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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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God REALLY is neither a Democrat NOR a Republican HT @BrianMerritt #OWS #OccupyChurch

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

I totally agree with my friend Brian here:

In the end if they break ways with Christ’s teachings we are required to break with them as well and speak truth in love

And saying such things just scares the bejeebies out of so many of my “secular” friends.  They just can’t seem to grasp the idea that the “theocracy” ideas of the Religious Right are not what one is necessarily proposing in speaking of following Christ’s teachings rather than political parties.  I want to say something like “Be not afraid”,  but the American political ideology that says “Separation of Church and State” seems to require of them that they eschew any traces of “religious ideology” when considering politcal policy.  My attempts to steer them off of this course of thinking,  or to try to explain how such a sharp separation is not feasible (except to those who claim they have no such “religious problems”– to which I try to argue that no matter how “detached” and “rational” they claim to be,  their “politics” is also based in spiritual/social values that they will insist are not “religious” in nature  — but they ARE.  )

And so I find myself hesitating to say this often enough (things such as what Brian has said here,  and tweeted just prior to his post going up).   I’m afraid it may pigeon-hole me in  the eyes of certain political tweeters who follow me.  I can only hope that they read into just a few of the details.

I noticed just within the last hour that @james_ka_smith was having to explain to a tweeter that he was NOT Republican, assumed by that tweeter since Smith had no doubt said something “un-euphoric” about Obama.  This euphoria was all over Twitter last night,  as well as on MSNBC.   I watch MSNBC,  but it’s been immensely harder lately.  The blind spots are glaring even brighter than they usually are.

I sure wish we could talk about this in the churches.  But it is as about as TABOO to take ANY side whatsoever,  even a non-partisan one that would get up the dander of the defenders of the “beloved” (such as Obama)  being questioned.

Maybe I should try to set up such a conversation where we can talk about what the church we inhabit needs to be saying to the powers that be,  or talk about the question of just how to do that.

My title of this  post is based on a bumber sticker that I got from Sojourners back in 2004.  But I differ somewhat from the way one often hears it discussed by Sojourners writers.  While I find much , much more in common in terms of what we see the Gospels telling us about the merits of political platforms and discourse,  I am somewhat less enamored with the political process as it exists in America than I find in m any (but not all) Sojourners articles/speeches.


Hedges on the lessons of Easter Island #OWS #OccupyChurch #occupyTheology

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

I blogged on this a couple weeks ago,  as I recoiled at the inane thesis of a WIRED article about “conspiracy theories” such as global warning.

The modern belief by evangelical Christians in the rapture, which does not exist in biblical literature, is no less fantastic, one that at once allows for the denial of global warming and of evolution and the absurd idea that the righteous will all be saved-floating naked into heaven at the end of time. The faith that science and technology, which are morally neutral and serve human ambitions, will make the world whole again is no less delusional. We offer up our magical thinking in secular as well as religious form.

Hedges,  in this article,  articulates it succinctly:  “We trust naively in the inevitability of our own salvation”.  And for the direct tie to the Occupy movement themes:

Those willing to cater to fantasy and self-delusion are, because they make us politically passive, lavishly funded and promoted by corporate and oligarchic forces.

The oligrachic forces have always depended on the pushers of the opiates of the people,  to keep them compliant and even feverishly supportive of continued exploitation,  even at their won expense (OFTEN,  in fact,  at their own expense).

Like the Earth, Easter Island was an isolated system. The people there believed that they were the only survivors on Earth, all other land having sunk beneath the sea. They carried out for us the experiment of permitting unrestricted population growth, profligate use of resources, destruction of the environment and boundless confidence in their religion to take care of the future. The result was an ecological disaster leading to a population crash. … Do we have to repeat the experiment on this grand scale?

The beneficiaries of such conditions seem capable only of ramping up their assaults on environment,  economies,  and communities.  This is starkly brought home in Hedges’ book,  “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt”.  The social devastation of the Indian reservations, Urban abandonment (Camden), and communities devasted by mountain top removals (which are simply an “advancement” – and more destructive by orders of shocking magnitude – of former exploitative coal mining company practices),  farmworkers in slave conditions on Florida,  are all narrated in infuriating detail,  telling the story form the point of view of those whose habitat and livelihood were summarily destroyed and poisoned.

