Friday, August 29, 2008

Rabbi Gollum and Empire

It's being accused of being "neo-Marxist."

That may not be a bad thing.
(Jesus may be one of them dudes; in a subversively peaceful way, of course. A British version of a Campolo book has a helpful chapter on "what the church can learn from Marx").

And the critique that the book "jumps from folklore, to philosophy, to finance with little concern for disciplinary barriers or – at times – clarity" actually makes me wonder if it's prophetic.

And this complaint only endears it to me:

While Hardt & Negri clearly find extended allusions to Jewish mysticism – and later vampires, demons, and carnival – helpful to our understanding of globalisation, many of these vignettes seem more like testaments to the authors’ intellectual creativity (and literary training) than the building-blocks of an argument.
Multitude is a sprawling, often silly book, yet its central point comes out largely right.

"Sprawling, often silly, yet the central point come out largely right"?
Is that a classic definition of preaching-foolishness or what?

Could it be that a more positive reviewer's spin: "perhaps the most important piece of global analysis since Tariq Ali’s Clash of Fundamentalisms" is also right?

The authors?

"...the somewhat unlikely duo: Hardt, an American political scientist at Duke University, and Negri, a former Italian parliament member and political exile, trained political scientist and sometime inmate of Rome's Rebibbia prison." (link)/

The book?

"Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire"
by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri."

The book's basic idea?:

Multitude re-imagines the proletariat as a heterogeneous web of workers, migrants, social movements, and non-governmental organisations – “potentially … all the diverse figures of social production”, “the living alternative that grows within Empire.” Where Empire focused on the problems of globalisation, Multitude proposes a solution to those problems – the creation of a truly pluralistic democracy for all mankind.

Multitude does not lend itself easily to summary, but the basic idea is as follows. The multitude is not “the people,” but rather many peoples acting in networked concert. Because of its plurality, its “innumerable internal differences”, the multitude contains the genus of true democracy. At the same time, the multitude’s ability to communicate and collaborate – often through the very capitalist networks that oppress it – allows it to produce a common body of knowledge and ideas (“the common”) that can serve as a platform for democratic resistance to Empire.

The multitude’s democratic potential thus springs from its heterogeneity and its penchant for dynamic exchange. Hardt & Negri believe these characteristics grow from the very nature of contemporary social life and economic production, which they see resting on two pillars. The first is a new model of labour, which Hardt & Negri describe as “biopolitical production.” This unhelpful label tries to capture the particular dynamic of the production of “ideas, images, affects and relationships” in the information economy. These are immaterial rather than material goods. They can spread quickly throughout the world, creating a “common” that touches on all aspects of social life.

The second pillar is the mode of political organisation embraced by the multitude. In place of “centralised forms of revolutionary dictatorship and command,” the multitude organises resistance to globalisation through networks, which substitute “collaborative relationships” for hierarchical authority. At last, a true revolution from below; a movement that can marry the spontaneity of anarchy with the power of mass resistance. Woodstock meets the Internet.
I helped officiate a funeral a few days after 9/11 for a woman who died the morning of 9/11; starting my comments with "On Tuesday morning, when World War III broke out..."
Whether we ever officially canonize what we are currently in as "WWIII" or not, I still believe a version of my announcement was true. But "Multitude" helps unpack a bit more of what i meant (but didn't know then):

The attacks..on September 11...did not change or fundamentally create this global situation, but perhaps they did force us to recognize its generality. There is no escaping the state of war within Empire; and there is no end to it in sight. The situation is obviously already mature. Just as the 'defenestration of Prague' on May 13, 1618, when two regents from the Holy Roman Empire were thrown from the window of the Harcaby castle, ignited the Thirty Yeasrs War, the attacks on Sepetmeber 11 ignited a new era of war. Back then the Catholics and Protestants massacred each other (but soon the sides became confused), and today Christians seem to be pitted against Msulims (although the sides are already confused). This air of a war of religion only masks the profound historical transfirmation, the opening of a new era. In the seventeent century, it was the passage in Europe from modernity, an today the new era is the global passage from modernity to postmodernity.(page 4)

