Christianity in the Stranger Term Paper

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Christianity in 'the Stranger'

The motif of the crucifix in the courtroom is significant of Camus' brush with Christianity through the novel of the 'Stranger' as a whole. The examining magistrate waves the crucifix at Meursault symbolizing that all that Meursault stands for, and indirectly, therefore, Camus, militates against the basic axioms of Christianity. And what are these axioms? Christianity believes in life after death -- in immortality of the soul and continuance of eternal life. Meursault refuses to hope, claiming that human life is irrational and purposeless and that death is the end-result to all creatures. More so, that existence of soul does not exist ant that it is futile, if not cruel and absurd to hope. Meursault, and through him his creator, Camus, would have been surprised to discover that Christianity's main belief is not immortality of the soul, but rather immortality of the body. This, at least, is the premise of Cullmann (1956) as argued in.. Meursault would have argued against that premise too, refusing to believe in hope, but the argument of the courtroom would have shifted focus from immortality of soul to possible reappearance of Meursault's body. Something that given the events of Meursault's life, he would likely has detested.

Meursault and Christian Idea of Immortality

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The crucifix-waving scene in the courtroom is significant of the entire discourse running through the 'Stranger' at least as it pertains to Christianity. The magistrate admonishes him to… and Meursault responds..

This is a return to an earlier chapter where the chaplain visits him against Meursault wishes and likewise tries to persuade him about the immortality of the soul. Meursault refuses to renounce his atheism and in his fervor clutches the chaplain and declares that he is correct in believing in a meaningless, purely physical world:

Term Paper on Christianity in the Stranger Assignment

The chaplain knew the game well too, I could tell right away: his gaze never faltered. And his voice didn't falter, either, when he said, 'Have you no hope at all? And do you really live with the thought that when you die, you die, and nothing remains?' 'Yes,' I said. (The Stranger, 159).

The last chapter goes on to show Meursault calmly defying his antagonists by stoically surrendering himself to his death, to the end refusing escape loops of accepting absolution, confirming his faith in Jesus, or taking confession. He embraces the idea that human existence holds out no hope for an afterlife or for continuance of the soul, as per the persistent Christian idea. Abandoning all hope for the future, he accepts the 'gentle indifference of the world" and dies feeling content in his acceptance:

Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why. So did he. Throughout the whole absurd life I'd lived, a dark wind had been rising toward me from somewhere deep in my future, across years that were still to come, and as it passed, this wind leveled whatever was offered to me at the time, in years no more real than the ones I was living. What did other people's deaths or a mother's love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we're all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him who also called themselves my brothers? & #8230; The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned, too. (The Stranger 160).

At the end of the novel, Meursault tells us that the one enduring fact of life -- that whichever changes and possesses solid reality- is death. This is counter-polar to Christianity's assertion that immortality of the soul is the sounding block of life. And yet, as Culmann (1956) argues, Christians, and anyone else who believes this to be the fundamental tenet of Christianity is incorrect:

The widespread misunderstanding that the New Testament teaches the immortality of the soul was actually encouraged by the rock-like post-Easter conviction of the first disciples that the bodily Resurrection of Christ had robbed death of all its horror, the moment of Easter onward, the Holy Spirit had awakened the souls of believers into the life of the Resurrection. (6-7)

It is not so much immortality of the soul but also immortality of the body. In fact, immortality of the soul is a concept that was extracted from pagan origin. Greeks placed their emphasis on immortality of the soul as seen, for instance in Plato's description of Socrates' death. Admirable thoguh it is, it is completely converse to Christian perception of afterlife where Socrates' dialogue revolves around the beauty of death since it deal with the soul's liberation from the body to an eternal world that provides perfection and harmony to the liberated soul.

Christianity, on the other hand (or, at least, early Christianity) believed in the sting of death. Jesus' intuition of his death makes him say "my soul is troubled even to death" (Mark 14:33) and on the last day, Jesus begins "to tremble and be distressed" (ibid.). Death was, and is, an anguishing event. Whilst the soul escapes from the body, it is not 'liberated from it in the sense that it is escaping a tormentor. On the contrary, at the end of days the body and soul will be happily reunited to make their comeback to this world. Jesus Christ, Christians believed, would be restored in body too. The emphasis of the early Christians was on redemption of body as well as soul. Influence of the pagans gradually led developing Christianity to emphasize the soul above the body and to deem corporal matter as bas in juxtaposition to the soul, which they considered good. However, as Cullman (1956) argues, body and soul are considered equally good and both will reappear in resurrection.

The idea of the body being bad first comes from the early Greeks. Jews as well as early Christians would have none of that. To them, both were equally created by God and even thoguh the body may bring us to failure, humans can use their soul to rise above their body, and the body can equally, by serving as instrument, bring us to good. Body and soul are used in unison to affect the will of God. One cannot function without the other. Therefore, according to Paul, we have duties in regards to our body to:

The body is not the soul's prison, but rather a temple, as Paul says (I Corinthians 6:19): the temple of the Holy Spirit! The basic distinction lies here. Body and soul are not opposites. God finds the corporeal 'good' after He has created it. & #8230;Conversely, moreover, sin also embraces the whole man, not only the body, but the soul as well; and its consequence, death, extends over all the rest of creation. Death is accordingly something dreadful, because the whole visible creation, including our body, is something wonderful, even if it is corrupted by sin and death (Cullman, 14).

The fact, therefore, that Jesus would return with body intact was seen as no mystery to the early Christians. His corporality was seen as no diminishment to his spiritual self.

The Stoics died stoically. They believed in the liberation of the soul form the body and that, therefore, death was a pleasant, if not gratifying, moment. It was, therefore, the case that on Paul's journey he repeatedly met people who refused to believe in resurrection of the body. Immortality of the soul, yes, but resurrection of the body was greeted with laughter (Acts 17:32). The fact that the Christian martyr sported passion when he died was due to his belief that that he knew his was a redemptive process where he would literally be born again, body as well as soul. The immortality of the soul is the immortality of body… Flesh and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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