First Things RSS Feed - Tim Kelleher
en-usCopyright 2016 First Things. All Rights Reserved.email@example.com (The Editors)firstname.lastname@example.org (The Editors)Wed, 26 Oct 2016 23:07:01 -0400https://d25wp47b6tla3u.cloudfront.net/img/favicon-196.pngFirst Things RSS Feed Image
60With God in Russiahttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/01/with-god-in-russia
Wed, 23 Jan 2013 20:00:02 -0500
]]>Riot in the Cathedralhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/08/riot-in-the-cathedral
Tue, 21 Aug 2012 00:01:00 -0400 What in Gods name are you doing?
With deference, this question is directed to the President of The Russian Federation, and more pointedly, to his ecclesial counterpart, the Patriarch of Moscow.
Vladimir Putin apparently has his appeal amongst the fairer sex, Patriarch Kirill, presumably less so. Yet, in tandem, they managed to incite”or depending on your view”incur a riot. It turned out to be a Pussy Riot.
In any case, a resultant skirmish has since grown to surprising scale, gained international attention, and may yet prove to be a grave miscalculation on the part of the two leaders.
In March, activist group, Pussy Riot, staged a decidedly inelegant protest inside one of Orthodoxys highest profile shrines”a stunt that, in terms of physical threat, posed less of one than a gaggle of pigeons flying inadvertently into the same space.
The space in question was Christ the Savior Cathedral, seat of the Russian Church, located in intimate proximity to the Kremlin. And Pussy Riots presence there was anything but inadvertent.
Three of the protestors were later arrested and spent the next five and a half months in jail awaiting a trial that ended a week ago. This past Friday, they were found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison.
The charges, delivered in a 2,800 page bale, sound eccentric to Western ears
”hooliganism being the chief complaint”and speak of offenses against the sensibilities of religious believers as well as the integrity of the social order.
For their part, the activists have maintained their intent was never to insult the Church, or the state, but to add a sense of urgency to the concern that the relationship between the two is growing increasingly unseemly. Its hardly an extremist view, one shared by a wide range of people”most of who dont wear balaclavas or jump around in tights when expressing it. One, Gary Kasparov, was arrested outside the courthouse while protesting Fridays verdict.
Initially, Patriach Kirill refrained from weighing in. When he finally did, he weighed in heavy”painting the protestors as agents of the diabolical and calling for the harshest consequences.
Defenders of Kirill are quick to claim that Western critics take a simplistic approach to a social reality we dont understand and are not competent to judge. No doubt, theres some truth in that. The catastrophe of the Soviet persecution of religion, for example, placed church leaders who survived, in often-impossible predicaments, forcing compromises they felt obliged to accept, and over which they never ceased to agonize. Whereas developments in the West led to separation of church and state as the default position of the contemporary polis, the East has traveled a different path.
Perhaps nowhere is this more dramatically illustrated than in Russia, heir of Kievan-Rus, where pre-schism Christianity was embraced in its Eastern form by Prince Vladimir at the close of the 10th century, and quickly bestowed upon his subjects. While only Constantine may have played a larger role in fusing cross and crown, it is Vladimirs legacy that is being felt most palpably in our own day”and in places like a Moscow courthouse last week.
Yet, the Church is called to be the Church
”royal, priestly and prophetic”dwelling in graced tension with any and every temporal institution. To my knowledge, the Church has never viewed itself as a fortress in need of protecting. Rather, especially in the East, it is the image of the
a place of forgiveness and healing”that is prescriptive.
The satisfaction of humbling ones opponents is no match for the evangelical power of forgiving them. Thus, Patriarch Kirills demand for severity seems to strengthen the perception given voice by Pussy Riot, that the Church is able, willing, and eager to supply spiritual muscle in the cause of eliminating opposition to Mr. Putin. In so doing, it only helps enlarge popular acceptance of the most negative stereotypes of Christianity in general, and Orthodoxy in particular.
