BY DRASKO DIZDAR
In his recent blog, “Are the Greens really Christian?”, Dr Joel Hodge made some provocative and thoughtful observations.
But perhaps the most important was this deceptively simple yet vital principle of Catholic theology and Christian faith: “love is opposed to death.... Love is on-going, relational, and seeks to build up others, and so seeks permanence and infinity.... [W]e want it to go on forever, and we yearn for more.”
As our world faces the very real possibility of not “going on” for very much longer, how shall we, as Christians, “give an account of the hope that is in us”? (1 Peter 3:15)
How do we speak to our age – or even simply to each other – about that love which is “opposed to death” and which “seeks permanence and infinity”, that wants to “go on forever”, and “yearns for more”, in the face of what amounts to a kind of “global multi-species murder-suicide?”
In the face of a global disaster of apocalyptic proportions, what are the Christians saying? Little or nothing. It seems that we’ve lost the plot – or at the very least, our nerve.
Incoherent as the Green melange of political pragmatism and PC piety may be, it is at least an attempt to give an account of itself in a world increasingly edgy about its own identity and uncertain about its destiny. So maybe what we ought to do is attend to the beam in our own eye first.
And what is that “beam”? Let me suggest that it is nothing less than the fact that we do not in fact, in practice, believe in God as revealed in Christ: we are, what Karl Barth called, “practical atheists” – who make the “New Atheists” look good and sound reasonable (and without whom they would not!).
Do we, or do we not, believe in the one who declares: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5)? Do we, or do we not, believe him when he says: “I am the resurrection and the life; anyone who lives and believes in me will never die; and even if they die, yet shall they live” (John 11:25-26)? And what on earth do we make of his claim that “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)?
Is there a rational, honest and credible way to speak of “the final things”, of “the end times”, of his “overcoming the world”? Can we give a sensible account of our hope in an age of jaded despair?
Yes, but only if we start with the truth – the honest truth; because realistic hope is not facile “optimism”, it is radical honesty – or it isn’t Christian hope. And the honest truth today is that the world as we have known it, the world as we have made it, especially in the last two centuries, is dying.
No amount of denial or rage or bargaining can save us from the truth. But facing that truth can set us free to accept it with hope.
Incredulity morphing into righteous anger and exploding in outraged protest at our own suicidal stupidity is, paradoxically, the fruit of a faith and the seed of a hope that sees in all that is the good gift of God’s own goodness. It is, in some sense, a “share in the sufferings of Christ”, who cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”
It is what Christian faith looks like from the cross; part of what it means to “complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col 1:24).
But please let us not indulge in fanciful bargaining with some non-existent celestial Santa Claus and in fairytales of self-rescue by means of science and the political good will of governments, or in any other crude superstitions and semi-scientific Pelagian heresies about how we can “save the planet”.
Our “salvation” does not lie in ourselves; but we do indeed lie to ourselves if we let ourselves believe that it does.
If the human species has a future on this planet it will not be the saving work of the rulers of this so-called “post-industrial modern world”; much less will it be the brainchild of the learned and the clever of this “postmodern” age. The mind that created the problem is not the mind that can save itself from the problem it created – to paraphrase Albert Einstein.
Instead, to quote Saint Paul, we must adopt “the mind that was in Christ Jesus”. And what kind of mind was that? The very opposite of our age: “Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself...” (Phil 2:5).
If humanity has a future on this planet, it is – as it always is – in God present and active through those who empty themselves: the poor, the lowly, “the least of these, my brothers and sisters”; those who are hungry now; the persecuted and oppressed, the despised and outcast, the prophetic. and Christ-like (cf. Luke 6:20-22; Matt 5:3-12). Jesus’ message to them is: “Rejoice when that Day comes and dance for joy!” (Luke 6:23) And “that Day” will surely come: it is closer than ever.
Are the Greens really Christian? Are the Christians really green? In the end, who cares! At the end the only question that matters is: “Are the Christians really christian?”
Dr Drasko Dizdar is a member of the Emmaus monastic community, and a theologian with the Tasmanian Catholic Education Office.
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