Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Trinitarian Hospitality

    Some philosophers, like Jacques Derrida, say that hospitality must be absolute. We are to welcome all, and welcome them as they are. That is not the sort of ethic I propose here. Rather, it is an ethic of hospitality that welcomes in order to change. We don’t welcome the naked so they can be naked in our presence; we don’t show hospitality to the hungry so they can watch us eat. We welcome the naked and hungry to change their circumstances. We make room for them so we can clothe and feed them.
    So too with moral hunger and personal shame. We don’t welcome addicts so they can continue in their addiction. We make room for them, and take up residence in their lives, in order to be agents of ethical transformation. We don’t receive the prostitute to help her get more tricks. We open our lives to the prostitute so we can deliver her from her slavery— to the pimp, perhaps to drugs, to poverty, to a destructive life. Hospitality is not universal approval. It is universal welcome for the sake of renewal. We make room not to tolerate but to transform. We’ve made some advances in our turn from ontology to ethics, more than we might have noticed. From this point in our climb, we can begin to see the peak and begin to have something more than suspicions about what’s up there.
    The nature of the universe as I’ve described it encourages an ethic of self-giving love; if we are going to live in accord with the shape of things, we need to adopt a stance of availability, of openness to others and willingness to enter when others open to us. And that suggests a way to reason back from ethics to ontology. If the ethics of mutual penetration is an ethics of love, then the ontology of mutual indwelling is an ontology of love. The world is open to me and I to the world. Persons are capable of being open to other persons, and times to other times. Words make room for other words, and chords have room for all the clustered notes that contribute to their sound. At every terrace, it seems, even when we were only looking through a glass darkly or hoping for some insight into the way things are, we were glimpsing traces of love, love wired into the world, love as the operating system of creation. And as we look up to the peak, we might begin to see the outlines of a love that moves the sun and all the other stars.1

1.  Peter J. Leithart, Traces of the Trinity: Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience [Brazos Press, 2015]