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The Real Kingdom of God on Earth by Noble M. Notas
By David Arthur Walters
Last edited: Monday, January 10, 2011
Posted: Monday, January 10, 2011



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Notes on Highly Improbable Peace and Good Will Towards All Men

 

 

 

THE REAL KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH

BY

NOBLE M. NOTAS[i]

  

 

 

Notes on Highly Improbable Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards All Men

_______________________________________

 

POLITICAL SOVEREIGNTY AT ISSUE

 

The legitimate sphere of political authority is always of keen interest to the ordinary citizen as well as to the serious student of political science. Both may want to examine Westel W. Willoughby’s book on the timeless subject of state sovereignty, The Ethical Basis of Political Authority. Professor Willoughby helped establish political science as discipline separate from economics and history – he was known during his tenure at John Hopkins University as "the dean of American political science."

 

  • Since the function of the State is to advance the welfare of its citizens, there is no absolute limit to its power to do so, or so the professor declared. In other words, there is no absolute ethical principle restraining the State from providing for the welfare of its citizens.

 

  • Ironically, the effort to prevent state intrusion can advance it. Furthermore, under the complex conditions of our society where all individuals are closely interrelated, a universal law to preclude one individual from interfering with another individual can be used by the state to interfere with everyone.

 

  • The individual and his attributes are so integrated with society that it is impossible to draw a logical distinction between the individual and the society. In the absolute sense, there is no such thing as individual "rights" that cannot be infringed upon by the highest form of social organization, i.e. the state. Civil rights are maintained by the state police power, which exercises the right of the state to intervene to secure the public welfare; hence civil rights are not absolute but are limited to the requirements of public order and general welfare. For instance, the citizen may be required to give his life during war for the general welfare.

 

  • As far as the individual is concerned, moral activity has an internal motive; it is an act of the person's moral will. An external force may coerce him to act but it cannot coerce his moral will. He may very well be forced to do something unwillingly, but his moral will remains free when he wills not to perform the action.

 

 

THE POLICE POWER IS ESSENTIAL

 

Let us assume with the professor that there is no absolute limit to the provision of welfare. Still, theories of properly limited state sovereignty abound; the appropriate limit of governmental intervention is and shall ever be the subject of continuing and often heated controversy. Most people do not have the leisure to engage in theoretical arguments; they leave them to delegates who are inclined to debate them, and they soon discover that even those who are argue for less governmental incursion into private affairs wind up voting for more of it.

 

Whatever the degree of sovereignty, everyone agrees that a police power is ultimately needed to enforce it; otherwise there would be no political entity such as a state. An exercise of power or use of force is needed to keep the peace and protect the sovereign. In a democracy, the people are sovereign. In theory at least, people agree to refrain from violent attacks on others provided their own lives and property are secured by the higher power, the sovereign power. And their lives and property are ostensibly protected from abuses by the persons they have elected to wield the sovereign force. When the threat comes from without, the political legitimate response may be war. Even where there is no external threat, the police power may be exercised to intervene in another country’s affairs to protect its people from a tyrant who ignores human rights by engaging in democide, or stands by passively while they are destroyed by natural disaster.  

 

The abuses of power are many and many are those who do not consider them to be abuses at all. By virtue of human nature, which of course can be held against us, we are creatures of habit; we go along with the prevailing political authority’s exercise of sovereignty because it is convenient to do so. Much to our chagrin, the state may eventually, by repeatedly forcing unethical acts on people, cause people inclined to obey them to believe that those acts are ethical. Therefore only the active and continuous cultivation of conscience and character by the individual can lead a person to that personal freedom which is the personally responsibility of a free agent. Personal responsibility is crucial to freedom in order, for the person comprises not only the individual but the society as well.

 

In any event, a balance must be struck between anarchy and tyranny, the individual and society, freedom and order. A tug-of-war is at play along the continuum between the poles; nothing can be accomplished without the application of power, i.e. force. Again, for this is worth repeating as we tend to forget it: no end is achieved without the application of power, or force.

