Saintly Essays & Discussions

Theologico-Political Musings

I understand the urging that could trick the poets into proclaiming the death of God.  How we might yearn for such freedom (or what we perceive as such freedom).  But the death of God can never be fully realized in the hearts of human beings until we develop beyond the point of mindful abstraction and become uninterested in the specter of our own demise.  While the latter can (and often is) assiduously trained out of us (though I doubt often much to our benefit), the former seems to me a far less likely vestige to ever be rid of [nor something desirable to be rid of, for it is in our powers of abstraction that lies the foundation of all human thought—from mathematics to imagination].  We are beings whose instinctual wisdom is often wiser that the wisdom of our intellects.  While we preach ultimate emancipation of the self, we still preach in the idiom of the salvific story, whether we seek that salvation in our selves (materialism) our society (collectivism) or in the divine (transcendentalism) [note: nihilism or apathy might also be possibilities but I have yet to decide if nihilism is possible to practice consistently and apathy and ignorance seem more a natural gift of the individual mind that a conscious life choice—for in a sense to recognize one’s apathy is to cease to be comfortably apathetic].  No matter whatsoever we choose, we choose for ourselves a god which promises some level of retreat from the wilderness of our earthly existence.  By this I mean that for most persons, mere physical perpetuation of the body is not enough for a full life and thus we will always seek something more.   

One may view the 20th century (to some extent) as the death of the cult of collectivism.  While not all of her experiments were failures (I do not claim that no good has entered the world by means of the collectivist impulse; I would even claim an aspect of collectivism cannot help but be tied to a form of transcendentalism) our naive belief in the power of the human collective to join into a unifying and beneficent whole has been, at least for a time, curtailed; however there is an amusing alignment between the materialistic and transcendental aspects of liberalism in the language of Universal Human Rights [by liberalism I mean here the underlying set of political goods common to both the right and left within our western political system].  The current pangs of our de facto materialistic system have somewhat reinvigorated aspects of the hard collectivist imagination, but I suspect that it will be sometime (one or two generations, if our present age should last so long) before any real resurgence of wide-spread collectivism will take hold in western society (I might argue that the age of small self-contained collectivist communities may have once again arrived, but I have no evidence to back-up this conjecture—nor are such musings original to me).  We are trapped in an age between ages, which has co-opted the nihilistic liberation of the self with the transcendental principles of a diminished (though still, I think, vital) cultural Christianity.  It is important that we realize that this is a hybrid situation, one in which the logic of contrary impulses of liberalism—our solipsistic libertarianism (call it nihilistic materialism if you will) and our transcendental human rights—stand in stark and abiding dialectical conflict with one another. [Let me not be misunderstood: neither solipsistic materialism nor transcendental rights are per se incoherent in and of themselves; I only mean to suggest that they represent contrary impulses within mature liberalism].

So long as this detente remains in effect, we live in the happy land of the in-betweens.  This is the triumph of western liberalism and I support our efforts in maintaining this ultimately unsustainable state of affairs for as long as possible.  I say this because, although I don't perceive this model to be rationally coherent, and any rationally incoherent system will eventually break under the tension of its competing internal vortices of power and rationale, it is this very balancing of conflicting and mutually exclusive impulses that forms the basis of sound politics in the modern world.  To the simple person (or the person who has had the good sense to avoid thinking on such things) this tension is hardly felt, and can be handed down effectively from generation to generation.  To the slightly more intelligent person, who sees the mendacity of the system but only cares for their own self-aggrandizement, they have too much invested in their own self-idolization to do much harm, for they will constantly serve either one master or the other in turn.  No, those who are to be feared are the persons of principle and vision.  The persons who recognize the inherent flaws lying at the foundations of the world system and through their own hubris or their own idle curiosity cannot help but dig out and critique those deep things which any viable polity would do well to keep hidden—these persons of principle (whether their principles spring from the well of the self or the well of the divine) are those whom society needs truly fear.  For it is they, whether in the pride of their being or the compassion of their love for justice and truth will dredge up the deep things, and cause that stable muddle of society to falter. 

