Immanuel common friendship

This final section proposes friendship between humanity and non-human nature. The eucharist is an ecclesial action which requires a pedagogy; the eucharist is a difference which makes a difference. That difference is a pedagogy of friendship. Friendship implies reciprocity and alteration. It is thus suited as a way of describing a eucharistic pedagogy of human-nonhuman relations in the common realm. It also indicates a way forward out of the distorted sociality of humanity in its relations with nature. The damage of the distortion of sociality cannot be overcome through the naturalistic extrusion ofhumanity through vitalistic or processive categories. Nor is a resolution to be found in the incorporation of nature into a 'second nature' of humanity. Eucharistic pedagogy takes neither ofthese routes.

A liberative eucharistic theology of nature holds to the insight that the common realm is to be construed as cruciform and resurrected. Such a political theology of eucharistic nature thereby can never give up on three insights. First, Christian community cannot disassociate itself from suffering. Second, the natural conditions of human life are a matter for joy and thankfulness; being a creature is itself a good. Third, the clue that humanity cannot be understood as separate from nature and God is maintained even in a theology of the eucharist: the bread and wine represent the God-body in whom is the election of social nature and humanity. The community of the common realm of God, nature and humanity is, in Christian witness, that which endures. The Church labours to witness truthfully to this claim: to 'become' eucharistic place, in joy and suffering, and in hope.

Yet we should note that something strange happens here. If my interpretation is right, the unity of the Church as given in the eucharist is then an un/natural community which includes nature. As the representation of Christ, the eucharist invokes the participant members as bodily beings: in its fullest sense, the Church is 'the eternal gathering of all creation by Christ into the Father's Kingdom'.66 Natural embodiment is not denied in eucharistic community yet neither is it affirmed. Nature is both drawn in and yet reconstituted by reference to the God-body. The eucharistic Church can never regard itself as an alternative 'society' without non-human nature. The elements of the eucharist are material productions of a society: they are nature socially transformed. Indeed, the fact that bread comes in plastic bags and wine in cartons reminds us of the special engagement of the church with its society and as a product of that society. Participants in the eucharist remain creatures, although now creatures located' in a new set of relations. This set of relations cannot be fully grasped and practised without attention to the ways in which the host culture construes nature. That is, the Church cannot practice its eucharistic pedagogy fully unless it is attentive to the ways in which its context construes nature.67

From this perspective, the judgment that Christianity has no stake in non-theological classifications of the world, as proposed by Stanley Hauerwas and John Berkman, is too hasty.68 On eucharistic grounds, such an attempt at anti-naturalness in theology should be rejected. If suffering, joy and hope are actions and attitudes in a determinate situation, the practice of common friendship will require precisely the attempt to discern the commonalities and overlaps, as well - of course - as the differences, between Christian and non-Christian readings ofnature. Indeed, it is central to the theological integrity of eucharistic practice of friendship that such an engagement be made: at stake is a properly theological construal in which differences are called into question and commonalities affirmed by reference to the purposes of God.69 These purposes are, of course, 'displayed' in the form ofthe eucharistic God-body.

If the analysis of this book is right, two temptations are to be avoided in our thinking on nature: the technological and the Romantic. There is an element oftruth in both accounts, as we have seen. Humanity is creating a 'second nature' which transforms nature; we remain dependent on the otherness of nature which, as other, is a condition of our continued

66. Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist, p. 224.

67. Cf. Harvey, 'The Body Politic of Christ', 340-1.

68. Stanley Hauerwas and John Berkman, 'A Trinitarian Theology of the Chief End of all

Flesh', in Stanley Hauerwas (ed.), In Good Company:The Church as Polis (University of Notre

69. See Hardy, Finding the Church, pp. 38-9.

flourishing. Yet I have offered a theological argument which rejects both understandings as reductionist: we should not see nature's end in humanity nor the end of humanity in nature.

The central way of avoiding these mistakes is to construe these human-nature relations in a social conceptuality, founded in and funded by the resurrection of the Christ of God. In this way, I am suggesting, we may avoid being fooled by the technological model of human beings plugged into machines. Rather, such a world must be analysed and criticised as it contributes to and denies our view ofourselves, and non-human nature, as social. The contrasting temptation to seek the wildness ofwilderness, the refreshment of'pure nature', the solace of the country over against the city will be a recurrent, ifminor, theme. Yet such a Romantic modulation must also be tested by reference to the relations ofhumanity with nature as social.

Jesus Christ, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted from prison, engages us in the midst of life. In social interpretation for a political theology of nature, we come to understand ourselves as creatures in the middle ofa world of creatures: such creatureliness is the blessing of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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