Friday, May 15, 2015

Schmemann and Jobling, secularism and feminist readings

It is indeed one of the grave errors of religious anti-secularism that it does not see that secularism is made up of verités chretiennes devenus folles, of Christian truths that "went mad".
Alexander Schmemann in For the Life of the World, Sacraments and Orthodoxy. p. 111, St Vladimir's Press, 1973

He notes that secularism misses the Church as sacrament, but it does not miss many values that have arisen out of the religious framework that is common to many traditions. Among these he lists ethics, concern for truth, human kinship and solidarity, justice, abnegation, - in fact he says that secularists are often more passionate about these things than organized religious bodies. Even in the area of social, or spiritual 'help', he claims that the religious have to borrow the whole arsenal and terminology of various secular "therapeutics".

One criticism that he lays directly to the religious is that they have retreated into a distinction between the sacred and the profane, spiritual and material, etc, which he claims "has thus narrowed and vitiated its own message". (I would note that the distinction between holy and profane for those who are in the Anointed is sundered in the rending of the veil of the temple at the death of Jesus.)

Any changes since 1973? Or should I ask, what is the holy now that it is not confined to the Temple? Is it purely the might of the secular engine of government, of whatever stripe? Is it the monarch's person or the kleptocrat's persona or the rule-bender's might? Where is the accounting and the justice? Is there any good news?

Schmemann identifies the direction of an answer through the Sacrament of the Kingdom of God that is the Church. This might take some teasing out.

On a different topic I am reading David Jobling's 1 Samuel in the series ברית עולם, also a very fine read, exploring Hannah from a feminist perspective, and giving multiple readings of the text in tension with one another including the monarchist reading and an interesting section on Jonathan and his role in the promoting of David as King. 1 Samuel is on the horizon in my work. Its mountains may be somewhat visible in the distance. I may even postpone finishing my drafted readings of Qohelet and Job till I have more of other texts completed.

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