The greatest book in the world, the Mahabharata, tells us we all have to live and die by our karmic cycle. Thus works the perfect reward-and-punishment, cause-and-effect, code of the universe. We live out in our present life what we wrote out in our last. But the great moral thriller also orders us to rage against karma and its despotic dictates. It teaches us to subvert it. To change it. It tells us we also write out our next lives as we live out our present.The Mahabharata is not a work of religious instruction.It is much greater. It is a work of art.It understands men will always fall in the shifting chasm between the tug of the moral and the lure of the immoral. It is in this shifting space of uncertitude that men become men. Not animals, not gods. It understands truth is relative. That it is defined by context and motive. It encourages the noblest of men - Yudhishtra, Arjuna, Lord Krishna himself - to lie, so that a greater truth may be served.It understands the world is powered by desire. And that desire is an unknowable thing. Desire conjures death, destruction, distress.But also creates love, beauty, art. It is our greatest undoing. And the only reason for all doing.And doing is life. Doing is karma.Thus it forgives even those who desire intemperately. It forgives Duryodhana. The man who desires without pause. The man who precipitates the war to end all wars. It grants him paradise and the admiration of the gods. In the desiring and the doing this most reviled of men fulfils the mandate of man. You must know the world before you are done with it. You must act on desire before you renounce it. There can be no merit in forgoing the not known.The greatest book in the world rescues volition from religion and gives it back to man.Religion is the disciplinarian fantasy of a schoolmaster.The Mahabharata is the joyous song of life of a maestro.In its tales within tales it takes religion for a spin and skins it inside out. Leaves it puzzling over its own poisoned follicles.It gives men the chance to be splendid. Doubt-ridden architects of some small part of their lives. Duryodhanas who can win even as they lose.
Tarun J. Tejpal
The church's theology bought into this ahistoricism in different ways: along a more liberal, post-Kantian trajectory, the historical particularities of Christian faith were reduced to atemporal moral teachings that were universal and unconditioned. Thus it turned out that what Jesus taught was something like Kant's categorical imperative - a universal ethics based on reason rather than a set of concrete practices related to a specific community. Liberal Christianity fostered ahistoricism by reducing Christianity to a universal, rational kernel of moral teaching. Along a more conservative, evangelical trajectory (and the Reformation is not wholly innocent here), it was recognized that Christians could not simply jettison the historical particularities of the Christian event: the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, there was still a quasi-Platonic, quasi-gnostic rejection of material history such that evangelicalism, while not devolving to a pure ahistoricism, become dominated by a modified ahistoricism we can call primitivism. Primitivism retains the most minimal commitment to God's action in history (in the life of Christ and usually in the first century of apostolic activity) and seeks to make only this first-century 'New Testament church' normative for contemporary practice. This is usually articulated by a rigid distinction between Scripture and tradition (the latter then usually castigated as 'the traditions of men' as opposed to the 'God-give' realities of Scripture). Such primitivism is thus anticreedal and anticatholic, rejecting any sense that what was unfolded by the church between the first and the twenty-first centuries is at all normative for current faith and practice (the question of the canon's formation being an interesting exception here). Ecumenical creeds and confessions - such as the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed - that unite the church across time and around the globe are not 'live' in primitivist worship practices, which enforce a sense of autonomy or even isolation, while at the same time claiming a direct connection to first-century apostolic practices.'s Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault to Church
James K.A. Smith