Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Heretics for Jesus
And, to be truthful, I call myself a heretic -- if he and people like him, bibliolators, are the measure of orthodoxy.
As Marx (Groucho) says, I wouldn't belong to any club that would have me as a member...
Tsk, tsk, tsk. Admitting you have a problem is your first step to wellness, you know. :)
Well, if Neil and his dittoheads are the standard for "orthodoxy" then sure, sign me up! (We'll have a pretty huge membership, including folks like Calvin, Luther, Wesley ... and of course Jesus.)
Let me know when the next meeting is, I need to get my sheep's clothing dry cleaned. (Do NOT wash sheep's clothing, it comes out 10 sizes too small. I learned that lesson the hard way.)
(Isn't the phrase "wolf in sheep's clothing" odd? Shouldn't it be "wolf in shepherd's clothing"?)
Anyway, just remember my motto, ER, "Every time I get called a heretic, a fairy gets his wings." :) If we put that in Latin, that could be our club motto.
Oh yeah. 325. Nicea.
The saddest thing in the world is that the organized "Bride of Christ," for the most part, has been cheatin' on the Dude since not long after the honeymoon. Power and prestige wooed her away!
I have been an other since I could first conceive of self.
"Wolf in sheep clothing": human predators have cloth themselves in the skins of their prey from time immemorial. This they do until they get close enough to kill.
The native American buffalo caller took it a step further by leading the herd to the cliff, the buffalo jump, in order to kill off whole herds of prey.
I think this part of your argument is with the European religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Yes, there were abuses by emperors who were Christians and ruled Christian empires. And they were the ones who had bishops killed for calling them on it. John Chrysostom had no easy life. Try reading JND Kelly's bio of him. Or look into the life of Athansius by Alvyn Petterson, Basil the Great by Philip Rousseau, or Gregory of Nazianzus or Gregory of Nyssa, or, by all means. Gregory the Great by Carole Straw.
DrLBJ consistently practices a hermeneutic of suspicion, a relatively modern and helpful corrective. But it should be a minor key, in my opinion. A hermeneutics of suspicion is "a theory of interpretation that says that every self-interpretation of a religion and other social phenomenon is really an ideology -- that is to say, the self-interpreters don't really know what it's about. It's only the intelligent outside observers who know what the real thing is because he/she has an explanatory structure for it. The self-interpreters fool themselves" (Hans Frei in Types of Christian Theology).
To follow DrLBJ thoroughly is to end in a paralyzed inability to commit or be composed of any set of understandings. Everything falls under suspicion of the sole interpretive instrument of power.
While power is certainly part of all parties we can see in history -- the winners but also the losers (I would remind us) -- and so can lead each and every side into error, there are clearly episodes and great texts and movements that did not have as their central motivation a solitary desire to win.
To my mind, one should be courageous enough to take a stand somewhere thickly involved enough to direct one's moral and spiritual engagement in the world, and reform it as experience and community guides over time.
Hans Frei proposed a hermeneutics of restoration that more closely patterns itself on self-interpretation, "an interpretation that does not operate with an explanatory hypothesis [based solely on the single issue of power]..." something more like cultural anthropology thatalso bears a relationship to literary inquiry.
Be bold... and keep suspicion as one, but only one, interpretive tool at hand.
And for God's sake, stop painting great past lives of faith without knowing those lives.
And I DO poop in the general direction of Constantine! And Nicea. WTH is "anti-intellectual" about it?
I have been noting Romans 10 often in debate "over there" because I believe Paul is saying something quite theologically profound when he says:
Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) "or 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
The descending crowd thinks of Jesus as still on the cross, not quite dead, ready to pay for our sins should we line up just right. Judgment stands against us until -- by "grace" they mouth theologically but by "choosing right" they speak practically -- we are doctrinally sound. Then it is okay for Jesus to die, rise, and ascend into heaven to represent us as righteous.
They act as if Jesus has not already "ascended into heaven," to divinize human life and livelihood. We are completed in the glory of our creation because the incarnation has placed a human person at the right hand of God. They still see that throne as vacant of anything human at all and so "brought Christ down."
For them, the risen Christ was not human.
Nicea, on the other hand, was protecting Christian faith on the other side. Arianism believed Jesus to be created and not God from God. And so, under Arianism, Jesus was not representative of the divine when he died. In Paul's words, they acted as if Jesus had not come down from heaven and therefore his life of struggle and sorrow and his death was only a human life and death and could not signify that God was in sympathy, compassion, even in profound identity with us. This would result in our need, still, to find a cure for our condition, to continue to ask who can descend into death for us since Christ, not being divine, is now rhetorically "brought up from the grave." God's passion never happened. Only the death of a created person.
For them the risen Christ was not divine.
To hold that Christ is both God and human in one person is scandal. We can be divinized because, in Christ, God identified with flesh (a scandal of divine love that Arians could not accept) and flesh was identified with God (a scandal of human appreciation that Neil cannot accept).
To hold only one as true is heresy -- meaning a hindrance to the path to loving ourselves and each other in a way that transcends human reason and mere human ability.
"Every time I get called a heretic, a fairy gets his wings." :) If we put that in Latin, that could be our club motto.
Sulum vicis EGO adepto accersitus a haereticum a mediocris gets suus pennae
Or so says the cheap online translator. Now, can somebody write that up in some fancy gothic script?
This would be a thoroughly American anti-intellectual notion of testimony.
The tent kind and not the library kind. Why the great separation?
A hermeneutics of suspicion is useful here.
Full disclosure: I am going through a low-Christology period. I do so from time to time.
That's almost as good as the Addams' family motto, which I also like:
Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc (pseudo-Latin for: We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.)
Not just pretty words. :)
Nope. Testimony, by definition, is whatever your experience has been whether experiential, intellectual, emotional or relational. Why do you ask?
And yes, sign me up for the club as well. What would a group of heretics be without a unitarian? ;-)
Getting past the impasse is difficult work and full of dead or at least limping ends: Spong, Pagels, Borg, N.T. Wright, etc.
I find that I, too, threaten to adopt the testimony of the Savoyard Vicar (Emile, JJ Rousseau). Not that anybody cares to know what that is.
