Tuesday 25 June 2013

Dystopic doodlings

by Kim Fabricius

“One Christian is no Christian” (Tertullian). Two Christians is a schism waiting to happen.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” (Tertullian again). Most of it, however, seems to have spilled on rocky ground.

And Jesus said to them, “Go, therefore, to all nations (especially the ones you can colonise) and make disciples (ensuring they tick all the right boxes), baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (guaranteeing interminable vituperative debates about paedobaptism and baptismal regeneration, and the nature of the Trinitarian relations – the Filioque should run and run), and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (except the Sermon on the Mount, of course). And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age (when I’ll burn the shit out of anyone who looks at me funny). —The Great Commission (longer version)

The televangelist tells me that Jesus loves me just as I am. Then he tells me that unless I change, Jesus is going to hate me (at least I reckon that’s a fair deduction from the threat that unless I change, Jesus is going to have me tortured forever and ever). However, there is no cognitive dissonance because I don’t actually believe the evangelist when he tells me that Jesus loves me just as I am, as given the face-lift, nose-job, and hair-transplant, he’s clearly not speaking from experience.

Watching commercials, I expect to see a celebrity trying to sell me some product, like the latest tanning miracle – just as on the God Channel, only there it’s during the programme, the celebrities have better tans, and they’re even less likely to be using the product they’re selling.

People often talk of church planting when they mean church cloning.

Proverbs 18:24: epitaph for Facebook.

Don’t knock worship songs. They have their use. For instance, they’re a god-send for atheists trying to demonstrate the validity of Freud’s theory of projection.

Nietzsche, O Nietzsche! You are compelling to me in the same way some women are attracted to bad boys. Or more irresistibly still, like seafarers are catastrophically drawn to the Sirens: I must be strapped to the gospels before I dare navigate the likes of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil.

You must read Daniel M. Bell Jr.’s Just War as Christian Discipleship (2009). It is very impressive. Its appropriation of Augustine is under-critical and, unsurprisingly, its Christology is thin (i.e., non-apocalyptic and -participatory), but otherwise its argument is so cogent that it could turn a pacifist into a just warrior – were he Michael rather than Mike. That is to say, its template of just war criteria is so theologically rigorous and comprehensive that it is hard to see its applicability outside of Revelation 12’s war in heaven. It can only convince earthlings to become or remain pacifists.

On the subject of just war, check out A Theology of the Cross Hairs by Amy Chaplin.

“Obama Odd-Word-Out Game”: drones, Guantanamo, surveillance, Nobel Peace Prize.

In the UK, prisoners wear grey or orange uniforms consisting of tracksuit bottoms and tops. Surely, however, if we want to send a message to the big-time criminals out there, the standard issue should be Savile Row suits.

“Methodists that I have met throughout the country in recent days are shocked by what happened in Woolwich to Lee Rigby, but also saddened by apparent reprisal attacks on Islamic buildings, or verbal abuse against individuals.” That’s Mike King, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference. The asymmetry of the reactions – “shocked” on the one hand, “saddened” on the other – am I reading too much into it to detect something Islamophobic about it? Or is it – an equally troubling state of affairs — that we’ve become so accustomed to Islamophobia that acts of violence against Muslims causes sorrow but not outrage?

Scripture asks, “What are people?” (Psalm 8:4); capitalism asks, “What are people for?”

If you divide the poor into “the deserving” and “the undeserving”, you have lost your soul.

“We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway”: the dictum of Will Campbell, and a fitting text for his life and work. Will Campbell, who actually took seriously the command of Jesus to love your enemies: hence his solidarity with the victim, yet his refusal to victimise the victimiser – to scapegoat scapegoaters (cf. René Girard) – in order to unmask the myth of redemptive violence, to break the vicious cycle of oppression, ressentiment, and retribution.

Pity without respect is but contempt dressed in moral finery.

The Revd. Marcus Ramshaw called the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby a “w***er” for declaring that gay marriage would effectively “abolish” the traditional institution of marriage. The Revd. Arun Arora, the C of E’s communications director, replied: “Calling another Christian a w***er doesn’t work for me as a priestly response.” There, in nuce, you have two indications as to why the C of E is in such a mess: (1) its mealy-mouthedness (for Christ’s sake, the word is “wanker”); and (2) its two-tier ethics (like calling Welby a “w***er” would have been okay as a lay response – er, as in stable gay lay relationships should be affirmed, but not stable gay relationships between priests [Some Issues in Human Sexuality, 1991?]).

A recent survey from the British Nutrition Foundation reveals that 25% of UK primary pupils think that fish fingers come from chickens or pigs. Mind, these are children, and 25% isn’t bad when you consider that 40% of American adults believe that fish have fingers. (Just kidding – I think.)

Jesus said that in the new world, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; having passed beyond death into resurrection, with no prospect of death, there will be no need for reproduction and hence we may assume no desire for it, just as now as a 64-year old I no longer have a desire to play rugby though there was a time when I lived for it. (Not a good analogy but never mind.) – N.T. Wright. Wright’s parenthesis is an understatement. No rugby in heaven? As if. Wright is clearly not to be trusted on the subject of eschatology.

If Christ has no feet, no hands, no eyes but mine, God help him playing centerfield.

The best sermon I’ve ever preached is probably the worst sermon they’ve ever heard.

There are my sermons, my propositions, and now my doodlings. I seem to be shrinking. Following this trajectory, I suppose that soon (though, dear reader, not soon enough) writing a sentence will be beyond me, and I will be like a baby uttering his first words – or a dying man stuttering his last.

Towards the end of his life, Augustine, reviewing his earlier works, wrote the Retractationes, if not “retractions”, still “corrections”. A wonderful precedent in authorial humility and responsibility, and pregnant with ecumenical possibility. I guess the only excuse a lot of theologians have for failing to imitate the master is that the results would rival Barth’s Church Dogmatics in length – and, like it, probably remain unfinished.

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