Wednesday, November 26, 2003

brief outline/reflection on Marxism (via a selective reading of Marxism: Philosophy and Economics and the Marx-Engels Reader).

my purpose for this: having just read through Zizek’s The Fagile Absolute, I realized that I knew very little about Marxism, or Marxist cultural analysis, so I thought that I ought to learn a little bit, providing myself with a tool to understand “where” we culturally—this “where” being the cultural line intersecting with the “when” of our religious tradition positioning our identity. (see my posts on media/cultural studies below for this-and really I need to explain this better) anyway…I think Marxism will be one tool among many we attempt to de-westernize the Church here in America, which has to lead through a critique of capitalism, so that we can live in, but not of, capitalism.

helpful: 1) Theory of ideology/oppression can lead to ridiculous conclusion, but is a helpful way of understanding the world. Christians are constantly doing ideology critique of culture (i.e. looking for sin, pointing toward the true “spiritual” understanding of history, claiming certain practices as idolatrous.) 2) As a critique of capitalism- we too often assume that capitalism is God’s gift to humanity, but capitalism forms us into certain kinds of people with desire/passion/inclination which are opposed to God’s Kingdom. So we need this critique. But Marxism has the same anthropology and telos as Capitalism, it is really just parasitic, not able to move beyond capitalism. But more on that with Zizek. Only the church can over-come, or properly augment capitalism. 3) Marxism opens our eye to class conflict as relationship, rather then just through wealth. 4) Marxism thinks historically, from past to future, helping us move beyond an ahistorical modern perspective. (although of course there are many others who help us do this.)
flaws: 1) law of progress through revolution too modernist. The dialectical approach seeing metamorphic change in culture for the better is destroyed in Leninism. 2) While flaunting a communalism, it is only for the purposes of “actualized the potential” of every individual. Therefore Marx is an individualism, just like Nietzsche and Keirkegaard. 3) Collectivized industry stifles technological “innovation” and innovation leads toward the betterment of masses, which is the goal of Communism, so it goal (the actualization of individuals) is contradicted by its means (collectivized industry). oops…4) Marxist anthropology is based in pleasure seeking of individualists.
directions: 1) how can Marxism address a post-industrial society with a financial/creative/service economy? 2) I need to look more into the coupling of Marxism and psycho-analysis as a tool of ideology critique.(again leads back to Zizek) 3) Look into the shift from ‘alienated’ laborer to ‘alienated’ consumer (this will lead through Baudrillard).

Existentialist: Marx wrote just after Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky, and just before Nietzsche. I mention these authors/thinkers b/c Marx is very existential in his outlook, i.e. the existing individual is the point of reference, particularly the laborer. This is especially seen is his “Thesis on Feuerbach” where he briefly positions himself between idealism (Hegel) and his retooled materialism. “The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism…is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not as subjectively.” This sounds similar to Kierkegaards ‘truth is subjectivety’ and the general “existentialist” concern to overthrow the privileged position of contemplation, replacing it with involvement/practice as the place of truth.

The method of investigation is “dialectical.” The world is conceived as a complex process, not as a complex grouping of things to look at. This method never looks at the “appearance” of things, but their “essence”, b/c the appearance lacks the understanding of what came before, and where the process is going. (An acorn can’t be properly comprehended without reference to the oak). Or as Thomas Sowell comments, “The dialectical approach rejects uncritical acceptance of existing empirical appearances, and seeks instead the inner pattern from which these appearances derive and evolve.”

This methodology lead into the buzz word “ideology” because ideologies keep people fixed on the appearances, rather than the essence. So there could be the ideology that “technology makes our lives better.” But this is a myth because really the whole pursuit of technology is make production more efficient and faster, so that produce can be made faster, and therefore cheap, which will lead toward more profits. But this increase efficiency is not passed onto the laborer (instead of working 8 hour, you can just work 6 everday). Rather, we are all expected to work the same amount of hours, just producing more. So really, technology doesn’t make our lives better, or more leisurely, just fast and fast. Anyway, that’s what a Marxist might say. The point is that “ideologies” legitimize the rule class’s control/power. This Marxist theme has been coupled with Nietzsche’s will to power, and generalized to just about every situation these days. Recently this theme of uncovering the hidden meaning of history/culture, and it’s hidden ideologies, has been linked with psycho-analysis for the obvious similarities of trying to uncover/lay bare the unconscious. I’ll probably get back to this linking when I read through Zizek again.

