Thursday, May 31, 2007
Our ministry at the Cave in Ascot Vale is growing, and the number of extra grace required people is sometimes daunting. If you have ever wanted to be in a church that is committed to small communities of care, working with the marginalized, and committed to empowering your dreams, not staffing programs perhaps you might consider joining our overworked band of radicals.
Now, there are some things I do miss. I miss the feeling of completion and accomplishment. When you finish hanging drywall (plasterboard) on an entire office, you can see what you did, and sense the accomplishment. And I do enjoy the sensual nature of hard physical labour. But four decades of hard work and stupid play have created chronic back pain, and other aches, which makes this longing a bit quick in passing.
What I realized is that our church (es) are actually much like the job site now. Many people, doing many tasks, and enjoying the relationships and difficulties involved in the task. What we are building is the kingdom of God, the problems mainly come from our lack of time spent with our superintendent, and lack of following His plans. But for the most part its an ever changing adventure, and I am enjoying the task.
And he replies, "you are welcome mate" in a deep Apu like accent.
The American and the Pakistani both trying to be Australian, it brings a tear to the eye.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Jason Barr wrote: I may be a bit of an oddball, because I actually came to my anarchist views through my religious studies (as I mentioned in a wall post).
I have written somewhat more about my views on my blog, http://propheticheretic.wordpress.com (though I've neglected it as of late - I need to do some writing), but here are some thoughts.
It is impossible to deny that the dominant function of religion in the history of human culture has been to maintain an oppressive status quo, whether that was through ancient Mesopotamian myths re-enacted in festivals that placed the king in the guise of the creator god, through the abuses of the Jewish Temples that led to the critiques of prophets like Amos and Isaiah and then later of Jesus, in the Roman imperial cult that solidified the Emperor's status as god-king who maintained order through the use of his Legions, through Islamic conquests, through the conquests of people like Charlemagne, through the alliance of pope and kings in the Medieval period to entrench the feudal system, Luther and Calvin's use of civic authority to crush their religious opponents, the Protestant work ethic in America that justified poverty as the fault of the poor, religion as criticized by Marx and many of the classical anarchists, and the Religious Right today.
But is this the necessary function of religion? While the common modern perception of Christianity is that it's a "pie in the sky when you die" arrangement, that leaves this life to the oppressors and sterilizes resistance from the faithful ranks, this picture of Christianity is neither congruent with its origins in the context of the Roman empire nor with the practices of a number of people throughout history who have claimed Christian inspiration for their subversive practices - often meeting with wrath from the state and, as Christianity as a whole became more aligned with the powers, from within the ranks of the church.
While I could cite a number of radicals such as Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, Oscar Romero, Dom Helder Camara, David Lipscomb, numerous Anabaptists, and others, instead perhaps it will be more illustrative to talk about the Bible itself, which if taken in context might be among the most politically subversive anthologies of literature ever collected.
Rene Girard argued that the Bible is unique in that, unlike the foundational texts from other ancient societies, the Biblical stories tend to tell the story from the position of those who are suffering and oppressed, rather than the oppressors and doers of violence (while the stories related to the conquest of Canaan provide prima facie difficulties for this reading, at most they seem to be exceptions, not the rule). God is a liberating figure who desires justice and requires the construction of a society much different than anything else that existed in the ancient near east, challenging the status quo more than upholding it. In particular throughout the Old Testament is a voice OT scholar Walter Brueggemann calls "the prophetic imagination" in a book of the same title.
The main point of the book is that the Biblical texts reflect the perspective of communities struggling from within the confines of an empire that sought to totalize the whole of life, to consume the reality of Israel (and later the church) within its dominant story of reality as it pertains to legitimating the power of the official kingly worldview. The texts reflect their efforts to capture among them a sense of a world fueled by an alternative imagination, that of Israel as the covenant people of God according to a worldview focused on the love and justice of that God embodied in their community practice. He also takes steps in some places to relate this analysis to our life today in Western society, discussing how the sense of this prophetic imagination can fuel our countercultural communal practice (which is, after all, what the church should be) in the face of this monolithic McWorld (Benjamin Barber’s term, not Brueggeman’s) empire of global technopolistic consumerist USAmerican culture.
