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Archive for April, 2011

3 Part Interview with William T. Cavanaugh

April 16, 2011 Leave a comment

1) THE MYTH OF RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE

2) CONSUMERISM AND SPIRITUALITY

3) THE POST GFC WORLD

I’ve been a huge fan of William T. Cavanaugh’s since I started reading articles of his about three years ago. Admittedly his Myth of Religious Violence was the first full book of his that I picked up (I was stoked to have found it the first week of it’s publication). I talked about that book so much it actually inspired two regulars at my coffee shop to buy copies and now they’re trying to get others in their church to read it.

For about two years now I’ve regularly searched the internet to see if there have been any new audio/video lectures of his being posted. Unfortunately for Cavanaugh fans the pickings are slim for audio/video media featuring Cavanaugh. So I was stoked to see this three-part video interview on the Centre for Public Christianity website. The first video corresponds roughly to the issues he discusses in The Myth of Religious Violence, while the second discusses themes addressed in his Being Consumed. The third video…I haven’t watched it yet. I got too excited that I couldn’t not post these up right away. Now that it’s posted I’ll watch it. You should too!

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Chomsky’s Comin’ to Town!

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

  Noam Chomsky will be making a few appearances at a couple of the colleges around our area next week. He will be giving a lecture entitled “Prospects for Peace in the Middle East,” at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20, in the Stoller Center gymnasium on Pacific University’s Forest Grove campus.

That same day he will be in Eugene OR, at the University of Oregon to deliver a talk on “Global Hegemony: The Facts, The Images.” The talk will be at 7 p.m. in Columbia 15.

These talks will be free and are open to the public. And you can bet I’ll be there.

Zizek on What it Means to be a Revolutionary Today

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

“Inside the Apple” by Yehuda Amichai

April 12, 2011 1 comment

“You visit me inside the apple.
Together we can hear the knife
paring around and around us, carefully,
so the peel won’t tear.

You speak to me. I trust your voice
because it has lumps of hard pain in it
the way real honey
has lumps of wax from the honeycomb.

I touch your lips with my fingers:
that too is a prophetic gesture.
And your lips are red, the way a burnt field
is black.
It’s all true.

You visit me inside the apple
and you’ll stay with me inside the apple
until the knife finishes its work.”

……………………………

Yehuda Amichai’s “Inside the Apple” wrestles with a subtle tension at the heart of the human experience, between the meaning of human relationship and the inevitability of death. What has impressed itself upon me most deeply about this poem is it’s expression of the firm resolution of the human spirit to enter into true relationship, to make itself vulnerable to loss in light of life’s fragile finitude. In this way, where even many poets have caved-in to a self-protective cynicism, this poem is an affirmation of the importance of being human with other humans in spite of our ineluctable end. Amichai combines rustic imagery with  from the Hebraic religion to offer us a portrait of what it means to be human, in a way that is distinctly existential and theological. Read more…

Going to Bed Defeated

April 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Today was the first day of Spring quarter at school. What seemed to be shaping up to be a pretty kick-ass start to the quarter, quickly plummetted into a giant bureaucratic fist-f@#$. Since I enrolled at Clark College I have been entirely dependent upon financial aid for my continued academic existence. If it wasn’t for my pell grant, I would have never been able to take a single college course. This is why, when I decided I would be transfering to Portland State University to finish my undergraduate studies, my projected academic timeline was set back by a year: Though Portland is literally a five or ten minute drive from any point in Vancouver, these cities exist in different states, and I can’t even remotely begin to think of how I could ever pay triple the ammount in tuition costs for out-of-state residency. So I had to move to Portland to begin the 12-month long process of setting up residency in Oregon (even though every universtiy in Oregon, Washington, and even most in Idaho reciprocate in-state tuition prices among transfer students. Every university that is, except PSU). I bit the bullet and have (reluctantly) adjusted my academic plan: I will be 30 when I recive my B.A.