My synthesis is to form personal faith along sacramental practice and eastern orthodox/enlightened RC thinking (Zizioulas, von Balthasar) and socio-political practice along the philosophical foundations of rights and community.
Thereby, I escape pitting the Jesus question in the trap of historiography and instead encounter him in the cultural practice of the church (God part of the Godman) and the humanistic ideology of progressive liberalism (man part of the Godman).
Kant and Cappadocia as it were.
(Priesthood is, always in part, a performative practice, ER. You will not feel any more integrated than you currently do. In fact, you'll need a greater degree of dissociation from your existential self. Or, to put it more positively, you will need a great deal of self-differentiation. You will not be able to work out your salvation by dreaming that ordination makes everything alright. In part, the life of a minister means that other people's faith problems will become your problems. And they will not have your religious education in common with which to problem solve.)
Respectfully submitted. And relinquished.
Spong and Borg have helped me along.
Re, "I find that I, too, threaten to adopt the testimony of the Savoyard Vicar (Emile, JJ Rousseau). Not that anybody cares to know what that is."
I care to. What is that?
"Where did the idea that that being a Christian had more to do with intellectually assenting to a list of propositions than it had to do with trying to imitate Jesus???
Oh yeah. 325. Nicea."
... and, intentionally or unintentionally misleads others who are careless with history and theology.
You take issue with me for "looking to blogs for regular intellectual writing" because I say the word, anti-intellectual.
But DrLBJ introduces a strain of semi-current intellectual framing in order to clarify the issue. He does it under the radar with a certain stylistic sympatitco with the host.
Sorry, but I consciously dropped the Southern habit of politely hiding rhetorical opposition a long time ago.
I have no damned ulterior motive other than discussion! Don't be such a punk.
Doubt about the large idea things we need to know is a state too troubling for the human mind. The mind decides, in one way or another, despite itself, and prefers being mistaken to believing in nothing.
So, to avoid being disillusioned and paralyzed by the abstractions of theorists that prove too ephemeral and ungrounded, what we need to do is limit our thinking to what we can know (thought this does include the extension of our working conceptions based in experience), particularly to those things we can know about our moral life, and resign ourselves to ignorance and time about all else that lies *completely* outside our experience/intuition/felt sense.
When unsure, trust our "inner light." Not that the heart is infallible, but better to follow our own illusions than those of others we are not convinced of. This way we can at least be assured of our sincerity.
So, reflecting with our supremely creative and effectual (but limited) reason from our networked (individually real and collectively shared) experience, we could agree with the Savoyard Vicar:
1. There is a creating will in the universe. [Will is partial nomenclature for my reason to extend and continue in its work.]
2. This Will is intelligent, good, and powerful. [Intelligent, good, and powerful are likewise partial nomenclature.]
3. Human persons are free.
What is created has, for now, an order and is meant to achieve some good.
Art concretizes our freedom and a vision of the beautiful is necessary grounding toward achieving good.
The less I conceive of God beyond these certainties, the more I worship god.
Human persons are self-divided by virtue of living in society (a created part of our nature that serves the occasion for moral education). The fact that we are homo duplex indicates that, indeed, that we are free and not just slaves to our vices. We are motivated by non-material principles that constitute part of our nature, along with freedom.
This is part of the evidence that God created with some good in mind... and that evil is to be attributed to the misuse of principles and freedom. This situation is true for all the cosmos, as well, but less fully so as it seems nature's freedom and benevolence is a less pronounced image of God than human life.
One need not abstract about a hell because that is a moral distraction from the hell that is in the heart of the wicked and calls seductively to me as well.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ helps me reflect more and more fully on these certainties of mine.
This would be the testimony of one who grew up in an austere bible church, ever eager to get out of the box of Texas, leapt into sacramental practice in the midst of divinity school, and kept reading the literature of Western civilization including moral and political philosophy, psychology and sociology, and found work most fulfilling when in direct contact with those communities denied historical or current access to the best of education, environment, and sustainability of American society.
I find that I feel that I will not be saved until we are all saved. So that would indicate something about how I am lead to think about eschatology.
I think we are hop-scotching in our responses to each other.
The best I can conclude on the Godness of Christ is that the math falls apart -- another way of saying it, I guess, is that this transcends math: Christ is 100 percent God and 100 percent man. Which is ridiculous. Which it should be. But my emphasis swings from one side of the ridiculous equation to the other -- now is concentrated on his manness.
Then, there's the whole fun behind "Mr. Jesus Christ," as I occasionally taunt one Mark with: "Christ ain't his last name!"
There was Jesus. There is Christ. There was an evolution in the minds of Jesus's followers, from Jesus as anti-establismentarian rabbi-sage -- to the Superhero Christ from Space.
I think people are mistaken sometimes when they accuse people who think Jesus was "just a man," that that totally divorces him from any divinity -- which is not what I think when I think about Jesus of Nazareth. What I mean is I've come to think that what Jesus is said to have said about God is more important than what people have said about Jesus.
Here's the question, and I posed it last night at one of the other places:
Which is it? To intellectually assent to certain propositions? Or to try to be imitative of Jesus while trusting God?
And here is the nuclear bomb of the day:
Did early followers of Jesus become idolators by elevating Jesus to the Godhead? By making him "God"?
And now, I have to go do a video interview.
The traditional distinctions are not about quantities but about ancient philosophical notions of nature and person. Classically, Jesus Christ has two natures but is one person (crudely analogous to biracial identity) and the Godhead is three persons but one being.
So, the incarnation was not initially a math problem. If it is now, that may say more about ourselves as sophomore scientists uncomplicated by quantum physics.
(The atom is both matter and energy wave. Experiments have been set up that ask it to choose to behave in only one way. But then, subsequent experiments were set up to make it choose one way but also established a retro-measure for any possible presence of the other nature. The experiment succeeded in making the atom choose one pathway only but measurements found the presence of both natures at the end of the quantum course.)
By faith, Christianity claims that Jesus Christ ascended to heaven. The Godman is whole and undivided by death, visitation to hell, and ascension to heaven.
Human nature reigns, one with divine nature, at the right hand of God. Jesus is the name given him by his parents, presumably. Christ is not a name, but an honorific, "the annointed." Where Jesus is, Christ is. Where Christ is, Jesus is also. He is one.
