Mirror of Justice

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

"What Would Jeremiah Do?"

I thought this essay, by Samuel Goldman, was interesting and thoughtful.  The basic idea:  One possible response to the MacIntyre-ian conclusion that "we live amidst the ruins of Western civilization" is -- as readers of After Virtue remember -- the so-called "Benedict Option."  Goldman discusses another possibility, the "Jeremiah Option" --  a strategy that "[t]he Hebrew Bible and Jewish history suggest . . . according to which exiles plant roots within and work for the improvement of the society in which they live, even if they never fully join it."

This strategy lacks the historical drama attached to the Benedict Option. It promises no triumphant restoration of virtue, in which values preserved like treasures can be restored to their original public role. But the Jews know a lot about balancing alienation from the mainstream with participation in the broader society. Perhaps they can offer inspiration not only to Christians in the ruins of Christendom but also to a secular society that draws strength from the participation of religiously committed people and communities. 

Check it out.  Thoughts welcome.

UPDATE:  Bryan Kern suggests some additional "options":

Augustine option (Political Writings; Dodaro; p. 96-98; Letter 155): “If you recognise the source of the virtues you have been given and give him thanks; if you use them even in your secular position of honour to contribute to his worship; if you inspire and lead those people under your power to worship him both by living an exemplary religious life and through the devotion you show to their interests, whether by support or deterrence; if the only reason that you want them, with your help, to live more securely is so that they might win God, in whose presence they will live blessedly; then, all your virtues will be real ones. . . . Let us do everything we can, then, to bring to him also those whom we love as ourselves; if, that is, we now realise that loving ourselves means loving him. For Christ himself (that is, the truth) said on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets: to love God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind; and to love our neighbours as ourselves. . . . We ought therefore to love both God and our neighbour as ourselves, so that we will lead anyone we can to worship God by comforting them with kindness, or educating them through teaching, or restraining them through discipline, in the knowledge that all of the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”
 
Francis option (Evangelii Gaudium, 89): "Today, our challenge is not so much
atheism as the need to respond adequately to many people’s thirst for God, lest they try to satisfy it with alienating solutions or with a disembodied Jesus who demands nothing of us with regard to others. Unless these people find in the Church a spirituality which can offer healing and liberation, and fill them with life and peace, while at the same time summoning them to fraternal communion and missionary fruitfulness, they will end up by being taken in by solutions which neither make life truly human nor give glory to God."
 
Ratzinger option (from A Turning Point For Europe, apologies for no page numbers, coming from e-reader) :“What the Church has to remember is that, though the sources of law have been entrusted to her safekeeping, she does not have any specific answers to concrete political questions. She must not make herself out to be the sole possessor of political reason. She points out paths for reason to follow, and yet reason’s own responsibilities remain. . . . All this comes together in the Church’s most interior and yet also most human task: the task of making, not just talking about, peace, in deeds of love. . . . The Church’s fidelity to her true nature is shown in her ability to support human beings in the vocation to love, to bring the vocation of love to maturity and to give it concrete form in the life of the community. Through the power of love, the Church must serve the poor, the sick, the lost, the oppressed. She must go into prison, into the suffering of mind and body, as far as the dark way of death. In areas torn by the strife the human race always has experienced and always will experience, the Church must give men the strength to survive and, with the power of forgiveness, awaken the capacity to make a new start. Only the man who can forgive can build and preserve peace.
 
Von Balthasar option (from Test Everything, again on e-reader): “We cannot simply entrust politics to non-Christians. The Church is confronted with political systems in the world—and by no means merely peripherally. They are to be taken seriously, even though they may present a heavy burden for the Christian. This presupposes, of course, professional competence, just as a physician or lawyer must exhibit competence in his field. This idea is basic to all secular institutes. What applies to secular professions applies equally to politics: although we cannot force specifically Christian ethics on non-Christians, we nevertheless have to demonstrate that life according to such terms is humanly believable.”

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Garnett, Rick | Permalink