Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Blessed Is The Whore
For She Shall Be Called The Bride Of Christ



Over at Mystery Achievement, Someguy wrote a post which he entitled The Roots Of Our Roots. The subject matter is a post by Paul Cella. Someguy takes issue with Cella's, apparent, opinion that American Christianity believes it can declare European Christianity apostate and simply supersede it's history and existence. Cella put it thusly:


That American Christians would come to condemn the threat to the lands from which their faith springs is more than alarming; it is a grave failure of imagination and piety. To my Christian brethren it may be comforting to think of Christianity as a disembodied essence, detached from solid forms of reality such as a church, a community, a nation or civilization; it is easy to make of it a Platonic ideal, perfectly abstract, which at the moment is best approached in America. It is comforting and easy — and it is naturally American — but it is wrong.

St. Paul’s words in the Epistle to the Romans comprise a stirring rebuke to this tendency: “We are members one of another.” Or again in 1 Corinthians: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” The concrete, physical imagery here is unmistakable: Christianity is not only a set of ideas, but also a real community of souls ...

Christianity cannot be torn free from its historical body Christendom without the most violent of surgeries. The blow we would sustain if we were to simply give up on Europe would be a cruel and severe one indeed.


Someguy sees in Cella's ideas


...a darker and uglier subtext that informs Cella's work, and explains why he does not understand the real sickness that is destroying European civilization. A clear example of that subtext can be found in an essay he wrot for TCS a year and a half ago, "Why Be Partial to Israel?":

Anyway, the first thing to be said about Israel is that it is a Western nation. It descends from the same cultural matrix from which America does; and as the ties of blood bind men, so the ties of lineage bind nations.


Cella goes on to make political statements about the dubiousness of Israel's quest for peace with the Palestinians. I'm sorry to sum it up that way, because Cella sees himself as a defender of Israel (and I accept that, in a sense), but the specific political conclusions that can be drawn from such beliefs is not the subject matter I want to attack here.

Instead, I want to put in my two cents on the subject of Israel, Christianity and Apostasy. On this subject, Someguy says:


... it is the key notion of Cella's previous paragraph, that "Israel is...a Western nation. It descends from the same cultural matrix from which America does" that explains the false moral equivalency of the paragraph that followed, as well as why he doesn't understand what's going on in Europe.

Both historically and ontologically, Cella has it upside-down. It is not Israel which has descended from us, but we from her. Our institutions are founded on the values in the Tanakh which she received, preserved, and passed on. The modern state draws on the roots of a plant whose seeds she sowed first. And yes, they are also rooted in the other Testament which, I seem to recall, had something to do with a Jew, and his Jewish Mother, and other Jewish followers of His, who went traveling around Europe telling effite Greeks, brutal Romans, and assorted clueless barbarians (you know, Europeans) that they needed to believe in the God of Israel.

And that brings us to Cella's second misperception: his notion that Europe's nations are "the lands from which [the] faith [of American Christians] springs. It is not from being a part of--or allies with--Europe that our faith remains alive, but by being grafted into--and remaining part of--the living olive tree which, in Romans 11, St. Paul identifies as Israel. And it is precisely because of its rejection of the Jews via nationalism and atheistic humanism (and which finds its focus in its foreign policy towards the modern state of Israel) that Europe is teetering on the brink of a new dark age.

In an article in the November 2001 issue of First Things, Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus concisely states by way of a warning the situation in which Europeans find themselves today:
When we Christians do not walk together with Jews, we are in danger of regressing to the paganism from which we emerged. [Franz] Rosenzweig saw that gnosticism, pantheism, and assimilation to the idolatry of culture and nation are constant temptations for Christians.



Ok, so the battle lines are drawn in this argument. Cella says that the spirit of Christianity can not be ripped away from it's European corpus, and Someguy says that Christianity must be seen as being grafted onto the olive tree of the history of Israel and the Jews.

I agree with both.

1) I agree with Cella that Europe was the locus of Christianity in the world, and that we are part of the same body with European Christianity.

and

2) I agree with Someguy that European Christianity, or any Christianity for that matter, is only as strong as its ties to Israel (God’s people), through its study and reverance of the Torah, God's Law.

It is clear to me that the modern state of Israel is the rebirth of the Biblical state of Israel. The modern state of Israel was founded by Jews who, for eons, had promised themselves, "Next year, in Jerusalem," because they believed God’s promise to them, against all odds.