In the Christian tradition of the historical dispensation of the Word of God, the "economy" of the second person of the Godhead, the Word of God, strictly speaking, refers to the time pre-Incarnation. Jesus, strictly speaking, refers to the Incarnated Word. Christ, strictly speaking, refers to the victory won by Jesus' faithfulness to his mission.
One Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, God from God, light from light, of one Being with the Father.
While the words themselves are limited, the truth being claimed is a package deal that is meant to describe the one who is worth following.
Take away from the package any part and Christianity thinks that it makes Jesus less worthy of being followed (less glorious as a divine person) and/or less worthwhile when followed (less accessible as a human person).
To follow DrLBJ thoroughly is to end in a paralyzed inability to commit or be composed of any set of understandings. Everything falls under suspicion of the sole interpretive instrument of power."
Gee, I thought I was putting forth some first and second century Gnostic Christian shit myself. Feodor, why do you assume that so many of us aren't educated. You seem to need that "Ole time structure". As for my practicing a " hermeneutic of suspicion", I rather think is actually a direct cynicism and it ain't so very modern.
As for the thought that all of "The self-interpreters fool themselves". I would rather be fooled by my own interpretation than follow and be fooled by the dogma of any "church" or single "theologian" I have ever known, studied or brushed by. I don't see truth as something that can be captured, trained, and paraded on a cathedral podium once a week or swallowed like a pill or Eucharist.
That Feodor, makes me by all denotations and connotations a Heretic.
ER note this it is the completion of your Nicene thinking.
My history books tell me that the Roman emperor that made "Athanasiusian Christianity" the religion of the State and "The Only Religion" of the State was Theodosius I, a Spanish General who spent the early part of his life killing Arian's.. He was the last emperor of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. After his death, the two parts split permanently. He is also known for making Nicene Christianity (he negated all the intervening Counsel's compromises and went back to the original one) the official state religion of the Roman Empire.
All other Religions were forbidden and destroyed by Theodosius. "Theodosius promoted Nicene Trinitarianism within Christianity and Christianity within the Empire. On February 27, 380, he declared "Catholic Christianity" the only legitimate imperial religion, ending state support for the traditional Roman religion."
"In May 381, Theodosius summoned a new ecumenical council at Constantinople to repair the schism between East and West on the basis of Nicene orthodoxy. "The council went on to define orthodoxy, including the mysterious Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost who, though equal to the Father, 'proceeded' from Him, whereas the Son was 'begotten' of Him." The council also "condemned the Apollonian and Macedonian heresies, clarified church jurisdictions according to the civil boundaries of dioceses and ruled that Constantinople was second in precedence to Rome."
Of course the Trinity, that is so very ingrained in the Western version of Christianity, now was a Cappadocian construct needed to make all of the Arian Christians heretics, and incidentally downgrade the cult of Mary and deny Sophia (or any other form of the goddess) as part of the Godhead.
Thus the Goths, Visa-Goths and Vandals, the main groups of Arian Christians, became the bad barbaric guys of history.
So Theodosius very muchly gave us, the Dark Ages.
You see Feodor you are standing on a house of cards, that have the motto "might makes right" on each one of them. Don't sneeze.
And now comes the sincere multisyllabic sanctioned source rebuttal to whatever.
As for "self-interpreters," the reference is to those who interpret within a cultural system as members. It's unclear to me, when reading your sincere response, whether my quote was clear to you.
So one who only reads history -- one who is limited to historiographical approaches to understanding -- and refers to "winners" and "losers" in power ideology tends to dismiss "self-interpreters" who work to deepen the communities understanding of itself and trust only "outside observers'" later interpretation of that cultural system.
Hermeneutics of suspicion.
If, then, only outside observers have the privileged perspective, who, except a fool, could choose to be a member of anything with integrity, even while making tenuous peace with the limitations of that group and working to lessen them?
And, since historiography seems to be the main force trusted to capture truth for DrLBJ -- despite his claim to being a free spirit, he utilizes only one method of interpretation -- it should be pointed out that historically, suspicious interpreters no less than others see "see truth as something that can be captured, trained, and paraded" upon whatever catafalque they preferred. Review the power history of Visigothic rule in Spain. Review the power history of the application of Marxist theories. Review the power history of Freudian analysis.
All interpreters of suspicion.
Communities influenced by gnosticism believed they had an exclusive hold not on open truth doing battle in the marketplace of ideas, but on a secret, hidden truth available only to certain sensibilities.
Very much analogous to Mormons.
Are Mormon Christians heretics? I think so. Were gnostic Christians heretics? I think so.
Not least for how they secret their truth in order to control membership.
I don't think one can find this dynamic in Nyssa, Nazianzus, Basil.
If one were to read them.
Trinitarians, yes. Also the first to systematically defend universal salvation.
Not so the gnostics.
I'll put dashes between the foregoing and this, less polysyllabic note:
DrLBJ, your anxiety shows when you foreground and minimize my response before it comes.
Do I think heretics are going to hell?
I do not.
Do I think people are free to assort whatever nuggets of Christianity they find helpful and leave whatever else behind?
I do. Certainly if they are honest and genuine in their motive to live better, more loving lives.
Am I free to question how deeply or honestly or bravely people investigate the full panoply of a religious culture before they tire, put off by the feet of clay on the cosmic Christ or Gautama Buddha or Zarathustra or Guru Nanuk, put off because they want more exoticism to stimulate, or less commitment to trouble, their privileged life in a super power nation?
And a Trinitarian (as mostly teased out in eastern Christian thinking by folks like John Zizioulas).
And a Jesus lover (as mostly presented by the Johannine writings).
And a white man (mostly as presented by James Baldwin).
I'm no alien to a hermeneutic of suspicion. But it is an approach that has an appropriate round-about-circle.
"So one who only reads history -- one who is limited to historiographical approaches to understanding and refers to "winners" and "losers" in power ideology history -- tends to dismiss "self-interpreters" (those who work from within in order to deepen the community's understanding of itself) and trusts only the interpretations of "outside observers" of that cultural system."
