Easter: Resurrected Beyond a Social Ethic

BerriganBy Craig Larson, co-director (with his spouse, Carol) of a Catholic Worker farm, growing potatoes and haskap berries in Swan River, Manitoba.  They give their food freely away to food banks.  Originally posted on their wonderful site: The Parkland Worker Blog: An Unauthorized Diary of Care and Compassion (thanks to RD.net contributor Joshua Weresch for connecting us to this great work). 

In 1957 Daniel Berrigan, SJ, was appointed professor of New Testament studies at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, NY.  While there he organized students to look into the lack of adequate low-income housing.  Organizing a Catholic Worker house of hospitality earned him an irate phone call from the bishop insisting that he stop this endeavour.  It seemed that many of the slumlords were Catholic and held that at the very least a CW house would undercut their incomes.  Even though a bishop had no power over an academic position, Berrigan’s actions ultimately resulted in his being removed from priestly and academic assignment, relocated to Baltimore, and then reassigned to numerous locations in Central and South America.  He understood it as banishment…exile…punishment issued by his superiors, but used every opportunity there to immerse himself in the lives of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the people living in the barrios.  You may read about the particulars of this in his autobiography, To Dwell In Peace.

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A strange harmonization happened in Protestant America in the twentieth century.  Both the adherents of the so-called social gospel and evangelical pietism wound up adhering to the same modus operandi, that society is ultimately transformed by the cumulative impact of persuading enough individuals to a certain viewpoint.  Catholics have come to internalize this approach in their continued attempts to assimilate.

A simple and great clarity has emerged from the result of this approach.

Namely, it has been a miserable failure.

Not only have these two, often antagonistic sides of the political spectrum, failed in their own rights, but neither has ever grappled concretely, meaningfully, and decisively with the exceptional proliferation and sophistication of corporate, technological culture and its complete hijacking of political dominance around the world.  By not so engaging, these views have allowed a cult of individualism to be established and flourish in the church, so that all churches turn a blind eye to its members who carry out the most heinous, humanly destructive actions toward other humans and the earth.  It has also allowed corporatists to take over all social sectors, creating a hierarchical meritocracy in the West, threatening the middle-class with the punishing loss of their social status/standard of living if they do not support this ever-more-voraciousness, and totally casting aside those who make up the under-class.

In short, Western Christians – Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox alike – have not only been incredibly obtuse in naming, understanding, and confronting these principalities, but are also intentionally biblically illiterate as shown by the degree of their confusion about the radical, political coup d’etat that has just swept over the world.

How is it that the social actions of the church has neglected to deal wholesale with the rise of these powers?  Refusing to do so has resulted in both the absolute neglect of their own simple dignity as children of God, as well as the distain of world-wise people outside of the church.

The power of the culture of death as it gains momentum around the world needs to be addressed in light of the political power of Easter, and in light of having had the body of Christ overthrown, and in light of political witness of the Bible.

Without doing so, any reference to any celebration involving Easter only parrots the take over that has already happened, and makes Christ’s resurrection itself a sham.

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