Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I 've been up since 5:30 this morning when I gave my turkey one more 'turn' before tossing it into the oven at 9:00. It has since been removed and is a gorgeous golden-brown: Norman Rockwell would be proud!

It is good for us all to pause and reflect on the many ways each of us is blessed. Interestingly, what we in the United States mark out as a once-per-year holiday is, within the Christian tradition, an everyday event: for we are invited to celebrate the Eucharist. Rather than one day set aside for reflection on the ways we've been blessed, each day becomes consecrated to reflecting upon what God is doing in our lives and it affords us an opportunity to respond in praise and worship, in Thanksgiving, for what God has done, is doing, and will do. 

I would like to offer a quote for you to reflect upon:

A new age of Christian culture will doubtless understand a little better than one has up to now (and never will the world have finished understanding this, i.e., rejecting from its bosom the "old leaven of the Pharisees") to what degree it is important to give preference everywhere to the real and the substantial over the apparent and the decorative, to the really and substantially Christian over the apparently and decoratively Christian; it will understand also that it is in vain that one affirms the dignity and vocation of the human person if one does not work to transform conditions which oppress him, and to bring it about that he can eat his bread with dignity.

I'd love to discuss this quote, but it'll have to wait until next week. I'm sure that it will trigger a frisson of rage and the label of "liberation theology" from some quarters. Good. But I will leave it those who would affix such a label to sort out how they situate Jacques Maritain amidst the liberation theologians they love to criticize. Seems to me that it's pretty hard to do - Maritain's dialogue with Russian communism in Integral Humanism (written in the 1960's) certainly points out the shortcomings of the lived-out praxis of Marxism, but it can accept the insights that it offers concerning the mechanisms of oppression and exploitation that it promises to solve. 

In other words, Maritain is able to say that Marxism raises good points and diagnoses real problems. He faults it not because the diagnosis is wrong, but because the proposed treatment is wrong. His response is grounded in the Incarnation and advocates the 'integral humanism' that re-integrates the human person into an agent in relationship with God, rather than in competition with the Holy One. 

Liberation theology has, in certain cases, been like the MTV of theology: it's faddish, catches on quickly, but is pretty quickly criticized and supplanted by the new trend. And then all those who liked it in the beginning look back on it and wonder what they saw in it in the first place. But the impulse behind it - that it names the reality of oppression and the sinful structures that perpetuate violence against humans and creation - are certainly sound and fit in well with anyone who takes seriously the ramifications of the Incarnation. While I am critical of numerous strains of liberation theology, I am grateful that it brings to the fore the social situation of so many, that it calls us to conscience for ways in which we can participate in the systematic oppression of others, and that it takes seriously the corporal works of mercy. 

I would love to develop this thought further, but I have to mash potatoes. I suggest this quote simply because I am aware of the rancor surrounding the issue of liberation theology and I am irritated with how quickly shallow-minded people label something "liberation theology" without having any clue as to what liberation theology actually is or why there have been questions raised about it. For these people, calling something "liberation theology" is akin to calling someone a "racist" -- there's no way, really, to defend oneself and it completely closes off conversation. 

It'd be a great day of Thanksgiving, to my mind, if some of these bloggers (I dare not say thinkers, because they seldom engage in such strenuous activity)  would actually try to understand liberation theology, its contributions and its limitations, before labeling anything/everything that they don't like under the sweeping and ignorant label of liberation theology. 

Anyway, I'm off my soap-box. I lay down my arms and pick up my potato peeler!

Prayers for all this weekend!


Mberenis said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you & your blog readers! I love black friday. I did some research, and have all of my shopping preplanned to maximize savings! You would be surprised what kind of deals are out there, if you search for them.

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Jason said...

Ryan, I must have missed a dish tonight.

I hadn't realized you were serving spam.