Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Corporate Guilt

I'm reading through a series of talks by Dean Kelly at Thomas Aquinas College.   Today I read the talk about Dosteovsky.    According to it, Alyosha's mentor Fr Zosima says:

“There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men.… Remember especially that you cannot be the judge of anyone.”
Dr Kelly goes on to point out that in the context, even if you take this as an expression of the true Christian code of being, it doesn't mean that the good servant, the devout follower of Christ, bears guilt for the wickedness of his neighbor.     Rather than being a statement of how things are, it is a statement of how to live.     "Make yourself responsible" -- not "you are culpable".

I wonder if this is part of the reason the official Church (often a pope) sometimes apologizes for past societal injustices, even if the church wasn't formally associated with the injustices, even if none of the individual members of the church living today had any possible hand in said injustice.    Perhaps these popes are "making themselves responsible".   But that's kind of a side thought, because the exhortation of Fr Zosima is very much personal, not institutional.

I found another article:  Dostoevsky and the Glory of Guilt, which it turns out was written by a TAC alumnus.     This article mentions sobernost, a Russian concept of shared guilt.   We have all sinned and offended against God.   Our love for our neighbor is not meant to be based on his worthiness to be loved, any more than we are lovable because of our worthiness.   We love our neighbor because God first loved us.    We love our neighbor because our true welfare is deeply intertwined with his.  That kind of love is not meant to judge or disclaim responsibility.

It is not meant to be ordinary, either.  It's not enabling, or toleration, or partiality, or permissiveness or any of the human substitutes.    It is something that beats the violence of sin with a kind of violence of redemptive bearing of others' burdens.

There's an odd story arc in the manga series Naruto, where Naruto in a way takes on the burden of his friend Sasuke's punishment.    He takes a beating from some ninjas who are seeking revenge against Sasuke, and later, humbles himself to plead in vain for Sasuke, who is being hunted as an outcast.   I doubt if it's meant to have any Christian overtones at all, but when I read through it, it struck me as a parallel to Jesus's scourging and execution for our sakes.     Naruto hadn't done anything wrong.  He simply loved his friend (with little reward for it) and was willing to sacrifice to atone and intercede for what his friend had done.

It seems to me that this acceptance of responsibility for the guilt of others couldn't work as a denial of how things really are -- I can't say I am guilty of things I haven't done.    But I can in a way participate, as a member of the Body of Christ, in what He did when "He became sin" (mysterious and strange words) when He had no sin in Him.

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