Should society then seek to silence such persons?  No, society has not the tools to prevent their appearance.  Like the many headed hydra, once such men and women begin to arise, striking down one or two will only cause doubly more to arise in their wake.  It is good for those secret truths, birthed not in mendacity on the parts of the founders (necessarily) but the results of flaws of the human character unforeseen at the inception of the republic, to come to light, even as their emergence destroys the system.  Once such prophets arise, their truths will inexorably make their way into the collective thought of a society.  Perhaps some will effect only minor changes in the system, and easy fixes may be made to allow the lumbering beast of this civilization to carry on its merry way.  Perhaps some may effectuate a paradigm shift large enough to shake the foundations to the core, but in the end, the civilization that emerges is continuous with the one that came before.  But in the end, the paradigm will shift so dramatically that the resulting age will be rested from the present with blood and carnage.  Revolution (both within the self and within society) is inevitable and necessary in this age of mankind.  Revolution is terrible and should be avoided at almost any price, but when it comes into its own, may those who are unlucky enough to exist in such an age still steer the middle course of prudence?  I would say yes, but the prudence in an age of revolution is different than the prudence in a time of peace and middling mediocrity.  Do we live in such a time of revolution?  I am not a prophet, so I cannot tell.  I hope not.  What bliss it is to live in a time of mediocrity, when men and women are not called upon to sacrifice upon the altars of the gods, whether those gods be real, false, or imaginary (which is not quite the same thing as false)!  But what I do know is that God has prematurely been pronounced dead.  If ever the dread logic of the dissimulation of the Divine will speak to the mass of society, it will take more than coercion and famine and terror and reason to solve our plight; it will take a fundamental change in the very nature of mankind and the universe.  

           

[Note: This first section is mostly sociological/political in its descriptions (even those which necessarily employ religious language).  I found myself musing further concerning possible solutions to what seems to be a value-laden dead end, and these musings became much more theological and poetic in character.  I don’t necessarily think these musings describe a normative solution to the described plight, but they do accurately describe the only way forward that the already formed furrows of my mind’s channels suggest.  Feel free to read further if you think these theological musings might be useful to you, or ignore it if your mind suggests other viable alternatives (and please let me know what your thought suggests).]

 

What then do I proclaim?  I proclaim that God is not dead, but I do not claim that He is Living (at least, not in these words here; this is not the place for such a pronouncement).  God is not dead but He is hidden from us.  Hidden, you say?  Where has He hidden Himself?  You misunderstand me, I respond; God has not hidden Himself from man, man (supposes) he has hidden himself from God.  We may, in hiding ourselves from God, have gained some wisdom from the experience; that is possible.  But we are fooling ourselves if we believe that He has been fooled.  I suspect all that we have done is anger Him.  The Christian age has taught us that the way of salvation is belief and trust.  Perhaps so.  But one may have faith and trust in many things which are never to one's benefit.  Belief itself, whether coupled with works or not, is not enough.  What is enough, then, you ask?  Why nothing is ever enough, I respond.  Nothing you can ever give is enough.  And the moment that you gave enough, more would be required.  Then what good is this God of yours, if all He offers up to us is riddles and pain?  Do you fear Him, I ask?  We think you speak nonsense, you respond.  Do you fear nothing, I ask?  We have tried to fear nothing, you respond; but the fears of our childhood have followed us into our maturity.  We fear the wind at midnight, we fear the screeching owl, we fear the wolf baying at dawn, we fear the unseen slithering things in the darkness, we fear the ogre who will catch us unawares on a forest path and stuff us into his rotting and fetid mouth, we fear the faerie who steals the last breath from our dying lips, we fear the abyss that stretches out past this earthly existence into eternity.  We fear what lies beyond.  Good, I respond!  You have rediscovered your fear; it never really left you.  You exorcise your fear with false incantations and potions and lusts and art, but none of these things can satisfy the fear that clings to your breast as you lie alone in the middle of the night, knowing that you must face the abyss alone, knowing that none of your fellows will be able to help guide you into that cold dark night.  You may rail against your fate, you may ignore it, you may calm yourself with ascetic practice, your may laugh at it, you may worship it, but none of these things will save you from this fear.  Then what is left for us, you ask?  From human hands, I respond, nothing.  Nothing human may be provided past a true knowledge of the fear which lies deep within the hearts of mankind.  But it is only out of such fear that grace may emerge.  Fear is the key, not even fear of God in the beginning, but a true recognition of the nameless dread that we all should fear.  Does this fear necessitate God, does it promise relief, you ask?  No, I respond, this fear promises nothing but more fear and madness.  It may consume you, it has consumed many before you—it threatens to consume me.  But failure to acknowledge the fear will not save you in the end.  It will take you (all of you) unawares.  If you desire pleasure and ease (for a short time) ignore this fear; but if you desire truth (not even salvation as such, but truth) then embrace the fear, live with it every-day, let it wash over you like a bath of burning pitch, let it scar you and consume you!  What then, you ask?  Any further, I answer, I cannot take you.  I give you the tools of your own experience, the world around you, and what wise writings you may find.  Anything more is not mine to give.  Anything more I cannot even give you assurance that I have received.  The only thing that I can offer you is that to remain where you are is folly, for God has been prematurely pronounced dead, and His Face shall not remain hidden forever.