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Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2003 15:56:28 -0800
From: Matthew Weber 
Subject: Re: (urth) Typhon, Sev, Silk

At 06:10 PM 3/13/03 +1100, you wrote:

>Perhaps Wolfe's point may be that men (even paragons like Severian) are
>bound by the evil choices of fallen humanity; and Christ's sacrifice was a
>unique act of compassion by God, not to be repeated. To be a Peter is the
>practicable summit of human aspiration. Or something.

I think this hits closer to the point:  however far Severian has come in 
his Bildung, he has so far still to go!  If anything, including this kind 
of episode so close to the end of the narrative emphasizes that Severian is 
*not* intended to be a Christ-analogue.

>Maybe he would take a view that the important lessons for humanity in
>Christ's day were compassion & a degree of selflessness, qualities which I
>believe Wolfe in some interview rightly asserted as being  lacking in
>conventional ethics pre-Christ. Sev's society on the other hand is quite
>emphatically post-Christian, IMO: it is rough & tough, because of resource
>constraints, but moderated in many ways by something like a Christian ethic.
>The Byzantine strand in the underpinning of the fictional world shows
>through: the society "feels" like Byzantium under one of the more
>enlightened, military emperors, not the hell-on-earth which was the
>pre-Christian Roman empire. Such a (potentially, partially) "redeemed" world
>needs struggle against evil, more than a spectacular act of love like

Well, there are justifications for this in Catholic and Reformed theology, 
usually in terms of war or the state power as an ordination of 
God.  Augustine had the just-war theory, and Luther took "render unto 
Caesar" to mean that the secular power should be complied with even if what 
it required was sinful when undertaken under a person's own volition (the 
exception, of course, being when you had a religion to reform  ;)).  I'm 
not all that familiar with the theology of violence, though, and I'll let 
someone else address the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of Wolfe's putative views.

>But I find it easier to believe that Wolfe simply views active struggle
>against evil, where possible, as morally superior to passive resistance.
>Expressing that view in a story paralleling Christ's arrest & execution is
>the kind of thing which IMO lifts Wolfe out of his genre.

As I said above, my impression is that the parallel is there for the sake 
of contrast.  And I do think it matters for whose interest the action is 
undertaken:  e.g. it seems more in line with Christian morality to take up 
arms to prevent someone else from being oppressed rather than in self-defense.

>It also, of course, raises doubts about his orthodoxy. In 1st C Jerusalem,
>would he have been a Zealot, or a Christian?

The apostle Simon (Zealotes) was both.  I can't recall whether he was ever 
really rebuked for his Zealotry.

Matthew Weber
Curatorial Assistant
Music Library
University of California, Berkeley

Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further:  and here shall thy proud waves 
be stayed.
         The Holy Bible (The Old Testament):  _The Book of Job_, chapter 
38, verse 11


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