Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Holiness, Virginity, and Texas Football

The gospel lesson for this coming Sunday - Easter 7 - contains this marvelous phrase from Jesus' prayer to his Father: "Sanctify them in the truth."  The words imagine a fundamental unity between the life of holiness and truth so that - as Newbigin, Hauerwas, and others have long contended - there is no such thing as truth that is not embodied truth.  This is not novel, only easily forgotten.  Sanctification - the life of holiness - is necessarily embodied for Christians, realized in the Body of Christ, the Church, whose head is the Incarnate Son of God.  Truth is this Son with whom God's People are in living relationship.  The Truth has a name and makes claims on our embodied lives as Christians.

So Hauerwas, in his book entitled Sanctify Them in the Truth, cites Bruce Marshall in the following footnote:
"Bruce Marshall rightly argues that believes which identify Jesus and the Triune God cannot be held as true except by engagement in worship and prayer in the name of the Trinity.  As he puts it, holding such beliefs as true 'changes your life and unless it changes your life, you are holding true some other beliefs'" (p5).

All of which leads to the following hilarious introduction to Hauerwas' chapter, "Gay Friendship: A Thought Experiment in Catholic Moral Theology."  What I particularly appreciate about the humor in the introduction is the way Hauerwas borders on irreverent with respect to Mary in a way that is not intended to be disrespectful, I think, so much as highlight the greater irreverence that occurs when Christians do not faithfully embody what we say we profess.  Our beliefs are not static, but represent claims of the Triune God on us.  Anyway, here it is:

"'Do you believe in the virgin birth?' That was the question we were asked in Texas in order to test whether we were really 'Christian.'  At least that was the way the challenge was issued during the time I was growing up in Texas.  I confess I was never particularly concerned with how that question should be answered.  I was not raised a fundamentalist, but I believed in the virgin birth.  The problem for me was not believing in it but what difference it might make one way or the other whether I did or did not believe in it.  My preoccupation was not with Mary's virginity, but with my virginity and how I could lose it.  In the meantime, of course, we Texans had football to keep us from being too torn up by any anxieties that might come from questioning the virgin birth" (p105).

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