putative healings and emotional outbursts that God is sanctioning their arcane stances, Pentecostalism as all isms needs to be grounded in a holistic understanding of the Trinity. For a Christian everything leads back to the man, Jesus who is “the sign of the time.”

It is obvious as the bumper sticker says When did Jesus become pro Rich pro War and only  pro-American?

Much damage has been done  to Christianity by the proliferation of weird sects and top heavy bureaucracies like Catholicism. when they are not tethered to the historical nonviolent jesus and the beatitudes.

The Eastern (Orthodox churches) managed a connection between Christology and pneumatology.

I finish this essay with a few comments on the dangerous problems in the Roman Church when it “forgot tthe Spirit.”

Now as stated before there were always mystical break outs, holy fools and prophets who were reminding the Church that it had ceased being energized and warmed by the spirit. here we may mention “Il Poverello”, the Little Poor Man, Francis and his followers who staked the claim to Jesus the defender of the poor; look at his friend Clare(d.1253) who challenged the arrogant papacy in similar terms.We have the Rhineland mystics—Hildegarde, Mechtilde, Meister Eckhart and really a host of others whose writings railed against the excessive institutional  control, the hyper rationality which ended in dogmatism. As Alfred North Whitehead said, “Religions commit suicide when they find their inspirations in their dogmas.” Or as Newman laconically observed, “Nobody dies for a conclusion.”

Writing in 1926,Whitehead warned That “You  cannot limit the inspiration to a narrow circle of creeds. A dogma – in the sense of a precise statement – can never be final; it can only be adequate in its adjustment of certain abstract concepts.

The Roman Church forgot this by 1500 and we were brought up with finality, the lack of spirit, an ossified fundamentalism later shattered by the physics of our evolving universe.And this: a papolatry which morphed under JP ll and Ratzinger into “creeping infallibilism.” Our hearts were not touched but as we shall see the Church attempted to fill the gaps with another symbol: Mariology.

Signs of the Times Pt 4

April 20, 2012

So we have charted the demise of the Holy Spirit over the past 500 years. We have looked at the deleterious effects of this Christomonism. The person of Jesus simply can not bear all the weight that is placed on him.it’s as if history stopped when Jesus “died for our sins.”—full stop, end of story. Hardly. Not only does  this not make any sense—as we were not around  at that time but this undue emphasis on the Christ event seemed to foreclose the future and as Jurgen Moltmann reminds us, “Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving”. Well not much forward movement when you are constantly looking through the rear view mirror.We would then have an Easter church—but no Pentecost.

 Look at the history of the early Church and the absolute proof that the failed Jesus cult was anything butThe greatest proof of Easter and Pentecost is the growth of the Church.The promised Comforter seems to be afoot building up the Body—but the Spirit should never be seen as totally the preserve of the Church which increasingly became bureaucratized.

Now on the other hand a too facile emphasis on the Spirit leads to a certain amount of craziness—as we have seen in the outbreak of excessive Pentecostalism. Utterly convinced that through their tongue speaking, exorcisms, putative healings and emotional outbursts that God is sanctioning their arcane stances, Pentecostalism as all isms needs to be grounded in a holistic understanding of the Trinity. For a Christian everything leads back to the man, Jesus who is “the sign of the time.”

 

It is obvious as the bumper sticker says pastedGraphic.tiff

Much damage has been done  to Christianity by the proliferation of weird sects and top heavy bureaucracies like Catholicism. when they are not tethered to the historical nonviolent jesus and the beatitudes.

The Eastern (Orthodox churches) managed a connection between Christology and pneumatology.

I finish this essay with a few comments on the dangerous problems in the Roman Church when it “forgot tthe Spirit.”

Now as stated before there were always mystical break outs, holy fools and prophets who were reminding the Church that it had ceased being energized and warmed by the spirit. here we may mention “Il Poverello”, the Little Poor Man, Francis and his followers who staked the claim to Jesus the defender of the poor; look at his friend Clare(d.1253) who challenged the arrogant papacy in similar terms.We have the Rhineland mystics—Hildegarde, Mechtilde, Meister Eckhart and really a host of others whose writings railed against the excessive institutional  control, the hyper rationality which ended in dogmatism. As Alfred North Whitehead said, “Religions commit suicide when they find their inspirations in their dogmas.” Or as Newman laconically observed, “Nobody dies for a conclusion.”

 Writing in 1926,Whitehead warned That “You  cannot limit the inspiration to a narrow circle of creeds. A dogma – in the sense of a precise statement – can never be final; it can only be adequate in its adjustment of certain abstract concepts.

 The Roman Church forgot this by 1500 and we were brought up with finality, the lack of spirit, an ossified fundamentalism later shattered by the physics of our evolving universe. And this: a papolatry which morphed under JP ll and Ratzinger into “creeping infallibilism.” Our hearts were not touched but as we shall see the Church attempted to fill the gaps with another symbol: Mariology.

Signs of the times: forgetting the Spirit

April 19, 2012

The Holy Spirit: made flesh in Selma, Alabama

Why has the JP2/Ratzinger crowd failed to  grasp the signs of the times? That is the question.

One of the institutional reasons is the Roman Church’s  downplaying pneumatology (The doctrine of the Spirit).

One of the great benefits of the early Church’s pluralism, its evolving out of five key centres,  was the Orthodox Church’s highly evolved pneumatology.

