Unity in Struggle

In fact the only approach we have to a real unity is the solidarity of the poor and the exploited against their oppressors: we have to recognise both that this is so and that it is not enough.  It is just the nearest we can get to unity.  We have to recognise that the only God we know is the God of the poor, the God who takes sides in the struggle, and that any God of consensus who is supposed to belong to both sides is an illusion and a dangerous one.  Sorting out the sides is, of course, a delicate business because though God is not on both sides we are: God is a God of judgement because he is love.  We do not have ‘God on our side’, and this is not because God is neutral but because we are compromised.  We have to see that there is no other God to be known except the God of the oppressed, ‘The Lord your God who brought you out of the land of slavery… you shall have no gods’; and yet this is not yet to know God.  The Church must be the Church of the poor — this is the sign that she is on the way to the kingdom; it also shows she is not there.  St Thomas says that we have sacraments (that is to say, the visible sacred life of the Christian cult) because of sin; and, of course, we make an ‘option for the poor’ because of sin: when we have passed from the world of sin to the kingdom all this will wither away.  For St Thomas, as for Karl Marx, organised religion is the symptom of human alienation and will not outlast it.  Bourgeois anti-clericalism and atheism such as flourished in the nineteenth century and still persists today is the expression of the belief that human alienation has already been radically overcome by the French Revolution, the Enlightenment and the dawn of liberal capitalism.  Neither Christians nor Marxists see things that way.  There is no real unity to the world, the only authentic unity is in the struggle, and it is because this is our real unity here and now that we can only express the Kingdom sacramentally.  We can see humankind itself as one only in mystery, in the gesture towards the reality that is to come.  We can only see God in mystery, as the reality that is to come.  We cannot see love except in hints and guesses of what is to come. (78-79)

Herbert McCabe | “Holy Thursday: the mystery of unity” in God Matters


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