Saturday, July 31, 2004

Virtual reality, Freedom, Incarnation

(the first of three, or so, posts coming out of my summer reading of Lev Manovich concerning new media and technology)

What if the direction of virtual reality were reversed such that it is not us that enters into a virtual reality, leaving our normal plane of existence, but rather we are always virtual and the incarnation is God leaving his normal plane of existence and enters into our virtual reality, our copy/simulacra of reality.

Think about the Matrix. In the virtual reality of the Matrix, everything runs according to Laws and Programs which fulfill there destiny/function. But Neo comes in as one able to bend, break, augment these Laws according to his design. He brings freedom into the Matrix. And for us (humanity) this is how we must figure the break into and out of virtual reality-- the forced choice of Freedom conquering VR.

But what if the God's entering into our virtual reality is the opposite of this. Our VR is structure around freedom (even its forced choice), so might it be possible that this person would break with our Laws of freedom, conquering our VR with a new Law of necessity and function? And wouldn't this enable the great reversal where we see that our conquering of Law through Freedom is merely the greatest support of the Law, and God's conquering of Freedom through the Law is merely the greatest support of Freedom which is Love?

And of course, wouldn't this mean that Jesus' actions (and our repetition of them) would always seem irrational, impractical, insane, and leading toward death? And might this economy of sacrifice and love not signal the possibility of another life outside the laws of our VR: beyond selfishness and violence?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Ethics of the Other; Politics of the Same

I was brooding over the two different strains of postmodern ethics/politics while walking home from the train station earlier this week, and this is what I came up with conerning the differences b/w the "Other" and the "Same". From where did these two emphases come, and to which context are they addressed?

Sprouting amid the ruble of post-war Europe, the ethics of the Other (represented by Levinas and Derrida) is meant to protect us against totalitarianism, at least the overt fascist expression with its attempt to exclude and destory all the doesn't conform (to the Same of the Party, Race, Gender, etc.). The ethics of the Other, therefore, stands against the totalizing effects of the Same (which might be the modern project) by reminding us of the irriducible and infinite obligation we have before the face of the Other, which never can be draw into our circle of understanding or sameness. So against the totalizing Same we must proclaim the Other.

However, within the soil of Easter European Communism and the emergence of global capitalism, comes the flowering ethics of the Same (Represented by Zizek and Badiou). This ethics, and its related politic, is meant to guard against a different totalitarianism, a more insidious exclusion and destruction based on the continual division and deterritorialization. Because of global capitalism's continual production of difference, and therefore distraction through the endless procession of the "new", the only way of standing against this fragmenting effect is to speak and promote the Same. Against the perpetually othering of capitalism, we must proclaim that we are all the Same.

So we can speak of two different politics, nurtured in two different soils, resisting two different locusts. Our question then is, which pestulance is the greatest? which plant will has the greatest chance to bear fruit? and, lastly, might we consider a variety within our diets?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

after Ekklesia

Well, the ekklesia conference has come and gone and with it all the major activities of the summer.   I'm sad and glad about it. 

For a run down of all the activities see AKMA's summaries (who I finally met in person).  Others I met offline for the first time were anthony smith from the Weblog and Ryan from Kankakee, Jennifer Collins from scandal of particularity.

Also hero's of mine that I either met or caught up with were Stephen Long and Ed Phillips from Garrett Seminary, Micheal Cartwright, Glen Stassen, Brent Laytham, Micheal Budde, Daniel Bell, Jonathan Wilson and of course Stanely Hauerwas. 

Tomorrow I'll post my note from the workshop I gave for you all to dissect and some other thought from the conference.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Ekklesia Conference

Is any one going to the Ekklesia Conference next week? 
If you are could you post a comment letting me know.  We should try to get the Chicago blogger together and at least meet face to face sometime while we are there. 

