Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Heresy of Bridal Mysticism

Perhaps if you are a Christian man (or a discerning Christian woman), you may have shared my common discomfort over particular liturgical (I use this word generously for all ordered worship), lyrical, and theological forms that might be summed up in God as your Lover.

I recall my first face-to-face with this in a book called 'The Divine Romance', given to me by a psuedo-mentor. I remember looking at it on my desk with trepidation. I was hardly a year-old in my following Christ, and this book disturbed me. I tried to read a chapter, but couldn't stomach it. I ended up pawning the book off as a gift to my girlfriend at the time. There was something off-putting about thinking God as a Lover who was looking for me.

Now, I find it interesting that there is a common thread that runs between Bernard of Clairvaux, who pioneered a bridal mysticism recovered from Origen, leading up to our pop-ish Christian industrial-music-complex that pumps out "Jesus is my Boyfriend" type music. The similarity is that God is conceived as the active-male suitor and I (or whomever) is the beloved who is sought after. I have heard this kind of thing in sermons, trying to weaken my knees and turn my soul towards seeking after the God who has given me everything. Now, I'm not saying God is not love, nor am I saying that God has not poured out Himself in sending His Son, giving Himself over to death for oursakes.

What I am saying is that applying the lover label to us individually is to miss what the Bible articulates is a proper use of the marriage bride/bride-groom imagery that is present in the Scripture.

Bernard was a bizarre figure. He is a Cistercian who both sought to make himself a "woman" before the Lord, and also preached steel and blood in advocating and perpetuating the Crusades. Bernard was novel in his self-feminization, though he is not unique in applying a certain kind of eroticism to a man's relation with the Lord. Origen is the fount for this. He suggested that the bridal imagery of Song of Songs belongs to the relationship between God and the individual soul.

This is quite Platonic, given Socrates' discourse on eros in the Symposium. Eros is, according to Plato, the lust and desire that takes the separated, bounded, soul back into the Heavenlies and into the realm of the Forms. This would find its climax (pun intended) in the Neo-Platonists who saw the soul melting back into the One, the Ultimate, behind the penultimate, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

I am not faulting Origen for what we have now, only that it 'origenates' (again, the puns) with him. It was Bernard of Clairvaux who applied a gendered significance to the relationship. For Bernard, the male was the active element and the female was the passive element. To be a 'woman' thus meant to the passive recipient as God entered the bed-chamber of the Heart. Bernard's Augustinian bent only enforced this the more. There's a reason why Bernard has been considered a kind of "proto-Protestant", on account of his insistence on the monergism of God in salvation.

Personally I find the dichotomy of monergism and synergism as a false starter based on bad initial premises. The Reformed were able to maintain them together in their justification-sanctification division, but that division is itself unnatural, if not useful to maintain the Biblical witness. However, Bernard's monergism fit quite well with his self-feminization. He had to be a spiritual woman if he was to be a Christian.

This Bridal Mysticism is heretical and abhorrent. The Biblical imagery points to the Church, not the individual soul, as the Bride of Christ. This is a Corporate marriage, a metaphor of unity, bringing to light the kind of oneness sought, but also the desire behind such a union. It was for joy that Christ endured the pains of death, even death on a cross. It was the joy of His People that Christ died. We can say that Christ loves His people, poured out His life for the World, and yet calls particular people through the work of the Holy Spirit. We ought to maintain all three without collapsing them into each other. I am not the Bride of Christ, though I belong to her.

This Bridal Mysticism is not prevalent in the form I articulated above (though still existing in Roman monks and Protestant ecstatics). However, it has sublimated into a wider Evangelicalism that lacks the rich union language that had previously existed. Thus the sentimental God is the Prince-Charming to sweep me off my feet and love me in the near-erotic. I'm not saying union language prevents this, but actually makes it worse, despite it being more compelling to certain segments. Experiencing a kind of marriage and love-making, certain ecstatic and fanatical women and nuns have run with this teaching to their own sick fantasies. May God correct them.

This kind of Bridal Mysticism, whether deep or popular, is one of those sources of why men find church-meeting to be effete and bizarre. There is only a call to passively swoon and adore God as a Juliet. The fatal blow is if this coupled with a kind of moralizing, which is equally limp-wristed and uninspired. All of the main-line Protestant preaching I have hard has come across as being harangued and inspired by a self-important chattering gossip, sometimes a woman, sometimes a woman disguised in a man's body.


