Bernard of Clairvaux: On Loving God. 5/5/99
Bernard explains the necessity of (wo)man's need to love God by asserting that His "creative grace" raised mankind out of "nothingness" to a state characterized as "the dignity of manhood." Because of this act of grace on God's part, (wo)man has a duty to love God and God is perfectly justified in his claim to that love (On Loving God, Chapter 5). In this relatively straightforward way, Bernard inscribes the essential characteristics of the consequences that are inescapably associated with creationism in Christian theology. Since God creates (wo)man through an act of grace, bringing her/him out of "nothingness," every man, woman, and child who ever exists owes an absolute debt of gratitude and love to the superior being who brought her/him into existence. This relationship is necessarily hierarchical because (wo)man is indebted to God for being "raised" through grace from a state of "nothingness" into a state of existence. From not-being at all to being here or there renders God's claim on reciprocal love from His inferior creatures both just and absolute. Something that might be worth saying here is that God's initial action of grace toward (wo)man did not "raise" her/him from a bad state to a better one, which might justify the concept of a debt of gratitude more forcefully, but only that divine grace brought her/him out of not-being at all, which may, in some cases, inspire one to question the sense and validity of being in debt to such a Creator in the first, and for that matter, every other, place as well.
There is a certain danger, after all, in making a claim like this one to a person who has been victimized by proponents of this view of human reality, through forced conversion, say, which may have involved watching members of her/his family and tribe burned to death because they refused to accept the true Word of the one living God, a clear and certain danger, that is, that the person being forced to accept this idea may in fact turn more toward hating the God who condones such actions rather than toward loving Him. To say that such a thing never happened is the same as ignoring, turning a blind eye to, historical reality.
Bernard explains, prior to this assertion, precisely what "dignity" means in the context of becoming a member of "mankind" through God's superior and supernatural grace:
"Man must seek in his own higher nature for the highest gifts; and these are dignity, wisdom and virtue. By dignity I mean free-will, whereby he not only excels all other earthly creatures, but has dominion over them. Wisdom is the power whereby he recognizes this dignity, and perceives also that it is no accomplishment of his own. And virtue impels man to seek eagerly for Him who is man's Source, and to lay fast hold on Him when He has been found." (Chapter 2)
Dignity, then, is the same as "free-will," which is something that resides in (wo)man's "higher nature" and confers on her/him "dominion" over "all other earthly creatures." A statement like that can literally take one's breath away and probably has more times than once in the long history of Christian genocide against the other which has its own natural home in the notion that people, mostly of color, who do not already believe this nonsense are both stupid (lacking in "wisdom") and immoral (lacking in "virtue") and therefore deserve whatever terrible thing happens to them, like being reduced back into a prior state of "nothingness" at the stake, simply because their own point of view does not embrace the notion that (wo)man has a natural right and duty of dominion over everything else that exists on the face of the earth. Having dominion over a thing does not mean that you let it live its life in its place without molesting and contesting its essential right to be there and to do what it will. Having dominion over means destroying it so that you can extract whatever value it possesses, or that you think it possesses, to satisfy your own greed for what is not, and never will be, yours.
Bernard concludes his Christian fantasy about the nature of human dignity by asserting that it "appears not only as the prerogative of human nature, but also as the cause of that fear and dread of man which is upon every beast of the earth." Indeed! And while we are on the subject of the terror that good Christians and true inspire in the hearts and minds of every right-thinking beast and brute and savage on the face of the earth, we ought to turn our eyes firmly toward the ideas only half-concealed and hidden behind Bernard's claim that this "fear and dread" has its actual source, not in some abstract concept of "dignity, wisdom, and virtue," and acknowledge instead, in concurrence with the absolute knowledge every person of color has acquired, usually at considerable personal loss, that the real source of that terror lies in the fact that Christians have always been willing to eradicate any individual, any group, any tribe that stands in the way of the gratification of their irrational demand and desire to be perceived as a master-race with a God-ordained and absolute right to exercise dominion over everything and everyone on the earth who differs from their point of view in any way at all. The simple beasts of the field have always been little more than dead-meat in the eyes of their Christian masters, who have always slaughtered them without remorse, without a second thought, but the rest of us brutes and savages have been driven, as it were, to the edge of the abyss and have agreed among ourselves that we are not inclined to go over the lip of that well again. Any Christian who persists in the notion that he/she exercises dominion over anything at all is already on the slope of that endless plunge back to the nothingness that Bernard perceives as Christian origin. Those of us who have taken up positions around the edges of that abyss have no intention of allowing any of them back out again.
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