Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thinking about 'I' and 'We' theologically with Gilkey...

In his book "Message and Existence," theologian Langdon Gilkey (who taught at the University of Chicago a couple decades ago) describes two 'poles' of religious belief:

1) Participation in a community that bears objectively given tradition "under a particular symbolic horizon," and 2) "Personal intellectual assent" to that horizon, which involves experiencing and appropriating the tradition in such a way that commitment to it comes from the deepest level of our being, as an autonomous choice.

Leaving aside for now the issue of how such a choice can be made apart from the revelation of God, I think we find in Gilkey's description of belief (which leans heavily on Tillich) a valuable method for understanding the appropriate relationship between the 'I' and the 'We' that are both necessary for authentic Christian faith.

It is a relationship that some proponents of 'postmodern' theology have been attempting to re-capture, under a variety of headings. Perhaps examining Gilkey’s words more closely will provide some beneficial insight into this relationship.

With regard to the 'We,' Gilkey states that all historically formulated social communities contain both definite and indefinite visions of reality that express the ethos of that particular community. The ultimate views of any community will only be expressed symbolically, due to the inability of any member of a community to fully express the complete objective of that community.

Therefore, we use "powerful symbols" to describe the worldview we hold, and although there are "scientific, theorizable, and philosophical elements within such a symbolic structure, the structure as a whole is symbolic rather than theoretical..." (p. 27)

This seems to mirror Westphal's description of Christianity as a 'mega-narrative' instead of a 'meta-narrative,' a clarification which provides a sort of rebuttal to those who claim that any attempt to combine 'relativistic' postmodern theories with the Christian faith are tantamount to heresy. Understanding the Christian faith as a mega-narrative means recognizing that the symbolic structure of our faith places limitations on what we can say about our faith, and the object of our faith, God.

If a meta-narrative is primarily a theoretical system that endeavors to provide an explanation for all of reality - including the system itself - then placing Christianity within that realm is surely a mistake, for it seems destined to the type of circular failure that has resulted in the skepticism of both the philosophy of modernism as a whole and the particularly pointed criticisms of today's so-called 'atheistic fundamentalists.'

Existing within the 'We' is, for Christians, a matter of "belief on the deepest level," that is, "a personal participation in the life and ethos of a community and its tradition and an assent to the fundamental symbolic forms of that tradition as true and as normative, that is, as directing or guiding one’s own thoughts, goals, and patterns of behavior." (p. 27)

But just as there can be "no genuinely self-directing individuals without participation in community," neither can there be any real community without these individuals. (p. 34) There is an autonomous act of belief that involves the 'I' having and making use of genuine free choice. Here I would stress yet again that, if God exists, such freedom and autonomy can only find their true meaning as God reveals Godself to us, both individually and communally.

But the point is that there is a paradox: One pole of belief cannot exist without the other. Bonhoeffer made a similar point in his writings, which proclaimed Christ as the center but also held that the Church ceases to exist when its members are not present. Unless both the personal and communal sides of belief are held together, true belief is impossible.

But this is perhaps where the real potential within so-called 'postmodern' theology may be found – the desire to regain a truly meaningful communal element within Christianity is not only a good idea, it is necessary for the Church to exist.

What's interesting is that Gilkey suggests the development of autonomous belief systems throughout the Enlightenment project has been responsible for much of the damage done to belief. However, he still maintains that the individual experience which evokes genuine choice is essential for true belief. So we can see that Gilkey is struggling to find a balance between the two sides of belief... is there a way to resolve the tension found here?

I am starting to think about the way that thinkers like Kierkegaard and Bonhoeffer look at individuality and community. Perhaps combining a theory of absolute subjectivity with a theology of "Sanctorum Communio" (communion of saints) can provide assistance. More to come...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Has Our Nation Forgotten God?

Recently I was forwarded a link to an excerpt from a book entitled, "When A Nation Forgets God." I'm not familiar with the author, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, but it's published by Moody Press, if that matters to anyone. I resonated with several of the points made in the section I read, but there was one underlying premise that seemed to be guiding the direction of the book, and that can, I think, be summed up in the following quote:

"When truth is rejected in the public sphere, the state will either turn to some semblance of natural law or more ominously, to lies. Secular values will be imposed on society, and it will be done in the name of 'freedom.'"

(The heading for the section is titled, "When God is Separated from Government, Judgment Follows")

I have a couple of big problems with this view.

