Saturday, July 8, 2017

When I hear an exclusivist humanism waxing indignant about the crimes and errors of the church in history, I often partly agree. We all feel this today at some point; who defends the Inquisition? My feelings are divided, complex. But I also see a complexity in my interlocutor, who has an important moral point but is also resisting something: resisting the insight that the love of God is something bigger and more important and more powerful than all this human bumbling and evil. But then that makes us brothers under the skin. We all — believers and unbelievers alike — spend a lot of energy resisting God. It takes a lifetime of prayer to melt the resistances, and even then. . . . And one thing we can immediately see, from our own case as well, is that anger, righteous anger, is a great weapon of resistance. Our modern Western world is awash in righteous anger, reciting litanies of abuse and obloquy. The point is often well taken, in that the abuses are or have been real and crying.

Beyond this, what the anger is often doing for people is stopping their moral and spiritual growth because it's a tremendously effective resistance against it. For one thing, I feel good about myself because, whatever my minor imperfections, they pale into insignificance in face of the horrible deeds of those (communists or capitalists, white males or feminists, etc.). For another, I certainly don't need to bother about any insights I might gain from those unspeakable enemies of humanity, God, or whatever.

We have to be more aware of what anger is doing for us, as resisters — and therefore against us, as lovers of God.

Charles Taylor, A Catholic Modernity?: Charles Taylor's Marianist Award Lecture p 124 (Oxford UP, 1999)

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