Having time today to spend reflective time on our exchange (and doing my usual slide into strict Lenten adherence -- I break only for ERs site), I venture serious and polysyllabic response to this line from you:
"Feodor, why do you assume that so many of us aren't educated. You seem to need that 'Ole time structure'."
Tell me when, please, when I cover ground that is old hat to you in the following:
You call the dark side literalists, but we all read the Bible literally. I mean by this that we read the text as if the writer who has written it knows what he is saying when he has said something. When he writes that if the eye offends, pluck it out, we all read it as if the writer knows he is using hyperbole (even the dark side). When he writes that we should turn the other cheek, we all read it as if the writer knows that he is speaking metaphorically. When he writes about the "whore of Babylon," we all read it believing that he is writing apocalyptically about Rome (even the dark side; though they leave the literal reading and go looking for allegorical prophecy for our time).
Jesus says that the one who has not sinned can throw the first stone. We understand what the text is saying and believe the text itself to represent the writer as understanding that the text means what he wants to mean and that a reader of the text will understand by it more or less the same thing as the writer intends.
This is literal reading of the Bible.
Where we differ with the dark side is interpreting our common literal reading by historiographical approaches. We situate the writers in their historical time which bears comparative analysis of their world view, cultural structures, conceptions about the working of their own bodies, communities, societies, governments, nature, understanding of abstract notions like selves, being, souls, heaven, the heavens, hell, etc.
In this sense, if I accept their notional referent to the Trinity in all their worldview, then I commit a historiographical naivete like the dark side folks.
But that is only if I engage in historiographical interpretation.
An alternative method would be more like cultural anthropology. To read the Bible for its literal sense -- it knows what it means and knows that we can read it and understand that the text faithfully conveys what is meant -- and interpret how reading the text, specifically, reading what is a sacred text for the Christian community shapes that community.
In this way, the Trinity, which I hold in common with the ancient Christian community, is not interpreted historiographically such that "three persons, one being" is accepted as a truth claim about God. Rather, the Trinity is interpreted as a shared sign within the community that believes it and a shared sign that shapes that belief.
So, instead of being a truth claim about what we would call the ontological nature of God, the Trinity is a Biblical (read 'textual") truth, a semiotic sign, a grammer as it were, of how to "read" God that guides us in how to be the best loving community we can be. The truthfulness of the Trinity teaches us that God is a perfect com-union of distinct existents. Three in One is a sign, a reading, a symbol of God and, because of the sign of creation and incarnation, serves also as a reading of the church, which is a sign of the human family par excellance.
In this interpretive approach that is akin to cultural anthropology of the Christian community, rather than the historiographical one, the communities literal reading of the biblical text gives the community material by which to build a grammar of faith. Not reified claims about ontology but rather "signs" of truth.
The Trinity is a sign of God that the Christian community has decided it cannot do without because the sign is the best signifier of how we can image God in being distinct persons but aspire -- by faith -- to complete -- or as near so as we can get -- to complete communion together. The sign of creation as given us in the biblical text tells us we are made in the image of God, and Peter, in his text, tells us literally that we can "co-participate" in the divine nature.
As a Christian in community for whom the Bible is Sacred Text, I am shaped by reading it and interpreting it in this way and so believe that you and I are ultimately One by virtue of our destiny to be in communion together. This theological reasoning has moral implications of brotherhood that I enjoy getting to via the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and find that other pathways are less persuasive or effectual for me.
But I cannot arrive at such goodness solely in a historiographic way. For if that is the only way, then life would only be this extreme distance from the text that I often feel anyway, being a modern person.
Popularized modernity is almost solely an historiological view of our past. This is the legacy of a partial and unconscious cultural underpinning of Enlightenment and the scientific paradigm.
If it weren't for, say, Gregory of Nazianzus, and the whole sweep of Trinitarian "self-interpreters" since, right up to Rahner and Zizioulas, then the Trinity would be akin to Democritus' atom of the 5th century BCE.
Outside observers scoff at these foolish "self-interpreters" and, judging by historiographical measures, declare them simply to be the winners in a power struggle. But doing this, they cut themselves off from any absorption of meaningful signs of how to live and love. If everything is always and only a power struggle or a physical force of nature, then human life is material and darwinian in absolute terms. Hope, Faith, Love are rendered meaningless.
But cultural signifying groups like religion operate on many different principles than just rational laws of physics or historical laws of power ideology.
And thank God, too, the Three in One, whomever or whatever god may ontologically be... or not be.
"Tell them, 'I am' sent you."
First, heresy is loaded, but still useful term. Personally, I think it works, if for no other reason, than to define some strand of thought or practice as outside a generally recognized norm. In the 16th and early 17th centuries, Lutherans and Reformed and Catholics went to to war with one another - all agreeing that the Anabaptists deserved the fate of death they received from all sides - over issues such as communion and baptism and the role of tradition and reason in Christian thought. Today, it would be absurd to think such could happen, because all sides agreed that these issues were far less important than some generally agreed upon principles, articulated, as discussed above, in Nicaea and Constantinople in the mid-4th century.
I have nothing wrong with affirming, in some general way, the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan formulations - one God in three persons, the hypostatic union of a fully divine, fully human second person of the Trinity, and the central role Jesus death and resurrection played in the Divine narrative of which we are all bit players.
Beyond that, as far as I'm concerned, it's all up for grabs.
One note to Feodor - and I want you to take this as something from someone who suffers this same tendency. Do not overthink the whole thing. Think about it, think in it, think through it. Use the tools we have at hand - the multiple traditions that are Christian theology - but only as guideposts along the way.
You accused ER, I think, of anti-intellectualism, which is most definitely not the case. Rather, he didn't articulate it in the way you might prefer. On the other hand, who does? My argument with Neil, and Mark, and Eric Ashley, and Marshall Art is not one of intellectualism versus anti-intellectualism. It is of bad thinking, unBiblical statements presented as Biblical, the creation of the myth of Morality as somehow central to the divine narrative or our own role as bit players in this drama.
One can overthink the Christian faith, but I do not believe, if one has surrendered to the grace of God in Jesus Christ, it is possible to overlive it.
If your "general affirmation" of "the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan formulations" doesn't help you deal with Darfur, then what the hell are you keeping it for?
