February 3, 2008


Impressions of Eternity: What do we mean when we say ’God’?: a review of Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion by Antonio Monda, translated by Ann Goldstein (Lawrence Joseph, Commonweal)

The final conversation of Do You Believe? is with Elie Wiesel. Monda asks Wiesel if he believes in God. “Yes, of course,” Wiesel answers. “May I ask what your image of him is?” Wiesel: “You can certainly ask, but I have to answer that I don’t have an image of him.... I think that every image represents a limitation, and that mystery is part of his infinite greatness.” Monda then turns to the problem of theodicy: “You believe firmly in God, but you live in a world where suffering, injustice, and tyranny exist.” Wiesel: “It’s the great torment of my entire existence. The question I don’t know how to answer and that I don’t think anyone can answer. But even in these terrible moments I see not an absence but an eclipse.” How would Wiesel define his faith today? “I would use the adjective wounded, which I believe may be valid for everyone in my generation.”

Finally, Wiesel remembers the example of a friend and mentor. “When I am thinking of my personal experience, there comes to mind, as a luminous example, François Mauriac. I, a Jew, owe to the fervent Catholic Mauriac, who declared himself in love with Christ, the fact of having become a writer.” Monda asks, “Do you think that the God Mauriac believed in is different from the one you believe in?” Wiesel: “No. But I know how different our views can be, and our approach. Once Mauriac dedicated a book to me and he wrote: ‘To Elie Wiesel, a Jewish child who was crucified.’ At first I took it badly, but then I understood that it was his way of letting me feel his love.”

As it happens, I met Mr. Wiesel at an event when I was working on the 1985 NJ gubernatorial campaign. Perhaps you'll know what I mean when I say I somehow expected him to be numinous if not downright luminescent, to exude some sort holiness. The Holocaust, after all, partakes of a kind of mass Crucifixion and survivors have an iconic status. But, in reality, he was a small, seemingly fragile, older man who smelled, perversely (?), of soap, like your own grandfather may have. It would be possible, of course, to be disappointed when you expect to meet a saint and find a man instead. All I could think of though was how meaningless his physicality was when compared to what his spirit has survived.

The God I believe in was so bewildered by Creatures that could be both as evil as the Nazis and as resilient and faithful as their victims that He was willing to be Crucified to try to comprehend us. That's the point critics of The Passion seemed to miss--if God hadn't experienced an eclipse He wouldn't have despaired (of Himself) and wouldn't have learned what He needed to.

Crucifixion? It wasn't that bad, says professor (Jonathan Petre, 02/02/2008, Daily Telegraph)

The Crucifixion of Christ "wasn't as bad as it's been painted", an outspoken Marxist academic will claim on the BBC this month.

The Crucifixion of Christ "wasn't as bad as it's been painted", an outspoken Marxist academic will claim on the BBC this month
Christ on the Cross: ‘He got off pretty lightly’ says Professor Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton, Professor of Cultural Theory at the University of Manchester, will say on Radio 4's Lent Talks that Jesus "got off pretty lightly" because it only took him three hours to die, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

He adds that Jesus's scourging was a "blessing in disguise" because it hastened his death.

He has the factual matters very nearly right, although he then judges them in a way that they are at war with themselves. A scourging so horrific that He died in just three hours on the Cross is hardly a blessing, though it served as a Blessing for the rest of us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 3, 2008 6:03 AM

Crucifiction? Its a doddle. Lucky bastard.

Posted by: EPT at February 3, 2008 9:25 AM