Monday 17 February 2014

Doolally doodlings

by Kim Fabricius

Contemporary evangelism markets soteriological outcomes, contemporary spirituality deracinates and commodifies monastic techniques, and contemporary worship trades on relevance and coolness, self-expression and authenticity.  Thus the Westminster Shorter Catechism (revised): Q: What is the chief end of man?  A: Man's chief end is to utilise God and exploit him forever.

Deep inside every human being is a scumbag struggling to stay hidden.  Bear that in mind if you sign up for a “journey of self-discovery”.

Ecclesiology Fail: “The kingdom is a divine community whereas the Church is a human community” (Mission-shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of Church in a Changing Context).

Staying with Fresh Expressions as “new ways of being church”: is not its missionary strategy of forming networked churches consisting of people with similar interests and lifestyles a postmodern application of Donald  McGavran’s “homogeneous unit principle”, which Lesslie Newbigin discredited for its uncritical acceptance of, indeed surrender to, contemporary culture?  In particular, observe FE’s disingenuous separation of socialisation – its communities are overwhelmingly bourgeois, therapeutic, apolitical – from radical theological formation.

A new study from the University of Tokyo demonstrates that while cats can distinguish the voice of their owner from strangers, they don’t really give a shit.  There you go: conclusive proof that it’s the cat, not the dog, that’s the patron beast of too many Christians.

“Everybody’s got a hungry heart” (Springsteen, riffing on Augustine), a hunger that cannot be satisfied at McDonald’s, or even at Mugaritz, but only at Chez Jesus. 

“Biblical Illiteracy is a Sign of Ignorance of Religion, History, Literature, and Art,” leads Michael Bird, in a post decrying “the state of secularism in Australia”.  Fair dinkum.  Indeed, perhaps in new editions of the gospels, the narratives of Holy Week should be prefaced with the phrase “Spoiler Alert!”.  We should not, however, be smug: I fear Michael is chucking a rock from a glass cathedral (cf. Nicholas Lash’s palpable hit that, in his experience, even “highly educated Christians [in Britain] … probably suppose The Tablet to be something that you get from Boots the chemist”).

There are two kinds of people in the church: those who divide the church into two kinds of people, and those who are going to hell.

“In the face of that revelation the scales fell from my eyes. My long inner struggle was at an end.”  That’s Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf.  Call it the “banality of the conversion narrative”.

Too many evangelical testimonies are to the church what Oscar acceptance speeches are to the film industry.

William Stringfellow asked: “Can a homosexual be a Christian?”  And he answered: “Yes: if his sexuality is not an idol.”  I would ask: “Can a heterosexual be a Christian?”  And I would give Stringfellow’s answer: “Yes: if his sexuality is not an idol.”  Yet that, I submit, is precisely what much of the anti-gay faction in the church has done: turn heterosexuality into an idol.

Rowan Williams begins “The Body’s Grace” by observing that “Most of us know that the whole business [of sexual intimacy] is irredeemably comic.”  The problem is that most Christians who write about sex either don’t know that sex is irredeemably comic, which in itself is irredeemably comic, or write about sex with such earnestness and didacticism that their pontifications are irredeemably comic. 

So the Ham of God debated Science Guy Nye on “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” (a zombie question – the argument is dead).  Alas, Nye, for all his scientific pickle, was unable to cure Ham of his biblical baloney.  Ham remains a crock monsieur.

Speaking of speaking of Ham as a lunchmeat: this would not be the first time that I have characterised certain Christian leaders as airheads, idiots.  However, some readers have kindly referred me to the stern words of Jesus (in Matthew 5:22) about calling a brother (or presumably a sister) raka (meaning, precisely, an airhead, or, as Peterson translates, yes, an idiot).  Very well, I withdraw the epithets – and replace them with “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16).  Not only (WWJD?  Rather WDJD?!) is it a term used by Jesus himself – and with specific reference to religious leaders – I am also confident that our Lord would agree with my assessments.  Mind, Jesus adds (in Matthew 23:17) that these “blind guides” are also “morons” (μωροὶ).

