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Bryne Lewis Allport
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I'll be moderating a panel (don't know which one yet). Who else is going? It would be a great opportunity to meet fellow contributors and readers.
Adam, great post. Really enjoyed your energy and line of thought. I wholeheartedly agree with you that self-interest can have a negative effect on serving and attending to others and/or God. However, I wonder what place "love your neighbor as yourself" has in your reading. In this verse, loving the self seems to be a prerequisite to loving the neighbor. Is there perhaps a particular kind of self-loving or self-attending that is implied here? Also, you seem to assume that we, as human beings, are perpetually attentive, the question of importance being where our attention rests. I think there is a difference between being distracted (allowing my attention to wander away with each new stimuli) and slipping into inattention (retreating to a distance from which stimuli become indistinct). To your mind, is there a significant difference between the two in terms of our ability to serve? Is there a place where or time when inattention is appropriate? How is perpetual attention to be sustained? Thanks, great article.
I tend to agree with Cioran's thoughts as you've expressed them here. The question I keep asking is: If we accept that suffering silence (and i'm understanding "silence" here as a loss of agency) is in necessary in seeking God, what do you think the role of religion is in facilitating that crisis?
Great post. I love your consideration of the subtitle in light of your reading of the book. Looking forward to hearing more. Thanks!
Bruyere, Thank you for your comment. It was not my intention to suggest that the Christian after-life is lethargic or exuberant. I understood Geoff's use of the terms dying and rising in Christ to refer to discipleship (in the manner of Paul in Galatians 2:20). My comments were intended to redescribe Christian life. Along these lines, I also make the assumption that Christians employed the terms dying and rising partly in response to a cultural anxiety about death and an unknowable afterlife. My intention is to question whether that is still the dominant fear and whether Christian doctrine is better served by adjusting the vocabulary to address current fears about mindlessness or unconsciousness while continuing to insist on the essential relationship between body and soul... therefore I suggested lethargic and exuberant, because both terms have mental and physical connotations.
Thanks, geoff. That's an interesting thought, not because i think we resemble reanimated, mindless brain eating machines in Christ, but rather because the terms "dying" and "rising" come into different light in this contexts. Aside from ambivalence Christians might have about what those terms mean, what does dying to self and/or sin and rising in Christ communicate to a culture constantly chattering with stories of the undead? It may be time to revisit the belief behind the words and choose to communicate those concepts differently. Or is death even our primary fear in facing eternity? Considering the narratives i mentioned above, perhaps mindlessness is a greater fear? What if we talked about distractedness or inattentiveness in contrast to alertness or intentionality? However, you’ll notice that i’ve already moved away from language that incorporates the body. So easy to do. Then what about lethargic versus exuberant?....
John, Thank you so much for you comments. I haven't seen "Dead Alive" (although I'll have to look up it now), but another exception would be "Shawn of the Dead," a satirical zombie movie. At the end of the movie, the protagonist keeps his best friend in a backyard shed where he plays video games all day... which is much the same way he spent his normal life. Other zombies are given "mindless" jobs or made to be game show contestants. This acknowledges their limited human capacity while still maintaining their essential humanity. I don't know about a Christian zombie ethic, but I know so many people who are reluctant about organ donation or participating in medical research or even cremation because of their beliefs about the body/soul connection, especially in reference to bodily resurrection. Somehow we have to find a way to describe the relationship between body and soul that preserves the possibility of having a unique, human (and therefore carnal) identity, while acknowledging that our bodies do not exclusively belong to us, being composed of material that is and will continued to be recycled.
In Existence and the Absolute, Jean-Yves Lacoste writes about the inseparability of soul and body. “The problem of the body is that it is an I: not some ‘thing’ that we may or may not possess, but something we are:... Continue reading
MT, I think we agree more than we disagree. In the article, I don't make any claims about the Bible's divine authority. I did reference the biblical account of the story of Jesus's arrest and crucifixion. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark both include the suggestion, in Jesus's cry of "My God, why have you forsaken me?", that Jesus was momentarily abandoned by God while dying on the cross. It's really more a matter of Christian tradition than a claim of biblical factuality. Regardless, the thrust of the article remains redescribing God's sovereignty in terms of God's universal presence as opposed to God's legislative power. Choosing to seek out and/or demonstrate God's character through adversity is the best we can make out of the worst circumstances. This is a point I think we agree on.
As the mid-west experiences record flooding, I recall the time four years ago when my own house was flooded. A culvert became blocked, sending the local creek down my road and through my home. While my children waited safely upstairs,... Continue reading
Geoff, thanks for this post. I have been personally frustrated especially to see well-meaning and well-intentioned friends try to push out from their fundmentalist moorings only to get spun around in one of these reactionary type eddies. i realize it comes out of a desire to critique and correct the more egregious claims of fundamentalism, but the critique often gets mired down in the very presuppositions it was hoping to overcome. i went through this same problem in debating gender issues in the fundamentalist church i attended as a young adult. it took me a long time to realize that i was killing myself trying to meet their requirements for "biblical" argument without questioning whether those requirements were valid.
this morning i went to our early service which has no music. the absence of music was palpable and oddly in tune (no pun intended) with the lenten season. it made me realize how i rely music to transition from the everyday to sacred time. music really helps me to ease into the religious service. today i felt a little awkward, like a kid on a first date, unsure of myself in the silences. i was very much more aware of my own noises, more aware of the voices of people around me, more aware of movement in the liturgy.
Adam, thanks for this article. I've spent a lot of time with this "problem" verse too. In The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer deals with the juxtaposition of open reward and hidden action. According to his reading, the self is the most insidious audience with its preference for "extraordinary" acts of virtue. We gear our performance toward assuring ourselves of our own righteousness, resulting in conspicuous performance. The solution that he proposes is not a disengagement from God as potential audience, but a focus on Christ as model which renders all extraordinary measures ordinary. As a result, my ability to qualify myself diminishes, possibly to the point of being non-existent. I think this ends up potentially both nullifying self and god as audience. Like in Matthew 25. The "sheep" who are commended by Christ are unaware 1) that they performed any conspicuously virtuous acts and 2) that their acts served Christ. As a concept, I think it works. It's a bigger problem is to try to articulate it as practice. How do you prescribe it without perpetrating the problem you are trying to solve? Don't have an answer to that one.