Monday, January 17, 2011

Moving On...

I haven't started blogging there yet, but I am moving my blog, now called, Veeritions.  Switched to wordpress, but mostly, I'm neither planning to go to Rwanda nor to be ordained in the Anglican church.  Thanks for making the switch.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Politics and Presidential Passion

James K.A. Smith recently blogged about Mark Lilla'  NYT article regarding Obama's overly intellectualized engagement with the world.  As Smith summarizes, Obama and others "lapse into the rationalist whine about people being governed by their passions and keep hoping they'll be be "rational" like us (we're not)." Instead, Obama and the democratic party need to understand that the way to lead is "to harness, direct, and channel the passions."

I want to make two quick comments.  First, Lilla criticizes Obama for having the wrong "underlying assumption about human nature."  For Lilla, the problem is ultimately intellectual:  if Obama had the correct intellectual understanding of human nature, he would engage in politics differently (meaning correctly, like us).  Thus, Lilla's critique ends up performing the same mistake he criticizes:  he tacitly assumes that core force behind Obama's "intellectualism" is intellectual (and even provides an intellectual history of the mistaken idea).  No attempt is made to consider why Obama might resort to a detached,  intellectualized description of the democratic losses.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Silencing Speech, Speaking in Tongues: Bonhoeffer and the Beginning of Theology

"Teaching about Christ begins in silence."  D. Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer begins his lectures--transcribed and formed into the book Christ the Center--with these words on the silent beginning of theology.  It's a complicated opening.

The silence that precedes "teaching about Christ" cannot be discerned before this teaching actually commences.  Not all silences are this silent beginning:  the silent foreground of teaching "has nothing to do with the silence of the mystics, who in the their dumbness chatter away secretly in their soul by themselves" (27).  The only way to distinguish "proper silence" (27) from this silent "chatter" is to refer to what follows this silence (teaching about Christ or self-enclosed chatter).  It thus seems that theology has no beginning, for its proper beginning--silence--is constituted only after theology is already under way; and its commencement (teaching) can only begin properly, as real theology and not empty chatter, out of a proper silence (which is absent when it begins, or is its absent beginning).  "To speak of Christ means to keep silent; to keep silent about Christ means to speak.  When the Church speaks rightly out of a proper silence, then Christ is proclaimed" (27).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Promise and Failure of "the Secular"

One of the strange features in the Milbank article discussed in my previous post was his mention of the necessity to physically defend "the physical space" of the church "in the name of secular justice."  This surprising endorsement of "the secular" reminded me of a working document released a little while ago by the Roman Catholic Church, on the Church in the Middle East.  This document laments the lack of the separation of religion from politics in the Middle East and proposes the necessity of a secular government (modeled on European forms of religion, secularity, and government of course).  It seems a surprising move coming at a time when the pope is encouraging Europe to reconstitute itself through a return to Christian roots and the abandonment of secularism.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Violent Being: Milbank and Fanon Between Love and Power

"However, this means that the realm of total mutual exposure, the realm of weakness within which "all defences are down," might ironically be seen as requiring defence against an exterior which refuses this exposedness."  John Milbank, "Power is necessary for peace:  in defense of Constantine"

It would probably be better to keep my peace and not read John Milbank.  Ever.  But I did and I want to engage what he has written from another trajectory of violence, the germinal violence of Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks.  Fanon, like Milbank, is looking for a space of intimacy.  Consider the beautiful and prayerful lines at the end of the book:  "Superiority?  Inferiority?  Why not simply try to touch the other, feel the other, discover each other?  Was my freedom not given me to build the world of you, man?" (206).  It's a desire for a world with intimate possibilities, a world where the mediation of whiteness ("there will always be a world--a white world--between you and us" 101) no longer disrupts every relationship.  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blasphemous Confessions

Such blasphemies, because they are violently extorted from men by the devil against their will, sometimes sound more pleasant in the ear of God than a hallelujah or some kind of hymn of praise (Luther, Lectures on Romans).  

A recent post at AUFS has enticed me to make a few comments on my own understanding of "confessional" theology.  Duke is a place that prides itself in producing confessional theologians, theologians who write in and for "the church," whose theology is situated within the historic confessions of faith ("orthodox"), who take seriously "the grammar" and "liturgical performance" of "the historic Christian faith."  To put it briefly and polemically, Duke intends to produce Christian theologians.  As such, it has placed much emphasis on what it means to be "properly" Christian.