Thursday, November 23, 2017

Beholden by Forces and Shapes that Form a Life

I am grateful for a growing circle of influences within the inner river of life which include narrative, poetry, theories, schemas and manners of learning and organizing knowledge such as religious,
Möbius strip
science and philosophical readings—material broadening my vision to more elusive territory while calling me to learn, challenging my current orientation with respect to awareness, assumptions—love, hope . . .

Psalm 5

Lord of dimensions and the dimensionless,
Wave and particle, all and none,

Who lets us measure the wounded atom,
Who lets us doubt all measurement,

When in this world we betray you
Let us be faithful in another.

Mark Jarman, “Five Psalms” from To the Green Man. Copyright © 2004 


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lies We Tell Ourselves: Exposing Inconvenient Truths and Devalued Reality of the Military Complex

Major Danny Sjursen, a U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point exposes the primary societal lies the illogically sustain the American industrial-military complex and justify perpetual war.


 **
"War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today."  - President John F Kennedy

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Price of Freedom? Child Sacrifice and the American Gun Cult

Reading the first paragraph of “ThePrice of Freedom? Child Sacrifice and the American Gun Cult” by John J.Thatamanil, immediately triggered my memory of the ancient practice of sacrificing children to idols; and lo and behold, this is where Thatamanil went in his article.  The ancient god of Moloch, for which idolaters “caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Moloch”[1] is appropriated to America in this way: “Every year, we offer up our children up to the [more subtle] god of the gun and to the NRA - the high priests of the American gun cult.” Think of the many catastrophic events where innocent children/individuals/human beings are killed by guns and the response of so-called evangelical-minded people. Just on a daily bases 46 children and teens are shot resulting in 6 deaths by way of murder (4) and suicide (2). In the lens of history, when Israelites followed Yahweh’s warning about Moloch or any other national cult, they would refrain, stay apart and live counter culturally. It’s no different today. If we are to live apart from the idolatrous influences, we must view ourselves as exiles, living in a sort of the Diaspora culturally, not relying on nationalism to make any real change without outside, grassroots influence.

Perhaps the day will come when the living vision uttered many years ago will be realized.

Yahweh [the I am having my way] shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.[2]



The "Guns Into Plowshares" sculpture, dedicated Oct. 10, will be at Eastern Mennonite University for two to three years before returning to its original exhibition site in Judiciary Square outside the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. The sculpture contains several thousand handguns, including 10 from the Harrisonburg Police Department. Esther Augsburger, wife of President Emeritus Myron Augsburger, and son Michael created the sculpture in the late '90s.[3]









Close up view of a section of the above sculpture: handguns dismantled and welded into the larger whole. 





[1] Hebrew Scriptures, Jeremiah xxxii.35; see http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-cult-of-moloch
[2] Ibid., Isaiah ii.
[3] https://emu.edu/now/news/2017/10/forging-peace-guns-plowshares-sculpture-dedicated-emu/

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Gentle Cynic Reflects on Genuine Citizenship


Who does the poet serve?
The poet serves poetry,
Whose form is the beloved,
Who asks not blood but love.
Gregory Orr, How Beautiful the Beloved[1]

Voting for one of two capitalist candidates once every 1,460 days, while it will have some kind of impact on the lives of people, certainly has proven to have little consequence on elevating the common good —and of late, not even close in terms of leading dynamic global issues that continue to create a huge divide in wealth and the current “ecocidal evil in power”.  Howard Zinn in “Election Madness” (2008) recognizes the almost futility of voting in this era without deeper impacting endeavors to shake the foundations of the electorate.  
The election frenzy . . . seizes the country every four years because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us. . . Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth. . . But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.[2]
The first ever televised presidential debate in 1960 between Democrat presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kennedy and Republican presidential candidate Vice President Richard M. Nixon.
Why continue to delude ourselves thinking the political processes in Washington can really make a difference in the current ecocidal urgency, the upswing of racism, the growth of economic divide.  What literally actualizes change is every day, fed up people rising up out of their complacency, recognizing  they are being screwed, finding ways out of silence, developing connections—networks and engaging with others and their communities for a more common good. In the words and spirit of Martin Luther King,
These are the bright years of emergence; though they are painful ones, they cannot be avoided. . .  In these trying circumstances, the black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws—racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing the evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.[3]

A deeply rooted, interrelated flaw in the American psyche is a myth of the Presidency.  I cannot conceive today how one individual and his or her administration can make much difference in my life of hopes and dreams, unless he or she has become for me a high priest of sorts in what could and has been tagged an "American civil religion." All the talk of faith with individuals running for the presidency informs this cultural notion and a clearly vibrant fight to keep it alive, which is a pattern of the collective capacity for self-delusion.