And I'm only on page four, but have peeked at the excurus-midrash on the on the golem/Gollum midrash on page ten. One must at least ask:

Could it be that"The golem-world is not a passing phase but a 'new

Thank God for Dollar Tree.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

governed more by appearances than realities

The world is governed more by appearances than realities, so that it is fully as necessary to seem to know something as to know it.
- Daniel Webster

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Music of the Future

From Paste:

By Pierre Ruhe on August 27, 2008

For most of the past half century, the artistic tag “international”—and the “ism” that labeled it a cultural trend—held a vaguely unpleasant connotation. It began cosmopolitan and cool, but then the concept started to drift, eventually landing on the universal yet impersonal, the utopian yet faceless. In architecture, for example, at the tail-end of the International Style movement in the 1960s and ’70s, every city in the U.S. and Brazil and China suffered its cookie-cutter modern office buildings, the ugly fact of “internationalism” made real. Still, a few groovy jet-set buildings turned heads; those old promises continued to hold a measure of sexy optimism.
More recently, a different urge took hold. Food culture led the way, with wine and cheese makers promoting their product’s terroir—the soil and climate and cultivation techniques that
create distinctive flavors, where no two hillsides duplicate the same subtle organic conditions. When every suburban subdivision looks alike, eating food grown in a specific soil with the sharp taste of an exotic place becomes a balm for the soul.

We seem at a precarious point now, balancing these two dominant cultural trends. And no musician makes more from a unified global view and the gritty dirt of the street than an Argentine of Eastern European-Jewish parentage who grew up with tangos, flamenco, Yiddish klezmer and Bach, and—after studies in Jerusalem and Philadelphia—found a home in Boston and a fervent international following. At 47, Osvaldo Golijov has created a catalog of music that comes from many specific places yet speaks with a one-world voice.

Thus, at a time when everything in our society seems niche, and the niches are getting narrower, Golijov (pronounced GO-lee-hoff) is a musician headed in the opposite direction. He’s got a knack for the urgent gesture and for generous expression, not to mention a cosmic sense of serenity..


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Some folk don't want any more friends

Some people may not need any more friends:

We should never assume that all needs are alike. Sometimes, what we think are needs may already be met. For instance, in American society, people go off to one place for work, to another place for worship, one for market, one for banking, and still another for school—these are what we call simplex roles. Simplex roles are one strand relationships. You’re in one context, and that’s the only context that I see you in. The result is shallow relationships and nameless people in our lives. To talk about Jesus as Friend, for instance, makes a lot of sense.

But in a multiplex society, you don’t have the problem of alienation and loneliness. Clans are huddled together; extended families are crowded under one roof. Every relative you have may be within a three-mile radius. To talk about Jesus as Friend in a multiplex society doesn’t make sense at all. People want to talk about Jesus as Protector, as a Sustainer of life, as Life itself. But Jesus as Friend? “I don’t have any sense of loneliness! I’ve got too many friends/companions/relatives as it is!” they are likely to say. Understanding these and a multitude of other dynamics will make a radical difference in terms of the context of your ministry.

-Darrell Whiteman

Pansexual trapeze act or bass-playing doulos?

Three American jobs nobody wants, per St Stephen:

Pottery teacher: Feel like throwing yourself in front of a train? Throw a pot instead! The one word that will best describe your students is "desperate-middle-aged-woman-looking for a creative-outlet-after-the divorce." A word that won't describe them, however, is "talented." There are only so many ways of patiently asking "What are you trying to make?" before you finally snap and use the kiln to make a car battery.

High School Guidance Counselor: You wake up every morning thinking "If I'm so good at finding careers, how did I wind up with this one?" At least you're not the Vice Principal.

Bass Player: It's like you made a poorly worded deal with the devil to be a rock star. Instead of fame, fortune and groupies, you stand in the shadows plucking one note for 90 minutes while the lead singer picks out a trio of coeds from the front row for a post-show pansexual trapeze act. Even worse, you're expected to room with the drummer.

-p 185, "I Am America and So Can You"

This, of course, got me thinking, about how delightfully "Kingdomed" (Tom Fuller's word) each of these callings actually are; what better training for ministry...nay, what better ministries. I long to capture the servant heart and "help others find their gifts and place" that the best of the apostolic high school guidance counselors (Amber Blodgett is queen here..if I had had her as high school counselor, I might have been spared five years of unnecessary skubala and wandering in the wild-erness) and bass players (name some, Ryan) so naturally have.

Bass players may well be best positioned to answer "WWHSD?" ..What Would the Holy Spirit Do?...That is, keep the vital rhythym alive; and let the spotlight/floodlight) fall on the Someone Else (J.I. Packer's image of the Spirit in relation to Jesus, in "Keep In Step with the Spirit").

And a pottery close to the Kingdom do you wanna get? That's the King of King's only day job.

Len weighs in on the recent wake-up/shake-up call from Todd Bentley and Lakeland:

...Peter C Wagner unwisely hosted a recent gathering to bring apostolic covering to Todd and Fresh Fire Ministries. During a publicized gathering on June 23rd Wagner said, “This is a ceremony celebrating the formal apostolic alignment of Todd Bentley.” Wagner said that this was a formal “commissioning” equivalent to offering the the right hand of fellowship as the apostles did to Paul in Jerusalem.
He continued by proclaiming, “This commissioning represents a powerful spiritual transaction taking place in the invisible world. With this in mind, I take the apostolic authority that God has given me and I decree to Todd Bentley:

* Your power will increase.
* Your authority will increase.
* Your favor will increase.
* Your influence will increase.
* Your revelation will increase.

By now I hope the leaders who participated in this gathering are reflecting on 1 Cor.13 in the context of chapters 12-14. Perhaps a future commissioning will offer a different kind of decree:

* Your love will increase
* Your humility will increase
* Your generosity will increase
* Your love for Jesus will increase
* Your troubles will increase (1 Cor.4:7-16)
so that the life of the Son of God may be manifest in your mortal flesh..

-Len Hjalmarson, link

I sometimes think I learned how to pray at the "real" seminary I attended: scrubbing 284 toilets a week for Christian campers at RCP, in between years of official "seminary."

I recently found a great book at Dollar Tree:
"The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker." It challenges perceptions of "lower class/lower caste" blue collar jobs. From the sleeve:

"A bridge is only as strong as its weakest weld..You're like a surgeon, but working on metal. You're taking two separate entities and making them one. So take it to heart"
-Lisa Legohn, welder and teacher.

Why isn't that in the bibliography of Church Planting 101?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

truth dazzling gradually

In art and faith, “the truth must dazzle gradually.”

-from Jeffrey Overstreet's blog

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

packaging is often disinformation

"..the packaging is often disinformation."

complete quote:

"We made this very melancholy, blood-and-tears record, but we called it Achtung Baby and dressed up like pop stars to get people away from that because there was just so much melancholy in it. With U2, the packaging is often disinformation."

-- Bono, 2000

Kingdom of Gahan


Dave Gahan

Can you feel me coming
open the door it's only me
I have that desperate feeling
in trouble is where I'm going to be

I know you hear me knocking
so open the door and set me free

If there's a kingdom beyond it all
is there a god who loves us all
do we believe in love at all
I'm still pretending, I'm not a fool

So in your infinite wisdom
show me how this life should be
all your love and glory
doesn't mean that much to me

If there's a kingdom beyond it all
is there a god who loves us all
do we believe in love at all
I'm still pretending, I'm not a fool

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Can a pastor take grace too far?

Tim Brassell: Can a pastor take grace too far?
Robert Capon: No.
link, context

More Capon:

Subverting irony and Books of Love

"The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts and facts and figures and instructions for dancing
But I
I love it when you read to me
And you
You can read me anything
The book of love has music in it
In fact that's where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb
But I
I love it when you sing to me
And you
You can sing me anything
The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we're all too young to know
But I
I love it when you give me things
And you
You ought to give me wedding rings"

On Peter Gabriel's cover of "Book of Love," one reviewer notes:

I once read an interview with Magnetic Fields' frontman Stephin Merritt where he said that he hated hearing fans say that they found his music touching or affirming. He has always meant his lyrics and music to be ironic, if not bitter takes on romance. Indeed "Book of Love" remains one of Merritt's most ironic views on love. Yet, what makes Peter Gabriel's cover so amazing, is how straight he takes the song. Gabriel completely removes any irony or bitterness and it is completely simple, yet oh so heartbreaking, and it's all the better for its earnestness.

