Friday, November 22, 2013
Jose Arregi: "My Church and My Creed at 60"
El Blog de José Arregi
November 20, 2013
Sixty years aren't many, but it's as if in them I've had to change cultural eras twice and live my life in three different cultures, three worldviews, and three theological paradigms. Before, cultural eras lasted thousands of years. We believed heaven and earth were motionless, and that everything should be governed by an immutable order, that the Earth was the center of the universe, and just the sun and the moon turned slowly around it to light us by day and accompany us at night and mark the rhythms of planting and harvesting.
But today we know that the earth turns at 30,000 km per second. Everything in the universe -- galaxies almost infinite in number and size and almost infinite atoms in their particles, waves, and voids -- everything is united to everything and it all moves and races dizzyingly. It's more remarkable than dizzying (what produces vertigo and havoc is the rhythm of so-called "economic development").
The agrarian culture has lasted for ten millennia -- somewhat less in these lands, where we learned to farm and raise animals later. The industrial age was born only two hundred years ago, and modernity with it. But now we're in another era -- in just two hundred years, the industrial age has become the post-industrial age, the information age. At the same time, modern culture, characterized by secular faith in scientific reason and progress, has become postmodern culture, marked by the collapse of truth, the fragmentation of knowledge, evidence of uncertainty, and the recognition of pluralism in all fields. In just two hundred years, we have gone from pre-modernity to modernity and from the latter to post-modernity.
So, in my 60 years of life I have seen three different -- very different -- cultural epochs. And by "different cultural epochs", I mean my way of being a believer, of being church, praying the Creed. For nearly 20 years, my faith was completely pre-modern: the earth was the center of the universe presided over by God, God was the Supreme Being and Lord, the Bible and dogmas had been directly revealed by God, the sacred was superior to all things profane, being a priest was the greatest, mortal sin the most terrible, and the pope always had the last word.
Studying philosophy and theology brought doubt, not without anguish. I had to reconcile -- often desperately -- philosophy with theology, faith with reason, theocentrism with anthropocentrism, the power of God with human freedom, grace with responsibility, the sacred with the profane, the political transformation of the world with the hope of the "beyond", truth with tolerance, religion with secularism, the only incarnation of God with respect for non-Christian religions. I had to modernize my Creed.
But when I thought I had achieved it more or less during my four years at the Catholic Institute in Paris, another world would open for me -- or rather impose itself on me. One of the key triggers was the process of writing a doctoral thesis on the relationship between Christianity and other religions starting from the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. Three worlds confronted each other in me: the basically premodern theology of Von Balthasar (Christianity is the only revealed religion or at least the only religion of the historical incarnation of God), the modern theology of Rahner (Christianity is the historical culmination of the revelation and incarnation of God, which is also found in other religions) and the clearly "postmodern" theology of Panikkar (God has many names and is incarnated in many ways in all cultures and religions. I opted for the third model mostly because the others locked me in a dead end without respite. But the pluralist paradigm was also in turn like a leap in the dark, so there was no peace in me (nor was there any in the tribunal before which I presented the thesis in January 1991).
In later years I was looking to shape a radically pluralistic theological paradigm, an ecological and liberationist paradigm: God is not a Being, She/He is the heart and soul of the constantly expanding and creating universe with no center whatsoever, She/He is the Spirit or Ruah of peace and consolation, which groans in humankind and in all creatures until full liberation, full creation. Our human species Homo sapiens, which appeared only 200,000 years ago on this beautiful green and blue planet, is neither the center nor the crown of creation, not even the center and crest of this planet, rather it is nothing more nor less than a wonderful and still unfinished manifestation of creation in progress, with three brains - reptilian, mammalian and human - not well coordinated with each other, that do not allow it more than a still very dormant conscience and a very fragile peace. One day it will disappear like all other species but life on Earth will go on developing (and probably on other planets, although we still don't know anything about it).
And Jesus? ! Jesus -- blessed be he -- is a remarkable individual of this our poor and wonderful human species. He was and still is -- because Life that is given does not die -- a prophet, sacrament, symbol, and incarnation of liberating and creative Compassion; he was outrage and peace, rebellion and hope. He didn't care about religion but about mercy; he didn't care about blame but about healing. He didn't oppose, exclude, or include any other sacrament of Divine Compassion, and he will be fully the Christ, the Messiah, and the Liberator, in communion with all the prophets and liberators past and the future, when all the dreams he called the "kingdom of God" come true. Meanwhile, life on Earth will continue. It still has billions of years to go, and much much more in other galaxies and on other planets, and I want to believe that here or elsewhere species will appear that can and will be able to successfully live better than us, in more stable peace and greater harmony with themselves and with all beings, to the glory of Life or God.
That's where I am, where I'm going. I never thought of publishing a book like this, until Credo Ediciones insisted on it a couple of months ago, because of my "100 days of papacy" article on Pope Francis, just two pages long. Following their invitation, I have pulled together several texts here, most of them not yet published in print form. If they can be of any use to anybody, give thanks to the publisher.
"My Church and My Creed": The title is at least ambiguous, and it may seem presumptuous. They are in no way "my" Church or "my" Creed. I'm not founding anything. The possessive articles are superfluous. And yet, how are we to be Church today if it isn't by seeking to be free, and how are we to pray the Creed of all time if not with those words that lead every one of us to really live today?
(Taken from the prologue of José Arregi, Mi Iglesia y mi Credo. Reflexiones sobre un cristianismo creíble para hoy, Credo Ediciones, Berlín 2013, pp. 3-6).