Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Theological Moment: Lex Orandi Lex Credendi

A sage once said that we shall know the tree by its fruits; perhaps, in matters of religion, fruits and trees problematize beliefs and prayers. In my previous blog entry, I suggested an intimate relationship between authority and authenticity, and further, that the Marcan Jesus interrogated these religious attitudes by interrogating the priests, scribes and elders who challenged the foundation for Jesus' actions. Though the Jesus in Mark 11 does not state so explicitly, he seems to locate the discernment of authority within the human conscience. In the context of the New Testament themes of 'hardness of heart'(sklerokardia) and a 'change of heart'(metanoia), a heart open to the call, God's insistence, perhaps, we can think of the former as a poorly formed conscience, and the latter as a properly formed conscience. The elders response of feigned ignorance comes from sklerokardia, a closing off of the event. In the case at hand, the event of authentication is a matter of conscience.

Today the world finds itself in a theological moment. Depending on the degree of its dogmatism, its openness to the event is a smaller or larger aperture. Depending on the intensity of its secularism, its openness to the call, to the insistence of Joycean 'chaosmos,'  is a smaller or larger moment. The world is more or less deaf to the call, depending on its conscience. The world might not even know that a theological moment is upon it, because it might not even know the language of the call.

In the news today we learn that ISIS holds for ransom 2 Japanese journalists. They are already wearing the orange vestments, kneeling in desert sands at the feet of the high priest of the black vestments. Another celebration of the liturgy of murder lurks on the altar of the internet; another sacrament of ISIS is before the world in a moment of very public prayer. The law of prayer is the law of belief. See how yet another pair of journalists are made to kneel, to genuflect to this god of violence. See how the 'word' suffers before the prayers in the desert. See how freedom is bound from behind and paraded before the world.

U.S. president, Barack Obama, has recently adopted a public strategy (foreign policy?) that denies religious status to extremists who murder in the name of God. Is this because U.S. policy has determined that ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram are not religious in nature? Have U.S. policy makers done some theological homework, and concluded that these groups are no longer recognizably Islamic or religious at all? If so, the American people should know how their representatives have interpreted for them the theological moment the world faces today. If not, perhaps these policy makers have recreated these groups in their own militantly secular image, reducing self-proclaimed religious zealots to terms it understands.

Violence is a self-replicating event. It comes from hardness of heart raised to action, action grounded in poorly formed consciences. Its victims are the innocent. See how the high priests, scribes and elders of secularism and religion hurl us into the deep gashes of faith. The more things change, the more they stay the same. More of the same: radical secularism and radical religion do the same thing: they reduce each other to the simplest terms they collectively understand, and divide by blood and death.

The intersections of religion, faith, secularism, politics, realism and theology are dangerous places indeed. I am distinctly uncomfortable commenting on 'the news' and the digests of the 'talking heads.' It is my conviction, though, that great and self-serving misunderstanding is being perpetuated under the names of religion, secularism, God and justice, resulting in the visitation of violence and slaughter upon the innocents. I do not believe, as some would have it, that there are no innocents. There are innocents. To declare them complicit in the rage and assault on the world is an ugly and evil strategem whose only hope is to make violence 'acceptable' tender in the commerce of beliefs.

Violence will not hold. This is my hope, prayer and belief.

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