 

CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY UNFORGIVEN AND REPEATED

 

To say that history is a record of man's crimes against humanity has been an understatement for many centuries. Humans apparently need someone to hate in order to love themselves; they organize themselves into groups to do just that. After examining the record of violence and cruelty from the dawn of history on down to its continuation today, we might conclude that the human race is genetically defective, or we might conclude that man was conceived in original sin by a sadistic creator. Others argue that the human propensity to brutally battle works for the survival of the race, and, given the fact that humans are rational animals, for the improvement of morals and advance of civilization.

 

Love, though often hate-based, has prevented utter self-destruction of the race: the species has survived, multiplied and taken over the planet despites its defects. In spite of our faults, and purportedly because of them, we are successful animals, physically weaker than other members of the animal kingdom, but stronger by virtue of the adaptive flexibility evident in our imagination and other mental powers. Therefore let us face the truth about our history: if civilization is a success, then history is not only a record of crimes against humanity, it is also a success story brought about by the exercise of force often violent and unjust.

 

I approached a man on Fifth Avenue because he looked familiar; he identified himself: "You probably recognize my Viking forebears. I am descended from conquest, from murderers and rapists," he confessed, exaggerating one side of the story.

 

Many swords have been re-forged into ploughs and into cookware during the course of human history. Some peoples enjoyed considerable periods of peace; when peace was threatened, the kitchen utensils were melted down into weapons. Peace could only be maintained for long periods under the shadow of swords, fashioned and guided by the human intellect.

 

In China the sacred words of power were not only written on tortoise shells and kettles but were also etched on swords. Pen and Sword worked as one to end the seemingly endless Warring States Period and to establish an imperial regimen lasting over two thousand years. Naturally, violent internal struggles recurred from time to time, especially when the Emperor departed from the heavenly mandate, causing major droughts and floods. Yet the general order and relative peace purchased two centuries before Christ at the cost of millions of lives withstood the test of time. Absent the constant wars between the states, the Chinese civilization, resting on its agricultural foundation, was arrested: philosophical and scientific innovation atrophied and astronomical routine was the order of the dynasties. Still, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, enlightened intellectuals in war-torn Europe praised China as a vastly superior civilization in terms of morals and statecraft. Very few called it a despotic regimen or an oppressive state.

 

However that may be, history provides us with many examples of the ways civilization is advanced by human force so cruel at times we wonder how the various races managed to survive at all. Actually the various races have not survived except in hybrid forms. To the victor went the spoils of war including the vanquished women. Some women were patriotic and committed suicide either alone or en masse; yet many capitulated to save their lives; others instinctively embraced the winners. In short, a great deal of miscegenation has occurred over time, with the net effect of stronger human beings, much to the chagrin of the "superman" theorists; actually, the more honest racists admitted that no surviving Teutonic or Aryan super race exists, and recommended creating a mythical race to suit the purpose - the more ignorant Nazis actually believed the story concocted.

 

Many people find their identity in their suffering by cutting ancient scars open yet again and rubbing salt in the wounds. Each ethnic group naturally wants to be admired, yet "patriotic" or "ethnocentric" members within the groups are jealous of other self-conscious ethnic communities with whom they have had conflicts at one time or another. Ethnocentric persons are indignant when a traditional enemy is praised for its positive contributions to civilization; their own history of violence is ignored in order to emphasize the crimes of their enemies.

 

We might say, "Never mind the ancient history, for Christ's sake. Nobody is without sin. All of the fathers were sinners. Therefore let us let go of our pain, forgive and forget, approach one another with palms up. Let's accentuate the positive and move forward." Yet Christians, despite Christ’s emphasis on forgiveness, like everyone else, forget their own faults and fail to forgive their enemies.

 

"Only god can forgive," was the ancient rule. To forgive an offender was downright immoral; how could anyone learn except by application of the talion principle, by collective punishment, by blood feuding? Kill the terrorist on sight, was the rule; destroy his family's property; kill or exile his family. Take no prisoners. Never mind collateral damage; take no any part in the harvested crops, the livestock, the hands; - destroy everything or be cursed by the tribal god.

