|More About Holiness
||[Aug. 14th, 2004|09:25 am]
When we call something holy we ward it against attack. Holy books are not to be criticized. Holy men are above reproach. Holy sites offer sanctuary and cannot be strafed or bombarded.|
Holy things are monuments. They are frozen in time. They oppress. Men kill to keep them just the way they are.
But kaysho is right. In the beginning is passion. The holy book is written in a passion. The holy man acts out of passion. But then the disciple kills the thing he loves by turning it into an untouchable holy thing.
Francis of Assisi is the holiest of Western holy men. But Francis was crazy- as wild or wilder than Van Gogh or Jim Morrison. He went to Syria to preach before the Sultan in the hope of being martyred. He took asceticism so far that he'd sprinkle wood ash on his dinner to guard himself against enjoying it. He was extreme and theatrical and willful and uncompromising. He was a force of Nature. He was Dionysiac.
Society can only take so much wildness. The wild thing is tamed. It is institutionalized. It is used as a check on future wildness. The breaker of taboos is turned into a guardian of taboos. The Holy Book becomes God's final word and future creativity is stifled. The law-breaker (Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Francis) becomes a policeman.
Take it further to politics and there is the parallel that the radicals in the end become The Establishment. You cannot usurp one power without simultaneously creating another.
Exactly, as we're seeing with Tony Blair. He came in as a centre-left politician and has been steadily moving right (and also becoming more and more autocratic.) we're at a stage now where he's so far to the right that the so-called conservatives are sometimes having to attack him from the left.
Well, the thing is that Left-Right is not a static continuum post-Communism. There is no coherent ideology on either side anymore, really.
For someone like me- who grew up with the Cold War- the new ideology-free politics is baffling, but I guess what it really represents is a return to business as usual.
The breaker of taboos is turned into a guardian of taboos. The Holy Book becomes God's final word and future creativity is stifled. The law-breaker (Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Francis) becomes a policeman.
Jesus becomes a threat: Better watch out, you'll be judged.
In our Episcopal prayer book there's a strange, turnabout prayer in which we beg God to protect us from Jesus the Judge:
[from Evening Prayer I]
"That we may depart this life in thy faith and fear, and not be condemned before the great judgment seat of Christ,
We entreat thee, O Lord."
I once worked with a young mother whose son came home from his Christian elementary school in tears because his teacher had told the class all about the Devil and Hell.
The mother and her husband, both members of the Church of Christ, talked with the teacher about their frightened son, and they were basically told that this was painful but necessary information; that all children ultimately had to know about sin and eternal punishment and judgement and the Devil and his works; and that the school tried to be as gentle as possible when imparting all this awful information, but it had to be done.
The parents sadly agreed.
It seems to me that you either accept Christianity as a whole or not at all.
My own experience was that one doubt led to another and once I'd started to question the faith I couldn't stop until the the whole structure lay in ruins.