A very useful distinction: use-value and exchange-value. use-value is inherent in an object, or product; a chair for sitting in, a light for reading by. They have uses for man connected to their physical properties, such that if they lost them, they would no longer be useful (i.e. if a chair lost a leg, it would be use-less). exchange-value is only a “relationship” between objects or produces, i.e. what can it be equally exchange for? (50 light bulbs for one chair). So, an apartment building has a use-value to all who live there, it is their house and home. But to the landlord it only has exchange-value, a means of income. So if he can increase his income but jacking up the rent or by evacuating the building and selling it, then he will, not matter what the effect to the use-value. (example taken from Urban Fortunes: A Political Economy of Place). This might have implication for how we evaluate our practices in church: is what we do actually useful, or does it just have some sort of exchange-value. Is discipleship happening which is useful, or just an exchanged of pleasantries to make us feel better?

(if you made all the way to the bottom the you are awesome or totally crazy, and you are certainly someone who I should engage a comment)

Now I feel somewhat ready for "is God a capitalist?". and I probably won't post until after that.

Monday, November 24, 2003

"The philosphers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it."
Karl Marx, 1845 (Thesis on Feuerbach)

Just switch theologian for philosopher..., but of course, interpretation in half the battle (or the whole battle depending on how postmodern you are...)

I'm still doing some reading on Marxism, so I'll post something when I'm finished with my little research. I'm beefing up for the next up/rooted gathering, "Is God a Capitalist?"

back to the matrix
now, just focusing on the themes of sacrifice and self-giving, esp. on Neo’s part, let’s see what the Matrix has to say about itself. In the second movie, Matrix Reloaded, the Architect tells us the matrix always needs to be balanced, all the variables taken care of. The need of free choice for humans create written into the matrix which created a problem for the Architect b/c it create a variable that could only be contained by allow “the one” to appear from time to time. But when this “one” appeared he would bring balance back to the matrix, equalizing the equation.

Now, at the end of the second movie we see that Neo does something that no other “one” did through his free choice, throwing everything off. So we might conclude that he transcended the “logic” of the matrix, throwing it permanently out of balance. A vindication of free choice and human potential? But in the last movie the Oracle tells us that Neo created Smith and that Smith was really the “negative” of Neo, his mirror or double. This double in Smith is reeking havoc, not just for the humans, but all the machines/programs.

So while all the humans are fight the machines, Neo is fighting himself, i.e. Smith in the Matrix having made a deal with the Machines that if he gets rid of Smith the machines will make peace. Skipping to the end, we see Neo stop fighting and is assimilated into Smith, a “self-giving sacrifice” of one so that the many might live, right? Well yes, because somehow Smith is kill, and the Machines let up there fight. But this is not the logic of the Cross at all.

From the account given by the Oracle, Smith is the double of Neo—if Neo is yin then Smith is yan—and the given what the Architect said about balancing the equation, we see that Neo never really transcended the logic of the Matrix, he just displaced out of the program, into the really world. But the logic is the same, there must be balance, and since Neo created the imbalance initially by killing/creating agent Smith, his sacrifice is the reinstatement of the logic of Balance (Karma?), not the breaking free from it. So, yes sacrificed himself, and created a tentative end to the war, but he did not fundamentally change the rules of the war. And this is really the problem with using Neo’s sacrifice as an allusion to Christ’s b/c Christ’s sacrifice changed the rules of war, and transcended the logic of balance through his self-giving for others. and really the flipside of this self-giving is the “incarnation” of the totally Other for man, from outside the system, which is totally absent from the Matrix. given all this, Christians should not go about claiming this as example of Christ because 1) it totally devalues what Christ actually did, 2) it totally misses the point of Balance, which is more Eastern than Christian. (I would claim Memento as a Christian movie way before i did the matrix)

now all that to say that I actually really liked the matrix for what they are, esp. the first movie. The multicultural integration of characters, the empowerment of women, a critique of hyper-reality and consumerism (these movies really lend themselves to a Marxist reading of liberation/revolution than a Christian one of salvation) are all great and appreciated. But could we please move beyond superficial moralizing of a movie (art in general) or an equally superficial “gospelizing” of art. We to be able to understand and appreciate a work of art according to its own terms before evaluating according to Christian ones. This will keep us from doing violence to the "creation" of others, valuing them as co-creators with the Creator.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

"Matrix" as not a christian movie.
I don't have much time before I have to feed Soren (my 5 five month old son).

