Tuesday, May 25, 2010


A little something from Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian/ethicist at Duke: "The deepest enemy to Christianity is not atheism - it's sentimentality." I think what he means is that whatever "holiness" is supposed to mean, it's either a politically critical holiness or it's nothing. The Chilean poet Nicanor Parra, attempting to reject a romanticized or affected poetic form in favor of speaking to the world on the ground, says:
"We repudiate
The poetry of dark glasses
The poetry of the cape and sword
The poetry of the plumed hat
We propose instead
The poetry of the naked eye
The poetry of the hairy chest
The poetry of the bare head.

We don’t believe in nymphs or tritons.
Poetry has to be this:
A girl in a wheatfield -
Or it’s absolutely nothing."

I think I would have to say the same thing about holiness - at a moment in history at which our attention span seems inversely proportional to our capacity for destruction, holiness simply cannot afford to content itself even with "good-deed-doing," let alone more sentimental "me and Jesus" spiritualities or any kind of feel-good that is taking us away from recognition of the genuinely iconoclastic spirit of the gospel. If you will excuse my copycat attempt at a parallel, We repudiate the holiness of the folded hands and the upturned eye. We propose instead the holiness of the shackled ankle and the knotted stomach. Of course, we don't find a lot of that terribly often - not in our parishes, our schools, our universities. What would it look like, Hauerwas asks, to be against something like greed? We can't even think of what greed even looks like apart from completely over-the-top examples.

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