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Well, a lot has happened in the last few months:

  1. I graduated from Regent College with a Master’s degree in Theology.
  2. We moved (temporarily) to North Dakota.
  3. I married the amazingly beautiful, wonderfully talented, incredibly funny, and marvelously kind Lisa.
  4. We honeymooned in Mexico.
  5. We acquired a Beagle puppy.
  6. We moved (temporarily) to northern Minnesota.

Things happening soon:

  1. We’re moving (hopefully not temporarily) to Waco, Texas.
  2. I will be beginning a PhD program in Theological Ethics at Baylor University.
  3. I will be starting intensive French on July 7.
  4. Lisa will be starting a new job!

I am currently thinking through what I am going to do with this blog.  I hope that those of you who do read this forgive my lack of posting, and I hope you haven’t deleted me off of your reading list.  I hope that with beginning a new program I will find inspiration to write more about the things I care about.

For now, check out this great new Jacques Ellul book coming out: Jacques Ellul, On Freedom, Love, and Power

Tweeting in Haiti

My friend Stephan is a Senior Vice President for World Relief and is currently in Haiti leading World Relief’s disaster response team. He has been tweeting through his time there, and I have found it to be quite eye-opening. Stephan is a good man and I am glad to know there are people like him – most of whom we will never hear about – doing this kind of work. To follow his comments, and to maybe get some sense of the real feelings and thoughts on the ground, you can follow him here:

http://twitter.com/stephanjbauman

You can listen to an interview with him here: http://worldrelief.org/Page.aspx?pid=2372

V

V

By Wendell Berry

The politics of illusion, of death’s money,
possesses us.  This is the Hell, this
the nightmare into which Christ descended
from the cross, from which also he woke
and rose, striding godly forth, so free
that He appeared to Mary Magdalene
to be only the gardener walking about
in the new day, among the flowers.

My dad bought me William Cavanaugh’s newest book for Christmas, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (New York: Oxford, 2009).  So far it’s great.  In the first chapter he tediously, but nonetheless compellingly, deconstructs nine scholars’ religion-and-violence arguments.  There are three kinds: 1) Religion is absolutist, 2) Religion is divisive, and 3) Religion is insufficiently rational.  The problem, according to Cavanaugh, is not with the logic and cogency of the respective arguments, rather the arguments fall short because they fail to provide an adequate working definition of the term “religion,” which leads to either a) vague understandings of what religion is, or b) unjustifiably clear understandings of what counts as religion and what does not.   He ends his first chapter with this insightful paragraph:

Suppose we apply an empirical test to the question of absolutism.  Absolute itself is a vague term, but in the religion-and-violence arguments, it appears to indicate the tendency to take something so seriously that violence results.  An empirically testable definition of absolute, then, might be “that for which one is willing to kill.”  This test has the advantage of covering behavior and not simply what one claims to believe.  Now, let us ask the following two questions: what percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christians would be willing to kill for their Christian faith.  What percentage would be willing to kill for their country?  Whether we attempt to answer  these questions by survey or by observing American Christians’ behavior in wartime, it seems clear that, at least among American Christians, the nation-state – Hobbes’s ‘mortal god’ – is subject to far more absolutists fervor than religion.  For most American Christians, even public evangelization is considered to be in poor taste, and yet most would take for granted the necessity of being willing to kill for their country, should the circumstances dictate.

We must conclude that there is no coherent way to isolate religious ideologies with a peculiar tendency toward violence from their tamer secular counterparts.  People kill for all kinds of reasons.  An adequate approach to the problem must begin with empirical investigations into the conditions under which beliefs and practices such as jihad, the invisible hand of the market, the sacrificial atonement of Christ, and the role of the United States as worldwide liberator turn violent.  The point is not simply that secular violence should be given equal attention to religious violence.  The point is that the distinction between ecular and religious violence is unhelpful, misleading, and mystifying, and it should be avoided altogether. (56)

What does Christian understanding comprise?  It is sometimes supposed that the Christian message is a sort of hypothesis, which Christians “believe.”  That is what makes Christians Christians: their willingness to accept the hypothesis as a true one.  On this model, Christian understanding might be depicted as that grasp of the hypothesis which would make a reasoned decision about it possible.  One would have a attained a Christian understanding when one had a clear view of the grounds and implications of the various historical and metaphysical claims involved in the Christian hypothesis, and of the way in which these claims are woven together into a unity.  “Christianity” is, so to speak, the object to be understood.

What such a view tends to overlook or minimize is the fact that the Christian message presents a number of concepts whose mastery takes one in quite a different direction from that just indicated.  One may set out to understand Christianity, only to find oneself confronted with the task of understanding oneself and one’s world Christianly.  And this may be a more arduous assignment than one had anticipated, particularly with regard to the self-understanding of which is involved.  What accounts for this unusual turn of events is that some of the concepts central to Christian teaching are rather complex, existentially rooted concepts whose acquisition entails particular kinds of moral and emotional growth.  Such concepts as gratitude or joy have conceptual prerequisites, in that, for example, a capacity for gratitude presupposes a particular awareness of self and other, and a capacity fr joy presupposes the capacity to care.  So to learn these characteristically Christian concepts, and thus to “understand Christianity,” involves one in what may be a fairly intensive and thoroughgoing education in human existence, particularly if one’s education has been somewhat spotty up to this point.  Lest this appear to exaggerate a commonplace, it is worth remarking that we are not born with these concepts, and that some of them appear to go against the ordinary human grain, despite the ordinariness of the terms associated with them, such as “faith,” “hope,” and “love.”  Theologically understood, faith, hope, and love are divine gifts, not to be reckoned as human achievements; yet the appropriation of these gifts, enabled by grace, just as clearly involves the development of the corresponding abilities, or clusters of abilities, which are then determinative of Christian life as lived “in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Charles Wood, The Formation of Christian Understanding: An Essay in Theological Hermeneutics (1981), 24-25.

More of the same…

“Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you: Jesus Christ and the American Soldier.  One died for our soul, the other for our freedom.”  (a quote from a friend’s facebook status)

This is precisely the reason why Christians in America can’t comprehend what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection mean, and must turn to the nationalistic idolatry of warfare to make sense of life.

Hauerwas the Sectarian

…after September 11 Hauerwas was one of the very few well-
known public voices in America calling for a nonviolent response.
Hauerwas spoke and wrote, argued and debated the reasons for his
pacifist stance up and down the East Coast, in magazines, journals,
books, lectures,  and on the internet. The idea that a theologian who
goes to so much trouble to put in the public domain a set of extremely
unpopular arguments for the legitimacy of pacifism is a sectarian, or
is commending a withdrawal from the world, is laughable.

Michael Northcott, An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire, 132.

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