02 April 2011

The Scandal of the Gospel

Over at Connexions Kim Fabricus posts an excerpt worth reading from my favorite author, James Alison from Alison's book Faith Beyond Resentment.

You can read the post here:James Alison on a closer look at the Gospel Scandal. A small snippet:
In fact, the obvious reading of the gospels suggests that the real scandal is the possibility that when God himself becomes present in the midst of a particular human group, those who are scandalised are not scandalised by the heaviness of his demands. On the contrary, they are scandalised by the fact that God himself does not fit into the scheme into which, according to them, God should fit. It is not that God is too sacred for ordinary people to be able to bear it, but that he is so little sacred that religious people find it impossible to bear it.
James Alison, Faith beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2001), p. 178.


WomanistNTProf said...

interesting! Sacred and secular are our categories. God simply is. Would Alison agree?

PamBG said...

Ooo, interesting question that I'm not sure I can answer. I'm going back to Richard's blog and see if anyone feels they know Alison well enough to answer that question.

He reads the Gospels through the lens of Girardian anthropology which I tremble to summarize as: 1) On a cultural level, societies maintain internal cohesion by identifying and expelling scapegoats to release internal mimetic pressures; 2) At an individual level Alison borrows from Girard and names mimetic violence (the denial that we learn from the imitation of others and the self-delusion that we are unique and self-created) as our "sinful human nature".

So, what would you deduce from that? I'm thinking perhaps, yes, he would say that they are our categories rather than God's but I've never read that explicitly from him. I wonder if others will chip in?

Richard Hall said...

I can't answer the question but for my money, the distinction of 'sacred' and 'secular' as separate categories belongs in the same dustbin as that between 'spiritual' and 'material'

kim fabricius said...

I think the opposite here of "sacred" = "holy" is not so much "secular" (a minefield of a term that needs careful negotiation) as "unclean", which not only speaks explicitly to human sexuality, more specifically to the Levitical condemnation of "homosexuality", but also relates to sacrifice, the Jewish Temple system, and the atonement about which Alision has a lot to say. For example: "All sacrificial systems are substitutionary; but what we have with Jesus is an exact inversion of the sacrificial system: him going backwards and occupying the space so as to make it clear that this is simply murder. And it needn't be" (in "An Atonement Update", Undergoing God, p.59). Of course Jesus himself has a lot to say about the clean/unclean divide: he demolishes it. For the Pharisees, the unclean is catching; for Jesus, it is the clean that is catching.