It needs to be argued that history has proven too many times that nationalism and religion do not mix well; for there becomes a strong tendency of religious influence on a national level or movement to produce a greater likelihood for discrimination and human rights violations. As Stjepan Gabriel Mestrovic argues, civil religious notions actually smack the genuine face of true religion. "Civil religion is neither bona fide religion nor ordinary patriotism, but a new alloy formed by blending religion with nationalism. If civil religions were bona fide religions then one would expect to find a soft side to them, teaching love of neighbor and upholding peace and compassion. But this is not the case."[4]

An observation over time has led me to an understanding that the religious right for the most part can only take on complex issues in simplistic terms. They need concrete, black and white solutions. There is little room for civil dialogue and an ear for even a basic literary exegesis of their religious texts. Add to this, they possess only a kind of simpleton, literal interpretation of the Constitution and miss the implications of it dynamic spirit. They are descendents of sola scriptura, the Protestant doctrine (heresy perhaps?) that holds the Christian Scripture as sole infallible rule of faith and practice. Unfortunately and lamentably, this notion over time has evolved into ideological formations through the creation of a democratic society that produced citizens that believed they could read religious text without moral guidance and spiritual formation (what is profoundly called discipleship), hence fundamentalism and large swaths of old guard and entrepreneurial evangelicals feel it’s part of their call to restore America to its rightful God.

By example, one of several major factors that shaped the behavior of the Christian Churches during the Nazi reign in Germany was the historical role of the Churches in creating or sustaining “Christendom” (Western European culture since the era of Roman Emperor Constantine), i.e., its advocacy of a Christian culture. In particular the German Evangelical Church (largest Protestant church in Germany) allegiance to the concept of Christendom was linked to a strong nationalism symbolized by German Protestantism’s ‘Throne and Alter’ alliance with state authority.[5]

Today we have the motto, ‘God and Country’ which has its confluence with the notion of American exceptionalism. While the numbers are decreasing, Life Way Research reported 53% of Americans agree that “God has a special relationship with the USA.”[6] And so it’s EASY for someone like a Donald Trump to seem and sound like a god-send when all you are listening for are ear-tickling biblical sound-bites. This rang true Obama on a unique level.

As a former evangelical and someone who has sustained serious intellectual honesty in the pursuit of becoming more fully human, I continue to see the need, e.g. of moral guidance and spiritual formation that leads individuals and communities to live out what it means to be a citizen in such perilous times. The very meaning or mean good of “citizen” is one connected and engaged with one’s community for the common good (of the people, by the people, for the people).[7] Its excess then would be having control or overrule by way of administration, wealth and military or self interest or gain—sound familiar?[8] Conversely, its deficiency is disengagement: privatization, individualization, isolation, being complicit and by consequence marginalized oppression.[9] The latter in this continuum is the behavioral of the masses while the former may well be characterized as hegemonic norms that feed the American script and hold them in blind abeyance and an illusion that promises to us safe and happy.[10]

In a personal effort to not lose heart, being highly self-governed, recognizing the need to have and sustain a counter script or narrative and to attain an inner voice that nurtures healthy resistance of the entertaining mechanisms that obscure and silence the surrounding harsh realities, I see more clearly the need to intentionally seek out local grass roots movements, voices and communities where people flesh out the peaceable, humble, uncompromisingly nonviolent traditions that while having perhaps their foundation in religious traditions (or not), they remain  genuinely and more fully humanly capable of civil dialogue, resistant against the current complacencies, corruptions and oppressions, and thus practice radical hospitality vs. the triumphalistic, militant, God-and-country Christianity of American theocracy that have retreated into fantasies embraced by those who prefer turning a blind eye. [11]

