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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: http://occupytheology.org 

@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

From CNN: The Gospel according to Obama #OWS #PublicTheology #OccupyChurch

October 22, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

The CNN blog post destined to draw tons of comments:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/21/to-some-obama-is-the-wrong-kind-of-christian/

I just did a Google Search on that title and the number two result is frlom godlikeproductions where the author simply reacts aloud:  “Is CNN Serious?”  obviously addressing the choir of folks who consider Obama to be ,  like the author his/herself says,  an “AntiChrist”.

The Christian Right is all over this,   proclaiming how “unBiblical” Obama is,  as they merrily strip the Bible of it’s “communal” and “peaceful” content and turn into a Right wing , Nationalistic treatise,  complete with the bliessing of the “Christian forefathers” (whom,  if they bothered to read them,  would draw the same “anti-Biblical” accusations rage from these same folks.  The “Founders” did not come close to speaking their language.  And Obama does it better than W. ever did.  W. Bush was often dodging theological quesitons,  a far cry from the dogmatic, self-assured claims of many who call themselves “Bible-believing Christians”.

I am not an Obama “supporter” at all.  I am deeply disappointedf in many ways in how politically tepid he has been,  at least in terms of what he COULD say with his bully pulpit.  I know that any of the things I might have considered to be “Obama platform circa 2008″ would suffer the same obstructionist fate at the hands of the insane GOP leadership. But there has been a lot of letting Wall Street and the banks slide,  when they could have brought some demands to them that even the financial sector leadership were expecting.  So I am not simply joining a chorus of counter strikes to defend Obama’s faith.  I simply see through the ideological motives of the Religious Right.  That they can even allow themselves to support someone who claims adherence to what most of them consider a “cult” is flag number one.  But then again,  I’ve always known this ideology is primarily political and not theological.  They are totally captured by Republican Right Wing ideology,  made stronger by a shared animosity toward liberalism, Democratic party ideology (as they portray it)  and yes,  outright racism (I’ve heard them…..it’s not unfounded to realize that there are numerous outspoiken racists who are full-throated Right wingers,  even more vocal because they can ridicule Obama. )

As the article explores,  by inlcluding thoughts of “others” such as Diana Butler-Bass,  there is a quite sizeable chunk of Christians whose thought and theology is independent of Nationalism,  and has no problem with putting their “Biblical values” over those of a syncretism of American Nationalism with a “Biblical worldview” that begins with those Nationalistic assumptions.   It’s a tendency with all nationalisms when they employ the support of the religious hearts of their citizens.  It’s happened for centuries.

It is an “OccupyTheology” issue because it raises the questions of howwe can see a ideological kinship with those supporting the Occupy Movement, and therefore be Occupy supporters ourselves.  It’s raising the quesiton of how Biblical values can and often diverge from “American values” when the latter is captured by economic interests and propagandized by use of religious rhetoric.  So it has become part of the Religius Right rhetoric to ridicule the Occupy movement as a bunch of dirty, stinky hippies who make no sense (since they refuse to hear the Occupy message that these “dirty” people bring).  And to critique the United States and it’s sacred “Free Market” is taken as some sort of blasphemy,  somehow forgetting (or never being taught) that Jesus spoke more about money and the problems of the rich than he did about abortion (of which he , in fact,  NEVER spoke).

Jesus himself promoted what the Right is claiming is “class warfare”.  Jesus would likely be treated more like they treat the Occupy movement folks (and was treated that way by the Religious leadership of his day),  except they apparently took Jesus somewhat seriously as a threat that he just might engender the tyype of change that would threaten that which they thought they were protecting.

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.”

http://sojo.net/blogs/2012/07/12/will-real-ms-middle-class-please-stand

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”

 

Brian McLaren: Why I’m Joining the Occupation #OccupyChurch #OWS

June 19, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

Brian McLaren,  another participant/speaker at Wild Goose later this week on Occupy:

public spaces—from economic markets to political processes—have been colonized by powerful corporate elites (the 1 percent, or maybe the 10 percent), elites driven not by an ethical vision but by the relentless demand to maximize shareholder return. The 99 percent are realizing how destructive this colonization of public spaces has become, and by simply coming back—by re-inhabiting public spaces—we are demonstrating that we see what\’s happening and we are not going to tacitly comply with its continuing.

http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Joining-the-Occupation-Brian-McLaren-10-20-2011?offset=1&max=1

Calling on Trinity Wall Street to do the right thing re: “property issues” #OccupyChurch

June 10, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgf4ozKHmA4&feature=player_embedded