Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Eagleton And The Dead Jesus

On page 23 of Reason, Faith, and Revolution, Terry Eagleton offers this beautiful summary interpretation of the Incarnation.
The only authentic image of this violently loving God is a tortured and executed political criminal, who dies in an act of solidarity with what the Bible call the anawim, meaning the destitute and dispossessed. Crucifixion was reserved by the Romans for political offenses alone. The anawim, in Pauline phrase, are the shit of the earth - the scum and refuse of society who constitute the cornerstone of the new form of human life known as the kingdom of God. Jesus himself is consistently presented as their representative. His death and descent into hell is a voyage into madness, terror, absurdity, and self-dispossession, since only a revolution that cuts that deep can answer to our dismal condition.
While certainly resonating with so much of the best of the Christian tradition, without the confession of the resurrection - setting to one aside any question of its banal historical accuracy - it remains incomplete. It is true enough that the dead Jesus, spurned by those closest to him, left to suffer in a rejection that included, for him, the Father on whom he had called and in whom he trusted throughout his public ministry. Yet, the resurrection took this death and redeemed it. The Father who had forsaken His beloved Son is now redeemed as the bringer of new life. The followers of Jesus are redeemed, tasked as they are now with carrying his message to all the Earth. Jesus himself is no longer that battered, bruised, and broken corpse, but made alive again, that death and all death is now seen as powerless against the love of the God whom Jesus called Father. Even the grave cannot hold back the prodigal love for those rejected by the world.

At the end, for all there is so much in this work to lift up, it is also the case that without the resurrection, there is no sense that the crucifixion of Jesus offers us hope beyond solidarity for and in the struggle to make our world, and our societies more human. One can be agnostic over the "reality" of it; yet one brings only an incomplete picture of the kerygma of the Gospel if one neglects the empty tomb, the wonder and confusion of the Disciples, and the promise of presence as they carry the message of Divine love for all to all the world.

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