I absolutely love this friend of mine as my own family, I've seen his two sons grow up and everything, he is great, but unfortunately last night he was the perfect icon of all that is wrong w/ evangelical cultural interpretation of culture and I just. He relentlessly reinterpreted "Matrix Revolutions" (and really the whole trilogy) as representing the Gospel. According to him, Neo is a Christ figure, the matrix is the fallen world, the Agents are temptation, and Neo's sacrificial death frees mankind, etc. (these are basically his words).

Now, this is certainly reading into the "intentions" of the film beyond even the explicit "christian" imagery of sacrifice/death resurrection/trinity etc. And this does violence to the text. We should value the creation of any text, rather than just read them the way that we want to (in order to "evangelize" or something like that.) anyway, i'm still in process about the right way to articulate a theological cultural hermeneutic (i'm not sure if that's the best way to think of it. the cultural studies question).

all this to say that the "matrix" in my opinion is an "eastern" tale of a salvation rather than a Christian one. The logic of sacrifice and balance in the matrix has very little affinity to the gospel, and any allusions to the contrary cheapen the work of Christ and the Incarnation. But I'll have to leave this interpretation for tomorrow. anyway, we all to figure out how to think through questions of culture together so that we’re not just moralizing or inserting the gospel everywhere, thereby making it into nothing.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Lines of convergence: global-urban-postmodern

During seminary, as i began to think through the emerging church, i worked through questions of the postmodern, to urban concerns, ending with global ponderings. But through that process i've seen that the order of priority for me, and I propose for the emerging church conversation, should move from the Global, to the Urban, and then only to the Postmodern.

Why Global? all sorts of reasons. 1) while we have reached the end of modernity, we will never move beyond it while only looking throughwestern ideas (even pomo critiques); because if we truly believe all this stuff about the "marginal" and the critique of power, and the importance of "multiculturalism" then we have to listen to those marginal/multicultural voices-Latin America, Africa, Asia- within the church and outside it; ecomonics-politics-culture have gone global, but isn't the only truly global body the Church? and if we really believe the West is the new mission field, then shouldn't we listen to those who know more about missions than we do. And lastly, not eveyone is talking about pomo, and for the emerging church to be more than an anglo-middle class concern it must figure out how to be part of the entire emerging global church.

So we should be asking "What it means to be a global Christian?" How can our theology be enriched by global Christian perpectives? What are global practices and trends that we in the West are connected with/responsible for and how should we then relate with/on behalf of our brothers and sisters around the world (this is an economic issues and a justice/righteousness issue). How can we have relationships within african/latin american/asia christians that will effect two-way enrichment, understanding and accountability? And what about racism next door?

Why urban? 1) Because the globe is going urban. 2) and the evangelical church abandoned urban centers for suburban/rural ones (while feeling marginalized in culture they physically marginalized themselves by where they lived. Why do all evangelical roads lead to Colorado Springs instead of NY?) and mainline churches have lost much of their voice in urban cities. And urban centers are a small taste of the global, concentrating questions of multiculturalsim/pluralism/racism.

So we shouldbe asking "What does it mean to be an urban Church, an urban Christian?" How can/does the urban and suburban related- and how might it in the Church? What are the economic issues, esp. for the poor/underpriveleged? and how is race of factor in poverty and how is the Church perpectuating or solving sturctural racism and the oppression of the poor? What is 'gentrification' and is it good or bad? How does technology play a role in all this, and what about the media? We must ask serious questions of class, race, and gender, if we are move beyond where the modern church got stuck. (for more on this see the brief "Post-Community").

Why postmodern? isn't it obvious? But really the question is "how should the church relate to postmodernity?" as stephen long says, "The postmodern only helps us rightly understand the modern, not move beyond it." For long, only the church moves beyond postmodernity. But philosophically and culturally things are changing in the West, and since this is my context, and the context of what goes on in the emerging church conversation, naturally we must do our best to understand it as a process of de-modernizing the Church in the West. But from a global perspective this is de-westernizing the Church of west, just as Africa is de-westernizing the African church from the Western Missions movement (which brought the gospel, but a gospel fused to western ideals).