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Way of Life

Who are the people? What is the vision?
This is the vision of the Living:
The Living see beyond themselves and their own desires.
The Living see the basic needs and hopes of others as the same as their own.
The Living know that even “dead men walking” can turn away from death toward life.
The Living recognize and practice a “community of life.”
The Living know good and evil tendencies are in every human being.
The Living practice repentance and forgiveness.
The Living are peacemakers.
The Living seek justice for all.
The Living are informed by history.
The Living see beyond their generation into the future.
The Living seek the same opportunity for others that they seek for themselves.
The Living respect, conserve, and share the resources of the Earth.
The Living serve the spirit of love.
The Living would rather build than destroy.
The Living seek truth instead of lies and illusions.
The Living choose trust over suspicion.
The Living celebrate life:  
  In the smile of a child,  
  In the loving touch of hands,  
  In the sharing of food and drink,  
  In the healing of the sick,  
  In the unique quality of each individual person,  
  In shared laughter,  
  In shared work,  
  In the beauty and sternness of nature,  
  In song, dance, and story.

from the bruderhof community.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

cavanaugh discussion

for those interested in willian cavanaugh's Theopolitical Imagination and/or the creation of the nation-state and the individual, see the discussion over at scandal of particularity.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

the prepubesant nature of christian radio

The entire time I spent in a car last week I listened to Christian radio. Not because I naturally do this, but because I was teaching at a youth camp, and every time we got in a van we started listening to the alternative christian rock radio station. Through spending a week with jr. higher and listening to Christian radio at the same time, I made a very sad discovery.

All the songs were perfectly accessable to these jr. highers.

Every thing that we listened to for an entire week could have been understood a kid who have barely reached puberty. Christian radio basically perpetuate a pre-teen understanding of God, life, and the gospel. The problem is that most people who listen to these stations are adults.

My church is spending the summer digging into the Psalms, looking at life, the hard/difficult/confusing side of life, but the Christian subculture as viewed through Christian radio doesn't even acknowledge that side of life.

I'm grieved that there is an entire segment of the Church acting prepetually prpubesant. What is to be done?

Friday, July 09, 2004

what i've been reading

in place of a really post, ill let you know what i've been reading and where I'm going.

Most importantly is the stimulating conversation stemming from the university without condition. They are reading The Perverse Perseverance of Sovereignty which discusses globalization and the nation-state. Other interesting articles relating this topic which I'm working thru are john milbank's Sovereignty, Empire, Capital, and Terror and william cavanaugh's wars of religion and the rise of the state and the world in a wafer. (both of which are in his Theopolitical Imagination and are brought to you by the jesus radical library.)Excerpt from World in a Wafer to show the trajectory of his thinking: "What I hope to that globalization does not signal the demise of the nation-state but is in fact a hyperextension of the nation-state's project of subsuming the local under the universal."

After spending so much time on critical theorists/theologians I decided to revisit my hermeneutic root and picked up Paul Ricoeur's From Text to Action , esp. his essays on ideology (which zizek and badiou would despise) and also his Oneself as Another . As an intro to Ricoeur I would hightly recommend from text to action.

I've also been reading up on new media as mediated through Len Manovich. I'll be blogging about this soon as i'll be reviewing The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society for the matthew house project. This is some great matter for reflection in all this media/technology stuff.

so that's what I've been reading while I was away.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

"the doubtful address of faith; or why faith is over-rated"

part one and two are diagnostic; part three is constructive. read in the order you see fit.)

Part One: Intro to Problem
"No one doubts anymore because faith has been banished! A life of faith has vanished, and with it the ability to doubt."

My primary concern is with discipleship and spiritual formation within the Church, but this reflection could be easily extended beyond ecclesial walls (see a gauche's "In Defense of These Deflated Meta-Narratives"). My premise is that we no long know how to truly doubt because we no long believe.

But let me begin again...What doubt am I talking about? Let's make a distinction: there is philosophical doubt and existential doubt; or there is methodological doubt and personal doubt (from hear on out I'll refer to "philosophical" and "personal" doubt because my homiletics professor would like the alliteration…).

Concerning the first, philosophic, the history is well known. Amid the religious wars which had engulfed Europe after the Reformation/Renaissance Rene Descartes began his quest for a universal foundation of human reason on from which he could evaluate conflicting epistemological claims. In other words, he was trying to find that one place from which everyone could agree. Methodologically this led him to doubt everything until he found that something of which it is impossible to doubt. From this process came is famous dictum, "I think therefore I am." And from this radical doubt springs the Enlightenment, the search for pure reason through the doubting of everything received whether it be tradition, religion, family, or even perception.

