Monday, December 12, 2011

Incarnation and Occupation

English: Child lightes candles on Advent-wreath
Image via Wikipedia
By Sarah Morrigan

In the Western Christian liturgical calendar, this is the season of Advent, and the theology of incarnation is one of those things that are being often talked about in churches, leading up to Christmas.

Why did God -- infinite and almighty according to Christian cosmology and theology -- "become flesh"?  Incarnation has its own risks.  In making the infinite decidedly finite, positioning in a localized space and moment, God would have privileged the experiences of (especially if, as Christianity maintains, Jesus was the one and only incarnation of God for all universe) one ethnic group, one historic period, one religious tradition and one country over those of all others.

If God was truly infinite, then, God did not have to do this in order to save the humankind, either.  Though the Evangelical Protestants maintain that God had to do this in order to redeem the humankind, but even then, for God almighty, everything is a conscious, mindful, deliberate choice.  God has never been compelled to do anything otherwise.

Hence incarnation was an action in which God chooses to invade the human world and occupy a specific time and space, within the context of human social and cultural experiences.

There is something that is powerful about this.  In this age of technology and social media, we can experience whatever that happens in the world real-time.  Yet, there is still a difference between watching the port shutdown taking place today through Livestream and Twitter, while multitasking away in the safety and comfort of some remote location, and those who physically occupy the time and space on this wintry day at the Terminals 5 and 6 of the Port of Portland.

Interestingly, though aided greatly by the modern Internet and electronic communication technology, the Occupy movement made a powerful statement worldwide by using that technology to physically occupy -- and live in a primitive condition in tents, and even risking violence at the hands of riot police. In this day and age, we can do many things without leaving our armchairs; yet, thousands of occupiers chose to occupy a time and space together in solidarity, and the energy that comes from actually putting bodies on the Occupation has indeed helped us organize and accomplish so many things in a very short time.

St. Irenaeus famously said (and repeated by Frithjof Schuon): "God has become a human so humans may become God."  In the Eastern Orthodox theology, incarnation is explained more extensively.  The concept of Christus Victor postulates that Christ invaded the humanity in order to help the humanity triumph over the evil; while the theology of theosis explains that through the incarnation, humans are being sanctified and made like God.

God has occupied in solidarity, and to speak out against the injustice and corruption of humankind.

Incarnation, in this sense, is the prototypal Occupation.

This is not an official statement of the Interfaith Guild of Chaplains.

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