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August 23, 2005


Whisky Prajer

It's interesting that so many of your "theological" posts/observations generate the bulk of public commentary, while your "cultural/literary" posts don't get us much chatter. This post covers both. I think it is provocatively holistic in its perspective, and worthy of careful consideration.

As for my chatter on this post, I'll skip past the motivations of Gosling's character and probe some of the motivations of the film's writers, Henry Bean and Mark Jacobson. I can't help but wonder if B & J consider Danny Balint's (Gosling) pursuit of God the most significant part of the problem. i.e., is it possible that Balint's loathsome "acting out" is a perverse cry for God to prove his loving and just existence? From B & J's perspective, the answer (incestuous rape) is conclusive, and not far removed from Ms. Russell's (and the prophet Isaiah's) provocative proposal. The priest's concluding statement, however, says something larger still: we manufacture the God we respond to.

That, to me, is a very profound statement, with implications that explore the flip-side of "There is no God." If you believe in a god of war, then you speak, pray and behave in the manner of Pat Robertson, or the militant mullahs. That god is an unchallengeable god, even in defeat. On the other hand, if you believe in a loving, sacrificial and suffering god, your behavior reflects that.

This brings to mind an oddball piece I read in GQ last summer: John Jeremiah Sullivan, reporting from Creation. Sullivan proves to be an especially worthy commentator on this scene, because of his "youth conversion experience". He charts his gradual transformation to infidel: The defensive theodicy (that had been) drilled into me during those nights of heady exegesis developed cracks. The hell stuff: I never made peace with it. Human beings were capable of forgiving those who'd done them terrible wrongs, and we all agreed that human beings were maggots compared with God, so what was His trouble, again? I looked around and saw people who'd never have a chance to come to Jesus; they were too badly crippled. Didn't they deserve—more than the rest of us, even—to find His succor, after this life?

I think it's worth trying to "answer" these terrible questions with reciprocal artistry; even argument has its value. And while I'm happy to be among the most vocal supporters of artistry, I still don't think the most profound Rembrandt can beat the act of giving a thirsty child a glass of clean water. Or forgiving one's enemies.

Whisky Prajer

If you're curious about the rest of Sullivan's piece, it's been posted here.


This may be an incorrect correlation, but I have always categorized the holocaust with the stories of exile in the OT? That certainly does not provide an answer, or explain it away. But it does not seem to be inconsistent. Does this have merit? I have not done any reading on this subject so I am unfamiliar with the prevailing opinions.



I think the exile stories in the OT function at a different level. They are stories of behavior and consequences. Even though I tend to think of the perspective as skewed--I don't really think YHWH brought about wholesale destruction as punishment--the stories are morality tales of a sort. The Holocaust seems a bit different in that the Jewish people were innocent victims of genocidal hatred. Other than some off-kilter uber-fundamentalists, I don't know anyone who seriously blames the Jews for bringing the Holocaust on themselves. Even the white supremacists who hate Jews have chosen to deny the Holocaust rather than blame the Jews themselves.


I wasn't not intending to say they brought the holocaust on themselves, just that on the surface it appeared to be consistent with their own stories of how God had dealt with them in the past.


I guess if I was a Jew reading the OT through the lens of the holocaust I wonder if I would be surprised?


I didn't think you were intending that. I talked to a Jewish friend this morning about post-Holocaust theology. She said that prior to the Holocaust many Jewish congregations had already given up the notion of a God who intervenes in favor of a model of human freedom.

"Prof" Marty

To the statement, "There is no one up there" - in the great film you referenced btw - perhaps Christians should bear witness to Mark's Baptism story - "There is no one up there" because God has "torn open" the heavens to come down here.

But, that might include us living up to Jesus' call to discipleship in Mark's Gospel which would, well, cost us too much.

The Centurion, also in Mark's Gospel, only "gets it" after the temple curtain is "torn open" . . . but perhaps the Centurion, like us, gets it too late . . .

Unless of course, we take the resurrection seriously.

Travis the Okie Vegan


haven't seen "The Believer", but is Gosling's continuing climb, in the face of the rabbi's admonition that there is no one (implicitly, God) "up there", perhaps an allegory? - w/ no God up there to deliver justice, peace, and mercy, we, humanity, must take up the mantle of God - echoes of Feuerbach: we made God (at least in terms of her/his omnibenevolence) in our own ideal ethical image, now it's time for us to live up to that image - maybe that's what Christ is calling us to do - the Johannine Christ proclaimed his divinity, his unity w/ God, and called us to be one w/ him, one w/ God - perhaps if we tried to live up to a truly Christian, truly divine morality, we'd have no more Rwandas, no more Holocausts, no more Inquisitions, etc.


Travis, WP, and Prof Marty,

See tomorrow's entry re: your remarks. Short answer is I agree with what you're saying, and Marty will recognize tomorrow's post from a discussion we had about the Megilloth a year ago. I was going to do it tonight, but Robertson's arrogance was finally getting under my skin.

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