meme

Proclaiming Crankiness

So Halden has thought up another meme idea that I decided to run with as well: a proclamation meme. The difference to proclaiming something in comparison to a confessional statement is rather obvious – the proclamation will be a cantankerous opinion (maybe even scathing), as opposed to divulging and humble. Heres my list:

I proclaim: John Piper needs to let go of his individualism (which interestingly could ruin his theological system) and realize that “for the glory of God” is one of the most vague theological phrases. ever.

I proclaim: the mega-church will implode in near future (perhaps 20-30 years, if we’re lucky). It’s has too, because it’ll become totally useless and full of more tripe than it is now. However, until then, it’ll just get bigger, more corporate, and more obnoxious.

I proclaim: that the church, at least in America, needs to find a better position on the issue of sexuality, otherwise it risks looking like the Mormons and their (previous?) issues of racism.

I proclaim: that to me, the eucharist is the most meaningful of all the liturgical rites. 

I proclaim: George W. Bush, as he claims to be a Christian and yet tortures others, has done more harm to the body of Christ than anything I could think of from last century. We should find a way to excommunicate him. Yes, I know he is a protestant, but we should kick him the hell out of whatever we can. At least an ecclesial declaration that calls his actions a grave sin, particularly as it harms the universal body of Christ, and questions his life as a Christian. Christians ought to clean house when its this bad. (By the way, excommunication rightly understood is the acknowledgment of the sin by the church, and the community says that the effect of the sin is so great that it is rending the community apart. Therefore the church calls the sinner on their sin and puts the sinner outside of the community until they repent so they can re-enter the fold.)

I proclaim: Tony Blair is a terrible choice for a middle east envoy from the west. Honestly, you can’t just invade a country over there and think they’ll want to listen to you later. He needs to leave the spotlight for awhile. You sir, will never solve the middle east problem, and you are an embarrassing ambassador for the west.

I proclaim: Process theology can annoy me, but Wayne Grudem and John Eldredge annoy me far more and generally have less to say worth hearing.

I proclaim: while it might be true “that Anabaptism and Roman Catholicism have the most to teach the church universal,” it is people of different race, gender, sexuality, etc. that have the most to teach Anabaptists and Catholics.

I proclaim: that I hold to canonicity because the community at large does, and that is the way it should be.

I proclaim: Christ crucified. Christ risen. Christ will come again.

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22 thoughts on “Proclaiming Crankiness

  1. Halden says:

    What do you mean by different “gender, sexuality”? Are you saying women and gays? Or something else?

    All in all this is great stuff. Especially the canonicity one!

  2. Dave-

    I wish I had known about this invective against John Piper while you were at MBC. We might have had a good laugh together. While I enjoy much of his preaching, his written works are generally not worth rereading. Oops.

    -Patrick

  3. d. w. horstkoetter says:

    I’m not quite sure what you mean Fred. What exactly does affective category mean? I know what affective means theologically, and I know what categories are, but I’m not sure what you mean when you combine the two.

    As for talking about gender, this proclamation comes out of my own ecclesial emphasis and the light that theological feminism has help shed on those whom are invisible. I don’t think we can come up with a very good ecclesiology when half of humanity is invisible. Now, that is a rather unfair statement in some senses – women aren’t entirely invisible within the church (although in my mind it is fairly close to that, as the women’s voice is silenced, they are then made invisible), but when it comes down to it, women can’t be priests. Conceivably this could all come down to a hermeneutical issue concerning gender and where gender can serve, but I’m not trying to get into that. I’m simply trying to say that, if we are to be Christ to all people, we should listen closely to those people, if not be with those people, who have been silenced and made invisible. The suffering Christ demands we listen to and be with those who are invisible.

  4. DWH,

    those who identify as a different gender

    Fideism is the key word. Individual qualities that were once descriptive of evident realities are now shifting to being purely nominal and determined only by the feelings of individuals. Thus, white persons can legitimately self-identify on a census form as Native American Pacific Islanders (perhaps because they feel a deep spiritual affinity with those ethnicities) – to get benefits, however, historical evidence is required. Is gender becoming something like religion in which no evidence is required? Is bestiality a gender? I ask not to be absurd but because the claim has been made.

