February 13, 2011

"Theological Zombie Apocalypse"

Good stuff from Mark Shea, writing to a theology student who is concerned about the un-diluted liberalism of the reading for his Christology class... Some Suggestions on Subverting the Dominant Paradigm:

...As to the indoctrination materials they are having you read, consider it research for your future campaign of Subverting the Dominant Paradigm which you will wage once they've forced you to do the kabuki of offering the pinch of incense to the Spirit of Woodstock. You are not being brainwashed. You are building antibodies. Someday, like the Omega Man, your antibodies will inoculate others against the Theological Zombie Apocalypse that has overtaken so many schools of theology in Catholic higher education. You'll know the mantras and the tired heresies and will be able to explode them from within, freeing future students for the thrill of encountering orthodoxy instead of the wearying drone of the graying radicals who, instead of living 40 years since 1971, have been living 1971 40 times. You are Our Man in Academe, going deep undercover to destroy the regime of heresy from within.

The trick will be not so much to remain orthodox (that's fairly easy, considering how dreadfully dull the theological legacy of the Pepsi Generation is). Rather, the trick will be avoiding becoming a bitter Pharisee who turns Catholic faith into a particularly nasty and uninviting sort of Protestantism.

What do I mean? I mean that you cannot build a life on protest, not even a protest against heresy. If your Catholic faith is primarily a reaction against Those People Over There (whoever They are) then it is not about Jesus Christ, but about anger over some human hurt you have received (like the hurt of getting drivel from teachers who have betrayed their office and used it to subvert the gospel). The Catholic faith is not a mere reaction to this world. It is about God breaking into this world with joy in order to save it. It is hell, not the Faith, that is on the defensive. That's why "the gates of hell" (a defensive image from siege warfare) shall not prevail against the Church. So the trick is to be joyful, not angry and bitter, in your work of subverting the dominant paradigm. Have worldly teachers sold the Faith for a pot of heterodox message? Sure! What did you expect the world to do?

But the good news is, not only is that project failing, but the gospel is emerging stronger than ever because Jesus Christ lives. Brickbats and crosses it shall endure till That Day, but it remains full of joy, not bitterness, till then. So the approach we take is not the mere anger of the Revolutionary against the Old Regime, but the gladness of the saint. As Jesus put it:
I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.� (Luke 10:18-20)
This mistaken focus on defeating the spirits rather than rejoicing in Heaven is the central mistake that many of those concerned about retrieving the Tradition from the vandals have made. They have become so focused on their anger over the vandalism that they have forgotten that it's not about defeating Hell, but about rejoicing over the triumph of a Heaven that has already defeated Hell on Easter.

So do your subversive work joyfully ...

"A pot of heterodox message" I haven't heard many puns better than that! I forgive forthwith Mr Shea for certain intellectual sins that have dispirited me in the past.

Posted by John Weidner at February 13, 2011 1:38 PM
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