Saturday, February 22, 2014

Luigi Giussani: religion or anarchy

While yesterday was the 107th anniversary of W.H. Auden's birth, in addition to being the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, today is the ninth anniversary of Msgr. Luigi Giussani's passing. I am so very grateful for him. I encountered his writings shortly after being baptized. His life, his witness, have been a true catechism for me.

Another poem of Auden's, "The Unknown Citizen," put me in mind of the fact that Giussani's father was an anarcho-socialist. He believed and so taught Luigi that beauty is what gives reality coherence. One of my favorite novels (probably my favorite, next to The Brothers Karamazov), Mark Helprin's A Soldier of the Great War, illustrates this wonderfully. I apologize in advance for the political turn this will shortly take, but it is that with which I am currently engaged.

I don't know about you, but I am tired of statist conformity and party loyalty. The lackeys of party and state put religious conformists, whom they typically hold in contempt (unless there is political utility to be derived), to shame. Christianity is not an ideology, though many would be content to make it one. I believe the death of Jesus and the deaths of the martyrs show us that to make it an ideology is a reduction.

Writing about Gius' treatment of anarchy in his seminal work The Religious Sense, a certain "Jack," several years back insightfully wrote:
[Giussani] sees anarchy and the religious man as the only two reactions that capture "entirely the grandeur of the human being". "By nature, man is relation to the infinite: on the one hand, the anarchist affirms himself to an infinite degree, while, on the other, the authentically religious man accepts the infinite as his meaning." Anarchy is appealing, but it leads to denial of an essential fact: man is made. He did not exist, then he is born, then he dies. The religious man is able to respond in acceptance of this fact. It is precisely the fact that the 'elementary experience' is a common and an objective thing that gives us a basis to avoid slipping into anarchy
In short, for Giussani the only two honest responses to reality were anarchy and religion. Pretty radical stuff. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the bourgeoisie eventually threaten to swamp everything.

While I see Christian Anarchy as a contradiction in terms, I don't mind saying that I find Gius, Dorothy Day, Dostoevsky, Ellul, Camus, et al to be lights in the darkness.

The Christian starting point for engagement with reality is the Incarnation of the Son of God. This, too, is the starting point of Giussani's method. Reading the introduction to Paul's New Moment: Continental Philosophy and the Future of Christian Theology, I came across something that describes this well: "this Event of God becoming human is so earth-shattering that it enacts something akin to the psychoanalytic concept of trauma..."

Servant of God Luigi Giussani, pray for us.

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