Category Archives: Theologians

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

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Hauerwas on being a forgiven people

Scripture has authority for Christians because they have learned as a forgiven people they must also be able to forgive. But to be a people capable of accepting forgiveness separates them from the world: The world, under the illusion that power and violence rule history, assumes that it has no need to be forgiven. Part of the meaning of the ‘world,’ therefore, is it is that which assumes it needs no scripture, since it lives not by memory made possible by forgiveness, but by power. Being a community of the forgiven is directly connected with being a community sustained by the narratives we find in scripture, as those narratives do nothing less than manifest the God whose very nature is to forgive. To be capable of remembering we must be able to forgive, for without forgiveness we can only forget or repress those histories that prove to be destructive or at least unfruitful. By attending closely to the example of those who have given us our scripture, we learn how to be a people morally capable of foregiveness and thus worthy of continuing to carry the story of God we find authorized by scripture. – Community of Character, 68-69

A Compassion-Formed People

Compassion is a radical critique of the imperial imagination because it announces that the hurt of the people, even of one’s enemies, will not be disregarded but will be taken seriously. To do otherwise is to make pain normative, injustice permissible, and evil god. Empires live in callous disregard to the human pain which they require to sustain themselves. God and God’s people live in compassionate empathy with the broken ones. God and God’s people offer hope to the hopeless. – Harry Huebner

For the past three and a half years I have done a monthly radio broadcast for the Mennonite Church of Manitoba. Because the radio audience and the audience I have (or might one day have, perhaps) in blogging are quite different, I have never shared my programs online. Last Sunday’s program felt like an exception to this – perhaps it is that my program should have been written for the blog not the radio. In any case I think it is fitting here, so here’s an excerpt. Continue reading A Compassion-Formed People

Harry Huebner on being the the church in the world

I have now finished Harry Huebner’s Echoes of the Word. I enjoyed going through it in a relatively short time frame, and I hope readers appreciated the glances I provided into this reading.

Before I post a final quotation I’d like to draw attention to the two chapters I most enjoyed. What sets these essays apart for me is their tremendous practical wisdom combined with rich theological insight. That is, not only did these essays provoke my thinking, but I have high hopes that they will help me to become a better person – this without being trite or reductionist. Continue reading Harry Huebner on being the the church in the world

Jesus and the church’s call to embodied holiness

The issue for Jesus was both individual sinfulness as well as the people’s allegiance to a cultural dynamic of power, corruption, and piety. Especially serious was his charge that the religious leaders rather than calling the people to repentance were undergirding this way of life with religious rituals which abstracted the love of God. The Pharisees identified godliness with keeping themselves clean from the world around them. Jesus profoundly disagreed with this. The issue between Jesus and them was a hermeneutical one: how to interpret what God was doing. When Jesus said to them: ‘Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God!’ (Luke 11:42a), he was not criticising their religion, he was criticising its abstraction. To be God’s people required incarnate compassion. You simply cannot be God’s and lack love for justice. Compassion is of the essence of God – witness the Prodigal Son story – hence if you are centred in God it defines your essence as well – witness the Good Samaritan story. Prophetic faithfulness, as Jesus interprets it, demands the unity of piety and politics. Continue reading Jesus and the church’s call to embodied holiness

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

Compassion and presence: the church’s calling

The same central point is made: the justice of the biblical prophetic imagination is grounded in compassion. And nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the story of the cross and resurrection. The cross is the very embrace of the dialectical tension between justice and compassion.

Compassion is a radical critique of the imperial imagination because it announces that the hurt of the people, even of one’s enemies, will not be disregarded but will be taken seriously. To do otherwise is to make pain normative, injustice permissible, and evil god. Empires live in callous disregard to the human pain which they require to sustain themselves. God and God’s people live in compassionate empathy with the broken ones. God and God’s people offer hope to the hopeless. Continue reading Compassion and presence: the church’s calling

“On Being Stuck with Our Parents”

This excerpt is the first few paragraphs from the essay “On Being Stuck with Our Parents: Learning to Die in Christ.”

The title’s suggestion that we are stuck with our parents may offend some readers. We do not like to think of ourselves as being stuck with each other, not even those we love. Why? Perhaps because our culture teaches us that the only things worth having are those we freely choose; we are taught to believe that our will and our freedom are basic to our being. But our parents and our children are precisely the people we do not first of all choose. Continue reading “On Being Stuck with Our Parents”

The cross and Christian hope for peace and justice

We need to remind ourselves that what we as Christians may legitimately hope for is not first of all a transformed super-human existence, but a way of living with our flawed existence. That is why being a disciple is not only living in the resurrection; it is first of all taking up the cross. – Echoes of the Word, 154 Continue reading The cross and Christian hope for peace and justice

An Epistemology of Peace

Incompleteness is not a temporary human state while we engage in figuring out how to do theology and ethics; incompleteness is the human condition. That is why it does not matter where we begin or what language we use, provided we do not exclude other languages, but it does matter whom we listen to and whether we are able to learn to walk the word…. Continue reading An Epistemology of Peace