Psalms in the Shadows of Empire

Play me a song,
a happy song
one of the songs of triumph
love songs from springtime
make me merry, troubled soul

I’ve hung up my lyre,
they’ve destroyed Zion
they rejoice with laughing
they desecrate the holy place
my lips can sing no more

Play me a song
once cheerful man
one of the songs of laughter
celebrate your merry way,
and teach your children of disaster

I’ve put away my instruments,
I’ll not raise another note
injustice flows like impurity
many days without ceasing
my bread is turned to ashes
my sustenance is bitter wine

Light the candles, and worship your god
singer of zion,
your god is so mighty,
with a destroyed temple and shattered body
entertain us with the praises of his victory

then they spat upon my Lord’s people,
they paraded idols in the holy place
and my heart was kindled to worship the LORD

Great is the LORD,
He alone stands mighty before all the nations
great is His name in all the earth,
and the nations shall bow before Him
every power will be drawn to Zion
to the mount of Our God
For He alone is worthy,
even when the waters
had seemed to rise against His chosen people
and the flood would overtake us,
He has shown Himself mighty in behalf of the low
He will judge all the nations
the government is upon his shoulders
and authority rests in His hand
Though we were esteemed forgotten,
crushed like the worm
He has raised up the horn of salvation
and His people shall delight in the salvation he brings
His kingdom is forever more
and all the kingdoms shall be put to shame
their light will be great darkness
in that day
and the blood of the innocent
shed to make their feasts
shall cry up to them
and swallow them into the abyss
and the light of the Lord’s justice will shine
from everlasting to everlasting
and the bread he gave to our fathers
will be made into life for all creation

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21 thoughts on “Psalms in the Shadows of Empire

  1. Yeah, I especially love the part about swallowing the “bad guys” into the abyss…the poor Israelites…again and again they are crushed by empire after empire, and their only recourse is someday our God of “superior violence” will kick all your asses, and then, oh yeah, then you’ll be sorry! And three millennia later, they and their spiritual heirs are still waiting. Isn’t it time to finally grow up? That God never existed, and He’s not coming, ever.

    To my ears, their is so little gold in all this dross, this kind of “song” is anathema to my sense of divine Love, who yes, is also the fount of all justice, but not at all in the way we thought in the infanthood of mankind’s spiritual awakening.

    • Well, I was trying to emulate a biblical style, not endorse violence. I’d like to state that I retain my strict adherence to non-violence. I didn’t say the Lord would swallow them up, nor did I intend to imply that.

      I know that it seems strange to want to emulate such a style, but I felt it necessary for the sake of historical semblance. it’s a mini narrative afterall. I think that the Divine Love isn’t about this sort of retribution at all, it’s rather the love that suffers the world for the sake of all things, and endures all to make reconciliation.

      I disagree with your reading of humanity’s spirituality, but that’s that. I think that “progress” is largely a mythic idea. I think we’re rather similar to ancient societies, as a whole we just sacrifice to other gods, in slightly less obvious ways. but their visibility is matter of cultural conditioning.

      I also think that if you read the poem at the end, you’ll notice a Christological center that doesn’t point to divine retribution, but closes on the idea of communion, and the event of eucharist. It’s a universal hope, life for all creation.

      But, that’s just me.

      Again, your concerns and differences are appreciated, noted and respected. Hopefully, i’ve made the case that I’ not arguing for a god of superior violence at all, and that in paying attention to little clues in the text I actually avoided key judgment clauses like in the psalms.

      I said the violence of the unenlightened is their punishment upon them, without saying so in explicit terms, but it’s there. If the abyss is there, it’s not one that’s inescapable, or a divine retribution, it’s a prison of their own making.

      But nevertheless, thanks for your comment Steve.

      Pax Tecum,
      Eli

    • Hey Eli. Once again your graciousness is a tribute to your great heart. I posted quickly from my gut reaction, without a lot of mindfulness. You write this poetical, King-Jamesian paean of praise to the idea of God’s justice, and I come in with my “tin ear” and what I hear are all the bloody echoes of the Israelites man-projected God whose finally going to step into history and fix things up at last.

