Thursday 15 May 2014

D’oh doodlings

by Kim Fabricius

Holy Week Announcements
  • On the notice board of St. George’s Church for English Expats in Sydney: “Come Join Us for Pom Sunday!”
  • On the digital billboard of Lakeside Church: “Don’t Miss Berluti Thursday! Raffle-winner gets to polish Pastor Joel’s Rapiécés Reprisés.”
  • Spelled out in sparkling lights above Crystal Cathedral on Good Friday: “CLOSED”.
  • Easter opening versicle/response at St. Thomas’ Progressive Church, Wherever: Minister: “The Lord is risen!” People: “In a manner of speaking!”
Translation of John 1:14 for visceral reflection on Holy Saturday: “And the Word became flesh and smelt among us.”

O the Wrights of spring! On Friday April 11th, to launch Holy Week, ABC Religion and Ethics posted an article on Palm Sunday by Tom Wright, followed on Monday the 14th by Wright’s Palm Sunday sermon, entitled “Wright on, Wright on in majesty!” (just kidding – about the title). Then on Maundy Thursday, yep, Wright again – an article on the resurrection. On Good Friday, Jim West removed ABC editor Scott Stephens from his Cadbury Creme Egg list.

I just woke up. I’d been dreaming I was re-reading Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God. It was the best year’s sleep I’ve ever had. In an interview, Campbell now admits that his book “is possibly a little too long.” No worries: Paul, on reflection, said the same thing about his letter to the Romans: “In the future, Tertius, remind me: postcards only.”

Terrific juxtaposition of titles in the “New Books from Bloomsbury” block in the April 11th Church Times: Pope Francis’ My Door Is Always Open is flanked by Julia Ogilvy’s Women in Waiting. You couldn’t make it up.

The irony of someone saying “One mustn’t speak ill of the dead” is that they just have.

When I see a Jesus Fish on a car, I always wonder whether the content does what it says on the steel.

I fully endorse the principle of “spoiling the Egyptians” – which the Israelites themselves sometimes honoured more in the breach than the observance. Felis silvestris catus, for instance: there is not a single mention of moggies in the Hebrew Bible. My own theory is that Moses, in Sukkot, did try to herd some cats among the caravans, but they laughed, “And you’re heading into the wilderness? Hey, the asshole thinks we’re dogs.” Btw, dogs are mentioned over 40 times in the OT – almost always with disgust and contempt, the filthy beasts. Bad news for canophilist inerrantists.

In classical times, the Areopagus – that is, Mars Hill – “functioned as the high Court of Appeal for criminal and civil cases…. In an unusual development, [it] acquired a new function in the 4th century BC, investigating corruption” (Wikipedia). In an ironic development, it acquired a newer function still in the early 21st century, in Seattle – corruption investigated.

According to the latest British Social Attitudes survey, 35% of people say they are “very proud” to be British, while 47% say they are “somewhat proud”. In the US, according to a 2013 Gallop poll, the figures are ever-so slightly different: 57% of people say they are “extremely proud” to be American, while 28% say they are “very proud”. Observe that Americans don’t do “somewhat proud”, while the British don’t do “extremely proud”. Man, I love living in this crappy little goddam country! Btw, the missing 15% in the Gallop poll – by now they’re all in prison. After all, 25% of the world’s prison population is incarcerated in the US, and the US has a higher rate of incarceration (top of the league table) than North Korea – interestingly, a state equally well known for its pathological patriotism. As for execution …

If sugar is the new tobacco, is it okay to smoke artificial sweeteners?

According to Isaiah 45:1, “The Lord has chosen Cyrus to be the Messiah.” But this is not true. Cyrus is not the Messiah – she is just a very naughty girl. Justinus is the Messiah.

