Monday, November 10, 2008

Lord, To Whom Would We Go

IN A NARROW SENSE, then, one might say that the chief offense of the Gospels is their defiance of the insights of tragedy - and not only because Christ does not fit the model of the well-born tragic hero. More important is the incontestable truth that, in the Gospels, the destruction of the protagonist emphatically does not restore or affirm the order of city or cosmos. Were the Gospels to end with Christ's selpulture, in good tragic style, it would exculpate all parties, including Pilate and the Sanhedrin, whose judgments would be shown to have been fated by the exigencies of the crisis and the burdens of their offices; the story would then reconcile us to the tragic necessity of all such judgments. But instead comes Easter, which rudely interrupts all the minatory and sententious moralisms of the tragic chorus, just as they are about to be uttered to full effect, and which cavalierly violates the central tenet of sound economics: rather than trading the sacrificial victim for some supernatural benefit, and so the particular for the universal, Easter restores the slain hero in his particularity again, as the only truth the Gospels have to offer. This is more than a dramatic peripety. The empty tomb overturns all the "responsible" and "necessary" verdicts of Christ's judges, and so grants them neither legitimacy nor pardon.

[ ... ]

BUT WHAT IS THE CONSEQUENCE, then, when Christianity, as a living historical force, recedes? We have no need to speculate, as it happens; modernity speaks for itself: with the withdrawal of Christian culture, all the glories of the ancient world that it baptized and redeemed have perished with it in the general cataclysm. Christianity is the midwife of nihilism, not because it is itself nihilistic, but because it is too powerful in its embrace of the world and all of the world's mystery and beauty; and so to reject Christianity now is, of necessity, to reject everything except the barren anonymity of spontaneous subjectivity ...
- David B. Hart, Christ and Nothing

This is where Gary Trudeau's caricature of George W. Bush is flatly wrong. Bush, for his many errors, would better be depicted as a bishop's mitre - albeit that of a bishop who has forgotten the power of Christ's Resurrection, and one who succumbed to victory by any means.

Big-O, on the other hand, is truly the newest attempt of the gods of sacrificial, tragic necessity and worldly powers - an upsurge against the triumph of Christ's empty tomb, the Church, and her faith. One can almost hear the soundtrack of the tragic chorus singing with his coming enthronement "the minatory and sententious moralisms" of the tragic paganism. And, as Hart observes, "a people overly burdened by the dolorous superstitions of tragic wisdom (cannot) ... embrace the doctrine of resurrection."

Against this backdrop the Christian faith must preach and proffer the Gospel. The biblical God is antithetical to the tragic pantheon of gods above and the polis below: to the blood-demanding god of the Scimitar, Tash, the gaping maw of Shiva, destroyer of worlds, and the world's tragic bureaucratic necessities.

Believe in the Gospel. Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia. +

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