Friday, May 29, 2009

Cavanaugh on Consumerism

If the chapter is as good as his own summary then I am in for a treat … and a challenge to my entire existence!

“In chapter 2, I examine the dynamics of attachment and detachment in consumer culture. Although consumerism is often equated with greed, which is an inordinate attachment to material things, I show that consumerism is, in fact, characterized by detachment from production, producers, and products. Consumerism is a restless spirit that is never content with any particular material thing. In this sense, consumerism has some affinities with Christian asceticism, which counsels a certain detachment from material things. The difference is that, in consumerism, detachment continually moves us from one product to another, where in Christian life, asceticism is a means to a greater attachment to God and to other people. We are consumers in the Eucharist, but in consuming the body of Christ we are transformed into the body of Christ, drawn into the divine life in communion with other people. We consume in the Eucharist, but we are thereby consumed by God.”

William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Does Neuhaus contradict himself?

On the one hand he says, “There is no ‘model church’ in the sense that we might speak of a ‘model husband’ or a ‘model university.’ All churches are exemplary in part, none is exemplary in whole. We are not considering the model church but models of the Church. To be sure, there are some individuals and also ministers who ‘church hop’ from place to place in search of the spot where they can finally lay their burden down. They complain about not feeling at home here or there, forgetting that homelessness is the normal sensation of a pilgrim people. There movement from tent to tent in the wilderness obscures for them the fact that the whole people are in movement toward the Promised Land. Of course the members of one tent may be more compatible, may be setting the pace and possessed of a surer sense of direction, and that is the tent where one might want to be. But one can travel with any tent, with any denomination household, so long as it does not separate itself from the larger pilgrimage.”

But on the other hands he says, "Increasingly it is recognized that the Church is composed of the churches. When we speak of models, therefore, we do not suggest that there is one model church which others should emulate, but neither should we deny that one church may more comprehensively symbolize the Church than does another."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Another by Neuhaus

"Our relentless discontent should not be over the distance between ourselves and the first-century Church but over the distance between ourselves and the Kingdom of God, to which the church, then and now, is the witness."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

One by Neuhaus

"And so, because we do not pretend that the Church is the Kingdom of God, we offer no excuses for its not being the Kingdom of God. There will be no satisfactory Church, no Church that can be embraced without ambiguity, until the world of which the Church is part is satisfactorily ordered in the consummation of God's rule. In short, we cannot get it all together until God has gotten it all together in the establishment of the Messianic Age."

-Richard John Neuhaus, Freedom for Ministry

Monday, May 18, 2009

Which came first the community or the Scripture?

I have finally come home, so to speak. As far as a text is concerned, my journey into theological studies began with Stanley Hauerwas', Unleasing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America. With a title like that you are correct to assume the he is an ornery little b-word (choose your own b-word). Incidently, ornery is a fun word. I certainly can't say that my theological education began with this text because that would be in total contradiction the point Hauerwas is trying to make, which is that texts (oh, say, the bible, for example) don't exist as such. They exist because there is a community prior to text that allow's such a text to have authority over them. They have said that such a text serves as a guide, a rule (in the best sense of the word), that keeps them on the road and not in the ditch.

Thus Hauerwas says, "Therefore we cannot ask how we ought to interpret the text because we assume that the text exist prior to such interpretive strategies. We must acknowledge that interpretive strategies are are already at work in shaping our reading, and hence our conception of what a text is."

The interpretive strategy at work is a way of being in the world that is already embodied in the people of God. Yes, the strategy IS a way of being. The Scripture has authority in the sense that that way of being in the world that the Church affirms is captured in the form of a story about ... yes, you guessed it ... about how to be in the world in a particular way as the people of God. The discipline (discipleship) of being a follower of Jesus was already at work when the church discerned (and mind you this discernment occured over hundreds of years) which texts helped them maintain a continuity with the Jesus way. You might say they discerned which texts helped them continue their discipline as followers of Jesus. The need for such an authority became more and more apparanet as the years went on and Christ did not return.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Gospel reading for today is Luke 8:1-15. The last line of this passage of Scripture, “But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance [my emphasis],” seemed to connect with something Jurgen Moltmann says in Theology of Hope.

“All of this must inevitably mean that the man who thus hopes will never be able to reconcile himself with the laws and constraints of this earth, neither will the inevitability of death nor with the evil that constantly bears further evil. The raising of Christ is not merely a consolation to him in a life that is full of distress and doomed to die, but it is also God’s contradiction of suffering and death, of humiliation and offence, and of the wickedness of evil. Hope finds in Christ not only a consolation in suffering, but also the protest of the divine promise against suffering. If Paul calls death the ‘last enemy’ (1 Cor. 15.26), then the opposite is also true: that the risen Christ, and with him the resurrection hope, must be declared to be the enemy of death and of a world that puts up with death. Faith takes up this contradiction and thus becomes itself a contradiction to the world of death. That is why faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it” [my emphasis].

Bearing fruit with patient endurance seems to have something to do with a life we call faithfulness, a life lived in contradiction to a world marked by violence. To be faithful to Christ, to bear fruit (see John 15:1-10), is about not being satisfied with the world as is, nor with those of the world who have a good idea about where we should go and what we should do. To have faith/be faithful is necessarily contradictory, thus necessarily of suffering, because those who contradict a world marked by violence appear to have been overcome by it. The martyr’s cry in Revelation “how long?” But, the Christian hope is about one who rose from the dead, whose life appeared to have been overcome by violence, where for a time it looked like violence won. One who overcame in the end by exhausting violence in His body, by letting it do its worst, and then putting it out like tiny match flame.