The tendencies of any group of human beings to normalize power and hide harm are themselves, then, subject to the process Matthew’s gospel is describing. The frankness of communication, of subsidiarity mediation and conflict negotiation, the expectation of honest and mutual accountability described here should also be applied, as healthily and faithfully as possible, to the workings of authority, relationship, and power system within the community.
Jesus’ shrewd response to the elders and chief priests’ question about his authority revealed the authorities to which they themselves were beholden. It should provoke us to ask which authorities prevent us from following God in our situations.
King Solomon’s desire for wisdom to equip him for just rule establishes him as the paradigm of the Wisdom tradition and as an example for us to follow. The scriptural emphasis upon wisdom in rule may contrast strongly with contemporary emphases upon technique.
Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount unsettles many biblicist ways of understanding Scripture. It may even be better to move from speaking of ‘the Scriptures’ as a noun, to speaking of ‘Scripturing’ as a verb.
One Sunday around 1173, in Lyons, a wealthy financier named Waldo heard a traveling singer tell the story of St. Alexis, the son of a Roman senator who fled his family, became a beggar, and took to a life of prayer and service. Moved, he hurried to talk to a theologian, who told him of Jesus’ exhortation: if you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give it to the poor. And so he did.
The Center for Citizenship, Civil Society, and the Rule of Law will be hosting a conference at King’s College, Aberdeen this coming June 24-27. Here is the text of their CFP:
Call for papers – annual CISRUL workshop and PhD summer school
Medieval religious houses were more than enclosed communities of men or women who spent their lives in prayer and worship, striving for their own salvation and interceding for the salvation of humankind. Clearly this was part of the story – it was not for nothing that the medieval historian Orderic Vitalis called monasteries ‘citadels of the Lord’, or that monks were commonly regarded as spiritual soldiers fighting against the power of the Devil and his cohorts.
In a recent piece about Les Misérables, which is in general a fine study of the dynamics of law and grace in the film, Michael W. Hannon worries that a view of the state, and the political realm more broadly, as an unnatural institution is insufficient for a vibrant and vigorous engagement of this realm, or as he puts it “our faith in law.” Hannon aptly notes that Valjean, one for whom “it seemed as though he had for a soul the book of the natural law,” is the ideal in Hugo’s work. Valjean’s remarkable conversion, for instance, results in a situation in which he recognizes a greater sense of moral obligation rather than less.