Hearty Heresy

From God’s Rotweiler to Bavarian Cream Puff
May 24, 2007, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, Jesus, Religion, Theology

According to George Weigel’s review in Newsweek of Jesus of Nazareth, the new book by the Pope formerly known as “God’s Rotweiler,” John Ratzinger has finally become “the teacher he always wanted to be.” Now that he doesn’t have to defend the faith by silencing heretics like Hans Kung and Matthew Fox, Pope Benedict is free to reveal his gooey, sweet interior. Apparently, Christianity is all about having an “intimate friendship with Jesus.” Thing is, when you’re bishop of Rome, vicar of Christ, successor of St Peter, Prince of the Apostles, primate of Italy, patriarch of the West, archbishop and metropolitan of the Roman Province, sovereign of Vatican City and Servant of the Servants of God (whew!), you probably have some pretty specific ideas about what an intimate friendship with Jesus looks like.

So while Weigel assures us that “Benedict XVI is no reactive anti-modern,” he’s definitely not proactively post-modern. Now I confess that I haven’t read the book–only a few reviews (including Bruce Chilton‘s) and a bit of the online excerpt. But it seems to me that for all his world-class theologizing and “his profound knowledge of the Hebrew Bible,” Ratzinger is still doing what he’s always done best, defend the Catholic version of Brand Xianity. For example,

Why is it the meek to whom the Beatitudes promise the inheritance of “the land”? Because, explains Ratzinger, drawing on the imagery of the Exodus, “the land was given [to the people of Israel] as a space for obedience, a realm of openness to God that was to be freed from the abomination of idolatry.”

Oh, I get it, the meek shall inherit “the land” because they’re obedient. Now that’s a interesting idea. The Pope wants people to be obedient. But there’s no conflict of interest here, see, because the author didn’t write this book as Pope Benedict XVI, but as good ol’ John Ratzinger, the guy you’d what to knock back a couple of Spaten Optimators with.

I don’t buy it. And I don’t buy his interpretation of why the meek shall inherit “the land.” So I thought I’d take my pitiful knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and see if I might find a passage from the OT to draw some imagery from. I figured that Isaiah was a good place to look since that’s where Jesus took his mission statement from. And this is what I found in Isaiah 5:8 (from The Message):

Doom to you who buy up all the houses
and grab all the land for yourselves—
Evicting the old owners,
posting no trespassing signs,
Taking over the country,
leaving everyone homeless and landless.
I overheard God-of-the-Angel-Armies say:
“Those mighty houses will end up empty.
Those extravagant estates will be deserted.
A ten-acre vineyard will produce a pint of wine,
a fifty-pound sack of seed, a quart of grain.”

Maybe this was the land Jesus had in mind. Of course, unlike the Pope, I could be wrong.


4 Comments so far
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It will be interesting to see what the lasting influence of this and the previous Pope will be on the future of the Roman Catholic Church. They certainly have a chilling effect on ecumenicism and liberal theology.

Comment by pastorofdisaster

Agreed. Bishop Spong has a great short post about Benedict at On Faith called “Jesus Broke Barriers; Pope Builds Them.”

Comment by heartyheretic

It’s interesting the the Pope used the Beatitudes when it was the Catholic Church (and its Protestant buddies) who systematically gobbled up land in medieval Europe and in Colonial America/Africa/Asia and kicked the poor out (and into submission). Even today, we have those in the church who’ll still justify such an attitude.

Maybe the Pope is realizing Malcolm X’s warning about the “chickens coming home to roost” and is trying to stem a growing tide of discontent among the meek. It’ll be interesting to couple this growing discontent with real Christian activism (that the church never discusses) and see what the Pope will say about that.


Comment by Dangerous Christian

Real Christian Activism–sounds good to me! I think church hierarchies (Protestant and Catholic) are going to find it harder and harder to continue to make excuses for the haves while ignoring the have nots. Thanks for the comment D.C.

Comment by heartyheretic

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