Now, first, the author's appeal to Hitler's Germany as his primary example of a secular state hostile to Christianity is unfortunate, because Hitler is dragged out so often as a scare-tactic, I think it's become a bit tired. Yes, we all know Hitler was a terrible leader and under his rule Germany committed horrible atrocities. Yes, we need to make sure America doesn't end up like that. Point taken.

But this approach, as the above quote indicates, implies that we, in the U.S., were actually providing a clear portrayal of truth to begin with. And that is precisely what I think all of us, especially Christians, should question.

What do I mean? Well, first of all, we need to be honest with ourselves and accept the fact that America has NEVER been free of 'secular values.' In fact, those very values, albeit in a modified form, were the major impetus for our nation's creation nearly 250 years ago. The idea that America was founded as a 'Christian' nation needs to be put to rest as a type of revisionist history - a history that has developed, in my view, to make we Christians feel less responsible for the 'corruption' of our nation's values.

But the simple fact is, America has always been a negotiation between the religious and the secular. We have always been a nation founded upon 'freedom,' and I'm pretty sure the founders did not mean freedom in Christ! The fact that our constitution includes language about both freedom of religion and the separation of church and state is a clear indicator of that dialectic; an attempt to provide all believers - even those who are not Christians - with the opportunity to worship however they choose, while at the same time protecting the people from any one religious view becoming official by gaining government approval.

(And there were/are good reasons for that. If you want to know what they are, read one of the number of books about the religious wars and persecutions in Europe throughout the 16th-18th centuries.)

But, back to my main point: If America has always been a negotiation between so-called 'Christian' and 'secular' values, then the notion that America was, at some point in the past, a nation founded on 'truth' which is now completely eroded by secularism, is a false dichotomy. At best, America has been a nation with a strong religious heritage, a great deal of which stems from the Christianity of its early settlers. But that religious heritage has always been in tension with desire for the necessary 'freedoms' that make for a modern, secular state.

As such, we Christians have to admit a very uncomfortable truth: To a great extent, if the Christian religion is America's primary religious heritage, WE are responsible for the eroding of our own Christian beliefs, and the encroachment of secular beliefs within our society. Why? The answer is simple. If Christians had not been content to initially negotiate with secular values when founding the United States, we would not be seeing the flourishing of those same values in our present day. You don't grow what you don't plant.

Now, it may be that there was simply no way for America to even have a chance at becoming a nation in the absence of the religious-secular dialectic. Perhaps there is no other option. That's fine -- I actually don't mind, because I fear that any sort of theocratic government would end up being at least as corrupt as whatever secular state may instill fear in the hearts of believers today.

This leads to the second problem: If America was founded as an awkward marriage between the religious and the secular, and if Christians have been at least partially responsible for flirting with the secular, then the idea that placing Christians in positions of political power, or establishing laws founded upon Christian principles, will lead our nation back to the truth, is utterly flawed.

Why? Because Christians (and yes, I'm including myself here) haven't been proper bearers of truth to begin with - why do we assume we will get it right this time? Isn't it more likely that Christians will continue to revel in their flirtatious trysts with secularism, albeit under a new guise? If Christianity has led us to America as it currently stands, why do we think that MORE Christianity will solve the problem?

Now, here I need to provide a critique of my own statements thus far. For there are still two things that have yet to be resolved.

1) What do I/we mean by Christianity? Perhaps the problem is someone has an improper definition of what it means to be a Christian.

2) Am I not simply being cynical? Isn't any attempt to recapture the truth of the Gospel better than letting our nation slide into decay?

To respond quickly: As far as what it means to be a Christian, I believe this is precisely where we, as believers and followers of Christ, need to be having our discussions. Until we are able to determine what it really means for us to follow Christ as the American Church (I'm thinking broadly here - Catholic, Protestant, non-denominational, tiny home group and mega-church), our attempts to enact social change that reflects the Gospel will be muddled at best.

Indeed, it seems fairly clear that part of the reason secular values have gained so much momentum is that Christians have been fighting each other (or very specific political battles) for decades and we really don't have much of a compelling, articulate, alternate narrative for people to consider. I would go so far as to say that since great numbers of Christians can't even seem to agree on what it means to follow Christ, Christianity has essentially lost its place in the cultural discussion. Christians are so concerned about being "relevant" but can't even get along with each other. No wonder people don't take us seriously.

