Sunday, February 22, 2004

Aramaic Anyone?

Out of curiousity, are any of you going to be able to see The Passion this week? If I want to see it, I've got about a two hour drive to the nearest city, so it might take me a while. But if anyone sees it, they ought to post what they thought about it.

On the same topic, I found a story about Aramaic on the web that I thought was interesting. I didn't even know that it was still spoken, but I guess it is in some places.

Finally, if you've got a few minutes, I've been blogging on my own just for fun.

Peace, we outta here!

Friday, February 13, 2004

Tourette's and the Other (estastic utterings, rendered meaningless by my inability to communicate)

Okay, I'm going to try to tackle Jake's post concerning the other. It's difficult to respond to, because I don't want to nit-pick certain things I might have problems with, but answer, as best I can, his big picture. I think I might have failed (since i'm writing this after I wrote what's below), but maybe Jake can clear up some things if he doesn't think I understood them correctly.


It seems like reconciliation, at least in the Biblical sense, isn't quite a done deal, because it needs to be a mutual decision. While we might be reconciled to God through Christ's redemptive work, God is not reconciled to us. I know that sounds a bit heretical at first glance, but it makes sense when you think about it. God, in his sovereignty, has given us the ability/power to reject his gift of grace. In effect, some have decided not to reconcile their relationship with God, even though he is reconciled to us. It's strange to think of it that way, because it seems to elevate humanity more than we'd like. But if we adhere to a free will theology....

So Jake, I agree wholeheartedly that our role is not to bring people to reconciliation with God, but rather to point to the Christ's reconciliatory work, realizing that the Holy Spirit will be the one who prompts people to join the reconciliation party. Party on Wayne. Party on Garth. Party on J.C.

Counting Equality

I have to honest here, I'm not sure what it means to "not count equality with God a thing to be grasped..." Maybe I should repost the verses. "Who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Ph. 2.6-8)

I guess there are a number of ways to interpret "grasped." Cognitively? Emotionally? Physically? (As if...?) Socially? Spiritually (as in the Holy Spirit)? I'm very unsure. It seems from the context following the phrase that when equality with God is not grasped, it means taking the form of a servant, human form, the likeness of men, obedient (as all men are) to die when his body failed. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like the verse associates servanthood with humanity, not just in a Creator-creation sense, but in a creation to creation sense. What I'm getting here is a(nother) justification of the Christ command for Christians to be servants, not necessarily (though definitely not excluding) an "identification with the other."

Following that, I don't know if one could use this verse to justify a Biblical command that the Church "must be obedient to the point of death, both socially and physically" as Jake wrote. While I think obedience and submission to the authority of God are Biblical concepts, I don't know if this is the ideal place to look for justification of it. Again, I have to be honest that I don't have a clue what it means to die socially. So I'll defer that for another time.

Broken Fragments of Application (in other words, a homilitical example of how not to end a sermon)

As far as application goes, I would broaden what it means to be "sick" in order to be identified with the other. I could go into a list here, but it take me all night. Those living with STDs (who can hide their sickness if there is no visible sign of it in every-day life), those plagued by illnesses of the mind, those indoctrinated with prejudicial or racist philosophies, those deceived by the illusion of the "American Dream," those caught in cycles of abuse, whether it be physical, sexual, drugs, hate, etc., etc., etc.

My point is not to make a definitive list, but to simply state my opinion that to be poor in spirit is to be in true need of the Gospel. I used to interpret "blessed are the poor in spirit" as those who are identify with the poor -- who act as if they are poor no matter their income. I don't anymore. Poor in spirit means those who are truly destitute in their spiritual life. Just as most of the poor need assistance to get back on their feet, the poor in spirit need assistance getting on their existential feet. They need to find meaning in life, which is why Magnolia is such an incredible example of the poor in spirit. Here are a group of people who have no concrete reason for existence, who simply float through life in constant pain and disillusion -- that is to say detachment from the very things we as disciples are attached to.

The Gospel, our Gospel, is a message of grace that resonates existentially as well as socio-economically. Christ is both the answer to the quest for meaning in the universe, and the liberation sought for by those in physical captivity. I'm not sure how eschatalogical those are (meaning or liberation), maybe that's something to think about (and talk about here).