Bruggemann states that the task of empire (what he terms the "royal consciousness") is to eliminate a sense of past and future, encompassing all the reality that matters into an eternal now. No past is imaginable that did not contribute to the now, and no future can be envisioned that does not spring from it. The task of the prophetic community, then, is to present a radically different imagination, the imagination of God, rooted in symbols from the larger community’s past and animated by the hope of a future that is brought about not by the continuance of the oppressive machinations of the royal regime but rather by the decisive acts of God (such as the New Exodus themes found in Isaiah 40-66 where Isaiah uses Exodus imagery to describe the return from exile and coming of the Messiah) so that the people are freed from the imperial imagination into the vision of God - a vision of peace and justice based on liberation, not coercion (see also http://propheticheretic.wordpress.com/prophetic )
Jesus embodied a countercultural existence with pretty much his every act and word. This is getting kinda long, so I won't go into great detail, but the early church clearly portrayed him as the antithesis of Caesar and as victorious over Caesar - not through violence, but by "making peace through the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20). In fact, in the passage from which that statement is drawn, Paul makes a number of explicit parallels between Christ an Caesar's propaganda, the purpose of which was to show that Caesar is at best a pretender to authority and that his violence has been defeated by the one over whom it appeared he had victory - Jesus the crucified one, executed as a rebel against the state. And just as Jesus is presented as the anticaesar, the church is in a very real way presented as the antirome. Instead of having relations based on exploitation and the collection of power through the heirarchy of society, the New Testament prescribes radical equality and sharing citing the words and deeds of Jesus as an example, and the Resurrection as proof that the way of peace ultimately defeats the violence of the authorities of the world.
Or, as I've written elsewhere (http://propheticheretic.wordpress.com/anarchy ) perhaps one could frame the Resurrection in the light of God committing an act of civil disobedience: the governing powers said to Jesus, "Die!" but God said, "Live!" And the church exists to live out in this world the implications of that disobedience.
It is my belief that modern anarchist theories are potent ways to express a concern for radical equality and liberty that is congruent with the implications of the life of Jesus and the practices of the early church as recorded in the New Testament, congruous with the general trajectory of ideal social practice throughout the whole Bible. It seems to me that the violence of Rome, opposed by the early church, and the violence of today's empire of global capitalism (and the relationship between nation-states and corporations) have much in common.
Now, the whole Bible is very complex and contains many diverse viewpoints expressed by various forms of narrative and poetry, so there is plenty of room for disagreement and discussion, but if the contrasting relationship between the peaceful Genesis creation story, which establishes humans as co-equals and as in relation with God and creation, and the violent Babylonian Enuma Elish, which legitimates the conquests of the king and the lowly status of peasants (and particularly women) within the Babylonian social order, sets the tone for the whole canon that follows then it seems that ideas of equality and justice are central to the overall Biblical story (for more on Genesis and Enuma Elish, as well as other thoughts on Genesis, equality, and anarchy, see http://propheticheretic.wordpress.com/tag/genesis/ ).
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Should be a good time, I will be there the whole weekend, so hopefully I will have a lot of time to actually hang out with people, and have some great conversations.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
It is a church planting video by Mark Driscoll. In this video Mark uses a lot of in your face type language, and has a very direct style. His message is very male centered, and he says some offensive things about women in my opinion. If you don't fee like watching the video, which takes a bit of time to download and then view, I will give a few of the lines I didn't appreciate:
60 percent of the christians today are women, I am glad the ladies love Jesus, but if you want to win a war you need the men
Men want to know about real issues, like how to have sex with your wife, atleast once a day!
The mission is to get the men, because if you get the men you win the war
I found myself getting a bit agitated, and I wanted to engage mr. Driscoll in some debate. If I am truly honest I remembered that Mark is a big fan of mixed martial arts, and I wanted to demonstrate some of my mixed martial arts training on him. I was not only angry at the things he said, but in this arrogant, in your face style of his. Why does this guy think he is so right? And his whole demeanor is so macho, so tough guy, so male.
You know that old expression, when you are pointing at someone three fingers are pointing back at you?
