Monday, December 17, 2018

Is Theresa May the most important person in the world today? PS: what about Jesus?

Thinking further about last week's post (immediately below this), I have been thinking about the importance of the resurrection to claims that the Christian message is true. In a world of competing religions, where religion can be characterized as that which makes human life meaningful in the face of death (that is, in the face of the fact that we humans know we are going to die and thus we think about what it means to exist and to cease to exist), it is noticeable that religions offer a vision of life after death.

A simple consequential observation, of course, is that our means of knowing which vision of life after death is true, are very limited. No one has ever come back from Nirvana to tell us all about it. No Islamic martyr has returned to confirm the number of virgins available to him in Paradise. Religions, in respect of life after death, either win our adherence because we believe what they say for other reasons (miracles, compelling logic, superlative example of the religion's founder, experiences of the divine associated with the religion, etc) or what is offered as a vision of life after death is simply compelling in its own right.

Christians claim that one person, Jesus, has come back from life beyond death.* Thus our claim that we can look forward to resurrection is undergirded by conviction that we have a direct witness to support that hope.

Having had a few thoughts along those lines, I find today that Andrew Sullivan has written further on the matter of religion and politics, taking on various critics. Here. But, as (nearly) always, discussion of religion, including evidence for religious truth claims, does not mention Jesus.

Incidentally, before you get to what Andrew says about religion, you can read a fascinating analysis of the significance of Theresa May's attempt to secure a Brexit deal. It might just mean she is the most important person in the world today ... apart from Jesus Christ!


Father Ron Smith said...

I myself, Peter, do not equate the current British Prime Minister with Jesus - except in the fact that she has been betrayed by a group of mainly men who don't want to let go of the power they think they already have to keep things as they are without change.

In my NSHO, saintly Theresa (hat-tip also to your dear wife, Peter) has risen to better the attempts of her male peers - in tandem with Frau Angela Merkel - to keep together their respective country's tendency to split on male supremacy in domestic and foreign policy; to the point where their own eirenic tendencies have had to be compromised in favour of the force majeure in both populations.

Jesus knew what it was like to battle the patriarchal status quo - where Love, Charity and Forgiveness were suspect qualities on which to build a kingdom. And it was the desire to maintain the extant patriarchal 'United Front' of religious conservatism that brought Jesus down. We only have to look at Trump's triumph in the USA to recognise that the Religious Right can still claim the victory.

Nationalism - like religious Fundamentalism - can lead to anarchy against the kingdom of God - open to ALL Believers in Jesus.

Anonymous said...

True, minds led by bodies normally ignore religion, but sometimes--

Death : Religion :: Lust : Marriage.

Even then, nothing about death necessarily points one straight toward either a meaningless afterlife (paganism), or a meaningful afterlife (Western religions), or transmigration to a new sort of body (Eastern religions).

But for minds led by spirits (cf 1 Thessalonians 5:23) to big questions--

Suffering --> Spirituality --> Religion

--and so, sometimes--

Death, Disease, Injustice, etc --> Suffering --> Spirituality --> Religion.

In that case, resurrection matters, not as a cancellation of death, but as a spirituality that makes sense of the ubiquity of suffering. *Pie in the sky when you die*-- the idea that suffering in life will be compensated after death-- does not make much sense of suffering in the moment, but *inaugurated eschatology*-- the idea in Romans 8 that present suffering is the tension between the old creation and the new one-- actually does. And that seems to be the main NT way of making sense of Jesus's resurrection.

After all, as Tom Wright points out in what must be the definitive book on the subject, Jews like the apostles already believed in a general resurrection and would have expected Jesus to be raised at the end of history along with themselves and everyone else. From their point of view, the great miracle was not life after death-- they expected that-- but that it happened in the middle of history as a sign that Jesus's victory on the cross had changed its direction.

That direction was and is the basis for the apostolic hope, not of posthumous space travel, but of the regeneration of the earth and of faithful souls as an organic part of that, the whole crowned by the final descent of heaven to earth (Revelations 21). Shouldn't that be more appealing in the troubled C21-- global warming, social disintegration, political delegitimation, etc-- than it was in the C1?

But no. The interesting thing to me is that, although everybody who looks can see that the received myth does not fit the biblical narrative, the great mass of people in churches stick with that myth. This is even true of those who will go to surprising lengths to stay close to scripture on far lesser Topics.

In fact, here up yonder, adherents of the heretical rapture idea are invariably clenched fist inerrantists spoiling for a fight about biblical authority. Now inerrancy is not as horrid an idea as many think, but if it does not save readers from a howler that bad, what good is it? Something in our culture prefers the half-pagan myth to the apostolic Word. I wonder what.


Anonymous said...

Questions on Brexit. Which first lost legitimacy with the Exiters in the UK-- European integration or its technocratic elite? Does anyone in Britain agree with the Gilets Jaunes?

Postscript. Scrolling down the page, I was most intrigued by the political and even religious implications of this on the Children of Ted--

who believe more or less this--

As Ross Douthat remarked two years ago, there is a surprising energy these days among constituencies that balk at joining hands to take even one more step toward the paradise of liberal technocracy. He had in mind several on the right that resist classification, but his observation also seems to be true on the left and at the third pole of anarchism/libertarianism. Suddenly, political theology is getting much more interesting.