So to be identified with the other, in my mind, is to identify with the poor in spirit. Not to look back at before we were saved and remember how much it sucked (some of us can't even do that), but to take an active interest in those who have not reconciled with God (who are still suffering from the first rebellion in the Garden). Maybe that's too broad, and not what we're supposed to be going for, but it's what I think.

One final note on defining "Other"

I'm just getting more confused as I type, so I'll try to keep this brief. Popular culture today has a counter-culture that's not always the church. For every group that we could identify as "other" in America (the poor, the sick, drug users, homosexuals, the IRS, radical greens, vegans, the porn industry, professional soccer players), there is a counter-cultural group, that while not involved in those actions or states of mind, chooses to defend those involved in such actions/lifestyle choices. So the problem is, in a culture which embraces pluralism, is there such a thing as the definitive "other" anymore? Liberals don't see another class when they see the poor, abusive, etc., they see themselves (or rather, what could have happened to them under different circumstances).

Christ didn't live and minister in a culture like we have today. Since right and wrong were black in white in everyone's mind, and since the entire culture was a religious one, when he went against culture, he had to inevitably go up against religious culture. Do we have the same black/white options Christ did? If I decide that gay marriage is a good thing, sure, I'll have to go up against the conservative culture, but I don't go up the entire culture (because there is a large minority of our culture that's for it). I don't even have the option of going up against the entire religious culture (because some churches are dandy with the idea).

So how do we identify with the other, when there is only an "other" in modern conservative culture? Which begs another question, which I don't ask facetiously. In light of this, could conservative culture (or maybe a more Limbaugh/Gingerich radical form of it) be an option for the other? When there is no consensus on the other, could there be more than one other? (Now I'm losing myself...)

Monday, February 09, 2004

Why I Have Trouble Talking About Postmodernism, aka It's Gotten Too Big To Make Sense

Ahhhh, postmodernism. It seems like every time I start talking about it again, it's morphed (at least in my mind) into something different. Maybe it would be healthy for someone to historically delineate the differences between relativism and PM. I can't do that. So let's do something else.

While I would agree that those in the blue collar or agricultural fields might be more open to PM "experiences, means of communication, and different perspectives", than those of, say 50 years ago, I would contend that there is still a large percentage of people who still see the world in very black & white terms, in absolutes rather than degrees.

I would point to Bush's approval ratings concerning the war in Iraq to get a general picture regarding the issue. Bush has repeatedly stated that he sees war in Iraq as a very black and white issue. The US is right, and Hussein is/was wrong. There is no in between for him. Regardless of whether or not this is true, recent polls still show Bush's approval rating on the war still somewhere between 47-54%. Granted this is only one litmus test you could use, but it does say that nearly half of Americans agree with Bush that we are absolutely right to be there.

Most of this support doesn't come from urban areas or the coasts, but from the midwest and the south. These are still conservative bastions, prone to modern thought (or pre-modern thought?) on right/wrong absolutes, usually disregarding anything that smacks of relativism. If there is an experiential current in some of the areas (PM’s "experiences, means of communication, and different perspectives”), there are a variety of reasons why these are not due to PM thought.

One is that rural areas have always been more likely to be community based, rather than individualistic. Another is that religious life has always been through experience rather than reason in most of these areas. Rural areas never got over the Great Awakening’s emphasis on spiritual conversion, and never converted to the modern conversion-emphasis on reasonable faith. This is why the Charismatic movement started in rural areas and not urban areas – it was simply an extension of 17th/18th century conversion-experience evangelism. Still another reason is that story has always been a more prominent in rural areas as a means of communication.

I guess what I mean to say is that the mind-set in rural America is not so much a post-modern one, because that would imply that they had first bought into a modern one. But the fact is that their mind-set is perhaps more pre-modern than anything. They hold to moral absolutes, but have some similarities with the PM mindset as far as communication styles and values go. However, it’s not fair to characterize them with PM because they never held to the modern mind-set in the first place. These folks will be the first to react against abuses of PM, and already have (much of the greatest reaction against 9/11 came from less urbanized areas; the more cautionary reaction took place in urban locals). This was precisely because rural communities were more prone to see the issue as black/white (“they were at fault”) rather than varying shades of gray (“we should share some of the blame”).