My reading of ER, which is an admitted identification with myself, is that he is not satisfied "just living it." I think Darfur disturbs his pleasure in "just living it." I think issues in this country, in Oklahoma disturbs his pleasure in "just living it." I don't think his personality was ever one, nor yours for that matter, that just desires to "live the dream" and let others fend for themselves.
I think ER is looking for substance of thought and reason and theology that brings the power of Jesus nearer for the struggles of the day, the challenges of the time, and hope in the midst of human horrors. And when he is doing that, when he has his thinking cap on, his thinking is right mightily nice.
But I also think that ER sometimes shrugs the work off because he despairs of getting to an informed enough place, an educated enough state because there are just too many books to read, too many demands on his time, and too little time.
ER takes a day off now and then, which he has to do because he really is a sensitive, permeable soul. Permeable souls need intellectual fortification and spiritual depth or they will be succumb to the craziness of everything.
Thank God, someone didn't tell Aquinas or MLK not to think about it so much.
If they had left it "all up for grabs," more millions of Christians would have died in deeper despair, loneliness, and sorrow.
When and why did that happen?
(on this off day I'm reading "Studs Lonigan", not Kant; but soon I'm off to bake banana bread to have with omelets tonight)
"Just living it" would, it seems to me should go without saying, includes outrage at the brutality human beings visit upon one another on a fairly regular basis. Unlike you, I feel no need to parade my moral outrage and therefore pretense to moral or intellectual superiority at every opportunity. The world is a complicated place, and while I most certainly find hourly reasons to hate my fellow human beings, I do not. I tend, more often than not, to think of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, weeping as he stood looking down at Jerusalem.
None of this, however, has anything to do with why you feel it necessary for such an explicit critique. If you want my take on Darfur, I'll be happy to give it. I do not believe for one instant that only Christians should be outraged by what is happening there; or in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Cote D'ivoire, and most definitely in the Congo/Rwanda conflict that has been called the African continental war as it sucks in various nations and regions and has resulted in millions of deaths and a massive refugee problem in the middle of the continent, where relief is most difficult to send.
One can be horrified by this, yet horror (discomfort seems such a tame response to the systemic human tragedy, from failed states through crumbling social infrastructure and deteriorated social contracts across Africa) begs the next question, "What ought we do?" As things stand currently, I would submit that unfortunately there really is nothing we, or any other western or other nation can do, alone or in concert, in order to redress the problems of Africa. This is not a moral failing, but a tragic consequence of human life. Moral outrage at atrocities may make us feel better about ourselves; recognizing our own impotence at the very real limits within which we live, and which limit any well-intentioned action based upon that outrage, is also part of "just living it".
I presume a counter-argument is that, for all our current economic woes, this should take precedence over other possible initiatives political, humanitarian, what have you, and while certainly well-intentioned and based upon a very real desire to end the very real suffering that is occurring, I have to wonder qui bono, as the Romans used to wonder. Who benefits from the rending of clothing over the atrocity that is Darfur in Sudan? Furthermore, as someone who's sister spent two years in Cameroon as a Peace Corps volunteer, as well as listened intently to many voices from Africa and Latin America, I can say that there are many in these and other places who see American sympathy in the face of these and other horrors, as well as the oft-stated desire to "do something" about them, to be nothing more than imperialism gussied up and made to look more respectable. As Mohandas Ghandi said, many would rather see their countries run poorly by their own people, than run well by foreigners. This is a point with which I whole-heartedly agree.
Darfur is a tragedy, to be sure. Me saying that changes nothing. You insisting there is some need on my part to make such a statement part of my Christian witness saves not one single life. The theoretical possibility that all of those who recognize the need in Darfur could possibly energize a movement to create solutions is meaningless drivel when faced with the very real world challenges even to understand the multiple, sometimes contradictory reams of information and cross-pollenization of who is in charge, who is allied with whom, who benefits and who does not from stability returning to the region, the relative importance and power of the various actors, and on and on and on.
"Just living it" means accepting the simple fact of limits - vast, insurmountable limits - to any action we may desire to undertake. Even redeemed, our actions are steeped in sin and death. Good intentions and moral rigidity are part of a formula for disaster if one does not also recognize that they are no substitute, when warranted by facts on the ground, for prudence, wisdom, and restraint - even in the face of human atrocities. These are horrible answers and probably piss everyone off.
That doesn't make them less correct. It just means we live in a shitty, fallen world that God happens to love.
I shot that little black baldy calf a few miles east of Corn, Okla., a couple of years ago. I'm not as ranty and raily as I used to be, since Focus on the Family has become irrelevant, it's not worth ranting and railing about, so I figured I'd retire Y. Sam.
Second, it adds nothing to either the moral fervor or feeling regarding whatever atrocity du jour one wishes to reference to insist its basis lies in one's religious beliefs; nor does it add to one's religious beliefs to demand of oneself or others that moral outrage be part and parcel of the whole thing. Whether it is the moral fervor of conservatives regarding the fetus, or the moral fervor of the left regarding Darfur, the thing that binds them is . . . moral fervor. One can be upset and it costs no one anything. One can demand acquiescence to one's own perception of moral clarity, yet I see no difference if what is clarified is the legal or moral status of a human fetus or one's sense of frustration that various intraspecies atrocities take place.
This is not to say that these are not important things about which we should think, and live, very clearly. All it is to say is that neither our moral feeling nor our status before God are moved one iota in either case.
And, yes, I happen to have a very high Doctrine of God, as well as a high Christology. I do not live by them; I change them as I live, as it should be.
GKS, you got the completely wrong end of the stick.
"It" in "what the hell are you keeping it for" refers not to how you are dealing with Darfur (or any family members you want to crow about) as a Christian but rather poses the question that DrLBJ would ask:
What in the world could come out of a "'general affirmation' of 'the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan formulations'" that would help a body comprehend any horror, great or small?
And if there is nothing much really, then what good are those formulations?
You ask me not to think too much about Christian theology and I am responding that first and second and third order theological language helps me live my Christian life to the fullest.
I could not keep at what I do every day without the theological inheritance of Nicaea and reflections and expansion of Nicaea.