  5. Halden says:

    I think I’m more with Fred on this one, Dave. I’m very wary of disconnecting gender from embodiment. I think to do so risks becoming utterly gnostic and platonic (i.e. the body is a “prison” for the soul).

    You know I’m no conservative, but I do think that there is an undeniably “givenness” to creaturely reality that isn’t infinitely maleable. And I don’t think we can let go of the fact that human ceation as male and female is theologically significant, allbeit, I want to do that in a radically non-subordinationist way.

  6. d. w. horstkoetter says:

    Fred,

    I think I see what you’re pointing at now. I haven’t really made up my mind on trans-gender identities, since I have spent very little time studying the issue. I admit I was rather unclear in my words – I have found a system of language here at Union to use, that when talking about liberationist theology, is inclusive to the many liberationist theological groups (as opposed to using race as a symbol for poor studies, feminist studies, etc.). I didn’t intentionally mean to make such a broad sweep about what is acceptable, but rather to what the church could learn from, both negative and positive.

    With that said, I firmly believe that race work and feminist work are theologies that could contribute a great deal, perhaps the most to teach Anabaptism and Roman Catholicism.

  7. Halden says:

    Ok, that sounds fine. I definitely agree that we have much to learn from Black, Latin-American, Feminist theology, and their many offspring.

  8. I’m not quite sure that “fideism” is the answer to this question. The modes of logic employed are powerful in the determining on one’s self-concept. To punt fideism in this discussion seems to undermine the impact that a conflicted sense of the self can have on someone, especially in the case of gender and sexuality as perceived within a society that parades tolerance without actually having to know anything about what we’re tolerating. The internal logic of gender as determined by embodied factors (i.e. anatomy) when seen in contrast to an affective sense of the self can be hugely problematic, and to say that ason is thereby suspended at the expense of affective self-perception is to mistake the inherent logic of self-perception. “Evidence” is a tricky category to deal with, especially when affective categories don’t count as valid. Isn’t the formation of the self consonant with the formation of an affective disposition toward others?

    I, too, am wary of disconnecting gender and embodiment, though I’m not entirely convinced that to do so is to make a gnostic move. The attempt, it seems, is to have a fully integrated sense of the self that is congruent between body and affect, and as such, each seems somewhat malleable. Thus, seeking to adjust one or the other to acheive congruity is the sort of question that discipleship asks, though in a specifically Christian context, the end of discipleship is Christ-likeness. As such, an integrated and coherent self is contingent upon its congruity with what a “true person” might look like.

    I don’t think that this issue is something that we can write off to mere feelings or marginalization of what was once “descriptive of evident realities”. While this is certainly a danger, it also seems like those arguments against welfare where the interlocutor speaks (firmly/derisively) that the poor should just go get jobs. I’m not convinced that the “givenness” of our bodies is necessarily the way things ought to be considering that sickness and death seem to be given, too, though in a different source. Thus, the discussion must be able to address the complexities of embodied/engendered life as well as the complexities that sin works into the whole of it.

  9. Steve says:

    Patrick–

    I study computers and not theology. I would love to understand what it is you just said, but I don’t follow your language.

    Can any of you theology guys explain, in plainer terms, what’s being said about gender and sexuality in this discussion?

  10. Halden says:

    Patrick, the distinction I’d draw is that the “giveness” of sexual differentiation as male and female is given as a part of createdness, according the biblical narrative, not a reality that is “given” because of sin and death.

    I just feel I have to stand against the cultural mentality that our bodies are instrumental to our own self-determined identity. The logic there is consumerism. Who doesn’t feel all kinds of tensions, desperations, and deep questions about the nature of their identity? We all do. But we are not free to be self-creators. I think that the reaction against biologically given sexual differentiation has everything to do with consumerism. We want to be able to create ourselves in whatever form we “feel” we want. I don’t think the church shoud accomodate that.

  11. d. w. horstkoetter says:

    Steve,

    The basis for a lot of Halden’s thought lies is the idea that the body of Christ is a community that informs our identity, and when we are baptized into the body, things like nationalism and sexuality are not longer our governing identity. We do not form our own identity, rather, our overall identity is given to us; we have identity in Christ and Christ’s body. Hence it is the community surrounding us that recognizes our gifts, rather than an individualized spiritual gifts test. It is in the community that we find the ultimate identity and fulfillment, rather than sexuality, material possessions or violence to name a few.

