Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Friendship: Quests for Character, Community, and Truth

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending an interdisciplinary conference at

Baylor

University

entitled Friendship: Quests for Character, Community, and Truth, which was organized by the Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning.

The developing friendship and dialogue between Catholics and Protestants was everywhere present.  The panel I chaired included a paper by Paul Martens (a philosopher and a Protestant) entitled “Friendship, Preference, and Protestant Paranoia:  Or Why is Agape Insufficient.”  This paper was placed on dialogue with a paper presented by Cynthia Nielsen entitled “A Glimpse at Christocentric Friendship in the Heartbeat of Hans Urs von Balthasar,” allowing for a working through of some of the differences between a Lutheran and Catholic view of love and friendship, universals and particulars.  These differences were brought into bold relief by Shawn Floyd in a paper in which he explored the difference between God’s love for all and his preferential friendship for some who in a sense merit friendship by their response to His grace.  It is a testament to the conference organizers that this panel (as well as so many others) worked so well together.

The “law” contribution came from a Scaperlanda but not me.  Chris Scaperlanda, a 2L at the

Univ.

of

Texas

(yes, I am the proud papa), presented a paper entitled “Law and Friendship:  Toward Virtue and the Common Good.”  His friend, Yale Divinity Master’s student, Andrew Litschi, was on the same panel with his paper:  “The Privatization of Friendship within Modern America.”  Both did an excellent job, and if I get their paper abstracts, I’ll post them later.

There were many great papers, and I will just mention one more before turning my attention to the keynote speakers.  Patricia Murphy, St. Augustine Seminary of

Toronto

gave a very thoughtful and thought provoking talk on Acedia or sloth.  In today’s world, the vice of sloth is often thought of as laziness (a sort of resting).  We value “doing” over resting.  Murphy argues that things were very different for Aquinas.  Resting in God’s friendship was highly valued and the vice of acedia was a sort of restlessness or flight from His friendship.

The two keynote speakers were Robert Putnam and Paul Griffiths.  I arrived too late on Thursday to hear Putnam, author of “Bowling Alone” give his lecture on “Faith and Friendship:  Initial Findings from a New National Survey.”  Those who were in attendance, considered it excellent and thought provoking.

Paul Griffith’s well received lecture was entitled “Befriending the Religious Other:  Why Love is Easier than Friendship.”  Although often difficult in practice, Jesus’ command to love is universal, extending to all human beings.  Friendship is different.  We are not called to be friends with every human being on the planet.  Time, language, and geography, to name just three obstacles, limit our capacity for friendship.  And, while differences can enhance, sharpen, and give life to friendship, extreme differences between individuals can serve as obstacles to friendship.  For the Christian, any person who does not share the view that Jesus is the pivotal figure in history and that Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection was the pivotal moment in history is a religious “other.”  From the Christian perspective, Griffiths suggested that the religious “other” could be subdivided into Jews, Muslims, what he calls pious pagans (Hindus, Buddhists and, others), and secular pagans (those who don’t ask and seem disinterested in ultimate questions).

Griffiths

described some of the obstacles to befriending the religious “other,” suggesting that the commonalities in the three monotheistic religions make it easier for the Christian to overcome the obstacles to friendship with our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters.  The greatest obstacles, he suggests, are situated between the Christian (and other religious persons) and the non-religious person –the secular pagan- because the worldview of (and even the questions asked by) each are so fundamentally and at the core different.  There was much more to this provocative paper, and if I get an abstract, I will post it so that Paul can put it in his own words.

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