A MUST SEE: "The most powerful interview I've witnessed" "The best television I have ever seen," "Incredibly moving story. What a hero," "The moments of silence were the loudest,"
Some of the reaction to an interview with Victor Gregg on BBC Breakfast. The 95 year old told us how he survived the raids while he was a prisoner of war in the #Dresdenbombings. Victor said it was evil and it took him 40 years to get over it. He didn't laugh once during those 40 years.
Many have read the delightful and charming seven missives a few times, others but once and many more, probably, have seen the first three books turned films: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader—the finale of the series is, of course, The Last Battle.
The Last Battle can be read at a variety of levels, but throughout many of the books in the series, the Narnians are often pitted against the dark skinned Calormenes. There are, of course, Narnians that are not to be trusted and seeming enemies of the Narnians that might be trusted-the ethos created by Lewis is not a simple and enchanted good versus evil realm and reality. But, there are tendencies to see the Narnians as, at their best, the nobler types and the Calormenes as the lesser breed.
Some have seen this as a form of English racism and a confirmation of Edward Said’s “Orientalist thesis”—the same trajectory can be found in Tolkien.
The Last Battle pits the Narnians against the Calormenes in a rather explicit and not to be denied way—Aslan (and the Nanians) stand for that which is good, beautiful and noble and the Calormenes (who heed the leadership of Shift the Ape and Puzzle the donkey) threaten the very existence of Aslan and the Narnians. The battle is waged with much ferocity and by war’s end, the Narnians emerge victorious. The problem, then, becomes what to do with the defeated Calormenes (and those who opposed Aslan). The ending of the book has a strange twist to it. A simpler ending would be to see the Calormenes as defeated evil people and in need of punishment. The more complex ending highlights the fact that there were many who opposed Aslan, but who did so thinking they were doing what was right and good—Emeth is one such character in the book.
Emeth is a Hebrew word that means true, truth, good of character and worthy of admiration. Emeth assumed in obeying Tash (the false god) he was being true and faithful to reality. Emeth had been taught many caricatures of Aslan and the Narnians, hence his distrust of them if true.
In short, Emeth was a faithful servant of the limited light offered him. When Aslan confronts Emeth (chapter 25) he says, “all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me”. Did Lewis have a model for Emeth in his life?
Mahmoud Manzalaoui (1924-2015) was a student at Oxford in the late 1940s and C.S. Lewis was his tutor. Manzalaoui was a Muslim from Egypt and came to study Literature at Oxford—he focussed on Medieval Literature (Lewis’ area of specialty) and, upon completing his PHD in 1954, eventually moved to British Columbia where he spent most of his teaching days in the English department at University of British Columbia. Manzalaoui was also active when at Oxford in the Socratic Club that Lewis guided and shaped until he left for Cambridge in 1954.
I was quite fortunate in December 2014 to spend a couple of hours with Mahmoud Manzalaoui at his flat in Vancouver. We talked about many things, but the focus of the discussion was on C.S. Lewis. Ross Labrie (who also taught at UBC with Manzalaoui), Mahmoud and I made for an animated and informed threesome. I had been informed, before meeting Mahmoud, that he had been the model for Emeth in The Last Battle. I asked Mahmoud about this, and he confirmed that this was probably the case. The dark skinned Mahmoud had made much the same journey as Emeth—for Lewis, of course, this had little or nothering to do with skin colour—Lewis was never so shallow or so silly—it had everything to do with being open to the overtures of reality as embodied in Aslan—many were the Narnians who lacked the attentiveness of Emeth. Lewis realized that the last battle, in the depths of the human soul and spirit, was more about an inner alertness and attentiveness to the Divine than whether someone was Narnian or Calormene—even the cynical dwarves and Puzzle the Donkey had a private audience with Aslan in a way few Narnians did.
Mahmoud Manzalaoui (Emeth) died January 21 2015. I was fortunate in December 2014 to have a couple of hours to hear his story, his read of The Chronicles of Narnia (of which he did a thoughtful review) and his time, when doing a BA, as a student of C.S. Lewis. I could easily understand why Lewis might see Mahmoud as a model for Emeth.