      I know you were trying to emulate the “biblical style,” and you did such a good job that you did invoke that “style” and to this listener, echoes all the implicit violence that is woven into so much biblical God/justice/squaring accounts talk, especially in Psalms and the OT. But maybe my reaction to that bible-talk isn’t so unusual to those not immersed in biblical language and assumptions about the world and who see serious problems in that language and those assumptions.

      Anyway, didn’t your beloved Augustine say, “What I desire for all my works is not merely a kind reader but also a frank critic”? (“Who is this Frank guy, and why is he always so critical?” LOL) Well, you can call me “Frank” is you want. 🙂

      >>I disagree with your reading of humanity’s spirituality.

      Please, my friend, don’t think you have a clue about that from such a brief remark! My view is so much richer and fuller than you may suspect a “Buddhist” might have, if I am a “Buddhist.”

      >>I think that “progress” is largely a mythic idea…

      I don’t know about mythic, but yes, it is certainly a problematical concept, even from a secular, history of ideas standpoint. I mean, just try to get philosophers or social scientists or anthropologists to even agree on what the term means! The idea of “progress” is no less problematic than the idea of “God!”

      Certainly, post-modernism has not been kind to the Enlightenment idea of progress (you, know, the Enlightenment, that dark period of human history where mankind made no progress whatsoever from the brilliant, light-filled medieval world that preceded it, in which the absolute Church had all the answers and guided the very minutia of your thought and life! LOL!)

      But, I digress in my sarcasm. Apologies. In the last 40 years, I can’t even count the number of books, all over the ideological and theological map, that I’ve read on this subject, as well as the idea of progress in the physical sciences, and I can’t think of any that would simply dismiss the idea of progress as “mythic.” And if by “mythological” you mean there’s no such thing, that there’s been nothing we could agree upon as “progress” in 6,500 years of civilization, then I wish we both had time to debate the point.

      When people say stuff like this, which seems to outrageous on the face of it, I always wish I could teleport/time travel them back to live for a year (if they survived) in, say, neolithic Sumeria, or maybe somewhere in the glorious 14th century that historian Barbara Tuchman writes about in her great “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century.” Progress “mythic”? Really? 🙂

      I have noticed, however, how often conservative theologians tend to dismiss the idea of progress out of hand, or downplay it, or dismiss it. No doubt this is consistent with all the of problems that come with their (not necessarily your, Eli!) beliefs of a “fallen” world, original sin, a radical dualism between God and the created, physical world, etc. etc. etcetera. I know there are and have been legions of theologians who try to fix all the inherent rifts and paradoxes in their God-views.

      That said, take a certain kind of “God view” of the human world, and all this “human progress” stuff just gets squished flat. It’s irrelevant, transient, and ultimately, insignificant in light of the assumed “end game.” If this is where you are coming from, Eli, in your statement that human progress since neolithic times (name your area—science, technology, art, social mores, human freedom, politics, economics….) is “mythic” then we are light years apart on this one, my friend!

      Oh sure, some conservative theologians will grant some breakthroughs here and there, they might talk about a “qualified” progress, but even that always has to point back to some “leakage” of God into miserable, utterly fallen and unredeemed human being and world.

      Poor homo sapiens! Since his ancestors left the plains of Africa millions of years ago, he hasn’t progressed an iota in any area, but by God, if he has, even that credit goes only to God! LOL! (If this is a parody of your beliefs, then maybe you could use more care in dismissing what you think my beliefs are and in making bald statements that seem to fly in the face of human history and reality as most people know it!)

      My actual view is that human progress (in multitudinous ways one could define it) has been enormous since we first scratched our hairy fannies on the ancient plains of Africa several million years ago. I can debate that forever, so maybe we’ll just agree to disagree.

