The People of “Why Not?”

From philosopher John D. Caputo:

Over the ages the spiritual masters have described spiritual life as a journey. Indeed, we might even venture the thought that to be “religious” in its deepest sense is to be a searcher, living in search of something, as opposed to being satisfied with the reality that sits under our noses, content with the “present.” When Bobby Kennedy used to say, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why . . . . I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” he was speaking with a religious heart. Religious people are the people of the “why not?” the people of the promise, of the hope against hope. They restlessly search for something, for a certain sort of “transcendence,” which means to be on the go, making a crossing, trying to get somewhere else. Saint Augustine might have been defining “religion” when he opened the Confessions with his famous reference to the cor inquietum, the “restless heart,” which will not rest until it rests in “You,” in what the great monotheistic religions call “God.” Long before “Christians” knew what to call themselves, before the word “Christian” was coined, the earliest followers of Jesus were simply called followers of “the Way.” To follow or be on the way may very well be what “religion” is—Lao Tzu spoke of the “Tao,” meaning the “way”—the differences among religious traditions being worked out by their different visions of the way. Seen thus, the way varies from the lowest, most self-aggrandizing, self-acquisitive, and heartless ways, where one makes a religion out of money or power, to the most sublime, inspiring, and heartfelt ways, which turn on love of the neighbor, compassion, hospitality, and forgiveness. In Christianity, Jesus is the way, and being a Christian cannot be more felicitously described than as following “in his steps.” The religious heart or frame of mind is not “realist,” because it is not satisfied with the reality that is all around it. Nor is it antirealist, because it is not trying to substitute fabrications for reality; rather, it is what I would call “hyper-realist,” in search of the real beyond the real, the hyper, the über or au-déla, the beyond, in search of the event that stirs within things that will exceed our present horizons. In this sense, religion is, in the very best and deepest sense, so much “hype.”

What Would Jesus Deconstruct? The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church


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