Saturday, February 21, 2015

Olympianity as Religion and Sacred World

Olympianity is humankind’s principle religion. It is where we always begin and, eventually, always end up.
From a biblical point of view, Olympianity as a religion began in 4004 BC. That was when Adam and Eve ruptured humankind’s relationship with the one true god of freedom, truth, love, and vitality. When that happened, six conventional gods of power, falsehood, indifference, and death rushed in, enslaved us, and corrupted us enough to get us to devote ourselves to them. These six false gods are (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption.
Since that time, God has always freed some individuals from those false gods to live as dynamic witnesses to him.
In response, the Olympian gods, working diligently through their captive Olympian believers, have always managed to subvert the witness of these individuals to God. They even managed to take the faithful witness of Jesus and turn it into religion. In other words, they even managed to change his witness, and the witness of others to him, into Christianity. This Christianity is nothing more than a variation of Olympianity; in truth, it is simply Christian Olympianity. What an absurd triumph and triumph of absurdity.
Again, Olympianity is humankind’s principle religion. All religions, Christianity included, are simply variations of it. The gods are always eager, through judiciously applied rewards and punishments, to domesticate or eradicate, to assimilate or destroy, any challenge to their dominance.
Religion—especially Olympianity as its principle form—is organized around these six false gods of power. They serve as its source, center, and goal.
Around these six false Olympian gods of power, and in conformity to their goals, we humans organize and perpetuate an entire sacred world. Our whole civilization, society, and culture, as well as the Olympian personality in every one of us, find their meaningful places in terms of this world.

Old Testament witnesses question the sacred world of religion
The Old Testament witnesses to Yahweh always questioned the sacred. They insisted, for example, that no god, gods, or spirits were in any natural phenomena such as stars, planets, thunder, or trees. These natural phenomena were only that. They contained no divine presence or residual mystery.
Since Yahweh the creator wholly transcends his creation, since creation differs absolutely from its creator, humans cannot carve statues of Yahweh. No carved or painted image of any creature can possibly represent a creator who lies beyond all creation. No carved or painted image can become a sacred presence and make sacred the space which contains it. Yahweh makes words the only meaningful connection between him and his human creatures. “God speaks. We speak. That is all” (Ellul, 57).
The biblical god is not sacred. We may say, however, that he is holy if by that we mean he is wholly different. The conventional gods of power, falsehood, indifference, and death are regarded as sacred and stand at the center of the sacred world which they construct around themselves. Yahweh, however, is the absolutely different god of freedom, truth, love, and life. Where he is becomes holy—the place of his wholly different presence—but only remains so as long as he is there. He once appeared to Moses, for example, on Mount Sinai. Sinai’s ground became holy but only for that moment (Exodus 3:5-6). Once Yahweh left, it became the same plain piece of dirt it had been before. When Elijah later returned to it in desperation, Yahweh asked him why (1 Kings 19:8-10).
Old Testament Israelites and Jews did maintain one practice that they were always tempted to make a religious institution of: the priesthood with its mediating sacrifices. The purpose of those sacrifices was “to acknowledge that God is the master of all things. We offer him our firstfruits so as to display this acknowledgment” (58). Priests were men given by God the function of offering those sacrifices. Routinely, however, we came to regard both priest and sacrifice as sacred. In response Yahweh would call prophets to remind his people that no temple, priesthood, amount of sacrifice, or keeping of festivals could substitute for a humble walking with him (Micah 6:8).

Early Church as challenge to religion
At the time of Jesus, Olympianity was the religion of Roman society, culture, and inhabitants. Into this Olympian world came Jesus and the early Church. Early Christians did not challenge Olympianity in terms of their own religion. Their witness was not a contest between Olympianity and Christianity to see which one was the superior religion. The early Church challenged the whole sacred world and worldview of Olympianity as religion. That is why Olympians regarded early Christians as both atheists and enemies of humankind.
In contrast to the Judaism of his day and the Christianity of ours, Jesus himself became the last priest because he offered the last sacrifice—himself—needed for the forgiveness of sin. New Testament witnesses list many different functions which different people are called to fulfill in the church including apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher (Ephesians 4:11). They never once mention Jesus calling anyone to be a priest.
Jesus Christ himself remains the one living word of God and source and goal of all of God’s words to us today. He is neither restricted to nor necessarily present through the words which Christians repeat during Sunday worship or at any other time. “The Christian world is wholly secular. There are in it no particularly sacred times or places, precisely because God is absolutely the Wholly Other and nothing in the world…can be the bearer of value, meaning, energy, or even order” (60).
“This secularization, desacralization, and laicization is the most radical that has ever been achieved” (60).

(Today we continued our reflections on The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul [trans. Geoffrey Bromiley; Eerdmans, 1986].)

Copyright © 2015 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.