Hence, the work of a more genuine citizen is to manage our ambivalence--liberals, progressives, and conservatives alike--in generative ways in order to concede relinquishment of a failing script/narrative that continues to disappoint us and leave us empty. Managing our way means identifying and aligning ourselves with networks, organizations, communities that embrace new, alternative scripts/narratives that name and evoke the ambivalence, and “carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths.”[12] They should possess energy to speak freely and with boldness; by implication a range of speech practice, not only freedom of speech, but the obligation to speak the truth for the common good, even at personal risk.[13]

Change up your intake. Read, listen, contemplate/think with your mind (Geist); import the wisdom of prophets, poets, writers, philosophers, musicians, theologians, sages of history and perhaps a tradition or community  versus the dominant scripts or myths peddled by popular media, Hollywood, politicians, military, sports, advertisers, big business. Seeks out and participate with others to work toward a vision of human flourishing (human centered) while differentiating what misses the mark (illusions both personal and societal).

It may sound elementary, but distinguish your wants from yours needs; i.e. simplify your life, seek to do with less—less nationalism, less consumption of goods that pollute and destroy the air, water and atmosphere, and the mind; less head-in-the-sand naiveté with respect to the conventional forces that dumb down the larger society (das Man) with its dominant scripts and narratives that feed racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism.

If we are to be citizens of the world, we will need to develop practices that acknowledge being-in-the-world that require more than mere survival or das Man (quiet conformity to the conventional world). Personally and collectively we need conscious  ways of existence in society that are aware that the masses follow a failed dominate script that promotes an illusion of safety, health and happiness; and pursue and practice ways of moving through (not stepping away from) tensions where there is a complex array of easy-to-get-to thin practices, answers and ideals on one side, while on the other, profound, thick sources of questions and insights that invite persistent souls toward the way of becoming more fully human (eudemonia).[14]

Nationalism has always and continues to be scary. Citizenship envisions a future that puts humanity first.  Some growing organizations that provide examples of progressive citizenship movement are below.

Sahne Claiborne 
There are various organizations informed by inter-religious and ecumenical roots: New Monasticism; 


See list of environmental justice movements at SocialMovement and Culture  

Global movements:
World Parliament Now       


See “20 Activists Who Are Changing America” and organizations of growing activism on economic, social, and environmental justice issues.



[1] Gregory Orr, How Beautiful the Beloved. Copper Canyon Press, 2009, 51.
[2] http://progressive.org/magazine/election-madness/
[3] “A Testament of Hope,” 1969