I would agree with DrLBJ, I wouldn't be caught dead with a doctrine that doesn't mop up blood and bind wounds. So "general affirmation" leaves a lot to be questioned.
Your attitude toward Darfur was not the issue.
The Christian life lived in the broken light of theological commitments are the general issue; Trinitarian theology in the midst of atrocity is a huge question; what has Nazianzus to do with ER, DrLBJ, Edmond, OKC, or Bed Stuy are my concerns.
I'd say more but I've said enough for today.
Who, here, is jumping to conclusions?
I believe there is a relationship, tied to the cross, but I do not believe if someone does not they are not a Christian.
I did not say you thought too much. I only suggested it is possible to overthink the Christian faith. There is a difference.
I guess I don't think one has anything to do with the other. One can mop up blood and bind wounds without any doctrine whatsoever, or a half-developed one, or whatever.
In other words, I think the point is about living, and figuring it out as we go, understanding we will get as much right as wrong. What has Gregory Nazianzus have to do with Bedford Stuyvesant? My initial guess is not much. My opinion is that's OK. I guess my question is, What does Feodor have to do with Bedford Sty? I think that's a far more pertinent question. A far more important question.
Given what you communicate of your own life on your own blog, why am I not surprised?
Since I rarely convey any personal information, beyond the odd anecdote, very often taken out of context, I fail to see how you could jump to the conclusion you do.
Then again, it is SOP for you, so I am the one who isn't surprised.
I had to take time out today to read some grant proposals (Dear God, people are really much more desperate than we can easily see)and go see the movie "Watchmen" and then meet up with my Sunday School class for Bar-B-Que, but I see you all went on with out me.
Say Feodor if my Gnostic histographic positions get too dull I can shift over to my VooDoo or my LDS arguments.
F: "...the Trinity, which I hold in common with the ancient Christian community, is not interpreted historiographically ...Rather, the Trinity is interpreted as a shared sign within the community that believes it and a shared sign that shapes that belief."
Good, but just for the heck of it I'll point out that aboput half the "Christians" in the world do not beleive or hold your trinity in common with you.
F:"...despite his claim to being a free spirit, he utilizes only one method of interpretation ..." Cut me some slack, actually I am a die hard Geographical Determinist even when it come to Religion. The stage determines the play.
F: "DrLBJ, your anxiety shows when you foreground and minimize my response before it comes."
Naw it isn't my "anxiety" it is my ability to prophicie.
F: "I would agree with DrLBJ, I wouldn't be caught dead with a doctrine that doesn't mop up blood and bind wounds."
Agree, wow! Actually I suspect everybody in this conversation would be blood mopper and wound binders if the occasion arived.
Battle Star Galactica is on. Goodbye for now.
GKS, do you get nothing from my comments on historiographic interpretation and cultural anthropology? Ever read Geertz?
Looks to me like you rebelled against it, determinedly.
A hermeneutic of suspicion.
A free radical.
But their arrival into solid middle class afforded me a socio-economic level of education higher than our fiscal position.
Populism plus high quality Yankee education will break down geographic determinism almost every time.
For the white man.
This is a road to nowhere, really.
and so he told me:
"Populism plus high quality Yankee education will break down geographic determinism almost every time."
populations seldom over come thier determinism, individuals sometimes do. That 's one of the secrets of evolution. However....hee hee hee hee.....take another long look in the mirror...what have you built on, verses what have you rejected.... what roots are there that can sprout un-announced...of course I could be wrong....hee hee hee....
ER I like the claf or is that calf?
Allen: "So does this mean we're not getting jackets made, or what? :)"
Allen, I was thinking about jackets for the "John Spruce Society". ER how much do we have in the treasury?
But I'm just a superior son of a bitch who keeps following competitive statements with my own that somehow are then viewed in isolation.
And as for the whole alert thing, well... it just spoiled the healing process didn't it?
And I believe I attempted to stop the madness, and hoped for healing, after DrLobo's "alert." So, nothing was spoiled as far as I can tell.
Back to the game: O-State versus ou, basketball. GO POKES!
drlobojo: Regarding jackets, I was thinking something more along the lines of Pinkie and the Pinkettes.
And if you all get that reference you deserve an extra dessert.
That would be the point.
DrLBJ blows a lot of guff my way about so many dollars, so many white people, so much good, and one sacrosanct wife... and then what in the world does he end with, a claim to access to government info.?
And then you cut off the thread?
I live with a women of color who calls herself thus. TStockmann says it's a racist phrase.
Who should we count on here? Who gets criticized?
For pointing out that I live with a woman of color, GKS thinks I'm instrumentalizing the relationship in a hypocritical reach for moral advantage. I see his wife proudly displayed both here and at his site.
So the only difference I can see is that my wife is black, which is illegal to point out for some reason.
Who is the hypocrite? Who gets criticized?
Because I don't speak with the disingenuous Southland habit of veiled speech, asterisks, and dashes.
When someone fucks with me, or my wife, I say they've fucked with me.
As you pointed out before you changed your mind, I don't live in a place where guns ride around in trucks. We talk about our shit here, we don't bury it until it breaks out in school slayings and mall genocides.
And when someone spills their shit first, they get dumped on hard until they apologize.
The Stockboy will do no such thing.
GKS would think about it, but I don't expect him to be able to see it.
And I don't think you or DrLBJ see clearly on this either.
I proudly display my wife? I have a link to her Church, and I've put up her picture. I talk, on occasion, about the way a sermon she has preached, or a discussion with her, has impacted me and my life. I do not insist that, being a clergy spouse provides a unique perspective on clergy life that others who are not so connected cannot possibly understand, even if they are church-going folk.
I'm not sure what you're arguing with TStockman about, but it sounds silly to me.
I did not, nor would I ever, dump on your wife. Or anyone else's wife if they are not a bloggy-type. I am quite sure your wife is an amazing, beautiful human being, a terrific parent, and all the other wonderful things all wives tend to be when the men they marry are smart. The thing, as I see it (and I think I'm not alone here) is that you hold up your marriage to a woman of color as some transcendent achievement. Furthermore, you seem to not so much jump but plunge headlong toward assumptions about the attitudes of others on a host of subjects based on the most meager evidence possible. The funny thing is, you are wrong every. Single. Time. Not just partially wrong. So wrong it can't be right.