The defendants faced a maximum of seven years for their hooliganism. They received two”an outcome hinted at by President Putin during a brief trip to London during the Olympics.
There, in calling for leniency, he put some distance between himself and a swelling chorus of international critics. He may have also put a little space between himself and the Patriarch, leaving Kirill the singular face of the reactionary element.
Last Friday, many in Russia, and millions beyond, hoped to witness a tangible sign of a loving fathers forgiveness of three of his young daughters. It didnt happen.
Tim Kelleher is a television and film writer, actor, and director.
]]>Just War, In Theory and Practicehttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/08/just-war-in-theory-and-practice
Mon, 13 Aug 2012 09:41:16 -0400
]]>The Death of Death’s Long Lifehttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/06/the-death-of-deaths-long-life
Fri, 29 Jun 2012 00:01:00 -0400 Dear Readers,
First Things is a non-profit. For more than twenty years readers have provided donations that have sustained the journal. Now the electronic age presents new challenges. Ive written to our subscribers, who have responded with generosity. Now Im writing to you directly on the web. We need our web readers to step up and provide support as well.
Dont let a secular mentality dominate our culture. More than twenty years ago Richard John Neuhaus and his colleagues founded First Things to project a confident, informed, engaged, and religious voice into the Public Square. It was necessary then, and it remains so today. Donate now and help us become even stronger. Your support keeps First Things a vital voice in public debate.
First Things depends on all her supporters, large and small. Over the years countless readers have given, some $50, some $500, and some $1,000 and more. These gifts have made the difference. Yours will as well.
]]>That They May Be Onehttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/05/that-they-may-be-one
Fri, 25 May 2012 01:59:00 -0400 Gathered for their ad limina, Eastern Catholic bishops from the U.S. were addressed last week by Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Leonardo Cardinal Sandri. His injunction”made not about abortion, the HHS mandate, war, wealth redistribution, or gay marriage”could have a critical influence on the Christian response to all of the above.
Among the Cardinals remarks was a tersely reiterated expectation of celibacy for priests serving the Eastern Catholic Churches
”in this case the U.S. The message may not have been carried directly from the hand of Benedict but the effect has been unpleasant to say the least.
Enter Thomas Loya, a Ruthenian Catholic priest of the Parma Ohio Eparchy, writing his eparch in response.
]]>Doubt and the Creedhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/01/doubt-and-the-creed
Thu, 26 Jan 2012 00:01:00 -0500 There are times, even in polite company, when a believer can feel like the last duck left in hunting season, flapping past the blind in a bulls-eye patterned sweater.
In such circumstances, I will occasionally describe myself as a
Despite the apparent cheek, its not a joke. The phrase means something important to me that is, I suggest, consonant with a point made by Benedict XVI, writing as Joseph Ratzinger, in 1967.
In his signal
Introduction To Christianity,
he proposes that for believers and secularists,
is common ground”fertile and largely untilled. Certitude, however, is a very different thing. Despite the appeal of its show room gloss and near-aerodynamic neatness, its a lemon of an epistemic disposition. Sharing with nature only the abhorrence of vacuums, it seeks to fill them with the self-reference of ideology, draped in robes of righteousness.
Unfortunately, the common ground identified by Ratzinger is getting harder to spot. At a time when certain cultures are said to be experiencing spring, the West is well into a frostier season, caught in a front of bamboozlement whose gusts would sweep the common square of all but a fading echo of religious wisdom.
In an interview with Sally Quinn, a certain uber-atheist professor
traced his familiar views on religion, reserving special outrage for the arrogance of Christians who claim to know”not only that there is a God, but that its
God . . .
I bring it up because the way he frames the issue exposes a key component of the current bamboozlement”one to which many of us, at times tacitly, subscribe.
What lifts his hackles can be observed each Sunday in most churches throughout the world. It is the Creed. And, it is in some sense a startlingly
manifesto. The first of its twelve articles is, in fact, an
”rooted in the performative language of the first person. Rendered either singular or plural
it reads, I
. . . Contrary to the charge, the term is unambiguous. It cant be construed as, I
This is not a minor point. It goes to that which is not merely important to knowing”but is its very matrix.
