In search of new moral authority.

Today much talk is done about the modern culture of relativism. Religion considers this attitude as evil that threatens the whole meaning of religion. Religion is based on the believe of a supernatural being who, by its very nature, has absolute authority on every natural being, on all that exists.

However, relativism has infected the air we breathe and it is not a rare thing to identify this mentality even in ministers of religion, who preach god in a way that makes you doubt which god they are representing and presenting.

Maybe relativism is the antidote of religious fundamentalism. Let us remember that even Christianity suffered from fundamentalism during its history. Thank God, the Catholic Church, through Pope John Paul II, recognized this evil and asked humanity forgiveness for it. However, there are other religions today who still believe in such irrational mentality and have not yet realized the need to detach themselves from it for the very good of their own believes.

Now that relativism has been identified for what it is; now that the first negative and violent reaction has been expressed, more out of fear than out of faith, we can be rational even about it. Christianity is made up of people of hope, Pope Paul VI used to say. And the light of hope in a culture of relativism can only come from the religion that at its heart there is the Mystery of the Incarnation. Christ has no problem to incarnate Himself in our culture of relativism, as he had no problem to incarnate Himself in a inhumane and a legalistic culture of two thousand years ago.

Relativism appreciate – ironically, in an absolute way! – personal experience. No body can challenge your personal experience. Your personal experience is as true and valid as every other personal experience. No one has the right to impose his personal experience on that of somebody else.

Of course, carried to the extreme, this leads to the negation of any objective reality, of any external authority. Here lies the treat to the very idea of religion. In fact, we are witnessing to a new movement, even among intellectuals, that is leading to the conclusion that religion is harmful to man and society.

But is it possible that our culture is reacting to the way we – even in the Catholic Church – have been despising personal experience and while relying mostly on institutional authority, found “spiritual” ways of defending even the abuse of it?

Do we really need to be terrified of personal experience? Why was the authority of Jesus impressively different from that of His contemporary rabbis? Was it not because He spoke like one who “knew” what He was speaking about? Was it not because He was speaking out of personal experience? He “knew” God personally, He had a personal and intimate experience of Him, of whom the rabbis spoke from what the were taught or read in their Bibles.

Did Jesus impose His authority on the people? He did not even have any institutional power to do that. He did not even have any ambition for that. Jesus knows that experiential knowledge is more powerful than any institutional authority. Moreover, Jesus trusted human personal experience. The people who heard Him and observed His way of life and all His actions, could connect their personal experience with that of His.

It is true that Jesus had objective authority coming from the fact that He is the Only Son of God. But He did not use and abuse this type of authority with people. He knows there is no need. Yes, it takes more time, patience and a price to pay, but the way He opted for is more respectful of human dignity.

If God truly exists; if God the Father, revealed by Jesus Christ, is the One and Only true God; then there must be some indication of it in my personal experience, and in your personal experience and in every human being’s personal experience. There must be some aspect in our personal experience to which, and through which, we can be connected… even to Jesus Christ!

One last reflection. What is the meaning of Jesus sending His Holy Spirit on His believers? Is it not to give them moral authority that springs from their very personal experience, to which every man of good will can connect his, or her, personal experience?! In fact, is it so hard to trace where Christian signs and symbols in people lacking this experience can lead to?

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November 2017
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