Today I was informed that because I moved out of state (into Oregon) I would have to pay Clark more than twice the ammount I had been as a Washington state resident. My pell grant would still leave me with a $1,678.50 bill to pay out-of-pocket. I spent four hours in various lines in the administrative offices today trying desperately to squeeze-out vital information, one drop at a time, from the student workers in the financial aid office and in registration and even admissions. Eventually, after exhausting all the possible options available to me, after coming to the realization that, best case scenario, I’d have to fork out $750, I was forced to drop all of my classes this quarter.

I’m going to bed now. Reluctantly, though I have to be up at 5am for work, because I feel like today was such a waste of time. I know I’m just screwing myself for sleep for tomorrow, but I can’t help it. I really don’t want to go to bed.

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What is Political Theology?

April 1, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the political dimension of human life. It’s an odd thing to cross that ideological veil of American life, from a conception of oneself as essentially individual and having nothing really to do with society as a whole (apolitical), into a (more authentic) self-conception that connects one’s own life to the lives of others (via socio-politcal awareness). I feel strongly that the major disparity between those who posses political power and the vast majority, the people (a disparity that keeps democracy unrealizable) is due at least in large part to the inability of the people to take seriously the social (and therefore the political) dimension of their lives.

I am reminded time and time again of my experiences of church, where, contrary to the beautiful, theological vision of unity, brotherhood, and service, contrary to the vision of a social life drawn together and organized around liturgical practice (in whatever form), the church is unable to overcome seeing it’s members through the lens of American “rugged individualism” and so fails to enter into true communal life.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about so-called political theology. What resources or insights might a political theology have to offer to these issues, either ecclesiological or civic? What makes a theology political? Picking up the Blackwell Companion to Political Theology (co-edited by a man whose work I greatly admire, William T. Cavanaugh) I’ve been exploring these issues.

The introductory chapter outlines a few basic, key points that, I think, are vital to political theology:

(1) Theology is politically important. Those who engage in either theology or politics ignore this fact only at their own peril.

(2) Theology is broadly understood as “discourse about God, and human persons as they relate to God”. The political is broadly understood as the use of structural power to organize society (i.e., a community of people). Political theology is then the critical analysis of political arrangements (which include cultural-psychological, social, and economic arrangements) from the perspective of differing interpretations of God’s ways with the world.

(3) The task of political theology is construed in different ways by different folks:

  • (a) Politics has it’s own secular autonomy, and theology is an essentially distinct activity (public v. private). We might relate the semiprivate issues of religious believers to larger social issues, but the two must remain distinct.
  • (b) Theology is something that reflects and reinforces just or unjust political arrangements. Theology is a superstructure related to the material politico-economic base. The task of political theology then would be to reconstruct theology so that it serves the cause of justice.
  • (c) Theology and politics are essentially similar activities. Both involve the production of metaphysical images around which communities are organized. Politics has theology embedded within it (i.e., it is never “secular”), and theology implies particular forms of social organization (i.e., within its various particular doctrines, e.g., the trinity, eschatology etc.). Contrary to the first group of thinkers (and in common with the second), there is no separation of material base and cultural superstructure. The task of political theology is, then, exposing the false theology implicit in “secular” politics, and promoting true politics implicit in true theology (Cavanaugh takes this latter view).

(4) What distinguishes all political theology from all other theology or political discourse, is it’s explicit attempt to relate discourse about God to the organization of bodies within space and time.

(5) Political theologies, however, vary according to:

  • (a) Which social sciences and other secular discourses are employed
  • (b) The extent to which they are “contextualized” (i.e., rooted in the lived experience of a particular people, e.g., women, blacks, Latin Americans, etc.)
  • (c) The extent to which the state is seen as the locus of politics
  • (d) the ways in which theological resources (e.g., scripture, liturgy, doctrine etc.) are employed.

How the church decides to address these points will prove crucial for it’s continued existence within the larger social world. That is to say, I don’t think these are points that any Christian can ignore.