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“Cautious Affirmation” of Augustine (toward a “Theology of Occupy) #occuppytheology cc: @james_ka_smith

December 04, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

I was just in a mini-stream on Twitter with
@james_ka_smith ,  where I tried to re-open the topic re: the church and the Occupy movement.   I had tweeted a while back to JKA on this,  but it didn’t seem to spark much interest on his part.  He and I had done a bit of back and forth back in 2005-06  over his sense about Jim Wallis and “God’s Politics”,  and I didn’t really know of his approach,  which slowly worked on me to the point that I became a big fan of Jamie’s (James K.A. Smith’s)  theological sensibilities here.  When I read his article ,  “Reforming Public Theology: Two Kingdoms or Two Cities”,  I thought this was an excellent positioning on the perceived relationship that the church can/should/can’t/shouldn’t  with “political movements”,  but in particular in the case of OWS,  a “People’s Movement” that widely eschews the political assumptions of American politics.

So I saw the connections; those “affinities”;  those values that naturally elicit the comradery of many Christians who have known that this economy of ours is nowhere near “adequate” as an ideal;  questioning  that “the American dream” visa vi the National dogma is ,  “the greatest idea” or “greatest country on earth” (or that the very phrase “American dream” absolutizes the ultimacy of the American  form of nationalism.

When Jamie writes:

The citizen of the city of God-which is itself political in some significant sense-will always already find herself thrown into a situation of being a resident alien taking up residence in some outpost of the earthly city. Contra two-kingdom readings of Augustine, this does not necessarily translate into a basically positive or sanguine stance vis-a-vis the earthly city; rather, the first political impetus is one of suspicion, which is then tempered by ad hoc evaluations about legitimate selective collaborations for the common good. The correlate of this suspicion is, of course, a tempered evaluation of the ecclesia.

I determined that I must try to draw him into a more robust exploration of the significance of Occupy Wall Street; to be one of the contributors to whom I can turn in exploring a Theology of Occupy Wall Street.


The tweets this morning


.@james_ka_smith Mention of your book in opening of Bell’s Economy of Desire re-kindles my curiosity re: how you might see#OWS ….1 of 2


.@james_ka_smith see #OWS in similar “conversation” as you have with postmodernism and the church; as “view on the world” (2 of 2)

.@james_ka_smith I wondered a while back how #OWS might be a case for the limited/partial participation you talk about in 2 Kingdoms article

.@james_ka_smith wish I had asked you about this when I saw you in Nashville at C3 in March…you left b4 it was over, so I waited too late

@dlature As I think I’ve said before, I appreciate some of #OWS‘s concerns, but I think “they” have a simplistic account of economic reality

.@james_ka_smith as in?


.@james_ka_smith also, as you rightly put “they” in quotes, it wholly depends on who you identify as “they”. Multitudes of keen analyses

.@james_ka_smith and as I’ve said b4, your analyses of i.e. “God’s Politics” which we debated 7-8 years ago was ultimately convincing to me

.@james_ka_smith I think #OWS thought adds dimension of rejecting assumptions of US politics, which you employ via theological issues

.@james_ka_smith I belabor this b/c you are first one I wonder “what would JKA say about this”? You helped shape my questioning stance here.

.@james_ka_smith Want to press you on utilizing some things you say the 2 Kingdoms article & “cautious affirmation” of which you write

@dlature Yes, “cautious affirmation”: Augustinian cultural analysis will always be “Yes, BUT…” and “No, BUT…” As true of #OWS as Walmart

@dlature But seriously: Twitter is not the medium for this. I don’t have pithy evaluations, nor do I probably have adequate knowledge.

@james_ka_smith I’m game. Actually, I’d love to get on this , esp. to garner your insights. I have my own URL: 

@james_ka_smith I’m going to put this stream of tweets in a blog post and invite comments. When you can, I will deeply desire your input.

@james_ka_smith I know you’re a busy guy. But I think you would like this, bigtime. I see you contributing to this analysis big time.

.@james_ka_smith in fact, I think occupytheology is deficient without your input as helping us frame this theologically

@james_ka_smith and seriously, I’d love to have a 5 minute conversation via phone to just say a few things about where I’m going with this

@james_ka_smith doesnt have to be now…but could be …..hope we can

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A bit of #OccupyTheology applied to the #OWS message about the middle class being under assault (HT @lisasharper @Sojourners)

July 17, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

I asked Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners about her thoughts on the Occupy Movement,  and she said something we don’t hear much amidst all the uproar about the “middle class” being under assault.  While the economic figures about the shrinkage and stagnation of wages in the middle class make for a wider audience from which to garner movement support,  what we Christians need to remember is that for the poor,  this has been a constant struggle against systems that seek to make things easier for the sake of spending in order to “grow the economy”.  It’s easy to “stand up for the middle class”.  And if you look at the definiton of “the middle class” in our politics (as Lisa writes about it here) ,  it’s focus tends to be on the upper end,  where there’s debate about whether the Bush tax cuts should be extended for those making over 250,000 a year vs One million dollars a year.  Lisa Sharon Harper illustrates these efforts to widen that middle class definition in order to include a lot of people whose lives are a far cry from a “struggling middle class”.

In an article in Sojo last week,  Lisa writes:

While Jesus loves everybody, there is no Christian tradition of teaching God’s “preferential option for the middle class.”

