Thursday, March 31, 2022

Late to the party and not dressed for it

And let us note again, it [creation] is constant in its faithfulness and ever eager to praise. Simply by being themselves, all creatures exult in the abundantlife given to them by God. As Karl Barth puts it, nonhuman creatures praise God “along with us or without us. They do it also against us to shame us and instruct us.” By comparison, the human “is only like a late-comer slipping shamefacedly into creation’s choir in heaven and earth, which has never ceased its praise, but merely suffered and sighed, as it still does, that in inconceivable folly and ingratitude its living centre man does not hear its voice, its response, its echoing of the divine glory, or rather hears it in a completely perverted way, and refuses to co-operate in the jubilation which surrounds him."— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 166–67

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Back into bondage

Still, many continue to objectify nature and separate humanity from it. And neoliberals in particular, prone to reinterpret everything in terms of the market, are hard put to see nature as anything other or greater than the provider of “natural resources.” Such demeanor inclines one toward the continued exploitation of nature. The “tragic irony” of liberal and neoliberal capitalism is that the very means through which humans sought liberation from the constraints of nature (i.e., fossil-based fuels) is a threat to human and global survival. The effects of air and water pollution, and preeminently the inescapable climate crisis, press upon us all a reconsideration of our heritage.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 150

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Brutal truth

The early liberal attitude to nature is most famously summarized in the words of the Englishman Francis Bacon, a seventeenth-century philosopher, scientist, and statesman. Bacon not only objectified nature but saw nature as an object to be brutally interrogated and raped. So the scientist “must force the apparent facts of nature into forms different to those in which they familiarly present themselves; and thus make them tell the truth about themselves, as torture may compel an unwilling witness to reveal what he has been concealing.” Another line, with which feminists have had a field day, advised that “man” should “make no scruple” of “penetrating into [nature’s] holes and corners, when the inquisition of truth is his sole object.” As Sheldon Wolin encapsulates it, nature for Bacon was “an object of organized assault.”— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 148

Monday, March 28, 2022

Exploit it! (But at what cost?)

Both those now commonly designated “liberals” and those designated “conservatives” have roots in a historical, encompassing liberalism. As such, attitudes toward nature—or what I would prefer to call creation—are widely shared across today’s partisan political lines. “Liberals” and “conservatives” alike have a heritage of humanity separated from the rest of nature and the reduction of nature to a mere source of “natural resources” to be reaped for human gain.

Karl Polanyi, writing in the mid-twentieth century, warned against the liberal propensity to reduce land to a commodity. Land, he protested, becomes “only another name for nature, which is not produced by man.” Such a reduction is in fact “entirely fictitious” But this fiction determined a world picture that set up liberal humanity to exploit land and nature—now, we see in an age of climate crisis—to our own detriment.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 147–48

Friday, March 25, 2022

Subject to futlility

The antithesis between the “church” and the “world,” which is certainly a Pauline and Johannine motif, here needs to be carefully understood. The “world,” in these terms, should not be understood as synonymous with creation. Creation is triply sanctified in the Christian story: all has been created good; Christ’s incarnation blesses all material, fleshly reality; and Christ’s bodily resurrection and ascension take transformed physical creation into heaven, beside the very throne of God. Moreover, the cosmic order, in Paul’s thought, is not sinful. It has been subjected to the futility of death through humanity’s sinfulness, not its own, and is destined for apocalyptic liberation (Rom 5:l2–2l; 8:l8—27).— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 143

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

But how?

For Christian engagement with the world, then, patriotically and otherwise, the key word is judiciousness, and the methods are ad hoc. The engagement is often messy, constantly concerned with particulars, and always ongoing. It is open to the neighbor (and even the enemy), whom Christ calls us to love. Accordingly, the church’s neighbor love “does not enter through abstract declarations of "loving everyone" but starts by singling out the neighbor that appears alien to me, the neighbor whom I love in the midst of her obvious differences. It is with this neighbor that a more general love can start. This kind of neighbor love is intrusive and subversive to neoliberal ways of relating and being, as an individual must encounter her neighbor on the neighbor’s own terms. To love this way is an affront to the exchange logic and value within neoliberalism because this kind of neighbor love makes no demand to reciprocate.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 137 (emphasis original)

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Where then the motherland?

The point, in short, is that though I firmly reject the messianic, militaristic nationalism sketched earlier, I do not disavow a judicious, chastened patriotism. For the Christian, such patriotism is secondary in terms of identity. Baptism and citizenship in heaven trump citizenship in the nation-state. The Nicene Creed is the Christian’s ultimate pledge of allegiance. The cross and not the flag is the preeminent symbol of identification. The church is first family. God’s economy is wider [and] deeper than the neoliberal economy.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 135

<idle musing>
He's more willing than I to acknowledge the place of patriotism, however chastened. The problem as I see it from my experience is that patriotism too easily morphs into nationalism. The flag isn't content to take second place; it will continue to try to sneak into first place. Unless you are continually on your guard, you will find it once again on the throne.

