Monday, July 30, 2012

what a Twitter mashup!


The philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard mashed with the tweets and observations of Kim Kardashian.

HT:Beth Maynard

God's name in vain?: "Christian culture doesn't tend to be overly curious about meaning and intent."

 Great reminder from "Stuff Christian Culture Likes":

As a participant in western Christianity you are taught that that keeping [the third commandment]  is supposed to keep God’s name from being spoken with disregard or irreverence. From Sunday school onward the exegesis of taking God's name in vain is usually presented without context or explanation. Christian culture doesn't tend to be overly curious about meaning and intent...

...The evangelical definition of taking God’s name in vain is so far-reaching that it has become the mainstream (secular) definition. Ask someone what it means to take God’s name in vain and regardless of their faith tradition or religious persuasion they will probably tell you that it means using one of God’s many pseudonyms in an exclamatory or thoughtless manner. Test it right now. Poll a friend or nine and they will prove this...

Much of western Christianity doesn't even know that the commandments were issued to the same Israelites who, when they asked God his name, weren’t given a straight answer. They still don’t have an answer. The story goes that answer was only "I Am," which is why Jews traditionally write the name as G-d. And Christian culture hasn't really publicized the fact that the commandment issued on Mount Sinai wasn’t intended to censor careless bandying about of a literal name, but rather was stating we are not to use God to justify or legitimize an action that is not justified or legitimated by God.

Getting this detail wrong has resulted in Christian culture declaring God’s position on causes such as war, marriage rights, evolution and megachurches, all while staunchly refraining from typing “omg” lest they blaspheme the name of G-d. The irony is excruciating, and they are able to keep it going as long as people don't ask too many questions.   
link, full article

Ole Anthony:

 Taking the name of God in vain doesn't mean saying "g-----n." At the 1975 National Religious Broadcasters Convention I told the audience taking the Lord's name in vain had nothing to do with cussing. It meant taking the slightest bit of glory for yourself. None of the early believers called themselves Christians. They called themselves People of the Way. They were too humble to put the name of Christ on their own flesh. I posed a question: "Can you imagine the Saul of Tarsus Evangelistic Association?" That was the last time I spoke at a national Christian meeting. -Truths I Couldn't Find in Church": by Ole and Skippy

Lawson Stone had a great article on this, but it's sadly offline

Jack The Subversive Submerger

Joel Hofman has a great point:

All Bible translators have to confront the problem of words that don't convey the same meaning to a modern audience as they did to an ancient one, said linguist Joel M. Hoffman, author of "And God Said - How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning."
"For example, `John the Baptist' was really like `John the Dunker,'" Hoffman said.
John was doing something new by submerging people in water to cleanse them of their sins, but that is lost on people 2,000 years later, Hoffman said. Today, people hearing John's title might think it refers to a Baptist denomination rather than his then-strange behavior.  -link

In Michael Bird's paraphrase, he has switched John to the nickname for John, Jack.
Nice move.

I will be combining the two, and tweaking a bit,  and translating as "John the Subversive merger."

I just hope no one mistakes that for "Jack the Ripper"..

or evoke Jack Nicholson's character in "The Shining"..

As Rabbi Adam would say...


Let the Reader Understand

From the preface page of Wendell Berry's novel Jayber Crow
(Michael McKinley posted this, and gave his post a great title..which iIstole):

 NOTICE: Persons attempting to find a "text" in this book will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a "subtext" in it will be banished; persons attempting to explain, interpret, explicate, analyze, deconstruct, or otherwise "understand" it will be exiled to a desert island in the company only of other explainers.   BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR

Lehrer on Colbert:: imagination, creativity

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jonah Lehrer
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jonah Lehrer
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Sunday, July 29, 2012

First known use of "It is what it is"

"IT IS WHAT IT IS!" You hear it every day these days, but guess who said it first? Charles Finney, in his systematic theology...circa 1878! See first paragraph, lecture 5 linked here (Thanks and HT the most well-read theologian on the planet, David Lee Hatton)...

Monday, July 16, 2012

ceremony masters, tricksters and liminality/mimesis/schismogenesis

Yes, of course we discourage use of Wikipedia as a scholarly source..

 ....but where else will you find this helpful section (it may be someone's thesis), but on the Wiki for "liminality".

I will have fun with this section in developing the role (rôle)of the pastor as "ceremony master/holy trickster in liminal space and time"  (Isn't that my job description? (:  ...add it to the list, along with this and this and this)

Liminal experiences in large-scale societies

The concept of a liminal situation can also be applied to entire societies that are going through a crisis or a “collapse of order”.[46] Philosopher Karl Jaspers made a significant contribution to this idea through his concept of the “axial age,” which was “an in-between period between two structured world-views and between two rounds of empire building; it was an age of creativity where ‘man asked radical questions’, and where the ‘unquestioned grasp on life is loosened’”.[47] It was essentially a time of uncertainty which, most importantly, involved entire civilizations. Seeing as liminal periods are both destructive and constructive, the ideas and practices that emerge from these liminal historical periods are of extreme importance, as they will “tend to take on the quality of structure”.[48] Events such as political or social revolutions (along with other periods of crisis) can thus be considered liminal, as they result in the complete collapse of order and can lead to significant social change.[49]
Liminality in large-scale societies differs significantly from liminality found in ritual passages in small-scale societies. One primary characteristic of liminality (as defined van Gennep and Turner) is that there is a way in as well as a way out.[50] In ritual passages, “members of the society are themselves aware of the liminal state: they know that they will leave it sooner or later, and have ‘ceremony masters’ to guide them through the rituals”.[51] However, in those liminal periods that affect society as a whole, the future (what comes after the liminal period) is completely unknown, and there is no "ceremony master" who has gone through the process before and that can lead people out of it.[52]
In such cases, liminal situations can become dangerous. They allow for the emergence of “self-proclaimed ceremony masters”, that assume leadership positions and attempt to “[perpetuate] liminality and by emptying the liminal moment of real creativity, [turn] it into a scene of mimetic rivalry”.[53]

[edit]Permanent liminality

Turner suggested that “a liminal state may become ‘fixed’, referring to a situation in which the suspended character of social life takes on a more permanent character.”[54] This idea of permanent liminality has been elaborated on extensively in numerous works by sociologist Arpad Szakolczai.

Within the context of ritual passages, a key feature of liminality is the final stage of reintegration, in which the initiand is recognized as a part of the social order and is welcomed into that order with a new role, “stamped by the formative experience”.[55] When this reintegration process does not take place, liminality becomes permanent, and can also become very dangerous. In his bookReflexive Historical Sociology, Arpad Szakolczai argues that there are three types of permanent liminality, each closely related to one of the phases of the rites of passage.[56] He acknowledges that “liminality becomes a permanent condition when any of the phases in this sequence becomes frozen, as if a film stopped at a particular frame”.[57] Szakolczai provides three examples of each type of permanent liminality: “monasticism (with monks endlessly preparing the separation, [representing the first stage]), court society (with individuals continuously performing their roles in an endless ceremonial game, [representing the second stage]), and Bolshevism (as exemplifying a society stuck in the final stage of a ritual passage)”.[58]

Imitation, leadership, and the role of the trickster

Mimesis, or the imitative aspect of human behavior, is an important aspect of liminality.[59] Individuals that are trapped in a liminal situation are not able to act rationally for two reasons: “first, because the structure on which ‘objective’ rationality was based has disappeared; and second, because the stressful, emotive character of a liminal crisis prevents clear thinking”.[60] This can lead to “mimetic” behavior on the part of the trapped individuals: “a central characteristic of liminal situations is that, by eliminating the stable boundary lines, they contribute to the proliferation of imitative processes and thus to the continuous reproduction of dominant messages about what to copy”.[61] Without stable institutions (which are effectively broken down in a liminal period), “people will look at concrete individuals for guidance”.[62]
This notion of imitation is closely tied to that of the trickster figure. The trickster is a universal figure that can be found in folktales and myths of nearly all cultures. These tricksters can be characterized as follows:
[they] are always marginal characters: outsiders, as they cannot trust or be trusted, cannot give or share, they are incapable of living in a community; they are repulsive, as – being insatiable – they are characterized by excessive eating, drinking, and sexual behavior, having no sense of shame; they are not taken seriously, given their affinity with jokes, storytelling, and fantasizing.[63]
In the context of liminality, the trickster is a very dangerous figure: “in a liminal situation where certainties are lost, imitative behavior escalates, and tricksters can be mistaken for charismatic leaders”.[64] This means that in their search for guidance, the individuals caught in the liminal situation might choose to follow a trickster, whom they confuse with a charismatic leader capable of “saving” them. Liminal periods that affect entire societies are characterized by the absence of a “master of ceremonies” (the leadership figures that are supposed to lead the initiands out of the liminal phase), which can in turn lead to the rise of tricksters into positions of power. When a trickster enters into a position of leadership, “liminality will not be restricted to a temporary crisis, followed by a return to normality, but can be perpetuated endlessly”.[65] This can be explained by three important characteristics of the trickster: his lack of a home (the trickster is, by definition, homeless and an outsider), lack of deeply felt human relations, and lack of existential commitments.[66] These traits cause the trickster to have no interest in solving the liminal crisis; “on the contrary, being really at home in liminality, or in homelessness, his real interest lies in its opposite, in perpetuating such conditions of confusion”.[67] On the other hand, the trickster is also a mime. “Imitation, whether in learning or in social activity, is only possible in so far as we are not aware that we are actually imitating…because as soon as we do so, imitation becomes a mere miming and would produce no effect in learning or no pleasure in involvement”.[68] Seeing as the trickster is incapable of “experiencing learning or the pleasure of sociability” as others do, he can be considered a mime rather than an imitator.[69] He thus appears to act just as everyone else does. With this in mind, there are “two characteristics [of the trickster] that under certain conditions could turn to be profitable, even [leading him to gain] unlimited and total power”: “his permanent state of exteriority helps him to think rationally and makes him a good mime: he cannot learn by genuine imitation but learns how to mime others and this produces laughter; thus he receives appreciation that otherwise he would never obtain”.[70]

The term schismogenesis, developed by British anthropologist Gregory Bateson, can be used to describe situations of permanent liminality. Through this concept, Bateson suggested “that societies can be stuck for a long time in a state where the previous unity was broken, and yet the schismatic components are forced to stay together, producing an unpleasant, violent, harrowing, truly miserable existence”.[71] Bateson further suggested that “entire cultures might systematically produce schizoid personalities” and, by combining such an idea with the work of Turner and anthropologist René Girard, one could say that the trickster is capable of founding such a culture. Girard’s concept of mimetic desire (and, more importantly, the phenomenon he called the “mimetic crisis”) can be linked to the trickster and to absence of masters of ceremonies in large-scale instances of liminality:

When a mimetic crisis is artificially staged in the ritual process, it always happens in the presence of a “master of ceremonies” who maintains order once the stabilities of everyday life are dissolved in the rites of separation. When the schism takes place in real life, however, it is not certain that charismatic heroes emerge that are up to solving the situation through eidetic perception, in the Platonic sense.[72]

In any normal situation, the trickster would not be able to gain any appreciation from others, but in a crisis situation (which, as an outsider, the trickster has no emotional connections to), “might come up with a rational way of ‘solving’ the crisis by turning things into his own image”.[73] It is precisely in these situations that “schismatic doubling and copying are escalated, and the erratic, even repulsive, becomes normal”.[74] Once others become aware of the true nature of the trickster’s behavior, it “becomes a genuine problem as a trickster character cannot be altered, so there is genuinely no solution”.[75] It is also not possible for the trickster figure to be punished, as “punishment is only meaningful if there is a chance of correction and improvement, which is hopeless in the case of a trickster character”.[76]
Some examples of trickster figures of 20th century politics include Adolf HitlerBenito MussoliniVladimir Lenin, and Joseph Stalin.[77] Szakolczai describes what can happen when such tricksters emerge in positions of power:
When trickster figures are mistaken for saviors, then emotions will be continually and repeatedly incited, until the community is reduced to a schismatic state. Societies can maintain themselves in such situations of oppression and violence for a long time, without returning to normal order, if stable external referent points are absent. This is why schismogenic societies need to maintain themselves in a perpetual state of war; presumably surrounded by enemies who try to conquer and destroy them.[78]
Thus the culture that is established by such tricksters following their rise to power “can have its structure and persistence, as the negative sentiments of hatred, hostility, fear and envy, based on vital instincts of self-preservation, can indeed maintain in the long term a social order in a relative state of stability”.[79] But in addition, this same society would “preserve, forever, its broken, fragmented, schismatic character”.[80]