Acts of vengeance to vindicate honor have been in the press on a near daily basis this past month, causing me to think seriously about how Jesus exposes and deals with human violence and reveals God’s radical, shame-disarming power.
In the immediate aftermath of Charlie Hebdo’s most recent depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, crowds of Muslims torched Christian churches in Niger, stormed a Christian school in Pakistan, and expressed their outrage toward France and the West in many other places.
The beheadings of two Japanese hostages and the burning alive of a captured Jordanian Air Force pilot by ISIS were followed immediately by Jordan’s execution of two militants and the death of 55 ISIS jihadists in Mosul through airstrikes.
"We are upping the ante. We're going after them wherever they are, with everything that we have. But it's not the beginning, and it's certainly not the end," Jordanian foreign minister Judeh said.
The US coalition continues to show its power by bombarding ISIS troops, and the cycle of violence will only get worse. How are we to proclaim Jesus as the answer in these dark and violent times?
Isaiah 53 begins with a question posed by people who have heard news that is counter intuitive to the logic of redemptive violence. “Whohas believed our report?” they ask, seeming to suggest that not everyone has or will. A second question prepares the reader for a description of God’s saving servant: “Upon whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
The arm of the Lord in the Old Testament is synonymous with God’s power (Isaiah 40:10; 48:14; 51:5) and is the means by which God intervenes in history. The verb gālâ (translated“ reveal”) means to uncover, expose, or make naked; this verb invites the translation “upon whom has God’s power been uncovered (or bared)?”
The next verses of Isaiah 53 describe God’s naked power visible in a figure who has no form or majesty or attractive appearance, who is despised, forsaken—a man of sorrows who grieves and is not valued.
Unlike the armed forces of this world (the US coalition, Jordan, ISIS, the Israelis and many others), God’s servant bears our grief and carries our sorrows. The servant is even perceived as punished by God (v. 4). Speaking as the exiled prophetic community in the heart of an oppressive empire (Babylon), Isaiah describes God’s servant in ways that prefigure Jesus and show us a way to think about redemptive suffering and shame-bearing:
“But he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:6–7).
The first Christians saw Jesus as fulfilling this description of the Lord’s servant. Jesus reveals God’s power by letting humans strip him naked and nail him to a cross—exposing our violence and neutralizing it. He achieves his victory over shame, dishonor and death through submitting to it as innocent victim alongside us and on our behalf.
Before his enemies arrest him, Jesus freely offers his broken body and blood to the disciples around the table, inviting them and us to continue feeding on his vulnerable flesh and lifeblood “in remembrance of me.” He is raised to life by the Father, embodying victory over death and guaranteeing us his abiding presence with us now and forever.
Paul recognizes the offense of Jesus’ way of being Savior when he writes of Jesus’ cross as “foolishness to those who are perishing.” But, he continues, “to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). He goes on to describe how this very different power of God, which he calls “the foolishness of the cross”, is a weapon against the world’s wisdom: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside” (1 Corinthians 1:19).
Jesus reveals God’s embodied wisdom that destroys the conventional wisdom behind ISIS executions, Jordan’s retaliation, the US coalition’s strategy to annihilate ISIS and vengeance in all the forms and the logic of shame that we’re seeing played out throughout our world.
Those in power in Jesus’ day did not believe in Jesus or his way of saving the world—and we can expect similar resistance today. Jesus identifies himself as the “stone which the builders rejected” (Luke 20:17–18), and all of the Gospel writers take note of this (see John1:10–11). Believing Jesus is the “cornerstone” of the Kingdom of God requires faith, which is a gift from God that we can choose to receive.
As I witness the escalation of counter-terrorism efforts in Europe, mob reactions to dishonor and increasing violence and suffering in the Middle East, I find myself feeling drawn to contemplate and talk about the crucified one afresh, rediscovering the effective practice of Paul’s proclamation:
“But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:24–25).
