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So it's finally summer. I'm not sure what to think. I shook the dust… - classic_symptom [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[May. 7th, 2007|12:05 am]
So it's finally summer. I'm not sure what to think. I shook the dust off my feet at the outskirts of Tampa and now I'm living with my mom in Lakeland for a couple months. I'll be working at the USF bookstore for the majority of the break, and then I'm taking a math class the last month before Fall semester begins.

I recently received a letter from the Lakeland library inviting me to an exam which will determine whether or not I have the skills necessary to become a library page. I'm not sure exactly what the position entails, but the word has a medieval flavor to it, which kicks ass. Chances are that I'll end up working at the library full-time rather than becoming a philosophy professor.

The information and archival sciences have interested me for a while, and such an occupation would afford me front-row seats to the whirlwind of chaos and entropy that is the information explosion. I'm still going for my philosophy degree, my PhD even, you know, for street cred, but I'm afraid that my impatience with the classroom setting just won't diminish enough to allow me to teach.

I'm almost done with my theology studies. It's been a pretty ethnocentric syllabus. There's no denying that. Intense concentration on Christianity and Judaism with a side glance at Islam (I plan on returning to it later). The Christian Life - that is, the gestalt that makes up its philosophy and theology, its praxis and poesis, is starting to make more and more sense to me.

essius has recently pointed out that the bulk of American Christianity is alternately tragic and comedic. I find this statement virtually beyond dispute. I was driving today and saw the lettering on a church billboard that said "always forgive your enemies." What an uncharacteristically Christian sentiment for a Christian Church to express! Then I looked below it where it continued "...it messes with their heads." Aside from being an obvious rip from an Oscar Wilde quote, I don't know how compatible "forgiveness" is with such a vindictive mentality.

Ghandi referred to Christ's death on the cross as a "perfect act" and I couldn't agree more. Though having expressed my contempt for the conservative Christian contingent, I'm reluctant to associate myself with the "Jesus-as-philosopher" liberals. It's not that the notion is unappealing to me; far from it! It's all too attractive. But accompanying such an 'historical' rendering of Jesus is all too often that unbearable, condescending, liberal panegyric that goes something like this: "Oh, I don't think Jesus was the Son of God, but what an incredibly insightful and brilliant spiritual mentor!"

I think that pisses off most Christians more than Richard Dawkins does. Nonetheless, there's something very compelling in the view taken by Boehme and Hegel; namely, that Man and the Universe are evolving with one another until there will a great ineffable "Oneness." It has a Gnostic ring to it, and I'm pretty sure it originated with them, having a congeniality with certain forms of Neoplatonism. Schelling appropriated both of the latter in his philosophy, and I think it's a tendency that's hard to resist.

The only thing I still find myself grappling with is the archaic literality of the tradition. Creationism is obviously out of the question, regardless of whether or not I convert. Were I to believe that, I would have to believe that the heart is the seat of consciousness, the kidneys the source of deepest emotion, and the Earth a flat disk resting on four pillars.

So you see my problem. What am I to make of this religion? The Bible contains numerous historical inaccuracies, scientific errors, internal contradictions, etc., and yet, does it matter? Scripture writers didn't conform to the modes and methods of modern historiography, which means they didn't really care about every little painstaking detail. They weren't stupid. They saw the contradictions. Your typical contemporary American Christian protests in shrill outrage, "YOU'RE JUST TAKING IT OUT OF CONTEXT!" This is sometimes the case. Proof-texting is a common and frequently justified grievance.

However, putting apparent contradictions into context does not mean completely resolving the contradiction, but rather, allowing the two to coexist and noting that both writings occurred in extremely different historical circumstances. Sorry, but if you put every writer who contributed to the Bible in one room, they would definitely not agree on everything anymore than Pat Robertson would get along with a South American Marxist liberation theologian.

I see the death of Christ as a sort of regulative principle in the Kantian sense. That is, even if it's not true, it is a perfect model to follow, knowing that you can never reach such a state of perfection. Christ stressed love of the other: A death-to-oneself inseparable from a life-for-the-other. That is, imperfect people attempting perfect acts, empathizing and suffering with the other as much as possible. Christ represented the ultimate example of this.