      As to my deeper views, I think that as thinkers like Plotinus (who was no small influence on your beloved Augustine) and Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber have noted, all of this progress and evolution of consciousness could well speak to an unfolding of the Spirit through what we see and call matter, but which is itself merely a form of consciousness. In any event, I’m no “flatlander” that reduces everything to the level of material cause and effect, or even mental cause and effect.

      Finally, because of your past explanations and protestations, I knew that you probably weren’t arguing for the God of “superior violence.” Nonetheless, my criticism is that this kind of “God” haunts a lot of biblical language, is rampant in most popular Christianity, and so when you seem to be using that language, people are naturally going to feel those associations. Not your fault, but not this reader’s fault either.

      Eli, you have a tough job, and a long haul, in terms of redeeming biblical language from dark images of God that are right there in the text itself, let alone in the dark hearts of fearful people looking for justice with their world falling apart all around them.

      We may agree to disagree on this, but to my sense, much of the Bible imagery is irredeemable and conveys blighted, limited, dark images of God that have more to do with the viewer than the Viewed. Even your beloved Augustine took the view that the Biblical text should not be interpreted literally if it contradicts what we know from science and our God-given reason, right? Maybe that’s another issue, but I think the same spirit needs to be brought to scriptures, and scriptural images and language, and to the idea of “progress.”

      Another long response, but as you can see, at least I care about what you say enough to respond, even if at times, I’m too “Frank.” 🙂

      The kiss of peace to you, too,

      Steve

  2. Hey Steve,

    whew, what a response. haha. I love when we have these, they always incite my curiosity and push me to study more.

    Firstly the projected man-god of the ancient near east is the furthest thing from my mind. The most convincing nature of God to me is this Jesus of Nazareth, who is the summation of God’s word to me about God’s self. I believe that my task is to rightly hope for all things to be set right by the God I’ve chosen to believe in, but that doesn’t excuse me from working to make it better myself.

    For the Christian mind the idea of sacrament has political merit in creating this idea of already apprehended perfection, not just in the ceremony, but in everyday life. It’s an already not yet, as you know, but it inspires me towards full perfection, even as I sometimes fail to live this out.

    Given that I’m Jewish I also like remembering the stories of my people. Not that I always appreciate what I find there, but it’s my heritage, broken and bloody and sometimes disappointing, it’s still mine.

    I appreciate your honest criticism, it makes me sharper, and I know I suffer without it.

    To clarify my position on the mythic nature of progress: I don’t think there has bee no progress, nor am I a post-enlightenment disillusioned bourgeois disenchanted with the ability of humans. I understand we’ve come a long way from scratching out an existence at the fringes of habitable space.

    What I mean by myth is that we assume we’re so enlightened nowadays. The only thing I’m doing is pouring a slight bit of rain on that parade, and I don’t think I do so unnecessarily. I think we’re just as violent, and thoughtless, just in less obvious ways.

    I think we still sacrifice our children to strange deities, be they military might (the god of war), careers they don’t enjoy (the god of success), or abortion (the god of self interested vanity and misfortune/the god of death). I know we’ll likely disagree here, but I’m not saying that there are spiritual entities behind these things like cloud men in the sky, i’m saying these powers in themselves as they are evident to our eyes are far from what I think Jesus was teaching my people about the nature of goodness, the kingdom and the future.

    I think in the modern world we offer up nations with less technology to our chief god as americans, the god of progress. The god of better life for us at the expense of everyone else.

    Well, the mediaeval world was one of many complications and not without problems, but it had a more integrated social and common life on many levels. I think there’s a lot that the mediaeval ages have to offer us on ethics and social virtue, not at the cost of ignoring abuses, yes we all know the crusades were ridiculous.

    No you’re o flatlander, you’re educated and thoughtful, generous, and kind. Even in your disagreements you aim to be charitable. I appreciate that.

    Biblical language may seem irredeemable, but I’ve been learning what I call the “dogmatics of love.” Taking Christian dogmas and doctrines and making sense of them in and through love. I don’t explain the Trinity as something that makes sense or has to be believed because it is rational, i say it makes sense because it is loving. But that’s another discussion for another time.

