We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Friday, July 3, 2015


These past discussions were not designed to put any feathers in the cap of any existing organization. The Church of England is dead. But the ideas, many of which were only incompletely put into practice, if at all, remain. Can we put any of them to new use?

What I am interested in is closely related to topics such as the via media and comprehension. What I really seek is a feeling related to friendship and a sense of being on the same team. In my life, that has been severed and sundered in the three central areas of religion, politics, and vocation. In a land of politicking I can't bear any more politicking. I want, like many, to go home:

Home is not just geography. Home is a place of comfort, safety, and familiarity. Of mutual trust and understanding. Of common past and shared future. Home is where children play without fear in a parent’s eyes. Home is where speaking honestly offends no shrill aliens. Home is what is passed from your father to your son. And most importantly, home belongs uniquely to you.

The question is: can home only be achieved by reduction and exclusion or is there a slightly more expansive notion available? I don't want to go into the bunker, where little peace will be obtained, as the inevitable "narcissism of minor differences" will render that a part of hell. In a word, marginalization in a self-imposed ghetto is no solution to me.

Of course, there must be differences but how many differences can we tolerate? What is essential and what is adiaphora? Nor would I want homogenization and hybridization: we need the logic of complexio oppositorum which admits, for just one example, that the Roman and the Eastern rites are totally different and yet at some level the same and never in real conflict.

I don't have any solutions, except the ones I am trying unsuccessfully to tease out here. The only thing I am sure of is that comprehensiveness must nonetheless have limits. The obvious enemy is total levelling, complete comprehension, a universal collapse of all boundaries. This is what we are now experiencing and it tells me just what prize the Man of Lawlessness will offer: false peace.

So here is a little story. Use it as you see fit:

[W]e must recognize that, according to [the theologico-political] schema, any move towards immanence is also a move towards transcendence; that any attempt to explain the contours of social relations implies an internalization of unity; that any attempt to define objective, impersonal entities implies a personification of those entities. The workings of the mechanisms of incarnation ensure the imbrication of religion and politics even in areas where we thought we were dealing simply with purely religious or purely profane practices of representations.

[Lessing's] parable is no longer an intra-Christian affair; it rather neutralizes the whole of Christianity by making it into one universal belief in God, that is, one theistic religion among the two other theistic revealed religions of Judaism and Islam. The claim "that Jesus is the Christ" becomes exchangeable; it can now be read, for example, as "Allah is great."

In the latter of these quotations, Carl Schmitt refers to Lessing's famous parable of the ring in Nathan the Wise (1779). A dying father possesses a ring of inestimable worth that renders its owner beloved in the eyes of God. He has, however, promised the ring to each of his three sons and decides to have two more indistinguishable copies from the original made in order to fulfill his promise. The brothers naturally quarrel over who has the true ring only to be counseled by a wise judge that true fidelity to God is to act as if one possessed the true ring. Lessing's parable of the ring occurs when Saladin asks Nathan what is, among the three monotheistic religions, the true one in the eyes of God. For Lessing, the answer to such a theological question is no longer central to human life: the truth of any revealed religion is displaced by the act itself, thus rendering different faiths 'exchangeable' as Schmitt argues in the above quote. Lessing reflects the Enlightenment's great hope of neutralizing the force of religious faith (through its privatization into the self) and relying instead on the universality of man's reason for the constitution of political community.

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