Wednesday, February 25, 2009


What does one do when one has the sneaking suspicion that for most of history, most of the existence of humanity, including one's own life, has been a dramatic exercise in missing the point? Without drifting entirely into resignation and lifelessness, how does one move beyond the structures that make our lives functional, and into a life that doesn't just attempt to be, but IS meaningful? Following Jesus scares me to death... and the dual meaning is intended.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Immersing myself in Zizek and Kierkegaard...

Well, my paper was accepted for the 2009 PNW-AAR conference, so I now begin the process of refining my thesis and trying to determine the best way to explain my particular take on Zizek's appropriation of Kierkegaard's "suspension of the ethical." I'm excited about this topic; I think there is a lot of value in listening to Zizek as sort of a post-millennial Freud or Marx - a philosopher of suspicion who can speak "prophetically" to what is often a milquetoast Christianity in our so-called tolerant culture. Here is a quote from Z's "The Puppet and the Dwarf" which illustrates my point:

"What we are getting today is a kind of 'suspended' belief, a belief that can thrive only as not fully (publicly) admitted, as a private obscene secret. Against this attitude, one should insist even more emphatically that the 'vulgar' question "Do you really believe or not?" matters... Perhaps... the 'nonfundamentalist' notion of 'culture' as distinguished from 'real religion... is in its very core the name for the field of disowned/impersonal beliefs - 'culture' is the name for all those things we practice without really believing in them, without 'taking them seriously'... And is this also not why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as 'barbarians,' as... a threat to culture -- they dare to take their beliefs seriously?"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More bad news for objective thinking...

sad, and not surprising... though I do like the Times' satirical treatment of the story... funny! :-)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Edward Mooney on Kierkegaard and what we think we know...

"...we should not rush to judge what "Christianity" might mean, either in general or for Kierkegaard. Evaluations need time to take their appropriate shape. It is too easy to know in advance that Marx would make us Communist, that Hegel is an Idealist, that Dostoevsky sides with the Russian Church, that Nietzsche proclaims "God is dead." To take early comfort from these "facts" distracts us from what lies beneath these easy words: critiques meant to unseat our ruling presumptions, disturb our categorical schemes.

As a good student of Socrates, Kierkegaard begins with a skeptical challenge: We only think we know what ethics, or faith, or Christianity mean. The world of Christendom is not a world of faith. But as the language of ethics and faith is common coin, the Socratic task is to strip us of the illusion that we know what this language purports. How easy - yet how absurd - to take from this prodigious writer an evening's entertainment, perhaps, some tidbit to add to our conversational repertoire! In the bargain, we can leave our convictions comfortably intact!"

Monday, February 9, 2009

The thing about blogs is...

Any yahoo can get online, and spout his/her random thoughts, and - especially if he/she is a pastor, or a public speaker, or a talking head of some sort - can get 20 or 30 comments per post from people agreeing with the blogger, and basically echoing how wise/well-spoken/righteous the blogger is for spouting off random thoughts.

Case in point: I read a blog tonight where the writer felt the need to point out President Obama's hypocrisy re: some of his comments about abortion. Fine - a fair criticism. But rather than provide an analysis of what is most likely an ongoing discussion about a difficult issue, the blogger resorted to straw man attacks and ad hominems.

What's worse, the responders leaving comments were more than happy to join in with the name-calling, accomplishing very little in the way of real discussion, but providing themselves an opportunity to be self-congratulatory for their opposition to Obama and "liberals" who are nothing more than "baby killers." But most frustrating was the repeated theme that they - in their little corner of the internet - were the true Christians, and those Christians who don't stand up and condemn Obama are nothing but hypocrites. Is it any wonder why Christianity often isn't seen as an attractive option!?

I just want to say thanks to my blogging friends/readers who, in fact, keep me humble by challenging what I say, instead of just mindlessly agreeing. I also want to thank them for being humble in their responses. Let's make sure this blog doesn't end up like the others. Of course, since only 3 people read it, that's not likely! ;-) hehe!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

thoughts on "the American dream"...

One of the great values respected in America is the freedom to critique ourselves as a nation from the inside. That is what keeps a community aware of its own tendency to be corrupted, and our country, like any nation, needs that internal critique. Our founding fathers, I think, understood that well.

The critique is necessary precisely because "the American dream" is a mythical idea having less to do with one particular "dream;" rather, it alludes to the preconceived dreams each person brings with them into a cultural space that allows various freedoms of expression. A few (oversimplified) examples: If you're a Christian (or any religious person), your dream is the freedom to practice your faith without oppression. If you're an entrepreneurial capitalist, your dream is the freedom to attempt to make lots of money, with almost no restrictions. If you're poor, your dream is - ostensibly - to climb out of poverty. If you're gay, your dream is to be allowed to love without being condemned. And so on.

Ironically, our freedoms in the United States are typically so vast as to make some dreams seem almost comical -- for example, culturally hip kids wearing mass-produced Che Guevara t-shirts. Think about the many levels of irony there... :-)

So, my point is, since we are a nation that prizes ourselves (in most cases) on the freedom which draws into our midst many different varieties of people - and just as many takes on the "American dream" - we as a society have tried to find a way to allow as much freedom as possible, for as many people as possible, without rampant abuse. And that is obviously not easy.

But what's more, it highlights what I take to be a more important point: Any type of over-arching "meta-dream" (if I can coin a term), for example, Christianity, will gradually lose influence in this type of society. It's inevitable. Why? Because as more worldviews come into play, the less monolithic any one worldview can be. This does not lessen the value or truthfulness of Christianity. It simply is the way things are in a system that prizes personal autonomy and freedom of expression above all else.

Christians need to stop kicking against a system that is ultimately working against them, and follow Christ - I mean, really follow Christ, living as he lived - regardless of what the social, political, or economic system may be. This does not mean we aren't involved in those systems, seeking to redeem them whenever we can. But we must be VERY careful not to confuse reforming and redeeming. We mustn't conflate reforming those systems with bearing witness to God's Kingdom. We must not place our hope in the American dream. Because if our hope is placed in Jesus + America, that is idolatry. Christianity supersedes and critiques all systems. And too much of what we call Christianity in this country looks suspiciously like systematic idol worship.