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
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
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
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
The Christian call to be transformed by the renewal of minds is a call to re-narrate all aspects of human existence from the standpoint of Christian sense-making. Our challenge is to answer the question, ‘What does it mean for us to understand the world from the standpoint of God actively redeeming humanity through Christ?’ When we state it this way, the issue is not whether this act or that act is permitted for Christians, as if God, the divine taskmaster, cannot tolerate the bungling and compromising efforts of human finitude. (I suspect God is accustomed to this.) That is, the issue is not whether we can participate with government troops in the liberation of a starving people, or even whether we can always be puritanically nonviolent as we work in complex war-torn parts of the world or in business in our home town. There is no question that the space which the church occupies in this world is ‘complex space.’ Nor is it a matter of living in such an extremely bureaucratised world that responsibility rather than faithfulness is a more adequate paradigm of moral self-understanding. Instead the issue is how we can challenge the sense-making of life apart from God in Jesus Christ. The issue is how we can ‘sign’ that ‘the Lamb that was slain’ is the victor through whom all of history has received its intelligibility. The issue is one of re-reading, re-perceiving the world. The basic practical question for us is, ‘What are the opportunities to say that it is the bombs and the tanks that are out of step with what really drives the affairs of this world?’ The move beyond secular reason is not a move that ignores non-theological sense-making; it is rather on that refuses to regard such sense-making as either normative or adequate unless it can be translated into theological sense-making. It is a move that points out the entrapments, the oppression, the seductions, the temptations to which we are all subject. And since ‘all’ includes those who confess Christ as lord, the first moral act for us is an act of confession and repentance. In other words, the first act of sense-making (reason) is an act of faithfulness (ethics). – Echoes of the Word, 98-99
I guess I’ve “known” it for a while but not really known it – making things when I am really sad and angry is a way to come out of that (usually) paralyzing space. Crunk Feminist Collective recently posted something that encouraged me to do something the next time I enter into that sad and angry place. A few days ago I was sitting in a small cafe when I read the CBC news that my prime minister wanted to send military warcraft into Iraq. I sat there, tears streaming down my face, with a reel of pictures going through my mind: pictures of women asking for food, for medical supplies, books, asking for anything but war planes. So I went home and made this picture.
I don’t want to spend too much time and effort learning the contours of Harper’s face (there are better faces to learn to draw), but you get the general sense?
The rhetoric of western leaders, as we once again prepare to wage war against Islamic peoples, has reminded me of the ways that I think the politics of purity (a politics that wants to neatly define who is in, who is out and, most importantly, where it is that “we” stand) has captivated our political imaginations. This may be surprising to hear, given that it is the rhetoric of compromise that is most evidently present in the calls for and declarations of “total war.” What I detect, however, is that the kind of compromise being articulated functions within the larger framework of a puristic politics, creating one of its most insidious offspring: puristic compromise. Continue reading The politics of purity and compromise