Friday, April 27, 2007

post-Christendom, black theology & black power, and Jesus Camp

Well, it seems like the schoolwork never ends, and honestly, the overwhelming number of powerful books with rich perspectives and deep theologies of hope and prophetic voices keep finding their way into the house. I just finished Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective by Craig Carter this morning en route to Black Theology & Black Power by James Cone for my Theology and Culture class. We've been reading some great stuff in this class, and we are finishing up by choosing a theologian of our choice and finding out how their culture informs and invites their theology and perspective. I have chosen James Cone, author of the above mentioned Black Theology & Black Power as well as a number of other books, including A Black Theology of Liberation which I will also be reading for class. Race, racism, race relations, history, and liberation theologies have been forever knocking around in my mind, and so I thought that it would be good to start close to home before striking out into a more global perspective (thus I'm starting with Cone).

Last night, Shey and I watched Jesus Camp, a documentary that focused on a fundamentalist and pentecostal prayer and evangelical camp for children (with some young pre-teens, e.g. 12 years old). It was a hard movie to watch, not because I don't think that such radicalism is capable of happening, but because I have finally realized the primary location of my frustration with the majority of the political endeavor as typically understood by evangelical Christians: Christendom is assumed to be both necessary and the primary means of the kingdom come on earth as in heaven.

In Rethinking Christ and Culture, Carter points out, that the downfall of H. Richard Niebuhr's work Christ and Culture is the assumption that Christendom, i.e. the alignment of the nation-state and the church, is the primary (and necessary) means of God's will being done on earth in coordination with the church. Jesus Camp highlighted this thinking clearly, when the leaders of the children's camp highlighted that these young ones would become part of God's army to bring America back to its Judeo-Christian roots and lead this nation in the fight against abortion and radical Islam. My question isn't whether necessary changes should be made to highlight the significance of human life in all places and the dangers of radical fundamentalism in any religion, but rather this: have Christians, of either the liberal (who hope that by co-opting the state for its own tasks, e.g. taking care of the poor) or conservative (who use the state to legislate its own moral views, e.g. abortion and homosexuality) stripe, placed their hope and power in the hands of a fundamentally distorted power which wields and controls its power by the sword, and is at its roots incompatible with the radical call of Jesus to nonviolence and discipleship?

I think that Carter's book offers a prophetic critique of the notion that Christendom was a profitable experiment for the church, and I think that Jesus Camp highlights the seriousness of the loss of perspective in the church and uncovers the uniqueness in the message of Jesus that finds hope in the Lordship of Christ, rather than the powers of this world. Just in case you haven't heard about this movie, which is very fairly done and has been well received by those in the documentary itself, below is a trailer. I highly recommend you watch this movie at some time. The filmmakers (Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady) also directed Boys of Baraka, which I have posted on before, and which is an extremely powerful look at the state of the school system in Baltimore City and the long-lasting effect of racism. Below is a trailer for Jesus Camp.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

God rid me of God

Chapter One of Rollins' work How (Not) to Speak of God is titled "God rid me of God" and is a rumination and exploration of idolatry. What is idolatry in light of postmodernism? How can our concepts of God become idolatrous?

As I start to write, I'm listening to The Arcade Fire's newest album Neon Bible, specifically the song "Intervention." If churches had organists who could blow up the organ like this in church, then by all means, bring back traditional instruments into the service as fast as possible! Sorry for the aside, but this album is awesome.

Back to Rollins. There is a lot to think about in this chapter, with a lot of the content dealing with epistemology (the study of how we know things). What do we mean when we say we know God? Do we believe that we know God as God really is? Is that even possible? One of the great insights that postmodernism has helped to develop, and Rollins clearly calls for this, is a high level of epistemological humility. What we know about God must be girded by a deep-rooted humility that acknowledges our limits in understanding God as God really is. This does not mean that we don't need to try to know God, but rather come to the place where we can realize that our understanding and knowledge of God is good, but always limited and wrapped in mystery. Rollins writes at the end of the chapter:

"In short, the emerging conversation is in a unique place to acknowledge the long-forgotten insight that God hides in God's visibility, realizing that revelation embraces concealment at one and the same time as it embraces manifestation and that our various interpretations of revelation will always be provisional, fragile, and fragmentary. While all of the Church has maintained that there is a revealed and hidden side of God, the difference here is that we are rediscovering the Barthian insight that even the revealed side of God is mysterious (pg. 18)."

Rollins points out that it is necessary for us as Christians to realize that "God hides in God's visibility," that is, that even the parts of God God shows us, we see in part, never in full. This should raise some questions about whether God is far away, or able to be known at all, and this will be discussed in further chapters, but I'll end with an illuminating comment by Rollins:

"Hence revelation ought not to be thought of either as that which makes God known or as that which leaves God unknown, but rather as the overpowering light that renders God known as unknown (pg. 17)."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

where to go from here?

Shey and I finished, on Easter of all wonderful days, the series Six Feet Under we have been watching for quite awhile now. There really aren't words to express just how amazing this show was. If you haven't watched it, give it a try. Creative and executive producer of the show is Alan Ball, the writer of American Beauty (which was the Oscar-winning precursor to this show). I don't want to build it up to much, b/c you might hate it. But it really is the best show I have ever watched. It is heavy at times, but never without hope. It is complex, without trying to make things too hard. A beautiful show, definitely for mature audiences.

I can't believe it is over. I don't know where you can go from here in terms of quality TV shows? Any suggestions?

Friday, April 06, 2007

last day at the beach

Well, this isn't the way you typically like to end your bout at the beach, with a bit of cold weather, but we had a good day and tried to make the most of it! We've had a good week, and if you haven't checked out the pics from yesterday, there are some cool ones with alligators, besides all the birds that may be boring to you! Below are a couple of others I snapped today, a sweet brown pelican (one with a friend) and an osprey. Hope things are well with all as we prepare for Easter...peace.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

a glimpse of our day

hey folks,

here are some pics from our recent trip to Pinckney Island, a wildlife refuge near Hilton Head Island, SC where Shey and I are taking a little vacation and enjoying our spring breaks from school. As you can expect there are more bird shots than most anything else, but there are a few gators too. sorry for the break from Rollins, i had too many books to bring for school to read at the beach, not to mention books to learn how to garden. but i'll start back up after i get home next weekend. i hope everyone is well, i feel like there is a lot to talk about--a lot of hopes i have for how gardening will bring some whole-life transformation...i love birds more than ever, and i am really enjoying marriage with Shey (vacation with her is just so much fun, and so relaxing).

enjoy the pics...peace.

Pinckney Island