Tuesday, February 14, 2012

And Where Are You, God? -- A Theology for Poking Around

Where is God among the ruins of Christendom?  I understand Christendom to mean a total, universal system by which Christianity is held to be absolute truth, absolute in a way that leads to a sense of privilege for the Church in all areas of life and culture, from theology to politics.  At best, it produced stunning art and music, social and educational developments, and reconciling purpose in people's lives.  At worst, it produced things like the Inquisition and the Crusades, wars between conflicting Christian groups, and the marginalization of people of other faiths (or none).  It reached its peak in Europe many centuries ago, although pieces of it washed up on North American shores.  It has been over for a long time, but awareness of its demise and grief over it have not yet been fully realized.

At a recent question and answer session, someone asked Brian McLaren what we can say to people for whom even the word "God" is so damaged as to be inaccessible.  This is very much a question from the ruins of Christendom.  Brian mentioned a writer named Richard Kearney, and especially Kearney's book Anatheism, as resources for exploring this question.  Kearney is a philosophical theologian and Anatheism, while not technically difficult, will probably appeal most to those with an appetite for this kind of writing.  Let me summarize my reading of it for those who will likely not read it or for those who might be intrigued.

Anatheism literally means "God again."  It is God "again" after both theism and atheism have run their course.  For many of us theism and atheism both have their place and we can't resolve them with one "winning" nor  can we get back before the atheist critique and just simply believe again.  Reviewing theologians like Bonhoeffer and Ricouer, and writers like Joyce, Woolf, and Proust, Kearney identifies how the possibility of meeting the sacred comes anew, challenging us over and over to "wager" that life is lived in relation to the Holy (or not).

For those who wager "yes," this is a call to return to and practice our traditions deeply, deep enough that we seek the mysticism that is at the wellspring of religion, but which is greater than religious definitions.  We then can live our "wager" with both commitment and humility, and we can meet those who are different from us with hospitality rather than hostility.  It is in such meetings that God is to be found now.

Whew!  I am almost out of breath trying to condense this.  But I do think it provides an insightful theology for poking around the ruins.  At least it is a theological bicycle I can ride for a while.  God is in the ruins and seeking and finding God there will point to what comes next.

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