After moving beyond a rationalistic faith, reducing everything to impersonal propositions and a privatized faith, we start looking alternative expressions of faith. So we find "Celtic" Christianity, with its emphasis on nature, body and spirit, its prayers, etc,...or we go all the way back to the "Fathers" b/c their cultural situation is much like our own and therefore we have a lot to learn from them. This is a type historical approach still only traces through "western" faith. Instead of going through history to find conversation partners, we should go global. African and Asian Christians never became disconnected with nature, or had a dualistic notion of man, and therefore are just as valuable to us as the "celts", even more because we can actually dialogue with them. The third world Church has lived in a condition similar to the Father for a long time and are therefore much farther along then us in "living" it. Let's talk with them about it. It is great to over come our historical amnesia, but we also overcome our miopic vision.

So, even though our immediate context is "postmodern" we must continually broaden our horizens toward the the urban and the global church if this conversation is going to be more than navel gazing.
Chapter Three of the search to belong (in my haste i jumped from chaps 2 to 4 w/o 3, so here it is.)


Based out of Edward Hall’s identification of the four spaces of human interaction, Joe broadens Hall’s schematic to include not only questions of culture and communication, but of community and belonging. We experience belonging in all four spaces of human interaction: public, social, personal, intimate.

Unlike animals, our conception of space is all a matter of perspective. Being physically close to someone doesn’t mean that person is in intimate “space” as a crowded elevator would reveal. So the spaces referred to from now on are the spaces intersecting physical and mental.


Because public space is the least understood/appreciated Joe spends the most time here. “Public belonging happens when we connect through outside influences. It isn’t about connecting person to person; it is about sharing a common experience”(p.41). A common experience might be a sporting event, a concert, political rally, or worship service. The key to understanding public space is to see that it is an extrinsic motivating or organizing principle to people’s belonging. While they may not know each others names, they are there for a similar reason focused on a similar event. So when the crowd starts cheering during the great play and you high five everyone around you, you are belonging and making connections in public space. This connection and belong happens during the daily routine- you wake up, get your coffee, say “hi” to your neighbors, the clerk, or the guard at your office, etc.

Public space however is not necessarily a place for strangers. Strangers are ones who don’t connect; those who connect are “public belongers” (p. 42). So there is a difference b/w anonymity and being a stranger. People don’t want to be strangers when they come into church, even if they want to be anonymous. And it doesn’t mean that people are disconnected or on the fringes if they only belong in the public space, nor do we need to feel like we must move people into a different space. As long as our worship service/church life doesn’t make people feel like strangers, but moves them into a space of belonging, then that connection should be counted a success and celebrated.

Social“In many ways, social belonging is the ‘small talk’ of our relationships”(p.45). Just because a small group never goes beyond casual dialogue, or a bible study’s most valuable time is the conversation before and after (instead of the “compelling” teaching) we should not judge them failures. People need to make connections on the social level. We connect through sharing “snapshots” of who we are.

This space is important for three reasons. First, it is where we make neighbor relationships. This type of relationships is where you can ask for small favors and exchange “small talk.” This used to happen with actual neighbors, but even if they aren’t your actual neighbors, we all still need these relationships which create a “neighborhood” of belonging. Second, this is a safe selection space to decide whether to move people into a different space. This selection process happens b/c, thirdly, in this space we offer context specific “snapshots” of who we are and who we are becoming. This space is not merely a bridge b/w public space and personal space, but a space where we are continually discovering ourselves and others, nurturing neighborly relationships.

Personal“Personal space is where we connect through sharing private- though not “naked”- experiences, feeling, and thought”(p.47). Those that we connect with in this space are “close friends.” There is, however, much confusion in this space b/c many time we think of it as intimate space, but really it isn’t because we aren’t sharing our inner most, naked thoughts, feelings, ideas. And when we then want to talk about those relationships where we do share our naked selves, we don’t have a category for it.

This is where we share our “naked” thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Too often we make this the “mecca” of belonging, community, and relationships, but this is too over-value intimate space. How would life be if every person we knew we knew intimately? It would be awful and over whelming.