N.T. Wright on women in ministry

The case for Junia:

N.T. Wright on the resonance of the Bible in postmodernity

NT Wright on  postmodernity, or "the resonance of the Bible in today's new and often worried world"..   "how the Bible can inform key debates in this  new era...a  fresh re-reading of the Bible   and rethinking  of 'biblical worldview.'....without spin or shouting".  Three angles:
part 1)apocalyptic imagination
part 2)the arts
part 3)power of God vs. power of the world/global ethics


"Queering" the Pentecostals


New Ad Urges Hipsters To Go To Applebee's Ironically

New Ad Urges Hipsters To Go To Applebee's Ironically
On Today Now!, a consumer expert shows Jim a new Applebee's commercial that urges young people to come and mock their restaurants

New Ad Urges Hipsters To Go To Applebee's Ironically

Friday, July 13, 2012

Unkingdoms and "conversations that are neither polite nor free from confusion" (book review, "That Holy Anarchist")

Don't let the apparent oxymoron of "Christiian anarchist" scare you off; or cause you to call the heresy police on me (They already have my number).

Mark Van Steenwyck, author of  

"That Holy Anarchist: Reflections on Christianity & Anarchism,"  has struggled with just what to call the nexus:

Language will always fail to describe the strange relationship between the Way of Jesus and anarchistic political imoulkses.  There are some real downsides to identifying as a "christian anarchist.."  The stress naturally falls on one of the two words as though they are two separate things mashed together, unreconcilable into any cohesive whole.
I've toyed with alternative language...Even my own affinity for a phrase like "the unkingdom of God" is ofetn too confusing to be helpful in polite conversation. --p. 65

He adds a hilarious and too true footnote to that last line that is worth the price of the book I am about to review:

"I recognize that the best conversations are neither polite nor free from confusion."

On that note, let's move directly into my (im)polite and (inevitably)confusing review of the book.

In two words:

Highly recommended.

And for a a few more words (mostly his, with my comments), read on.
My approach will be  proceeding chapter by chapter, letting you in on some of my (literal) highlights, some of the author's  one-liners that are amazingly articulate.............. and how this all has got me thinking and wrestling.

To your surprise, I am not going to answer the obvious question that has already tripped you up: How does he define "Christianity" and "anarchism?"  I want you to buy the book, especially to see the section where he  so masterfully does (or doesn't?)      But start here, as it may in essence answer the tenor of both questions......... let it soak in:

Bottom line:

Christo-anarchism refers not only to the insight that Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God has anarchic (anti-domination) implications, but also the assumption that, only by nurturing practices centered on the presence of the Living Christ, can we move from domination to non-domination, from death to life, from oppression to liberation, and from alienation to love. p, 65

Chapter 1:   Jesus and the Unkingdom of God

The author admits he is not completely happy with the "Unking" and "Unkingdom" terns he has coined.  But I can't not incorporate them into my  teaching/preaching/St. Arbuck's repertoire (as I have with Tom Fuller's  "kingdomed"), as this  gets to the heart of the book, and to Jesus shape of subversion.  It may even be an attempt to push Donald Kraybill's "upside down Kingdom" beyond downside up./

A quote that is hugely helpful to those of us who love to talk about "subversion of empire;"
a quote that I would have given anything for LO Society's  Bob Lyon to live ling enough to  add his "amen" to; a quote that reminds us how careful and prayerful we are called to be, as we practice. the praxis of subversion:

