creeds and criticism :: history lessons (part II)

It is the task of history, once the other world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world.

Here, Karl Marx raises his disdain for any story that focuses its attention on an “other world” to ground the meaning of the life we experience. The truth of this world, as Marx sees it, is made of the power relationships expressed through money and control. The truth of this world is the subjugation of the working classes by means of ideology, coercion, and religion – that great opiate by which the masses are kept from demanding all that they deserve in this life.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of man is a demand for their real happiness…. Religion is only the illusory sun about which man revolves so long as he does not revolve around himself.

Properly then, according to Marx, history’s task is to write the real story of what goes on in the world, without reference to “higher” realities or other worlds. The task of history is to set down the meaning of the only world we know in concrete political and economic terms, cutting through all the bourgeois cultural accretions that obscure the real power relationships. Continue reading “creeds and criticism :: history lessons (part II)”

what’s going on in vancouver? :: an update

I’ve been meaning to write a post of this nature for a while, but I got a special motivator this afternoon to sit down and do it. So, without further ado, let me pass on the first bit of news:

Come fall, Carolyn will be a wide-eyed white-coat. (Carolyn was accepted to medical school today!)

Carolyn got word from Albany Medical College in New York that they’d love to have her in next year’s class. This is a tremendous relief to both of us and some really exciting news. She has been working hard for the last three years (and especially hard in the last year) in order to pull this off. Studying for the MCAT’s in the basement of the UM library in Missoula – scrapping together every volunteer hour and elementary school blue ribbon for the primary application last summer – writing navel-gazing introspective essays until her fingers bled last fall (I dare you to ask her what her greatest strengths and weaknesses are) – flying all over the country this spring to interview at seven schools. And all this in the midst of a full load of classes at Regent. I’m quite proud of her, to say the least. Continue reading “what’s going on in vancouver? :: an update”

creeds and criticism :: hellfire and history (part I)

“I reject any creed that would send the Dalai Lama to hell.” I watched an author of fiction (one I’m quite fond of) offer this phrase at a book release last year. As he spoke, the vast majority of receptive ears were attached to heads nodding in agreement and righteous indignation.

Inner monologue: “Who could possibly be so stupid as to send the Dalai Lama to hell? What group of people could possibly hold a set of beliefs that would send such a man to such a place? They must be ridiculous! The Apostles creed is bunk! We’d be better off if it were never repeated again!”

So… wouldn’t we as a species make it a few steps further along our evolutionary journey if we dropped the self-righteous possession of truth in pretty little formulas? Weren’t the creeds the attempt of the powerful majority in the early church to subjugate all dissenting opinions? Who in their right mind would want to follow such a legacy? Continue reading “creeds and criticism :: hellfire and history (part I)”

the new sex :: nature

Notice to all advertising executives previously unaware:

If you are looking for something to irrationally associate with your product in order to compel suckers to unload their wallets in your direction, try nature. You all have had tremendous success with the sex thing, and I think it will continue to work, but if (in a flash of conscience) you realise that provocatively posed perfect people pressed into terrifically tight attire actually has nothing to do with peanut butter, cellphones, internet car insurance (or whatever you are peddling) then try nature! Continue reading “the new sex :: nature”

manifold-option quiz :: political theology

Here’s a question that I’m working through right now. I’m looking for some help from outside my own head. What is your gut reaction to the question below? If you don’t feel qualified to answer the question then you are exactly the person I’m looking for – give it your best shot. I don’t feel qualified to ask it – so if you don’t like the options provided, feel free to invent your own, combine mine, or do something else altogether. Continue reading “manifold-option quiz :: political theology”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer :: violence and responsibility

I wanted to make the paper [Bonhoeffer and Violence] I’ve written most recently for a seminar on Bonhoeffer available. (If Bonhoeffer is a new name to you, let my friends introduce him). The paper tackles a major question that cuts across both Bonhoeffer’s biography and his theology:

What is a fellow who can say the following sentence doing involved in an assassination conspiracy? “There is no thinkable deed in which evil is so large and strong that it would require a different [i.e. a violent] response from a Christian.” This question looms large in many ways, especially as both Bonhoeffer and questions of violence have appeared in the conversation with Casey lately.

I’m sure that you’ll see more Bonhoeffer here soon, he and I are spending a lot of time together these days as I write my thesis on his moral epistemology (i.e. the answer to the question, “How do we know what to do?”).

Seven Stanzas at Easter :: John Updike

Resurrected Christ
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

[Written for a religious arts festival sponsored by the Clifton Lutheran Church, of Marblehead, Mass.]

friday’s guilt, saturday’s solidarity :: thoughts on responsibility

This post continues a converation I’ve been in over the last few weeks. See more here and here.

I was born into a rich (by global standards) white family in the hills of Colorado. I began existing in this world in 1981. I emerged into a part of the world (into a structure) where people live in privilege, (for the most part) unknowingly on the backs of others. I didn’t come to realize all the links in the system (and I still don’t know most of them) all at once. Through high school and college I learned more and more.

Am I ontologically guilty by virtue of being born into privilege? I don’t think so. Continue reading “friday’s guilt, saturday’s solidarity :: thoughts on responsibility”

herds more words

I’d like to draw your attention to a little feature I just added here. As I talk with people, occasionally they ask for a copy of some of the papers that I write. I’m not sure whether people actually read them, but I get asked frequently enough that I thought I’d make a few of my better academic efforts available here. You’ll notice a link on the left to a page called “essays and papers” (clever, eh?).

At present, there’s one paper that wrestles with the theological meaning of creatures dying on our planet long before humans were around to sin. What does it mean that God seemed to have created a universe in which death plays a role? Secondly, there’s a paper on the poet G.M. Hopkins. Without being a mystic, he seems to see Jesus everywhere. Jesus appears in his poetry in really unexpected places. The paper explores his understanding of God’s presence in the world, especially in light of the incarnation. It deals with one of Hopkins’ main influences (a really great medieval monk) John Duns Scotus

theology and power :: what’s the use?

Here’s an excerpt of a conversation that I thought others might want in on – feel free to add your two bits, eh?:

I’m going to throw a few words back; you said:

    “I’m really trying to figure things out – especially the power of nations against nations…especially “doing” theology while comfortably existing in a nation – I mean really – how does this work. Maybe they are right – in order for our ‘lil theology centers to keep tick’n out happy theology that “cares for the poor” we better keep piling money into our military piggy bank…because ALL nations will do this, so we better be the best at it.”

If theology is a detached “merely academic” enterprise, then you are right; theologians are the worst of the bourgeoisie – lazy, overfed men (and women) peddling metaphysical delicacies to those with the capital to buy a few years of listening leisure. Continue reading “theology and power :: what’s the use?”