    As always, you’re a great critic, and a wonderful reader. I know you only respond because you care, and I appreciate that. For sure.

    peace be with you,
    eli

    • Been gone much of the last few days, and want to give an answer worthy of your big heart and graciousness….will say more tomorrow, but just wanted to let you know I got your reply.

      With affection,
      Steve

    • No worries. take your time, I saw your reply last night but couldn’t muster the clarity of thought to deal with it rightly.

      take your time, and hash it out, discourse is a sign of affection.

      To the peace between us,
      Eli

    • “In the religion of the Spirit, the religion of freedom,
      everything will appear in a new light: there will be neither authority nor reward: the nightmare of a legalistic conception of Christianity and of eternal punishment will finally disappear. It will be founded, not upon judgment and recompense, but on creative development and transfiguration, on likeness to God.”
      -Nicolas Berdyaev

    • Hey Eli. Been a bit under the weather this week, so further delayed.

      >>The most convincing nature of God to me is this Jesus of Nazareth, who is the summation of God’s word to me about God’s self. I believe that my task is to rightly hope for all things to be set right by the God I’ve chosen to believe in, but that doesn’t excuse me from working to make it better myself.

      I agree that the Jesus gives a brilliant image of the nature of God, (when you take away all the stuff later redactors added, not to mention all superfluous metaphysical superstructures created by the minds of men in later centuries) and would only add that not even Jesus of Nazareth can reveal the wholeness of God or Christ, because no human form or being could or being could possibly do that. The finite can only give a glimpse of the infinite, though that glimpse may be clear and unequivocal.

      Nor do I believe that the revealing of “God’s self” is limited only to Jesus, again, an impossible thing to limit in my view. I see the Christ, as the self-revelation of essential God’s nature, all over the place, and not just in the Jesus of the Bible. I understand and respect Christian’s desire to say that the God revealed through Jesus is a special case and sufficient for salvation, but I have a different view when it comes to the nature of the divine. As a Christian, I could never accept a radical dualism that separates the divine Christ from the beauty, goodness, and truth we can now see “through a glass, darkly” in ourselves, in nature, and in all things.

      I think we aren’t “excused” from working to better ourselves because that’s exactly the way the Christ redeems everything; not from without, but from within. In any Christology I could accept, the setting of things right is the setting of ourselves right, through the power of Christ in us, “our hope of glory.” All ideas of salvation from a God “out there” or separate from “Christ in us” are delusions. No one is eternally damned because no one is or can be separated from the very ground of their being and their true nature as the very expression of the divine.

      <>I think we still sacrifice our children to strange deities, be they military….

      Agree with this sentence and all that followed.

      >>I think in the modern world we offer up nations with less technology to our chief god as americans, the god of progress. The god of better life for us at the expense of everyone else.

      Couldn’t agree more!

      >Well, the mediaeval world was one of many complications and not without problems, but it had a more integrated social and common life on many levels.

      A qualified “maybe” to this paragraph. Medieval history has been one of my special areas of studies since college, and I just don’t find what you find in the “integrated social and common life” and “ethics and social virtue” of these incredibly benighted times (at a certain point, it became “PC” for scholars not to speak of the “Dark Ages” but I think the term is still apt, especially in terms of Europe, not in the East, where much more light was present.)

      It’s not that it was absolutely dark, or that that there weren’t positive things, like guilds, and the like, and the preservation of knowledge in scholasticism, but overall, to my view, it was a long sleep in great darkness for much of mankind, and the Renaissance and the Enlightenment are indeed well-named.

      If you haven’t read that Tuchman book I mentioned, (“A Distant Mirror”) you should give it a look, also, William Manchester’s “A World Lit Only By Fire.” I don’t base my “dark” view of the mediaeval period on any one book or author, but on decades of studying this fascinating time. It was, to me, a period of a great crucifixion of the human spirit in the name of a horrific religious worldview.

      >>Biblical language may seem irredeemable, but I’ve been learning what I call the “dogmatics of love.” Taking Christian dogmas and doctrines and making sense of them in and through love.

