Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A world-historical moment, a fleeting glimpse of the eternal

The faithful gather in St. Peter's Square. Posted by Hello

Jon Stewart, on Ratzinger's first public appearance as pope, standing before the adoring crowd gathered beneath him: "This is how Bono must feel." Hilarious. So, too, his comments on the sheer stupidity of the media coverage, not to mention of all the hosts and guests who really had no idea what was going on. An easy target, but a truly worthy one. Many in the media were in it for the story, as was the case with Terri Schiavo, and I have no doubt that many onlookers, including detached television viewers around the world, were simply caught up in the wall-to-wall media coverage, or otherwise "mediated". However, I similarly have no doubt that many others, and not just the faithful or otherwise spiritual, truly understood the magnitude of what was happening and experienced some sort of connection, however individuated and refracted through personal belief and experience, to the divine, or at least to what resembles the divine. It was not just about a world-historical moment, the election of Cardinal Ratzinger, however political that may have been; it was about a fuller, richer, and more expansive understanding of a human condition that is not permanently grounded in the temporal abyss of the here and now. In short, it was a glimpse, however fleeting, of the eternal.

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  • You are right: this has been about a "fuller, richer, and more expansive understanding of a human condition that is not permanently grounded in the temporal abyss of the here and now". In fact, your thoughts describe the reasons why I and many people I know are Christians in the first place. This event has been special because such an understanding does not usually make it into a world media which is stuck in the abyss you describe.

    However, my worry is that Benedict XVI will seek to preserve the Catholic Church in a more restricted view of Christianity: faith as adherence to official doctrinal formulations, a "backs against the wall" attitude to modernity.

    Many non-Catholics and "liberal" Christians would accept that moral relativism is both inherently false and also destructive of the moral consensus, however loosely defined, that must underpin any human society. However, it seems odd that Benedict's attacks on relativism have been connected to the downplaying not only of other world religions but also of other Christian denominations. He will have difficulty finding allies in the Christian world if he continues his anti-ecumenism. Surely there must be a middle way between doctrinal and political correctness.

    A word of warning: although this papal election has been of supreme historical importance, I am not sure that I would conflate, as you seem to do, the World-historical and the Spiritual. The Spirit does indeed work in history, but so does human freedom. I have no doubt that God was present in the conclave, but I am not sure that his will has been done (I cannot claim to know what his will in this particlar situation even was). What is sure, however, is that the Spirit will be working in and through Pope Benedict XVI. But he is still a man: he will err, and this is only to be expected from a human being. It is for this reason that my reaction to the election has been more ambiguous than yours. Indeed, a glimpse of the eternal has been seen on our televisions, where one would least expect to find it; but better not to place so much hope in one man, one institution.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:23 AM  

  • I do not watch or even receive teevee anymore, so sickened am I by its propaganda and its obsession with the creation of the 'now' without any meaningful connections to yesterday or tommorrow. I welcomed our new pope via good ol' cbc radio one (yes, I know this is just another kind of propaganda but it is certainly the lesser of media evils) and was glad to be spared the visual spectacle. I agree with you, James, that a 'middle way' between doctrinal conservatism and political correctness (and most especially for the Church a way free of anti-ecumenism) must exist and I would have thought that international media coverage would put pressure on the cardinals to choose a more open man for pope. maybe I should be glad that the church did NOT bend under such intense scrutiny, though... only time will tell what this election casn mean and I hope that the spirit will indeed work through this man, this aging rottweiler.
    see my blog, thuscomethusgone, for a more detailed discussion of the new pontificate.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 8:32 AM  

  • Michael, Michael... I must admit that I was a little saddened by your happy-hippie-sappy-spiritual commentary on this one. I don't believe for even one second that more than a minor fraction of that gaping intellectual head-hole of a crowd felt anything more than the self-important and self-administered rapture that comes with idolatry. I see no greater experience of the divine here, other than the human desire to experience it. Meanwhile, as a political move, the choice of Ratzinger absolutely stunned me. After the leaps-and-bounds forward taken by his predecessor, Benedict XVI seems like a whirling dirvish to propel the church backward in time. Furthermore, given that the pope is not only a religious leader, but also a head of state, I find the political ramifications of his historical involvement in the Nazi Youth and later in the Nazi-supported German Air Force, yet now holding that kind of power to be, at mildest, wholly inappropriate. I don't care that he was "coerced." You just don't get to be second in command to god after that... oh wait, some people do. As ever, only truth could be stranger than fiction.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:10 PM  

  • Books by C.S. Lewis
    The Pilgrim's Regress
    Surprised By Joy
    Mere Christianity
    Four Loves
    The Problem of Pain
    Prayer: Letters to Malcolm
    Reflections on the Psalms
    The Abolition of Man

    C.S. Lewis an Oxford literature professor, scholar, and author, was an atheist who later became a Christian.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:02 PM  

  • By Blogger BRSMAN, at 3:36 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:10 AM  

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