Friday, January 19, 2007

how is it?

I've had some confusing days lately, and when that happens, I know there is one thing I need to ask, as one song I like puts it, "How is it between us, Lord?" And I have to tell myself that I have lost sight of the most precious thing in my life, the one true thing, the one sure thing. I have lost sight of my Lord and His love for me. Other things have become more important to me, and that never works in the end. No human affection can replace Him, no earthly pursuit compare. Without Him in my life my life loses it's meaning. He treasures the brokenness in me and reaches to me over and over to create and recreate this poor little piece of His creation. One question that Jesus asked of His own disciples was, "How is it that you do not know the Father after all this time? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father". No grace extends further. I want to quote an article written by a British Dominican priest, Gerald Vann, some 40 years ago regarding faith and modern culture. It spoke to my heart so deeply within my confusion.

"The power which knowledge brings must be put to healing and redemptive purposes: to the humanizing of the material creation, of the earth which is man's home and setting, but also and even more of man himself. "Don't preach to the starving; give them bread" can be given a new application: "Don't preach divinity to the subhumanized; first give them back their humanity." And it is in the light of this that the importance of Christian cultural renewal can be gauged. We cannot save others from subhumanity if we are subhuman ourselves.

We easily recognize the subhuman in contemporary society, and even more easily criticize its deficiencies and errors, its foolishness and emptiness, but when we confront the challenge to contribute something positive and constructive to the progress of culture, we find certain obstacles to progress which are largely of our own making...

One such obstacle is thinking about morality in terms of negativisim and fear. Goodness, in this view, tends to be equated with (negative) sinlessness, and therefore the main motive for doing this or not doing that is fear: fear of blotting this spotless tabula rasa, fear of breaking "the plaster saint." The concomitant slogan is "Safety first". One might suppose that our Lord had said had come not that we might have life but that we might have safety. And therefore prudence has come to mean, quite simply, caution, the caution necessary to avoid all danger and ensure complete safety. To such an extent has the greatest of the cardinal virtues come down in the world! Prudence, phronesis, does not mean caution; it means practical wisdom, the ability to make wise judgment about practical matters. And sometimes wisdom will require us to be cautious, but sometimes it will require us to take risks.

The tragic effect of an attitude lacking practical wisdom is that the role of prudence in relation to art is seen simply as an attempt to prevent artists from doing anything that might be thought dangerous to morals, and, if they cannot be prevented, to ban them. Moreover the danger will be seen as lying exclusively in the content of a book or film or painting (e.g. it may be thought erotically stimulating, or may seem to argue in favor of the morality of suicide or divorce) and not at all in its aesthetic quality...

Again and again a great book or film or painting will be denounced as immoral while the mawkish, the moronic, the aesthetically meretricious will be extrolled because its message is regarded as edifying or at least SAFE. In the end those who are docile to this sort of guidance acquire an affinity not with what is good and real but what is bad and false, not with genuineness and integrity but with the debased and ignoble. And the element of falsity in particular needs to be stressed: a novel, a play, or film which communicates a profound insight into the nature of the church will be denounced because it contains a "disedifying" portrayal of a priest; another book or film on a similar theme will be praised because it makes everything in the ecclesiastical garden lovely, even though this is a falsehood and the sentimentalized picture of religion in general is a distortion and falsification of the very stuff of religion. Grace builds on and in nature; it is no service to religion, and no part of prudence, to turn potentially mature human beings into morons, and we cannot claim to serve and worship truth if we acquiesce in or encourage falsification of truth..."

Oh my dear Savior, who lived and died and rose in this world of fallen and wrecked things-the one true Beauty who spared not His own for those He loved, may it be said of me in everything I do, create, attempt, love, that I would not spare myself or take the easy way of safety. Let me be a real seeker after the truth.


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