      If anything can make sense of truly benighted human views of God, certainly love is the only thing that could possibly transfigure or redeem them. I don’t judge or condemn people in their struggle to define the divine to themselves, but I don’t have to tolerate benighted views simply because they are “scriptural” or someone’s tradition. Surely the light of truth demands that we see what bears true witness to the divine, and what is simply human concepts and man-projections of what is unredeemed in the human heart and mind. Maybe that’s what your “dogmatics of love” is all about.

      What I do say, my friend, is again and again I see your great heart and the light shining there doing a wonderful transformative work, separating the dross from the gold, and bringing the light of Christ to bear on even the scriptural transmission itself, and seeking nothing less than the Christ-light in all of this. That’s indeed a great light in the world.

      With affection,
      Steve

    • just wanted to let you know i’m not ignoring you i’m putting these posts up via the scheduled post feature. I’ve been crazy busy, but I have every intention of penning a response that’s adequate at first opportunity.

      eli

    • Eli, no problemo! I totally understand. I’m barely keeping up with my three blogs, and if I had a schedule like yours, I’d surely need divine intervention! 🙂 🙂

      Take your time, my friend.

      With great affection,
      Steve

    • The Dark ages were termed thus given liberal scholarship’s rejection of scholasticism. Of course learning was in decline in the general populace and there were historical abuses of Christianity, and other religions, and learning as a whole. I’m as critical of the idea that there has been no progress as of the idea that there has been an almost immeasurable progress.

      “If you haven’t read that Tuchman book I mentioned, (“A Distant Mirror”) you should give it a look, also, William Manchester’s “A World Lit Only By Fire.”” I’ll be reading these when i have the opportunity.

      “…Maybe that’s what your “dogmatics of love” is all about.”
      I intend to be faithful to what I think Jesus was all about, and in shaping our thought structures as a community I use reason, and logic, but I try to shape that logic as an act of love, where we think in and with our tradition in terms of love. Love for God with all our intentionality and being and love for neighbor the way god’s love has been shown to us. This is the only way to do dogmatics, I think.

      I’ll not be addressing your full post, simply because at this point i’m too tired to address every point you raise, and I’d rather move on to other things than argue specificities. This undoubtedly may be taken as a lack of courage on my part, however, I will not claim otherwise. In hopes of showing appreciation and a spirit of brotherhood, I decline to argue these points any further, simply because we are united far more than we are divided, both in intent, and purpose.

      What I call justice you may call metta, but the desire is related if not always synonymous.

      All goodness and peace,
      Eli

    • Pax, amigo! Last thing I want to do is wear you out, which I no doubt have! Apologies, sincerely.

      You constantly show you logic to be guided and grounded in love. I wouldn’t even bother to comment if I didn’t see and feel that deeply. If not just here to argue and criticize, though it must look that way at times,, and I certainly I had way, way, WAY too much arguing (however love-based and well-intended) in my theological years, anyway. If you were just another theological “brain” I wanted to argue with, well, been there, done that, and nothing every changes. But, your great heart is what attracted me in the first place and keeps me coming back, OK?

      I was hoping you wouldn’t feel you had to answer all those points, and I didn’t and don’t think for a moment that is, or would be, a “lack of courage” on your part, my friend! Geez! I see you waaaaay better than that, my friend!

      I think we are more united than divided on the essential spirit, and how your justice is similar to my metta.

      I did appreciate and enjoy our exchange. I’ll try to be less heavy-handed in the future.

      With affection,
      Steve

  3. Finally back at the keyboard, will have more a little later; but this morning, as I always do, I read my “Religion Dispatches”

    http://www.religiondispatches.org/

    and was fascinated by the article on “angels” in the popular (and evangelical) imagination. I thought it was an interesting correlative to our ongoing discussion, and so thought I’d mention it.

    Steve

    http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/mediaculture/2216/mauled_by_an_angel%3A_why_do_americans_need_%E2%80%9Cgod%E2%80%99s_secret_agents%E2%80%9D/

    • yeah, I know the culture. haha. to many angels exist, but god is something else.

