Since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. If in the face of this world's suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim.
A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope. No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering. No one and nothing can guarantee that the cynicism of power—whatever beguiling ideological mask it adopts—will cease to dominate the world. This is why the great thinkers of the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, were equally critical of atheism and theism. Horkheimer radically excluded the possibility of ever finding a this-worldly substitute for God, while at the same time he rejected the image of a good and just God.
In an extreme radicalization of the Old Testament prohibition of images, he speaks of a “longing for the totally Other” that remains inaccessible—a cry of yearning directed at world history. Adorno also firmly upheld this total rejection of images, which naturally meant the exclusion of any “image” of a loving God. On the other hand, he also constantly emphasized this “negative” dialectic and asserted that justice —true justice—would require a world “where not only present suffering would be wiped out, but also that which is irrevocably past would be undone”. This, would mean, however—to express it with positive and hence, for him, inadequate symbols—that there can be no justice without a resurrection of the dead. Yet this would have to involve “the resurrection of the flesh, something that is totally foreign to idealism and the realm of Absolute spirit.”
Spe Salvi 42
Reflection – Well, this is quite a mouthful and a head-ful for a lovely Saturday morning in spring. I probably should mention at the outset that I personally am not any more familiar with the Frankfurt school than the rest of youse guys out dere in the blogosphere, and so am just reading this along with you trusting that Pope Benedict knows what he’s talking about.
According to our friend Wikipedia, the Frankfurt school is a neo-Marxist fusion of Marx, Kant, Freud and a host of other theorists and architects of modernity and post-modernity. Anyhow, this is all a bit above and beyond me and you and what we’re about on this blog.
Here, it truly is the question of justice that concerns us, and where we are to look for justice, for re-dress. I have not blogged about the terrible events in Boston last week, or about the arrested terrorist plot here in Canada this week. As it happens, I was on my silent retreat while the Boston bombings were going on, and didn’t actually hear about it until they had arrested the surviving bomber.
Also, I generally try to steer away from the blogging imperative to saysomething about whatever is going on in the world. Beyond saying, “Lord have mercy!” and “Let us pray for the living and the dead, and for those who have done these acts!” I am never quite sure what else needs saying.
But there is a point in all this business of justice. I believe, and Joseph Ratzinger has said elsewhere, that political terrorism, even when religiously motivated, is a much of a despair of God as political totalitarianism or the soft fascism of our current social engineering regimes in North America.
God is not going to establish a just world according to our criteria, so we will take the reins of power into our hands and do it ourselves. Bomb away, or legislate away, or give the state authorities as much power as they need to get the job done, whatever that job might be this week.
We see, easily, how utterly futile and fearsome this path of worldly justice is. It either ends in tyranny or anarchy, in social control or social dissolution. And it seems to me (and this is all I will say on the matter) that these are the two poles we lurch between today in North America and Europe. And these great minds of the Frankfurt school, rejecting Christianity, nonetheless see this and grapple their way painfully towards the truth, though they don’t seem to quite get there.
We need a resurrection from the dead. We need a Last Judgment where God who transcends all and who is wholly good and loving makes all things right. We need a heavenly kingdom which supersedes and overcomes all earthly ones. Christianity has this; does anyone else?