Of A Christian Option

First of all, in my opinion, these concrete options must be made within the framework of a grass-roots community which is sincerely and authentically alive. Some sort of basic community, it seems to me, is an absolute necessity. Lay people probably ought to create communities of married couples on the grass-roots level, not to form litde cliques for themselves but to serve each other and people around them. Priests and religious probably should form grass-roots communities of their own, suited to their particular nature but grass-roots communities nevertheless. An authentic life style will suggest many revisions in existing rules and regulations, for these rules and regulations often are imprisoning rather than ordering principles.

It is concrete life within such a grass-roots community that will truly engraft us into the life of the Church. I would say that we cannot really be part of the living Church nowadays without being a member of such a community. If we are not, we are merely impersonal individuals living in a neutral, mechanical community and attending impersonal Church functions.

We will have to learn how to live and act in the context of such basic communities. A period of initiation and apprenticeship will certainly be necessary because our heads are filled with all sorts of ready-made formulas. We must learn how to divest ourselves of such formulas so that we can approach real everyday life with simplicity and openness.

Second, these basic communities and their members must discover the critical function of faith. The task of faith in real-Iife history is to fight against pantheism; to fight against projects which seek to be absolutized and against people who seek to turn themselves into gods: to fight against sin-man's oppression of his fellowman. This criticism is performed chiefly with deeds, not with words. Jesus went out and mingled with publicans and sinners, and he thereby drew criticism from those who believed in their own righteousness. The critical function of faith is exercised in deeds and action even more than in words, and it calls the established order into question at every turn.

If a person commits himself to this critical function, he will soon discover the meaning and import of the Gospel message. Jesus did not die on the cross because he was a masochist or because he was seeking ascetic purification. He died on the cross because the logic of sinful structures, of the totality, required his death. Jesus criticized the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and others, and so he represented a danger to the leaders of Israel and to the Roman empire. Latin America desperately needs this critical function today. If the Church does not exercise this function, it is dead.

Third, we must commit ourselves to concrete action on behalf of liberation. There are things to be done. We may have to write an article, or give a speech, or participate in some demonstration. The police may be waiting for us. That is the concrete risk we face, but we must be willing to dirty our hands in the struggle to liberate the oppressed.

Fourth, we must be cognimnt of the inescapably political function of our faith. Let me cite Socrates as an example here. Socrates was a philosopher, pure and simple. One day he realized that the Assembly was wrongly condemning six admirals who had indeed lost a battle but who had also conducted themselves honorably. So Socrates spoke out against this injustice because he saw the Other as such. Socrates exercised a critical function within Athenian society and found himself at odds with those who ruled the city. They were forced to condemn him to death, and he accepted the legal penalty because he respected the laws of Athens. He took the cup of hemlock. Socrates was killed for much the same reason that Jesus was killed. Socrates could not see the real sense of his death, Jesus could. For faith casts a critical light on the whole human realm. Christian faith is seen as an enemy by the economic tyrant, the political tyrant, the religious tyrant, and the cultural tyrant.

Power used for domination is the very power of Satan and sin. It is the institutionalization of original sin. The prophet must speak out against such power when he proclaims the Gospel message. The Christian faith has a political function even though the Christian may not seem to engage in politics directly.

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