Well at that moment I had a pretty intense revelation. I am just like Mark Driscoll. The difference is ofcourse that I am right!!! :) So if I dislike that so much, then what does that mean for myself? What does that mean for a guy that prides himself on not pulling any punches? What does it mean for a guy that takes pride in being someone who will say what everyone else is afraid to say? What does that mean for a guy that is a former cage fighter, bullfighter, repo man, bouncer ect.?
To be honest I don't know. Perhaps some of you may have an idea. I don't want to be a jerk, but sometimes I feel like someone has to be, and it might as well be me.
How does one be like Jesus and know when to turn over the tables, and call people sons of the devil, but also know how stop to minister to a broken woman, or distract the gaze of a hateful mob to spare the shame of an adulterous woman?
I sure don't know, but wouldn't mind the sex with my wife atleast once a day part.
I mean, don't they get the irony?
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
The Rich Young Man17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
18"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'[d]"
20"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
21Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is[e] to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"
27Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
28Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
29"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
This passage is often argued about. And in the spirit of Kierkegaard I believe that we have by and large, used scholarship to keep this passage as far away from ourselves and our wallets as possible. And the way we have done this is by demonizing this rich young man.
You see the fact is, we like our money, we like our possessions, we like the security and comfort they bring us. And this scripture seems to attack these comforts. In order to keep this scripture away from us, limiting its damage to our good life, we have to make this man, a bad man. The deception goes like this: Jesus doesn't really have any problem with money, infact he wants to bless us with money. Ofcourse God wants us to be happy. The issue with this man, is that money had become his idol. He was a greedy man, who loved money more than anything else in his life, and this was the problem. Jesus in all of His Godness, saw that money was this mans god, and therefore had to confront him on this point. But this evil man loved money too much to leave it and follow Jesus. And therefore, it is this mans badness that is the issue here, not actually having all the stuff. Knowing that we are not greedy, and don't love money, then Jesus would never ask this of us! Whew!!! That was close
But I think we have really sold this young man down the river. What we don't understand is that this man was not a bad man at all. Infact he was a very good man. He lived his entire life believing in God, and trying to keep his commandments. He hears that this great teacher is coming, and he goes out of his way to find this teacher, and then submits himself. He shows his respect, by kneeling before Jesus, and calls him "good teacher". Jesus appears to brush him off at first by saying, "dude, you know what you are supposed to do, follow the commandments" And the guys says, "I have been doing this since I was a kid" Which means, "Look teacher, I have been doing what I know to do, I am asking for more, I am not satisfied with what I have been taught, I am looking for more" At this point Jesus recognizes in this man, someone who is really questing after God, and the text tells us that Jesus has love for him. In this moment of love, Jesus says, "IF YOU WANT TO BE PERFECT, SELL EVERYTHING, GIVE IT TO THE POOR AND FOLLOW ME"
Now we must realize two things here, the first is, Jesus is telling this guy not what it means to be a good person, or a good Jew even, Jesus is telling this good young man, what it means to really commit himself to God. The second thing we must realize, is that Jesus thinks enough of this man to ask him to follow. There were many other men that wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus did not give the invitation, but to this man he did. This is hardly the mark of a greedy idolater.
Another thing we must realize is that this man lived in a time where monetary blessing was considered God's way of approving of you. If you look through Jewish history, money and rulership were considered signs of God's approval, and in fact the people are promised prosperity if they are good. So this man has grown up his entire life believing that his possessions were a sign that he was following God, and this would have been backed up by all of the religious leaders of his day. And this itinerate teacher prophet comes along and knowing him for five minutes asks him to sell everything he has, make himself destitute and follow Jesus. What about his servants? His family? His responsibilities?
Now much is made about the following passages, which I think is mostly quite silly. It is obvious that if you leave all and follow Jesus the only way you get a hundred fold mothers, is in the sense that all in God's kingdom, are called to share their own lives with you, including their homes, and food. But before we can even get to these other issues, we must come to grips with the fact that this invitation did not come to a bad man, but was offered because he was a good man. And as soon as we realize that, it puts us a great deal closer to this story. And our wallets too.