Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Notes and Links

* Ethiopian church forests (ht)

* Lodi Nauta, “Magis sit Platonicus quam Aristotelicus”: Interpretations of Boethius’s Platonism in the Consolatio Philosophiae From the Twelfth to the Seventeenth Century (PDF)
Julia Ching, The Problem of Evil and a Possible Dialogue Between Christianity and Neo-Confucianism (PDF)

* Beth Haile has a nice post on natural law reasoning and its relation to moral theology.

* The Basilica of Sagrada Familia has had its first arson fire. Most major churches do, eventually, although usually people aren't lighting them on fire while there are still people inside. No one was harmed, but the damage, while quite localized, seems to be fairly extensive: everything in the sacristy was destroyed, and smoke damage is everywhere; they may also have to rip out significant portions of the building's electrical system.

The Basilica and Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, of course is Antoni Gaudi's (still as yet unfinished) masterpiece, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and perhaps the single greatest example of Catalan Modernist architecture.

* Some Good Friday meditations worth reading (I'll put up any more that I find later):

Good Friday: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
(Brett Sakeld at "Vox Nova")
Thoughts for the Day (Joseph Komonchak at "dotCommonweal")
The Sublime Joys of Atonement (unagidon at "dotCommonweal")
Casualty Call: Reflections on Good Friday (Joe Carter at "First Thoughts")
Christ and Him Crucified (Peter Leithart at "On the Square")
Why the World Needs Good Friday (Jennifer Fulwiler)

Reflections on Good Friday (Peter Wehner)
Re: Reflections on Good Friday (D. G. Myers)

* This was part of a meditation by Sister Joan Chittister on Lent:

Lent is not an event. It is not something that happens to us. It is at most a microcosm of what turns out to be a lifelong journey to the center of the self.

The purpose of Lent is to confront us with ourselves in a way that's conscious and purposeful, that enables us to deal with the rest of life well. It is not a "penitential season." It is a growing season. It requires us to determine what is worth dying for in our own lives and what it may be necessary for us to become if we really want to live.

Lent certainly is a growing season, but since Lent is also an event, something that happens to us, and a penitential season, and since the actual purpose of Lent is, and has always been, to prepare us for Easter so that we may be prepared to be confronted with the Risen Christ, I think this sums up why it is difficult to take Chittister seriously even when she says things with which one agrees.

It also shows up a problem that seems to be common among Catholics today: the tendency to try to play down things that seem negative even when they are required for the coherence of things that are played up. Lent's very nature as a growing season depends on the fact that it is a penitential season: everything in it is designed to encourage repentance and self-discipline. And its being a growing season depends also on the fact that it simply is not about ourselves at all.

One finds this problem everywhere, it seems. Catholics like preaching social justice and hope to the poor, and like the idea of 'prophetic witness', but over and over again you find people who do this without seeing that every major example of prophetic witness we have preaches the importance of repentance. They'll quote liberation theology without noting liberation theology's most important insight: if the God of the oppressed is really the God of all, preaching hope for the oppressed by its very nature involves preaching judgment for the oppressor. God looks out for the poor, and is their hope; but there is no hope for the one who tramples the poor except to repent. If we do not teach the need to repent, we teach not social justice but a mockery of it, and are not prophets but usurpers of the name.

I've mentioned before that I like James Cone; I found very interesting this 2007 interview with Bill Moyers (ht), discussing the relationship between the Cross and the lynching tree; it is Cone's argument at its best.

I recommend you contrast Cone's argument here with Jamie Manson's truly awful post at the National Catholic Reporter in which she insists that not only did Jesus not die for the sins of the world, it was really the fault of the Jews, and only the Jews (maybe also a couple of Romans), who exhibited "intolerance, jealousy, resentment, hatred, and, most of all, fear." To be sure, she doesn't mention Jews by name, just "religious leaders," but it's extraordinarily disturbing to find someone in this day and age reviving what has over the ages been an antisemitic trope, presenting Jewish leaders as archetypal villains and the symbols of all oppressors (as if they themselves were not among the oppressed at the time!), and not only doing that but presenting this as a replacement for Catholic theology of the atonement. And why? Because we (modern-day Gentiles) might feel guilty when faced with a Christ who dies for us because that implies that we are not innocent. Contrast her post with CCC 597, which says, "Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept 'the ignorance' of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders." And the Catechism goes on, rightly, in the very next section, to repudiate the very line of thought Manson puts forward. (And, of course, goes on a bit later to insist on the atoning work of Christ, because contrary to Manson's suggestion, it's still taught, and taught as a non-negotiable part of Catholic doctrine.) I am willing to admit that Manson just might be so naive as not to know that she is echoing generations of antisemites; but, if so, it is a dangerous naivete.

Cone's discussion is about true justice and Manson's about false innocence. That is the distance between the Cross as theological liberation from sin and injustice and a theology that strives to be a liberation from the weight of the Cross. It is an infinite distance.

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