A while ago some blogger (can’t remember who) linked to Health Is Membership by Wendell Berry. I printed it out and read it on March 24th by my records. But haven’t had a chance to process it yet. It’s a deadly bit of a read.
So far, I have been implying my beliefs at every turn. Now I had better state them openly.
I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.
I sometimes fear that this blog, in being a theological sketchpad, represents only the ideas that I am toying with on any given idea. It is not at all an accurate picture of my life or even of my thought life. Because there are a great bundle of ideas I cannot dare to toy with. I may play with them, but it would be an abomination to toy with them as is the case where I play with my wife but pray I do not toy with her.
Berry encapsulates the core of my thought life and indeed my life in these words. The world was not only created in love, but is approved by it. There is a beautiful logical coherency here. The love that creates is compelled to affirm. Love holds things together, just as it holds people together. And as love gives us reason to last the desert days, it is the force that allows all that is to “endure” as well. I have often been called out in my sin and darkness by those who just wanted to knock me down a level. I have only ever been changed for the better by the challenge of those who love me. And the challenge that comes from those who love me and who I can trust are for me, that challenge can be the sternest of all. So love has redeemed and continues to redeem me, in the big Easter picture and the little crumbs in the butter picture too. And when Berry writes about this incarnate love that dwells in the world I know that it is the same love that summons me to song and draws me out of the shadows into the glaze of the sun on a summer’s day and that causes me to salivate at the prospect of a long meal shared with friends or exhale in wonder at a story subtly told. Love lights my life with a light from beyond the sun. The light from the Son not only offers me reconciliation and at-one-ment with God, but that flows into freeing me to reconcile my ideas and hopes and disappointments with myself with my true self, to be at one in peace with others and to revel and enjoy the whole created world.
But lest this blog post stray from its mission of being a theological sketchpad and turn into something as embarrassing as a journal shared publicly, let me paraphrase Zizek. Because Zizek at the start of Zizek! manages to show how the view that denies the existence of God can only sustain itself by nonetheless capitulating to the Christian idea of God, where this love that Berry speaks of finds its source. When a Christian talks about the love of God like this many people who would never consider the claims of Jesus will nod their heads in agreement. We love sentiment. And Christians talking about love can sound sentimental at times. But it is just an appearance. In fact, the love that Berry discusses and that I worship and dare not toy with is a formidable thing.
Zizek is an atheist. An enlightenment materialist who is not afraid to live in the tension created by the incoherencies of his position. He’d admit that his views cannot reach a resolution. But he is a conflicted materialist.
Outlining the view of the world demanded by the materialism of the contemporary era he says the universe is dark. There is nothing. “Quite literally”. But things emerge. It’s not just a nothingness void. There are things out there. And in this, something went terribly wrong. What we call creation is a kind of cosmic imbalance, a cosmic catastrophe. Things exist by mistake. The only way to counteract this is to admit the mistake and go to the end. And we have a name for this bravery. It is called love. Love does not mean a universal ethic. It is not a love-everything love. Love is instead “an extremely violent act”. Love does not mean ‘I love you all’. All creation is stupid after all. Love means I pick out something or someone and say I will love you and that means I will not be loving everything else. The structure of love is imbalanced. He finishes by saying, “In this quite formal sense, love is evil.”
Your Correspondent, He fell in love with a drummer