    On another note, anytime the term gnosticism is used, be wary. Gnosticism seems to have sprung up by 170 AD (we first find Irenaeus speaking against it) and we think we know what it proclaimed: that spirit is good and matter is bad since matter is corrupt and fallen. It is then that the demiurge sent multiple, descending emanations of itself, finally culminating in the spirit Jesus who was distant enough from the great demiurge to contact matter, but still spirit and not matter. However, gnosticism is a nineteenth century term and definition, not something that the gnostic “christians” claimed for themselves. There are plenty of other problems associated with using the term gnosticism (in fact, the more cutting edge historians have done away with the whole term entirely), but the main one is that to use it today correlates with something in the past that may not correlate well. Platonic works a bit better in Halden’s case, but still kinda sketchy I think. What he is doing is moving the conversation towards categories he explicitly rejects, but I’m not so sure that he can rightly move to gnostic or platonic ideas, primarily because up until Patrick, we weren’t talking about sin or matter as fallen at all.

    Nevertheless, Halden is making an overall point against the division of the two – body and spirit – and another point, that as we enter the body of Christ, in both the physical manifestation and the spiritual underpinnings, we become part of something other than ourselves and something that does more to determine us, than we do.

    I think to understand Fred better, he would need to talk more. However, from what I can gather, he is worried about this idea of self-identifying (the word “claim” might be a better word in his case – as I use the word identify differently I think, more in terms of solidarity with the other) with a group entirely other than your own, and with one you really have no attachment to. However, I think the example he gives is one that is an abuse of identifying and I’m not sure that proponents of the trans-gender lifestyle would agree that is the logical conclusion of their arguments (from what I’ve encountered at school).

    Patrick is raising the issue of complexity in gender. Gender is no simple thing, particularly in light of the fallen world. So Patrick seeks to understand how both body and “affect” (which seems to speak more to the spirit side) can come together. The categories of body and affect must be somewhat flexible it seems in order to cohere together, particularly in a fallen world. But at the same time, this joining must move towards the goal of Christ-likeness, the ideal. And it is this goal with which one ought to measure up to. Therefore, Patrick asserts, that any discussion on being “given” gender, must also talk of the complexities of gender along with the complexities of sin.

    All the people I have named here, Fred, Halden and Patrick, my point in this comment is not to portray you incorrectly, but to attempt to plainly summarize while giving my own thoughts to someone new to the discussion. Certainly my own point of view is in this synopsis, but I couldn’t give a synopsis without my own voice, however, I do try and distinguish where my voice does come into play and when it doesn’t. Nevertheless, if you think I did not portray you adequately or gave you short shrift in my distillation, please feel free to correct me or add to what I said, however, do it in a *simpler* language for those who are listening in.

  12. I totally agree with the distinction between the givenness of sexuality and the givenness of sin. Createdness is an important aspect of the conversation, especially in the way that phisiological sexuality then begins to play out in social environments as gender. I am certainly not advocating a consumerist sexuality/gender identity scheme. To do so is to subordinate the authority of the Scriptures and the witnessing church to the individual, be it in affect or rationality.

    My major concern is that those struggling with or even advocating for deviant sexual/gender expressions will have those issues relegated to the arena of feelings and thereby written off. The systematic marginalization of created distinctions (i.e. biological sex discintion) is hugely problematic, though to assume that recognition of those distinctions results in a pure understanding of those differences is similarly problematic (i.e. “Ham’s curse” theology leading to subjugation of blacks). The witness of the biblical narratives have some strong things to say about sexual deviance, and I do want to encourage the church to witness in similar fashion. However, I’m concerned that such a witness might presume certain culturally conditioned gender distinctions that deviate–though less obviously–from that same witness.

    The accusation of fideism seems strange to me, though. It seems that those things which are cues in terms of sexuality and gender (physiology, anatomy, etc.) are somehow self-describing when in truth they are not. In fact, the motion away from rationalism seems to relativize sex and gender and expose those categories as often employed as instruments of power or suppression rather than true expression. While the church certainly ought not to accomodate a consumerist, drive-thru approach to identity formation, it also ought not to assume that Christ-like sexual and gender expression is readily apparent once we say that, say, homosexuality is sinful. The discussion is far too complex to allow for a mere value judgment to suffice, and to make the accusation of fideism seems particularly dangerous. It’s seems along the lines of saying that Jonathan Edwards was only interested in feelings.