 

Yes, an opportunity might be provided to a member of one's own group to confess and repent and to pay the price for god's forgiveness, but Christ's way of forgiving just anybody, even when forgiveness is not sought, is considered by some to be anti-social and terribly immoral. Modern Christians now forgive criminals before executing them in order to feel better about themselves, to rid themselves of feelings of guilt; after all, Christianity was supposed to save even condemned criminals from their condemnation, and not simply wash one’s hands of the affair and turn the prisoner over to his worst enemies. Indeed, forgiveness today has much to do with saving oneself from negative feelings, and little to do with saving criminals in order to demonstrate that anyone may be saved regardless of their deeds.

 

 

DARE NOT PRAISE THE VIRTUES OF THEIR ENEMIES

 

Who is right and who is wrong? How may global peace be realized by peoples, confronted as it is with persistent feuding and unforgiving hatred based upon their identification with their respective cultures and especially the past wrongs done to their own by another? It seems many loving people are unconscious of the personal and ambiguous nature of the predicament and their own animosity. Much of the love we witness is hate-based love; i.e. the love of one’s own kind is based on the hatred of another.

 

Here is a public exchange with a professedly Greek woman who would not disclose her personal identity. In  response to my article, ‘Muslim Intellectuals Unite With Us’, she vehemently disagreed that Muslims made any contributions to Western culture beyond the persecution, destruction and death of the people she identifies with, and who finds no fault with her own kind despite its history of being all too human. Anything said contrary to her belief is satanic.

 

A: Intellectuals are eternally grateful for Islam's medieval contributions to our Western intellectual culture. Muslim philosophers introduced the West to the humanist movement, the historical sciences, the inductive scientific method, the founding principles of the Italian Renaissance, and, most importantly, the harmony of faith and reason that shocked medieval Europe. We are eternally grateful to Islam for the preservation of Greek philosophy and its development of rational science; but we have taken that science to an extreme, neglecting the mitigating metaphysics of the medieval Muslim philosophers who were doctors of the soul as well as of the body.

 

B: Why do you maintain that we must grateful to Islam for the preservation of Greek philosophy and its development of rational science?  Is it an ironic statement or do you really believe the lie? Then I intellectually dissent!

 

A: I started making notes on the subject of Islam’s contribution to the West some time ago. The contributions made by Muslims and by Jews as well to Western culture are historical facts. I bringing those facts forward to the general public in response to the continuous vituperative remarks on Islam made in the media and elsewhere.

 

B: You write well but you are not an intellectual; you are ignorant and have been deceived by propaganda in Western libraries. What do you know? Are you Greek? No. Were you in Greece between 1453 and 1821? No. Have you studied the Byzantine history? No, I don't think so. Islam is a religion I respect, I respect all religions. But the orthodox monks derived from the Byzantine Era helped enfeeble of the Byzantine Empire. Many young people preferred the scholarship of the monasteries rather than fight for their country. Of course the same Christians destroyed most of the ancient culture including scripts and works of art. The Islamic evasion instigated a freebooting beyond comprehension and brought slavery and child-abduction in the lives of the sleeping Greeks. The Greek population never considered Islam as a probable solution out of their problems, and remained Christian till the Revolution. The Church had a double role in the whole matter. One part of the Greek Orthodox Church was friendly to the Ottomans, another fought with the populace against them. There is absolutely no connection between Islam and Greek Philosophy and the Renaissance had nothing to do with Ottomans. Even the Greeks that were slaves for 400 years, under tough leadership and without education, have been aroused from the sleep of lost history by the literary men of Diaspora known as Fanariotes.

 

A: Gratitude expressed towards Muslims does not alter the reality of the Greek inventions they cultivated. Neither does another woman's beauty detract from your own.

