It was the last concert of the season. From my seat I could see the hands of the young Israeli pianist as she played Edvard Grieg’s piano concerto. The guest conductor was a Norwegian (like Grieg himself). The rest of the orchestra included Asians, African Americans and Anglos. Ah, I thought, music does bring people together!Then I was struck by another thought: my own field, theology, tends to drive people apart. In fact, it’s mostly intended to divide people. What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong is that in the apparently innocent effort to arrive at truth, theology inculcates pride, the very vice that Christians claim is the consummate sin.
One of the privileges of studying theology within the clerical formation programs of the Catholic Church is that you get to study philosophy first. For at least three years. In retrospect, the true extent of the privilege becomes clearer: when it comes time to study theology, the pupil has been primed to interpret, to be able to remove words and concepts from the meaning foisted on them by the gut, to separate them from inherited baggage, and to begin to detect where contemporary religious ideology and real thought might begin to diverge, and how to follow the latter.
James and John McZebedee matriculated at my seminary again this fall. The “Sons of Entitlement,” I call them. They are usually—but not always—young and white in addition to being male. They have typically grown up in the church, attended Christian colleges and majored in religion. They like to refer to their mental index of Theologians Worth Reading and readily scoff at those theologians they have not read (and so are not worth reading).