Romans, Romans, Romans.  Paradigmatically, for Augustine, for Luther, for Wesley, for Barth, Romans was the tipping point.  But not for Bonhoeffer.  For Bonhoeffer, it was the Sermon on the Mount.  Not chastity, or mercy, or grace, or the Godness of God, but the commanding power of Jesus and simple obedience.  Btw, many people wish, “If only Bonhoeffer had been able to elaborate his ideas on religionless Christianity”.  Me – I would like to have seen him develop a proper pneumatology. 

Staying with Bonhoeffer: as intrinsic to “religion” for Bonhoeffer is a deity of intervening power (the deus ex machina) and “cheap grace”, and an individual who exists in unmediated relationships with other people, each characterised by their “inwardness” and morally motivated by their “ideals” – well, today I could see him probing for a “spiritualityless Christianity”.

“A recent long-term study has indicated that cannabis affects young brains differently than those of adults, leaving teenage users ‘at risk of permanent damage to their intelligence, attention span and memory’” (Eureka Street, 31/1/14).  From which I conclude that there must be THC in the water supply.

Still on the subject of cannabis: have you ever felt that talking with fundamentalists, both old Christian and new atheist, is like banging your head against a brick wall?  Take heart!  During Holy Super Bowl Week I was interested to read that such is the evidence that cannabis may be helpful in treating head injuries that no less than the NFL has promised that it will be closely monitoring developments.  Thus I envision a new apologetics, better equipped – and a helluva lot more fun!

Here’s a major implication of Open Theism: Open Theists should pray not only to God, their theology suggests that they should also pray for God.  For example: “Dear God, sorry Plan A didn’t work out.  Hey, shit happens, right?  So hang in there.  And be encouraged: if at first you don’t succeed, think of how many atheists you’ve made happy.  Seriously though, just remember, there’s always plan B (you do have a Plan B, don’t you?), and we trust that it will all work out for you in the end.  Take care, Big Buddy.  Amen.”

In contrast, your Hyper-Calvinist: “Glorious God, you are glorious, so glorious, so soo glorious.  Awesome!  Your power is perfect and irresistible, your plan – all the i’s dotted, all the t’s crossed.  Sure, life sucks – the agonising suffering, the horrendous evils – but still they give you, er, glory.  Besides, it’s all our fault and we deserve what we get.  Please forgive us – the saved, that is.  The damned, fuck ‘em.  Amen.”

The unreasonable person is dangerous; the reasonable person more dangerous still.

I read today that experts are predicting that rats “could evolve to the size of sheep”.  Which should raise a flurry of concern at Fox News over the cost of providing smaller suits, dresses, and furniture for their on-air personalities.

Recommended ascetical practice for Lent: spend a few hours every Saturday at the mall/shopping centre – with particular attention to PC World – and observe all the crap that you don’t really want.

People who write really well, with elegance, luminosity, and wit, can yet say some embarrassingly unintelligent things.  Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, for example, are both brilliant stylists, yet their screeds on religion are sophomoric rants.  Reading their New Atheist stuff is like watching a baseball player with the swing of Ted Williams slumping to an average of a buck-fifty.

I had a call from my son-in-law today.  He said he was going to a funeral tomorrow and asked if I had anything yellow to wear.  I pictured my wardrobe.  “No, sorry,” I said.  “Not even a tie with a yellow stripe?”  “No,” I replied.  “The best I can do is orange – but I don’t suppose you’d want to wear my Mets hoodie.”  On the day he wore a daffodil in his lapel.  Themed funerals have become very fashionable in the UK.  I know of one – the deceased was a fanatical football fan – where everyone was asked to wear an item of Liverpool clothing, a shirt, a scarf, a beanie, etc.  And I thought: imagine the funeral of a Yankee zealot: everyone in pinstripes, on steroids, maybe a show-off with a Topps 1952 Micky Mantle neatly pinned to his breast – conducted, for sure, by a Satanist, and concluding with a Black Mass.

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