 

B: I don't care about the hormonal storm in the minds of the Ossian chaps. My ancestor is Socrates, the one that praised the civilization of Knossos. Such was the disgrace for a young Greek girl to sleep with or to even be raped by one of the islamico-muslim icoarabomo gollianicolads of the Ottomans that the village threw stones at her to never give birth to a child. For 400 hundred years the Greeks remained in a constant silence massacred to the nth degree--- can this deathly silence be taken as Islam’s contribution to Greek philosophy? Can this be considered as cultivating the inventions of the Greeks??? Nearly 1,000,000 people were left in this HOLY land from the 50 million tortured to death by dervishical paganism, profitable passah, mouftisical egoism, and all this because ONE priest opened the gate of Konstantinopolis. I rest my case for now. Some people don't have Greek blood in their veins just like they don't have Indian blood to understand the torture. You are stupid, but it's your right to speak, and say what you want! I respect that, but I have the right as well. So don't soft-pedal everything to a beauty-contest. Kind regards.

 

A: I appreciate true colors, and your self-portrait is warmly regarded. I occasionally write about the unrivaled beauty of the Greeks. I look forward to your essay on the subject.

 

B: I appreciate true colors as well, BUT WHO GETS RID OF THE BLACK SUN-GLASSES TO SEE THEM? Don't worry, you will have your essay you Satan. It will be in Greek though. Cheers!!

 

 

THE GLOOMY GOSPEL OF CHRISTIAN REALISM

 

Abstractly speaking, the use of energy or exercise of force is not morally wrong. There are no a priori, abstract ethical principles justifying or prohibiting the use of force. The use of violent force, or war, is not wrong providing there is no better or more efficient means of obtaining the end deemed right by the ethical process. The end deemed right by the ethical process is relative to the interests of the parties who make that judgment.

 

No doubt human beings are fallible and shall ever be so, therefore in our objective jihad to realize universal righteousness in this world, our ethical process or strategic war planning is always subject to revision each time our war machine gets bogged down by human nature. Wherefore in our intellectual jihad our spirit despairs of any rational solution to the problem of perpetual violence. Mired in the mud of ethical relativism, the spirit gives up hope in any logical ascent to the one and only answer, the metaphysical summit, the supreme being, and resorts to a leap of faith in another, incomprehensible world, which for all intents and purposes is non-existent because it can never be realized in this world of relative particulars.

 

That is to say that ultimately the subject of ethics, the Good, can never be fully known, so rather than to despair, one believes in what appears to be nothing at all because it cannot be refuted: it cannot appear in time and space except as a miraculous disaster destructive of the entire world order as we know it in order to gain it eternal peace in the valley of death. After all, in order not to despair when confronted with the miserable facts of human history, man still needs something to believe in, but things are temporal and perish in the end, so why not believe in nothing? Finally his consciousness has been raised over the past million years to survey the relativity of all ethical systems and their failure to accomplish much short of perpetual warfare; therefore, rather than to completely despair in suicide or another episode of mass murder, he has resort to blind faith in nothing but nothing.

 

Despite his faith in nothing he still adheres to "his" relative ethical system; most often he does so as a matter of habit without the slightest awareness of its self-contradictions or absurdity. In any event, despairing of having faith in man with his definite problems, he has faith in the indefinite, and goes forth confidently to do whatever he wanted to do in the first place, but with a good feeling of humility in face of the awesome end of every life. That leaves him alive and leads him to the inevitable conflict which challenges the humility he is so proud of; once again he falls back on some relative ethical system which suits the purpose of war. Since that system is inherently bound to fall short of the ideal of, say, universal love - the very nature of systems precludes the ideal - he proceeds believing that, whatever he does, he will be forgiven and justified by the god who created him fallible or originally evil.

 

Therefore the prospects are worse than gloomy. In fact, the litany of facts is a depressing dirge. The morning edition of the Daily Gospel is enough to ruin the day; read the evening edition for nightmares. The religious remedy for the horror leaves one even more dejected, as in "thrown down", thrown down to such an hellish depth of despair that the only alternative is to surrender to the ultimate fact that there is no escape. Hence one must be realistic. We do not speak here of dreamy idealists who think their dreams are real, but to pessimistic realists who have no faith in man as such. Amongst them we find realists who profess faith in the unknown one and only god.