Forgive me if I seem to equate women and femininity with such cretins. God forbid. I only seek to illumine that perhaps Bernard as unleashed a torrent of androgynous spirituality that turns away men and gives women all but formal power; though this is changing as liberalized denominations are being honest with what they believe. I can applaud them for unveiling themselves as they are, even if it is a rejection of the Apostolic faith.

Christ brought a faith that is for both men and women, joined as one. There is no call for Muscular Christianity to suppress the woman, nor is there a call for the abomination we have so prevalent, the devaluing and rejection of the man. Instead, Christ called all to Himself, though there are many roads on that Path. There are womanly and manly roads, there are roads for Jews and Gentile, there are roads for the slave or the free, the employed or the employer. There are roads of quietude; there are roads of robust community. There are roads that lead through the desert; there are roads that lead through the city.

Christians should reject Bridal mysticism and correct those who teach it. Christians should turn away from foolish teachings. If you are a man, teach a robust Gospel to other men, one that does not make one passive before the grace of God. That would be a grace that leaves us in the tomb. Instead, the ministrations of the Holy Spirit make us alive to fulfill our purposes. We are made alive to overcome the spiritual darknesses in our own lives, whether our flesh or the demonic.

Renounce the passivity ascribed to the Bridal-Mystics and the Pop Jesus-Is-My-Lover and take up the Sword of the Spirit!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

American Thanksgiving

http://pilgrimunderground.blogspot.com/2015/11/american-thanksgiving-civic-deism-at.html

This ought to be read over and considered as many of us, that is, those who are Christians, leave to go eat our turkey and drink our wine.

Now I still celebrate this day as a family custom and as a particularly lonely time of the year. This is a matter of care and love. The blackmagik of the cultural engine brings a swathe of depression on those who have nothing, no food, no family etc. This is a good day to reverse these sort of things and offer up a different kind of feast; a feast made with one of love and peace, and contrary to the Civil Religion my friend Proto talks about.

Again, read what he has to say in the above link, and take it to heart. This is a day (and tomorrow too) where gluttony, psuedo-religion, materialism, endless craving (aka Lust), etc etc. is celebrated and condoned. This is a day where the religious connotations of American football and military show their face. This is a day where clan/kin trump the connectedness of Christ's people, and we close our doors with our fat bellies and fat wallets.

But this is also a day where we can invite in those who are alone today, left by everyone else. This is a day where Christians can reveal their love, not by giving the homeless turkey-dinners, but by inviting in friends, a motley crew, and modestly enjoying one-another. This is a day where repairing family ties might be received, where inviting disparate family over will be accepted and a relationship will be restored. This is a day of working, earning more now so you will have more time later, and giving God thanks for such a mercy; or perhaps you work so a co-worker can take the day off and see his family gathered.

Yes, Christians must be aware of what American Thanksgiving means, its history, and we must not be lured to think its practice is fine on account that the State says so. But this day is an opportunity to love and to work. This is contrary to its initial purposes. We should give thanks every moment of every day, so today is not about thanksgiving. But it is a particular moment where we, Christians, can subvert the typical story and use it for better purposes. Some of us can, some of us can't, being stronger or weaker. But let's use the moment as it comes to us.

We worship in Spirit and Truth, let this day be a day to do so, subverting the National cult in the process.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

To Show Oneself a Man

Recently, I read Leon Podle's The Church Impotent that attempts to tackle the question of why men, in almost all forms of Western Christianity, find Christianity insufferable. This is not whether or not men identify with being Christian, there are plenty who do. Rather, it's about a functional rejection: "going to church" is womanly, spiritual practice is unbecoming, etc.

At first a preliminary:

I really enjoyed this book and Podles is pointing out a problem that may be easy to overlook depending on who or where you are. He whirls through history, starting from the 12th century and going onwards till the modern. He cites a lot, and it can get your head swimming if you don't have a command of the timeline. It's a good survey of his topic that keeps a big picture. This is despite imbibing somewhat bizarre psychological presuppositions, and bordering on a psuedo-fascism (he speaks highly of fascism in contrast to the nihilism of the Nazis).