Healthy Community
To achieve healthy community Joe points out that we must have “harmonious connections within all four spaces. Harmony means more public belonging than social. More social than personal. And very few intimate…A healthy strategy for those working to build community entails allowing people to make significant relationships in all four spaces—all four. It means permitting people to belong in the space they want or need to belong. Insisting that real, authentic, true community happens only when people get “close” is a synthetic view of reality and may actually be harmful”(p.51-52). Our goal should be to invite strangers in so that they are no longer strangers. Our goal is not to invite them in to be ‘intimate’. We should invite people into the family, allowing them to belong, connect, and enter community the way they need to. (For how this is accomplished see my summary of chapter four on Monday, Nov 17.)

Monday, November 17, 2003

Chapter Four of the Search to Belong (continued from Thu Nov 6th.)
Jumping into chapter four we hear Joe asking, “Why do we promote small groups as the most significant way to build community and congregation? Why have they become a fad of our time? Why do we lead our congregants to believe that small groups deliver the community they seek?” The effects of this is to promote only two possible environments of belonging in the church- either the public (worship service) or the intimate (small group), thereby excluding healthy belonging in all four spaces of public, social, personal, intimate. What we need is a healthy balance, a harmony, b/w all four space in our lives, at Church, and even with God.

This first of all means that we need to understand and have “competencies” in all four spaces. (The competencies outlined in this section are worth the price of the book, but too detailed for me to outline.) The point here is that some people may be competent in one space, but not in another. They therefore might value personal space more than public, thinking that real life only happens in personal space, not in public. But this might reveal a lack in their own public competencies (which is how I spent much of my life, bashing “small talk” b/c it didn’t connect with “real life.” But actually I’m just really bad at small talk and am therefore incompetence in the public space.)

Spontaneity and Environment
Next, it is important to understand that community emerges within all four spaces, and that this happens spontaneously. Belonging/community cannot be forced or programmed, it just comes about spontaneously. We need to move away from “forced belonging” where we have expectations of intimacy, moving people inappropriately from one space to another, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly (and therefore confusing and manipulative). Given this, “If we would concentrate upon facilitating the environment instead of the result, we might see healthy, spontaneous community emerge…we must switch from being group programmers to becoming group environmentalists.” We must pay better attention to the environment, we must cultivate the soil from which healthy community will grow, rather than engineer the results in a synthetic fashion. And this primarily means growing people’s competencies so they can form healthy connections, and creating a harmonious ratio b/w the spaces.

The last implication of this shift from being programmers to environmentalist is a change in how we measure success. It is very easy to measure how many are in small groups, or attend our larger, public worship services, but very difficult to measure spontaneous, healthy connections or the sense of belonging people have. These connections are measured through stories. This also changes our definition of “congregation” allowing for whoever tells a story connecting with a church/group to count as part of the congregation, even if they never, or rarely, attend.

The next chapter concerns how people/relationship can move in and out of the space. until then…

Friday, November 14, 2003

Growth (units) or Growth (tissue)
I was recently talking with a friend, who is also a worship leader, about sound equipment, particularly in-ears (headphone/ear-piece monitors, instead of floor monitors). Because they are right in the ear I asked how he could hear the congregation worshipping. He said that they have to mike the congregation and run the sound through the monitor so he can hear them. They also run the sound of the congregation back through the main speakers (so the congregation can hear itself singing, a somewhat typical practice for large churches). He said that this helped “fill the room,” and by that he meant that it would feel as if more people singing than were really present, hopefully leading toward more people actually being there in the future (or at least that those being there won’t feel like its empty). (this is definitely an example of virtual worship, see below at the nov 3rd and 5th posts.)

This illustrates the difference between capitalistic growth of units and the organic growth of tissue. As I mentioned in my last post (tuesday nov 11), maybe pastors should think of themselves as mothers/mid-wives nurturing the “body,” an actual body that grows through the maturing of tissue in the balanced relations of each section of the body, not a corporate/economic body which grows by the production of units or the accumulation of “members”, especially “productive members.” The example above is an indication that we too often substitute organic “growth” for capitalistic “growth” while thinking that we are retaining biblical growth. We can tweak some technological effects, add some hype and get some growth (how many church plants grow from 10 to 300 in a year) through these means, but is that really growth? Isn’t rampant growth in a tissue cancerous? Where is the time for normal/healthy growth?