The Jews have carried the Torah forward with them, throughout the generations, even as they have been unfaithful at the same time. They have studiously preserved the Word of God, copied it by hand onto parchment, translated it, and brought it to the world. They have argued it’s meaning, and made it ever meaningful to a changing and confused world. They have done their best to carry the Torah, just as they have also done their best at being unfaithful.

The reestablishment of Israel is according to God’s promises, but that does not mean that the people of Israel are living according to God’s Will. Just as the People of God wavered in their faith when God led them out of captivity in Egypt, and fed them on the miraculous manna from heaven, so His people abound in secularity today, even as the miracles of Israel unfold in the reality of modern-day history.

But, lest we gentile followers of God become arrogant, the secularization and apostasy of the Jews of Israel is parallel to the secularization and apostasy of the Christians of the Western world.

The Christians of Western Europe have cursed God’s people, the Jews. But still, we are one body with European Christians, even as they seem to be rotting of gangrene. And, honestly, I am having trouble seeing the log in my eye, because of the gnat in the eye of Europe. I'm sure America is in the grip of malevolent sin as well. Murder, abortion, the glorification of violence, and the child sexualization rampant in our media, obsession with perversion and drunkeness, the female as workout apparatus mindset which passes for "courtship" in our society; these are our sins. Honestly, they don't smell that bad to me.

But, as bad as our sins look on paper, I agree with Cella: Our apostasy, as individuals, and as the American, or European Church, does not remove us from the blessings of God.

As it says in Romans 11:29, “… the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable.” Once Christ has pursued us, and called us, He does not turn His back on us. This is illustrated in many places in the Word of God. In Romans 8: 38-39 Paul tells us,

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nnor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, norany other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus the Lord.”

For some reason, the hardest pill for us to swallow is the one that tells us:

“… it (salvation) does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Romans 9: 16

Yes, Europe has been an apostate society. The sin of Europe has been frightful. They have spit in the very face of God. They have killed His Chosen People. And, in so doing, they have, yet again, crucified His Son.

But the story of Hosea tells us all we need to know about the fallen state of the Church, and of God’s Love in spite of this fact. Eugene Peterson, in describing the book of Hosea, said:


“We live in a world awash in love stories. Most of them are lies. They are not love stories at all – they are lust stories, sex-fantasy stories, domination stories. From the cradle to the grave we are fed on lies about love.

But when our minds and imaginations are crippled with lies about love, we have a hard time understanding this fundamental ingredient of daily living, “love,” either as a noun or as a ver. And if the basic irienting phrase”God is love” is plastered over with cultural graffiti that obscure and deface the truth of the way the world is, we are not going to get very far in living well. We require true stories of love if we are to live truly.


Hosea is the prophet of love, but not love as we imagine or fantasize it. He was a parable of God’s love for His people lived out as God revealed and enacted it – a lived parable. It is an astonishing story: a prophet commanded to marry a common whore and have children with her. It is an even more astonishing message: God loves us in just this way – goes after us at our worst, keeps after us until he gets us, and makes lovers of men and women who know nothing of real love.”


It will be unpopular for me to say this, but Gods Church, we the Bride of Christ, have acted as a whore. We have slept with others for money. We have run from God, into the beds of other suitors. We have been unfaithful, and we have laughed in God's face when confronted with our transgressions. And yet, still God pursues us.

God’s words to Hosea were,

“Find a whore and marry her. Make this whore the mother of your children. And here’s why: The whole country has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God.”

The marriage bore fruit and God told Hosea to name his children No Mercy, and Nobody, because the people had become nobodies to Him. But the very next verse declares,

“… down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches. In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody.”

The biggest mystery of the Bible lies in the question, how can God love a people who have, not only turned their backs on Him, but outright killed Him, as we all have done to Christ?

Christ did not simply die for our sins, He died of our sins. For nothing else could have killed the Son of God. II Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf …” Now, of course, the wages of sin are death. So, in becoming sin, Christ was separated from God, and in being separated from He who sustains all life, Christ died.

This is how far God goes in pursuit of us; all the way unto death, and back. And He has gone this far for all His people, not just the easy cases. He has gone out of His way to marry the whore, and to have children by her. And one day, we will be His redeemed Bride of Christ. Until then, we will be the imperfect stumbling partner that He loves beyond all comprehension.