So,  yeah,  we in the Christian tradition who have been encouraged by the emergence of the Occupy Movement,  need to keep this in mind as we (as I myself ) consider the theological implications and “Vinn Diagram” commonalities with the Occupy Movement and the Church.  While there is a definite deterioration of actual middle class income (much more so in the lower portions)  ,  and this has brought about a critical mass that has coalesced into a movement,  it should be a particular hope for Christians that this push back and awareness building will bring about a clearer focus on the more serious problems at the lower end,  and especially beyond (in this case,  below the poverty line).

In this video,  which I shot at the Wild Goose Festival back in late June,  Lisa talks about this a bit as she says “While the 99% have certainly gotten a bad deal,  in that bottom 10%,  it’s really bad”


Nuns Living It – GOP not liking it #OccupyChurch #OWS #Maddow

July 07, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

This kind of blows their image as having Catholics on their side as well.  The nuns represent the “live it out”  segments of the church.

Republicans, especially the right-wing chairman of the House Budget Committee who inspired the tour in the first place, are generally dismissive of their pleas

This is what the GOP has been doing for 30+ years.  Enlist the 2 or 3 issue Christian Right to stir up the churches,  and attack the church people who see in the gospel a whole, a Kingdom that encopmpasses all of life,  and warns us against the dangers of riches.

Didactic and Heady vs Emotional/Liturgical

July 22, 2007 By: Theoblogical Category: Uncategorized

In my previous post, I started speaking of “relational”; I saw this as a related piece of the “catholic” emphasis; as a piece of the emotional/liturgical/

as in:

This [Protestant/Enlightenment/rational] shift manifests itself in the life of the church with the Reformation, which displaced the centrality of the Eucharist (a very tactile, affective, sensual mode of worship) and put the sermon (the Word) at the center. The heart of worship becomes “teaching,” and the shape of worship becomes driven by very cognitive, basically rationalist tendencies. This develops to the point of caricature in the evangelical worship service centered around bullet points on the PowerPoint presentation.

—again, JKA Smith in the church and postmodern culture: conversation: Is the Future Catholic?

The relational piece is the sense that here is a community that is in celebration and observance and offering of itself to God, and awaiting further movement of the spirit amongst them.

Protestant, mainline, modern church follows an intellectual, “content” and ultimately “entertainment” trajectory, rather than a community based, practice-centered expectant sense. Behind that latter scenario or vision is a knowledge held amongst that community that in this community there is a commonly held assumption of accountability. That the journey of each of us matters to each of us in a radical way. This is the only way to integrate our individualness into the body which is interdependent. But to affirm this in some vague general sense seems insufficient to me. It must in some manner be lived. Rollins does say in his book that it is not “what we believe” but “How we believe”.

I’ve been in a long period of “unbelief” in that sense. I haven’t done the HOW. I haven’t wanted to try and return to some effort in finding a place to call home as a church (a church in that it exists unmistakably and obvious-to-all as an intentional community intent on living as an alternative society, and disciplines itself and each other in radical support to that end.)

Theoblogical: Catholic vs Modern?

Drought in Reading Motivation

July 15, 2007 By: Theoblogical Category: Uncategorized

I have found it hard,  for some odd reason,  to get into reading of theological things over the past several weeks.  The last thing I read at much length was Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution.  I have a slight suspicion that maybe that has sparked in me a deep cynicism about the usefulness or relevance of reading without much serious attempt to do something about one’s imprisonment in the culture.  The booklet, Becoming the Authentic Church,  has also added to that deep dissatisfaction.

The other part of it is that when I do happen upon something that addresses any of this,  or demonstrates some concern about this problem of cultural captivity of Christianity,  I find it hard to read , knowing of the seeming impossibility of finding a significant (even small) group who want to give a go at some semblance of alternative discipleship. 

It disturbs me to see the blinders put up by churches to buffer themselves from having to expose themselves to life outside of our suburban bubble.  There are plenty of “Progressive Christians” who make the drive into urban settings and support the work of churches there.  But the life together of such churches,  at least as far as it goes in my experience, is lacking when it comes to what Elizabeth O’Connor calls the “Inward Journey”;  an “accountable discipleship” that truly asks some things of us and invites/challenges/expects us to throw ourselves with serious abandon into the adventure of discerning call together,  and to be accountable to one another for our shared disciplines in seeking this.  To devote ourselves to seeking out our gifts for the purpose of mission. To commit to the task of being mutual “evokers” of gifts,  and enabling one another in the process of discerning what God is calling a specific group to do about a particular place of need.  There is very little of this discernment happening where I have looked in my searching for such a community.  One does not hear much talk about “the sounding of a call”,  such as that which has been a foundational piece of the mission groups of The Church of the Saviour.  It’s not that the same language is required to do the same kind of work.  The “sounding of call” is an announcement that a particular need has been discerned,  accompanied by the “matching gifts” of a particular group who sense the call to journey together as both an “Inward Journeying people” to hold one another accountable for the inward work that must accompany their mission,  and to journey together in the building of a mechanism ; a structure,  to address the discerned need or problem.  This is the Outward Journey. 

In light of the above description of my “reading problems”,  perhaps it is the sense of “individualized” reading that has fatigued me.  All this reading seems to be of the kind of individualized , “personal devotion” kind of thing that leaves me all the more sensitive to the isolation that this can bring about.