Mind you, it isn't just patriotism, though. Anything around you wants to throw God off the throne. Think 1 John, the lust of the eyes, etc. That's why we are called to "fix our eyes on Jesus." If we concentrate on him, everything else finds its proper place in our lives. But, if we fix our eyes/desires on anything else, our priorities will become disordered.

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, March 14, 2022

Grasping for Control

Thus [Luke] Bretherton insists that Christians, living in the time between the times, “do not have to establish regimes to control the time so as to determine the outcome of history. Rather, they can live without control because the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ already inaugurated the fulfillment of history, even as its consummation awaits Christ’s return.… Christians are to cultivate forms of life in this age that bear witness to these eschatological possibilities even as they stand in solidarity with those still suffering.” In doing so, the church looks to Jesus as a model of servant power: “To modern eyes, Jesus’s ministry can look like a refusal of power. But it is better seen as a refusal of the spectacular but vacuous power that Satan offers [at the temptation in the wilderness]. It is also a refusal to exercise the unilateral, coercive power of institutionalized means of command and control (power over). But in refusing power over, Jesus affirms relational power (power with).”— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 130, citing Bretherton, Christ and the Common Life, 136 and 132

Friday, March 11, 2022

New book coming out on Greek Prepositions

William Ross has the great news. The book from his and Steve Runge's Tyndale Workshop on Greek prepositions is going to be out in November:
Postclassical Greek Prepositions and Conceptual Metaphor: Cognitive Semantic Analysis and Biblical Interpretation.
Edited by: William A. Ross and Steven E. Runge
Volume 12 in the series Fontes et Subsidia ad Bibliam pertinentes
Heres the description:
Traditional semantic description of Ancient Greek prepositions has struggled to synthesize the varied and seemingly arbitrary uses into something other than a disparate, sometimes overlapping list of senses. The Cognitive Linguistic approach of prototype theory holds that the meanings of a preposition are better explained as a semantic network of related senses that radially extend from a primary, spatial sense. These radial extensions arise from contextual factors that affect the metaphorical representation of the spatial scene that is profiled. Building upon the Cognitive Linguistic descriptions of Bortone (2009) and Luraghi (2009), linguists, biblical scholars, and Greek lexicographers apply these developments to offer more in-depth descriptions of select postclassical Greek prepositions and consider the exegetical and lexicographical implications of these findings. This volume will be of interest to those studying or researching the Greek of the New Testament seeking more linguistically-informed description of prepositional semantics, particularly with a focus on the exegetical implications of choice among seemingly similar prepositions in Greek and the challenges of potentially mismatched translation into English.

Uses latest Cognitive Linguistic theory for lexical semantic analysis

Builds upon well-accepted but still underdeveloped language scholarship in Classical Greek Gives attention to practical implications for textual interpretation of the Bible

I admit to being highly biased (I copyedited the volume), but this is a great book! I look forward to getting my copy (hopefully I won't find any errors in it!).

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The "sacrifice" of war

Accordingly, we commonly say that in war, we “sacrifice” our sons and daughters. Taken at all seriously, this amounts to child sacrifice—a practice common to some ancient religions but considered outmoded in modern civilization. Discomforting as talk of child sacrifice may be, we do not usually admit another religious aspect of our wars. For no nation sets out to lose a war, to simply sacrifice its children. Wars are fought to be won. The point is not to die but to kill. To that end, our soldiers are commissioned with priestly power: the power to purify the world of our enemies. In short, soldiers are preeminently not to be sacrificed but, like priests, to enact or commit sacrifice—the sacrifice of the enemy other. We thrust upon our soldiers the godlike power to kill, to decide who lives and who dies.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 123–24

<idle musing>
And then we wonder why they come home with PTSD…
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

The glory of war?

As the early twentieth-century cultural critic Randolph Bourne memorably remarked, “War is the health of the State.” Nothing unites the atomized citizens of liberal and neoliberal states like war. Soldiers give themselves for a higher cause, while citizens back home may forgo some degree of comfort on behalf of the “war effort.” The usually disconnected, competing, and even hostile individuals coalesce against a common enemy.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 123

<idle musing>
And we're seeing that right now, aren't we? But how long will it last? It's not built on a solid foundation, so it will slide away.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Christian nationalism has a history

Nationalism has been entangled with religion—or has served more or less directly as a religion—from its beginnings. Early nationalisms were syncretized with the Bible. In 1719, Isaac Watts translated the Psalms, replacing the word Israel repeatedly with Great Britain. Disillusioned English settlers in America aimed at creating the “true Israel of God” and considered themselves “God’s peculiar people” led into the wilderness to expand and reform “England, God’s Israel.” The earliest known use of the English term nationalism was in the mid-nineteenth century, referring to the divine election of a nation (other than ancient Israel).

