The Eternal Significance of the Jew

(I’ve just read Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz.  Consider this a creative reflection on his wonderful book)

The Church has been struggling internally against anti-Semitism since the time of Marcion.  The dualism that periodically surfaces in our history courts it–from “Matter Is Evil” to “Creator Is Evil,” it is a short jump to tar that Creator’s Chosen People.  Marcion’s “theoretical anti-Semitism” found practical cause in the splitting of the synagogue and the rancor of a divided family; later forms found their blood from the more insidious fear of Other.  An interesting thought–as it has become more bloodless, it has become more appalling.  Though I suppose I need to account for the wealth and banking angle that drives some people; economic hardship and class envy is anything but bloodless.

Marcion got as far as he did by being enormously selective in his use of the New Testament canon (I take him as the first deviant, the reaction against him a sign that the canon is already largely formed).  Overemphasis on the writings of St. Paul is his major tool, and it shows a weakness in the Apostle’s writings (or rather, our understanding of them)–St. Paul’s references to “The Law” are not always clear and often confusing.  Marcion was the first but by no means the last to take “The Law” as meaning everything from Adam to the Baptist, and to overlook all references to that Law as good and necessary. Continue reading The Eternal Significance of the Jew

St. Augustine on Beatitudes (II)

I threatened a cheap follow-up to finish talking about St. Augustine’s approach to the beatitudes.  Here it is!

Recall that St. Augustine took the Beatitudes as an 8-stage program for the moral life: the itinerary to happiness.

  1. Become Poor in Spirit (Humble)
  2. Become Meek (Teachable)
  3. Mourn over the attachments holding us back from happiness
  4. Labor to tear away from those attachments
  5. Be merciful to others on the same journey
  6. Become pure of heart
  7. Become a peacemaker
  8. Return to the beginning (and face persecution)

To really get St. Augustine (and Christianity), you have to understand that he thinks all this is impossible.  We have too much blindness and an invincibly stubborn will; the flesh is weak and the spirit really isn’t all that willing.  Throw out Pelagius and read more St. Paul. Continue reading St. Augustine on Beatitudes (II)

St. Augustine on Beatitudes

Thought I would put up a post on one of my favorite units for the juniors: a quick run through St. Augustine’s commentary on the Beatitudes.  It will keep the blog moving while I slash through mid-term exams.

[Ideally this goes up in a chart, but that won’t do for this format.  There’s an easter egg built into this presentation; see if you can catch it before I spoil at the end.]

Before we dive into the beatitudes, we need to get two very simple basics out of the way.  First, what does “blessed” mean?  I can send this question around the room a dozen times before my students give up and make me tell them.  There’s so much religious-y baggage draped all over that word! Continue reading St. Augustine on Beatitudes

Shanty Towns are Dangerous

My friends the Darwins have a post up, like just about everyone else in the blog-o-sphere, on refugees.  It’s got a provocative title and is filled with some nice historical context and common sense–boilerplate Darwins.  Go read the whole thing, and pay particular attention to the last two paragraphs (buried the lede a bit there, Darwin). Continue reading Shanty Towns are Dangerous