Theological Community, EcoTheology, The Church, The World, The Blogosphere

Milbank: The Church could mediate between protesters and the government

May 25, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

I am so pleased to see a theologian of “Radical Orthodoxy” ilk (many of whom may sound very standoffish toward much of  U.S. politics)   articulate what I feel has been much of the theme I have sounded since opening Occupy Theology in November.

They are a new kind of political phenomenon because it is not possible to say that they are emerging from any definite social group or ideology. They are a spontaneous protest of the people, and I think the common factor across the world is a perception that there is a new oligarchy that is profoundly removed even from the quite wealthy middle classes. These are the super-rich and the people in power, and they are increasingly coalescing. In the face of that, people have been taking to the streets.

Milbank does sound the old familiar “unclear goals”,  but I am glad he says that in a context of his desire to see the church express a “middle-man” , clarifying, articulating stance for the Occupy movement.

In the face of phenomena such as Occupy London or Occupy Wall Street, the English and American churches should act as mediators, trying to coordinate new forms of debate and convince the protesters to better reflect on their goals. The risk is that these spontaneous protests will be manipulated by extremist political parties, as unfortunately has happened several times”.

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A Blast from the past

March 22, 2008 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical

Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington in April 2006:

“Let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works. The president makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell-check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know — fiction.”

The unsung heroes of Iraq war coverage | Salon

Greg Mitchell,  the author of the article from which the above has been taken.  has written a book: So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq

This is a sort of a theological segway for me,  since most arguments about the Iraq war are grounded in moralities that seem to appeal to a “middle axiom” which Yoder discusses in his book I’ve been reading: The Christian Witness to the State,   which refers to the language with which the church might use to appeal to state leaders who do not (and often cannot) understand calls to higher morality within Christian understandings.

This leads the Christian to therefore speak to the state knowing that these appeals are “never been based on a theory about what the state is” (Yoder p.77) setting up, as a result, a somewhat nuanced  “calling to consistency to laws and guides”  while avoiding  “grounding the appeal in secular state dogma”  (the last two quoted phrases being my wording and not Yoder’s)

ie. contrast the above with “we can call on the state to respect its own constitution without assuming that constitution to be better than another” (Yoder p.77)

This is the area where , for me, Obama ventures far into the secular ideologies camp,  speaking in “American pietistic terms” of the “founding fathers” and how “religion needs to be disciplined by democracy”.  Reading from Yoder on the issues above has surprised me somewhat (although I still have a chapter to go,  where I expect he will further clarify what his major emphasis and thesis will be),  since I have gotten the distinct impression from people such as Hauerwas and JKA Smith that “middle axioms” are frowned upon by the “Radically Orthodox”.  I probably need to go back to Hauerwas to review whether he explores Yoder’s writings concerning “middle axioms” and what he has to say there.

#333333">I approach this subject here because of how I started this post:  calling attention to the failure of the media to appeal to any sense of “a commonly held” sense of truth telling and public honesty expected from either media or state.  To call a state and its communication channels to some minimum standard of accountability seems to be close to this idea of the importance of “middle axioms”.   This is where things can get muddy and generate a lot of philosophical and political and theological argument. 


October 07, 2007 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical

I was reading a short story (one of my son’s college English assignments),  and the theme for the paper was how the story refelected the experience of exile.

It ended up making me reflect on how my own theological place to which I have come seems like an exile.  It has distanced me from much of the political arrogance of the Progressive movement,  even though I admire many of the members,  and try to afford to them some understanding that some of my recent critiiques I’ve come to hold in regard to “Christian Progressives” are relatively recent (last 2 years).  And it is from within that type of theological upbringing that I have come to a place where I can find the intellectual and theological “tools” to find so much in Radical Orthodoxy that attracts me.  First and foremost,  the emphasis on the ecclesia;  the church,  as a truly radical polis. (I say this well aware of some of the crtiiques of Hauerwas’ subtiitle for In Good Company,  which  is: The Church as Polis).  As an ecclesiologically impoverished former Baptist,  I believe RO has also helped me to recover some of the awareness of the significance and effects of the eucharist in its account of the significance and centrality of the church. 

My experience with The Church of the Saviour has also been a crucial element in preparing the ground for me to latch onto the ecclesia emphasis of RO. The Church of the Saviour has planted firmly in my soul the centrality of the church as a living, breathing, expression of God’s alternative society (indeed,  even “the only real option” for life as it was meant to be lived.  All the other expressions are “the world’s alternatives” and are variations on operating out of assumptions about life that emanate from the nation state rather than from a people called apart.

But knowing how I have spent some 30 years identifying myself with expressions of church and faith that fall under the umbrella of Progressive or even liberal,  it’s hard to distance myself from a source of community there.  It was RO and authors such as Hauerwas and JKA Smith that exposed me to the rather hefty sociological/philosophical analysis and history that I had come to take for granted.   But my theological education, both formal and informal continued education,  gave me the tools to be willing to accept some critical distance, and recognize some of the remaining political encumberances that still exist in progressive/whatever movements that claim to have shedded their political biases.  It is this history from which I have come that has kept me a little , shall I say, “hesitant” to judge “prior movements” too harshly (“prior” in the sense that I perceive myself to have “advanced beyond” to some “deeper understanding”).  I actually believe I have, in many ways,  but I am also acutely aware of how far I am from some of the truly sacrafiicial lifestyles and commitments made by many in the progressive movements. The fact remains that as much as they may have been captive to some number of political assumptions about what constitutes a politic worthy to be called church,  they nevertheless have numerous examples amongst them of taking some radical journeys into places I have yet to be,  or make any serious moves toward those “marginal places”. 

