Thursday, October 25, 2012

Garden to Garden

We think Christianity is all about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, but Rita told us that early Christians stressed the resurrected Messiah and the restoration of Earth to beauty and peace.

Rita Nakashima Brock spoke on "Saving Paradise: Moral Conscience, Beauty, and the Glory of Humanity" on Tuesday evening at Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California.

She began with theGarden of Eden, the loss of that garden, and Jesus' restoration of the possibility of paradise on earth.

There is no visual depiction of a dead Jesus until 960 AD, she said, presenting many slides of early churches that show Jesus in glory and power, fully clothed, rather than in abject naked suffering. 

Early frescos in church naves also show paradise as in this world with the rivers mentioned in Genesis, including the Tigris, Euphrates, and two others. 

"The resurrection opened the door for us," she said.  "This life is blest by God as a beautiful place."

She traced changes in theology that changed the emphasis of the eucharist from a joyous feast of celebration to a feast focused on Jesus' suffering.

Changes in theology started by the marriage of Christianity to the Roman Empire were also her topic.  When Charles Martel held back Muslims from advancing into central Europe, he found it useful to make Christianity an arm of Empire.  Interacting with Saxons on his northern border, his grandson Charlemagne instituted a death penalty for not getting baptized (rebaptized). 

"Before that shedding human blood was sin; it broke your soul and required penance and rehabilitation," she said.  Afterward, however, empire led to holy wars against Muslims and others, sanctifying violence.

Our purpose should be "to alleviate suffering, not to sanctify it," she argued, using Rachel Fulton's From Passion to Compassion. 

Rita puts her concern about war and its effects into action.  At Brite Divnity School in Fort Worth, Texas, she and others are founding a center for repairing of effects of war on today's soldiers.

This center works for the repair of "moral injury" as contrasted to PTSD.  In contrast to the illness caused by traumatic stress, people who emerge from war with their psyches intact can still have moral injury as a result of killing someone or handling human remains or experiencing other guilt related to being in war.

See her newest book, Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War.

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