From time to time, I participate in the comments section of Scot McKnight's blog, Jesus Creed. I know for a fact that a good number of you find your way to Integrity from Scot's site. The reason that I like participating at Scot's site is that, while it is part of the protestant "emergen[t][/][ing] movement" conversation, it is the most open of the EC blogs that I have seen to truly exploring the questions that movement is supposedly considering. It's one of the few spots in the EC conversation that doesn't spend all of its time talking about, basically, a handful of recent U.S. protestant pastors and their pop-theology books. It takes tradition and history with a degree of seriousness that is lacking in a lot of places.
That's not to say it's all a bed of roses. There's a certain way in which the participants at Jesus Creed are willing to open the door to tradition but they've left the chain on. They are willing to pluck what they like, but not risk what they have. It's understandable. We all do that in areas of our lives. But it can lead to obstacles. And that's how I felt in a recent conversation when I emphasized that the method of looking at the question may have been responsible for why the answer eludes them.
The request was put to me to explain more about how I approach the question and what I meant by method. So this post begins an examination of The Religious Sense, At The Origin of the Christian Claim and Why The Church? -- the trilogy of works of Fr. Luigi Giussani, founder of the Communion and Liberation movement. What does that have to do with my approach to the question? Well, for starters, anyone who has read this blog in the past 2 years knows that I have become involved with CL. I think one of the things that attracts me so much to CL is it is the articulation of much of my experience in my own faith journey. Second, I truly think CL tries to give life to the basic expression of our Catholic faith, nothing more. In that way, while not everyone may want or be called to the life of the CL community that has developed, I think what the charism helps spotlight again about the faith can be appreciated and absorbed by all.
But most of all, I think Fr. Giussani's approach helps restore the universal accessibility of the faith. All too often, any conversation on the matter of faith begins in the middle, with some question of high theology. And everyone engages the question, often in a mechanical way, applying their predispositions and established ideologies. To honor Tradition must be to downplay the Scriptures, goes one. Particularly, when Tradition illuminates a meaning of the Scriptures that I would prefer not to be. To that, Fr. Giussani asks us to not race ahead so fast. Don't set what you have been given to the side. (The notion that one can free oneself completely of one's culture and predisposition is a false one.) But he says, let's first look at us. Our experience of humanity. Do not be afraid to examine that experience. It stands to instruct. And then move forward from there. Christ did not come to call us out of our humanity. We are more man because of Him. And, finally, Christ didn't offer the apostles one thing and the rest of us something less. The Church continues His Presence throughout time.
Several things appeal to me about that approach. First, some common ground can be found. Not just between Catholics and Protestants, or Christians and other religious people, but us all. Second, I think it helps us remain open to what is before us, to face reality and not some comfortable, but ultimately reduction or false image, of reality. And it helps us to remember Him and why we follow Him, versus the moralism, ideology or utilitarianism that can sometimes seep into our approach to Christianity.
For a while, I have thought that the EC would appreciate what Fr. Giussani has to say and might find his words of some help. But rather than waiting for someone else to discover him, I'll take up the task and do a chapter by chapter review (for as long as I can keep up the motivation!) of Giussani's works. The first one is The Religious Sense, which focuses on our human experience. Next time I will post on the first chapter.
One last thought: from time to time, I will make reference to the encounter of St. Andrew and St. John with Christ (John 1:35-42). It was a favorite of Fr. Giussani's and I think I have come to understand why. In it, he sees encapsulated the Christian experience. So read it over and reflect on it.
Okay, one additional thought: Be patient and compare everything against your own experience. I am going to take my time working through the material because it is quite dense. And so it will be quite a while before the posts are expressly about Christ and some of you may be frustrated with the journey. Well, if mankind had to wait however long it was for the Incarnation, I think you can endure the ride for a couple weeks as we follow the path Fr. Giussani has set us out on as our guide. Most of all, though, by going slow I think we will be more likely to ask ourselves whether we recognize the truth of what is being said in our own lives. To read all of these summaries to have a sense of what Fr. Giussani teaches is one thing; but to read them as a help to examining your own life is much better.