Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Word to the Wise

One of the assumed and architectonic structures of Christianity --thanks to its Jewish origins-- is the centrality of holiness as moral goodness, with the consequent dominance of sin as the great problem to be resolved. Part of the attraction of Gnosticism was that it shifted the ground to another issue entirely: ignorance, alienation and entrapment. Now that was something I could get behind. To a man like me it was vastly more appealing to hear "Wake up!" instead of "Stop that and say you're sorry!"

One of St Paul's (to me, completely unconvincing) arguments against the Mosaic Law was that if you violated any part of it, you were guilty of violating all of it. Protestant evangelicals today, like Kirk Cameron, will approach a prospect and ask if they've ever lied. On getting the inevitably "yes," they try to convince them that they therefore deserve damnation by "a holy God."

It's creepy and nuts. Reeks of Calvin. (Although I admit --or maybe confess is a better term--) that, absent his theology, I have always found Mr Cameron, an apparently happy fella,  very easy on the eyes.

Like the recently improved Rev Furtick.  In both cases the content of the talking bores me, but I like the packaging.

Catholicism has never taken that all-or-nothing approach. More sanely rabbinic and Aristotelian in its psychology of human acts, it clearly differentiates between minor and major wrongdoing, venial and mortal sin. For all his oddity, the Catholic God is not the repressed hysteric that the handsome but skewed Kirk Camerons of the world worship.

To fair, though, the behaviors that got classed as damnation-worthy mortal sins got expanded past the point of credibility. But that dynamic was more about the paranoid side of rabbinic thinking, the tactic of "building a fence around the Torah."

In sync with my own character, a religion that I would be drawn to would be much more of a wisdom tradition than a goodness tradition. As a Jewish Jungian pointed out to me when I described the outline of my Gnostic project of re-editing the Bible, I had clearly privileged and foregrounded the wisdom books. Intelligence and beauty: these are the things I realize always bound me to Catholicism. And why the study of moral theology always induced narcolepsy in me and made me feel depressed.

Yet the religion that the Men of the West need in our hour of The Great Erasure is not one that is detachedly contemplative, but that promotes and provokes the warrior virtues. To me, though, it makes a big difference if men are being challenged to to aspire to something that is in their nature to esteem --strength, courage, skill and honor-- rather than humility, meekness, dispossession, etc...all of which, to the male soul, sounds merely like an invitation to weakness, which repels most men and eventually results in the Obamacare Pajama Boy.

One of the youngest and most interesting --on paper-- newish religions is Sikhism, a 16th century Punjabi monotheist riff on Hinduism. As a result of its violent history --the Muslims were especially gruesome against them, no surprise-- it has developed the notion of the "saint-soldier." Here personal asceticism --control of the passions-- is placed in service of military valor. Catholicism had its own version of this at one time, the military monks like the (in)famous Templars. Indeed, all of the much-maligned Crusades was based on the knighthood that medieval Catholicism produced.

To me there is no tension between being a warrior and being wise. We have this in our Western tradition already. Wisdom would be a major attribute of Godhead in the New Faith, because The Most Foolish People On The Planet (C) are in desperate need of it.


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