[4] Quoted by Gerald A. Parsons, "From nationalism to internationalism: civil religion and the festival of Saint Catherine of Siena" in Journal of Church and State, September 22, 2004.
[5] Rittner, Smith, Steinfeldt, The Holocaust and the Christian World: Reflections on the Past Challenges for the Future (NY: Continuum, 2000), 55-58.
[6]  Ed Stetzer, “God and Country: Americans' Views of God's 'Relationship' with the U.S, Christianity Today (July 3, 2015) http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/july/god-and-country-new-research-on-americans-views-of-country.html
[7] One way to consider movement from a complacent, oppressed citizenry to an engaged people seeking to regain or resurging of their humanity is a pedagogy that promotes nonviolent, peaceable rebellion that demands change while attempting to affirm human beings as the subjects of decisions, restorers of humanity. Influencers of humanization worth reading are available to all of us, such as Paulo Freire, Ivan Illich, Chris Hedges,  Bill McKibben, Parker Palmer, Wendall Berry, Shane Claiborne to name a few. I higher recommend a regime of listening to On Being with Krista Tippett (podcast). https://onbeing.org/
[8] E.g., excessive rule of oligarchy (the rule of a few who are distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, religious or military control), more specifically, a plutocracy (ruled or controlled by the small minority of the wealthiest citizens). The deficit extreme might well be defined as the disengaged person, private, isolation the services as a dualistic realm of leisure to work.
[9] E.g., 1] a purely ‘private life’ or ‘home life’ as a means to an end, “a luxurious establishment, or to accumulate wealth for its own sake by trade. There is the well known argument of the social phenomena that occurred with the rise of the television resulting in a decline in social capital and civic engagement in Robert Putnam’s “The Strange Disappearance of Civic America” in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000). Putman showed a decline in people’s connections with the life of their communities, not just with the political processes due to various suspects yet with main culprit being the television which is associated with low social capital (the technological "individualizing" of our leisure time via television, Internet and eventually virtual reality apparatus.) An antidote to this is identifying “third places” where one can engage with people in one’s community outside of work and home. This could well fit the complaint and gradual uprising of the masses against the slavery, Wall Street and banking industry that has sought its wealth in ways that have not contributed to the chief good of the nation at large. 2] The exclusive attention paid to military excellence, the industrial military complex that deteriorate profound aspects of human community and can never arrive at peaceful solutions that benefit the community at large evolutionarily.
[10] See Walter Brueggemann’s 19 Theses:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paperbacktheology/2014/04/walter-brueggemanns-19-thesis-revisited-a-clarification-from-brueggemann-himself.html. Brueggemann posits the need for a “steady, patient, intentional articulation of an alternative [counter] script” that replaces the dominant script which feeds the masses and has infiltrated the everyday evangelical. This dominant script is the of therapeutic, technological, consumerist militarism that permeates every dimension of our common life.
[12] Chris Hedges, “How to Think”, TruthDighttp://www.truthdig.com/report/item/how_to_think_20120709
[13] Parrhesia, the act of truth telling is at the heart of the life of ancient cynic. Parrhesia in its nominal form is translated (from Latin) "free speech". In ancient Greek its meanings conveys the meaning “to speak freely", "to speak boldly", or "boldness." (Liddell and Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon). See Michel Foucault, The Courage of the Truth (The Government of Self and Others II) LECTURES AT THE COLLÈGE DE FRANCE. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
[14] Probably the ideal translated as “happiness” the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence; Heidegger’s “authenticity”; Maslow’s developmental realm of “self-actualization; Aristotle argued that eudaimonia is realized in virtuous (differentiated) living while having purposeful, authentic engagement with others and society.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Extend your Life and the Life of the Planet


Emma Brown wrote an article in The Washington Post (Sept. 2017) entitled “Cycling to work means better health and a longer life. Here’show to get started.” She not only provides new data regarding health and safety among cyclist, she reminds us of a vital, practical option to all able people who wish to create a greater impact on their personal lives against a hegemonic automobile culture that says you cannot live without a car.  

Dan Seifert, 58
Route: SE Harrisonburg to the outskirts of downtown, 8 miles round trip
Bike: 2016 Specialized AWOL

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reflection at Another "9/11"

While there remains a need to retell this story of trauma, there are those who need to lead us in the face of danger. I want to imagine a people who see a threat they can allay by the very way they live their lives.

  Below are links to two articles that reflect on the inner reality of where the U.S. has come since 9/11—looking for safety while an imminent threat to our national security is plundering the planet. 

Juan Cole in this article begs the question, was the American response really worth it? 

David Robeik reminds of or just how weak and the high price of collective fear.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2017, Adam Zyglis / Cagle Cartoons

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Earth Speaks its own Language

Is the earth speaking to humankind?
Is human action upon climate change making hurricanes worse?

Geo-logos (earth writing) posits the earth speaks its own language, e.g. in the form of motion. See video where science reveals in its casual knowledge (data) profound changes which poetry captures best, e.g., the increase in rain with the warming of the oceans.
                                    



Here is an excerpt of the first few stanza's of A.R. Ammons, "Expressions of Sea Level" (Ohio State Univ. Press, 1963). Here we perceive an ecological consciousness in which individual and collective actions have far reaching consequences. 

Peripherally the ocean
marks itself
against the gauging land
it erodes and
builds:

it is hard to name
the changeless:
speech without words,
silence renders it:
and mid-ocean,

sky sealed unbroken to sea,
there is no way to know
the ocean's speech,
intervolved and markless,

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Message


Marshall McLuhan developed unique philosophies on media and how humans interact with it, popularizing the phrases “The medium is the message” and “Global Village.” Along with Teilhard de Chardin (Noosphere), he is thought to have predicted the Internet in his book, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of the Typographic Man (1962). The “global village” would be an age characterized by people forming communities through technology. McLuhan posited that the method of communication would become more influential than the information itself, ergo “the medium is the message”. 