Later in the interview the professor appears to exercise a moment of epistemological chastity: I cant say Im convinced God doesnt exist. Those bracing for a coy, but,
are not kept waiting. For, in the next breath he adds, . . . Im not convinced unicorns dont exist either. Rascal.
To explain why this is grievously disingenuous would involve an excursion into the most intriguing issues of philosophy, and the reader has far abler guides available. But, our coy brother ought at least be aware that the Nicene Creed is the result of a struggle, undertaken in urgent circumstances, to forge expressions resonant with
In this case, the experience
of God as disclosed in Jesus and realized by the community he engendered.
Maybe I cut class the day it was explained how the experience of unicorns”or flying spaghetti monsters “ flowered into the likes of, say, the
Mass in C Minor
. Does it turn out that Mozart was a covert
Recently, I directed a film for First Things
that is a consideration of the Nicene Creed. The process of making it opened my eyes to how”in the words of participant Luke Timothy Johnson”under-examined, under-appreciated and under-utilized an instrument it is.
I heard people speak candidly about their relationships to the Creed. More than a few expressed concern that they dont always fire on all twelve cylinders; that perhaps it is dishonest to stand up on any given Sunday, and struggle to give equal emphasis to all twelve articles. We might respond to this concern with the parallel of how our bodies work. When a particular part is injured or otherwise impaired, others often hasten to assume the workload until the affected part is restored. It would seem that St. Paul points to this in what is perhaps the most powerful and provocative image we have of the Church: the Body of Christ.
Since its origins in baptismal liturgies, the Creed has taken its place within the liturgy of the Eucharist. The eminent Robert Taft, S.J. reminds us that the Eucharist is Gods gift to us, not the reverse. And, it is in this gathering that what is professed in the Creed is incarnated as that Body of Christ. Orthodox theologian and bishop John Zizioulas offers insights into the nature of the relationships involved here: I-We, the inter-personalism of the Trinity itself
and by implication, the ontological kinship of these parties. Of the first, he writes, All being is, by necessity, inter-being. Of the second, Love, as Gods mode of existence, hypostasizes God.
As the purpose of a body part is realized most fully through its union with the whole, likewise for members of Christs body. Each
is most fully realized in the communal,
, transfigured ultimately into the I AM of Christ, in the Father, made manifest in the Holy Spirit. This is a clunky way of describing the Churchs role within the context of
the doctrine rendered so elegantly by St Athanasius, God became human so that humans can become God.
It is a breathtaking view of the dignity with which humans are endowed. Against it, the worst that can be leveled is the protest that its just too good to be true.
Ironically, its hard to deny that we Catholics
are especially susceptible to what might be called dogmatic fundamentalism, i.e.,
I dont need to think or work my way through these questions
the Church has done it for me.
By way of illustration, a brief return to Joseph Ratzinger on the issue of doubt may be useful.
In the face of doubt, fundamentalism of this kind appeals to dogma for a resolution. This, I suspect, lies somewhere on the subtle end of the temptation scale. For dogma is about something far more thrilling. As the fruit of deep struggle with the mysteries of grace”planted and harvested by the community in due season”its purpose is to facilitate faith capable of experiencing the living God. In this, doubt is not resolved, but
. There is a world of difference. One risks being reduced to a talisman or bludgeon, the other, being opened to the intimacy of relationship. Only the latter can set heart and world ablaze.
In these chilly days, far too much possibility falls needlessly into the widening gaps between bulwarks such as,
The present pope has proposed an alternative that is wise and impressively pragmatic.
We will be reminded that no matter how lofty it may sound, what we profess in the Creed depends upon on an Entity that, like all things metaphysical, is conveniently invisible. Like unicorns, critics will say. Like
, we will say”that invisible, irreducibly metaphysical gift that makes life well worth its slings and arrows.
Tim Kelleher is the new media editor for First Things