They really believed that as the Johannine gospel suggested

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. Jn 14:12

As I previously had written, the consistent teaching of the Church has been God’s ongoing activity in creation.The scriptures are replete with Spirit activity -in the life of Jesus and in the early Church. She animates, quickens, enlivens but she is somewhat wild and untamable and scurries off mainly into the world. Maybe even Roman Emperors were touched. Antoninus Pius (138-161 CE) presided over a golden age of peace in the empire.Not perfect but friendly to Christians and Jews.

Wherever life is fostered,”more worthy of man in history” as the great Schilebeeckx says,  God’s Spirit is operative.

Orthodox theologians developed a much nuanced pneumatology, accusing the west justifiably of Christomonism, a theology which is truncated as it seems to obsess over and stop at Jesus—with little room for the Spirit or the cosmic Christ. We see this in the gorefest of Mel Gibson’s Passion,  a theologically bankrupt portrait of Jesus where his reign, teaching, life and resurrection are bypassed. Everything falls on the salvific death as in “Jesus died for your sins”, almost a meaningless phrase today.

The past five centuries popular theology has been stuck at the level of “salvation” Protestants insisted on faith alone, Catholics added good works but where was the Spirit, that elusive and forgotten activity of the God “in whom we live and move and have our being?” (Acts 17:28).This spirit was virtually narrowed into the Magisterium for Catholics and his? activity in the personal salvation of Protestants.

The mystical tradition of course kept this teaching alive. Creation as Matthew Fox keeps insisting and the indigenous peoples of the world before him, creation is the original blessing! Poet William Everson says that the mystic(and all of us are potential mystics) “grapples God on the earth, God in the sea, God in the sky.”

Medieval man was traumatized by stunning events such as the Great Plague of the mid 1300s. He yearned for “salvation”, from the Latin word for safety “salus”. And there stood Jesus on the Cross at Good Friday,Gone was the cosmic presence of the Spirit! Well not, entirely gone, but gone underground and domesticated and controlled by the Magisterium.

 

 

In the West where we grew up, we ended up with this wholly transcendent and remote monarchical God who apparently broke through the natural law with miracles.The immanent indwelling God, present to all of creation had almost vanished. Now the Third Person is being rediscovered.This is the key: rediscovered. A very ancient teaching.The planetary, cosmic Spirit is back but she is dangerous!

When one embraces a developed pneumatology, the institution can not control it. That damn Spirit keeps showing up in the most awkward places! And not only in nature or in our evangelical private hearts. This Spirit, this Spirit of Jesus is more like Karl Marx’s “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions.” In other words pushing against alienation at the heart of life.

The Latin American bishops in 1979 stated that “the Spirit is making longings for liberation in our peoples..” This is the Spirit of the anawim of the beatitudes, the same Spirit who anointed Jesus in his inaugural sermon in Luke (4:18) when he preached  good news to the poor and freedom to the captives.” This eruption of the Spirit was seen  in dire areas of poverty in Latin America where  men and women, lay and ordained, challenged conditions which oppressed God’s holy people, prevented them from  living fulfilling lives. Here was God in action, the God of a new Exodus demanding liberation. Prophets like those of old germinated, names mow legendary in the south: Romero, Ruiz, Arceo, Casaldaliga, Camara, Lorscheider, Silva. Martyrdom became commonplace.We remember Jean Donovan, nuns Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, Dorothy Stang. Alice Dumont and Leonie Duquet who disappeared in Argentina’s Dirty War and countless others, all vehicles of the Holy Spirit.

The very lives of these people, particularly among the well-ensconced  in Rome and elsewhere explains why the Church is so often cool to legitimate movements outside the walls of the church. Their witness of necessary contestation unnerve us.They remind us of “the dangerous memory” of Jesus so often domesticated in our overdeveloped consumer world.

The old joke applies here: The Roman Church always arrives late on the scene and a little bit out of breath. The past two decades for example the institutional Canadian Catholic Church has almost totally divorced itself from justice struggles. It too often limits itself to the comfortable ecclesial world of charity and private piety. The well-tested adage about the Catholic Church goes: If she doesn’t lead the parade, she’s not in the parade.

It’s about control and as history shows you simply an not control the Spirit. And  bishops have to be in control.

James Roberts

I close this essay with a salute to a great priest who stepped forth in a time of a vicious attack on the common good  by the BC  Social Credit government

In July 1983, when the government introduced 26 bills in its restraint program including the termination of public-sector employees  without cause, and  the proposed lay off  of 25 percent of the civil service. Fr. Jim Roberts was a Brooklyn-born community college teacher. He stepped up as one of the three leaders of the Coalition to fight the draconian legislation.At this time the Church was totally disengaged from the social struggle. Jim gave voice not only to the ancient biblical demand for justice but he gave ears to those on the margins of the church. The price he paid was huge. Absolute marginalization from the chancery whom he he had to sue for his pension.

Until his death at 78 in 2006  Roberts continued to speak  out against the gender injustice in the  Catholic Church. He was never afraid to join other justice-seekers in the fight against social injustice, Jim did not have to be at the head of the parade.He was happy to be in it,

Acknowledged to be the brightest priest in the Vancouver diocese, Roberts eschewed the “scarlet fever” so may clerics were infected with. In the chancery and on his way to the mitre and the crozier, Roberts stepped out and joined the community of disciples who were simply attempting to follow Jesus. Ordained before the great Council, Jim Roberts discovered the BC Social Coalition to be “an authentic sign of the times”.

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