Friday, September 22, 2006

News You Cannot Google

History has a history. The experience of history as a promising journey into an uncharted but providential future -- religiously interpreted and shaped in part by the response of human freedom -- is the unique product of the biblical revelation and the human self-understanding that it fostered.

However distracted it always is by the glamour of evil and the titillation of historical conflicts, the desire to understand what is happening in history is a clumsy and crudely expressed desire to know the God who promised to accompany Abraham and his spiritual descendants and to sustain them in the face of their historical exigencies.

It probably isn’t coincidental that, as our biblical sensibilities have been secularized and we have grown spiritually malnourished, we have developed a seemingly insatiable appetite for “news,” which we consume as mindlessly and compulsively as those with severe calcium depletion eat chalk. This ravenous hunger for news is a symptom of our sense of historical disorientation. It’s a variation on the old adage about forgetting the ends and redoubling the means. Our appetite for news is driven by the completely unconscious and mistaken assumption that the most important thing to know in order to understand what is happening in history is what just happened. In truth, however, the most important thing to know about history is its dramatic structure -- its origin and especially its goal.

In his life, death, and resurrection, Christ recapitulates the drama of history and anticipates its eschatological resolution. The quest for what the historian Charles Norris Cochrane calls “the principle of historical intelligibility” finds its fulfillment, therefore, in the recognition of the christological dimension of historical reality.

The “cutting edge” of history is the very latest “news,” but the cutting edge is a bloody one. The alternative to the “cutting edge” of history is the quiet center of history, where the sacrificial violence that makes the cutting edge so bloody is being transformed into the sacramental reconciliation – slowly bringing together Gentile and Jew, male and female, masters and servants. There we have been given manna for the historical journey, rendered efficacious in a new and everlasting covenant inaugurated at the Last Supper -- nourishment worthy of the hunger we now famish by feeding on the chalk of the latest news.

No comments: