I went to church, yesterday. As someone who believes in the value of Jesus’ life, and the value of his nonviolent example, I recognize Dr. King’s work as being fundamentally founded in a tradition that both Jesus, and later Gandhi helped to establish. When I go to church, I go to a philosophy and theology section that discusses and questions fundamental issues in church history.
We talked about Anselm, and his argument for the necessity of Jesus’ divine nature for salvation. Anselm’s thought was that because original sin is infinite, only someone who is divine can repay the sin in a theological construct that expounds a satisfaction theory of atonement. Anselm apparently also argued that all sin is equal before God – it is not the individual act that is the sin, so much as it is the disregard for God. I don’t think that there is much support for this second position in the Hebrew scriptures. Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are in many places the development by priests of a system of accountability to try to improve human behavior.
The value of Anselm’s position is that, with the obligatory acknowledgment of the sinfulness of being human, we are all made brothers and sisters in human nature. No one is allowed to consider themselves any better than anyone else. There is an acknowledgment of our common “human condition”. The point of argument, I believe, lies in the fact that we are, from the beginning, placed in a construct, that, as one person pointed out in the group, is almost feudal in nature. We can never rise out of it (in my mind, Jesus, and the life that he freely gave, does not solve this problem). There is no incentive to try to improve the human condition which can never improve. There is only the God-mandated requirement to do so.
But God does give us personal motivation to achieve and improve. Why would God not use this? So not just personal motivation, but also some personal responsibility. All theological divisions aside, as I watched the inaugerational address
today at McDonald’s with a pretty diverse group of Latinas and Latinos, some folk who might have passed for one step up from homeless, some Chinese, some people who were probably military, some African Americans who thought it was too cold to be outside with the crowds, some people who might have passed for Arkansanians (their own people), a probable Jew, and some probable religious fundamentalists, I counted the nutritional content of my modified meatless lunch,
and thought today would be a good day to finish formulating my resolutions for the rest of the year.