Rather than assume we are protecting ourselves against your wonderful ability to see further than we; rather than assume any of us are bothered by your forthrightness and clarity; consider the possibility that we are actually quite tired of your constant leaps and assumptions that are wrong, frequently border on insulting, and most definitely presumptuous on a number of fronts.
This is not an invitation to further argument. It is offered as food for thought.
Tell me this, GKS, does being married to a woman help you at all to gain insight into what life is like for women?
I would hope so.
Now, if you were married to a black woman, do you think the experience would help you gain insight into what life is like for black women?
I would hope you would think so.
Or do you somehow imagine her blackness is a choice like being a pastor? And so conclude that trying to extrapolate from her choice to be black cannot be generalized to other American folks who choose to be black by the millions?
[The sense of you words and your analogies take us to such weird places frequently when you involve yourself in race discussions. Food for thought, GKS.]
When I talk about race, I draw from those insights as I do the insights from my whole life, 38 years before meeting this woman.
I have talked about the tears of my father-in-law, his stories in the military and experiences with bosses. I have drawn upon the experiences of my mother-in-law who is a black Panamanian woman and the fine and large distinctions to be made between the African American experience and the Caribbean American experience. I reported, at ERs invitation, on my experience at the Inauguration situated in a group of hundreds of mostly black folks.
I do so because ER establishes, variably, an discursive space of trust and sharing and because he and I hold some generalities of identity in common that I l like to get in touch with here.
None of it is presented as transcendent, just personally powerful, reflected upon, and yes, privileging. Living in Brooklyn affords me a privileged view of New York. Living with a black woman does indeed afford me a privileged view. A privileged view of what it means to be a woman, for one. A lot of men miss that. A privileged view of what it means to be black. A lot of white people miss that. A privileged view of what it means to be a black woman. A privileged view of what it means to be a white man in a relationship with a black women.
I don't have a privileged view of what it is like to live in a relationship with a man, of any color. I don't have a privileged view of what it is like to live with an Asian woman, a Russian woman, a Brit, a Latina, a giraffe, an ostrich, three cats or a priest.
Transcendent? No. Some privileges, yes.
But that is not the problem between us. None of the above. Though you have problems admitting to some of the above because of our problem with the below:
You and I have a difficult time talking about the limits of being a white man.
You've experienced those limits in only some socio-cultural-experiential contexts. Many of those we share more than most two white men who are strangers to each other.
I've experienced the limits of whiteness in only some socio-cultural and experiential contexts but I have experienced the limits of whiteness in ways that you have not.
I'm under no illusion that I have a gift to see further than you, GKS. I'm under no illusion that I am smarter or merit more. Transcendence does not live here by necessity more than there. Life may give me some privileges over you and yours give you some over me.
But vision is not founded on privilege.
Vision is founded upon being willing to see.
That's where you guys come up crackers too often.
As you would say if you were in my shoes:
The dark glass Paul said we all see through is not limtied to things theological.
As for apologies:
I would expect any from TSTOCK. I don't know him in he RW, just here and a few other blogs. Not a swipe at him, just an observation.
If you'll succinctly tell me where I've offended you expressly, and not simply because I can't "see," or because of my different life experiences, why, I might learn something. I apologize, in any case!
For what it's worth, I don't see where GKS or DrLoboJo owe you an apology -- I either missed the offense, or in the blur of words, it didn't strike me as offensive.
This is me dealing.
Anyway, it's actually kinda fun to watch men try to out-Politically Correct each other and yet out-macho each other at the same time. It's what I think it would look like if Larry the Cable Guy hosted The View.
My position, which I apparently did not make clear, was not that your insights are not personal. My problem is with your insistence on privileging them, not only for yourself, but for all those you encounter. You also, apparently, took my analogy a bit too far, thus confusing yourself in the process. My analogy was simple. I would never claim that close association with any one provides a privileged position from which one can see further than others. I would never argue that my close association with my sisters, my mother, my wife, or my daughters gives me a privileged position from which to speak with greater authority on matters relating to women and their experiences. I can speak of my impressions, certainly. But that is all they are. That is all any of it is. Even my most cogently, closely argued positions on matters of utmost import to me - faith, love, politics - are no more than my beliefs based on my experiences and my reflections upon them. I do not believe there is such a thing as a privileged position from which any of us can pronounce upon the lives of others. I can certainly see the futility of ignoring basic facts, such as many of us encounter on right-wing websites. Yet, these people continue to live their lives, and while I would never associate with them, I do not believe for one minute that I am inherently better than they because they refuse to recognize certain facts.
Matters of race are central to you because of your life experience, and I would never dismiss that. On the other hand, you haven't addressed a far more central issue - every single inference you have made, every leap upon and toward others, every conclusion you have drawn - has been remarkably, spectacularly wrong. I am not now, nor have I ever been, duly impressed with intellectual gymnastics. That seems to be your metier, however, and so I will leave it to you. I have said my piece, clarified my point, and leave it to others to figure out what, exactly, has been going on.
Sausage fest? Gives me chills . . .
Alan, that there is funny, Ii don't care who ya are!
1. You missed the reference to "children of color"?
2. "One sacrosanct wife"? I though I declared all wives and family sacrosanct, even yours.
3. "A claim to access to government info.?" I don't remember saying anything about Government. Their data isn't all that good these days.
GKS: "...leave it to others to figure out what, exactly, has been going on."
People pay big bucks for that kind of psychotherapy. But I would note that a few years ago I bought a pink climbing rose bush that has pink roses every year. But sometimes in the second or third blooming one side of the bush has several branches of primitive form deep wine colored roses.
ER, forgive me for bringing up and blowing guff about Dr.ER. Maybe I took offense at something that wasn't there.
Allen: you're not talking about the ones showing the midrift are you? I could get arrested as a pervert if I wore something like that outside of the house. (or divorced if I wore it in the house)
Never. My roots run far too Puritan for such a display.
If I had my druthers, they'd be the pink satin ones with embroidered names on the front, and the club name embroidered on the back.
