The Future is Not What it Used to Be
One of my all time favorite films is Double Indemnity, which also plays with time. If you've seen it, you know that it is told back to front. It begins at the end, and yet, doesn't lose one bit of its dramatic tension. The same device was used in Sunset Boulevard, also directed by Billy Wilder. It begins with the dead narrator floating face down in a swimming pool.
There is something similar going on with the Christian theo-drama, in which the end is given to us at the beginning, i.e., the Godman nailed to a cross. And yet, the drama continues. How does that work? In other words, in one very important sense, the curtain closes with the utterance of the line it is accomplished. Something was fulfilled in that moment, but from our vantage point as actor-spectators, or spectactors, it almost seems like an eerily private moment. What does it mean for us?
This brings us to the topic of eschatology, which, as it pertains to the theo-drama, reveals the overarching theme of the author. Eschatology has to do with the ultimate end of creation, and therefore its meaning. Thus, when Christ utters his last words (from this side of life), they have obvious eschatological implications, for they signify either the end of the drama or the end of the act.
This gets to the heart of the distinction between "Christian" and "Jew" (and I'm placing them in quotes because you could say that this goes more to an ontological stance than a religious one, for many Christians live in a "Jewish" eschatology, and vice versa).
In essence, for the Christian, his eschatology has already been realized and fulfilled. Like Double Indemnity, the end is at the beginning. You might say that the Christian knows the future, and it is back on a cross on Golgotha.
But the Jew is still waiting. Thus, he lives in an unrealized eschatology. Specifically, he is still hoping for the messiah. And even then, the messiah he hopes for will be nothing whatsoever like Jesus. Rather, he will be more of a political, or let us say, "immanent," messiah who will smite the wicked and restore justice to the world.
Interestingly, I think you can see how this stance is just one step away from various socialist ideologies that attempt to do the same thing -- to essentially force the eschaton (and then force it upon us). I hope we can say without absurd charges of anti-Semitism that the socialist movement was indeed disproportionately represented by secularized Jews, or that Marx himself was the ultimate self-hating Jew. Dennis Prager talks about this all the time, and has written articles about the phenomenon (e.g., Chomsky, Zinn, Soros, Rahm Emanuel, etc.).
I believe this explains the mystery of why some 85-90% of Jews vote Democrat. They do so because they are by and large only nominally religious (or don't understand their religion), and because they have displaced their messianic hope into politics. A Jewish friend of mine who is well connected to the orthodox community says that Jews who are truly serious about their religion are quite naturally conservative, just like anyone else who is serious about religion. Dennis Prager, for example, is often dismissed by liberal Jews as cuckoo, even though he is clearly the sober and serious one. I mean, it is strictly impossible to be in favor of "homosexual marriage" and still call yourself a Jew -- not because of Leviticus, but because of the nature of reality. Even I know that.
You could say the same thing about the mystery of how someone who pretends to be Catholic could under any circumstance support someone as openly hostile to God as Obama. And yet, I believe that more than 50% of Catholics voted for him. Why? Yes, they're ignorant of their own (poorly taught) tradition, but there's more to it than that. The problem is that they have internalized the secular eschatology of the left and imported it into religion.
In other words, "liberation theology" is none other than the denial of the realized "vertical" eschatology of Christianity, and its covert replacement with an unrealized horizontal eschatology that inevitably revolves around economics, which in turn reduces to matter and thereby murders God.
Examples are just too numerous to chronicle here, but as Pope Benedict said, the loss of transcendence leads to the flight to utopia. But only every time. When people joke about Obama being the messiah, it is actually no joke, as the energy underlying all of the irrational support for him is indeed messianic, except that it is again in the context of a de-Christianized and horizontalized eschatology.
Now, how do we reconcile this notion that the future has already been fulfilled, with the fact that our lives obviously continue "moving forward?" Balthasar spends considerable time discussing this orthoparadox, except that it's scattered everywhere within the five volumes. Therefore, it is again difficult for me to write about it in any systematic way, so I'll just have to improvise and hope for the best. With any luck, I'll be guided by a nonlocal attractor that will confer some perfect nonsense on all of this.
First of all, think about pre-Christian or pagan eschatology. Not only was time unfulfilled, but it was unfulfillable. The wise man, e.g., the Stoic, just accepted this with resignation and dignity. His dignity derived from meeting his pointless death in a noble manner. There was no hope for an afterlife in any personal sense envisaged by Christianity, i.e., bodily resurrection. Indeed, it was inconceivable. There was no real eschatology; or, if there was, only the gods could know about it. And even then, the gods just used humans for their own amusement. They had no higher motives.
Now, the Jews introduced a radical new idea about eschatology: there was one God, and he had a definite purpose in creation. However, early Jewish R & D focused almost exclusively on the group as opposed to the individual. Remember, G-d struck a deal with the people of Israel, not the person. No one had a "personal relationship" with God, not even the prophets.
Jewish eschatology was obviously messianic -- another eschatological innovation -- but the Jew was resigned to waiting and hoping for its fulfillment. And again, no one envisaged the type of messiah that was to come, for he turned out to be a vertical messiah sent down into horizontal time. Jews who recognized the vertical messiah quite simply became "Christian."
But there were some more subtle effects of Jewish messianism. For example, as HvB explains, it "opens up a 'flight into the future' as the only way out of the unendurable." Things will get better, some way, somehow.
In the present day, this manifests in the obsessive utopianism and compulsive "revolutionism" of the left. These were hatched by the Judeo-Christian tradition, but now the latter are in danger of being engulfed by them (as indicated by those messianic hordes of Obama-supporting Jews and Christians).
As HvB explains, utopianism involves the attempt to bring about what is strictly impossible (a reversal of the fall) through a sheer act of will, while revolutionism attempts to impose this impossible utopia "through catastrophic changes of structures." This is what Obama means when he confides to his supporters that you ain't seen nothin' yet. The messiah has not yet begun to revolt, as revolting as he is already.
Note that this revolutionary and utopian eschatology is specifically a counter-narrative to the Judeo-Christian one, and yet, derived from it -- like a mirror image. Instead of theo-drama, it is maya-drama. It has a plot, conflict, clearly drawn characters embodying good and evil, etc.
But it should go without saying that this is not the real drama, just a counterfeit one. And it's not just that it is counterfeit, but that it attempts to draw you into its third-rate script, so that you become an actor in that cheap melodrama instead of the real telodrama. Then you spend your life bumbling around the stage of an off-off-off-Broadway play. But the real drama can never be a broad way, only a narrow one.
Well, I'm up against a temporal wall.... to be continued.