 

Reinhold Niebuhr was one of the most influential professors of Christianity of his day. He was the father of the foreign-policy philosophy called Christian realism. His views are considered fundamental to many Protestant denominations. He denounced Christian utopianism during World War II, and withdrew from the socialist and pacifist institutions he had been associated with. As far as Niebuhr was concerned, the so-called "law of love" does not and cannot govern the facts of human existence, for humanity originates in sin. Christianity is not a faith in love alone; simply loving everyone will not work, nor will socialist programs.

 

Now according to Willoughby the aim of governmental intervention is the welfare of the people, hence there is no absolute limit to intervention for that good end, but after swallowing a few bites of Niebuhr's Christian realism, we are left sinking into the very depths of our human corruption; we revert to the idea of human history as record of crimes against humanity, a war path from one holocaust to another. Nevertheless, the bloody wars must be fought according to the relative ethical systems which, as we know, are defective by virtue of their partiality to one line of thinking or the other, hence tend to justify one violent faction or another, or even both in their mutual self-contradictions.

 

Even under the one and only god, groups love to hate and kill each other pursuant to the same sacred law, which is, ultimately, kill or be killed, and we hope chance if not god is on our side. Today we count on our technology to win, but Solomon's advice not to rely on our wealth for the outcome of war still holds true : a few humans can now kill millions with a nuclear device.

 

No, according to Christian realism, we should not rely on government to solve the problem or original sin. Yes, the conflict originates in the evil within; ideologies are so much swamp gas escaping from the rotten root of the human race. There is no escape from original evil but faith in the god who made this rotating Good v. Evil disaster to teach us a lesson. "He", in his infinite mercy, might grace us with forgiveness for our evil deeds, for he created this conflict that we might fear and love him; in our original evil we are really as innocent as a new born baby.

 

Christian realism peers into the face of evil. Let us wake up and smell the coffee, and while eating breakfast read a few phrases from Reinhold Niebuhr's interpretation of the Christian gospel, abstracted from his essay 'Why the Christian Church is not Pacifist.'

 


 

"In the profoundest versions of the Christian faith the very utopian illusions, which are equated with Christianity, have been rigorously disavowed.”

 

"The failure of the Church to espouse pacifism is not apostasy, but is derived from an understanding of the Christian Gospel which refuses simply to equate the Gospel with the 'law of love.'”

 

"An ethic of pure non-resistance can have no immediate relevance to any political situation; for in every political situation it is necessary to achieve justice by resisting pride and power.”

 

"The reductio ad absurdum of this position is achieved in a book which has become something of a textbook for modern pacifists, Richard Gregg's The Power of Non-Violence. In this book non-violent resistance is commended as the best method of defeating your foe, particularly as the method of breaking his morale. It is suggested that Christ ended his life on the Cross (via passive non-resistance instead of active non-violent resistance - Ed.) because he had not completely mastered the technique of non-violence, and for this reason be regarded as a guide who is inferior to Gandhi, but whose significance lies in initiating a movement which culminates in Gandhi.”

 

“Most modern forms of Christian pacifism are heretical. Presumably inspired by the Christian gospel, they have really absorbed the Renaissance faith in the goodness of man, have rejected the Christian doctrine of original sin as an outmoded bit of pessimism, have reinterpreted the Cross so that it is made to stand for the absurd idea that perfect love is guaranteed a simple victory over the world, and have rejected all other profound elements of the Christian gospel as 'Pauline' accretions which must be stripped from the 'simple gospel of Jesus.' This form of pacifism is not only heretical when judged by the standards of the total gospel. It is equally heretical when judged by the facts of human existence.”