      I don’t know how this rampant militarism became so closely allied with Christianity, all I know is that it makes me sad.

  4. Not a problem Steve, a heavy hand is a mark of appreciation and respect. haha. You only raise critical dialogue with those whom you care to argue with for the sake of reaching mutual understanding, and it’s certainly not you. It’s a bit of everything here and there, defending my desire to move closer to the Catholic church to family and friends and then defending the Church herself and having to do so much apologetics and teaching this past week especially simply wore me out. It’s not you at all, please don’t feel bad.

    I’m glad you take everything in stride, it reminds me that life is not so serious in the end.

    Our exchanges are always a delight, sincerely, they sharpen me, and make me ask the difficult questions, and I love that.

    • Feeling is mutual!

      You mention moving closer to the Catholic church…although I think I’ve had a good reading of some of your theological roots and forefathers, I haven’t really known what you “consider yourself” in terms of church affiliation and the like. If you don’t mind my asking, what has been your church path? I’m truly interested.

      Steve

  5. I’m working at a baptist church as a youth director, but in heart, I’m closer to a Charismatic Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox.

    I feel that true Catholicism is where I’d fit in best. I’ve even given thought to being a priest, but we’ll see.

    I have read lots of Barth, Bonhoeffer, Von Balthasar, and Moltmann, I love Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder, Pope John Paul II, as well as Benedict XVI.

    I converted as a liberal charismatic, extremely low church. But the more I have studied, the more I appreciate historic christianity, and what it has to offer. I’d rather work on real meditation and contemplation in the path of my tradition and what it offers, than make it up because my current affiliation has no room for that.

    Much of protestantism feels like a lost cause to me. Churches will continue to look less and less and like churches and more and more like other things, gyms, cafe’s, social concerts. That breaks my heart.

    Churches should be beautiful, centers of spirituality, growth and learning, as well as healing, both miraculous and natural.

    I guess why i like the middle ages is the unity of hospitals and churches, the orders of healing monks and medicinal clerics.

    I left my liberal protestant church for a methodist church about two years ago, and have kept moving closer and closer to the eucharistic presence ever since. The centrality of worship hinging on this event is what compels me. It alone has laid claim to my praxis because in it I see the self-emptying crucified-glorified One.

    If we don’t keep his body, found in this bread as central, we will soon cease to be a church, at least in my mind. Discipleship, discipline, all these things are meaningless if they’re not shaped in and with worship of absolute Love. This absolute love is none other than the love that suffers to redeem.

    i know that I trailed off on some tangents, but my path is as theological as it is historical. thanks for asking.

    I still have to write about my conversion from atheism at some point. I owe Nancy that one.

    • >>I’m working at a baptist church as a youth director, but in heart, I’m closer to a Charismatic Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox.

      May your dear, dear heart be led to a place where it can blossom and grow freely, guided by Christ himself. I feel that the Charismatic Catholic movement is step in the right direction, and apparently, the church hierarchy did/does too, since John Paul II spoke highly of it, as I recall.

      >>I feel that true Catholicism is where I’d fit in best. I’ve even given thought to being a priest, but we’ll see.

      Follow your wonderful heart, (as I know you will!)…the church would be blessed to have a priest with your mind and intellect.

      >I have read lots of Barth, Bonhoeffer, Von Balthasar, and Moltmann, I love Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder, Pope John Paul II, as well as Benedict XVI.

      One could do worse! LOL! Your Von Balthasar and Moltmann are new to me, but I like what you’ve shared of them.

      >>I converted as a liberal charismatic, extremely low church. But the more I have studied, the more I appreciate historic christianity, and what it has to offer. I’d rather work on real meditation and contemplation in the path of my tradition and what it offers, than make it up because my current affiliation has no room for that.

      Be careful! If your Baptist brethren get wind of your Pope-ish ways…welll! LOL!

      But seriously, it’s sad how divorced most American Christian religions are from any sort of meditative or contemplative tradition or practice. The Catholic Church has always made room for this, though historically has not always been kindly to the true mystics, in my opinion.

