Jesus as Social Engineer?

17 05 2010

Found via the Western Confucian

Jesus as anti-family

Here’s a nibble of this article:

As the Church settled into the groove of establishment, accepting to greater and lesser degrees the realisation that Christ was not about to be returning anytime soon, the imperative of discipleship gradually waned, other priorities taking its place, and that rather than the mission of the Kingdom having a Church, the Church had a Kingdom. Ironically, the Church had become well and truly secularised, so profoundly so that cultural norms of empire, those of citizenship, stability, honour, familial obligation and ties, became the ethos of Church, and the motifs by which morality and religiosity were infused. How odd it is that many of today’s proponents of ‘orthodoxy’, and the inveighers against ‘relativism’, are perhaps the unwitting spruikers for what is actually the victory of a secularism that long ago permeated our Church.

It’s not that I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s assessment. Having studied the structure of ancient philosophy, however, it is far more believable to me that Jesus could be construed as “anti-family”. I think the author cites the obviously anti-family passages in the Gospels (the dead burying the dead), and the eschatological aspirations of the first Christians which no doubt were probably perceived as profoundly anti-social and going against the obligations towards local communities and kin. If we compare Christ to other teachers of the ancient world such as Socrates and Buddha, there is no doubt that there is an “anti-familial” slant to what they were preaching.

Of course, this is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, or to discount Catholic family history as it has evolved the last two thousand years. Family life under grace and family life under the law have fundamentally different characteristics that we should not discount out of theoretical sloppiness. But neither should we think that Christianity brings optimal familial dynamics in the human experience. We cannot blur the very stark lines between the radical philosophical way of life that are the evangelical counsels and the life based on social relations of marriage as they have been passed down through the millennia. Such a tension will never be resolved, and it is best not to think of the Church as an agent of social engineering. The family is important to the Christian mystery, but it is not the summit of grace. We must note that the life of a “cradle Catholic” begins with a death from infancy: the death of the old man in baptism and the life of the new man in Christ.

At the very least, such things should keep us from such errors as social trinitarianism, in vogue even with some recent popes. The human family is primarily an image of itself, and only faintly an image of the Uncreated family that is God.



2 responses

21 05 2010
Bruce in Kansas

“The human family is primarily an image of itself, and only faintly an image of the Uncreated family that is God.”


18 05 2010

Could you go into a little more detail on the error of social trinitarianism? Is it an error straight-up or an error of emphasis?

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