 Rather than a normal human turning the other cheek when slapped and allowing his coat to be taken from him, it's a Perfect Being turning the other cheek when murdered, and doing it for the existence of all sin. The idea that he who preseves his life will lose it and he who loses his life will preserve it struck a particularly strong chord with me. The paranoid jealousy of modern man in particular, trying to preserve his psychic integrity through a retreat of the self into his or her shell contrasts sharply with the tender altruist whose sense of self is decidedly more healthy. One can imagine pathological individualism as the most depraved sort of psychosis, whereas, while a normal altruism might foster a healthy sense of self, taking it to its Christ-like extreme effects an ecstatic obliteration of self; the kind discussed by Bernard of Clairveaux, for example, while also stressing the importance of empathy and regard for otherness.

I have a natural disdain for the Catholic Church's tendency to rely on the Pope, and while I admire the bold self-reliant interpretive tradition of Protestantism, I'm put off by the actual people who claim to be Protestants. Few movements end up being more ideological than those which profess a denial of ideological status. I find myself attracted more and more to the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Its unique, somewhat paradoxical blend of emphasis on community and introverted spiritual perfection and contemplation suit me perfectly.

I definitely haven't studied enough Hegel. His theology, however, from what I've seen of it, makes the most sense to me. A bare, honest Christianity, stripped of its mythological adornments and formulated into a powerful life philosophy and teleology.

From: (Anonymous)
2007-05-08 04:17 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: martiancyclist
2007-07-09 10:10 pm (UTC)
I followed you here from the Christianity community, to see what elaboration you might have on what you posted there.

I'm a fairly recent convert to Orthodoxy, so I can't guarantee that what I write is the Church's position, but this is the best I understand right now:

With regards to the Old Testament, while we certainly do believe that it is Divinely inspired, and written by honest people, what we're most interested in are the messianic prophecies therein. In the first few centuries of the Church, it was pored over in exhaustive detail for every phrase that sounds like a phrase from the Gospels. We get these really detailed hymns, then, about OT typology, for example:

"In the shadow and the letter of the Law, /
let us, the faithful, discern a figure: /
every male child that opens the womb /
shall be sanctified to God. /
Therefore do we magnify the firstborn Word /
and Son of the Father without beginning, //
the firstborn Child of a Mother who hath not known a man."

The Gospels, though, we take as . . . well, Gospel, and the Epistles we take pretty seriously too. (We don't deal with Revelation much, since it's so prone to misinterpretation. However, fascinatingly, much of what is in Revelation is in our Liturgy, but even more fascinatingly, it's hard to say whether the Liturgy is quoting Revelation or Revelation is quoting the Liturgy).

My godfather likes to say that the Gospel is so much more believable since there are four accounts that contradict each other in minor ways. If they all agreed, it would look like they were copies of each other, reworded slightly, but the minor disagreements show that they were written by different people in different places, with different perspectives on the same event.

I ruminate off of that about how the Gospels are then concilliar, like Orthodox ecclesiology is, and like the Epistles are (Paul, Peter, James, John, Jude...), and the prophets, and (if the JEDP people are even partially right) the Torah, and, as the font of conciliarity, the Trinity.
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[User Picture]From: classic_symptom
2007-07-09 10:18 pm (UTC)
I'm probably joining the Russian Orthodox Church myself (with the Anglican church being another possible option). While I agree with most of the Orthodox tradition, there are some Western tendencies that are so deeply ingrained in me that I'm neither able nor willing to get rid of them. One of them would be the rationalist/scientific tendency, which I think is valuable with the theist and atheist alike.
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[User Picture]From: martiancyclist
2007-07-10 02:46 am (UTC)
I'm now Russian Orthodox myself (ROCOR). It's a good place to be.

So far as I can tell, there's nothing inherently wrong with being rational or scientific; problems only arise from limiting yourself to what's purely rational. But if you've accepted that Gallilean rabbis can rise from the dead (certain of them, anyway), you clearly haven't gone off the deep end in the rationalist direction.

The Church needs rationalist-leaning people and mystical-leaning people both; the mix is good for everyone. One of the nice things about the fullness of Orthodoxy -- how there's so much of everything in there -- is that everyone can find something they connect with, though it's different for everyone.
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[User Picture]From: classic_symptom
2007-07-10 03:42 pm (UTC)
Agreed. I think Theodosius Dobzhansky would heartily agree.
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