      >>Much of protestantism feels like a lost cause to me. Churches will continue to look less and less and like churches and more and more like other things, gyms, cafe’s, social concerts. That breaks my heart.

      I’m with you 100%….it remains to be seen if anything will be reborn out of all of this American mess……of course, you can get “church lite” in any of the high churches, too, in my opinion….just because you have the tradition, the trappings, the hierarchy, the physical eurcharist, etc, etc. doesn’t mean anything about the viability of a church or its people…indeed, I see the dangers of highly organized, hierarchal churches to be greatest danger to the spirit, and in my opinion, this has been the case from the beginning, when the first “bishops” appeared…absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I fear that power in any organization, person, or ideology….

      >Churches should be beautiful, centers of spirituality, growth and learning, as well as healing, both miraculous and natural.

      Amen, dear brother Eli!!!

      >I guess why i like the middle ages is the unity of hospitals and churches, the orders of healing monks and medicinal clerics.

      I totally get this better with your explanations now.

      >I left my liberal protestant church for a methodist church about two years ago, and have kept moving closer and closer to the eucharistic presence ever since. The centrality of worship hinging on this event is what compels me. It alone has laid claim to my praxis because in it I see the self-emptying crucified-glorified One.

      I *think* I have some grasp of what you mean by this, but I’ve never understood why the physical act could be anything more than a symbol, and not what the Catholic church evolved it into over the ages. I hope this doesn’t offend you, but to me, concepts like transubstantiation are a gross materialization of the Eucharist and are so closely entwined with power and control issues of the church hierarchy. I think would *could* re-enact the Eurcharist with true spirit, but that all depends on the communicants. I see nothing spiritually intrinsic in the physical doing at all, though I know the Church teaches the very opposite.

      >If we don’t keep his body, found in this bread as central, we will soon cease to be a church, at least in my mind.

      I could only agree with this in a spiritual sense. As a Buddhist, I’m still way too much of a Protestant to accept it otherwise! LOL! “God is spirit and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.” No ritual in and of itself is holy unless there is incarnation; as a Christian, I felt I could eat Christ’s body and drink his body without any need of a formal ritual, and also felt that some mechanical putting of a wafer in one’s mouth has no sacramental value whatsoever, any more than spinning a Tibetan prayer wheel could bring one into the true dharma. LOL!

      >Discipleship, discipline, all these things are meaningless if they’re not shaped in and with worship of absolute Love. This absolute love is none other than the love that suffers to redeem.

      Agree totally.

      >>i know that I trailed off on some tangents, but my path is as theological as it is historical. thanks for asking.

      Of course! That’s true of all of us, whatever our paths. And you’re welcome. I’m glad I asked.

      >I still have to write about my conversion from atheism at some point. I owe Nancy that one.

      Wow, I didn’t know you started out as an “atheist” (whatever that is; never met the same kind twice! Lol!)

      Finally, I love how you are following your heart and finding your own path through that heart (and mind, of course). I think you are far more likely to find what you are looking for in some of the older traditions than in the very strange hybrid that’s sprung up in America in the past 150 years.

      Steve

  6. JP II was a Charismatic, both in religious expression as well as in personality hehe. One of my favorite popes hands down, if not my favorite. But i like Benedict XVI a lot too.

    The Church I work for knows I respect the Catholic faith, and they accept me, as long as I don’t teach blatantly Catholic doctrine. I think they’re a bit suspicious of me at times, but that’s what happens when you speak the truth in love. haha.

    “But seriously, it’s sad how divorced most American Christian religions are from any sort of meditative or contemplative tradition or practice.” It breaks my heart that this is the case. It’s funny how many people that have a “relationship with Jesus” have never contemplated the mysteries of the cross, or stared at a crucifix. I think that while the Church is skeptical of mystics in some respects due to the anti-montanist position of the west, this is being remedied, and the Church as a whole is always good about making reparations and honoring mystics in the end.

