Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lectio divina vs. gramatico historica: the scripture parallax

A similar thing happened to me in seminary. It made me stop reading my bible. When I’m in a worship service, I only listen to scripture. I never read it in my own Bible. Now it has happened again to my wife.

She has been reading scripture as a catalyst for prayer and devotion, moving between word and prayer, the Book and her Life. But recently she became a ministerial study program that is teaching her the RIGHT way to read scripture: hermeneutics, exegesis, historical method, etc. We were talking yesterday and she told me that once she started LEARNING how to read the Bible that it no longer functioned as a base for prayer, but instead has died in her hand. The Spirit had left the Word. That is exactly what she said!

Why is it that when someone learns the historical-grammatical method that the Bible becomes less a means of devotion and more a task to be mastered?

There is a subtle lure about learning how to properly read the Bible. It is the ever-present shift from communing with God to learning about God; from listening/talking with God to overhearing someone else’s conversation; from conversation to monologue.

This is the parallax of Scripture: at one moment it is the means of communion with God, listening to the Spirit’s whispers, integrating life and text, present and past (and future); while in another moment it is document to researched and argued over, to be investigated and analyzed. The same object can lead us on the paths of God, even while it functions only as a map; in it sings the songs of salvation even while it only notes the score; it overflows with the Spirit even as it dries up as a dead Letter.

The paradox of Scripture: Divine Prayer is always in need of guidance; Exegesis is always in need of Life. The danger is there, but it can’t be resolved. Prayer and Theology must walk with one another.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Stats to Go Along with the State of the Union

Courtesy of our friends (via an email I received) at the Campaign for America's future here are few facts and figures to put the President's speech in context:


--Median household income in 2000: $47,599
--Median household income in 2005: $46,326
(US Census Bureau, Table H-8. Median Household Income by State: 1984 to 2005)

--Salary of a full-time minimum wage employee without vacation: $10,712
--Average time for top CEOs to earn that sum: 2.06 hours
(Forbes Magazine. "What the Boss Makes." April 20, 2006)

--Federal minimum wage in 2000: $5.15/hr
--Federal minimum wage in 2006: $5.15/hr
--Loss in purchasing power, full time worker annually: $1,562


--Average price of home heating oil on Jan. 3, 2000: $1.15 per gallon
--Average price of home heating oil on Jan. 1, 2007: $2.42 per gallon
(U.S. Energy Information Admin. Jan. 4, 2007)

--Average price of gasoline on Jan. 3, 2000: $1.31 per gallon
--Average price of gasoline on Jan. 1, 2007: $2.38 per gallon
(U.S. Energy Information Admin. Jan. 5, 2007)

--Exxon Mobil profits in 2000: $7.9 billion
--Exxon Mobil profits in 2006: $36.1 billion
(CNNMoney.com, accessed Jan. 19, 2007)


--Year Bush said Kyoto Protocol emission targets were “not based upon science”: 2000
--Decrease in NASA budget for Earth observation since 2000: 30 percent
--Year with highest average U.S. temperature ever recorded: 2006
(The White House, June 11, 2001; New York Times, Jan. 21, 2006; National Climate Data Center. U.S. Dept. of Commerce. Jan. 9, 2007)


--Average cost of a year at a public four-year college in 2000: $9,958
--Average cost of a year at a public four-year college in 2006: $12,796
(Costs include tuition, fees, room & board. MSN Money 2000/Associated Press. Jan. 14, 2005. College Board. Trends in College Pricing 2007)


--Workers without retirement plans at work in the private sector 2006: 80 percent
--Baby boom Americans approaching retirement: 76 million
(Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 2006; The Seattle Times. Jan. 22, 2005)


--Americans without health insurance, 2000: 38.2 million
--Americans without health insurance, 2005: 46.6 million
(US Census Bureau, Sept. 2001; US Census Bureau, Aug. 2006)

--Average monthly worker contribution for family coverage in 2000: $135
--Average monthly worker contribution for family coverage in 2006: $248
--Personal bankruptcies due to medical bills: 55 percent
(The Kaiser Family Foundation, Sept. 26, 2006; Health Affairs Health Policy Journal, Feb. 2, 2005)


--Number of US troops killed in Iraq prior to “Mission Accomplished” speech in 2003: 139
--Number of US troops killed in Iraq as of Jan. 22, 2007: 3,056
--Number of Iraqi civilians killed in 2006, according to the United Nations: 34,452
(iCasualties.org, Jan. 22, 2007; U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, Jan. 16, 2006)

--Number of US troops wounded in Iraq prior to “Mission Accomplished” speech in 2003: 542
--Number of US troops wounded in Iraq as of January 10, 2007: 22,834
(iCasualties.org. Jan. 10, 2007)

--Total US military expenditures (including in Iraq and Afghanistan) in 2006: $522 billion
--Total military expenditures of the 10 next top spenders combined: $386 billion
(Includes China, Russia, the UK, Japan, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Italy, and Australia. Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Feb. 16, 2006.)

--U.S. Federal Discretionary Budget spent on Military not including Iraq, in 2006: 48.7 percent
--Amount spent on Education: 6.7 percent
(White House Office of Management and Budget, Feb. 6, 2006) ON DEBTS AND DEFICITS:

--Monthly U.S. Trade Deficit in October 2000: $33.8 billion
--Monthly U.S. Trade Deficit in October 2006: $58.9 billion
(U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics. Jan. 10, 2007)

--U.S. Current Account Deficit, FY 2000: $435.4 billion
--U.S. Current Account Deficit, FY 2006: $900 billion
(Economic Policy Institute. March 14, 2001; Economic Policy Institute. March 14, 2006)

--Loss of value of U.S. dollar relative to the Euro, Jan. 24, 2000 to Jan. 23, 2006: 23 percent
(X-rate.com, accessed Jan. 23, 2006)

--US Budget Deficit in FY 2000: $230 billion surplus
--US Budget Deficit in FY 2006: $423 billion deficit
(White House Office of Management and Budget. Budget of the United States Government, Historical Tables, Fiscal Year 2007; White House Office of Management and Budget. Table S-1. 2006 budget totals)

--US National Debt in FY 2000: $5.7 trillion
--US National Debt in FY 2006: $8.5 trillion
(Bureau of the Public Debt, Jan. 16, 2007)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Welcoming Christ in the Migrant

"I Was A Stranger And You Welcomed Me." (Matt 25:35)

A very thoughtful (thought provoking) YouTube film. I've never posted a YouTube before but i thought this was worth it. Thanks to Catholic Joy for the heads up.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I got a new computer...

...well actually it is an old computer, but it is new to me. I can't tell you how excited I am. I've now officially made the switch to MAC. Not by choice. My old laptop's screen went out and there was an old mac for church use that wasn't being used. One of our congregants (thanks Steve Wilson) works at a MACstore and updated everything.

so i'm not sure if now I'm going to be super productive b/c of all the cool features, or if i'm just going to fool around and waste all my time. we'll see.

more substantial post will be coming shortly...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Incarnational vs Incorporational.

In the wake of Christmas time and Advent, when God becomes a human in Jesus Christ, I want to consider how the ‘person’ of Christ is different than the ‘person’ of Corporations? There has been adequate critique of the Church organizing like a business corporation, but what about the Church living in, but not of, multinational corporations?

I submit that unless the emerging/missional/organic church of progressive evangelicals moves beyond a critique of corporate influences on ecclesial life and a superficial critique of consumerism (as in “Do buy things you do need!”), to a robust practice of investing in local cooperatives, then we will fail in our attempts to be Incarnational, and remain in the grips of the Incorporational.

Wendell Berry makes the interesting observation that “the folly at the root of this foolish economy began with the idea that a corporation should be regarded, legally, as “a person.” This point is often overlooked in critiques of Capitalism. Usually people make a big deal about the exploitation of workers by those who own the means of production, or there is talk about the ‘fetishism’ of money, how we go around chancing more and more of it, even though it really isn’t anything. But the fiction that a corporation is legally a ‘person’, with rights, aims, and purposes, really begins the step beyond outright oppression and exploitation (say in agragian and feudal societies), to the more insidiou, once removed, form of exploitation otherwise known as the ‘free market.’

Berry goes on: “A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance...It goes about its business as if it were immortal, with the single purpose of becoming a bigger pile of money.”

‘Incorporation’ literally means ‘to make into one body’ which is to gather many different human persons into one giant uberperson (whose goal is to make more money). This uberperson remains even if its founders all die off. The modern corporation is immortal, living beyond all it mortal creators (although of course it can be killed by an economic wound).

But this immortality is precisely the problem. Corporations don’t fear natural deaths, they have no being-towards-death. Berry continues: “The limitless destructiveness of this economy comes about precisely because corporations are not a person. As such, unlike a person, a corporation does not age. It does not arrive, as most persons finally do, at a realization of the shortness and smallness of human lives; it does not come to see the future as the lifetimes of children and grandchildren of anybody in particular. It can experience no personal hope or remorse, or change of heart. It cannot humble itself.”

