Monday, September 25, 2006

Victory vs Reform

What in your esteem is the entire disgrace of my God, is in fact the sacrament of our salvation.

This quote from Tertullian was forwarded by a friend earlier today and has rung in my head since, for several hours actually. It emerged from a dialogue about the distinction between Christians and Mohammedans, and if the latter will ever experience reform. Figures like Luther and Chauvin nee Calvin were instrumental in reforming how we perceive the Way of Christ: will comparable figures emerge from Islam?

My friend made the point that, while Mohammed took up the sword to champion his cause, Christ gave up his life. There is a crucial difference. Christ did not raise up a holy army to take Rome. That happened later, at a great and terrible cost to Christendom, leading to schism and ultimately Protestantism, in which such deep divisions appeared within the church that they continue to fracture believers today.

I came away thinking about the golden value of sacrifice. Christ laid down his body rather than lift a fist to the State. His resurrection three days later remains the cornerstone of Christian belief and the lighthouse of our holy desires, desires for unattainable communion with the master of the world.

In today's partisan climate, the US is experiencing a crisis of faith. How can we communicate Christian values in the realm of governance, believers ask; how can we introduce the rainbow of faith into a spectrum of polity? James Dobson was quoted recently as saying, "There is disillusionment out there with Republicans. That worries me greatly." I wonder what it is that worries him. Is he inclined to believe that the system will fail and the State will let us down?

Historically, I think Christians already know that the State failed, when it executed Christ. How does the State make up for that little blunder?

I don't want to sound glib. Neither do I want to come across as if I am calling to reject all forms of discourse, that Christians should all escape together into the desert and spend their lives in cold contemplation of I AM. No, we are in the world, engaged with it, and this is just what Christ has called us to do. He has not called us to stand in judgement on disbelievers, nor to make war on them to show we are right and they are wrong.

What can worry Mr Dobson, one of the most influential public figures in this country, when victory has already been achieved? It isn't human victory that Christians celebrate, it is the victory of Christ.

How does this jibe with Mohammedan reform? I am not sure. What I do know is that the current situation is grave. In an earlier post I wrote about the perpetual apocalypse, that at every moment we are living at the end of the world. The rampant atrocities taking place in Beirut, Gaza, Baghdad, Darfur, Kashmir and other regions across the globe are part of a fundamentalist conflagration. Yet the foundation has been forgotten! On every side we hear the battle cry for victory, when that has been accomplished already.

It seems to me that what should worry Mr Dobson is too much reliance on the apparatus of State. We are blessed with grace and joy and faith, the tenements of belief and the true calling of Christ. The only reform that can take place is to answer the call with our hearts and souls, rather than denying what has already been won, and concern ourselves, when it does come to matters of State, with the peaceful exchange of ideas, as in the best that politics can accomplish.

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