Friday, December 05, 2008

simulacra-kklesia (part 2): Steve is not Jesus..nor is Brittney

As we were

saying before the Matrix so rudely interrupted us...
(part one of this series is found by clicking

When it's debated whether a song is about masturbation or God,
maybe the only answer is it's about both..

or actually a
simulacra about simulacra..
about simulacra:

"I've been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they're real"
-"Pictures of You", The Cure

We all need to shatter our images/pictures/icons/ikons,
so we are positioned "see as we are seen."
Maybe said sad song is a prayer:

if only i had thought of the right words i could have held on to Your heart
if only i'd thought of the right words i wouldn't be breaking apart
all my pictures of You

Looking so long at these pictures of You
but i never hold on to Your heart
looking so long for the words to be true
but always just breaking apart
my pictures of You

there was nothing in the world that i ever wanted more
than to feel You deep in my heart
there was nothing in the world that i ever wanted more

than to never feel the breaking apart
all my pictures of You

Yet our culture, and our church

culture, prefers imagolotary;
opting for the co-opting of simulacra.
Such pictures may look like they look better than the real real thing,
but they doesn't exist.

Which is why we need to look at them.
stare and glare them down,

and in the name of the Image of God
diss them till they

Otherwise, as Walter Wink has warned, we turn into their beastly image!

I am all for shattering images so we can be about creating images.

No, don't hear what I'm not saying.
I don't want you to worship the beast or graven images..

But we just might if we don't imagine our images imaginatively.
And without too much stained glass.

Jesus is Image of God, in addition to being Word of God.
We were created in the image of God, so that imago imagines that we create images:

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1)..and also...Image of God (Col. 1:15)..

(...and thus, so are we.....if we are indeed made-imaged in the image of the One who is Word and Image).

On the possibilties and perils of "projected images," let's start with the perils.
As they often do (2112, "The Spirit of Radio", the band RUSH cautions against the commercialization/communization of the music (read:church) system, especially as images domiate and mammon motivates. On a CD tellingly titles "Moving Pictures," they upgrade (in 1980) the Simon/Garfunkel lyric: "The words of the prophets written on the studio walls...echo with the sound of.. (the sarcastic punchline)...salesmen!"
We need more more salesmen in the Body; especially those hawking images, eccelsiaporngraphy, and a imagined Jesus.
And catch the important article by John Tschetter, using the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (and Aphrodite, of course) as conversation starter:

Our culture is deeply committed to images, and is blatantly idolatrous in doing so. The 2001 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue had written on the cover, "The Goddesses of the Mediterranean". This goddess can be none other that the Greek goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, sensuality, and sexual love. Considering that normal speed movie film contains 24 frames per second, try to imagine how many times per hour the image of Aphrodite is presented to be seen and worshiped through the projected world in our culture. Suddenly 1 Corinthians 10:14 and 1 John 5:21 take on great significance for us today! In a similar way, the more deeply we attempt to engage our culture through the projected world, the more vulnerable we are ourselves to idolatry, because the essence of the projected world is made images. Both roots of idolatry are at work in the formation of images for the projected world. Our making of images to present our work in ministry is not invulnerable to idolatry. -John Tschetter, "The Three Worlds"

I just hope Sports Illustrated doesn't use the new subway ads to create a moving "Swimsuit Issue" movie..

They probably will.

And it too will be a sign (literally) of the times, and a wake-up/shake-up call to the church: both (as Tschetter has cautioned) that "making of not invulnerable to idolatry," and (as I am emphasizing here, and in a prior post here) that we as church are not yet "positively exploiting" the postmodern primacy of images over words. In this current hangover from, and hiccup of, modernity (and the Reformation's) word-basedness, our default idolatry might still be word-worship or bibliolatry.
For I need to remember, that as tricky as images are to imagine; and thus make..

Words can be graven (literally graven) images as well.

Every election year, we elect images.
Which requires any candidate to lie.
(Or project airbrushed simulacra centerfolds, which is the same thing)

T-Bone Burnett is often insightfully and frightfully prophetic; the context below is "politicians and preachers"...especially when they are on TV:

"If you're talking to that many people at one time, you're bound to be lying to someone at some time"
-"I Can Explain Everything"

Of course this is the guy who wrote the words to "Image":

I had this image of you
You had this image of me
And your image would talk to my image
And my image would talk to your image
And somewhere along the way
Our images sort of let each other down
My image loves that song.

Maybe all of our friends are

imaginary friends?
Or at least simulacrated ones?

(Virtual relationships: Facebook as simulacra)

Having said all that..

I was thrilled and

challenged to read Mylon Bradley Penner say out loud that our:

North American evangelical subculture--with its televised programs and church services, its theme parks and bumper stickers, and like paraphernalia; and its abilty to turn anything remotely related to Christianity into a consumer product--is waiting for a sustained sociological-theological anaylsis in terms of Baudrillard's categories as a nihilisic fixation on simulacra and hyperreality.
("A New Kind of Conversation," p.38)

Now, I am not sustained; but I am all about sociological-theological analysis of simulcra, especially if no one else has done it.

These two blog posts, which may become a book (I'll hire my image to Holy Ghostwrite it), are an "unsustained" start and stab.

Better souls than me are beginning to speak to this..
notably "The Sarcastic Lutheran,"
who in a quote about

watching a Paul White program on Christian TV:

"She's what fancy French postmodernist Baudrillard would call a simulacrum of a woman (an imitatation for which there is no original' ("Salvation on the Small Screen," p. 12)
Ironically, here the Sarcastic One was not being sarcastic.
She saved that for her equally prophetic comment on a commercial for the
Holy Land Experience, a theme park which "re-created" (for recreation) the Holy Land in the USA, complete with a resident costumed actor playing Jesus in

a hyperreal Jerusalem. What is most disturbing to me is the way the language of the ad implies that the Holy Land Experience is really

the Holy Land. The guest who said you can understand the Bible only once you see it seems entirely unaware that
he isn't seeing the Bible, or ancient Jerusalem, or Jesus himself for that matter, but a simulacrum...The ad (see it here) suggests that

we can 'look who would into the eyes of the man who change the course of history.' I'm sure the Jesus reenactment actor, let' s call him Steve, is a nice enough guy, but I'm not convinced that Steve is going to change the course of history (but hey, I've been wrong before).
(p. 56)

What we create as creative co-creators, are too
often hyper-real false images of holy things
that detract and defract from the really real thing.


But as U2 discovereed in the 1990s, sometimes the only method for subverting simulacra is entering i head on, No redemption without incarnation; no redeeming a culture without being in (but not of) it. Such is inevitablt risky, and will be widely misunderstood.
Boym did U2 find that out in the 90s.

But they pioneered and paved the way for us; once again a decade ahead of their time:

("hope its sounds as good as it looks" he says):

More on all that tomorrow..

1 comment:

  1. nice to see you use the Cure for example


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!