Constrictions Of My Own Design
I have written of my realization that I have, for the last twelve years, constricted my horizons, based upon the entirely reasonable assumption, in light of a series of serious health problems, that I was not going to live long.
I have been freed from that delusion. I could die typing this or I could live until I am 100. No one knows, and it is foolish to assume anything, still more to worry about it.
I have shed that crippling idea, but it still affects how I think. For example, last week I noted that raspberry bushes were growing in a spot where I cut between two yards on my mail route. Raspberry brambles bear fruit the second year. ‘Hmm’, I thought, ‘If I live until next summer I can eat raspberries here.’
Not that that is not more reasonable than assuming that I would live, but I doubt that is a normal reaction to new brambles.
And I long assumed that I would never live to see my grandchildren.
Now, that seems a distinct possibility.
But I have realized something else: my horizons have been self-limited for a long time in a wider area as well. That is, I have assumed, for a very long time, that the world would end, or at least civilization may collapse, sooner rather than later.
Don’t get me wrong. Aside from my very brief sojourn as a charismatic evangelical this has never been a huge part of my faith. Indeed I shied away from obsessive interest in prophecy. But it was the backdrop to life.
This has affected me in many ways, all of them bad, yet another way that the Calvinist construct of a sadistic kick ass sort of god had infected my view of the world.
But if one grants the scientific evidence that the world is billions of years old, and animate life a relatively very recent event, and humanity a blip of a few hundred thousand years?
We do not know the future, any of us. The apocalyptic passages from scripture are the hardest to understand.
But what we do know of time indicates that humanity is very young, in its childhood, adolescence at most.
So maybe the attempt to build ‘Christendom’ instead of living the Way of Christ, which assumes the Kingdom is within, not of this world, was the product of a bunch of two year olds. And the religious wars that followed in the wake of the Protestant revolution were the acts of ten year olds. Or three year olds.
The world wars were the work of fourteen year olds, the Asshole Year, judging not only from my own experience but from watching my own fourteen year olds.
Maybe we will grow up, learn from our mistakes like most of us have done.
Hey, it is possible.
A Young Church?
Which would mean that the Church too is very young.
I mean if you were to gather a person from each century since Christ appeared, each of which lived to 100 years, they would fit comfortably in your living room.
A couple of thousand years is nothing against the backdrop of what we know about the age of the universe, or even the age of humanity.
In this scenario, the scriptures certainly are revealed truth, but one must factor in the reality that revelation is always mediated and twisted by the limitations of the one to whom truth is revealed.
Why would we expect the early Church to get everything right? Did not the Jews, the ones chosen to receive divine revelation, pretty much make a mess of it, and portray the I AM in their own image, a warlike aggressive being, quick to anger?
And did not St Peter strike down Ananias and Sapphira, proving that he still thought like a Son of Thunder?
What if we are just now beginning to understand Christ? What if Vatican II marked the Church entering something like adolescence? Or maybe something like the age of reason? Or even the end of infancy?
As with most things bigger than our little corner of the cosmos, we really do not know very much, even about the most fundamental facts about our situation in the universe or in history.
Pope Francis’ continued urgency in calling us to an encounter, not with ideas or doctrines about Christ, but with Christ Himself, takes on new meaning in this apophatic light.
Sectarian Catholicism and True Faith, Again
One of the first things I learned when I began studying systematic theology way back in the early 80s is that God is inconceivable, and that human language cannot grasp the truth of God’s essence, that God is always more unknown than known.
That is standard teaching in the conservative Catholic seminaries in which I was formed, among the first things one learns when studying Dogmatic Theology.
But once that is taken care of, the next four or more years are spent trying to tie down the Mystery, define and categorize It.
So we were taught apophaticism, but then went on to the dissection of the ineffable and the affirmation of the certainties of our religion.
But the seed was planted, so that when I was stripped bare, deconstructed, and knocked around by the dissonance I encountered when realizing that my ‘religion’ was mostly humanly constructed, I was able to cling to the core, the encounter of a being within Being.
And to my relief Christ indeed proved to be the rock, the solid foundation.
Apparently way back in the mid-70s, I did not just react emotionally to information about Christ. I encountered Him.
Or He found me.
I know, that sounds like the construct of my Calvinist ancestors.
But it is not, because the most dominant thing in the human universe is Mercy.
And the font of being is Love.