    All that is to say that I agree with you. I am more concerned that we are adequately dealing with the impact that affect has on modes of rationality. As such, “evidence” is a category that is heavily contingent on the mode of rationality employed to make sense of one’s experience, affect, etc.

  13. Halden says:

    Yes, I certainly agree with you, Patrick. The recognition of difference does not translate into the dissolution of a huge pastoral problem. And I’m not demeaning affectity as central to our being, only declaring that we cannot idolatrize our affections as the sunnum bonum.

    I have to demurr a bit, David from your uneasiness with using the term “Gnostic” in reference to some of our contemporary cultural sensibilites. Certainly gnosticism was a complex cultural phenomenon in the second and third centuries, and a proper understanding of that history is important. However, as a descriptive label of any sort of worldview that priviliges the interrior and immaterial over the external and the material, I think its a perfectly fine term to use. I suppose we can use another one, personally I don’t care to wrangle about words on this issue. The point that I’m making is simply this: our culture enshrines our interiority as an authority in matters of personal identity, and this is nowhere more evident than in our late-modern construction of sexual identity in our western, captialist culture. It is my “secret knowledge” that “this is how I am” that constitues my sexual identity, and no one is allowed to question that secret knowledge. Frankly, I think “gnostic” is a purely legitimate way of labeling this sort of plausibility structure.

    And trust me, “cutting edge” histories of early Christian gnosticism have by no means become passe.

  14. d. w. horstkoetter says:

    Halden,

    I’m not saying that early Christian gnosticism is passe, but rather that historians are starting to recognize more complexities of the early Christian movement, and in so doing are retracting certain categories that they previously put upon the past.

    Perhaps this is merely semantics, but gnosticism I think is too weighty a term and one I think you have to redefine into a broad term in order to describe something today as gnostic. Even so I see the similarities you describe and find them rather interesting, particularly as it pertains to secret knowledge, which is a similarity, as you know, shared with gnosticism as it was/is defined.

    Anyways, thanks Patrick and Halden for restating yourselves.

  15. I’ll say that my “restating” myself was coincidental. I didn’t realize you had written all that until after I had written again. It worked out, though.

    In regard to gnosticism, since we’re on the topic, it seems as though there is a connection between this mode of thinking and the more esoteric traditions within (or running parallel to) Christianity, like hermeticism or alchemy or the occult. It’s very interesting how the privitized life can lead to embracing this sort of personal knowledge (that is, knowledge of the self) as an authoritative voice in determing a true identity. Secret knowledge, especially in the form that immediately relativizes or is suspicious of readily apparent experiences or sensations or whatever, is one of those things that problematizes and franchises popular religion in America, I think. When prominent narratives are commodified like that, it seems fairly clear that personal judgment would become the primary authority for self-identification, ESPECIALLY if that knowledge seems like something that only you have access to. Such a personal and private affair, it seems, is precisely what the church ought to witness against.

    You could say that our culturally is functionally gnostic, I guess, in the sense that it is constantly pursuing the “key” to “unlocking” the “mysteries” of “life”, though the exaltation of the material world in the face of a widespread suspicion of it merely serves to reveal the sweeping marriage of ideology to utilitarian or pragmatic pursuits. We, culturally, are both gnostic and hedonist at the same time, and thus a bit manic.

  16. Halden says:

    Good stuff, Patrick. I really agree with what you’re unpakcing here.

    David, I think there are complexities that every term inevitably flattens out. We could very well be having the same conversation about using the term “trinitarianism” as if that had a completely stable and given meaning. I think we all recognize that whenever we use a term we use it in a way that generalizes and doesn’t account for all particularities.

    I don’t think, however that we can’t trace some of our cultural sensibilities today back to gnosticism. The history of ideas does indeed inform contemporary thought in big ways, and I think there is a real thread here.

  17. d. w. horstkoetter says:

    I certainly agree that certain sensibilities could be traced back, or that we look back to the past and draw from their thoughts. However, I still wouldn’t call it gnostic, but rather, gnostic-like. I think we’re starting to say the same thing now, just in different words.

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