This is the myth that underlies our violence against the Other—our so-called “enemies”:
One of the motivations of violence against the Other is portraying oneself—or “our side”—as completely “good” and one’s enemies—or “their side”—as completely “evil.” We do it all the time—as individuals, as cultures, as races, as religions, as nations. This dual portrayal gives “our side” the permission to kill, incarcerate, torture, and oppress since our actions will automatically be deemed righteous, commendable, and sensible, as we are the “good” guys and therefore any actions we take—however objectively deplorable—are automatically considered “good.” And our enemies can be killed, eliminated, incarcerate, oppressed, and tortured as inanimate objects to be eliminated in the implementation of our ideologies and interests because they have no good in them and are therefore completely evil and thus worthy and deserving of their death, torture, incarceration, and oppression. Since there is nothing good in them (i.e., our completely evil “enemies”), no good will be destroyed when our enemies are killed, tortured, or otherwise oppressed.
The antidote to this crude, unthinking, facile, and toxic bifurcation is the prerequisite transfiguration for loving our enemies and building peace intuitively and (super)naturally. The resolution is therefore ontological rather than a forced and contrived imitation—good or bad. And part of what this transfiguration looks like is recognizing the good in our enemies and the evil in ourselves—that, as the gulag surviver, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, remarked, the dividing line between good and evil doesn’t run between separate human beings or identity groups, but down the middle of every human heart; this requires stillness (hesychesis) and attentiveness (nepsis) to the vices and passions in ourselves and a commensurate life of repentance, all of which induces our transfiguration—the partaking of the divine nature (2 Pt. 1:4), the same “stuff” as the Prince of Peace—that capacitates us for treating the Other in the same way that the Transfigured One treated the Other—i.e., the prostitutes, the Samaritans, the publicans, the Roman occupiers.
A desire for retribution is the response to our perception of complete evil in the Other; a desire for restoration is the response to our recognition of at least some good in all human beings—“the true light, which enlightens everyone” (Jn. 1:9)—that can still yet be unearthed, prioritized, and cultivated.
I am frequently asked why anyone (including Jesus, the apostles and countless martyrs throughout the ages) would bother sharing the gospel if there is no hell. Before we even go there, I would hasten to ask, "Who told you there's no hell?" Of course there is.
Now as for the nature of hell, that's another matter. The idea of hell as 'eternal conscious torment' in an everlasting lake of fire is abhorrent to many who've experienced the fathomless depths of God's love, or have at least thought through the irrationality of its contradictions, or studied the competing images of divine judgment within Scripture. But that doesn't mean there is no hell. Have you been inside Burma's borders? Or experienced the front lines of a Middle East war zone? Or visited a sex-trafficking brothel? I know those who have and they assure me absolutely: hell exists.
I'm not a universalist, but I do believe in hopeful inclusivism. That is, we cannot presume that all will be saved, or that any would be lost, but love obligates us to hope and pray that the mercy of Christ would have the last word on the Day of Judgment. If so, what is the point of evangelism?
I think the difficulty in perceiving the point of evangelism if there is a hope that one day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess and glorify Christ as Lord exposes something awful about our perception of the Gospel and what Evangelism is.
Origen, St Gregory of Nyssa and St Isaac the Syrian Bishop
The Collected Works Volume I The Inner Kingdom, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press Crestwood, New York 2001, 193-215. Prev. publ. in Theology Digest 45:4 (1998), 303-17.
There are some questions which, at any rate in our present state of knowledge, we cannot answer; and yet, unanswerable though these questions may be, we cannot avoid raising them. Looking beyond the threshold of death, we ask: How can the soul exist without the body? What is the nature of our disembodied consciousness between death and the final resurrection? What is the precise relationship between our present body and the “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44) which the righteous will receive in the Age to come? Last, but not least, we ask: Dare we hope for the salvation of all? It is upon this final question that I wish to concentrate. Unanswerable or not, it is a question that decisively affects our entire understanding of God’s relationship to the world. At the ultimate conclusion of salvation history, will there be an all-embracing reconciliation? Will every created being eventually find a place within the Trinitarian perichoresis, within the movement of mutual love that passes eternally among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Have we the right to endorse that confident affirmation of Julian of Norwich, as T. S. Eliot does in the last of his Four Quartets?