The Occupy movement story thus far are  “Days of Rage” to which Hedges turns his attention as the last, possibly hopeful chapter.  It is the hope instilled when significant resistance engenders movements.  I’m sure I will have further comments and reactions after I read that last chapter.  And I hope it will indeed be a “last chapter” in the sense that something significant is planted and seen through to harvest.  These hopes,  too,  are the form I hope the church will recognize as a proper theme for her people.  A resistance of what IS in deference to another way; another world that is possible.

Whose World is Most Worth Perpetuating? Mertitocracy’s Crony-ism HT @ChrisLHayes @DemocracyNow

July 18, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

in this video, Chris Hayes talks about the way elites and their clubs stick together vs even the people they ostensibly are there to serve  (priests in Catholic Church vs their parishoners,  or the government and corporations vs thier constituents and/or customers).

This is a good angle also for the financial system,  and for a headlong dive into many of the messages of the Occupy movement.  When Joseph Stiglitz wrote his “Of the 1% by the 1% and for the 1%” article in the early summer of 2011,  I knew that something had taken hold.  America was fixated on the Arab Spring,  and it was more than just international curiosity.  It was longing.  It was a deep-seated question about our  dreams for this country.  And it was bubbling,  ready to start boiling over come September.  And the 1% have come to be identified as those who have been using their position to keep siphoning the rewards upward,  to the extent that we now live in one of the least balanced Western developed nations.  Less equal = Less “American”,  not only in my definition,  but in most people’s sense as to what is often couched as “What makes America great”.  Because of that,  “great” is blown away as an option.  “Great” can remain only on the lips of the people who resist the facts of American economics,  or with people who stubbornly hold to a notion that “we’ve always righted the ship”,  and instead of actually working to root out the wrongs,  use their optimism as a shield against seeing the extent of the problem in the first place.

The 1%  (and yes,  we can increase the accuracy of our claims that something is afoul in the 1% by sharpening the focus to the 1% of the 1%,  but for the sake of brevity,  we’ll stipulate that and use simply 1% as shorthand)…..the 1% have isolated themselves from the 99.  (And I have listened to people in the upper regions of the 99,  postulating that since they don’t know anybody actually being foreclosed  upon,  or homeless,  that “it really isn’t all that bad”… if “that bad” is some far off designation against which we can compare ourselves and conclude “we’re not there yet”,  and from “where I sit,  we probably never will.  Markets correct themselves.  Banks recover.  Governments adjust.  It’ll all blow  over.  I actually heard that argument rather recently.  It’s almost as if there is a resistance to “dire language” or “apocalyptic language”,  and therefore its not serious enough to justify mass movements calling for radical change in our  processes.  The status quo has done a number on them.  And this is just the kind of  message the 1% want them to be getting and keeping them from being radicalized.  There seems to be little awareness of how this will continue to wear us down almost imperceptibly like ocean tide which grabs just a little more shoreline debris and washes it out to sea (as more people fall beneath the poverty  line, and more people in the upper regions find themselves perceiving more of those foreclosures,  mounting medical costs that are still out of control (and STILL not being affected by ACA measures not  slated to take  effect until 2014).   So this new alignment is teaching the “virtues” of this new system,  training us to see the  world immediately around us as the  only one worth perpetuating.

This has been a 30 year process.  Shares of GDP have increasingly been realized disproportionately at  the top,  while  the rest of  the country is left  to fend with smaller  and smaller chunks.   It’s not felt at the top at all.  Why would it?  They’re experiencing record prosperity.  This is the way things were meant  to be (from their  perspective)  They find motivation in keeping the system going in just that direction.  They have the money to pour into the think tanks and and the educational institutions,  which in turn communicate a message that the system runs best when the smartest, brightest people (like them,  backed up by their “success” at doing  so) are the people in whose hands this system works best (which works well for them as well,  since its the system they designed to send the production benefits disproportionately to the top). Citizens United is the Coup d’état for this meritocracy,  for it provides for the unlimited, unaccountable domination of the communications systems by the financial elite,  to allow them essentially free reign to propogate yet further into the American pysche the contaminated notions about American democracy that make the system ,  as Stiglitz so aptly put it : “Of the One Percent, By The One Percent, FOR the One Percent”.

.@billmaher You are correct, so…. #OWS #BestDemocracyMoneyCanBuy #OccupyTheology

June 11, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

Great response from @OccupyWallSt tweet:

.@billmaher You are correct, we will ‪#join‬ ‪#election2012‬ ‪#politics‬ plz advise on how 2 buy democracy ‪#superpac‬ ‪#asshat