Cruciform Justice 9: Living Out of Control

cruciformjustice1As we mentioned earlier, the humanistic optimism that drives the prominent secular theories of government acts as if human beings control the course of history. This is a responsibility too large for any human being and inevitably stirs up within them an overbearing anxiety, fear and despair. Many have therefore painted themselves into a Darwinian corner and have no choice but to live out the unfortunate implications of the theory: the strongest survive by trampling on or disposing of the weak. And the ruthless cycle repeats itself.

Stanley Hauerwas points to Babel as the culmination of such human self-intending. At Babel “our forbearers used their creative gifts to live as if they need not acknowledge that their existence depends of gifts” (Community of Character, 49). God’s scattering and confusing of their languages was meant to be a gift, according to Hauerwas. “For by being so divided, by having to face the otherness created by separateness of language and place, people were given the resources necessary to recognize their status as creatures” (49). Instead of accepting this gift, people “used their separateness as a club, hoping to force all peoples to speak their tribe’s language. Thus, at Babel war was born…” Herein lies the heart of the problem: “Violence derives from the self-deceptive story that we are in control—that we are our own creators—and that only we can bestow meaning on our lives, since there is no one else to do so” (Hauerwas, The Peacable Kingdom, 94).

Yet as I have argued, the Cross dropped the curtain on this violent Act of history and raised it up again on the third day, bringing this tragic drama to a gloriously new and strikingly triumphant new Act: “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed…Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (Rev 5:5,12)! The Good News is that the throne is occupied and the conquering Lamb is moving history towards beautiful new day—“See, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5). As Gerard Loughlin concludes, “It is against this background—of the world writing itself—that the church continues to tell the story of God’s Christ…In Christ the world is affirmed, freed from the need to write itself, loved simply as that which is written” (Telling God’s Story: Bible, Church and Narrative Theology, 32-33). 

In the meantime, the church must embrace this cruciform reality, realizing that proper “Christian social ethics can only be done from the perspective of those who do not seek to control national or world history but who are content to live ‘out of control’”(Hauerwas, Community, 51).

One question still lingers: By what means was/will this just world ultimately be achieved?

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