Let us pose the question more sharply by appealing first to the words of a twentieth-century Russian Orthodox monk and then to the opening chapter of Genesis. The dilemma that disturbs us is well summed up in a conversation recorded by Archimandrite Sophrony, the disciple of St Silouan of Mount Athos:
It was particularly characteristic of Staretz Silouan to pray for the dead suffering in the hell of separation from God... He could not bear to think that anyone would languish in “outer darkness.”
I remember a conversation between him and a certain hermit, who declared with evident satisfaction, “God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire.”
Obviously upset, the Staretz said, “Tell me, supposing you went to paradise, and there looked down and saw somebody burning in hell-fire—would you feel happy?”
“It can’t be helped. It would be their own fault,” said the hermit. The Staretz answered him with a sorrowful countenance.
“Love could not bear that,” he said. “We must pray for all.”
Here exactly the basic problem is set before us. St Silouan appeals to divine compassion: “Love could not bear that.” The hermit emphasizes human responsibility: “It would be their own fault.” We are confronted by twο principles that are apparently conflicting: first, God is love; second, human beings are free.
Our creation in Christ has made us, by vocation, into beings to whom the Father is as essential as he is, by paternity, to the Son himself. But we should not forget the other face of this mystery, whereby we appear, in Christ, as eternally irreplaceable to the Father as the Son is to him. Confronted with the suicidal decision to reverse into hatred the love for which we have all been created and which makes us, in the Father’s eyes, inseparable from the person of his Son, could God, even out of respect for our freedom, abandon forever the person who destroys himself in the self-torture of his aberration? How could he do so, this God who, in Christ wishes to raise us by pure grace to his likeness, and promises to share with us the life of his uncreated Son? Such is the choice of the unfathomable depth of his love for us. Henceforth there is no human rule, no safeguard of morality that can prohibit God from loving madly the madman who believes that in order to exist he must refrain from loving him who is love itself!God’s remedy for madness consists then in bringing into play all the resources of his love to help the rebel overcome his insane refusal to love. For what kind of God would he be who, despite being declared all-powerful, was forever incapable of releasing from his mortal spell a freedom that was received without being requested, and that could become a snare of pain and hatred to its recipient, for all eternity?
Faced with the lights of the Kingdom of heaven in the night (in itself hopeless) of hell, we are therefore empowered by faith to throw ourselves naked into the love of God. As worthy descendants of Abraham—“In hope he believed against hope” (Rom 4:18)—we hope that the bottomless depths of God’s fatherhood, of Christ’s Passion, and of the resources of the Holy Spirit will allow us to escape from the fiery prison that is hell. We can say nothing of how this might be; but we must trust absolutely in the reserves of love, grace, and glory, whose only measure is God’s love for the Son in the Holy Spirit, a love in which we are forever included. Moreover, since God has revealed to us in his Son that we are saved and saveable by pure grace, and never by our works (Rom 1–4), how could it be otherwise when the eschatology of every creature is decided, at the crowning moment when the mystery of grace, in which we have been established for all time by God himself, will be fulfilled? In this light, hell becomes, with regard to a boundless faith, the location of choice for God’s victory over the most incomprehensible rejection—victory that could be called humanly unexpected and that is for the prayer of the spiritual and for the thought of the theologian “able to be hoped for.”
 Gustave Martelet “Hell,” Encyclopedia of Christian Theology, Vol. 1, edited by Jean-Yves Lacoste, (New York: Routledge, 2005), 693.
This excerpt is from Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 60: On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ (CCSG 22:73-81). It is a minor paraphrase (for readability only) of the translation by Paul Blowers and Robert Wilken (St. Vlad's Press, 2003).
Scripture teaches us two ways of knowing God, two kinds of knowledge of divine things.
First, there is what we might call 'relative knowledge,' which is rooted in human reason, ideas and conceptions. Relative knowledge lacks the kind of direct, experiential perception that we get by active engagement or a living encounter. This relative knowledge is what we typically use to order our affairs in our present daily lives.
On the other hand, there is a second kind of knowledge--a truly authentic knowledge--gained only by actual experience, apart from and beyond human reason and ideas. This authentic, experiential knowledge gives us a direct perception of God through participation in his life by grace.
We will ultimately attain this second way of knowing in the next life by participation in God's nature ('theosis'), as he transforms us from glory to glory into the image of Christ. This will be a supernatural and unceasing process.