McLuhan helps us to better see ourselves with in a media-saturated global society/reality. Technology has become extensions of consciousness and even our nervous systems.

[A]ll media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment. Such an extension is an intensification, an amplification of an organ, sense or function, and whenever it takes place, the central nervous system appears to institute a self-protective numbing of the affected area, insulating and anesthetizing it from conscious awareness of what's happening to it. It's a process rather like that which occurs to the body under shock or stress conditions, or to the mind in line with the Freudian concept of repression. I call this peculiar form of self-hypnosis Narcissus narcosis, a syndrome whereby man remains as unaware of the psychic and social effects of his new technology as a fish of the water it swims in. As a result, precisely at the point where a new media-induced environment becomes all pervasive and transmogrifies our sensory balance, it also becomes invisible. [“The PlayboyInterview: Marshall McLuhan”, PlayboyMagazine, March 1969.]

How do we continue to make sense of our human evolution with an exponentially expanding ocean of information and perpetual connectivity? In the words of McLuhan during his interview with Playboy, "I merely try to understand."

Sunday, July 2, 2017

What would Teilhard say? Evolve or be annihilated

By Ilia Delio, Global Sisters Report, 6/27/17

"This is our threshold moment and we need to get on board with evolution. And if we get nothing else straight about our present moment, it should be this: Stability is an illusion. The only real stability is the future. Our moment of evolution requires revolution, and one of the main forces that must make a complete turnaround is religion."

Click here for the full article. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Reign of Idiots (from @Truthdig)

Reign of Idiots (from @Truthdig): Heading the mindless generals, economists, bankers and politicians is the King of the Idiots, who victimizes the mass of Americans between tweets.
- 2017/04/30

Added 7/23/17, Eric Anthamatten, Trump and the True Meaning of ‘Idiot’

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Enemy Is Not Donald Trump or Steve Bannon—It Is Corporate Power

"Trump is not an anomaly. He is the grotesque visage of our collapsed democracy—Trump in his coterie of billionaires, generals, half-wits, Christian fascists, criminals, racist and deviants." - Chris Hedges, Chris Hedges, from a recent speech titled “After Trump and Pussy Hats” delivered in Vancouver, British Columbia,

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hauerwas Writes . . . Christians, don’t be fooled: Trump has deep religious convictions

Read  Christians, don’t be fooled: Trump has deep religious convictions, The Washington Post, January 27, 2017

My brief remark posted in the comments of the above piece.

If I recall, the early "believers" were called Christian as a pejorative of sorts and were considered atheist since they would not worship the Roman gods or the emperor. Perhaps this is a lens toward a better understanding of what a “Christian” genuinely looks like today? 

Per illustrationem, let’s see, I don’t ascribe nor entertain the notion of a God who fills my bank account with affluence, but I do ascribe to a God who is found among the suffering (you know, the marginalized, immigrants--strangers, the poor, and maybe—who knows—sinners like Donald Trump—never mind!). And, ah, I am ennobled in such a way to not place much hope in an office nor a person as if he/she is some kind of high priest over all.


Yes, in the world of Donald Trump’s “Christianity” (and perhaps many of his followers) I am an atheist and a fool—so be it [translated, “Amen”].

* *
Now the death of God combined with the perfection of the image brought us to a whole new state of expectation. We are the image. We are the viewer and the viewed. There is no other distracting presence.  And that image has all the Godly powers. It kills at will. Kills effortlessly. Kills beautifully. It dispenses morality. Judges endlessly. The electronic image is man as God and the ritual involved leads us not to a mysterious Holy Trinity but back to ourselves. In the absence of a clear understanding that we are now the only source, these images cannot help but return to the expression of magic and fear proper to idolatrous societies. This in turn facilitates the use of the electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it.    
- John Ralston Saul, Voltaire’s Bastards: A Dictatorship of Reason in the West (NY: Vintage, 1992), 460.

