Incarnation and Language (Part 5 of ‘The Anaphatic Way’)

V. The Sacramental Imagination and ‘Speaking’ of God

The third arc of the anatheist wager is the sacramental imagination that urges us toward a “sacramental return to the holiness of the everyday.”[1] The sacramental imagination is the via affirmativa of anatheism, the invocation “of yes in the wake of no,” which marks the potential return to God after ‘God.’[2] This includes the possibility of speaking, or better yet re-speaking, God. After having ‘traversed’ the dark night of the soul, initiated by the Masters of Suspicion, one now has the possibility to come out the other side, into a ‘second faith.’ The inclusion of the Holocaust into this dark night introduces a crucial ‘ethical’ imperative to the anatheist movement through atheism: how do we love God and the other in the moment of injustice?

Continue reading

Radical Hospitality from Gordon Lightfoot

Heard this on CBC Radio today.

Go first in the world, go forth with your fears

Remember a price must be paid

Be always too soon, be never too fast

At the time when all bets must be laid

Beware of the darkness, be kind to your children

Remember the woman who waits

And the house you live in will never fall down

If you pity the stranger who stands at your gate

When you’re caught by the gale and you’re full under sail

Beware of the dangers below

And the song that you sing should not be too sad

And be sure not to sing it too slow

Be calm in the face of all common disgraces

And know what they’re doin’ it for

And the house you live in will never fall down

If you pity the stranger who stands at your door

When you’re out on the road and feelin’ quite lost

Consider the burden of fame

And he who is wise will not criticize

When other men fail at the game

Beware of strange faces and dark dingy places

Be careful while bending the law

And the house you live in will never fall down

If you pity the stranger who stands at your door

When you’re down in the dumps and not ready to deal

Decide what it is that you need

Is it money or love, is it learnin’ to live

Or is it the mouth you must feed

Be known as a man who will always be candid

On questions that do not relate

And the house you live in will never fall down

If you pity the stranger who stands at your gate

And the house you live in will never fall down

If you pity the stranger who stands at your gate

Short and Sweet.

Some good stuff from Merton and others.

The Jewishness of the Bible

One has either got to be a Jew or stop reading the Bible. The Bible cannot make sense to anyone who is not ‘spiritually a Semite.’ The spiritual sense of the Old Testament is not and cannot be a simple emptying out of its Israelite content. Quite the contrary! The New Testament is the fulfillment of that spiritual content, the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, the promise that Abraham believed in. It is never therefore a denial of Judaism, but its affirmation. Those who consider it a denial have not understood it.

Merton, CJB, 14.

Believe in order to be.

We believe, not because we want to know, but because we want to be.

Merton, CJB, 15.

Reunion begins in oneself.

If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and Latin Fathers, the Russians with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians. From that secret and unspoken unity in myself can eventually come a visible and manifest unity of all Christians. If we want to bring together what is divided, we can not do so by imposing one division upon the other or absorbing one division into the other. But if we do this, the union is not Christian. It is political and doomed to further conflict. We must contain all divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ.

Merton, CJB, 21

The Natural is Sacred or Profane. We choose which it will be.

Whatever is done naturally may be either sacred or profane, according to our own degree of awareness; but whatever is done unnaturally is essentially and irrevocably profane.

A.K. Coomaraswamy, in CJB, 25.

If I have not love, but all the knowledge in the world, then I am a clanging gong.

Gandhi once asked: “How can he who thinks he possesses absolute truth be fraternal?”

Commenting on Gandhi, Merton writes:

Only he who loves can be sure that he is still in contact with the truth, which is in fact too absolute to be grasped by his mind. Hence, he who holds to the gospel truth is afraid that he may lose the truth by a failure of love, not by a failure of knowledge…Knowledge expands a man like a balloon, and gives him a precarious wholeness in which he thinks that he holds in himself all the dimensions of a truth the totality of which is denied to others. It then becomes his duty, he thinks, by virtue of his superior knowledge, to punish those who do not share this truth. How can he ‘love’ others, he thinks, except by imposing on them the truth which they would otherwise insult and neglect?

Merton, CJB, 44.

Christians are a minority. Now get over it.

Christians stand to gain more in the long run by accepting their minority position and looking for quality rather than quantity.

Christopher Dawson, in CJB, 55.

Frivolous News is nothing New.

Every time [President] Kennedy sneezes or blows his nose an article is read about it in the refectory.

Merton, CJB, 58.

Oil: The Sacrament of American Folk Religion. The car: the chalice that contains it.

We waste our natural resources, as well as those of undeveloped countries’ iron, oil, etc. in order to fill our cities and roads with a congestion of traffic that is in fact largely useless, and is a symptom of the meaningless and futile agitation of our own minds. The attachment of the modern American to his automobile and the symbolic role played by his car, with its aggressive and lubric design, its useless power, its otiose gadgetry, its consumption of fuel, which is advertised as having almost supernatural power…this is where the study of American mythology should begin.

Merton, CJB, 76.

Chancing the arm.

Personal Preface, Pt 2

Read Part One

In the first transcription that I did last year, Kearney, Irish by birth, shared a moving story from his nation’s history to illustrate a radical ethic of hospitality that under-girds his anatheistic hermeneutic.

No doubt many of us are aware of the decades of violence between Irish Catholics and Protestants. Hostilities in Ireland extends well past the beginning of the 20th century. In 1492, the Butlers and the Osmonds, two Irish aristocratic families, were engaged in combat. The battle made its way to St Patrick’s Cathedral in present day Dublin. Finally realizing that the conflict was going to reach a draw, Gerald Fitzgerald (an Osmond) decided to take a risk to bring an end to the fighting. He had his troops cut a hole in a wooden door at the cathedral. Then he chanced his arm. Thomas Butler, who had sought refuge in the cathedral was probably quite concerned when a hole appeared in the door. He likely thought this would be the end of his life and perhaps his family’s nobility. Imagine then what he would have been thinking when he saw an arm stretch through the door in a posture that was not hostile, but hospitable. Fitzgerald chanced his arm, extending it in a gesture of peace. The two shook hands, thus signaling an end to the conflict.

Continue reading

This being human is a guesthouse.

A Personal Preface, Pt 1

This being human is a guesthouse;
Every morning a new arrival.


The hermeneutic that I have adopted for interpreting and understanding the world I live can be summed up in Richard Kearney’s word anatheism. It informs my thinking, directs my language, creates new ideas, and is slowly emerging into the daily praxis of my life. I first stumbled upon Kearney’s work on anatheism last December while doing some transcription work for a professor at my university. Though I’ve been immersed in the often overly abstract world of academic theology, I had the worst time trying to understand what was being said in the conversation that I was transcribing. Canadian philosopher and public intellectual Charles Taylor and Boston College professor of philosophy Richard Kearney were having a nice three-hour chat about Kearney’s latest work entitled Anatheism: Returning to God after God (surprise!). I struggled quite a bit with the philosophical language that the two were using. But 28 hours later, which is how long it took me to get a pretty accurate transcription, I had a fairly basic picture of Kearney’s ideas. As a side note, I had no idea transcription work would be so intensive. But I literally spent more than a fully day listening to the lecture, over, and over, and over, and over.

Continue reading