No points though, because I led you to it. :)
Argue all you want about theology, you noobs, but around here I'm still the king of something that *really* matters: pop culture. ;)
drlobojo: Looking forward to seeing Watchmen, though from what I've heard it greatly suffers from the absence of the Tales of the Black Freighter, which they're including as an extra in the DVD release.
But the point is that his comment, the one at issue, was clearly intended for me. Otherwise his laudatory presentation of Dr ER would be superfluous.
I wanted to respond with a presentation of Ms. Feodor's work. And to imply that I am surrounded by hundreds who are spending hundreds of millions to shore up moral holes of America and worldwide in regard to the consequences of access and poverty. Which is, in fact, a note that praises Dr ER. She is the more unique for doing what she does where she does. The philanthropic and nonprofit community is what factor of 100 larger here?
2. And I'm not so petty that I need an apology from you. It just seems to me that your bringing up Choctaw was making a contest and escaping the issue at hand. Contra GKS, I read and respect the "privileged" insight DrLBJ and you have regarding white-Indian relationships and perspective on Indian history. As for the other things you say I make a contest of, service and something else, I believe I write about my life in a way that responds to you writing about yours, GKS about his, etc. And on a few occasions, I was invited to do so. I do write about the privileged view I have of the mass of humanity in NYC. One of the largest, most dense cities of the world that serves as on the world's capitals has a lot of lessons that I am learning. It fascinates me. I'll refrain in the future, for reasons vaguely stated here that don't really feel genuine to me. I love hearing about grade school in multi-racial Oklahoma. But, whatever. Ego is a an ambivalent thing in mid-American culture. I do get that.
3. As for GKS, who says we both share a proclivity to overthink things, I am sure he is right. It is a role I want to own, since I live in such an underthinking country.
I just find his overthinking undercooked.
We all had mothers, most of us know/knew them quite well. Living with one's parents and siblings, dorm mates, aren't quite like living with one's partner. Or at least it isn't supposed to be. I find the talk different and not just in quantity. Maybe it's just me but being one flesh is a theological experience for many, many reasons.
In conversation with single men, GKS can't understand why I feel like I have a leg up on women? Now, surely, I've met men that have better insights than me. They tend to those who have read more about and talked more with women than me. Like therapists. Call me crazy but I find them more privileged on the issue.
What GKS misses is the object toward whom one is more privileged. If the object is men on the subject of women, I feel I'm generally better than the single gent, especially after months of discussion if he shows the expected naivete. Now, if the guy gets married he may easily surpass me. ["Vision is founded on being willing to see."] That would be a matter of how comparatively well we both pay attention to the privileged position *compared to* others without such a privileged position. This is what GKS misses.
Same thing goes if the issue is white men on race, I know how far I've come and I feel I've got a leg up here. Call me crazy, call me superior. But then don't be hypocrites and listen so closely to LBJ or ER on their experiences with Indians. And don't listen to Alan on being a gay white man in a marriage. "That Alan, he sure is superior son of a bitch on that whole gay thing."
And if GKS can't privilege his insights over the right wing, then how did he choose between Obama and Bush? Does he honestly posit that it was sheerly on facts and not on any kind of judgment?
I believe that my experiences, living in urban, rural, suburban, northern, southern, midwestern settings in homogeneous/heterogeneous settings (racially and ethnically speaking) are fully integrated into my entire outlook on life. I make no apologies for the life I have led, the choices I have made, or how I express what I believe. If one cannot discern a desire for racial justice - and true racial justice - a concern for the views of women, including the need for seriously restructuring our socio-economic and cultural expressions of gender relations; of the desire for clarity on who God is for the communities of which I am a part (and, yes, I consider myself a part of many different communities, and feel honored to be a part of all of them); if none of the that comes through what I write, then I have failed at the most basic level of communication, because all of it is a deeply ingrained part of my life.
The difference, I think, is a simple one, missed in much of the huff and guff (to borrow a coined phrase). I feel no need to be explicit on these issues, nor to take others to task for not thinking, believing, or acting with the same deliberateness as I. If there is a serious difference of opinion, I will express that, without trying to make that difference qualitative in a personal way. Even in my attempts at dealing with Neil, Marshall, and the rest of the hooligans on the right, I feel neither moral nor political superiority. They are a pathetic bunch, to be sure, in many regards, but children of God nonetheless, worthy of prayerful consideration (if from a distance).
We approach our lives from the wealth of our experiences, our thoughts, our successes and failures, and the milieu in which we live, either by choice or happenstance. I certainly do not wish you to NOT bring up the ways living and working and serving in America's first city impact your life and thought. I find it encouraging that there is someone who is serious enough, thoughtful enough, and loving enough, to ask questions and seek answers that others might not even consider important.
The only consideration I would ask is that you remember that your questions are not mine, nor should they be. Your focus of attention, personally and professionally, is not mine, nor should it be. Difference is not error. It is only difference.
As for me, that is my last word on the subject. I have no desire to further this discussion. I have made my point, and if it isn't clear, then there really isn't anything more I can say. I am not interested in making of this a contest one of us wins. Should that be important to you, I will cede now, because my ego is strong enough to handle such a blow. It takes nothing away from my own sense of myself to acknowledge someone as intellectually, socially, or in any other respect superior to me. Since I do not test myself against others in these regards, but lay it all at the feet of Jesus in prayer in the hopes of taking the various strands of the web of my life and making something beautiful and purposeful of it, you are welcome to whatever victory you may choose for yourself.
I don't think discourse can be won, only fought.
With the caveat that history, as DrLBJ points out, seems to make some decisions.
As I said, if it is important to you to be superior, then be so. It neither hurts my feelings, nor makes me wish to better myself. We are different persons in different places with different lives who have made different choices and are in different emotional/theological spaces in our lives. My wife actually clarified it for me today, talking about a funeral sermon she preached today (a 21 yo woman who died of brain cancer) - she used Ecclesiastes as her text. It dawned on me that I am living in a different "time" as the Preacher understands it.
You're the one talking about winning, losing, being exhausted, calling on Jesus. You spray disparate points among all your hyperbole; no wonder you're tired.
Look here: D O N E
Oh, sorry! I just had a post-bouncing flashback.