Scripture shows us how the relative knowledge based on reason and ideas can be a useful motivator, increasing our desire for the participative knowledge acquired by active engagement.
Further, they teach us that this active, experiential knowledge through participation, which gives us direct perception of God, can supplant (replace, displace) the relative knowledge based in reason and ideas.
The great sages go so far as to say that it's impossible for rational knowledge of God coexist with the direct experience of God. Or for human conceptions of God to coexist with the immediate perception of God.
'Rational knowledge of God' uses analogies from created beings in the intellectual contemplation of God. Similarly, 'conceptual knowledge' means all the simple knowledge of God drawn from created beings. But 'immediate perception' involves actual experience, through participation, in the supernatural life of God.
We use this kind of distinction with every other kind of knowledge as well, since our direct experience of something suspends our rational knowledge about it. And our direct perception of things makes our conceptual knowledge useless. This kind of 'experiential knowledge' refers to is based in firsthand, active engagement, which surpasses all reason.
So when we speak of 'immediate perception,' we are referring to our participation in whatever (or whomever) manifests itself to us beyond all our human-based analogies and conceptions.
This may very well be what the Apostle Paul is secretly teaching when he says, 'As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will disappear (1 Cor. 13:8). Clearly he is referring here to that knowledge which is found in reason and ideas, which disappears in light of the direct experience of intimate encounter.
Reality at all levels and in every dimension is a mystery. I will not suggest that the world which we experience with our own senses is not reality; nevertheless, what we perceive is the surface of reality, which is penetrated only with great effort over time. The more deeply we penetrate into this perceived reality, the greater the mystery becomes.
Mystery is, in many ways, what reality consists in. It seems notable to me that, from the point of view of modern physics, Werner Heisenberg tells us that we have exceeded the capabilities of human language, and we resort to mathematical formalisms to express what is beyond the capacity of human concepts and normal language to express.
In the same manner St Gregory of Nyssa tells us that, in discussing the Trinity, we have exceeded the capacities of human language. He says that the language about the Trinity is only the best we can do with our limited human language to describe a relationship. Our explanation of the Trinity is not concrete; it is, in a manner of speaking, a metaphor about a Divine Relationship.
Thus, in both theology and modern science, we find ourselves treading in forbidden territory. It is somewhat as Pseudo-Dyonesios says: "As we plunge into that darkness which is beyond intellect, we shall find ourselves not simply running out of words, but actually speechless and unknowing." (St Dionysios the Areopagite.)
Nils Bohr gives an link between our Orthodox approach to theology and quantum physics when he says: "The purpose of science is not to know the essence of nature, but to discover what can be known about nature." He reminded us that science is a method of exploration, not the final arbiter of reality. Science is not an alternative to revelation.
This same dignified modesty is expressed in the Orthodox Christian concept of apophatic theology. Apophatic theology also acknowledges that doctrinal and poetic formulations are secondary worlds, our best models. They are more or less adequate in helping us give words to and have concepts for our encounter with ultimate reality. Since no one can know or comprehend the essence of God, even the dogma of the Trinity must be understood as a secondary world, a conceptual framework of enormous importance and clarity that is the best we can do in the framing of language for the experience of the ineffable, but it is, nevertheless, a model of reality.
When we assume that we have a concrete definition of the Divine, we step onto the path of those who built the Tower of Babel. We are not seeking to know the essence of the divine, but only to discern that which can be known about the Divine. We have a bit by revelation, and we have tried to placed that revelation into doctrinal formulations much as physicists have tried to express the quantum in mathematical formulations. In both one and the other, we have constructed the best models of reality that we can; we should not think that either they or us have understood, defined and explained reality in any concrete terms. We are, at least in this, on common ground.
In Christ, Vladika Lazar.
About 25 years ago, I wrote to David Cayley in response to a CBC Ideas series broadcast on the program by that name. (CBC is Canada’s public broadcasting network). It was a series of interviews with noted Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie. I wrote to Cayley, expressing my appreciation. That began a friendship that has endured.
Cayley retired in 2012.