However, the key point of the book is his discussion on the binary of masculine-feminine. Most people, Christians or not, recognizes it exists as a cultural construct grounded in something real. But what is it? Podles posits that Western society has fully adopted Aristotle's bifurcation:

The Male is Active; the Female is Passive.

This is the source of many problems, both in acceptance or rejecting. In accepting, we have men who are uncomfortable being put into a 'passive' role and reject Christian involvement. I understand this in the modern "Jesus is my Boyfriend" pop-songs that exist. But this is not a modern phenom. It goes back to Bernard of Clairvaux, who revives Origen, with his bridal mysticism; that is God is the Groom-Lover, and you/your soul is the Bride-Beloved. The sensuality borders on the erotic, and is off-putting. I recall never really picking up the Divine Romance by Dallas Willard because of the overtones. I do not desire to be a Juliet awaiting her Romeo to woo her from her balcony.

Podles ascribes the above to the reason why many church-communities function as male-led 'sowing circles'. I doubt that's the only reason, and I doubt that the situation is truly as bad as Podles makes it sound. But it is bad and it is a problem.

The rejection comes in men thus refusing to engage in the life of their church-community, to reject spiritual disciplines (where they exist!), and generally spending their energy and life in places that keep such Christianity out. Again, this is not only because church-communities are geared toward the feminine. We are sinners and Christ remains a stumbling block against the arrogant. We don't like to hear that much of what we do is at odds with God's will. But again, he's right, and it's a problem. Podle's articulation of masculinity and femininity stands perhaps to begin to fix the rift:

The Male is Separator; The Female is Unifier

I still haven't given this the thought that it warrants, but allow me to explain. Both of these roles require action. The Male has desire (at whatever level) to break-bonds and stand-out. It manifests in the need, in every culture that I'm aware of, to have a coming-of-age for a boy to be a man. There is some kind of test, commission, sacrifice, etc. that initiates from one into the other. The boy separates from the world of women into being a man, only to then later be unified to a woman. For Podles, this is a way that men break bad unity (absorption) and enter into a true unity (I-Thou, respect of the Other). The balance of the genders keeps one from overwhelming the other. Femininity unbalanced ends in Eastern mysticisms, mother goddesses, the One. Masculinity unbalanced ends in sky-gods, Wholly Other, Allah.

Take all this worth a grain of salt, though it's interesting to consider.

However, Podles' definition is a good starting point. In God we see both the Masculine and the Feminine, but we relate to Him as a 'He'. Not because God is a Man (though, in the Person of the Son, He is a man), but He is the Holy One, literally the Set-Apart. To the creature, God is a He because we are not Him. But the Church is a She, because in Her Unity, the Body of Christ, we participate in God. The Bridal motif applies to the Church, not the individual Christian or his/her soul.

What does this actually mean for the problem of men in the Church? Well, it certainly doesn't look like a lot of men's programs that are out there. Most of these either valorize sin or play make-pretend. The former end up boosting for sports obsessions, physical violence, drunkenness, patriotism, sexual immorality (yes, married couples can be sexually immoral with each other). For these I think about some Christian biker-groups, Mark Driscoll, and the so-called Christian militia groups. For the latter, well, I've been among enough of these. It never gets towards sin because it is so foppish in its self-consciousness. It involves images of knights, watching war movies, beer, burgers (YEAH!! MANFOOD!!), and lots of self-conscious talk about being men.

The former are wayward, the latter are moronic and pitiable. The insecure man still trying to prove his masculinity is truly a wretched sight. But then what is the solution if not the above? Well, for one, we ought to worry less about being men, and instead get on with doing it. Well, how do we do that? What am I to do?

There is no quick solution, but let's consider, in seriousness and not fantasy, the Apostolic images of a soldier and an athlete. Both of these come from St. Paul, and I'll summarize and expand on his points. The soldier is one who must give his focus to the task at hand, and not be caught up civilian affairs  This metaphor is one for the Christian to be attentive to what is truly important. For a soldier to stay on duty is not merely waiting, but an active sort of patrol. We wait to see who might come, who might be there. Is it a friend or foe? Discernment is a huge part of this. Without discernment, a soldier might be foolishly chasing shadows, a soldier might get distracted by things going on around him, whether alluring or chaotic, a soldier might fall asleep as nothing occurs.