I’m currently reading “The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For?” by Slavoj Zizek, a postmodern Maxist (read atheistic political materialist) and I think it triggers some of the thoughts above.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I was just working through Robert Webber's Journey to Jesus for a curriculum i'm making for my church and he quoted Ephesians 4:11-16. This talks about the gifting of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry." I started thinking that many times we think of this "equipping" to mean "leadership", "visioneering", "guiding" and "directing". The typical corporate america mentality stuff. But this phrase is embedded within the metaphor of the "body" growing, so shouldn't "equip" really mean "nurturing", and nurturing is what mothers typically do for children (i'm not sexist). So maybe church pastors/leaders should think of themselves as mid-wifes or handmaids (reclaiming the idea of the church as mother) growing up the Body to full maturity. And mothers typically don't get any credit for all the hard work they do, and it is all sacrifice. No more superstar pastors who lead, only nurturers who enable.
Cultural Studies
As I mentioned before, I'm starting an adventure into the world of "cultural studies." (I called it "media studies" before but doing more research I think that it really cultural studies.) My justification for this is below in my "media studies" post but maybe need to explain why I think this is different that what I used to think. (but before that- this is the best website for all this stuff, it goes on forever, and it has the best, explanation of the postmodern, and it's not be so theologian/culture watcher.)

So, I think that maybe people would totally agree with what I wrote below, that in the West the symbolic exchange and the creation and propigation of values/meaning happens through the media instead of thru religions, therefore we need to undestand how this happens to understand "where" we are.

So I think that many Christian culture watchers as definitely wanting to understand the "sign of the time" so that they might know how to live, but I think that too often it just means commentary on movies, music, or politics w/o diving any deeper than the surface of these medians. What we need is not to "notice" that media shapes culture and then use "media" to share the gospel (as consevatives do with the arts- pimping the arts).

We need to dig deepers, looking at how the foundations of "consumer culture" shape us, how the media links with Ideologies which subvert the gospel, and how technologies alienate us from ourselves/bodies/other, or how they might emancipate us.

Anyway,...I'm just beginning this journey. I'll let you know. I just bought "desert of the real" and "simulacra and simulation". we'll see where that leads.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Media studies
Spinning off of up/rooted’s last meeting, esp. the discussion of virtual reality and worship, i must voice something that I’ve been thinking for a while. Coming out of my reading in African theology (Theology and Identity) I’ve come to see the necessity of learning about “media studies” and “communication theory.” (this is coming from a guy who usually bashes things like that b/c is seems like an attempt to become “relevant.” I’m at this place b/c (summarizing Bediako),

Who are we (past) and where are we (present) intersect in the question of identity as Christians. Where we are culturally effects who we are historical, and who we are effects how we undestand where we are. The Church Father’s grappled with who they were as Christians in relation to their religious past, Judaism, and where they were culturally in Graeco-Roman world. For African Theology the question of identity it is who are we as African Christians in relationship to Mission/Western Christianity (religious past) and Traditional African religions (cultural present).

So the question for us at the end of modernity in the West is “what is our religious past?” and “where is our cultural present?” (the first question needs its own separate reflectin) The second question for African theology leads right through an understanding of Traditional African religions, but for those in the West it leads through both the “Enlightenment” as the source/lack of values and symbols, and through “media studies” b/c media enables the symbolic exchange of meaning/referencing (i.e. what religion usually does in societies.).

Therefore, it is necessary to understand how mass media (film, tv, radio, internet, etc.) effect and enable the “work” and “world” of culture in the west. This is not so that we can be “relevant” to others, but so that we can truly understand our own “identity” as follower of Christ in N. America. So if anyone is really knowledgeable in this area, let me know where to begin, who to read, and all that stuff.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

I said last wednesday that I would write a short summary of Joe Myers' the seach to belong so that I could be sure that I'm understanding him right. (but this may not be short; and i'll try to distinguish summary of Joe's thoughts with my own relfections). here are the first three chapters.

he begins like this. "If there is one converstain with which the emerging church must wrestle in new ways, it is the questin, "who is my neighbor?" Who belongs? For whom am I responsible? and who is responsible to me?"(p.6) To this I give a hearty amen. Though his book joe seeks to provide us with a "language of belonging" through which we can speak about community, friends, family, and the church.

