Wednesday, May 02, 2012
In my 1995 book, Augustine and the Limits of Politics, I describe a few of these wild misreadings that tend toward the psychologically reductive: Augustine was sex-obsessed; Augustine was warped by a monumental Oedipus complex; Augustine’s was an immature personality; and the coup de grace, Augustine was a narcissist. I taught my precocious 4-year-old granddaughter about narcissism recently by coming up with a ditty about an iguana: “I’m an iguana/I like what I see/I’m an iguana/looking at ME!” She now uses the word correctly much to the astonishment of adults and the utter bewilderment of other children her age. But Augustine never “looks at Me”: he looks to God; he offers a long discourse against self-esteem, an unwarranted, overinflated celebration of the self. His heart goes into labor, he tells us, and gives birth to humility. I wish Wills had spent a bit more time on this, on the multiple loves that constitute the Self, loves framed by the love of that alone which is immutable and does not pass away.Consider for just a moment that we live in a world that considers it "immature" not to be properly self-focused. If one must encapsulate what is wrong with our society, I think that just about does it.
Primarily, however, what Wills seeks to do is to justify the presence of the final three books of the text that stand outside Augustine’s stirring narrative of the self coming to love rightly—an exegetical exercise on the opening of Genesis.
And here we see one of the father of the church with the solution to the problem = we learn, in fact that the church has the only solution, and yet by-and-large the church follows the cultural norm rather than the historical solution. All in the name of outreach.
Somehow, the church needs to find a way to stop appealing to the worst in us and find a way to appeal to the best we were created to be.
We are ot so lost that we will fail to recognize the good when we see it.