And this is exactly where we see the antithesis in Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8). In the Incarnation we see God become man, so that he could die, even a death reserved for the most lowly. A corporation could never sacrifice itself. Its whole purpose is to return back more money to its investors. Anything else is a failure. This ultimately is where the agency of the Corporation exceeds the agency of its individual investors, managers, and executives. Anyone who in their old age finds a humane conscience is asked to leave, to start a charitable foundation, or carry on their philanthropic work somewhere else on their own time.

But those who gathered together in the Incarnation do not try to escape death, but know they must die for the sake of the world. Those gathered together in a Corporation attempt to escape death, storing up riches on earth and kingdoms to rule.

Now of course I’m not advocating that we all quit our corporate jobs and do something else (although that would be good), but rather that we, as much as possible, support alternative ways of grouping people together, which are otherwise known as cooperatives or co-ops. Cooperatives support an alternative to the ‘free market’ by allowing producers and consumer to share the risks and opportunities of generating products. One way it works is like this. My family becomes a ‘member’ of my local CSA, Angle Organics, at the beginning of the year. This guarantees delivers of 20 boxes of organic vegetable (from June to October). The benefit to me is that I get a bunch of great food, grown in a manner that I know is responsible to the Earth (God’s Creation) and fair to its employees (made in God’s image). The benefit to the farm is they get, in advance, the cash necessary to produce the crops of the next year. In this way I assume the risk of a bad crop along with the farm. If the crop is bad, my boxes will not be full. If it is good, they will overflow. This keeps my money, and the farmer's money, from getting tangled up in the financial institutions of multination corporations. Everything stays local; and money is not thrown into a pile of ever increasing money. Along the same lines, there are clothing and food cooperatives, housing and energy, and even healthcare cooperatives, whose goal is not to sells their moral allegiance to a pile of cash, but instead to share in the benefits and dangers of securing the things they need.

So again, I submit that the emerging/missional/organic church of progressive evangelicals mmust move beyond a critique of corporate influences on ecclesial life, to a robust practice of stepping outside of the circulation of money between multinational corporations and instead begin investing in local cooperatives. Only then we will succeed in escaping the grip of the Corporation.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Best Contemporary Theology Meme

Cynthia Neilsen tagged me to compile a list of what I believe to be the most important and substantial theological works published in the last 25 years (1981-2006). The originator of the meme desires that the focus of our selection be theology (not biblical exegesis, historical studies etc., unless these are of special theological interest!).

John D. Zizioulas: Being as Communion
George A. Lindbeck: The Nature of Doctrine
John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory

Pretty much to above three have formed me significantly. But the one that has really pulled things together for is...

Louis-Marie Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence.

This book brings together the critique of ontotheology, linquistics, ritual studies, Moltmann, Girard, Trinitarian Theology, and many others. It is outstanding.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lacan and the Political

I just received Lacan and the Political. I am very excited, and it better be worth it b/c $35 is alot to spend on such a small book. Arrrgh that Routledge!

But I can't get to it yet. Must practise self-control and actual finish digesting Transcritique before gorging myself on another book.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Agrarian Economics and Transcritique

I just finish a great book, and now I'm reading one that is blowing my mind.

The book that I recently finished is Kojin Karatani's Transcritique: on Kant and Marx. There is just too much to go into here. In fact I will probably spend much of the next month posting about it. His understand of the interrelation between the trinity of Capital, Nation, and State true open up helpful ways of understand globalization and individual states, as well as possible resistance to exploitative capitalism. Very philosophical. A tough read.

The one I'm currently reading is Wendell Berry's Art of the Common Place: The Agrarian Essays. It is honestly the most refreshing commentary on American life I have ever read. It is very accessible, written in a journalistic style rather than a academic one. He just pulls all these threads together. If you are at all concerned about ecological issues, the local economy, body and the earth, or if you read (or want to read Crunchy Cons, which is quite good also).

Thankfully, most of Berry's essays you can find online (I love the internet). Here are some that I found and that I strongly recommend:

The Idea of a Local Economy (written a couple of years ago... great critique of our economy)
Feminism, the Body, and the Machine (a response to a hostile reaction created by his essay in Harpers, the response is better than the initial essay)
The Body and The Earth (p. 29 of the pdf...long but interesting.
Health is Membership