I Give You the Single Lamest & Funniest Theological Analogy. Ever.

I Give You the Single Lamest & Funniest Theological Analogy. Ever. May 13, 2015
The Man of Sorrows Frowns at the bourgeois world developing behind him just outside his window (Colijn de Coter, Christ as Isaiah's Man of Sorrows, circa 1500; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100).
The Man of Sorrows frowns at the bourgeois world developing behind him just outside his window (Colijn de Coter, Christ as Isaiah’s Man of Sorrows, circa 1500; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100).

Omnis analogia claudicat.

Analogies limp. I think Aquinas said that.

What? Me? Worry about limping analogies?
What? Me? Worry about limping analogies and idolatry?

Religious language, especially the Catholic imagination, relies upon analogies between creation and the Creator in order to explain the latter. Our language always fails in this endeavor, which is why theologians say it is lame, it limps.

I’m going to moderate the discussion Consecrated: Life as a Religious (facebook event page link) at the UW Newman Center tomorrow.

I suspect there will be something of a discussion of where American Catholicism stands these days. Therefore, I decided to prepare by reading Jody Bottum’s An Anxious Age and Michael Sean Winters’ Left at the Altar. These are both interesting books in their own right, which is something I’ll get to one of these days.

What I’d like to point out today is an analogy from Left at the Altar taken from Michael Novak’s Toward a Theology of the Corporation. It is hilarious:

“For many years, one of my favorite texts of Scripture has been Isaiah 52:2-3 “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not,” wrote Novak, citing one of the most famous Christological passages of the Hebrew scriptures, set to music by Handel in the Messiah and read in church every Good Friday. 

left at the altar winters
What faith would be left in America if we stopped worshiping money?

Then comes the punchline:

But Novak had a different use for these solemn verses,  “I would like to apply these words to the modern business corporation, a much despised incarnation of God’s presence in the world.”

I laughed out loud when I read that. It was so ridiculous that I reread it several times to check my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. Analogies limp, indeed. Idolatry is usually funny.

It gets even better, messier, funnier. It turns out Winters misquoted Novak who correctly gave Isaiah 53:2-3 as the source of the words above.

Isaiah 52:2-3 actually reads:

Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.

WITHOUT MONEY. I mean, can a misquotation get any better than that? Do you think Winters did that on purpose?

You might be interested to read how John Paul II and graduates of Novak’s own Tertio Millennio Seminar both rejected his idolatrous reading of capitalism.

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