Accompanying the poor or inhabiting their number, the honest among us recognize our own fundamental impoverishment. Bernanos, a father and husband who long depended on others for sustenance, inhabited the paradox of Christianity.
One can have a very merry Christmas with great simplicity. And maybe, thinking of charity toward our less fortunate neighbors, modeling simplicity has its virtues.
But the promise of the coming of the Messiah is that all these animals will be changed from enemies of the human race into its friends, or at least comfortable and tolerant neighbors. This promise sheds, furthermore, a different light on the present discomfort that some of us may feel over the invading much-maligned bugs and wildlife.
The rivalry we’re experiencing goes deeper than symptoms, political principles, and even the need for responsive, wise leaders. Indeed, it may bypass principles and wisdom altogether. But to explain it, I need the help of anthropologist and literary critic René Girard.
As we enter this season of Advent, we would do well to share the skepticism of Mary and her misfit Son about the powers of this age to establish an unshakeable kingdom.
His books are not a diminishment of historic and intellectual Christianity. They are a translation of Aquinas, Barth, Calvin, and the rest into the language we all speak innately but are all too often deaf to: the language of our quotidian lives, in which the undifferentiated mass of uncertain “certain things” forms the alphabet of grace.
If we can foster a freedom to flourish rather than our modern freedom of choice, and if we can recognize versions of a common good appropriate to different real entities of social order from the family to the town to the nation, integrated with the rest of nature at scales from the local and regional to the biosphere, then the need to impose order through laws and regulations is minimized, replaced by deliberative, cooperative action towards a common good.
There is something new in Doestoevsky's insights into the psychology of “the Human Being,” beyond the Church Fathers, or at least that's the case made. If this is true, especially in the light of the complete mental breakdown happening all around us, shouldn't we be redirecting our time and energy toward incorporating this and making it central to our thought and lives?
We academics unfortunately often fall into the trap of pride (particularly of the self-involved, self-satisfying, institutional kind), and hence a humbling such as this conference delivered was probably much needed. I have a Christian duty, as an educator and as a member of a Christian community, to think systematically about how I can live up, as a teacher and scholar, to the values of inclusion and equality
It is a hard task to learn to plant roots in a place from which you know you will be uprooted. It is also the task that we, mirroring Israel in Jeremiah 29, are called to do. Through the process of planting gardens, marrying, having children, raising our children, and being planted and watered, we can shadow what our true home is to our neighbors and loved ones.