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August 05, 2004


Chris Corrigan

Christ's example in an imperial and authoritarian state is one of pure living in truth, it seems to me. His actions seem to be even more relevent to a society where democratic principles are quickly eroding. When the democratic candle goes out, living in truth illuminates the darkness. It's all that ever has.


"But this absence of established religion does not imply that I can recognize no religious authority in my life."

Why not? Unless I'm reading you wrong, you don't allow that the choice of "no authority" is as valid as any other.

Your reference to Michael Polanyi is intriguing too as it places the authority of the scientific community in the community itself, which is more or less where I am going with this in the religious authority. As someone who plays at the edges of his religious community (i.e. as a Catholic Heretic) this raises some difficult questions. I accept that my view is far from the mainstream of my community and could be ruled out of bounds, but a key point is that I don't recognize the Pope as the authority in this, but the Catholic community generally.

I was going to assert that science doesn't excommunicate members of the tradition, but they can in the case of someone who falsifies results or otherwise grossly violates the core principles. But we are more in a Thomas Kuhn space of paradigm shift here, and it is permissable to question the validity of the rules and processes.

I might not be able to find a lot of support for my views within the Catholic tradition, but I don't think I'm so far out as to be outside the tradition completely. This is important because it represents a dynamic view of a tradition where even the core principles can be challenged and shifted in response to developments and ideas. In an authoritative system with an organizationally constituted authority, this can only happen by action within the leadership, but with scientific paradigm shifts, these can come from outside the recognized orthodoxy and it can take a generation to resolve disputes.

In a sense, you can view the reformation as this sort of shift in the religious sphere. It is instructive that science seems to heal these rifts over time, but religious schisms seem to persist and proliferate over time.


"Nevertheless, we mustn't tie them too closely with political action, for it was not the market but the state to which Christ referred when he proclaimed that his kingdom was not of this world."

Doesn't seem like much of a distinction to me. Both markets and politics are "of this world"; do you think markets are part of His Kingdom? I just don't see it.

Chris is on the right track. "Living in Truth" captures the most important essence of Christ's example, and is the common ground we can stand together on whether we are inside or outside of the Christian tradition.

This raises the question of what Jesus teaches us about engagement in public life beyond the Christian community. This has often been the basis for disengagement from the larger community except for spreading the good word further (to the point of hegemony in many cases).


Right, had the market existed Christ would have worshipped it, as his Father's hidden hand? Surely not.


No, I think clearing the temple demonstrated his position on markets, and least with respect to spiritual life.

What I was getting at connects with Chris' comment above. If Jesus' life is an example of how to live in truth in his times, what would it be now? Would Jesus tell you to get involved in a healthy Civil Society, or to withdraw from public life? The subtext is also that as we teeter on the brink of greater totalitarian shift in spite of our democratic institutions, greater sacrifices may be called for. We live in dangerous times, yet I am still an optimist with faith that the people will start to wake up and take us back in the right direction. At least this is my hope.

Chris Corrigan

Iin my younger days when I was much more involved with the United Church of Canada I was mentored by ministers for whom Christ's example was as political as it was spiritual. The social justice theory I was exposed to as a teenager was taught to me by the example of the men and women in the ministry for whom political consciousness was the most direct and pratical application of Christ's teachings.

When we asked ourselves the question "What would Jesus do?" it was always in the context of strategy. Should the Church divest itself of South Africa? Should there be a formal apology to First Nations congregations? Should gays and lesbians be ordained to teach and care for the spiritual life of their communities? Should we speak out against welfare cuts or large scale international trade agreements that would hurts the poor?

Somehow Yes was always the answer to these questions, and so my lingering idea of Christ's life is one of political action, social conscience and loud protestations of the truth.

His example is so authentic and profound, that even as he prepares to send him to his death, Pilate tries to get the goods..."What is truth?"

As Louis Armstrong might say, "if you have to ask, you'll never know."

For me Jesus might well have been an anarchist. By the way his body was broken up at death, it seems to me that he wanted a decentralized embodiment of his teachings and message. Take this body, broken and shared among everyone. And don't let the bastards bring you down.

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