Saturday, July 17, 2010

City of God and city of men

The few readers who might have followed our blog probably remember one of my fixed ideas: that we live a creeping civil war. That's why we called the blog "Chronicles from the front".

I am not sure how clear I have made who the sides of this war really are.

Of course there are external enemies, who eventually one day hijack some airplanes and go to crush themselves against New York skyscrapers and the Pentagon. But they wouldn't be so strong, if we weren't so divided.

Reading news of the day I feel therefore continuously pressed to come back to my painful fixation.

The Church is under attack because of the sins of her ordained members. By whom?

Well, I'd say by the servants of the Emperor: i.e. by the state's governing bodies, whether legislative, judiciary and executive.

Our history teaching never makes clear enough why the roman emperors were against Christians. And yet the answer should be pretty simple: because they refused to deify the human community to which they willingly belonged, because they thought that there was a higher community of all men in God to whom it went their full allegiance.

Thus Christianity became the warrant of men's freedom, our freedom, against the self-divinization of the state, pretending to exhaust the full compass of human life.

Was the Church always up to it? Of course not, because the distinction of church and state is not a severing of men in two halves, so Christians are at the same time members of the one and of the other, always tempted into making of the Church a state, or of the State a church. The story of this distinction, with all that it involved, is that of Western history.

Men are always again tempted into making their world into the world. It happens therefore that in the name of an "open society" (cfr. K. Popper, The open society and its enemies) society is actually closed in the confines of a state: the worldly state of public things (status rei publicae: hence simply the state) in the western world of the last centuries.

To this the Church opposed herself. Until it came a time when it was said: we Christians have to learn to dialogue with the world, learn again to address it.

This was the hopeful message communicated by the Vatican II. Which leaves me with a paradox to account for: while the last Ecumenical Council announced itself as a recasting of the Church's eternal truths in a new language more apt to modern times, her capability to address people of these same modern times appears to be weakened.

Was it perhaps because it wasn't made explicit enough that there is a creeping civil was always going on, i.e., to say with Saint Augustine, between the "city of God" and the "city of men"?


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