death, grace, modern nation-state, peace, political theology

The Christian Life: The Comedy of Death (Pt. 2)

In the past two posts, “Moving Towards the Comedy of Death” and “The Christian Life: The Comedy of Death (Pt. 1)“, I’ve been putting forward something titled “The comedy of death.”

The first post was on scientific soteriology and the inability for science to truly deal with death. Indeed, science is more than impotent, but rather, at times hurries death along farther than we could on our own, sending millions to the reaper. Humanity’s greatest achievements are equally destructive and not actually salvific. The Christian answer is not to run from death, but to face it and live well together, participating in the redemptive work of God.

The second post functions like a case study of sorts, mentioning three movies based on grace — being given what you need from an estranged family member, rather than getting what you want. These movies function as a way to imagine justice and solidarity at work while undergoing unusual, stressful circumstances, with the theme of death.

Consider this last one, yet another different view of the Christian life functioning redemptively in the face of death, but this time summed up in the phrase, “Memento mori“: Remember (you too are) mortal.

In Republican Rome, conquering commanders coming back from a victory against a new people group could maybe get a triumpha grand parade where the commander is literally is dressed up like a god, decked out in red and the recipient of the city’s adulation. Now, tradition says that in the moment of such praise, the commander was reminded of his mortality by a slave with the words: Memento mori. Such a job is the height of prophecy, yes? I would pay money to be given the time and space, during his Roman triumph, er, I mean, his Inaugural Address, to proclaim to the next president: Memento mori. Remember you are but dust! Remember your death!

This is a Christianity that is not necessarily at the service of the state — as a Bible used to swear in an office holder — but rather this is the work of God, making clear to the people of the world that they are not gods. This is comparable to the Barthian “Nein!” This is the loud refusal to confuse the state’s justice with true justice and true peace.

This comedy of death is first a liberation through the acceptance of our limits. This isn’t liberation from death, but the acknowledgment of our finitude — our status as creature and not creator — and to face death throughout our life. Instead of cheapening or avoiding death and tragedy, this takes evil seriously. The comedy of death, in many ways, is the Christian stabilizing weakness (strength) for our world — seeking justice/redemption and peace — in the face of frustrating, trying, bizarre, or farcical circumstances. The way this often plays out in a crazy world of violence, coercion, and commodification, we peaceably seek a scandalous redemption. After all, in a crazy world, the actions that are in step with the world are crazy as well. Part of the nature of the peaceable scandal is that it doesn’t fit into crazy and looks to the masses like foolishness.

The Christian life is death because the grim is always at our door, and comedy because God’s work culminates in redemption where the scripture “Death where is your sting?” is fulfilled, as death, the last enemy, is addressed for the last time.


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