The First and Last Temptation of Barack
Unless the question of why one should believe in God comes up (which it has in the past). There are purely utilitarian reasons for choosing to believe in God, just as there are purely utilitarian reasons for getting married, even though there are better reasons. Likewise, behaving morally is a good way to avoid getting in trouble with the law, but it is preferable to actually love virtue and self-mastery.
Speaking of which, after baptism comes temptation: if Jesus incarnates the descent of the absolute, then the temptation in the desert involves a further "descent into the perils besetting mankind" (Benedict). In order for this thing (meaning the whole project) to be efficacious, he "has to enter into the drama of human existence, for that belongs to the core of his mission."
You could say that there is no man without a narrative. Therefore, in order to "become" man, one must not only enter the flesh -- incarnate -- but the story, the essential drama -- for which I can't think of a word at the moment... historify? Enmyth? Bechronicle? Whatever the word, "he has to penetrate it completely, down to its uttermost depths" so as "to bear it on his shoulders and to bring it home," full circle.
The descent is not a one-time-only deal, "but accompanies him along his entire journey. He must recapitulate the whole of history from its beginning..., in order to transform it." A constant part of life is temptation, therefore he must expose himself "to the risks and perils of human existence."
Cut to a barren desert, which is a nice contrast to the leafy paradise of Eden, where things went off the rails in vertical space. Man made (and makes) himself ill among plenty, and now we shall see if he can be made whole amidst danger, deprivation, and temptation.
First of all, what is a temptation? Is it outside or inside? Animals don't experience temptation, because it presumes free will: I am tempted to do that, but I choose to do this.
But every temptation holds out a promise, whether explicit or implicit: choose this and _______ (fill in the blank). Often if we simply fill in the blank, the temptation loses its allure. I've been working with my son on this for years in order to demonstrate to him how a desire fulfilled is just replaced by another, in an endless, compulsive cycle. (There are, of course, worthwhile desires, but one must be able to discern the difference.)
If we visualize the mind as a complex phase space, then temptations are like fixed point attractors, i.e., basins toward which desire is drawn. To the extent that we repeatedly engage in the compulsion, then it is as if our subjective phase space is characterized by these semi-permanent and relatively autonomous valleys. Through repetition, these can eventually become as wide as the Grand Canyon, as in alcoholism and drug addiction.
How to rid ourselves of these malevolent attractors? I would say that this space is always dynamic and fluid, like an ocean. Spiritual peace is none other than a kind of "flattening" of the ocean, which immediately brings to mind Matthew 14, with Jesus calmly walking on the storm-tossed lake. Well, the world -- last time I checked, anyway -- is one big storm-tossed lake, is it not?
In any event, if Jesus is going to go to all the trouble of being tempted in the desert, these particular temptations had better have rather wide application. They will need to stand for and subsume any number of lesser ones (there can be attractors within attractors, as in a fractal).
At the very heart of spiritual temptation must be a bad choice: we could even depict this in a completely abstract way: if O is the Great Attractor, then Ø represents the alternative. We could even say that this is the perpetual serpentine Gnostic promise: don't choose O! That's just a lie told to children to keep them in line and limit their freedom. Choose Ø!
Looks like Benedict is on the same page: "At the heart of all temptations... is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives." Thus the refusal "to acknowledge the reality of anything beyond the political and material, while setting God aside as an illusion."
Not to get all insultaining, but that is quite literally how one becomes a liberal. I do not mean this in a polemical or insulting way. Indeed, the fact that most liberals do not believe in God (or are confused about God) -- that they reject O -- is a source of pride, not shame. Does Bill Maher look ashamed of being an atheist? The rebellious rejection of O is very much a part of their identity.
Furthermore, as Benedict writes, "moral posturing is part and parcel of temptation." It always goes hand in hand with pride, for which reason it is difficult to find a truly humble liberal. They are all about presuming "to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our illusions and throw ourselves into" the hard work of making the state even bigger and more intrusive than it already is. And of course, these overeducated yahoos always claim "to speak for true realism" (as if Truth isn't the realest of the real).
So, this is the same eternal drama into which Jesus inserts himself. And indeed, he is faced with the eternal temptation of the left, which is to reduce the world to "what is right there in front of us -- power and bread." Although circuses are also important to the left, hence MSNBC, or unreality TV in general.
I would say that this divide between O and Ø is the eternal crossroads, and that a human being can only pretend to make it go away. Man is a moral being, and that's that. Language itself is a moral medium, being that its purpose is to communicate truth.
Therefore, every time you open your mouth, you're making the world more heavenly or more hellish, which explains the aroma that emanates from MSNBC or from Dear Leader himself. Did you see his press conference? One suspects that O turned away from O well before he could have been consciously aware of the craniorectal insertion. His ideology -- and ideolatry -- goes all the way to the bone. Or large intestine, rather.