All this began with Dimas and Gestas, which belong to a type of religious imaginary, a way of “projecting” what happened on the cross. His figures have been initiated in the canonical gospels to be fixed in the apocrypha of the Middle Ages.
Today I want to introduce the subject by highlighting some functions of religion.Don’t be afraid. In fact, it is something very simple. It’s a question of knowing where it is situated and what religion is for. What do we do with religion? You will have other answers… you can start with these.
1. Experience and experience. Religions are ways of experiencing and living reality, on its deepest level. In other words, religion offers experiences. In this context, Christians often speak of the Holy Spirit.
However, more than the experience, what defines Christianity is a type of personal experience, which is expressed in conversion and in faith, understood as the power of transformation (miracles) and radical connection with the divine. Jesus is a form of experience of reality.
2. Myth and wisdom. Religions are forms of knowledge, within a reality, within a world in which a causal and cognitive power is usually granted to various spirits and powers (and especially to Evil or the Devil).
In other words, religion is good for orientation in the field of reality, for knowing what things are. Starting from this mythical background, Christians have elaborated a form of wisdom that allows them to place themselves in an autonomous way before God, before the world and before themselves (through Christological mediation). Myth and wisdom are not opposed, as Bultmann thought, but rather wisdom unfolds from the same mythical background. Jesus is a way of knowing human life.
3. Rite and community. Religions are rites, forms of social communication. Religions are valid to unite us in peaceful groups…, with no other purpose than to live and respect each other, to know each other and to know each other in solidarity. It is in this context that we find liturgical practice which, in Christianity, is linked to the sacraments, which are the essential rites of the Church.
Among them are baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the ministries of the community. They make it possible to trace the division between the Church and the sects, already in the beginning of Christianity. Jesus traces a form of deep bonding between all people.
4. Ethos and Praxis. In this context, good and evil are separated. Religions are forms of behavior and in this field we also distinguish two words. The ethos indicates rather the attitude, that is, the source of behavior, centered on love.
Praxis refers rather to external behavior. With this distinction, we can situate ourselves again before a field discussed in the Catholic-Protestant controversies, since Catholics emphasize more the works and Protestants emphasize more the faith understood as a type of fundamental ethos (of sacred bond with the Christ).
5. Mysticism and Gnosis. Religions are forms of mystical experience (which has a place in the early Christian religion) and can become gnosis (which distorts and destroys the early kerygma of the Church, already in the mid-second century AD).
From this perspective he returns to study the previous themes (experience and living, myth and doctrine, etc.). There is a necessary myth, a way of contemplating reality, on the plane of vital insertion into the sources of life… But there can be a gnosis that is an attempt to know without foundation… without any basis, that separates man from his concrete reality.
6. History and symbolic construction. Christianity is a historical phenomenon, which is centered on the life of Jesus and the primitive communities. But this history is always interpreted from a broader symbolic background, within an overall vision of reality. In this line, the apocryphal writers tend to emphasize the symbolic aspect, creating stories that express the meaning of the facts within their cultural context. History alone (as naked facts) is not enough. But the symbolic construction without the basis of the facts is lost in vagueness.
7. Salvation and condemnation. Religions serve to highlight the risk of human life. Men can destroy themselves (kill themselves, go to hell) or save themselves (love themselves, help themselves, stay, go to heaven). Religions say something that ecology and politics themselves are now knowing, on another level: we can destroy ourselves forever (make the world a hell of pure fire or endless cold…) or we can go on creating paths of salvation, individual, social, historical.
8. Church and Power. Religions take shape
as “churches”, that is, as free communities of believers.There is no religion without church, there is no Christianity without community. But, at a given moment, churches can become institutions of sacral power, with elements of political, economic and ideological imposition. Without a type of church, man is lost in anonymity or in the masses, dominated from outside. But if the church becomes an institutional power, it loses its religious sense.