"In medieval ascetic perfectionism and in Protestant sectarian perfectionism...the effort to achieve a standard of perfect love was not presented as a political alternative. On the contrary, the political problem and the task were specifically disavowed.... On the contrary, it regarded the mystery of evil as beyond its power of solution. It was content to set up the most perfect and unselfish individual life as a symbol of the Kingdom of God. It knew that this could only be done by disavowing the political task and by freeing the individual of all responsibility for social justice.”

 

"A religious faith which substitutes faith in man for faith in God cannot validate itself in experience. If we believe that the only reason men do not love each other perfectly is because the law of love has not been preached perfectly, we believe something to which experience does not conform.”

 

"The good news of the gospel is that there is a resource of divine mercy which is able to overcome a contradiction within our own souls, which we cannot ourselves overcome. This contradiction is that, though we know we ought to love our neighbor as our self, there is a 'law in our members which wars against the law that is in our mind,' so that, in fact, we love ourselves more than our neighbor.”

 

"The grace of God which is revealed in Christ is... an actual 'power of righteousness'... This grace is conceived as 'justification,' as pardon rather than power, as the forgiveness of God which is vouchsafed to man despite the fact that he never achieves the full measure of Christ... The secular and moralistic version of Christianity... cannot understand the doctrine precisely because they believe there is some simple way out of the sinfulness of human history…. It is this kind of pacifism which is not a heresy... It is a reminder to the Christian community that the relative norms of social justice... are not final.”

 

"Nothing is more futile and pathetic than the effort of some theologians who find it necessary to become involved in the relativities of politics, in resistance to tyranny or in social conflict, to justify themselves by seeking to prove Christ was also involved in some of these relativities.”

 

"We are very foolish if we try to reduce the ethic of Jesus so that it will cover and justify our prudential and relative standards and strategies. To do this is to reduce the ethic to a new legalism. The significance of the law of love is precisely that it is not just another law, but a law which transcends all law.”

 

"There is no life which is not involved in a violation of the injunction, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' No one is so blind as the idealist who tells us that war would be unnecessary 'if only' nations obeyed the law of Christ, but who remains unconscious of the fact that even the most saintly life is involved in some measure of contradiction to this law.”

 

"The pacifists do not know human nature. They merely assert that if men loved one another, all the complex, and sometimes horrible, realities of the political order could be dispensed with. They do not see that their 'if' begs the most basic problem of human history. It is because men are sinners that justice can be achieved only by a certain degree of coercion on the one hand, and by resistance to coercion and tyranny on the other hand. The political life of man must constantly steer between the Scylla of anarchy and the Charybdis of tyranny.”

 

Also see Reinhold Niebuhr, Christianity and Power Politics, New York: Scribner, 1940.

 


 

PROTESTING HYPOCRISY

 

Niebuhr like most people places democratic-republican coercion in the good hand and tyrannical coercion in the evil hand. That political imbalance is not altogether agreeable to those who believe their so-called tyrant is just; what is cruel from the perspective of one man may appear as the righteous exercise of police power to another. One man’s “despot” may, in the opinion of another, be his salvation. Besides, if, as Niebuhr maintained, Christian realism does not mix with politics, then Christianity is neither militant nor pacific; it is otherworldly and incapable of reforming this world let alone establishing a Kingdom of God on Earth.  

 

Leaving the logical contradictions aside, hand-washing transcendentalism leaves peoples and their respective states with the problem of ethics, with the ethical relativism that even the most sophisticated casuistry and theodicy cannot render coherent. The placement of the absolute power of love that would bring everyone into the perfect unity would be the death of individuality, therefore it is seen why that power is beyond our reach unto death.

 

In the final analysis, we can kill or be killed: we can fight Hitler, for example, or we can line up naked at the trenches to be slaughtered, praying with eyes uplifted to YHWH. The truth of the matter is that the early Christians, following the Platonic precept, preferred to suffer evil rather than do evil, and were martyred for their “anti-social” and “immoral” behavior, their refusal to be marched off to war by the sovereign political power.

