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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.


“Not dead yet” #ChrisHedges on #OWS #OccupyChurch

September 05, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS, Theoblogical

It’s true we must guard against becoming devoted to the “brand”.  “Occupy” as a brand is not the aim;  it’s not the point to see that this name survives as the main narrative title.  If the media succeed in discrediting that,  then the aims and goals still remain.  We simply need to articulate it  and present it through new actions and new channels,  and help create a new politics independent of the one presently failing us.

“We had a very powerful first six months,” Kevin Zeese, one of the original organizers of the Occupy encampment in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., said when I reached him by phone. “We impacted the debate. We impacted policy. We showed people they are not alone. We exposed the unfair economy and our dysfunctional government. We showed people they could have an impact. We showed people they could have power. We let the genie out of the bottle. No one will put it back in.”

This is the sense I have that made me disinterested in what was being said last night at the DNC.  The RNC stirred me up more,  because what they say and insinuate and express is truly scary.  I’m BORED and jaded by the narratives of the Democrats,  not that I won’t agree with some of it;  but  the level of acquiescence to “the same ole same ole'”;  that “politics as usual” that Obama claimed would end has taught me to take it with many more “grains of salt”.   The perpetuation of the free pass given to Wall Street started all this for me.  I now support the Democrats and Obama ONLY as a buffer against a more aggressive, insane, sick group of  cynical or deluded politicians bent on opening up the lines of infusion of further resources UP from the lower 99% up to the 1%. I simply want to forestall the destruction these people would do to our injured, struggling infrastructure.  I see nothing approaching a New Deal from the Democrats.  They truly haven’t learned from history.  They’re simply locked into the least common denominator game of politics, too politically wimpy to even suggest anything so bold as the kinds of measures that would put people back to work again,  and cower in  the inane arguments of the GOP that the deficit all of a sudden matters immensely more than it did when they were handing out the favors;  and matters  more than the struggling , unemployed masses of employable, working people . I am not moved by the Democrats promises that “they know  better than the other guys”. What good is that without the political will to fight for it?  They have thus  far handed renewed  power and emboldened the banks to simply continue their manipulations and irresponsible gambles with money.  Not  exactly a shining testimony of the state of our  politics,  but there you have it.

The hope seems all the more “audacious” now.  It has shifted for many into the hope of an increased upswell;  an even more popular uprising that keeps building until the elite see that the only way to calm it is to give in to demands.  As Hedges says, quoted  in three earlier tweets:

Under a rational ruling class, one that responds to the demands of the citizenry, the energy in the street can be channeled back into the mainstream. But once the system calcifies as a servant of the interests of the corporate elites, as has happened in the United States, formal political power thwarts justice rather than advances it.


“Discarded intellectuals” Part 1 #OWS #OccupyChurch

September 05, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology

When I read the following,  from a previous Chris Hedges article just after the start of Occupy Wall Street,  I immediately added my own group to the list of “discarded intellectuals”:

Bakunin’s vision of revolution, which challenged Marx’s rigid bifurcation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, carved out a vital role for these rootless intellectuals, the talented sons and daughters of the middle class who had been educated to serve within elitist institutions, or expected a place in the middle class, but who had been cast aside by society. The discarded intellectuals—unemployed journalists, social workers, teachers, artists, lawyers and students—were for Bakunin a valuable revolutionary force

(this article was also incorporated into the chapter “Days  of Revolt” in Chris Hedges’ latest book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt”)

This additional group of “discarded intellectuals” I have in mind falls within a subgroup in Progressive Christianity.

This question opens up a big sore spot for me on the content side:  the present absence of the church,  especially those supposedly “Progressive” mainline denominations,  in the conversations such as the Occupy movement has started in our national conversation.  There is an obvious avoidance of what is CLEARLY a set  of issues that affect not only the poor (which is and always has been ,  in the church,  a matter of heeding that clear call),  but increasingly,  most of the rest of us.  At what point do the churches begin to say, “You know those accusations of the Occupy movement about the 1%?   What do we as a church need to be saying and doing regarding our message during these times?  It seems to be on hardly anyone’s radar.  The home pages and second level pages and sections of denominational websites are not addressing such things.  Rarely if  ever do we see any denominational effort to indicate that the leadership is interested in asking its people about this,  or informing them on these issues.  It’s like its political dynamite;  or  poison to the “civil discourse”.  When matters  of state become so “off  limits” in theological communities,  it seems to me that we’re deep in the throes of nationalism that threatens the notion of what church represents.

For instance, how many and to what extent to people identify with the yearnings expressed by the Occupy movement?  What do they feel about the degree of involvement and conversation that the church is having/not having with the messages being delivered by the Occupy movement?  I’ve heard Occupiers say that they left the church long ago BECAUSE they felt the church was not listening or interested in such things (and in some cases,  even hostile to the idea of “criticizing America”.  How do we as a church arrive at a place so foreign to the history inscribed in the Scriptures themselves,  which have frequent narrative of nations behaving in a manner which leads to their destruction?  Even “God’s chosen”, Israel.  Jeremiah told his contemporaries “Do not take refuge in ‘this is the temple of the Lord,  the temple of the Lord’ and think that God will protect us from harm when we continue to participate (and help to perpetuate)  the injustices carried out by the nation at large.

The church,  if it looks for them,  has a small enclave of activists for justice that caught the drift and the energy of the Occupy movement early on,  and saw it is an opportunity to engage with that political energy and bring the strong history of the the social justice work of our people into the happenings across the country,  from NY to DC to Nashville to Oakland.  Many of these people are seminary trained,  many experienced activist,  many both.  They have immersed themselves inthe histories of church-based social justice actions .  And these are among the class of the church’s “discarded intellectuals”  that are being ignored at just the wrong time (if you consider how damaging that is for the “connection” between church leadership and the people they serve).  Kind of reminds me of the political problems our country has.  “Leaders” failing to serve their people,  focusing instead on “survival” instead of having “Eyes on the Problems and Eyes on the Prize”.

“Part Two” of this has to do with another “Discarded intellectual” group that is sorely needed by the church,  but is kept from playing a significant  role largely because the church organizations have followed the market tendencies in technology to the exclusion of sound theological discernment about how to let the “Social” actually BE social.  It has much to do with theological study and defining who we are in a way that makes the network such a potentially powerful tool for enabling the church to significantly extend itself into some powerfully creative spiritual habitat.  I’ll link to this as soon as I put on some finishing touches.



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.