The first chapter debunks the myth of belonging which are 1) More time = more belonging: even if we spend more time with someone/group doesn't mean authentic community will emerge. 2) More commitment = more belonging: the demand for commitments (in small group/churches) does means will connections occur. and signigicant connections can happen w/o being close friends. 3) More purpose = more belonging: having purpose driven small groups or teams doesn't ensure connect either b/c their might not be an intrinsic motivation to it. 4) More personality = more belonging: extroverts might not feel that they belong; introverts can have a wonderful sense of belonging. 5) More proximity = more belonging: geographical proximity doesn't necessarily creater greater community; nor distance lessen it. "Distance" defined by physical space is all perspective. 6) More small group = more belonging: pastor/churches might say "if you want to really know our church, then join a small group" implying that this is best for "authentic community." but usually there is only about 30% congregational involvement, so people must be participating in "authentic community" so where else more comfortable for them. All of us have and are dazzled by these myths.

The second chapter investigates everyones "longing for belonging." To define belonging joe says, "Belonging happens when you identify with another entitiy- a person or organization, or perhaps a species, culture, or ethnic group" (p.25). However, belonging is not always reciprocated. Those that we think we belong to might not think we do b/c every community has its own ruleof belonging. These rule indicate who and how one belongs, and many times turns into rules of exclusion. Yet, just as Jesus redefined who a neighbors is, so too must we redefine how we belong and who/hoe people belong to us- for really these are the same questions. "The question 'who is my neighbor?' guides the church to its fundemental calling. And defining 'neighborhood' has been one of the primary tasks for the church throughout its history. And in this postmodern, post-evangelical blip in time, we still struggle to guide people toward a healthy experience of community and belonging." and with that he leads us into chapter three and the "spaces of belonging"(p.30).

but that will be for another time b/c dinner is really. i'll get back to this soon.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Here is a a fuller run down of Ed Phillips presentation, which in reality was much better. (referring to previous post)

He began by mentioning that one of his current crusades concerning worship/liturgical thought is to rid the phrase “worship experience” from our lexicon. He pointed out that instead of speaking of a worship service we now talk about the worship experience. (and example of this is the “Passion Experience Tour.”)

To discuss this shift Ed pointed us back toward 19th century revivalism, especially Charles Finney. Finney’s goal was to make converts and he used “novelty” and “technique” to do this. These two concepts changed the face of worship. The first is the desire for “novelty” or the “new.” This really is the modern project, to find something new. Applied to revivalism, it is the desire to wow people with something different, exciting, and outrageous, so as to lead people toward a decision. This directly effects worship through the concurrent rise of the “mimeograph”, a cheap way to create pamphlets, or worship bulletin, which can be changed from service to service. This is a marked change from the past when- before the printing press people had to embody the patterns of worship within the community, and after the printing press books, prayer books, were kept for a lifetime or pasted down- but now worship patterns were constantly changed to create a “novelty” of worship. The second concept was that of using technique to manufacture conversion. And worship became one the most useful, and fashionable, techniques for making conversions. Worship then only becomes instrument of something else (conversion), rather than being an end in it self (participation in/with the eternal worship of God.)

These movements of “novelty” and “technique” place the emphasis of worship on our experiences of worship rather than the reality of God. Our “worship” becomes a copy of real worship, rather than a participation of the original. This shift also makes worship something we make happen, rather than a participation of what is already happening in heaven. By this our worship becomes virtual reality (a copy of reality pretending to be the real thing- like fake flowers). Ed used the example of covering us a stained glass window with a screen, and then projecting the “same” window onto the screen.

This last point was the launching pad into the collaborative portion of our gathering. We steered around the discussion of “should we have experiences in worship,: and talked about the relationship of art and ketch, high/low art, icons, and much more.