    “just because you have the tradition, the trappings, the hierarchy, the physical eurcharist, etc, etc. doesn’t mean anything about the viability of a church or its people” i actually sadly agree. the failures in catechesis, and charismatic emphasis among american catholics leads to a religion that looks a lot like classical lutheranism or anglicanism.

    I don’t think hierarchy is essentially opposed to the Spirit, it’s just a matter of continuity rather than contention. Often people use the label spirit to try to break the Church’s continuity, I’m opposed to that. However, subjective appropriation is just as important as physical ritual, catechesis and charismatic influence as important as the centrality of continuity, respect for the hierarchy and the liturgy of the eucharist.

    A good undoing of the myth of bishops opposed to the Spirit is St. Ignatius of Antioch. The man had charismatic gifts, and a radical emphasis on the hierarchy, but he holds both well. The reason hierarchy became important was the blurring of the faith with other things, someone had to say “this is what the apostles taught and that is not.” And that need continues to be present.

    I look at how the Catholic Church looks essentially the same and respect that. Whereas, the church i converted at was once very emphatic on scripture and discipleship, it’s now an extremely empty albeit large prosperity church.

    “concepts like transubstantiation are a gross materialization of the Eucharist and are so closely entwined with power and control issues of the church hierarchy. I think would *could* re-enact the Eucharist with true spirit, but that all depends on the communicants.”

    i think there can be legitimate eucharist on the part of the recipient only with proper subjective response. Transubstantiation doesn’t sit well with me, but again, I’m one opinion contra ten thousand. Sometimes, that may mean i’m right, but in this case i think it means i’m wrong.

    I believe in a full embodied presence in essence and in accidents, simply because I believe in the restoration of creation. I don’t think sacraments are an add on to Christianity, in that they speak to us without reservation about what’s at the heart of the faith. I wrote a post about this, “towards a charismatic theology of revelation” check out my 3rd point. that might explain a bit more where i’m coming from. I don’t expect you to agree, but you might understand if you read the post.

    I think the ritual benefits us in putting Christ himself at the center. Whereas all modern extrapolations remove him from the center of worship in that they take this body less seriously. If it were possible to have a contemporary church with the faithfulness to these things in adequate measure, i’d likely stay protestant, but there’s not, thus my conundrum.

    “some mechanical putting of a wafer in one’s mouth has no sacramental value whatsoever, any more than spinning a Tibetan prayer wheel could bring one into the true dharma. LOL!” I tend to agree with you. However, my opinion on this is that, the work is worked in itself, however, whether this is worked to sanctifying and preserving grace or an exposition of your own lack of love in the form of “judgment” depends on subjective appropriation.

    America’s religion is a gross and bloodthirsty monster which i want no part of. GIve me Christ, his suffering, yielded body, a crucifix and the church fathers any day.

    thanks for responding with such fun to answer questions

    eli

    • Hey Eli! I enjoyed your responses as well, and it’s our areas of agreement are always interesting.

      The only point that niggled me at all was when you said:”…Transubstantiation doesn’t sit well with me, but again, I’m one opinion contra ten thousand. Sometimes, that may mean i’m right, but in this case i think it means i’m wrong.”

      I know it’s finally a matter of faith, and I bow to your faith there, no problemo, but, jeez, Eli (is Jeez a form of “Jesus”? probably is, now that I think of it, in which case, I’ll leave it! LOL!) so, but jeez, Eli, that’s an awful criterion for truth…it’s true because lots of people believe it??? C’mon! LOL! (Yeah, that criterion for truth has worked out just great for mankind, hasn’t it? LOL!)

      OK, OK, just teasing, I won’t belabor it 🙂 🙂 ….it’s just funny to me…of course, there are non-scientific, non-rational reasons to believe all kinds of things (except when you are doing real science)….still, I think in this case your heart is a better judge than all those “tens of thousands”….and don’t you dare start appealing to authority of the Church on this one…that’s a “non-starter” with this commenter, as you can imagine! LOL!

      Enjoyed all these exchanges…shall we put a wrap on it?

      With affection,
      Steve

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