An athlete is one who trains vigorously, day after day, striving to win the prize when the contest arrives. It is only when considering the end goal does all the activity make sense. If there was no event, if there was no prize, then all of the training may seem only as vain struggle. But if there is a prize, then the exercise and training makes sense. In fact, it is a burning requirement. An athlete may feel tired or sluggish, but he knows if he doesn't maintain his regiment, then he will slip behind and risk losing it all.

Both of these images St. Paul uses to articulate the Christian life. This is not an endorsement of sports or soldiery. Instead, it's considering how these things make sense to us as we go through our days living in This World. Christ is the Warrior-King who sends us out into the world to carry out His message. Christ is the Judge who crowns us with eternal-life as we win the race and enter into glory. These are metaphors, they are not definitive, but instructive.

What if spiritual practice was conceived as war? We war against our flesh. We pray to do battle against spiritual darkness, to tear down principalities. We read and meditate on Scripture to be given the weapons of our warfare, particularly a shield to defend against a constant onslaught. For the silly manly-men prayer meeting, this imagery appears as buffoonish. For one who has truly struggled with lustful thoughts, who has fasted, who has kept a vigil, who angry at his contempt, this is no exercise in pretend.

The image of the soldier or athlete are not necessary. We don't need to talk about doing this or that, but as men reaching other men for Christ and His Kingdom, we do not need to resort to the world with the praise of violence and debauchery, whether in the form of the American military or sports-stars who commit all sorts of vice and vanities (whether self-obsession, camera hoarding, lying, cruelty, sex with minors, rape, murder etc.). Instead begin by your own practice.

There are all sorts of other changes that might help in regards to the life of the Church generally (liturgical, pastoral council, community presence etc.), but right now, the first step might be taking up (or continuing in) the practices of walking the Road of Life. The Greek term is askesis, meaning 'exercise' and giving us the word 'ascetic'. A brief aside:

The theological concept of Merit, which poisoned the Latin church throughout the Middle Ages, doesn't enter into this. We are not 'earning' our salvation. One cannot 'earn' their salvation. Christ's blood does not contain a 'value' that is 'accredited' to me. Instead it effected the shape of the world and the destiny of mankind. Jesus didn't pay any price, except in that His death undid the demonic system of accounting charges. Jesus throws the accounting book out. His Death pardoned us. He dropped Sin into the Grave. That's what being accounted righteous means. It is doing away with any kind of merit-debt, positive-negative, system.

Anyway, committing ourselves to being 'ascetics' is a task that calls for sacrifice. It calls for bearing one's cross and dying. It means rising with the only Risen Son of God. It means working out our salvation with fear and trembling. It means fasts, prayers, spiritual warfare, it means protecting the innocent with words, posture, demeanor, and touch. Christ fashions us into the men that we are to be in Him, no longer bound by Adam's road to perdition. This is the path Christian men have before them, and it is both easy and hard. It is life-giving and endless joy. This is Royal Road is where we show ourselves a man.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Paris Attacks

I appreciate the sentiments that many share about the need to pray and the need to commentate on the attacks in Paris. This might indeed be an event of great magnitude in terms of the future of European politics.

Will it lead to the vibrant success of the psuedo-Fascist Right-Wing under people like Le Pen in France or Wilders in the Netherlands? Will it lead to the EU becoming a secularized, anti-Islam, militaristic confederacy? Or will the EU explode as every nation tries to secure itself against outsiders? Will the US use this to further suck France into the matrix of NATO, further expanding its vast military empire across the world?

There are many more questions, and it is yet to be known whether this event will be a huge turn for the future of Europe. But of course, before the dust settles, everyone has a quip. I guess, in some sense, I'm not guiltless. However, I am offended that Facebook is very quick to offer a solidarity sticker, putting your profile in red, white, and blue. We can't even allow quiet before the "world" can offer its condolences. Does anyone feel better that while their son/brother/father/mother/etc. died, a bunch of random people had the pleasure of putting the French flag superimposed over their profile picture? Is that really any sort of consolation?

And of course, everyone has their 2-cents to add in. If you have internet, TV, radio etc. you have heard that Paris has been attacked and a hundred plus have died. Why do we need an incessant need to produce a theodicy, to try and moralize, spiritualize, evangelize before the bodies are even buried? Why do we need to constantly chatter?