Ironically (and irenically), Maybe Jesus does this...and/or the opposite (ZooTVish)...with some of his parable "covers" (those he bases on, or namechecks/samples existing rabbinic parables....or existing presuppositions that need to be subverted).

The original by Magnetic Fields:

Gabriel's cover with lyrics:

Gabriel's cover with movie clips and lyrics:

Bonus: More of Gabriel 'stealing back" his own songs:

Of course, in subverting ones own songs, Dylan is the master. When St Guiness and i heard him a few years ago, we didn't even recognize many of the songs. I understand he may have pulled a grand one with his beautiful, Lanois-produced "Most of the Time." On the CD version, it is pretty obvious, partly due to Laois' aching guitar, that "most of the time she ain't even on my mind" is a lie; the singer is trying to convince himself..unconvincingly...that it is true. On the newly released acoustic version, which I haven't heard yet, it sounds like he strips it down to acoustic folk, but morphs the lyric into a torch song.

Such is love.

U2, of course, respun some of their 90s material in new millenium performances; ironing out the irony...most famously/infamously in "The First Time." In the newer version, the Prodigal Son actually came home (see "Well-Ended Stories That Don't End Well"
and MotherBeth's 10/08/05 "Teach me to sing" post).

Imagine that.

That's a Book of Love.

But , to close with (who else more fitting on love-subversion and holy hijacking) a Johnny Cash reference:

I still wonder if the narrating character/prodigal "still misses the drugs."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Knives, Bohemia and God under the bed

Amazing...Bono finally "enters the blogosphere" (his words) and posts on Of course he surpassed the word limit for comments; but the whole post can be read at the link below:

....of course the life of the artist is always more compelling than being an artist. To live in the garret with a knife in your hand and a bleeding ear is more romantic than the fragility that leaves open the wound ... Bohemia is more attractive than suburbia but maybe you don't live there, maybe you live on a street which is like any other street where the opera that goes on behind parted curtains is more than enough.... It was briefly for U2.

you can have everything the songs, the production, the face, the attitude but still not have "IT"... U2 had nothing really, nothing but "IT"... For us music was a sacrament even more demanding and sometimes more demeaning thing than music as ART, we wanted to make a music to take you in and out of your body, out of your comfort zone, out of your self, as well as your bedroom, a music that finds you looking under your bed for God to protect your innocence...
Bono, link

Friday, August 01, 2008

St Guiness is not a demon

In 2004, I filmed this clip; some of the monthly pastors cell group for Amor Transformador in Huancayo, Peru. Here we hear a couple stories from a pastor and wife that missionary Ken Metz directly related to the powerful worship gathering we participated in in this couples church the Sunday before (watch it on this other video from 4:44ff).

Of course one of my favorite parts of this clip is seeing St. Guiness being mistaken for a burly demon (5:10ff) (:

See also:

You are either exhibitionist or voyeur

"I would aspire to be a soul singer..A singer becomes a soul singer when he decides to reveal rather than conceal."
Keltic Ken and the saints at the Love Feast have been weighing the thesis that everyone defaults eventually to either a form of
voyuerism or exhibitionism.

By the way, don't read me as being obsexxed; or suggesting that implies the most obvious sexual versions of those tendencies (except in the sense that all of life is sexual) in most people.

And don't hear what I am not saying .
These habits ...when lived out sexually..are unhealthy and illegal.

Even though Rob Bell is right ("The House That Sex Built: Why let the Jews have all the good sex?!")that all of life is's also true that it's never really about sex at all.

Don't you know any exhibitionists who "flash" their possessions or titles; for example?
Or someone who is overly eager to self-disclose information so they might express their love/receive acceptance ("If I show you my naked soul; you'll love me.")

Maybe visit Two Naked Pastors...