As to the second point, I hope I am not being cynical. I do agree very much with one of the main antidotes Dr. Lutzer offers to the situation, which is also, I think, an antidote to cynicism:

"It is time for us to reread the New Testament book of 1 Peter, written specifically to believers living in a hostile, pagan culture. They had no representatives in government to plead their case; they had no power to 'vote the bums out' as we do in America. They did not have courts that would give them a fair hearing. There was just persecution, intimidation, and deprivation. And sometimes death.

To them Peter wrote, 'Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.' (1 Peter 4:12–14 NIV).

When confronted with these challenges we are tempted to do the wrong thing — to react with judgmental anger which will only entrench those who are on the other side in this culture war. We must do the opposite: respond with humility, love, and gracious courage. We will neither win these battles simply with politics (however important that is) nor by argument. Every Christian must regain the high ground with credibility, winsomeness, and yes, with joy. We must stand our ground giving thanks to God, even as it shifts beneath our feet."

To that, I say 'Amen.'

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Praying with the Haitian earthquake victims...

Here is an excellent essay from The Other Journal, written by Nate Kerr, on how to pray with the victims of the Haitian earthquake:

Friday, February 19, 2010

How should one follow Christ?

It has been more and more pressing for me lately to acknowledge the extent to which my Christian faith is lacking. This is not a denial of my faith - or rather, it is an acknowledgment that my faith is weak and I must rely upon Christ/God for everything, which is really not a very new idea.

But, what is the proper way to view the lack of faith that is, it would seem, present in each of us as followers of Christ? Is it enough to simply "do our best" and leave the rest to God? Should we simply "follow our passions" as coming from God? What about living a "good life" and being a "good Christian?" Does any of this mean anything?

I want to think, and I do think, that there are many people who have, in some real way (even if it's imperfectly) surrendered their lives to Christ and are seeking to be led by the Spirit in transformative ways. Yet, it often seems that we, as the Church (or Christianity, if you prefer) are making such little progress. Indeed, it seems that we are often going backward!

Of course, I am caught up in this as much as anyone. I am constantly torn, as I'm sure we all are, between what Jesus calls us to be, and what I want my life to be. Sometimes they seem to be in sync, other times they are in complete contradiction. Paul describes this well in his famous "I do what I don't want to do, etc..." (Romans 7)

I just can't shake the feeling that we, as wealthy, safe, comfortable Western Christians, have gotten to a place where many of us would simply be better off if we experienced a drastic change, a wake-up call of some sort. I don't know what that might be. But I suspect that if we aren't willing to make the necessary changes on our own, God may step in and make them for us. And I don't think we'll like it very much.

I don't think that Christianity has quite gotten to the point of necessitating Kierkegaard's "attack on Christendom", but it might be closer to this than we want to admit!

"Yes, such is the fact: the official worship of God... is, Christianly, a counterfeit, a forgery.

But thou, thou plain Christian, on the average thou hast no suspicion... confiding in the conviction that everything is all right, that it is the Christianity of the New Testament. This forgery is so deeply ingrained that doubtless there are even priests who continue to live on the vain conceit that everything is all right... really this forgery is the counterfeit which came about in the course of centuries, whereby little by little Christianity has become exactly the opposite of what it is in the New Testament.

So I repeat... by ceasing to take part in the official worship of God as it now is... thou hast one guilt the less, and that a great one: thou dost not take part in treating God as a fool."

(Soren Kierkegaard, "This Has to be Said")

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nietzsche's critique of conceptual idolatry...

In "Twilight of the Idols", Friedrich Nietzsche - one of the most virulent opponents of Christianity in the modern age - makes the following observation regarding the tendency of philosophers and thinkers to separate ideas from their historical and sensible existence, turning them into abstract concepts:

"They think they are doing a thing honour when they dehistoricize it... when they make a mummy of it. All that philosophers have handled for millennia has been conceptual mummies; nothing actual has escaped from their hands alive. They kill, they stuff, when they worship, these conceptual idolaters - they become a mortal danger to everything when they worship...

Now they all believe, even to the point of despair, in that which 'is.' But since they cannot get hold of it, they look for reasons why it is being withheld from them. 'It must be an illusion, a deception which prevents us from perceiving that which is: where is the deceiver to be found?' 'We've got it,' they cry in delight, 'it is the senses! These senses, which are so immoral as well, it is they which deceive us about the real world.'"

