RIVAL SONS OF THE FATHER: LUCIFER AND JESUS
Article first published online: 22 DEC 2010
© 2010 The Author. The Heythrop Journal © 2010 Trustees for Roman Catholic Purposes Registered
The Heythrop Journal
How to Cite
MADIGAN, P. (2010), RIVAL SONS OF THE FATHER: LUCIFER AND JESUS. The Heythrop Journal. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2010.00649.x
- Article first published online: 22 DEC 2010
Although the following essay is literary-philosophical, it arose from a practical interest. I have been struck by how widespread today is the complaint about the ‘inadequate father’. Of course a father may be inadequate in diverse ways, either absconding, absent and weak, or overbearing, tyrannical and bullying, or some combination of these. Further, I am not restricting the term ‘father’ to its narrow biological sense, but using it rather as a metaphor for any institution or structure which an individual or a group feels should have been in place to guide, direct, and protect them in important situations, but did not do its job properly. Consequently they are willing to concede they are not all they could have been, but they insist it is not their fault, rather the fault of the ‘father’ who should have done his job better. This ties in with the fashionable appeal of ‘victimhood’. Everybody today seems to want to cast themselves as a ‘victim’, for reasons similar to those mentioned above. If you are a ‘victim’, then there must have been an ‘oppressor’– and some ‘parent’ organization that should have guided, directed, and protected you against the oppressor, but again did not do its job adequately. It is striking how many individuals and groups around the world choose to perceive themselves, and to present themselves to others, as ‘victims’; it has indeed become the preferred characterization of our age, for it carries with it a rhetoric that trumps all others. If you are able to cast yourselves as a ‘victim’, and have others accept this, you disarm and neutralize criticism, not only of what you are, but of what you are currently doing – because the latter is a just ‘compensation’ for what you have suffered. As with guilt, there is no built-in limit or statute of limitations. This rhetoric was not as established thirty or forty years ago. Where did these terms, and this style of self-presentation and arguing, come from? They didn't fall from the sky or materialize out of thin air. The following essay is an attempt at ‘intellectual archaeology’, that is, to lay bear and lift up the strand in the intellectual tradition that was mined to produce these categories and justify this way of construing our situation; thereby to expose a serious and surprising presupposition or ‘archetype’ behind this rhetoric and to place this at arm's length alongside an alternative foil, to allow us to decide dispassionately whether we want to be committed to the former.