Jesus reign isn't other-worldy.  It isn't apolitical.  It's just political in a  radivally different sort of way. Rather than  taking Caesar's throne  (or any throne, including the one Satan offered him) Jesus is saying that Caesar's days are numbered.  By saying "My kingdom is not from this world" he isn't saying  "My kingdom is only spiritual. so you don't have to worry.  Jesus' Kingship renders Caesar's obsolete.  It isn't a mere "trumping" as though Jesus is simply greater than Caesar; it is an entirely different sort of kingship.  (pp12-13)
We must ask "sort," kind," "form,"  "shape"  questions a whole lot more.
I fear we don't at all.

Van Steenwyk notes that early Christians were called (at least by Tacitus
"haters of humanity" for their  subversion.
Do I need to even ask why (a very different SORT of reason) we are called  "haters of humanity" in our day, and in my country?


Chapter Two: Definitions

See my earlier thoughts. But it's worth noting that "Christianity is even harder to define than anarchism." (p. 19)  and that "'anarchism' is the name given to the principle under whicha collectivity-a group of people-may be conceived without rule."  The "collectivity" language is nice, and may be another nod to Kraybill.

Chapter Three: Anarchic Impulses in Christian History

This chapter is a fascinating, concise  history  of  anarchic Christianity..  This exhaustive work has never been compiled before, let alone  presented in such a succinct summary. You will meet some  movements  you  have never heard of, but should've.

But here is an observation (p. 30) that floored me:

  "Most radical Christian groups either die out or go mainstream."

 God help us.

"We should try to learn from those groups that still exist but haven't mainstreamed.,  They may hold the key to sustainable nonconformity."

Sustainable nonconformity? 
Another phrase  worth far more than price of the book.
Question:  why doesn't that phrase compete for Christian book titles and buzzwords...compete with "purpose driven" and "12 easy steps" and "how to.."

Don't answer that.
Instead move to this provocative quote from Ched Myers.

Chapter Four: Anarchic Impulses in Christian History:

The “Fall” in Gen 1-11, then, is not so much a cosmic moment of moral failure as a
progressive “history” of decline into civilization—exactly contrary to the myth of
Progress. Its polemical perspective is plausible when correlated with various
aspects of the Neolithic “rupture” hypotheses noted above. The biblical primeval
history thus should be considered not only as “mythic memory,” but also as
perhaps the first literature of resistance to the grand project of civilization—rightly
warning against its social pathologies and ecocidal consequences.  -p. 35 in the book, and context  of Myers' article at this link

Or Vam Steenwyck's observation (following  Kraybill's taxomomy) that "In the wilderness, [Jesus} is tempted politically, economically.." (p. 39

And what is the temptation toward?

" assert his messiah-ship"  (p. 39)

Hey, wait! This is precisely what Western evangelicals need Jesus (and Scripture) to do.

But Jesus doesn't only not do it..

....but in a sense, doesn't even do it indirectly... even that would be caving into demonic temptation.

If that tripped you up "impolitely," read it again...and then read some NT Wright and get over it. (:

Yes, I believe with all my heart and faith that Jesus is Messiah.
It's clear that Van Steenwyck does, too.
But until we see that how/if he "asserted" that is a major issue, we haven't even started the important conversation: 

 "The temptation concerns  the sort of reign Jesus should we pursue."

What sort of reign and kingdom /churchdoms) do we pursue?

Do ever even think to think about asking that question?
Add it to your list, along with this one, for another random (?) example.

And don't get me started on the author's quote of Ellul's  (p. 44) regarding the
"intrinsic nonlegitimacy of institutions " (No, Ellul's one liners are never misunderstood as heresy(:  See this)

Oh, I have mentioned soundbites worth the price of the book.
The book is priceless for the insight on Jesus inaugural sermon in Luke 4.

I have long noted how "when quoting Isaiah 61, he omits that portion whuch speaks of the Lord's vengeance."  (p. 40)

That's radical and subversive enough.