                                                                         * *
One of the early Christian responses to the evil empire of its day was to "resist the evil one" non-violently, creatively, i.e., in a manner to that gets him to think about what he is doing (not the Billy Graham weak kind of response, please!)
  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Science is a Driving Force of the Women's March on Washington and Around the Globe

“Both skepticism and wonder are skills that need honing and practice. Their harmonious marriage within the mind of every schoolchild ought to be a principal goal of public education. I’d love to see such a domestic felicity portrayed in the media, television especially: a community of people really working the mix — full of wonder, generously open to every notion, dismissing nothing except for good reason, but at the same time, and as second nature, demanding stringent standards of evidence — and these standards applied with at least as much rigor to what they hold dear as to what they are tempted to reject with impunity.” 
 -  Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996)

Fairbanks Alaska, 1/21/2017

“Without science, democracy is impossible,” - Bertrand Russell, Education and the Good Life (1926)


See Images of Women's March around the globe at The New York Times

Monday, January 2, 2017

Overcoming the Dominant Script of the Masses: The Adventure of Ana-theism and its Libido, Bārāq

“It is the tyranny of hidden prejudices that makes us deaf to what speaks to us in tradition . . .
the hermeneutical problem.”   - Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method

As a professed ana-theist, I do not need to agree nor participate in the national political fascinations, anxieties and dramatics that captivate (mediate) the masses. When the nation-state appears more lost than ever, sucked up in the vortex of political fever and anxiety, I am reminded that I am identified with and mediated by a counter narrative that takes serious the gift of life and the need for a non-anxious, interpretive guide via the great traditions, such as the Jewish and Christian traditions, yet not to exclude the contributions of Eastern and philosophical inputs. I am a Westerner on a journey, and this has been no choice of mine; it’s a necessity for existential survival.  Stanley Hauerwas makes this point plain in his essay, “Christianity: It’s not a Religion; it’s an Adventure.”  “[Y]ou do not choose God’s story. You don’t get to make God; God gets to make you. You are made by being brought into the community through which you discover your story.” [1] And one never really knows where that story unfolds.

It’s clear to someone like me who has passed through the liminal state—out of naïve theism (the majority blindly socialized by a dominate script or narrative), through the necessary force of doubt with the mediating guide of the apophatic tradition guiding me to work out the mythical traditions (hard, dark spaces of caves, clouds and mountains)—transformed to live quietly and yet prophetically (Parrhesia)[2], embracing the thinning niche of my existence.

The liminal state is well illustrated in the mythic story of Jacob (Genesis) the night before he nears the tribe of his brother Esau. Here Jacob in great inner turmoil wrestled with a stranger, demanding a “blessing”. This illustrates the rare epochs of one’s life when faced with the need to give great rigor, wrestling with text/story, language, questions, doubt and life itself in the midst of immense sense certainty[3], injustices, danger, and uncertainty. Wrestling is serious mediation (hermeneutics) that endeavors with courage to seek, explore, witness, and experience Bārāq (Hebrew). Often translated “blessing”, this word is overly and poorly understood by those who live by the dominant script[4]—the narrative for all who have no story, and the underlying script of the majority of Christians and their pastors who do newspaper, television exegesis.

Bārāq is the capacity or perhaps the energy/spirit (geist) to endure with faithfulness and prosperity (a rich Hebraic idea that does not sync with the consumerism of our day). It alludes to the things that feed “generativity versus stagnation” and “integrity verses despair”.[5] Like Job, one can be stripped of everything that life offers yet lacking nothing.  Bārāq provides the mediation, longevity and generativity to overcome the emptiness, the meaninglessness, absurdness of life (society and culture). Ergo, like Jacob, the consequences of wrestling with a stranger is passing through this state and walking away with a permanent limp, i.e., injured in a way that transforms us into a more wholly/fully human being. This is the mark of ana-theism.  In the words of John Caputo (“God Perhaps,” Philosophy Today, 2011) “

Anatheism is a clear, imaginative, fascination and robust account of the life of faith in the postmodern world, a world marked by cultural plurality and religious strife by the astonishing transformations brought on by new information technologies, as well as strident materialistic critiques of religion . . . it is a theism that comes after theism, that returns to theism once again after having passed through a certain non-theism or atheism, which [Richard] Kearney adroitly identifies in various postmodern movements . . . [a] return to faith after doubt [or coming to terms with doubt].”