In our time, a powerful distillation of this nationalism is found in Peter Marshall and David Manuel’s The Light and the Glory, first published in 1977 and most recently in a revised and expanded edition in 2009. More than a million copies of the book have been sold, and it has been widely used in private Christian schools and Christian home schools.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 117

<idle musing>
I tried to read The Light and the Glory back in 1977. I couldn't get past the secodn chapter, it was so flawed. I pointed out the errors to the person that loaned the book to me, but they seemed uninterested in the errors, claiming that the "truth" of the book was greater than the facts. Huh? How can that be?

That was my first exposure to "Christian" nationalism. And I've been running from it ever since!
</idle musing>

Monday, March 07, 2022

Your vision is too small

New creation has arrived [Galatians], though it is not yet fully manifested. In it, the capacious economy of God has been revealed. Beside it, the neo-liberal economy is puny and constricted. The market as a gigantic information processor cannot and does not contain or process care for the weak and the “loser”—in a word, mercy—or care for creation or nature as a good in itself. It does not embrace community, covenant love, grace, or miracle. In the economy of God, all of these realities live. And they can thrive.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 113–14

Friday, March 04, 2022

The lust of the eyes

In light of the apocalypse, the church can at least be honest about the shortcomings of neoliberal capitalism. As Hart writes, “It eventuates in a culture of consumerism, because it must cultivate a social habit of consumption extravagantly in excess of mere natural need or even (arguably) natural want. It is not enough to satisfy natural desires; a capitalist culture must ceaselessly seek to fabricate new desires, through appeals to what 1 John calls ‘the lust of the eyes.”’ Furthermore, “A capitalist society not only tolerates, but positively requires, the existence of a pauper class, not only as a reserve of labor value, but also because capitalism relies on a stable credit economy, and a credit economy requires a certain perennial supply of perennial debtors. . . . The perpetual insolvency of the working poor and lower middle class is an inexhaustible font of profits for the institutions upon which the investment class depends.”— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 111

<idle musing>
I recall hearing the story of a US company opening a factory in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the end of the first month, the workers received their check and didn't come back to work. When asked why not, they replied they had earned more than enough for the rest of the year. At a loss, the company brainstormed how to get them to work. One brilliant person suggested giving them a Sears catalog. After looking at all the bobbles and bits in the catalog, the workers not only came back, but asked for overtime in order to obtain what a few months before they didn't even know existed.

Basically, they ruined their lives. I don't know if the story is true, but it rings true. The first time I heard it, I wept inside and asked God's forgiveness on behalf of the US's blatant sin toward those people.
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 03, 2022

What are you afraid of? That your theology might be defective?

“Simply said, ” David Bentley Hart observes, “the earliest Christians were communists . . . , not as an accident of history but as an imperative of faith.” And if time and circumstances meant that not all subsequent Christians evinced communism as fully and intensely as the earliest, a call toward a vision of service to the common good echoed through the patristic period, founded on a truth taught by Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose of Milan, and John Chrysostom: “The goods of creation belong equally to all, and that immense private wealth is theft—bread stolen from the hungry, clothing stolen from the naked, money stolen from the destitute.”

Nor did such hopes, dreams, and practices cease with the patristic age. We can think of monasticism and mendicancy as well as such present-day movements as the Catholic Workers, the Bruderhof and the (usually Protestant) New Monastics. Such “purist” movements have great value and pertinence, as does the less “purist” yet still significant giving in face of need—serving at soup kitchens and homeless shelters, donating cars and groceries—that happens day to day and week to week in ordinary urban, suburban, and rural churches.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 109–10

<idle musing>
I recall when I was (much) younger and the threat of world Marxism (called Communism, with an upper case C) was a very real threat. The attempts by the Western church to rewrite the early chapters of Acts was almost comical. What were they afraid of? That they might be required to share their wealth?

Just an
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

and that's guidance?!

At a basic level, the market qua market exhibits moral idiocy This can be confirmed by a walk through the common drugstore. Cigarettes are stocked adjacent to smoking-cessation aids. Diet and weight-loss concoctions sit next to high-calorie snacks and sugar-loaded beverages. Fertility pills are down the aisle from contraceptives. In actual practice, no sane consumer can be or is guided simply and solely by the market.

Speaking at an equally basic level, every minimally working human economy has a strong, underlying communistic dimension. At first blush, this may sound shocking and revolting. But think not of state-directed and state-compulsory communism, as in the Soviet Union and China, which are indeed revolting. Think instead of consanguineous family, where all goods are shared in common. Think of close friendships or tightly knit neighborhoods, where snowblowers and mowers and tools are freely passed back and forth, or a hand is lent with moving house or barn building. Think of bystanders rushing to help a child who has fallen onto subway tracks. Think of the aftermath of natural disasters such as storms, fires, blackouts, or an economic collapse, where each gives of their ability to each according to their needs. Then, often if not always, people resort to a “rough-and-ready communism.”— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 108