Temptation to be right

Garvey, John

Of several minds: John Garvey TEMPTATION TO BE RIGHT THE IDOLATRY OF THE FAITHFUL "Your eye is the light of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not...

...So much of what we regard as evil is a result of trying to fill up that emptiness falsely...
...No matter how good our intentions are, or how noble the cause, this is a form of idolatry...
...Wonder makes us fall to our knees...
...Is there any way out of this dilemma...
...There is little more than this...
...But our need to be right has nothing to do with any love of the truth at all it is essential for us to understand this...
...This is not to say that our ideas may not in fact be noble and good and true...
...Gregory of Nyssa's words suggest that a lack of wonder leads to idolatry...
...In his essay "The Unity of the Triune God" (printed inSf...
...We begin by assuming that they must correspond to and undergird our own...
...We are told,' 'Be careful lest the light in you be darkness...
...Revelation tells us that we are created from nothing, called into being and given a freedom which is not at all easy to comprehend, and can never be comprehended completely...
...There are statements about prayer which contain a share of truth, but help to reinforce this dangerous tendency...
...On the one hand, we cannot be so open-ended about moral and religious issues that absolutely anything is considered as true as anything else...
...This emptiness is the place where compassion can be born, because it is absolutely shared with everything else in creation it is the common ground of our being...
...we find that the papacy is as full of contradiction as any other source...
...Bertolt Brecht's poem, "Concerning the Infanticide, Maria Farrar" (from Selected Poems, translated and edited by H.R...
...On the other, we must avoid the idolatry which makes an idol of our own belief...
...I am committed or anyway I hope I am to a nonviolent approach to life and morality...
...After his Resurrection he appeared not as he might have been expected to appear, but as a stranger...
...They include the idea, frequently expressed, that our political and social involvements should be grounded in prayer...
...On many matters involving war and peace, sexual morality, politics, and the economy, we are given some help from the tradition...
...Therefore, I beg you, check your wrath and scorn For man needs help from every creature born...
...And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one...
...he cautions us that what seems to us to be light may in fact not be...
...the danger is that we will treat prayer as a form of therapy which exists to recharge our batteries so that we will have all the energy we need to do the really important work, whichjs not praying but activity of another sort...
...JOHN GARVEY Commonweal: 104...
...It is difficult for us to realize that it is possible for us to worship a false god, believing it with all our hearts to be true...
...When the eye is sound, the whole body is full of light.'' How can we be sure that the eye is sound...
...Jesus tells us not to look for ways to be sure, but rather to take care...
...Gregory of Nyssa: "Concepts create idols...
...Trying to find a clear and unambiguous moral path by looking at Scripture and tradition is a little like trying to get clear and unambiguous directions while traveling in Ireland...
...We go at our relationship to God's truths in precisely the wrong way...
...and we deal with this by saying that our own interpretation is a reflection of the real spirit of Scripture and the tradition of the church...
...But in doing this we overlook the contradictory and equally authoritative passages of Scripture or elements of tradition...
...To the extent that we do this we make an idol of God...
...Our lightness fills us up...
...Pacifists point to Jesus telling Peter to put his sword away...
...But I know I have been guilty of moving from this belief to an assertion that it is definitely and incontrovertibly to be found in Scripture and church tradition...
...And it can indeed be found there along with a belief in the just-war theory and a theological defense of holy wars...
...It really is a dilemma, and one which matters deeply not only to our way of approaching morality at personal and social levels...
...You who bear pleasantly between clean sheets And give the name 'blessed' to your womb's weight Must not damn the weakness of the outcast, For her sin was black but her pain was great...
...The temptation is to look for some clear standard of truth the ecumenical councils, the Bible, the papacy...
...Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, Number 3, 1984) Jurgen Moltmann quotes St...
...What we need is a truly radical humility, one which can abandon any need to be right...
...only wonder comprehends anything...
...We are not sufficiently humble before the fact that every convinced Nazi, fascist, Communist, crusader, Inquisitor, book-burner, vigilante, or member of a lynch mob is where he is because of the burning conviction that he is right, and stands where he stands against the forces of wrong-headedness or absolute evil...
...People kill one another over idols...
...Luke 11:34-35 THE PROBLEM with Scripture is that we can think we know what it means, and feel that we've got it tied down: we know what we are supposed to do, how we are supposed to act, and the Book is there as a proof to back us up...
...Our opponents, who are apparently at a farther remove from the Holy Spirit than we are, don't understand this...
...What concerns us is not God's truth, which is at its depths unknowable and absolutely incomprehensible, but ideas which seem to us to be true...
...but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness...
...That is certainly true...
...This is not only the recurrent temptation of theologians, but of any churchgoer who believes that what Christianity involves is clear and simple, a matter of having the right politics or ethics...
...Only a lack of wonder could lead us to look at what Scripture and tradition tell us, and come up with concepts...
...The strangeness of Christ is a lesson for us: the contradictions are calls to a wider and more difficult view of life than we want...
...It is an excruciating description of agony, and ends, She brings home to you all men's sin...
...We are tempted constantly to make use of Christ, or any vision of God...
...In The Everlasting Gospel Blake wrote, "The Vision of Christ that thou dost see/Is my Vision's Greatest Enemy...
...If we firmly believe that our cause is just, if it seems to us that anything which contradicts our vision is immoral, it is natural for us to seize upon the authority of the Bible or religious tradition to back us up...
...Political or ethical thinking which is unredeemed by compassion leads us to think of ourselves as sufficient, because we are right...
...Thine loves the same world that mine hates,/Thy Heaven Doors are my Hell Gates...
...That we have been called forth from nothingness, in love, is revealed, not as a fact but as an openness which can be responded to honestly only with an emptiness of our own, an acknowledgment of our absolute insufficiency...
...For Catholic and Orthodox Christians that includes a belief in creeds and sacraments, a general agreement with the councils of the early church, and a moral code which involves the commandments of the Old Testament and the spirit of the Beatitudes in the New Testament...
...We can be so passionately attached to those ideas that we find it impossible to believe God doesn't share our opinion...
...militarists point to Luke 22, where Jesus tells his disciples that his original instructions to travel light, without provisions of any sort, have changed: "But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag...
...It really can't be done, though everyone you talk to will be very sure...
...Hays, Grove, 1959) is right to the point...
...But when we do this we see that some councils which were considered truly ecumenical at the time were later not accepted as such...
...Our conviction, being right, is of course a different thing...
...Fundamentalists are good at this it is practically their stock in trade but Christians of every other stripe do the same thing...
...He does not say that it will not appear to us to be light...
...we frequently find interpretations of the Bible in contradiction...
...it matters to our relationship 22 February 1985: 103 with God...
...It could be that sureness is not what is called for here, but humility...
...It leads us to ignore the emptiness that is part of being created...
...Prayer is the way towards seeing what all of this means, because in prayer in the effort to be attentive we learn how radically contingent we are, how absolutely dependent on someone unknowable...
...This is terribly difficult, because it could seem to be an indifference to truth...
...We also find some hindrances there too defenses of slavery, for example and as always there are contradictory directions...
...It is when this activity is most apparently virtuous that it is most likely to mislead us...
...So we look to the long haul, the beliefs that have survived and transcended all of this contradiction...

Vol. 112 • February 1985 • No. 4


 
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