Sadly, the American Christian right feed off the political machine as if it suffuses our lives with an authority that requires us to work out our allegiance to it while being somehow faithful to the kingdom of God.  Jesus’ wisdom rings true: one cannot have two masters.  Subjection to political government according to the ancient tradition and wisdom (St. Paul in Romans 13) means retaining moral independence and judgment and perhaps suffering the very patience of God. In The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder explains this often misinterpreted text.

The authority of government is not self-justifying. Whatever government exists is ordered by God; but the text does not say that whatever the government does or asks of it citizens is good. . . “they are ministers of God to the extent to which they busy themselves” or “when they devote themselves” or in that they devote themselves” to the assigned function. . . they are ministers of God only to the extent to which they carry our out the function . . . or by virtue of their devoting themselves. . . what is “ordained” is the concept of proper government or the principle of government as such.[6]

From this the question is how to live in servitude (not obedience) along side the governing reality and dominant script, which from a theistic argument, such as Romans 13, is the working out in practical reasoning the ideal of the Kingdom of God. Of course, in a democracy one has a more tolerated response and greater opportunity to serve creatively; and the necessity of a counter narrative is normative and requires imagination, commitment, and humility along with patience, suffering and other virtues such as peacemaking to exist in faithful, generative ways.  An essential practice, e.g., that animates this ideal is hospitality to the stranger. How vital is this when our existing governing powers and the anxiety of the masses systematically forget the poor, immigrants, and marginalized people, while devoting itself to a market economy and ideology? Multitudes are being left out, inapt, without hope and aliveness.

Hope and sadness are intertwined in the paradox of the Jewish and Christian stories. The emergence and development of awareness of the Kingdom of God hungers for the true quality of Bārāq, the capacity that grows out of humility to listen to the universal wisdom that is resident in traditions ("Let one who hears, hear.") and to respond meaningfully with the gift of life (intentionality) among the stranger(s) while living in a politically saturated (mediated) society that holds to a common script that continues to delude the masses over time. Bārāq is the needed spiritual libido of the “great reversal; Ana-theism is the adventure of theism in the post-modern world. Both phenomena in tradition bring understanding to faith and unfold into practice (see Beatitudes). It is not necessary, nor is it anymore necessary to be “Christian” to experience such phenomena and to yearn to be set apart from the dominant script or narrative. Any source of disqualifying and limiting injunction that wants to censure a personal or group definitive awakening out-of the dominate script is primarily from those stuck in the admixture of a theistic view with the dominate script (mostly nationalism).  They will call you either unpatriotic or godless. I say, "Come!"

Identifying, locating and becoming aware of the dominate story is to realize that this is your story if you have no story.  You have been socialized by it no matter what your political affiliation is. So what’s your story? How do you work at and imagine yourself creating possibility in a world of disappointments?    

Here are a few examples of rich, faithful counter narratives linked to sources:
  • New Monasticism is producing a grassroots ecumenism and a prophetic witness within the North American church.
  • The enduring civil rights movement in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, such as Black Lives Matter
  • The School of Life for Atheist is a fresh new paradigm of people seeking communal experience to enrich their personal human welfare
  • Those who have found and teach non-violence having found new narratives in eastern religion and philosophy (see “Being Peace in aWorld of Trauma”)
  • Serious thinking/acting Catholics and others who are guided by the outworking of theology in constructive ways—out of experiences in the world (not stuck in some ancient literal meaning).
  • The L’Arche movement



[1] Stanley Hauerwas, The Hauerwas Reader. Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2001, 524.
[4] “Therapeutic, technological, consumerist militarism”—the script that permeates all of public life and promises security and “happiness. See http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3307   “Blessing” so often in common media is used to refer to material goods or a way of consoling oneself so as to think that “God is on my side.” It reduces God to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers.  (see https://theaccidentalmissionary.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/the-one-things-christians-should-stop-saying/)
[6] John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972, 205.


Images
1. “Jacob wrestling with the Stranger,” from The Book of J, Harold Bloom (1990)