Monday, May 19, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

In February this year, I was sitting in the basement of a Benedictine monastery out on the plains of Missouri. Next to me I had my friend, father Daniel, whom I had to come to know while studying German together in Vienna back in 2004.

We were having a long and winding theological conversation. About the trust God has shown to the world by not being manifest in it, by not letting his Son come here armed to the teeth but rather as a lamb to be slaughtered.

Living and teaching at a seminary college, Daniel’s experience of being a Christian was inevitably different from my own. In the secular university world, faith does not come as a natural discussion point. I know that most of my friends are either agnostic or atheistic and then it appears as if the only way to preach the Gospel is by actually living it.

Which I, of course, fail miserably in doing. In my heart I know that revelation is not to be brought about through philosophical thought experiments but through love. At the same time, I have not become a Christian because I am so good but instead because I want to confront the darkness within me and seek forgiveness for what is broken.

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One day I would like to go into theology and do work on the demarcation between politics and faith. It is not surprising - given the revolutionary scope of the Sermon of the Mount and other core elements - that real-world Christianity has had substantial difficulties in addressing political issues. It may be first now, in its 21st century, that the religion is ready to embrace its true potential, as in radical pacifism, environmentalism and real solidarity with the world’s poor. At the same time, there is an imminent danger in turning faith into institutional crafting; it is the Grand Inquisitor and not Christ who tries to build paradise on Earth.

Yet, to refrain from acting is not an option. The question however is if we will be able to do it without falling victim to utilitarian calculations as we start thinking that the end justifies the means. By now we should know that it never does.

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