What is Nietzsche's point here? Essentially, he is arguing that the tendency toward philosophical abstraction leads to a denial of this natural, historical, sensible world, in favor of an abstract world which is nothing more than an idolatrous form of worship, a religious (rather than a properly philosophical) stance that N. finds abhorrent. He would rather that people begin by trusting their senses, and believing that the real world is the one in which we find ourselves.

But, I wonder, is there an implicit criticism of religion, and particularly Christianity, here as well? Knowing N.'s general disdain for the Christian faith (in spite of his respect for Christ as an outstanding human), it would not be unreasonable to assume such a criticism. And what might that look like?

I suggest that N.'s criticism is actually worth taking quite seriously from a theological angle, and has the following form: The tendency with Christian theology, particularly philosophical theology, to frame all discussion of the faith around abstract metaphysical ideas and logical theorems about God, or conceptual descriptions of deep doctrinal questions, does indeed create a sort of "mummification" of Christianity for many believers (and non-believers).

As a counter-measure to such conceptual idolatry, a continually renewed emphasis on the real, historical person and work of Jesus Christ, and the actual call to transformative discipleship in this world, have to be given a higher priority within the theological setting. Doctrinal issues must be discussed, and metaphysical questions are worth pondering, but the real value in the Christian faith lies in its ability to make a real difference in our sensible reality, in the potential to actually create little "pockets" of reality that actually provide a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

Now, this is not a new idea - it has been articulated in one way or another by theologians from the Apostle Paul to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But it seems to me that, perhaps because there is already a sub-discipline of this type, that often such ideas are relegated to the realm of "practical theology", and philosophical theology passes by these questions of how to properly articulate the reality of Christianity in this world in favor of questions that tend toward the abstract. It seems to me that this is out-of-balance and ought to be remedied ... any ideas on how that might take place?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Caputo's interpretation of Kierkegaardian 'repetition'...

"Repetition is... the centerpiece in Kierkegaard's 'existential theory of the self.' For the self is defined by choice, as something to be 'won.' This is an ethical, not a metaphysical, account of the self, which treats the self not as a substance, a permanent presence which endures beneath the changing fortunes of age and bodily change, but as a task to be achieved - not as presence but as possibility...

[T]he ethical individual has long memory, stretching himself out toward his past, for which he assumes responsibility, even as he stretches himself out anticipatorily toward what is expected of him in the future...

But eventually the bravado of ethical repetition must come to grief. In the ethical, one needs only oneself, and that is its illusion... inasmuch as it calls upon nothing more than human resources, upon resolve and firmness of will, ethical repetition pushes ahead within the sphere of immanence...

Genuine repetition, which is absolutely transcendent and effected in virtue of the absurd, occurs only when the individual does not see how he can go on, when every rational human resource is exhausted. Then the individual gives up everything and awaits the thunderstorm...

In this mad religious economy, if one gives up everything, everything is repeated, returned, even a hundredfold, in virtue of the absurd. Here there is not sound reason but a 'play' in which the world, that is, the hand of God, is playing with man in order to humble his finite understanding and lead him into another and transcendent sphere."

(from Caputo's Radical Hermeneutics)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Paul Ricoeur on Bonhoeffer's "Religionless Christianity..."

"What becomes of the word 'God', the name of God? The reply that Bonhoeffer gives is radical: the God of metaphysics and interiority is dead. In this sense Nietzsche is right when he says: God is dead. All that remains for us then is the God of Jesus Christ. A theology is something that we can no longer do; but what we must do is a Christology, and it is this Christology that can give us a theology. But, says Bonhoeffer, the Christian should not be surprised by this. Is it not true - what we have heard again through the Reformation and through Barth - that the God of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with what we think God must be? And yet the Christian is surprised...

What is very difficult to grasp - and I believe that this is what Bonhoeffer pursued - is the conjunction of these two themes: to meditate on the weak God, the suffering God, in the experience of the fullness of life. One could say that this is precisely the inverse of what Nietzsche hated in Christianity, that is, an omnipotent God opposite a weak human being. In a certain way Bonhoeffer anticipated something that would be the strong and mature human being living in communion with the sufferings of the weak God.. Here he was unable to push further. But this was, in my opinion, the horizon of Bonhoeffer's faith."

