Thursday, December 23, 2010

The November 8s :: Blogs

The November 8s :: Blogs :: The most thought-provoking and world-opening blog posts I've stumbled on in the month of November
1. "The Meaning of 'Mine' and 'Not Mine' in the Early Church" (Boyd Collins, Jesus Radicals / November 1, 2010)
His sermons directly challenged the legal definition of ownership in the Roman Empire which enshrined the absolute disposition of property as a sacred right. The rulers of Antioch found his “socialist” ideas so offensive that they deposed him as Bishop of Antioch and sent him packing into exile. The principle implied in his definition of robbery is that God has given all a right to the goods of the earth, rich and poor alike. For one class to usurp the gifts of God for themselves alone while others starve he defined as robbery in the strict sense of the term.
In the following sermon, the spirit that animated the Acts of the Apostles flowers again: 
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” 
In this sermon, Chrysostom diagnoses the loss of tranquility which possessions inflict,
“But what is the meaning of ‘mine’ and ‘not mine’? For, truly, the more accurately I weigh these words, the more they seem to me to be but words…And not only in silver and gold, but also in bathing places, gardens, buildings, ‘mine’ and ‘not mine’ you will perceive to be but meaningless words. For use is common to all. Those who seem to be owners have only more care of these things than those who are not.”
Later, he proposes that the very concept of private property has no place in the Church. He says,
“For ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ – those chilly words which introduce innumerable wars into the world – should be eliminated from that holy Church…The poor would not envy the rich, because there would be no rich. Neither would the poor be despised by the rich, for there would be no poor. All things would be in common.”
In this passage, he explicitly argues that the holiness of the Church requires that there should be no “mine” or “thine”, but that property should be a matter of social ownership. The vision of Acts 4:32 shows that the kingdom of God knows nothing of “mine” and “not mine”, but only recognizes the concept of “ours.” For Chrysostom, to be a Christian implies a deep understanding of the need for common ownership and the drive to incarnate this principle in daily life. Property was given to the wealthy so that they might grow in virtue by sharing it – that social goal alone justifies any particular ownership system. The early Christians had no illusions about rising tides lifting all boats.
2.  "Existential Multitasking" (Adam Miller, The Church and Postmodern Culture / October 20, 2010)
God does not come and go – your attention does.
All sins are just variations on that same desire to do something else when you’re already doing something. Multitaskers are children of the devil. You can’t serve two masters. Divided attention is just dressed up inattention.
“Hear, O Israel,” the Shema begins, “the Lord our God is one Lord!” (Deuteronomy 6:4) But are you one? Or do you keep getting shucked, splintered, and spread by every distraction that wanders by?
3. "Homophobiaphobia" (Halden Doerge, Inhabitatio Dei / November 9, 2010)
I always find it interesting how the anti-gay sex position always wants to insist on a polite, measured, and properly ordered civil dialogue about the issue. They claim that to toss around terms like “homophobic” is to distract from the “real issues” and inhibit conversation. Honestly I’m pretty convinced that the real diversion from substantive dialogue is the insistence on keeping everything all tidy and polite. To try to sanitize everything in advance and make sure no one gets called any names sounds innocent enough, but it is hardly a neutral move. To insist that things never get heated and self-involving is to cast the argument, in advance, as one in which all participants are good, honest, basically forward thinking folk that just need to speak more clearly to each other. But its an open question whether that is in fact that case. The gay kid who got the shit kicked out of him all through high school, often by Christians, may not feel like he can extend that sort of open hand of politeness, and who are we to say that he has to?
Anyways, my main point is that the desire to sanitize this discussion is itself an ideological move. If we’re really talking about things as important as both sides think we are, there’s no reason to assume that this should be some sort of polite conversation.
4. "Choosing Celibacy"  (Jesus Creed / November 15, 2010)
Many of us want to fashion our faith on the basis of the Bible. But encounters with stories of people often force us to think again. 