Niebuhr might as well have had said nothing at all in his march to war under the cross of Jesus. The rubric under which his essay falls, Why the Church is Not Pacifist, not only gives the lie to his essay but it reveals the essential hypocrisy of the Lutheran protestation in its separation of church and state, a diremption coincidental to the devolution of Roman Catholic unanimity into virulent political nationalism. Of course that violent divorce cannot be finalized by decree: religion is the worship of absolute power, while politics is its distribution; the church has its politics and the state its religion; the differences drawn are nominal.

 

Confronted with the horror of World War II and the understandable need to fight Hitler to the death, Niebuhr wanted to justify military service of Christians by arguing against the modern imitation of early Christianity's refusal to do so. He states theologians are better off leaving politics alone; yet he, a theologian, jumps into the line of fire, and insists that the "Church", which he feels he represents, is not pacifist, except in placing itself beyond the pale of politics as war is waged by its professed adherents. He would have been better off presenting a realistic, secular argument against the forces of fascism and leaving participation up to the individual's conscience. But since he was obviously beating a war drum to encourage Christians to fight against the "synthetic barbarians," he might have reverted to Luther's feudal development of the Augustinian scriptural interpretation of the shield-sheathing scene: Augustine delivered Christ's sword to the political authority; Luther left the sword in the hands of the political authority under the feudal concept of justifiable war: that fealty and absolute obedience is due to the king whether he is right or wrong, just as a child is owned by his father and owes obedience thereto.

 

The separation of church and state, of faith and works, relegated god to the other world and left real power in the hands of the political authority, where it will be in the absence of theocracy. Yet this for all intents and purposes reveals Protestantism as a virtually atheistic protest against the Kingdom of God on Earth, for politics rules the Protestant. At least that was once the complaint of the Catholic Church, a cosmopolitan institution that wanted all kingdoms and nations living peacefully under Christ (a foolish and impossible project according to Niebuhr); in fine, Protestantism is a rebellion against the Christian deity. And of course non-Catholic critics have claimed that the Reformation was one side of the political revolution; notwithstanding and even because of Calvin's quasi-theocratic moral puritanism, Protestantism has become a secular religion of materialism. Furthermore, neo-Hegalians and Marxists argued that Protestantism was identical to secular Judaism, therefore limiting the "Jewish Question", to what to do about Jews, to Jews, was a serious mistake.

 

Now the Reformation may in fact be an improvement over Christianity's previous stage. Protestantism may be preparing the way to a superior religion; or, if you prefer, a superior non-religion.

 

But to return to the separation of Church and State, it does not have to be a divorce: the priest may still have his influence, he may still whisper in the king's ear. In return the king may use the sword to defend the true faith that would be free from state intervention, the essentially "ascetic" and pacifist core of religion, namely the priesthood, providing it does not threaten the existence of the state. Of course the priests will not take up the sword although they may preach to the troops. Theoretically, everyone will eventually drink from the same loving cup; alas, what looks good on paper may not be realized.

 

There will be very few conscientious objectors in a just war. Whether any war is just or not, there will be hordes volunteering to kill one another. War is waged to make keep a peace never entirely made. The core of religion has a universal aspect inasmuch as it strives for final peace; to that extent it is pacifist, and that core is well worth defending lest it perish and humankind regress to total war again. That is what Niebuhr referred to as legitimate pacifism, the universal faith of altruism which refuses to kill under any circumstance.

 

Niebuhr knew very well that the pacific core must stand passive in testimony to the fact that all conventional norms are relative, for those conflicting norms all too often lead to mutual assured destruction. Reinhold Niebuhr lived out the most terrible predicament of world war followed by the high probability of mutually assured nuclear destruction; when we behold the countenance of Christian realism, we look into the face of evil. Regardless of Niebuhr's understandable pessimism and his faith in original evil, notwithstanding his hypocrisy or the underlying crisis between the real and the ideal all but sociopaths suffer, we may overcome evil one day and be redeemed providing that the King of the Animal Kingdom abdicates.  

 

Honolulu

July 26, 2002



[i] Noble M. Notas is the non de plume David Arthur Walters uses for his notes on academic subjects

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