Sunday, April 24, 2005
The transcendence of criticism.
A great letter to the editor in today's Boston Globe, by a retired United Methodist minister:
In the early 1970s, I was concerned about some of the same issues as Pope Benedict XVI when I began work on a thesis entitled, "The Concept of Transcendence in the Christian/Marxist Dialogue." My concern was that Marxists and Christians have a check on their drift into "relativism," and a basis from which to challenge the idolatries of Stalinism, Nazism, and much of Christian fundamentalism, and future temptations.
The new occupant of Peter's Chair does not seem to realize that the opposite of a "dictatorship of relativism" can be the idolatry of assuming that one church, one person (an illusion to papal infallibility), or one government can have the truth in hand, and thus speak for truth without danger of error.
I am as concerned that there be self-criticism in the Roman Church (and in those Protestant churches that have sold their souls to the religious right) that acts as a check on the sort of fanaticism that ends in the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, the McCarthyism of the House Un-American Activities Committee, or a scientism that assumes that all human problems can be solved by scientific method.
In our time we desperately need leadership that will open us to greater truth, not anchor us to the idolatries of the past. What we need is an idea of Transcendence that reminds us that all of us — individuals, churches, governments — are finite, not infinite. We are not God. We do not need a renewed idolatry of the sort that many of us hoped had been put to rest by Vatican II and Pope John XXIII.
Rev. James A. Stillman
The false choice that many religious conservatives want us all to embrace — that you either accept the absolute authority of some institution, doctrine, person, or class, or allow human civilization to veer off into the chaos of relativistic individualism — needs to be challenged again and again. When a person, institution, or doctrine claims to be above criticism, beware: You've just found an idol, a false god.
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 24 April 2005 at 12:44 PM