(from an essay contained in Bonhoeffer and Continental Thought)

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Christian rock" as "diet Coke"...

First, I don't care about the Superbowl, or football much in general. So, that's that.

Now, I was having lunch with some friends today and, among the varied topics we discussed (since we're all philosophical-theological nerds) was the idea of Christian rock music as an expression of what philosopher Slavoj Zizek calls "reality deprived of its substance..." (see The Puppet and the Dwarf)

In any ideological system, people develop an uncanny method of dealing with their anxiety. What is the anxiety? Well, on the one hand, we want to experience a genuine reality, on the other hand, we know (or are told/taught/brainwashed/etc) that genuine reality is potentially quite dangerous. As a society, this is a tool used to protect ideology.

An example might be: We know that genuine individual freedom is desirable in the American system. But, we also know that too much freedom would result in chaos. So, the system develops a series of "rules" that allow us to have enough freedom, but not too much.

Now, obviously, such an approach is often necessary to provide some structure to our lives. But Zizek wants to challenge the systems of ideology that currently rule, and point out their flaws. He has developed an entire philosophical methodology of his own in an attempt to do this. And one of the tools he uses is to humorously point out the absurdity of our attempts to create a safe reality, a reality that is deprived of substance.

Some of his most well-known cultural examples are: chocolate laxatives, virtual sex, alcohol-free beer, and diet Coke. In each case, the very thing that we desire has been "removed" while keeping enough of a semblance of the thing that we are able to convince ourselves that what we are doing is genuine. But, as we all readily admit, it is a bit silly, when we think about it. Chocolate laxatives? Ah, the irony.

I want to add one more example to Zizek's list, and I think anyone who's been involved with "the scene" for a while will understand this: Christian rock music.

Christian rock is not evil or superficial, necessarily. That's not the point. There are some good "Christian rock" bands out there. And there are some musicians who genuinely want to be witnesses to Christ while performing as artists, doing what they are passionate about. But what I want to point out is the lack of substance that often exists at the heart of Christian rock. It is like diet Coke - we want to have the carbonated beverage, but without the calories. We want our rock and roll, but without the sex, drugs, and rebellion.

Now, when I was younger, I heard this common mantra: Christian rock (this was especially true with the punk and metal bands) is the MOST rebellious form of rock music, because it has taken rock and roll and completely undermined it, using the "devil's music" for Jesus! And for a long time, I completely bought into that line of thinking. But something nagged at me, and it wasn't because I thought - as some fundies still think - that Christian rock was secretly being used by the devil.

No, what bugged me, and what I came to realize - and what Zizek has now given me the language to articulate - is that Christian rock is like diet Coke. They are both reality deprived of substance. I don't mean, to repeat myself, that all Christian rock is without value. That's not it. But it is an ironic bit of reality that a style of music initially developed as a way to push boundaries and offer new, often disturbing forms of musical expression, has been turned around by the Christian faith to become a tool that wants to help foster stability, morality, and Godly thinking.

Is that bad? Again, not necessarily. I'm all for Godly thinking! But it does point to some deeper questions that Christians (and rock musicians) have struggled with for a long time. What does it really mean when you take an art form and manipulate it in this way? Does it cheapen the art? Does it cheapen the faith? Can you have a "diet Coke" musical style without cheapening it somehow?

Isn't that precisely the point of Christian rock - to eliminate the bad while keeping the good? But that assumes "good" and "bad" are like chemicals one can easily separate. Reality doesn't seem to offer that sort of assessment. Very often, in trying to create a new, safer, diet reality, we find instead that we have brought a lot of the bad with us, and gotten rid of a lot of what made that previous reality good in the first place.

This is what I think has happened with Christian rock, and why, today, you will notice if you take a quick look around, that 1) Christian rock has begun merging with the mainstream rock world to a much greater degree, and 2) at the same time, Christian rock is desperately trying to cling to (and re-define) its identity. It is because it is a diet Coke reality that is not happy with its lack of substance. The "rock" side wants to return to its progressive, or perhaps decadent, status, and the Christian side wants to protect the new reality it has created.

So there is a tension. And my guess is that tension will continue to foster more and more splits within the world of Christian rock.

Friday, February 5, 2010

God was on everybody's side...

from the blog The Immanent Frame, an intriguing interview with anthropologist Jean Comaroff on the role of the Christian religion in South African apartheid:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Graham Ward on learning to love unconditionally...

