M-o-m!!

Hope43

It began with Scott Culpepper attacking the American syncretism of “Christianity”. An important discussion but one that left out a key detail. As Cyprian noted, “one cannot have God as Father who does not have the Church as mother.” Christianity, however understood, must come with an ecclesial structure; the problem with American syncretists may not be their thinking but their lack of groundedness in the Church.

Enter reader RLG who complains

 It’s the church that has gotten Christianity into so much trouble, from the beginning to the present. The Jewish mentality was, you weren’t a true Jew unless you belonged to the Jewish community. And Jesus, certainly, did not support such a concept. How many verses can we quote that suggests that a Christian believe and be a member of the church and he/she will be saved? How many can we quote that suggests, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved? It’s kinda like saying, you need a marriage certificate to really be married.

Contrary to this, the question is whether we can live separately, apart from each other; we are constituted as social beings. Individual commitment stands as part of an ongoing life of the community. Not only are we linked to each other in the present, but we are those who also remember; memory and imagination connects us across time. So we read a Calvin, an Aquinas, an Augustine in part as our contemporary even as we understand them to be distant — this is what empathy, imagination and memory produce. And if we’re honest, we also understand how our current life has been shaped by this remembered past.

Christianity then is not some sort of free-floating, perhaps Kantian entity, but an embodied reality. We start there.

Here’s where Scot is correct. The Christianity is always deeply permeated by cultural assumptions. Always. The Church, tacitly or explicitly functions as a counterbalance to this cultural capture; thus, we cannot speak about Christianity without speaking about the form that Christianity takes. (Note also, the idea that we can drop the label — apart from its rhetorical impossibility — belies the fact that even in disobedience we remain with our identity; it’s much stickier than that.)

And while Scripture may not prescribe the exact nature of this community, there is no doubt that we exist together, linked, a church. Take the vine and branches in John; consider Psalms, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the House of the Lord” (and all the Psalms of Ascent); consult Hebrews where we are not to  forsake the gathering together. Or simply consider the plural when Paul addresses his letters. It’s all there. We belong together, and that shared life informs and on occasion challenges the cultural form of faith we understand as Christianity.

The counter to a syncretistic American Christianity is not a countering piece of theology, but a better church.

 

Scott Culpepper, Let’s Stop Calling it Christianity, The Twelve.
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The Question of Time in the Time of the Plague.

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Still from Angels in America (photo by Brinkoff Moegenburg)

 

The revival of Angels in America has received plenty of notice, this particular review from David Le is thorough, discerning, and often deeply insightful.

As a play, Angels rises above its companions in large part because it helps us grasp the latter: how political and personal disappointment lead us to despair, and how despair gives way to a kind of vertigo, as the projects that once gave our lives orientation come to naught. We are left stunned, breathless to keep up with a life that rushes on unabated. Kushner’s work grapples with the question of what is to be done — what we are to do — in the midst of our collective and individual disorientation, in the absence of progress. He conveys the constitutively human trifecta of responsibility, impotence, and blindness.

Remember?

Jeff Munroe considers the ways of memory and forgetfulness at The Twelve. Over against our forgetfulness, is God’s remembering. As he concludes:

Our value in this hyper-cognitive world doesn’t come because we remember, but because we are remembered. Certainly we hope in a material way our families remember us as we age. More than that, Christian hope is in God’s memory. The scripture says “God remembered Noah,” “God remembered Abraham,” “God remembered Rachel,” and “God remembered Hannah.” He remembers you and me, too. We are remembered. Therefore, we are.

This leaves me wondering. To nudge Jeff, is this really Christian hope?  After all, when Scripture speaks of God remembering it often comes in response to the fear that somehow God has forgotten, that we are left alone, stuck in our exile, our oppression, or in the prison of of our own bodily weakness. Remembrance comes with an act, God delivers. Christian hope does not lie in the idea that God remembers, but that God has remembered and come to us as Savior (cf. Luke 1.54). In the wake of that, we are called to remember, to make memorial; the sign that God has remembered us is the Feast. And there, no one is forgotten.

Tomorrow Land

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It’s always hard to see the world as it actually happens, to experience in real time. Thirty years ago or so, Joel Garreau did that with Edge City. Not everything he saw about the emergent suburban culture proved accurate, but the overall picture? Yes, it gave us language to describe our time, and yet, time moves on.

Jeff Blumgart gives a solid overview of Edge City, the book the concept, the reality.

Jeff Blumgart, “Return to Edge City”, Citylab.

 

 

Dry land is a privilege

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One of the things that goes unmentioned in many discussions on race is this:  for some of us we can worry or not worry about POC, about the impact of race in our community. I can choose to pay attention or not.

I have a space where the black person is not my neighbor. In that light any talk of BIG SIN is really a talk about perfectionism, because I can escape.

But the question of race strikes me more like the biblical mire, that mix of mud and sewage. One has to escape, but it is not easy to escape, let alone to be clean. But one has to.

Berning down the house

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Bernie Sanders traveled to Mississippi to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death. Along the way, he got distracted, turning his attention to the failures of the Democrats and President Obama

“The business model, if you like, of the Democratic Party for the last 15 years or so has been a failure,’ said the Vermont Senator.

“People sometimes don’t see that because there was a charismatic individual named Barack Obama. He was obviously an extraordinary candidate, brilliant guy. But beyond that reality…”

There’s a fundamental question of (lack of ) political intelligence at work here: What we know about 2016 was that voters who voted for Obama ended up for the Orange Man.  Dissing Obama doesn’t help with that basic calculus, if anything it reveals an arrogance about the so-called progressive cause, an arrogance that is altogether too white.

Second, the Bernie comment simply feeds the separation of the progressive left — largely a suburban phenomena — and the urban communities of color. if there is one sure way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, this split is it. In Michigan in particular, the two communities need to work together to take back the key state offices, otherwise we get Gov Schuette.

Holy Saturday

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Deb Rienstra points to the physical practice of getting ready, for this time of dormancy, a non-time if you will. Along with many good liturgical ideas she suggests

If you are a gardener, today is a good day to perform an early spring task that prepares for new life.

Ah gardening

It’s certainly something of a odd paradox, that while Christ is in the tomb, buried in death, we are in the garden stripping dead leaves out, cleaning. And for what? The red knob of the rhubarb knows; the practical first tulip pokes through with a hooded glance as if to say, “soon there will be more;” overhead the robin also sings of days to come. We work through the yard, front to back, raking, scraping, removing, filling bags with the debris and old leaves. All this will be taken away, but for now we can only take off, waiting to see what will be.