Category: Writing and Poetry
So it's by birthday. I read The Grand Inquisitor by Dostoevsky. The Grand Inquisitor is a story told by a fictional character in the Brothers Karamazov. I first heard about this story in a book by Madeline L'engle called Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. She wrote that she believed it was one of the most important Christian writings. Sigmund Freud wrote, "The Brothers Karamazov is the most magnificent novel ever written, and the story of the Grand Inquisitor is one of the peaks in the literature of the world. It can hardly be overpraised."
This novel deals with some heavy thoughts on Politics/Religion specifically socialism and Christianity. Ivan Karamazov is sharing a story he invented to his brother Alyosha. The plot is something like this:
During the peak of the Inquisition, after a night of burning hundreds of heretics, Jesus strolls into Seville, Spain and starts wowing the people with his love, healings and resurrection of a seven year old girl. The Grand Inquisitor, ruler of the Inquisition, walks in and orders the arrest of Jesus with the nod of his finger. The Inquisitor visits Jesus and tells him that the masses will be in agreement as he orders Jesus to be burned at the stake the next day. He then tells Jesus of all his ideals for humanity.
The Inquisitor explains that Jesus came to give men their freedom, but humanity doesn't really want freedom. What they really want, the Inquisitor explains is three things. These three things are best embodied by the temptations Christ endured in the wilderness. Humanity wants security and care (bread and sustenance), to be part of something great and meaningful, (the supernatural of Jesus jumping off the temple), and to be unified as humanity in a sort of Utopia without suffering or the hungry(Jesus offered to rule the kingdoms of the Earth). For these three things, humanity will gladly eventually give up it's freedom. The Inquisitor eventually states that he and his organization are working the Devil now and keep up the religious front for the good of keeping the masses happy. He believes it is a shame for only a few hundred thousand strong-faithed people to attain salvation and freedom while billions struggle in misery. The Inquisitor is there to take care of them and give them the security they long for.
"As long, therefore, as men are free not to choose what is best for society, a stable, perfect social order with bread enough for all is impossible." (Anne Fremantle in her into to The Grand Inquisitor)
Fyodor, a Russian of the 1800's, was raised Catholic or Orthodox. Later, he was sentenced to death for conspiring with Socialists. His death sentence was later converted into years of labor in a Siberian prison. He passed through a time of atheism and came to believe in Christ during his prison term.
I find the little I know of Dostoevsky intriguing and applicable to the modern Western world as we globalize and the West presses on to socialism.
I read in a critique on Dostoevsky that he viewed atheistic socialism as incapable of long term success because it was rooted in envy. Envy of those who have not with those who do. And all socialism would do is transfer wealth but those without would always arise. I read in this critique that he believed Socialism would need a moral power to persuade the masses of why giving their wealth to the have-nots long term would be a good thing.
These are interesting ideas to me. I struggle with these debates in my head. In The Brother's Karamazov, a conversation is recorded about the separation of Church and State. The discussion centered on whether the Church should take a back seat and serve the state or whether the Church should grow to become the state. Issues are discussed of how the State and the Church differ in their role of dealing with crime and rehabilitating criminals. I cannot do the conversations justice in my blog, but for those who like to think about such issues as freedom/socialism, Church/State I recommend his novels.
Oh, the Grand Inquisitor story ends with Christ giving the Grand Inquisitor a kiss on the lips and the Grand Inquisitor letting Jesus go and telling him not to return.