Thursday, March 06, 2014

Kenosis

I don't write about personal spirituality here very much, except in very general terms. Everyone has different work to do. What is necessary for one might be harmful to another.

So when I talk about "kenosis", I am not really thinking about it in personal terms.

One friend argues that its personal application still has merit; to her, it means surrender and emptying of the will. Submission to what is larger than ourselves is good stuff for some people to learn.

Another pointed out the downside of surrender and emptying of the will; it is an ethic that leads one to accept powerlessness. It has been used to reinforce situations of oppressions. In general, doesn't it seem that urging someone to emulate, in their personal life, Christ's response to his impending execution is problematic?

Most people do not claim to have the power of God in any way other than metaphorically. But Christian religious institutions have made that claim for millennia. The church has claimed that it was the only way to achieve eternal life. It claimed that one had to accept its teachings, its rituals, to have a chance at salvation. Its prayers were necessary to move the souls of the departed through the hierarchy of the dead. It said that it held the "keys to the kingdom."

I view classic 19th Century Unitarianism and Universalism as very clear renunciations of that claim to power. Yes, Protestantism in general moved away from the overt claims of the Roman church, the U's and the U's went further and with more clarity. That is why I think that they were kenotic. More here.

One of the apologies that gets made for why UU's are such lousy pledgers to local congregations compared to more conservative Protestant churches is that UU's don't back up the call to tithe with the threat of hellfire and damnation. That's kenosis right there; we don't claim that "equality with God."

Anyway, my interest in kenosis is that is a long-standing trend in Christianity and helps me to understand UUism as a continuity in that tradition, rather than a complete rejection. It also clarifies the role of religion in a secularizing world. The river of religion is emptying itself into the sea of secularity. Religion has moved the particular teachings and special sacrificial rituals in sacred spaces among a certain tribe to ethical living in the world at large. You can mourn that as the loss of religion, or you can sing with Peter Mayer, "Everything is Holy Now."

3 comments:

Clyde Grubbs said...

Secularity is an invention. The word means to take knowledge from this "time"without reference to "tradition." Such a construction is in itself absurd.

The problems of living life, whether life is lived in banality or purposeful have been and continue to be questions that mass society (this age) have no real wisdom. Ideas need to practiced by generations to give some warrant in experience.

ogre said...

I am struck at just how much this makes sense of how and why we have come to stand at the marches between Christianity (which we were, but are not, even as we remain of it) and Buddhism (which we were not, and are not, and are becoming in some sense of).

A sort of collective emptying of the ego.

And that's my entirely off the top of my mind reaction after reading this.

Thanks, Tom! (And we put the quarter into the jukebox via Facebook when we're asking for a specific blog post?)

ogre said...

I am struck at just how much this makes sense of how and why we have come to stand at the marches between Christianity (which we were, but are not, even as we remain of it) and Buddhism (which we were not, and are not, and are becoming in some sense of).

A sort of collective emptying of the ego.

And that's my entirely off the top of my mind reaction after reading this.

Thanks, Tom! (And we put the quarter into the jukebox via Facebook when we're asking for a specific blog post?)