I amongst others (I’m sure) encouraged him to make his hundreds of hours of CBC Ideas programmes accessible to the world, since some but most were inaccessible on the CBC Ideas website. He has begun that project that may be found here: David Cayley
He has indicated a willingness to lecture out here this year, likely under the auspices of the University of the Fraser Valley. We’ll see.
He formed a close friendship with Ivan Illich many years ago. Two series of interviews are on his website already. But Cayley’s output has been wide-ranging and massive: 24 hours for instance on How To Think About Science, and 12 hours total on a series initially planned as a single unit, but divided into two: After Atheism and The Myth of the Secular.
Eventually, Cayley intends to make the entire corpus of his work over 30 years available. He is a generous person. There is no cost to sit back and enjoy. A friend called the website a (rare) “treasure trove.” I so heartily agree. For thinkers I have read, he takes their thought and while not “dumbing down” (well, maybe he really does for me!), makes it even clearer. That is a unique gift. Another so gifted comes to mind: C.S. Lewis.
Pleasant listening – and interacting.
P.S. Here is a brief online profile by him: David Cayley
This paper was prepared for a symposium held at the Oakland High School for the Arts under the auspices of California Governor Jerry Brown in the summer of 2013. The occasion was the publication of Beyond Economics and Ecology, a collection of Illich's essays on these themes, edited and introduced by Sajay Samuel. The conference was called After the Crisis: The Thought of Ivan Illich Today...
POLITICS AND RELIGION IN THE THOUGHT OF IVAN ILLICH
The heading of today’s session is politics and religion, so I’d like to begin by reflecting on these terms, both of which can be extremely slippery. I know they have practical, everyday meanings – we will usually agree in ordinary talk that what goes on in churches and mosques, synagogues and temples is religion, while what is discussed in legislatures and government offices, is politics – but if we inquire a little more deeply, they become quite difficult to distinguish. One of the hallmarks of the modern age was the distinction between a private sphere in which one was free to cultivate one’s religion, and a public realm governed by the canons of secular reason. This regime began to take shape at the beginning of the modern age, roughly the 16th century, and it’s arguable that before that time there was no such thing as religion in the sense in which the word is used today. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, the great Canadian scholar of religion writing in the 1960’s says: “religion as a discrete category of human activity separable from culture, politics and other areas of life is an invention of the modern West.” Before the 16th century - at the earliest - the word can denote a virtue, a disposition, a habit – a practice let’s say - but not the adoption of a set of propositions or beliefs as “my religion.” In fact Cantwell Smith goes on to say that “the rise of the concept of religion is in some ways correlated with a decline in the practice of religion itself.” (Just as an aside here some of the slipperiness of the word religion can be seen in that quote, in which Smith, having just said that religion is not a transhistorical essence but a modern invention then goes on to speak of “religion itself” as if it were just such an essence. This shows, I think, the difficulty we still have in speaking of these matters.) By the beginning of the eighteenth century, according to the historian of Christianity John Bossy, the idea of religion is well established. “By 1700,” he writes, “the world was full of religions, objective social and moral entities characterized by system, principles and hard edges.” And religion once distinguished from politics became in many ways its scapegoat: the conflicts between the nascent national states of the 16th and 17th centuries, to take just one example, became known as the wars of religion, when they could just as plausibly – more plausibly - have been called the wars of state-making, and taken as illustrating the arbitrary and violent character of state power, rather than the violent and arbitrary character of religious belief.
One could say a lot more about the segregation of the secular from the religious in the modern world, and about the fateful imperial reorganization of other civilizations and cultures along these lines during the colonial era, but the point that I want to make here is that this whole mythology has come undone in our time – undone to the extent that, in some circles at least, one hardly needs to argue the point any more.
Pure act of Being: our Lord the Transcendent
Imagination spills forth from your hands
Pure act of working your joy to fulfilment:
Breathing your image in woman and man.
Celestial poetry of cosmos and cradle
Transposing eternity’s rhythm and rhyme
Distilling all hope to a cry in a stable:
A single bright essence in space and in time.
Jesus, your love is a draught for the thirsty
In fascination we sip your life-words
Renewing our vision with new eyes of mercy
Lifting our heads to consider the birds.