"We cannot love unconditionally – and that makes us prone to error, to failure, to enforcing what we believe is agape on others but is in fact a manifestation of our own weakness. Even to attempt to love unconditionally is an act of hubris – sainthood is not a career choice. We just have to live a life in that abandonment of following. It seems to me that we have got the question of loving unconditionally the wrong way round. In the call – and there is a call – to be perfect in our loving, the question is not 'How can we love?' but more 'How can we accept such love?' Loving unconditionally can only begin when we are able to receive that we are loved unconditionally.

Theologically we can weave subtle and significant narratives about the giving of the gift, but existentially (and in terms of our political discipleship) the question is whether the gift can be received. Only to the extent to which we can receive God's unconditional love for us will we be able to pass it on, pass it forward. To end very concretely: that reception begins by recognizing the levels of self-hatred which have made us the kinds of people we are – and being released from them, as an act of forgiveness."

Walter Brueggemann’s 19 Theses...

This, and many other essays by Brueggemann can be found here:

Walter Brueggemann’s 19 Theses
2004 Emergent Theological Conversation
All Souls Fellowship, Decatur, GA.

1. Everybody lives by a script. The script may be implicit or explicit. It may be recognized or unrecognized, but everybody has a script.

2. We get scripted. All of us get scripted through the process of nurture and formation and socialization, and it happens to us without our knowing it.

3. The dominant scripting in our society is a script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism that socializes us all, liberal and conservative.

4. That script (technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism) enacted through advertising and propaganda and ideology, especially on the liturgies of television, promises to make us safe and to make us happy.

5. That script has failed. That script of military consumerism cannot make us safe and it cannot make us happy.

6. Health for our society depends upon disengagement from and relinquishment of that script of military consumerism.

7. It is the task of ministry to de-script that script among us. That is, to enable persons to relinquish a world that no longer exists and indeed never did exist.

8. The task of de-scripting is accomplished by a steady, patient, intentional articulation of an alternative script.

9. The alternative script is rooted in the Bible and is enacted through the tradition of the Church. It is an offer of a counter-narrative, counter to the script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism.

10. That alternative script has as its most distinctive feature, its key character – the God of the Bible whom we name as Father, Son, and Spirit.

11. That script is not monolithic, one dimensional or seamless. It is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent. Partly it is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because it has been crafted over time by many committees. But it is also ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because the key character is illusive and irascible in freedom and in sovereignty and in hiddenness, and, I’m embarrassed to say, in violence – a huge problem for us.

12. The ragged, disjunctive, and incoherent quality of the counter-script to which we testify cannot be smoothed or made seamless. (I think the writer of Psalm 119 would probably like to try to make it seamless.) When we do that the script gets flattened and domesticated. (This is my polemic against systematic theology.) The script gets flattened and domesticated, and it becomes a weak echo of the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism. Whereas the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism is all about certitude, privilege, and entitlement, this counter-script is not. Thus care must be taken to let this script be what it is, which entails letting God be God’s irascible self.

13. The ragged, disjunctive character of the counter-script to which we testify invites its adherents to quarrel among themselves in ways that detract from the main claims of the script and so debilitate the focus of the script.

14. The entry point into the counter-script is baptism. Whereby we say in the old liturgies, "do you renounce the dominant script?"

15. The nurture, formation, and socialization into the counter-script with this illusive, irascible character is the work of ministry. We do that work of nurture, formation, and socialization by the practices of preaching, liturgy, education, social action, spirituality, and neighboring of all kinds.

16. Most of us are ambiguous about the script; those with whom we minister and I dare say, those of us who minister. Most of us are not at the deepest places wanting to choose between the dominant script and the counter-script. Most of us in the deep places are vacillating and mumbling in ambivalence.

17. This ambivalence between scripts is precisely the primary venue for the Spirit. Ministry is to name and enhance the ambivalence that liberals and conservatives have in common that puts people in crisis and consequently that invokes resistance and hostility.

18. Ministry is to manage that ambivalence that is crucially present among us in generative faithful ways in order to permit relinquishment of the old script and embrace of the new script.

19. The work of ministry is crucial and pivotal and indispensable in our society precisely because there is no one except the church and the synagogue to name and evoke the ambivalence and to manage a way through it. The role of ministry then is as urgent as it is wondrous and difficult.