Auden and Bonhoeffer :: scientists and theologians

Art is compatible with polytheism and with Christianity, but not with philosophical materialism; science is compatible with philosophical materialism and with Chritianity, but not with polythesim. No artist or scientist, however, can feel comfortable as a Christian; every artist who happens also to be a Christian wishes he could be a polytheist; every scientist in the same position what he could be a philosophical materialist. And with good reason. In a polytheist society, the artists are its theologians; in a materialist society, its theologians are the scientists. To a Christian, unfortunately, both art and science are secular activities, that is to say, small beer.
— W.H. Auden

Continue reading “Auden and Bonhoeffer :: scientists and theologians”

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)”

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”

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