Abundant River, in ceaseless procession
Blessing, affirming: the Dove and the Voice
Jesus, self-emptying Servant of Heaven -
Sovereign, submits to humanity’s choice.
Holy Community, bliss undivided
Thrust wide your arms on our cruelty’s cross
All our black thoughts to your body confided
Die with our sin and rise new from the dross.
Pure act of following where Jesus beckons
Sweated with doubt and Gethsemane fear
Defeating with weakness what power misreckons
On to Eternity’s Jubilee year.
I’m a worship leader – it’s my job to help the church to praise God. Debates about how best to do this are as old as the hills, but the current conversations around worship have become rather dull terrain. In many lively churches - my own is fairly typical - ‘contemporary’ worship has largely won the day. The urgency of ‘relevance’ in worship for the unchurched majority has usurped concerns for the tradition and a certain kind of artistry in both form and content. In some ways, this has been a necessary corrective to a mothballed and complacent hymnody that no longer speaks to the man in the street; I have argued this case myself more than once. However, in several corners there seems to be growing sense that the winning of the ‘worship wars’ by a genre of simple (sometimes simplistic) Scripture-toting soft-rock songs has been something of a hollow victory.
Why are we fighting about it?
Who is the ‘man in the street’ really anyway?
Have we even bothered to ask ‘him’ what he is capable of comprehending?
There is a saying that a frog sitting in a pot of water heating very slowly on the stove will not jump out, but get slowly cooked, incrementally. Harper has taken the work of heavily funded political-economic think tanks, to made deep lasting changes to Canadian social-economic-political thought; incrementally he has changed the very nature of the state according to SFU professor Donald Gutstein. He writes that the utopian dream of this neo-liberal ideology, is, “…a state governed by market transactions and not by democratic practices” (p.12). Gutstein has written a well-documented, readable, short book (249 pages); its purpose according to Gutstein is to reveal how Harper has earned his “ism” in that, Harpers “…program will outlast his years as prime minister” (p. 16). The book is an expose of the ideation and strategy, quite disturbing to me, upon which Harperism is built.
Book Review of Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church, William T. Cavanaugh, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011, 200 pages.
My thanks to Oxford University Press for a review copy of the first book, and to Eerdmans for a review copy of the second.
I learned of the first publication and that reviewed below in following through on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “After Atheism” Ideas five-part series by David Cayley. In After Atheism: New Perspectives on God & Religion, Part 3 - William Cavanaugh, the author interviewed mainly discusses his book Migrations of the Holy (2011), reviewed below. It in some ways follows through on the first book under review.
This book could have been discussed in the second related series of seven broadcasts by David Cayley entitled “The Myth of the Secular”. (By the way, David Cayley is in the process of uploading all his CBC broadcasts at David Cayley – something a friend called a (I’ll add “rare”) “treasure trove.”)
The book’s title is designedly provocative. In the West, everyone knows that “religion” (Christianity) historically, and in resurgent worldwide Islam, is indisputably violent. Cavanaugh asserts nonetheless that the claim that “religion is … essentially prone to violence is one of the foundational legitimating myths of the liberal nation-state (p. 4).”
Conventional wisdom implies that “religions” such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism over against “ideologies and institutions” such as nationalism, Marxism, capitalism, and liberalism, are “essentially more prone to violence – more absolutist, divisive, and irrational – than the latter.” In response, the author is blunt: “It is this claim that I find both unsustainable and dangerous (p. 6).”
“Violence” in relation to those cited in the book “generally means injurious or lethal harm and is almost always discussed in the context of physical violence, such as war and terrorism (p. 7).” Not only does the author use the term “myth” to indicate the claim is false, “but to give a sense of the power of the claim in Western societies (p. 6).” The claim seems a given and inevitable – and therefore difficult to refute.
A respectful debate on Christian just war vs Christian pacifism. Thanks to Azariah France-Williams, who attended the debate.
Prof. Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Christchurch College, Oxford, and author of 'In Defence of War'.
Prof. Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld, Mennonite theologian, Professor Emeritus at Conrad Grebel University College, and author of 'Jesus and the Subversion of Violence'.