However, there is one catch. This radical "life of doubt," or philosophical doubt, was pursued for the explicit purpose of banishing all personal doubts. It was the Descartes, awash in epistemological chaos, full of personal doubts and anxieties that entered into philosophical doubt. Philosophical doubt was a retreat from and panacea for personal doubts, and the Enlightenment took up this quest diligently. Therefore, once the philosophical process is over, there is no longer any need to doubt, because now we have a certain answer for every personal doubt.

Part Two: Consequences
While those better informed might tease out the consequences of this "life of doubt" in our contemporary life, I will focus on the Church. The "life of doubt" has affected both the mainline/liberal as well as the conservative/evangelical church.

For the mainliners, the use of modern epistemological tools coupled with radical cynicism resulted in the deletion of much of orthodoxy replaced by culturally sensitive theological ambiguities which portioned off Christian identity. It left them with a radical critique of the faith such that the form barely consisted without content.

But the conservatives did not fair much better. In fact they might be worse off for their appropriation of Enlightenment doubt. Using the same epistemological tools, yet for a different use, conservatives began a militant defense of the faith, but not grounded in faith, resulting in a semblance of orthodoxy. They defended faith through doubt, thereby denying the faith of Paul/Abraham which moves from "faith to faith" (Rom. 1:17).

The relation of doubt and faith have been all screwed up, where now in much of the Church, real personal doubt is not allowed to be spoken. We are left with either radical doubt or militant faith, both of which kill true doubt and true faith. We aren’t allowed to question, we can’t voice our concerns, we can't speak our doubts, because this would be a betrayal of modern faith, which demands certainty.

Part Three: The Doubtful Address of Faith
So this is the difference between the "life of doubt" and the "life of faith." The "life of doubt" ("I doubt therefore I am") can truly only give answers. The "life of faith" can truly ask questions. In this "life of doubt" I must fill the in abyss with answer after answer, frantically dousing the fires of ambiguity with coolly reasoned answers b/c I can't persist in perpetual doubt. But the life of faith ("I belief therefore I am") floats above the abyss, suspended by the address to and from anOther, able to fully enter the questions and ambiguities of life precisely because doubt is not our horizon, nor the constitution of our being, but the voice of faith amid the complexity of existence.

This brings us back to the practices of discipleship and spiritual formation. The "life of doubt" can't bring to speech actual doubt. But the "life of faith" can bring actual doubts to speech. True faith, even during the dark night of the soul, even in the winter of disorientation, true faith can bring its doubts to God. It still addresses God and vocalizes doubts. This is seen continually in the Psalms. The Psalms are nothing but a persistent addressing to God the concerns of our lives. No matter the situation, the Psalmists are still talking with God. Can we cultivate in our Churches this doubtful address of faith, or are we too quick to answer the personal doubts of others?

Illustration of Job: Think through the life of Job, his suffering, his calling out to God, his receiving answers from his friends (orthodox explanations of what is happening and who is at fault). His wife advises him to curse God and die. But Job questions God and lives. His three friends come around and give him answer after answer, but he is never satisfied. So Job questions God, and demands an answer from God himself, not anyone else. But when God arrives, God doesn’t even offer the correct answer to Job’s question, there is no explanation. Only more questions. One questioner to another questioner. There are no answers, only questions. For Job, and for us, questions are the answer. Questions addressed to God, spoken to God, directed toward God, not the void or nothingness, and not silence and mute depression. Job in the midst of doubt and suffering still addresses God because there is still a relationship. And God, even though he questions Job, affirms the relationship through his questions.

So how can we affirm/encourage the doubtful questioning of faith? Or will we continue to replace true faith with the answers of doubt?

Concluding Aphorisms:
In the life of doubt, both doubt and faith are ultimately to be feared b/c they both close the space of the subject.

In the life of faith, both doubt and faith are embraced b/c they keep open the space for the subject to participate in/with Another.

Doubt ruptures relationships, but Faith forges them.

these thoughts brought to you by walter bruggemann's spirituality of the psalms and robert pfaller's Negation and its Reliabilities:
An Empty Subject for Ideology

Monday, July 05, 2004

i've returned

now that i'm finally back, and june is finally over, i hope to start blogging again. I've been doing a bunch of reading and thinking, just no writing...

so starting tomorrow i'll begin with my promised post on "the doubtful address of faith" and then move on from there.

in the mean time, i've changed some of the links to the side and updated the books i'm working through.