So what do we do? What I’m often seeing is the tension and ambivalence of a both-and: Such persons both think the Bible’s view of homosexuality is that it is out of God’s will and at the same time know that their friend or brother or sister is gay and conclude they think it is OK. The tension is both knowing it is not God’s will from the Bible, and thinking it is OK for the person they know and love.
To summarize: the story of personal experience is what creates this problem. Many people have very little tolerance for homosexuality until they meet a homosexual person. Then things change.
. . . Enter a different story, the story of celibacy:I know enough gay and lesbian people to know the oft-told story above is not the only story. I also know that for many any other story is unacceptable, intolerable and even oppressive. But there is another story: Many gay and lesbian Christians know they are gay or lesbian, know they are committed to the traditional view of the Bible, and are struggling to live a life of celibacy. What we perhaps need is a compelling story of the one who chooses to be celibate but who knows that he or she may never be “healed” and may never be attracted to the opposite sex.
5. "Secularizing Kingdom" (Jesus Creed / November 15, 2010)
The word “secular” and the word “kingdom” should not be brought together. The paradox of what I’m hearing is that “kingdom” is being overwhelmed by the word “secular.”
Example: last Thursday in my Introduction to the Bible class I discussed what “kingdom” means in the teachings of Jesus. I sketched a few ideas that I will mention below, but I want to get to the discussion I had afterwards with one of our students. She told me she admired her sister who was now at work in a major social service organization because she was doing “kingdom” work. I’ve heard this so many times I think I can put it this way:
For many, “kingdom work” means “social” justice while “church work” means “spiritual life.”
A big fat hogwash all over this idea.
6. "Will Wi-Fi Ruin Mount Everest?" (Jeff Greenwald, Salon.com / November 16, 2010)
When I first trekked the Everest route, in October 1983, it felt as though I'd entered a world completely detached from the familiar. After a harrowing flight to the tiny airstrip at Lukla, the 10-day hike to Base Camp (with an elevation gain of more than 8,000 vertical feet) began. Immersion in the Sherpa Buddhist lifestyle was inescapable, and transformative. Phone calls were impossible. Even writing a postcard was like putting a message in a bottle, and tossing it out to sea.
None of this seemed like an inconvenience. Though there were bouts of homesickness, and the occasional longing for new music and old friends, it was exhilarating to have entered such an isolated realm. This, actually, was the point. Travelers embarked on our journeys to Everest or the Annapurnas aware that it would be a full-body experience -- an equation that included our brains.
As a result, trekking in the Himalaya never felt like sightseeing. It was a commitment to the here and now, demanding full-time engagement with both Nepalis and fellow travelers. There were infinite opportunities to forge new friendships, experience Sherpa Buddhist culture, or enjoy exquisite solitude. By day, you could walk alone or with companions; at night, the lodges flickered with candles and butter lamps. Out came the maps, backgammon sets and tattered journals. Tales of avalanches and Yeti sightings were shared, along with cups of the dizzying local rakshi.
During my most recent trek to Everest region in 2008, it was clear that the area was changing. Though the mountains looked the same, they felt less like a world apart.
7. "How Long Can We Keep Preaching Christ's Coming?" (Tony Jones / November 22, 2010)
This Sunday marks the beginning of Year A in the The Revised Common Lectionary. So here we go again. We get texts from Isaiah and the Gospels, about John the Baptist and the Second Coming. And once again we’ve got to preach the immanent advent of the Christ. “He’s Coming!” we preach, pray, and sing. 
But is he?
I’m not really saying that my own personal belief in Jesus’ second coming is in doubt. Anyone who knows my commitment the theological programme of J├╝rgen Moltmann can guess that my belief in a concrete eschaton is pretty, well, concrete. What I am asking is, How long will people believe us? We preach the advent of Christ every Advent, and I just wonder how long until the parishioners start thinking that we’re the Preachers Who Cried Wolf.
8. Mark Van Steenwyk posted the third installment in a series on radical hospitality. All three are well worth reading.

"Unpacking Hospitality [radical hospitality, part one]" (Mark Van Steenwyk, Jesus Radicals / September 23, 2010)

"Making Room [radical hospitality, part two]" (Mark Van Steenwyk, Jesus Radicals / September 29, 2010)

"Are we becoming more inhospitable [radical hospitality, part three]" (Mark Van Steenwyk, Jesus Radicals / November 8, 2010)

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