I feel this most acutely as I read such blogs as Dan’s (On Journeying With Those In Exile)  or the story Shane Claiborne tells in The Irresistable Revolution. 

And I feel it every Sunday I find myself at home like today,  wondering how I’m going to start somewhere,  knowing that such things can only start with some calling together of two or more with a vision.   In this post I have tried to get at how much more difficult the last two years of growth have been for my confidence in whether such people or places exist.  I have to believe that it does;  that they do;  but I am really feeling like an exile from the church.  I don’t seem to have a local place where people are asking such things.  I still hold out some hope that in some way this blog will hook me up with something happening somewhere near me.  I haven’t dismissed the possibility that such a thing can “grow within” existing structures,  but I also know that the resistance to some of the “wineskin bursting” that will be “wanting to happen” as God calls us into the unknown and untried is often exemplified (the resistance) in existing structures and expectations about church. And so it seems likely to me that such a thing with the structures of accountability and openness to call have to be conceived without regard to existing edifices.  (Oh boy,  whenever I do a post like this it always becomes too big and , with me,  rambling and frustrated.)

Quiet on the Theological Front

July 22, 2007 By: Theoblogical Category: Uncategorized

I had not checked the blogs in my RSS list since yesterday early afternoon,  but I found nothing new this morning.

Yesterday,  I mentioned that I would be heading over the bookstore to see about getting a copy of “How Not To Speak of God” by Peter Rollins.  I found the book at Borders,  but in perusing it for a bit,  it didn’t seem to fit what I had expected.

One,  it’s rather small,  paperback,  and expensive (20 bucks for what is an even smaller book when you look at the theological vs praxis sections….not that praxis is not an integral part of this…..but I didn’t find anything that jumped out at me in my perusal that motivated me sufficiently to make the purchase.  Much of that may well have to do with my general sense of disconnection with the church,  and the themes I admittedly “skimmed” in Rollins’ book didn’t strike me as all that new.  But I know that 5-10 minutes of standing at the shelf flipping through it in Borders probably wasn’t fair,  but , well,   there it is.  I didn’t buy it. 

I just read some of the commenting and postings on the book over at

the church and postmodern culture: conversation: October 2006 (but…..I just noticed the 5th engagement occurs in the first November post,  following the October posts,  and it is from JKA Smith,  so I read on……..

Moyers on Falwell’s Venom

May 20, 2007 By: Theoblogical Category: Uncategorized

Bill Moyers articulates the base reaction I have to the death of Jerry Falwell.  His “legacy” if you will,  was the sowing of intolerance. It’s what Moyers describes as Falwell’s “theology of fear and loathing”.  That about sums it up.  Falwell fueled the fires of religious bigotry. 


The first two minutes of Moyer’s spot on Bruce Bawer,  who has written a book , While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying The West From Within,  which contains his commentary on Falwell, is accessible via this link

I watched the segment on Bawer,  and he ,  although certainly an intelligent and articulate guy,  is a bit scary to me.  His “core values” seem to be tied to the notions of a “democracy” that sounds a lot like what Christopher Hitchens is saying about religion in general.  Even Obama,  who seems to be one of the most “religion affirming” candidates in recent history,  echoes the same kind of bottom line allegiance to “democracy”  when he said that “religion must be disciplined by the demands of democracy.  This seems to be yet another variation on the exchange that usually goes like this:  “I believe that life in America ought to be patterned along the lines of the Biblical message”.  Reply:  “Whose Bible?” 

You rarely hear anyone say “Whose democracy?”  It’s almost an automatic that “democracy” is one of those “universals” that everyone understands.  But in reality, just as there is widespread agreement,  especially in “progressive” circles,  that it is simplistic to suggest that there is A “Biblical approach” vs A “secular approach”,  the same applies to “democracy”,  but our language would seem to urge us toward some notion of a “natural revelation” when it comes to “Democracy”,  and a strained effort to get everybody to “speak the same language” when it comes to the “public square”. 

Bawer’s book leans heavily toward a caricature and pigeonholing of Muslims based on an obvious minority of the followers of Islam.  Noone denies that there is Islamic fundamentalism.  But Bawer’s concern is how we can curtail the expressions of Islam that lead to fundamentalism.  So are we logically willing to apply this to “Christian fundamentalism” in our country,  and plot ways to curtail “signs of fundamentalism leaning”?

The fact that Christians are the “majority” in this country makes it OK to “tolerate” the Jerry Falwells,  even though his “teaching” and theology (that “theology of fear and loathing” encourages “followers” of that nationalistic “hybrid” –or “heresy”– of Christianity to be tolerated because it doesn’t foster violence.  The disturbing thing is that it DOES,  but the violence is not experienced by our country (or only within the families of those 3000+  killed or countless others physically or psychologically or spiritually  maimed ),  but wrapped in the flag and the “values” of “freedom and liberty”.