by Nestor Ravilas
Many years ago, one of my professors in theology asked our class with a question that haunts me until now. He said, “What if there is nothing we could gain from this faith, no heaven or any destiny at the end of history waiting for us and no answers to all our prayers, will you still serve and obey God?” The class in an instant split up into two: those who were able to compose themselves instantly retorted affirmatively while the others went confused and stupefied simply cringed in silence. I found myself in the second group, only that my silence probably lingers much longer than the rest. While some probably scandalized and sickened by the idea of inviting the outcasts and marginalized instead of those we endeared and cherished when you prepare a banquet, I could still, on the other hand, think of it as sane and acceptable idiosyncrasy. I could still adhere on self-debasement and therefore refrain from becoming so aggressive and so dominating as my natural inclination for will-to-power dictates and therefore just watch others grabbing seats of honor for themselves while I settled in the corner hoping that the host would place me to a better place later. Rather, I find the reasons for doing such ridiculous self-debasement more perplexing than the revolutionary ethical requirements of Jesus.
By doing so, Luke reported, you will receive rewards. You will be exalted when you humble yourself and you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous for feeding the unlovable. Both intone vindication in future time for doing what are unimaginable. It was the question of the reasonableness and plausibility of the requirements of the Kingdom that addled the mind of early believers; it is on the other hand the veracity of the promise vindication that causes this peeving discontent today. Those who take time to track the evolution of wo/men, or I would say their regression, gave up the hope that history has a purpose and the world is leading into a bright end. The history of disappointments cause by the glaring delay of the promised utopia is pulling humanity into the crisis of “motivational deficit”. That makes the question of my professor more troublesome. The impulse to create one’s self unleashes its power over and against the intention to create human community and solidarity. While some still looking up in the sky waiting for the breaking into the history of a divine kingdom, others decided that the waiting has long been over due and therefore left that hope behind and start looking for anything within the spatiotemporal that would save us from imminent destruction.
But the result was more disastrous than the crisis it attempts to address. The prefix “post” to most of human knowledges such us post-Marxism, post-Liberation Theology, post-modernity and so on and so forth signifies the failure of wo/men to replace the vacuum left vacant by the removal of the divine to offer motivation for becoming good and just. As in the old and also in the present, the question remains the same: “Why should I restrain from exercising my freedom in pursuant of self-creation and neglect, if not infringe, the rights and freedom of other beings, human or not?” Why should I shrink humbly at the end of the line instead of aggressively lead it, and why should I invite those who cannot recompense me in a sumptuous dinner I prepared? The return of ethics in most of the intellectual discourses now is obviously prompted by the search for reasons that would satiate these questions. There must be reasons bigger than the self. Reasons to convince us to live not as an individual but part of human family working in solidarity with all beings in preserving our existence, if not in eternity, at least in a time enough for us to see that our progeny will continue living on this earth in a much better existence.
Richard Rorty is probably right. It is time that we have to create new metaphors, new vocabularies to replace the ineffective and irrelevant old so as to reinvent who we are and what we are doing and where we are going.