The Following is taken from a discussion on facebook and expounded on to fit the blogging format.
A friend of mine posted something about how laypeople should not bother themselves with the study of theology because of their “simplicity.” Which saddened me greatly, because the Church has always sought a Universal Discipleship. It’s in the very word Catholic, which has roots in the word Kata-hole meaning, according to the whole. But nevertheless, let’s not labor on this too much, suffice it to say, sometimes I wonder what the hell has gotten into my friends where they assume that a little bit of learning gives them a right to be the kings and queens of arrogance.
It makes me sad when good theologians are corrupted by bad virtues and thus prove to be bad theologians. You cannot separate theology from virtue. It is impossible to rightly describe the righteous, pious or sanctified mysteries of God without a soul that corresponds analogically. Meaning, you can only reflect what’s in you, and even if your words are eloquent, and your thoughts systematic beyond reproof, if you cannot love the ignorant, the enemies, the weak and the poor, you are not engaging the world Christianly.
I have been harping recently, on the incarnate nature of Truth as a person. Truth is not merely facts which are proven, Truth is shaped by a certain imagination, possessed of certain virtues and disciplined in many facets, because Truth is Jesus of Nazareth, the risen Christ.
I posted as a status: ” Truth Himself is humble and meek, seeking not to be served nor looked up to, but bears his cross and serves even the most uneducated through His mission. If your theology does not care for even the ignorant, it is not Christ-shaped.“
I had a few “likes,” but there was one particular friend of mind who posted the following response:
“Truth can cut like a double-edged sword too. There is a time for each, right?“
I mean, the statement seems harmless enough right? But look at the underlying conviction, that peace and meekness are a disposition that have an alloted time-frame, and that violent Truth has a time to be free as well. Both of these are his disposition, obviously favoring the sword metaphor. I understand this young man’s attempt to be faithful, and stand up for his beliefs, but either we are disciples or we are soldiers for the empires of the world. We cannot do both faithfully.
I answered his question with the following:
he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.
For him whose sword IS humilty, is meekness is service, this is the one that topples empires and lays waste to the principalities and powers.
To him that assumes that Truth is just another sword in an arsenal to wage war against whatever, this one is already compromised. Jesus is not a weapon, he’s a servant.
I have to admit I might be lacking in imagination here, but I do not understand what is so offensive to people about having to understand the “blessed are the peacemakers” part of the gospel. Clearly Jesus did not approve of revolution against the Romans, and that’s part of why He was crucified, the people wanted another messiah, one who would kill. They chose Barabbas.
My interlocutor decided to expound his position as follows: I have edited only grammar and punctuation:
I…believe there are those called to live by the sword and even die by it when necessary-which is an honor- in the fight against modern evils.
(My reply to this here is, firstly…what? Jesus was pretty explicit. This guy isn’t even espousing a just-war position, but a flat out “violence isn’t all that bad” position.)
i personally have never seen an evil empire fall by humbling oneself to it and serving it with gentle kindness.
(It’s called, the Roman Empire. Just sayin’…pagan empire, Christianized and established as the center of Western History after this Christianization. Jesus overcame not just the idea of sin, not just the effects of sin, but the roots of sin and every manifestation including arbitrary power and arbitrary violence.)
The hearts of individuals will be changed by Christian witness, collective evils not so much. there has to be room for men in the church who resist evil with force in society.
Well, the gospels and the epistles urge us not just to transform individuals, but societies, and not through violence, or power, but through being the Church. Through being weak people able to be transformed by grace, and Truth.
I closed with the Following:
I disagree, but I am not going to start a big fuss about it. Look, either you believe in the power of the resurrection, or you don’t. If you do, you look at history and see that meekness did indeed topple an empire. jesus overthrew the roman empire, and it was through his crucifixion.
The gospel is not about individuals alone, but the redemption of all creation. Collective evils is precisely what Ephesians tells us we can overcome, and Colossians as well. Principalities and powers are overcome not by engaging the world on their terms, but undoing their power through Christ Himself.
But again, the purpose of this status was not to talk about just-war or pacifism, it was to call us all back to remembering that Truth Himself is humble, and we should be likewise. Therefore, let’s all do that, and spend less time arguing about intricacies that are ultimately irrelevant if we’d all live the gospel in the poverty Christ invites us to.
I think we could all use remembering that the gospel is not an invitation to power, but to poverty. The power of the gospel is not the empires of the world, or the churning of machines and power structures, but the cross of the crucified Jesus and what that means for us. It means a liberation from any form of liberation that condones unnecessary violence and frowns on even what is deemed necessary as a less than perfect solution.
If we wish to be Christian in our imaginations, we should work to put war behind us. Or as the Holy Father Pope John Paul II says ” War should belong to the tragic past, to history: it should find no place on humanity’s agenda for the future.” I like my interlocutor and friend very much, he’s well intentioned about his faith, but his mistake is assuming that you can hold a sword while carrying a cross. That we have and live in a world where our imaginations are ready to make imaginary wars and imaginary enemies appear means we have not yet learned the peace or the poverty which Christ intends to teach us. That’s all for today, thanks for reading.