And then of course, we have the soaring war-hawks. We have Chicken-Little Trump give his quick hit on France's gun-policy to explain the events. We have all sorts of people who want to bang the war-drums against ISIS. I'm not saying ISIS isn't evil and hell-bent on murder. It is. But do we even have a clue as to why ISIS exists in the first place? Maybe before you post your rage and need to 'do something', you should read a history book or two about the West's role in the Middle East, including the propping up the House of Saud, the wheeling and dealing with people like Saddam Hussein, and making and breaking Middle East states for the purposes of US advancement. Iran, in-and-of-itself is a case example of US foreign policy (i.e. the assassination of Mosadegh, the propping up of the Shah for oil and thus control, and the eventual blowback).

But back to my point. Why do we need to give our two cents about the events? Why do we need to try and explain so quickly? We're not in Paris. No one cares what any blogger, or foreign news agent, or personal opinion has to say. If you're not in Paris, if you haven't lost someone, then maybe we need to shut our mouths.

Do not be a Pharisee and make a show of your prayers or your compassion. It means nothing except in the eyes of men. If you are going to pray, pray and do it silently. Do not quote your philosophers, your theologians, your common-sense policy makers.

Just shut-up and kneel.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Shadow-Work

Another keen insight Ivan Illich brought to light is the concept of shadow-work. In this way he prefigured modern Feminism and stands as its antithesis and hated for it. Allow me to explain:

In our economy, the only thing measured is the production of wealth. That is, for all intents and purposes, work = money. My productivity in the national economy comes in terms of work that makes money. The eight hours spent in an office, the six hours at the retail store, the ten hours on the Construction site. What is not measured is the 'economy beneath the economy'. This includes all the work involved in washing clothes, preparing meals, cleaning one's living space etc. that is skipped over. No one would be able to work at the office if one had not put in the work in traveling there in the first place.

Ivan Illich's problem lay at the heart of how we even define the word 'economy'. In modern parlance, the word has to do with the exchange of wealth. But, as a parsing of the Greek would tell you, the word economy has to do with the functioning of the home. Economy has (should have!) a broader definition than merely the possession and use of wealth. It has to do with the daily rhythms and procedures of social life.

In the 1950's, Ivan Illich was cheered by supporters of Modern Feminists. Of course, they misunderstood him, and in his correction, they reviled him. When viewing things through the wealth-defined economy (hence-forth a capital-E Economy), women were (and still are) disadvantaged. Men were, seemingly justifiably, the wielders of power because they participated in the real economy. They were the ones that generated the wealth, and thus were full and active participants in the Economy. In revealing the shadow-economy, the work beneath the work, which includes everything from child-rearing, to cleaning, to home prep, proponents of Feminism had the discursive ammunition to attack the system.

Feminism desired access for women into the Economy. The shadow-economy was a form of slavery, and thus should be eradicated. Women were now called to actively participate in the Economy, and turn all the shadow-work now undone into a servile lower-rung in society, a place to be filled by maids and day-care. This was a way for the whole of society to be enveloped into the dominant power-structure, the Economy.

But here is where Illich and Feminism part ways. Illich had no desire to advocate for the Economy. Instead, he saw that it was itself a 'power and principality' that had grown idolatrous. His intent was not to eradicate the shadow-economy and "liberate" women. Instead, he saw the shadow-economy as a reality that attacked the power-monopoly the Economy possessed. Generating wealth is not all there is to the functioning of a home or a social order. Instead, he hoped that recognizing the shadow-work of women would subversively attack the pretensions of the Economy. Life would be fuller and richer without the Idol of Mammon ruling our lives.

For this he was vilified as a reactionary, a misogynist, and a patriarchist.  But that is because, frankly, Feminism does not reject the Idol, but only seeks to expand the franchise of its sacred ministry. Now, granted, the concerns of Feminism have changed with the times. As Jacques Ellul would put it, modern people have grown to distrusts the priests of Mammon, the bankers and stock-brokers, and now label them witch-doctors and warlocks. They are no longer the spiritual heads of the Nation. Gordon Gecko's "Greed is Good" is maligned and rejected.