Monday, November 03, 2003

i just came from one of our most amazing up/rooted gatherings ever with Ed Phillips of Garrett.. I'll be posting a summary on the site soon, but i have to get some thoughts/reflections out while they are still fresh.

concerning worship/liturgy and reality/virtual reality:

he spoke of 19th century revivalism, particularly Charles Finney and how he redefined our understanding of worship through "newness" and "technique." The search for the new became a revivalistic technique to wow people into conversion. Also, "technique" came into play as a means of manufacturing "conversion." Worship then only becomes a devise for creating conversion, it is employed for/toward the effect of conversion. Therefore, worship becomes a type of fashion, useful for generating an effect. now, for a while I've also thought that there are many parallels to 19th C. revivalism and the contemporary worship movement, but replace the touring "evangelist/preaching" with "worship leader." a good quote from Ed on the consequences of this is "All liturgical differences are theologically arbitrary b/c they are only evaluated by their anthropological effect."

but the really heavy hitting stuff concerned reality/virtual reality:

virtual reality pretends to be reality, but is not, like fake flowers in my parents house. They are a faxsimile. True art is not virtual reality, but a participation/representation/invitatin into reality. Bad art, or bland reproduction is virtual realty. we have succumbed to virtual reality b/c rather than having stained glass window, we have projected images of those windows without making them into a new kind of art.

But the really question is, "how often do we fall into virtual worship, instead of the real worship." tentatively, we fall into virtual worship when we try to make worship happen- through "new", complelling drama, multi-media presentations, etc.- rather than join what is already happening before the throne of God. Worship is joining into the story of salvation, not merely an experience. Virtual worship is trying to copy/manufacture what is happening in heaven, rather than participating/joining with it.

This leads into a discussion of stained glass and Icons and how they are really real rather than virtual; how worship forms us into the gospel; and how "real" the Eucharist is (are the elements virtually real in light of the what they stand for? or are they really real symbolically????) but i'll leave these for another time.

praise the lord for conversation partners (b/c none of these thoughts were my own before we all talked about it tonight.)
Here are some compelling quotes from African Theologian. The emerging church in America should listen to them...
The are from either Theology and Identity or Christianity in Africa, both by Kwame Bediako.

“For there are many who feel that the spiritual sickness of the West, which reveals itself in the divorce of the sacred from the secular, of the cerebral from the instinctive, and in the loneliness and homelessness of individualism, may be healed through a recovery of the vision which Africa has not yet thrown away. The world Church awaits something new out of Africa.” (a quote from John Taylor).

"It is utterly scandalour for so many Christian scholars in [the] old Christendom to know so much about heretical movements in the second and third centuries, when so few of them know anything about Christian movements is areas of the younger churches. We feel affronted and wonder whether it is more meaningful theologically to have academic fellowship with heretics long dead than with the living brethren of the Church today in the so-called Third World." (a quote from John Mbiti)

Saturday, November 01, 2003

and a work in progress exploring the us of metaphors in art and the way they interact with nature/natural.
this is a bad reflection of mesa while driving through western NM.


Ancient vestiges, timeless stones_____________They rise from earth,
reveal the terrainial foundations._____________stair by stair
_______________________________________their ancient abode ascend.
Layers cracked long deserted,
rumbled wreckage and ruins,________________Steps immovable,
the primal dwelling remains,_________________imposing grandeur,
collapsing,_______________________________in flawless perfection kept;

and the rest;_____________________________on them mount
a eons fall to the earth._____________________the gods.

things to think about on this blog (so i don’t forget)
after virtue, search for belonging, african theology,
alienation and existentialism, theology and persons (primal situation of theology), narrative theology, postmodern churches, death, metaphor and mesas. and all the stuff i forgot but will add.
yesterday dave whited and i went the Passion Experience Tour here at Trinity. I went two years ago (and used it as a “text” to analyze in a seminary class) and thought that I should check it out to see if things that I said still held true. dave crowder and Charlie hall we there to “lead” us.

positively, it seems (to use Passion as a litmus for the broader contemporary worship movement) that they are moving out of their “historical amnesia” (that’s dave’s term for it). happily we sang several ancient hymn, even spoke one w/o singing, and they talked quite a bit about church history/tradition.

but on the whole, it seems that they have not really reached the liturgical movement toward an embodied worship, nor really seen the debilitating effects flowing from “concernt” worship, nor the perpetuation of consumerism. Should we even pay to worship, should people raise/spend money to go on worship “tour.” anyway…more could be said but I’ve said it elsewhere…(i’ll try to post my longer writings on this topic if i can figure out how.)