I had to google around to see if this connection had been made; a dangerous endeavor(:

I just caught this intriguing take on U2's "Lemon" in the Wikipedia article on the CD ("Zooropa") on which it appears:

"The song...documents man's futile attempts to preserve time through technology, as well as the importance of private voyeurism to a band living in a constant spotlight."

Which could mean that anyone forced to live publicly and thus inevitably "on exhibition,"
must find sanity and balance through a healthy pre-voyeurism...even if it's "people watching" at the airport.

Of course Bono ..ever exhibitionistic...and once apparently (he would never do this now..?...and when he did it it was intended to be a prophetic act of sorts...not that any biblical prophets ever went naked..except, well..Isaiah 20:2 for starters) even a stripped on radio...

Q: I heard that Bono stripped in the middle of a crowded restaurant. [MJS] This is true. From Newsday March 27, 1992: At a dinner earlier
this week at London's celebrity haunt,
Nikita, Bono surprised his 18 dinner guests by removing all his clothes
- including his black bikini briefs - for
no apparent reason. During the Russian meal of mainly vodka and caviar,
we're told the Irish rocker sat naked
and acted as if being nude in a plush, crowded restaurant was the most
natural thing in the world. Which, in
some quarters, we suppose it is. "Sometimes people drink vodka and do
strange things," Nikita owner Sylvain
Borsi told us. But didn't he find Bono's behavior a bit eccentric, to say
the least? "No, he was very nice and very
civilized," Borsi said. "I think he just felt more comfortable with
nothing on."
But he had a really good reason! From Newsday March 30, 1992 : His
spokesman says Bono was actually
being interviewed by a journalist during dinner when the Irish rocker
decided to undress, as we reported. "The
writer was so unimaginative, so frozen, so unloose that Bono thought it
would be a good idea to take his clothes off," the spokesman said. "And there wasn't much of a reaction." link
June 25th 1987: U2 drop in to RTE for an interview. The band reveals the background to The Joshua Tree,
and a lot more besides. “It was a hot summer,” Dave Fanning recalls,
“and it was very warm in the studio. I asked Bono some questions about
the music, and he was reluctant to answer. “We come in every year and
give the same answers to the same questions,” he said, “maybe we'd say
something different if we were naked.
Meanwhile, the head of the radio department had brought his son in to
see U2 and walked into the studio to be confronted with five guys
sitting there stripped down to their boxers, drinking beer, chatting
away as if it was the most normal thing in the world.”

A Social History of U2 1976-2005 link

...has spoken a lot about these things , especially regarding his famous sunglasses"Self-Disclosure with Sunglasses On", and whether they/music/art are about revealing and/or concealing.

And most U2 fans are aware that one suggested title for the "Achtung Baby" was "Adam," who posed in bibilical Adam fashions (sans fig leaf) for a photo that did eventually appear (with a virtual figleaf of sorts ) among the album photos. Check this interviewer's take on Adam:

The much earlier period was (Adam's) engagement to Naomi Campbell. You know, rock star needs supermodel. I always feel it was a shame they met when he was off the rails. But the real Clayton is nurturing and polite, super-sensitive, and in many ways they were good together. The affair made him the celebrity he's always tried not to be, although I point out there was that time for the art work of Achtung Baby where he appeared naked to show the girls exactly what a supermodel gets. "Yes, but people still didn't recognise my face. I have always been a little shy of the camera." So obviously the way you deal with that is to appear naked? He laughs at his own contradictions, a lot more comfortable in his own skin these days.
And this review of 2004's "Atomic Bomb":

Despite rumors to the contrary, this album does not return to anything U2 has done before. They have, however, put down the masks of Kierkegaardian deception after a decade of mocking the musical world and Western culture through cartoonish mega-tours and tongue-in-cheek media stunts. The passion and "the sound" that define U2 no longer hide behind alter-egos and flying Trabants. U2 is again naked to the world. Maybe that is why it hurts to listen to this album. You don't have to be religious to recognize the pain when Bono laments "I think of you and your holy book / While the rest of us choke / Tell me, tell me, what do you see? / Tell me, tell me, what's wrong with me?" in 'When I Look at the World.'