Saturday, 29 May 2010

Theological Graffiti: A poetic guide to modern theology


by Kim Fabricius and Ben Myers

Kim and I were talking the other day about W. H. Auden’s Academic Graffiti (1972), a delightfully funny series of clerihews (four-line biographical poems). So we decided to come up with our own Theological Graffiti, a sequence of clerihews on modern theologians. Here they are: forty theologians, in alphabetical order.

Karl Barth
Had to hire a cart
Having no other tactics
To transport his dogmatics.

Phillip Blond
Lives in beau monde,
Which explains the fantastical hunky-dory
Red Tory.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
Theological cartographer,
From Tegel, in fetters,
Wrote the Lord letters.

Geoffrey Bromiley
Never tired easily,
But felt a tad weary
After translating a whole German library.

Rudolf Bultmann
One day began
To study the Gospel of John; and found, to his satisfaction,
That pretty much every word was redaction.

Sarah Coakley
Doesn’t care for logomachy,
But waits silently (you can hear it)
For the Spirit.

Don Cupitt
Bid farewell to all stupid
Believers; then with a bow and a nod
He took leave of God.

Mary Daly
Didn’t write gaily
About her bother:
The Father.

Hans Frei
Replied with a sigh
To the liberal lot:
“You’ve lost the plot.”

Wayne Grudem
Had a stratagem
To define the role of women; but neglected to mention
Whether men, too, are allowed in the kitchen.

Colin Gunton
Detected dysfunction
In St Augustine, his nemesis,
Who didn’t have quite enough perichoresis.

David B. Hart
Is not terribly fond of Bultmann, Bonhoeffer, Tillich or Barth,
Crucially not to mention
Balthasar, Jüngel, Lash, Moltmann, MacKinnon …

Stan the Man
Is more peaceful than
A quiet Christmas night.
But he loves a fuckin’ fight.

Robert Jenson,
Lively and fun,
Is known to enjoy a good Barthian feud
And to talk about God as Hegelian fugue.

Eberhard Jüngel
Is king of the jungle
On the being and becoming of God –
Und sein Tod.

Hans Küng,
When he was young,
Rose to the top. Almost.
Now he is toast.

Nicholas Lash
Packs polemical panache:
To the atheist, a bloody pain;
Also to the ultramontane.

C. S. Lewis
Must have smoked cannabis
With Narnia creatures to write the banality
Of Mere Christianity.

Bernard Lonergan,
Lectured on and on;
His critical realism might have seemed boring
To anyone present who was not yet snoring.

Herbert McCabe:
Wise as an asp, pure as a babe.
But he had one fortunate fault:
Malt.

Bruce McCormack,
As big as a lumberjack:
Felling, with ease,
A whole forest of big metaphysical trees.

Donald MacKinnon:
“His sanity’s thinning,”
Some said. But whom God saves, he first drives mad:
And makes sad.

John Macquarrie
Was awfully sorry
When people lost interest
In all of that blather ’bout human existence.

John Milbank
Some think a crank,
Others well worth citing –
Those who can read his writing.

Paul Molnar
Bid au revoir
To his Princetonian foe, apropos
Of ho logos asarkos.

“Jürgen Moltmann,
Can
The world,” we ask, “live without hope?”
“Nope.”

Reinhold Niebuhr,
Bowing to Thor, argued just war
Against Yoder, who, in a different class,
Kicked his ass.

Wolfhart Pannenberg,
Who studied in Heidelberg,
Is quite a stickler
For all things empirical, scientific, geschichtliche.

Karl Rahner,
The top banana,
Wrote hundreds of essays with never a failure:
Cocktails of theologoumena and transcendentalia.

Joseph Ratzinger,
Roman inquisitor,
Cries, with the church in a mess,
“Deus caritas est!”

Rosemary Ruether,
An ecofeminist Luther,
Rails against a male Messiah,
Worships Gaia.

Edward Schillebeeckx
Made some mistakes:
He said, “The church has a human face!” –
Then went home to pack his suitcase.

Jack Spong
Is so very long
That it’s hard for him to kneel.
But then to whom to appeal?

William Stringfellow,
His heart soft as marshmallow,
Fought with each breath
Against powers and death.

Paul Tillich
Had an incurable itch
For God and being and demons and dirt
(And skirt).

Thomas Torrance
Advanced
A triune alliance:
God, Karl and science.

Simone Weil
Malheureuse, très outrée,
And so severe it hurt:
The Categorical Imperative in a skirt.

Bishop Rowan,
All-knowing, ho-ho-hoing
Like Santa, he’s weird:
Maybe it’s the beard.

Bishop Tom Wright
Stays up all night
Writing and writing (and writing) books about the apostle to the nations.
And a resignation.

John Howard Yoder
Grew sick from the odour
Of Christendom, with its violent caprice
Against peace.

A final note: we tried to talk Oliver Crisp into doing some sketches to go with the post. Alas, he's too busy running a department – so here's one last clerihew to cheer him up:

Crisply Oliver
Decided to follow a
Clean analytical method. But something still seemed left unsaid
So he took up his paintbrush instead.

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