Category Archives: Idolatry

“STJ 86: Taste and Bee” – Process & Theology

This art piece – STJ 86: Taste and Bee – thinks through Anglican, Sarah Coakley’s, articulation of desire in a Mennonite context. Here are a few slightly edited excerpts of an essay I wrote for professor Jeremy Bergen this year at Grebel Uni.:

STJ 86 Taste and Bee

“STJ 86: Taste and Bee” by Lisa Obirek, December 2015

5 reduction linocut on stonehenge paper with added media: water soluble oil, paint pens, raw bees wax, nail polish, gold leaf

This piece is called a “print” and fits within the broader artistic medium of “printmaking.” The more specific term for this particular print is called a five-reduction linocut. This means I use a traditional piece of rubbery linoleum which is essentially just heated up linseed oil and I carve designs into the same block of linoleum in five different stages.  I use carving tools that are similar to traditional wood carving tools on a smaller scale. These carving tools have different ends, or “bits,” that make their own distinct cuts into the linoleum. Continue reading “STJ 86: Taste and Bee” – Process & Theology

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Dylan the icon: a concluding footnote to the idolatry of genius

You never turned around to see the frowns

On the jugglers and the clowns when they all did tricks for you

You never understood that it ain’t no good

You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you

You used to be so amused

At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used

Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse

When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose

You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal

A few years ago at the Winnipeg Folk Festival I was struck when three of my favourite performers on three separate occasions remarked that the only reason they were on the road making music was because of Dylan and the impact he had made on them. To me this announced the clear influence Dylan continues to command in much of the music making world. Even more striking, however, was the fact that those three performers were quite different from each other (different nationalities, genders, and of course musical genres and styles) and none sounded particularly Dylanesque. This impressed me: in an almost singular way it seemed that Dylan inspired musicians and at the same time inspired them to become distinct artists themselves rather than imitators. Continue reading Dylan the icon: a concluding footnote to the idolatry of genius

On individualism and the church

Conservatives, including many evangelicals, tend to think of the church as a group of like-minded individuals gathered to re-enforce their individual piety (spirituality). Liberals…have, on the basis of maximising individual freedom, managed to associate religion so tightly with feelings that they have effectively reduced the church to an ethical society in which people are encouraged to make each other, and even those outside their walls, feel good. –  Echoes of the Word, 230

Traditionally Protestant Christians have understood themselves as a priesthood of believers. We need to be careful how we understand this notion. It does not mean that we are priests unto ourselves and therefore do not need each other; or that therefore our pastor cannot be our authority. This is a modern perversion, emanating from the quest for autonomous self-understanding characteristic of our age. Rather it means that we are all priests in relation to each other  we are all called to sacrifice ourselves for each other. This does not release us from or boundedness to God and each other; it binds us to both in our quest to learn what it means to be God’s children. – Echoes of the Word, 238

The Idolatry of Genius, part one

We’ve had some discussion recently on genius and the possibility for authentic art. Most recently, Lisa (using Woolf) called the term “genius” into question, suggesting that it does not adequately account for the extent to which those reckoned “great artists” are in debt to those who came before (teachers, colleagues, mentors) and to the social conditions that made possible their position as an artist. In this way, genius functions as a sort of privileged male illusion that allows the most indebted to consider themselves self-sufficient and authentically creative because of their self-sufficiency. I agree with Lisa’s critique and would like to push it further. I want to use Jean-Luc Marion’s analysis of the idol to suggest that much of what we consider the marks of “genius” indicates idolatry and illusion. Nevertheless, I would still like to claim that not all art is absolutely determined by a stifling immanence; in other words, that there is more to art than its context. To do this, in part two, I will draw on Marion’s understanding of the icon. Continue reading The Idolatry of Genius, part one

The Idolatry of Irony: Deleuze and Guattari

Commentators often point to irony as a defining feature of postmodernity. Oddly enough, however, while, for example, there is much playfulness in a book like A Thousand Plateaus, I can find very little trace of anything one might call ironic. Indeed, in the case of A Thousand Plateaus there is a great deal of polemic directed against the detachment – one might say idolatry – of an ironic posture (even as they also find much that is problematic in what often goes under the heading of “seriousness”). Here’s one good example of this.

[I]t is necessary to ‘saturate every atom,’ and to do that it is necessary to eliminate, to eliminate all that is resemblance and analogy, but also ‘to put everything into it’: eliminate everything that exceeds the moment, but put in everything that it includes – and the moment is not the instantaneous, it is the haecceity into which one slips and that slips into other haecceities by transparency. To be present at the dawn of the world. – Deleuze and Guattari, 280

The Final Solution to Non-Violent Christian Mission

It seems to me that much current academic energy goes into two broadly contradictory tasks. The first attempts to unearth violences in texts of all sorts, to deconstruct them. The second (after showing the utter violence in all other ideas, interpretations, and approaches) moves on to present itself as the movement or position free of all problems and finally offering a truly final solution. Some have seen fit to critique the former approach. However, though I can see a potential for such a task to become pedantic or overly dismissive, I tend to find such work both judicious and important. The latter approach, on the other hand, is one that I am quickly becoming tired of. It is one thing to enthusiastically promote a good idea; it is another to dismiss all others out of hand, renounce critical self-reflection, and triumphantly present an idea as both untried and sure to success.

With that I want to present my final solution to non-violent Christian mission. I get it from a sermon preached by Lydia Harder at the Mennonite Church in Montreal around a year ago. She took three paradigms of Christian mission and worked with them, with congregational singing in between. She briefly described each, talked about their benefits and virtues, and then critiqued them, showing the ways that they can turn violent. And then we sang.

Continue reading The Final Solution to Non-Violent Christian Mission