For the April 21-23 Southern Baptist Convention “Summit” on “The Gospel and Human Sexuality”, I offered to do a free stand-up gig, but I was told they’d already booked Michael Brown.

confused, confusion: referring to the state of mind induced in some Christians by other Christians who address biblical texts and controversial theological issues with critical questions asked in good faith. As in Andrew Walker (Director of Policy Studies for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), speaking about Matthew Vines on the publication of God and the Gay Christian: “All that needs to happen for Vines to claim victory [sic] is for his readers to be confused and not necessarily convinced of his argument”. Cf. E. Stanley Frazier (Pastor of St. James Methodist Church, Montgomery, Alabama), speaking about Martin Luther King during the Montgomery bus boycott: “The job of the minister … is … not to bring about confusion by getting tangled up in transitory social measures.”

Is episcopacy the esse of the church? Don’t be silly. Is episcopacy the bene esse of the church? Contingently, conceivably. But insofar as bishops are becoming the church’s CEOs, episcopacy is the male esse of the church.

Well gee, so my favourite American public intellectual and Mad Hatter Mom has been teaing off again, this time at the rapture-ready convention of the NRA. Exercising what you might call her Bowl and Towelhead Ministry, Sarah Palin proclaimed that “If I were in charge, [our enemies] would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” A bold and imaginative moral and sacramental theology indeed. One anticipates a foreward by Mrs. Palin in the next edition of William Cavanaugh’s Torture and Eucharist, perhaps in the form of a midrash on Romans 6:1-11.

The more I pray, the more I think we have mis-tensed the voice of the verb – it should be passive, not active: I do not pray, rather I am prayed. And the voice of prayer itself, it is not even mine, it is the Spirit’s (Romans 8:26). Learning to pray is not a matter of articulation but of participation in God’s groaning (στεναγμός).

Persistence in prayer is absolutely essential (cf. Luke 18:1-8), especially when you see no signs of your petition being answered. For example: “God bless America.”

Inexcusably belatedly, I have just finished reading James Cones’ extremely important Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare? (1991). In it there is a chapter entitled “Nothing But Men”, where Cone addresses both the “sexism” (the acceptance of black male privilege) and the “classism” (the absence of a critique of capitalism) in both leaders. Cone suggests that these explicable yet culpable shortcomings should disabuse us of the notion that Martin and Malcolm might be saints. From which I extrapolate: we only truly honour “saints” when, with our praise, we acknowledge their mistakes, errors of judgement, and sins – as, surely, the saintly themselves would have us do.

Paul said he wasn’t ashamed of the gospel. He never said he wasn’t ashamed of the church. In fact, at times he obviously was. Me too. In fact, I am most ashamed of the church when the church isn’t ashamed of itself. Usually over matters of basic human decency.

In The Nonviolent God (2013), J. Denny Weaver follows the suggestion of immunologist Angela Horn Montel that we change “the image of the interaction of host and pathogen away from violence and towards images such as ‘dance between microbe and host’.” Now admittedly the phrase “bravely battling the Big C” is an appalling cliché, but somehow “doing an elegant paso doble with stage 4 prostate cancer” doesn’t quite either work, does it?

Yes, in the Bible God can be seriously violent. But it could be worse. For example, the Flood: the waters must have frozen up in the Arctic, so the Inuits caught a break. Or the herem, say, in the war with the Amalekites (I Samuel 15:1ff): men, women, children, and babies; cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys; but, hey, a free pass for the goats and chickens. And the death penalty for false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:20) – well, apart from a comprehensive blitz by IRS-CI, how else are you gonna reduce the number of mega-churches? As for rebellious sons (Deuteronomy 21:18ff.) …

Of course in the UK, we live in a post-Christian society – I mean, insofar as the story of Jesus no longer shapes our national sense of identity and purpose (telos). It still does in the US perhaps, though the narrative is – and always has been – thoroughly bowdlerised. Missiologically, therefore, I think the UK is much better positioned than the US for the canny Christ to spring some surprises.

Those who can, do; those who may, love.

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