James Alison

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James Alison (2019)
God has not the slightest difficulty in bringing to a fullness of creation the person who is in some way incomplete and recognises this. The problem is with those who think that they are complete, and that creation is, at least in their case, finished.
The 'I', the 'self' of the child of God, is born in the midst of the ruins of repented idolatry.

James Alison (born 1959) is a Catholic Christian theologian and priest. He is noted for his application of René Girard's anthropological theory to Christian theology and for his work on gay issues.



Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay (2001)

  • God has not the slightest difficulty in bringing to a fullness of creation the person who is in some way incomplete and recognises this. The problem is with those who think that they are complete, and that creation is, at least in their case, finished.
    • p. 16-17.
  • Sin is resistance, in the name of God, to the creative work of God which seeks to include us all.
    • p. 17.
  • Sin ceases to be a defect which excludes, and comes to be participation in the mechanism of exclusion.
    • p. 17.
  • In fact, for those who feel themselves excluded, or treated as defective, by the reigning social and moral order, it is of incalculable importance to discover that this feeling of being excluded or defective has nothing to do with God. It is purely a social mechanism, and God rather wants to include us and carry us to a fullness of life which will probably cause scandal to the partisans of the reigning order.
    • p. 18.
  • The problem is that this 'being identified with the victim' can come to be used as an arm with which to club others. The victims become the group of the 'righteous just' in order to exclude the poor Pharisees, who are never in short supply as the butts of easy mockery.
    • p. 18.
  • In a world where nobody understood the viewpoint of the victim, we would all be right to side with the victim. But we live in a world where almost nobody 'comes out' as a Pharisee or a hypocrite, and it seems to me that the way to moral learning proceeds in that direction.
    • p. 19.
  • Being good can never do without the effort to learn, step by step, and in real circumstances of life, how to separate religious and moral words from an expelling mechanism, one which demands human sacrifice, so as to make of them words of mercy which absolve, which loose, which allow creation to be brought to completion.
    • p. 20.
  • Elijah, when he entered into rivalry with the prophets of Baal became one of them, because God is not to be found in such circuses, nor in the murders which go along with them. At the end of his undeceiving, Elijah is more Yahwist, more atheist, less of a shaman, less of a sacrificer, because God is not like the gods, not even so as to show himself superior to them.
    • p. 30.
  • The process which we see is the process of an upset which forces the gradual learning of how to become unattached from everything which seemed divine and holy, the collapse of zeal for the Lord of hosts. At the same time it leads to an apprenticeship in listening to the still, small voice, and the reinvention of a new type of zeal.
    • p. 31.
  • All of Paul's preaching, all of his theology, is characterised by the process of the collapse of a certain sacred structure, and by the slow discovery of the perspective given by a new focus on Yahweh, the Pauline equivalent of Elijah's still, small voice.
    • p. 33.
  • We cannot understand the preaching of the resurrection if it is understood as a miraculous moment which founds a new religion. If it is taken thus, we are in fact denying the force and efficacy of the resurrection. For the resurrection brings about the definitive installation in our midst, as a constructive hermeneutical principle, of the cult of Yahweh who knows not death, and who is worshipped in a continuous apprenticeship in participating in and not being scandalised by the collapse of the sacred. A sacred whose secret is always the victims which it hides, and on whose sacrifice it depends.
    • p. 34.
  • In one case as in the other, the question which gives away the sacrificial mentality underlying group belonging is the same: are you for us, or are you one of them? It is the question which reveals the impossibility of a cracking of heart, and thus the impossibility of Eucharist.
    • p. 35.
  • For catholicity doesn't mean a unity of perspective from which we start, but the discovery and construction of a real and surprising fraternity which begins with overcoming the tendency to forge from our own perspective a sacred which excludes.
    • p. 36.
  • The moment I realised that I was dealing with a mechanism whose participants were its prisoners, at that moment I was able to take distance from what had happened, and forgiveness started to become possible.
    • p. 38.
  • The 'I', the 'self' of the child of God, is born in the midst of the ruins of repented idolatry.
    • p. 40.
  • All human paternity comes internally structured by fratricide and, as paternity, is incapable of truth, because it will always be protecting itself against the 'other'.
    • p. 48.
  • In the face of those who have no voice, we must, above all, avoid being strong with the weak (cf. 1 Cor. 10:23-30).
    • p. 54.

"Jesus' fraternal relocation of God"

  • There is nothing harder than to be told that what we hold sacred is an idol. (64).
  • The structure of our desire, which precedes our consciousness, is murderous. That desire ensures that our cultural constructs, our language and our knowledge are radically inflected by the lie which fails to recognise this, fails to see God in humans who are 'other', or ourselves in our victims, which is to say the same thing.
    • p. 64-65.
  • ... [I]t is our being bad brothers and sisters that leads us to be bad fathers and mothers, not our having bad fathers and mothers that has made us bad brothers and sisters.
    • p. 65.
  • Now, here is Jesus' point: he is not only the culmination of the project, but the project itself, God made brother, offering us to become siblings, but vulnerable to fratricide.
    • p. 73.
  • What is new is that this sort of belonging to a group defined by an inherited paternity is shown to be an idolatrous belonging, and by idolatrous, understand a belonging demanding sacrifice. Jesus appears in the midst of such a group and, by showing up its structure for what it is, provokes it into tightening its group frontiers, into acting ever more obviously according to sacrificial type. And the threatening, destabilising element in Jesus' teaching and mode of acting out is that he refuses to concede any divine element at all to inherited group belonging.
    • p. 74.
  • It is in this wrestling that Jacob 'prevails with God', and realises that he has seen God face to face. He has overcome not God but his own rivalry. After this mysterious struggle he was able to recognise his wrongdoing and look his brother Esau in the face. Thus he was able to learn to live in peace with his brother—and become Israel, a community of brethren.
    • p. 76.
  • Any profound damage or hurt which we may well have received at the hands of the guardians of our infancy and childhood are particular instances of the package of bad fraternity which precedes those guardians, and which they, just like us, have not overcome fully enough.
    • p. 79.
  • There is no wicked and numinous paternal 'they'. There are only brothers and sisters like ourselves: fragile receivers and mete-ers out of ambivalent and often fratricidal fraternity.
    • p. 80.
  • The only places in the gospels where the paternal voice of God appears independently of Jesus is precisely to indicate that it is to Jesus that we must listen, and that in him God is glorified.
    • p. 81.
  • But as we become stronger, more capable of words, happier in our discovery that God does indeed love us, then might it not be important that we learn to withhold the excessive tribute of our resentment from something which doesn't really exist?
    • p. 84.

Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening to the Unheard Voice (2013)

  • It’s precisely because you are relaxed about someone who is bigger than you holding you that you are relaxed enough to undergo crises of self. If there isn’t anyone bigger than you holding you in being, then you have to hold tight to yourself, and not allow yourself the luxury of being re-worked from within.
    • Essay 5, section 10.

The Joy of Being Wrong

  • The function of the Church’s doctrine of original sin ... is to keep alive the beam in my eye ... God keeps alive the beam in my eye by making that beam a living Cross, a beam on which there hangs a murdered victim.
    • p. 261.
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