Well, not exactly. Perhaps rhetorically, but Wealth still remains the democratic solvent. It remains the ghost in the machine that drives forward all the twenty-first century dreams of authenticity and life-experience. Advertisements that tell us to go live, to have a good time, to experience life, etc. are still founded upon the old bones of Mammon. Of course, the old factory tycoons have passed into oblivion. The giant firms are dinosaurs who are being cast down. But our modern heroes are the non-profits, the start-ups, the small businessmen. All of these revolve around wealth. A Zuckerberg in reality is not far from a Carnegie.

In the process, the Feminist attack has sunk the ship of the Old Boys Club. The work-force is, in many ways, now open to women and the shadow-economy has been absorbed, slowly and surely, into the Economy. One does not need to be rich to hire a cleaning service for your house. Day-cares are everywhere for people of every income bracket. Fast-Food (even healthy Fast-Food) has replaced the need to cook at home. Hell, there are apps for people to do your shopping and dry-cleaning.

The above instances of the Economy's absorption are not listed to make you feel bad if you in anyway have participated. This is not an attack or complaint on women in the work-place. Instead, this is a warning for Christians against partaking of the Ideology of the Economy.

The Church is where the power of Mammon is called into question. She is a place where measuring-money is to be rejected and slowly abolished. Even as I write this I reflect on my gut-instinct to think that whenever I am earning money is the time when I am actually doing something. In fact, most of my work is done without any monetary compensation. True wealth is not marked by Caesar's imprinted coins (or bills for that matter), but the presence of Sophia, Wisdom, the Spirit's good work of restoring Humanity to mankind.

Generally, the Stay-at-Home mom is a despised figure, a left-over, an antiquated and ignorant figure, who is still trapped in bondage to the old system. In homes where the Economy reigns, men will oppress women and the shadow-work is a kind of bondage. But that is because the reign of the Economy is bondage. Stay-at-Home moms are in fact a means to subvert and reject the rule of Mammon for the rule of Christ. Power is not defined by a democratic money, but by the presence of the Spirit.

In some ways, Feminism is God's scourge to attack the idolatrous ideology of the Economy. This should alarm Christians to turn back to the Almighty Father of Jesus Christ, and to seek all good and blessing from Him. I'm not saying money is evil, but it is merely a base tool, one which Christ easily acquired from the mouth of a fish. The love of money is the root of many evils, and one that cut us through the heart. We ought to use the wedge of shadow-work to attack all habits and practices that move us into participants in the Economy, instead of participants in ever-giving economy of the Triune God, forever thrice blessed.

To end, I will give examples of what this might mean:

-This might mean that Christians should work less, or work part-time, in money making endeavors in order to work elsewhere. It also might mean taking more time to rest.

-It means that perhaps Christians who have much should be willing to give more away. And not just in terms of almsgiving (though this too).Use your money to pay people to help in whatever work you're in. Create jobs.

-If you have a large home, open it to strangers. Be willing to have beds for whomever comes to you. And open up opportunities to meet new people. Open up opportunities to meet struggling people and invite them into your homes.

-Spend time in prayer and discern your commitment to the Economy, to Mammon. If you are weak, admit your weakness. Voluntarily take pay-cuts if you earn more than you need.

-If you have a stay-at-home wife or mom, praise her. If you know a stay-at-home wife or mom, praise her. If you are a stay-at-home wife or mom, rejoice.


Let thanksgiving, charity, and grace be weapons against the god of This Age.

The Corruption of the Best is the Worst

Ivan Illich is a Roman Priest who is truly a Catholic and Prophetic voice in our modern times. He is an unsung hero who is usually misunderstood as a Modernist or as Reactionary. As Christians who try to navigate the politics of This World, we need good prophetic guidance. Especially since we live in a world of sound-byte intellects and talking-heads. I believe Christians are called to engage politics, but this is doing politics From Above. What I'm saying is that it doesn't easily conform to the forms and modes of our present time and space.

So, for example, let's look at voting. Most people dissolve politics into who one votes for. I don't vote. I'm not registered to vote. I have no intention of ever registering. I do not believe in any of the false promises and illusions that this kleptocratic, near ochlocratic, democracy holds. I thank God for the pluralism, it is a ground for the Church to work her mission. However, this doesn't mean I have any intention to prop up Establishment regimes. Democratic and Republican are far more similar in their policies than their differences. They are both pro-empire, hence Obama putting troops in Syria. Barack Obama was one of more radical (I don't necessarily mean this pejoratively) candidates to win the office in a long time, yet he is truly not much different than George W. Bush before him. His Middle East policy might be rather different than Bush, but one only needs to look at East Asia to see it's not a different vision but a different course.

