…the Christian infinite belongs to an ontology of original and ultimate peace, and as a consequence allows a construal of beauty and peace inconceivable in terms of the ontology that Christian thought encountered first in various schools of pagan metaphysics, and encounters again in the thought of Nietzsche and his heirs.”
There has developed in effect a kind of corpus which practically all Christian groups accept but which has nothing in common with the biblical message, whether in the Hebrew Bible that we call the Old Testament or the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament. All the churches have scrupulously respected and often supported state authorities. They have made of conformity a major virtue. They have tolerated social injustices and the exploitation of some people by others, explaining that it is God’s will that some should be masters and others servants, and that socioeconomic success is an outward sign of divine blessing. They have transformed the free and liberating Word into morality, the most astonishing thing being that there can be no Christian morality if we truly follow evangelical thinking. The fact is that it is much easier to judge faults according to an established morality than to view people as living wholes and to understand why they act as they do.
~ Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity
But the “excitement” of Easter cannot be given to man by man himself. Even more than his exinanition, Christ’s exaltation is the consequence reached by God himself through his power in action. God himself is the rector and the master and the king of this whole history which is his covenant with us. Either we understand God as master and subject of this history or we do not understand this history at all. Thus the question we have to answer now is not: “Can I admit that all this has occurred?” but: “Where do I stand vis-à-vis God the master? Do I live ‘with’ God? Do I live in keeping with God’s deeds?” And since we know these deeds mainly and primarily through the Scripture, the question of faith is first a question of reading the Bible. One cannot pray without reading the Bible, without getting a knowledge of the divine history directed by God wherein we discover what we need: faith in God the rector and sovereign and living master of Christ’s history which “comprehends,” that is, embodies, sums up, locates and fulfills our own history.
~Karl Barth “The Faith Of The Church”
I think, at least regarding society and politics, this sums up well how I view the differences between the capacity of human society to grasp after and its actual limitations.
…it will never be possible to insure moral antidotes sufficiently potent to destroy the deleterious effects of the poison of power upon character. The future peace and justice of society therefore depend upon, not one but many, social strategies, in all of which moral and coercive factors are compounded in varying degrees. So difficult is it to avoid the Scylla of despotism and the Charybdis of anarchy that it is safe to hazard the prophecy that the dream of perpetual peace and brotherhood for human society is one which will never be fully realised. It is a vision prompted by the conscience and insight of individual man, but incapable of fulfillment by collective man. It is like all true religious visions, possible of approximation but not of realisation in actual history. The vitality of the vision is the measure of man’s rebellion against the fate which binds his collective life to the world of nature from which his soul recoils. The vision can be kept alive only by permitting it to overreach itself. But meanwhile collective man, must content himself with a more modest goal. His concern for some centuries to come is not the creation of an ideal society in which there will be uncoerced peace and justice, but a society in which there will be enough justice, and in which coercion will be sufficiently non-violent to prevent his common enterprise from issuing into complete disaster. That goal will seen too modest for the romanticists; but the romanticists have so little understanding for the perils in which modern society lives, and overestimate the moral resources at the disposal of the collective so easily, that any goal regarded as worthy of achievement by them must necessarily be beyond attainment.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr “Moral Man and Immoral Society”
Ours is a secular age. While the conditions of secularity — the nonaxiomatic nature of belief in God, the contestability of all ultimate beliefs — are not unrelated to the prescriptive project of secularism, there is no necessary connection between the two. A secular society could undergo religious revival where vast swaths of the populace embrace religious belief. But that could never turn back the clock on secularization; we would always know we used to believe something else, that there are plausible visions of meaning and significance on offer. We would also believe amidst the secular condition; indeed, conversion is a response to secularity, not an escape from it.
— “How (Not) To Be Secular” ~ James K. A. Smith
Thomas Watson wrote, in 1660,
Good words are but a cold kind of charity. The poor cannot live as the chameleon upon the air. Let your words be as smooth as oil, they will not heal the wounded. Let them drop as the honey-comb, they will not feed the hungry. ‘Though I speak with the tongues of angels and have not charity, I am but as a tinkling cymbal’ (1 Corinthians 13:1). It is better to be charitable as a saint than eloquent as an angel. Such as are cruel to the poor, let me tell you, you unchristian yourselves. Unmercifulness is the sin of the heathen (Romans 1:31). While you put off the bowels of of mercy you put off the badge of Christianity. Saint Ambrose says that when we do not relieve one whom we see ready to perish with hunger, we are guilty of his death. If this rule hold true there are more guilty of the breach of the sixth commandment then we are aware.
Christians, our social conscience should flow from our Faith, from our Christianity, not from political ideologies that glorify the self or from economics which have been stripped of all morality.
There is still a Republican organization, but it long ago abandoned any pretense of being a normal parliamentary party. Conservative commentator Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute describes today’s Republicans as “a radical insurgency — ideologically extreme, scornful of facts and compromise, dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition”: a serious danger to the society.
The party is in lock-step service to the very rich and the corporate sector. Since votes cannot be obtained on that platform, the party has been compelled to mobilize sectors of the society that are extremist by world standards. Crazy is the new norm among Tea Party members and a host of others beyond the mainstream.
The Republican establishment and its business sponsors had expected to use them as a battering ram in the neoliberal assault against the population — to privatize, to deregulate and to limit government, while retaining those parts that serve wealth and power, like the military.
The Republican establishment has had some success, but now finds that it can no longer control its base, much to its dismay. The impact on American society thus becomes even more severe. A case in point: the virulent reaction against the Affordable Care Act and the near-shutdown of the government.
Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations that’ve long since bought and paid for, the senate, the congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pocket, and they own all the big media companies so they control just about all of the news and the information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them.
― George Carlin
One of the consequences of American exceptionalism is that the U.S. government considers itself exempt from legal and moral standards accepted by other nations in the world. There is a long list of such self-exemptions: the refusal to sign the Kyoto Treaty regulating the pollution of the environment, the refusal to strengthen the convention on biological weapons. (more…)