That’s more than I was planning to say, so I guess Jake’s last-last post will have to wait until tomorrow. I hope this made sense, living in super-duper rural America has just taught me that PM isn't an issue (yet?) in many places in America. It's just that, even though rural communities might not be getting into the PM debate, they do shape religious opinion by donating to certain parachurch organizations. The also shape public policy opinion because of their voting power (carrying the south gets presidents elected). Even though they aren't very vocal on the issue, they still have a lot of power in shaping American thought for those two reasons.

Welcome to the party Jonny

Welcome, Jonny. Perhaps some new perspectives could get the conversation going again. I don't have anything particular to say about your points as a whole. The only point of contention I would make is with your claim that PM won't ever be dominant in US culture. I'd say that it is already dominant, but it cannot be understood as Derrida or Foucalt would have wanted it. Just as the enlightenment, scientific thinking, and modernism was dominant in the western world. In these cases there was, and always will be, a strict divide between those who are involved in intellectual engagement and those who are involved in material production. While those in the mid-west still proclaim absolutes of country, God, and themselves, they seem to be holding these things in a very PM way. No doubt the older generations still seek to prove themselves against everyone else, but everybody else is more concerned with experiences, means of communication, and different perspectives. I'd say the battle is not between PM and M for dominant cultural world view but rather anything and material/commercial/consumerism. If this is accepted as a potential dominant worldview you may be onto something. Still, it seems like people think about these issues differently today. Like they're driven for money and success in a more PM way? I'm not sure. Anyway, I'm anxious to see what you have to say to may last post before this. In fact, I was interested in seeing what anyone had to say. Maybe we should invite someone who thinks the Gospel is about making lots of money to post with us...

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Bullet Points

Word. Jake told me 'bout ya'll, and I spent an hour or so catching up on what you guys have been talking about. And since I have an opinion on everything, I had to say a few things about everything. They are:

Film & Gospel - Okay, okay. Andy's right in saying that Jesus wouldn't have made films if he were ministering today, but only on a technicality. Remember, Christ taught for three years, then caught the A-Train out of here. Your typical film has about a year of pre-production, three or four months of production, then, depending on how many effects shots there are, another three+ months of post-production. That's about half of Christ's three year ministry. But, that doesn't mean his disciples wouldn't have gone to Hollywood. (Bartholomew probably, he always struck me as a pretty boy.)

Jesus and Gay Bishops - I still don't know what to think of this one, especially since it's a mainline denom. that really doesn't adhere to Scripture all that much when it comes codes of morality. But, I would argue with Brian(?) that homosexuality (as an issue) is not going to be the next abortion. For one simple reason, abortion is already the next slavery. Slavery was legal in the American colonies and the US for over 200 years before it was outlawed, and that even took a civil war between citizens of the US; not some pretty piece of legislation or a Supreme Court decision. The issue evolved for generations, and could has evolved for many more. It took an actual war for it to be (abruptly) made illegal. It's indicative of our instantaneous-gratification culture that we're already looking for another moral fight (gay marriage, cloning, stem-cells, etc.) when the abortion fight is still in its infancy stages. Not that we can't fight all these at the same time, but it sure makes it hard to focus when we elevate one or the other whenever public policy debate makes for great fundraising drives over in Colorado Springs.

RIP: Postmoderism? - 1) PM will never be the dominant culture in the US for two reasons. The rural midwest and the deep south. 2) It took two World Wars and human rights abuses in Soviet Russia and China to kill Post-Enlightenment Utopianism, not a bunch of carefully reasoned, academic arguements from philosphy and the Bible. Experiencing the abuses of said Utopianism brought it down; it might take the same for PM to fall. 9/11 was probably only the beginning of the end for PM. And we're probably in for a long death.

"Hey God, you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning" - God "forgetting" has nothing to do with knowledge or lack thereof. It's simply pre-Enlightenment, Eastern, Hebraic, poetic language. Does God forgetting our sins mean that such knowledge actually leaves him? Not the point you ninny-minded Westerners! (Though it would make it hard for him on Judgement Day before the ol' white throne.) It means, that for all intents and purposes, it is as if they never existed. We're not reading a 20th century textbook on endocramtic hyperpreterbolic contusion-stasis theory, we're reading the Gospels.

That's it for now. I've got a whopper of thoughts to post about the Christian 'hood, but they'll have to wait, as will a response to Jake's last post, which needs to be reread maybe three more times before I can figure what he's saying (just kidding....mostly).

Psycho killer, kess-ka-see, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa!