Author: James Livingston

“Worlds Collide,” Acts III-IV

Here are the concluding acts of “Worlds Collide,” my play about the hesitant, contradictory, hysterical  articulation of Christianity in the 4th-5th centuries A.D.  I hope my principal inspirations are evident:  Erich Auerbach, Denis de Rougemont, Mircea Eliade,  Norman O. Brown.  G.W.F. Hegel the seminarian, as always, Alasdair MacIntyre the historicist philosopher who wrote Marxism and Christianity when he was all of 22,  and of course Will James, the guy who wrote The Varieties of Religious Experience as a preface to radical empiricism, hence pragmatism.   As an old-school Marxist, I was never much bothered by invidious comparisons between it and religious fervor or faith, because their eschatological purposes, the redemption and perhaps even the end of suffering, were at least similar.   You can read vol. 1 of Capital as a gloss on the Reformation.  Max Weber certainly did.  That’s why he wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.  You Shakespereans will recognize my borrowings from Act III, Scene 7 of King Lear.   Here we go.   ACT III [Lights come up, same scene, but now Marcellinu sstirs.  Augustineis standing, looking out the window, arms folded.  Jeromeis reading from the book (Augustine’s “Confessions”) he found on the table in Act II, amidst the bottles of wine and the platters of food.  Pelagius watches impassively as the SERVANTS converge, cleaning, wiping, bowing, scraping.] MA [waking, he raises...

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“Worlds Collide,” Act II

ACT II [Lights come up, dawn is breaking, Marcellinus, Augustine, and Jeromeare in various stages of sleep on their respective couches, obviously inebriated—platters of food, bottles of wine are everywhere.  Pelagiusis nowhere to be seen.  Two SERVANTS are standing, STAGE left and right, holding plates, towels over their shoulders, wondering what to do.  They look back and forth, from one to another, and toward these drunken men. STAGE left, First Servant, Mary, a woman of roughly 20 years old, she is shapely, attractive, but short of beautiful; she carries curiosity as both a burden and a gift.  STAGE right, Second Servant, Peter, a man of the same age, but fewer ideas.] Mary:I say we leave them alone. They can fight some more when they wake up.  Peter:  They are your masters, Mary.  You owe them your life.  Let’s just clean up here. Mary:  They are your masters, Peter, they are not mine.  My master is Jesus, I own no other.     Peter: Oh for God’s sake, would you stop with that, your “faith,” as you call it, will kill you.  Or me.  It’s not even faith, what is it, it’s a cult, you worship a dead man, a beggar who died on a fucking tree—they crucified him, Mary, he’s dead, that’s it, why pretend he lives? Mary:  It’s not pretend, he does live.  He’s not dead.  He’s here, he’s...

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Worlds Collide, 399 A.D.

I wrote this as the real world, the one available to our everyday apprehension, disappeared.  Then the pandemic came   I searched for an image, bur could nor come up with the appropriate one.  You can supply your own.  More–three-acts to follow.  But we already know the ending, don’t we? Worlds Collide: A Play in Four Acts Historical Note: Pelagius, a heretical Christian theologian of the 4thand 5thcenturies A.D., is back in the news, courtesy of Pope Francis, who recently called Donald Trump a “self-absorbed Promethean neo-Pelagian,” and Josh Hawley, the evangelical Protestant senator (R-MO) who incited the Trump insurrection and yet had denounced the Pelagian heresy—the idea that self-realization is more important than salvation—two years earlier.  Christianity itself is an issue of our time, partly because white evangelicals are such ardent supporters of Trump.  Believers and non-believers alike keep asking, How can they keep faith with someone as sinful and unrepentant?  This play is my provisional answer.  I’ve brought Pelagius back to life, but not as a one-man show.  His contemporaries in Rome of the late 4thcentury included Augustine of Hippo and Jerome, both of them intellectual architects of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and Marcellinus Ammianus, a famous Stoic, historian, and former commander of a Roman legion.   I put them in dialogue to see what would happen. The meeting of these minds is my creation, a fiction,...

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Worlds Collide: Pelagius Becomes You

Worlds Collide: A Play in Four Acts. Historical Note: Pelagius, a heretical Christian theologian of the 4thand 5thcenturies A.D., is back in the news, courtesy of Pope Francis, who recently called Donald Trump a “self-absorbed Promethean neo-Pelagian,” and Josh Hawley, the evangelical Protestant senator (R-MO) who incited the Trump insurrection and yet had denounced the Pelagian heresy—the idea that self-realization is more important than salvation—two years earlier.  Christianity itself is an issue of our time, partly because white evangelicals are such ardent supporters of Trump.  Believers and non-believers alike keep asking, How can they keep faith with someone as sinful and unrepentant?  This play is my provisional answer.  I’ve brought Pelagius back to life, but not as a one-man show.  His contemporaries in Rome of the late 4thcentury included Augustine of Hippo and Jerome, both of them intellectual architects of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and Marcellinus Ammianus, a famous Stoic, historian, and former commander of a Roman legion.   I put them in dialogue to see what would happen.  The meeting of these minds is my creation, a fiction, but the four main characters were, in fact, contemporaries who knew and loved Rome in the twilight of the Empire.  They probably met, although not under the circumstances I depict.  They surely knew each other’s written work.  Jerome and Augustine later became saints, “founding fathers” of the Roman Catholic Church. ...

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Weimar Moment?

In the wake of Trump’s incitement to insurrection, a friend forwarded this query from her lawyer: “Can you ask Jim if he thinks that we are in the 1930-1933 Weimar and rise of the NASD phase of our history?” He appended these citations from German sources of January 1933: . . . it would be impossible to establish a dictatorship in Germany because there was “a barrier, over which violence cannot proceed” and because of the German nation being proud of “the freedom of speech and thought, it is a hopeless misjudgement to think that one could force a...

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