Essays

One of the reasons why Amos made people squirm in his day and why Belhar irritates us in our own is because those of us used to being in charge have little practice in and less patience for listening to people whom we deem to be our inferiors.

It is perhaps inevitable that the claims of a thinker such as Agamben should be profoundly annoying to those firmly rooted in a hardcore “historical materialist” perspective. Despite the fact that Marx himself was consistently fascinated with religious and theological matters insofar as they reflected the material arrangements of society, his followers, disregarding his own admonitions on dogmatism, have too often succumbed to a reflexive disdain for any analysis redolent of ‘spirit.’ And if Agamben’s claims are arguably exaggerated, then the same could also be said of the claims of his more vehement detractors. […]

What might happen if we read the Gospels afresh not from the perspective of distant struggles for justice or objectified notions of ‘the poor’ (as if ‘they’ were no more than a category) but from the perspective of those in our cities and towns who are considered ‘worthless’, part of an ‘underclass’, ‘surplus labor’…..?

Atheism is all the rage today. That is, a kind of rejection- whether a traditional form of atheism, or the Christian rejection of certainty- is catching on. Some in the emerging church circles call for an “epistemological humility,” a theological hedging that tempers a rigid Evangelical orthodoxy. Still others, such as Peter Rollins, turn to more philosophical traditions, such as that of Hegel, which value a “negation.”

Rollins summarizes this kind of Christian A/theism in a number of places, and thus offers a helpful summary in his chapters in Church in the Present Tense. Providing a kind of archeology of modern categories through the thought of philosophers like Kant and Hegel, he states that there is a moment of negation when the ideas and values are denied. In turn then, he says, there comes a moment of double negation- that place when even the denial is denied.

Unfortunately, Peter and his philosophical partner Hegel are about 1700 years late. The desert monks spoke of a similar path, just without the seeming circularity of modern critiques of metaphysics.

This week’s lectionary reminds us that power comes and goes. Today the church is tempted to resent its lack of influence, but Mark’s story of Jesus and the words of Paul remind us that even spiritual power has its limits….

Beiner suggests that I want a politics, and by politics he seems to mean what the state does, that is at the service of Christianity. As someone deeply influenced by John Howard Yoder’s critique of Constantinianism, that is precisely what I do not want. Of course I should like Christians to be free to try and convince their non-Christian neighbors that war is a bad idea, but….