Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Bible and the Postmodern Imagination

Having read Brueggemann's book recently - Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and the Postmodern Imagination - I just want to say that I think it is outstanding. Brueggemann is a brilliant writer and thinker and I think in this book he hits the nail on the head in terms of the direction the church should take and the role of the Bible in the postmodern world. What I like about it is:

  • He understands the power of the 'story' (or 'propaganda', depending which word you want to use). Advertisers wouldn't spend so much on telling us their story if it didn't matter.

  • He understands the key role of the Bible in countering that story. If a biblical counter-imagination is not employed, "the Christian congregation will rely on the dominant infrastructure of consumerism." For me, this is why the Bible really matters - the insfrustructure of consumerism is debilitating and dehumanising.

  • He makes the Bible utterly relevant to our age, without being under the thumb of postmodern preoccupations.

  • He demonstrates brilliantly the signifance of the Bible as story, rather than a set of propositions.
  • It is hopeful, yet academically rigerous. So often academia can lead to cynicism and can get caught up in concerns about modernist truth claims. Somehow he remains utterly postmodern, academic, yet faithful and hopeful.

Nothing I have read in ages has inspired me so much. Read it and enjoy.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Sheffield hosts CAP conference

Redefining prosperity
St Mary's Community Centre, Sheffield

Saturday 14 November 2009, 11am – 4pm
with...Anne Pettifor Leader of Jubilee 2000, author of The Real World Economic Outlook (2003) and The Coming First World Debt Crisis (2006)
Cathy McCormack, Grassroots activist & author of The Wee Yellow Butterfly
Professor Tim Jackson, Sustainable Development Commissioner, author of Prosperity without growth?

An opportunity to think theologically about economics!

“It began with a squeeze, then the squeeze became a crunch and the crunch became a downturn and the downturn became a crisis. A crisis of faith as the temple of Mammon on which we have all sought to build our economic prosperity was tried in the fire of truth, honesty and reality, and was revealed to have shaky foundations. …When the day of reckoning came - and there is always a day of reckoning - the winds of truth blew away the countless houses of cards.” John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

The conference will examine the following questions:
What are the immediate and longer-term impacts of the economic crisis for those directly affected?
Do we need to fundamentally rethink our idea of prosperity?
What can be done to build a major just, equal and sustainable society and economy in future?
What positive contribution can faith communities make?

A donation of £10 waged or £3 unwaged will cover the conference which includes lunch. Please return the booking form, together with your donation (cheques payable to Church Action on Poverty), to the CAP office, Central Buildings, Oldham Street, Manchester M1 1JQ. – or email to reserve your place.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A few things on my mind...

I'm writing this post because I want to attempt to articulate a few things that are on my mind at the moment. Theology has to relate to real life and answer real questions, so here is my attempt to articulate what is real for me at the moment. I’d really love to be able to engage with others in discussing some of these questions theologically.

Church Having been seriously screwed up by religion and pretty negative of a lot of what I see (not all, by any means) and having had some pretty bad experiences in some churches, I guess I’m pretty surprised that I still believe in church at all. Having not been a part of a community for nearly a year, I’m surprised by how unsettled I feel by being an isolated Christian. Forgetting all the baggage that gets put up around church (and there’s a lot of it!) stripped to its bear essentials I still think it’s a great idea. My take on church is that it is a community of people who choose to come together to be ethically challenged and to be mobilised to take action with that in mind. How good is that? And how relevant to the needs of our age?

But, this is where I struggle… first, there are so few decent churches out there. I’m sorry if I’m just unaware of the good ones and I’m sure there are some out there, but on my tour of churches this year I’ve been disappointed by how far so many are from the ideal I’ve just presented. So many are caught up in modernist baggage which seems to be more about defending the faith and less about equipping people to live.

A bigger struggle is with the way life is structured in the 21st century. If, like me, you have kids and a full-time job, you have little time for community or even putting your faith into practice. It’s so easy to adopt an individualistic religiosity that does little more than read / write blogs and listen to podcasts on your ipod. To be religious is to be like the Madonna with her ipod!

This last point provokes a lot of questions for me: After all, I’m sure capitalism wants to make me compliant and wants my religion to be private and non-political. I think it has little to gain from giving me time to protest, march, or engage in ethical action that doesn’t involve simply changing my shopping choices. The ‘system’ (whatever that is) has little interest in giving me time for the counter-cultural church I described above. No dominant ideology wants people meeting together to think independently and question.

So, I am in something of a quandary: the reason we need church, is precisely the thing that makes it so difficult. It is the lack of community and the dominance of the capitalist hegemony that means church is so vital and so hard.

I feel compelled to ask questions about what all this means. Yet, here is another quandary: Without a community who is there to help me think these things through theologically and practically? Well, I'm hoping someone in the blogging fraternity might.

I’m sorry, I’ve rambled on a lot and I said at the beginning of this post that I had a ‘few’ things on my mind. I guess I’ll have to leave the others for a later post. So, what's on your mind?