But the observation  (in a footnote, no less...where many bombs are hidden): "the context makes this clear: The miracles Jesus references in his sermon involve the healing of Gentiles" (emphasis mine)

"Provocatively, Jesus seems willing to include oppressors in the kingdom."

That's why Kingdom is not just upside down, but UnKingdom.

Do I include oppressors in my kingdom?
If not, what am i doing with a kingdom anyway? Time to "undo" it.

Chapter Five: Tensions

 The evangelical approach of preaching the opposite of a counterfeit is...counterintuitively.. not the right strategy:

I don’t believe that it makes any sense to say “God is such a big King that he obliterates all other kings…therefore, I’m an anarchist.” Rather, I would say “The way in which God sustains and shapes existence…and calls us to be in deeper relationship is the opposite of how Kings function…therefore, I am an anarchist.” To quote the late Dorothee Soelle:
Obedience presupposes duality: one who speaks and one who listens; one who knows and one who is ignorant; a ruler and ruled ones. Religious groups who broke away from the spirit of dependency and obedience cherish different values such as mutuality and interdependence…The main virtue of an authoritarian religion is obedience…God’s love and righteousness are less important than God’s power…why do people worship a God whose supreme quality is power, not justice; whose interest lies in subjection, not in mutuality; who fears equality?” 1
Jesus is an unking. I worship the one who calls me friend. But I don’t think it would be accurate to say that I “obey” him in the way that servants obey masters. That is just a first step–a metaphor. Just as most green anarchists believe they should respect, cherish, and affirm nature, I am called to worship and love the source of life. Semantics? Not to me.  (p. 33)

Even in the context of trying to offer an apologetic for Christian anarchy, "The temptation is to try to force it" (p. 58.
It always is.
And it never works.

Or it does work, and that's the problem.

Could be that "trying to force it": is  a testation, and the core one, at that.
Chapter 6: The UnKingdom of God is Here:

Perhaps the highlight of the entire book for me was his suggested (not blueprinted or formulaic) practices.   They must be read slowly, and considered.   If we really catch that "to be mystics is to experience reality" (68),   we are ready to engage.
By the time you are done with this book, the author hopes you will sense

..a  shift away from seeing Christian Anarchism as a set of beliefs and ideals, as well as a shift away from seeing it as a category or a faction. Rather, I want to see it as a way of interpreting and a set of practices first and foremost. Certainly, likeminded communities are bound to network and organize around common ideals and convictions. This is important and good. But in that networking and organizing, I believe our focus should be on engaging the Living Christ.As a friend of mine once told me: “All we have to offer the world is the Presence of God.” I agree. And I believe that Presence tears down walls of alienation. And that is, in so many important ways, an anarchist project.


So buy the book.

Even though an early version of it is online.

                    Even though the  first four chapters are  embedded below

                                                 Buy it, at full price, precisely because, as you will find on page 3..

                                                                   "This book is not copyrighted."


How Christlike...and that?

That Holy Anarchist

Kingdom of God is collectivity network, not aggregate at crosswalk

Kraybill,  "Upside Down Kingdom,":,
"The Kingdom of God is a collectivity--anetwork of persons....more than a series of
individualized email connections linkingthe King to each subject...[It] infuses theweb of relationships, binding King and citizens togeter" -Kraybill (p, 19 emphases mine)

See also:

Kraybill further illustrates the point of community over self by discussing the distinction between an aggregate and a collectivity.[5] He illustrates an aggregate as a group of people who occupy a time and space together but lack any true community (i.e. people at a crosswalk). The key is that they do not influence each other. A collectivity, as Kraybill defines it, has an element of interdependence. These individuals “influence each other, formulate common goals, and together decide how to reach them.”[6] The Kingdom of God functions as a collectivity. The individual lays down his life for the good of the collective. For the church to bear witness to this Kingdom, the body of Christ must exercise this practice.  link

For classes, I have charted out 
aggregate vs collectivity this way,

 as "sets" (a la bounded, centered and fiuzzy)...

"Ingesting God": “Don’t be rude and take too much.”

In honor of Kristin Marble's great post:

..which I'll link to as "Missional Sacraments part 21,"