Anyway, Ivan Illich is a Christian voice who calls into question the basic forms of our political discourse. He is able to do this by considering that our present-state is the fruition of a truly terrible monstrosity: a mutated, heretical Christianity.

Ivan Illich does by calling to mind the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Being the good liberal peoples we are, we don't find the teaching terribly radical anymore. But it's for this reason we miss the accent of the parable. We tend to think that the Parable answers the question of "Who is my Neighbor?" with "Everyone!". We see that the Good Samaritan, an outcast in Hebrew society, is the one who lifts up the beaten and dying Jew and brings him health. Thus, everyone is to be our neighbor.

There is truth to this. The parable tears down the walls that separate the us from them. For Jesus' audience, this calls into question the division between Jew and Gentile, those who worship God and those who worship idols. But the resolution to this problem is found in His own Body. His death tore the curtain in the Holy-of-Holies in two. In Christ, there is now no division between peoples. Men and Women can stand side-by-side in worshiping the Lord.

Many communities fail even at this level. They chop people up by clan. In the States, there are 'white' and 'black' churches, which, when taken seriously, are no Church at all. Race, culture, wealth, status, clan, kin, if these things get in the way, Jesus confronts us with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In Christ, there is no separate-but-equal (even if there still remains differences).

But, anyway, back to the main-point.

For the generally liberal among us, though, this universal application is not really much of a problem. Yet, the problem is this is not a real answer to the question the lawyer asked Christ. For truly, who is this 'Everyone' we are called to love? Isn't it a mere ideological construct, a phantom non-entity that people commit themselves to? The answer Jesus provides is not 'everyone, but 'anyone'. The break-down of division is that anyone could be your neighbor.

This is the key here. When we apply universality to this story, we collapse the particularity. We turn the individual person into a concept, the law of love becomes a duty. Thus we are able to consider ourselves charitable when we give to a giant bureaucratic organization, yet we tip waiters poorly, neglect the poor in front of us, and excuse our insolence to the people we actually know and are around.

St John Chrysostom complained bitterly about the construction of 'foreigner-homes' in Constantinople. These were essentially shelters for those coming from abroad. The problem was, according to John, that Christian now passed their own responsibility to an 'organization'. It gave them a pass to not keep an extra bed open for any who needed a night's rest. It allowed Christians to neglect the poor.

What does this do to the Church? As Ivan Illich might have put it, this corruption turns she into it. I'm not denying the corporate life and ability of the Church proper. But when the Church is so fundamentally institutionalized, real people, real life, and real structure are collapsed into the idealized and non-real. Living voices and a rich tradition, powerful and binding, becomes ideological fodder to beat people around the head with.

An example I've considered: Perhaps the East is right to reject the 'filioque' as an attack on the Person of the Holy Spirit. I won't get into this here. However, if we lay all the blame upon a particular dogmatic formulation, then we've idealized a conflict. I'm not saying dogma is not important. But the problem is not the presence of the 'filioque' but the real fact that people do not trust God's Spirit to lead their own lives, and to instruct and move the decisions of the Church. We make the Holy Spirit into an instrument and power-node, instead of the captain of our ship, carrying out His Will, the Will of Christ the Lord.

So how does this affect politics? Well, we Christians become trapped in liberal-democratic form and end up propagating insanity. Perhaps we clamor for the rights of the poor. But perhaps we should start with our own actions and our own disrespect and bigotry for those right before us. Perhaps we clamor for responsibility and work-ethic. But perhaps you are lazy and wealth hoarding. In fact, all of these words 'responsibility', 'bigotry', 'lazy' etc. need to be reconsidered in light of the Kingdom of God. Maybe responsibility means resting enough to be present for friends, family, and strangers. Maybe laziness means less about how much money is in your pocket, and instead refers to "working out your salvation with fear and trembling"?

The result of this corruption is the false-church of the Nation-State, the false-church of the modern political vision, the false-church of liberal sensibility. In today's age you can argue that a mass-bombing campaign can be done in love and is a form of loving your enemies.

Truly, the Corruption of the Best is the Worst.