Sunday 18 August 2013

Rossi de Gasperis on Christians and socio-political involvement

Rossi de Gasperis has a rather different take on Christian political involvement, which I am still trying to get clear about. He says things like:
“The mission that Jesus has received from the Father, his messianism, is not one recipe among others for directly ordering human affairs in the present world: economics, constitutions, the sentences of tribunals or international justice, political controversies or cultural revolutions. He, as he says explicitly in his prayer to the Father, has come to reveal to human beings the Name of the Father: that he exists and that he is a God who is Father; that he exists, and that he is the Trinitarian horizon of our human existence (as sons in the Son); and to sow the seed of divine life and to see that it takes root on the earth and in our humanity.” [Francesco Rossi de Gasperis, Sentieri di Vita: La dinamica degli Esercizi ignaziani nell’itinerario delle Scritture. 2.2: Seconda Settimana, Seconda Parte (Milano: Paoline, 2007) 398-399.]
What Jesus brings to us, then, is not a recipe for social or political or global transformation. Before I ask, what then of efforts like those of Lonergan to think out an economics that is in profound harmony with Christianity, let me put down Rossi de Gasperis’ note on Gerd Theissen:
“I find interesting the way in which Gerd Theissen formulates and proposes a solution about the necessary presence of the gospel in the heart of human society. Writing to an imaginary ‘Mr Kratzinger,’ he points out that we cannot arrive at political decisions on the basis of the Sermon on the Mount. ‘No Defence Minister can ever give an assurance to an aggressor that he will not be attacked in return. No Finance Minister can follow the example of the lilies and the birds. No Minister of Justice can do away with penal procedures. Do then the demands of the Sermon on the Mount touch only our personal and private lives? In front of its radical demands, are we to merely recognize our imperfection? I have arrived at the conviction that the Sermon on the Mount must determine our political commitment in an indirect way: a society must be organized in such a way as to make space within itself the experiment of a radical following of Jesus. A society is truly human only if one who decides to withdraw his accusations and to follow the procedures is not lost. A society is truly human only if it allows, as [un atto dimostrativo], love for one’s enemies. It is truly human if it welcomes, without difficulty, the differences that exist within it. Direct political action cannot take the Sermon on the Mount directly as its measure of judgment, but it can crate the conditions in which individuals and groups can orient themselves towards that standard. To prevent any misunderstanding: I am not trying to say that society must reserve a special niche for the Sermon on the Mount, so that it becomes something like an Ethical Nature Reserve. On the contrary, the structure of the whole of society must be organized in such a way as to make possible the experiment of a radical discipleship. Only then will the groups of disciples be able to exercise an influence on the whole of society and be ‘light of the world’ and ‘salt of the earth.’ (L’ombra del Galileo. Romanzo storico [Turin: Claudiana, 1990] 243-244).” [Rossi de Gasperis 399n13. See The Shadow of the Galilean: The Quest of the Historical Jesus in Narrative Form (1987), Fortress Press; updated edition (2007), ISBN 0-8006-3900-6.]
This, more or less, is Rossi de Gasperis’ suggestion about Christians and politics. It is a different kind of approach from that of political theology, liberation theology in its various forms, including subaltern theology in India. It would be interesting to compare it with the approach advocated by Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est and with that of Lonergan.

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