Friday, December 01, 2006

More on the 77's

Last year, Dave posted on his new appreciation for 77's and their song: The Lust, The Flesh, The Eyes and the Pride of Life. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the exact phrase actually comes from the anachronistic King James Translation (1 John 2:16) that we've matured beyond.

I learned this after reading what I feel is one of Pope John Paul II's most profound insights into modern philosophy delivered on Wednesday October 29, 1980. He draws our attention on Nietzsche (who discovered that religion is only about making weakness seem bearable thus preventing the weak from doing anything about it), Marx (who discovered that religion is only about making poverty seem bearable thus preventing the weak from doing anything about it), and Freud (who discovered that religion is only about making sexual dysfunctions seem bearable so that nothing gets done about it) and how Paul Ricoeur describes them as "masters of suspicion".

The Pope then takes a radically different turn than Ricoeur, Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx and redirects us back to the three lusts described in 1 John 2. The lust of the flesh (what we usually mean when we speak of lust), the lust of the eyes (also known as greed, sloth, and gluttony), and the pride of life (also known as anger, pride, and envy). He observes that Nietsche refuses to see in the human heart anything beyond the pride of life. Freud refuses to see in the human heart anything beyond the lust of the flesh. Marx refuses to see in the human heart anything beyond the lust of the eyes.

After sharing such a penetrating insight into the dominant philosophers of the 20th century, one might expect him to denounce the errors of these philosophies. But instead he does much better and challenges us to recognize this unhealthy suspicion in our own evaluations and follow Christ's call to redemption. "Christ's words according to Matthew 5:27-28 do not allow us to stop at the accusation of the human heart and to regard it continually with suspicion".

In other words, while "orthodox" Christians may have rejected the philosophical errors of Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx we must realize we often make the same fundamental error that they do - we place the human heart in a state of continual suspicion in response to our the knowledge of the fall and the manifestation of evil in human action (think back to your childhood and how you received wholesome "advice" from good people, how the advice placed your heart in a state of continual suspicion, and how the "advice" made you die inside). The Pope reminds us that the words of Christ also appeal to the human heart because within the human heart remains an echo of our original dignity (almost total depravity if you will).

So not only do we have a critique on the ideas of Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud. Not only do we have a parallel with the lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life. Not only do we have a reminder of the good that remains in all of us. We also have a beautiful answer to Saint Teresa of Avila's prayer "From sour-faced saints, Good Lord deliver us!"

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