Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Transfiguration of Politics

In an effort to forestall my sermon writing, I picked up a book from the library today that I've been meaning to read through for a while now. I really liked this:

"The Christ story is the story of the presence and power of Jesus of Nazareth in and over the ambiguity of power in human affairs. It tells in word and deed of the liberating limits and the renewing possibilities within which revolutionary promises and passions make room for the freedom to be and to stay human in the world. As the inaugurator of a "new age," the "age to come" in the midst of the "old age" the "age that is passing away," Jesus is a revolutionary, as surely as revolution and humanization, history and fulfillment, are inseparable from one another. The divisive, healing, transfigured, and transfiguring Christ is not to be despoiled as the model of a new humanity because of what has been made of him - pantocratic ruler, spiritual teacher and leader, demogogue, or social idealist. As the model of a new humanity, he involves us in the struggle for a new and human future. The way leads from a politics of confrontation to a politics of transfiguration and the transfiguration of politics."

- Paul Lehmann, The Transfiguration of Politics, 20.

I'm still working out what it means that Jesus "involves *us* in the struggle for a new and human future" without falling into some sort of understanding that human action brings about "the age to come" while we live in the midst of "the age that is passing away" despite the fact that the "new age" has already been inaugurated by Christ alone.  Lehmann says that revolution is "the lifestyle of truth" and nothing short of revolutionary action (whatever that might mean or look like, I don't know) is precisely what it means to "do" the truth according to the Gospel of John (5). So what does it mean to live in this way while still recognizing the distinction between divine and human action? I'm hoping he might answer some of these questions as I continue reading.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Advent and the Kingdom of God.

I'm assigned to preach a sermon today from a passage in the Hebrew Bible and orient the text to the Advent season. I chose Isaiah 65:17-25 where the Lord promises new heavens and a new earth in which "the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind." Given the apocalyptic aspects of this specific text, I turned to one of my favorite theologians, Ernst Käsemann, to see if he ever preached a sermon for Advent. I was in luck.

"At issue from now on till the end of days is that the kingdom of God is revealed on earth always and wherever the world has to do with this Jesus, and only where the gospel about him is preached and believed. This would not be possible if Jesus acquired no disciples whom he could send out as messengers and witnesses of his rule. To the messianic Advent of the kingdom of God essentially belongs that great mission in which people are called into service for this kingdom. The Lord is not without his community. The kingdom would be a utopia if it could not be visibly enfleshed on earth in members and instruments of his rule. Advent ties heaven and earth, ties the eternal God to his creatures, who continually seek to avoid him but whom he never leaves to themselves. When at Advent God's kingdom breaks into our world, it does so that, just as Israel at Sinai, we hear the first commandment with its promise and claim: 'I am the Lord your God ... you shall have no other gods before me!' The gospel is told so that it occurs where the poor, the sick, the despairing, and the possessed cry for help, where demons and tyrants play their evil game and afflict humankind, where in the midst of blindness, hate, scorn, blasphemy, and cowardice the cross of Golgotha makes visible God's rule as the self-humiliation of our Creator, that is, as love that seeks us out even in earth's inferno, sets itself alongside us, takes us in its supporting, comforting arms. As Israel once sensed the breeze or gale of freedom while in bondage to Egypt, so those who 'all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death' will sense it, and the redeemed will see the heavens above and the world around them opened to messengers of the gospel. This is what is taking place now if Advent is actually occurring among and for us."

- Ernst Käsemann, "Mark 1:16-20: On Discipleship of the Coming One" in On Being a Disciple of the Crucified Nazarene, 321.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Feminist Movement as Revolutionary Struggle

We've been assigned to read a considerable number of essays and articles for this term's Feminist and Womanist Theologies. I've been reading the current assigned material more closely because we are required to write a final paper on how these readings condition and influence our own personal theologies. One article by bell hooks stood out to me. With powerful prose, hooks argues how sexism, racism, and classism (a direct product of capitalism) are all inter-related and based upon fundamental concepts of oppression. As a white woman, I have to admit that it is quite difficult to know how to come to terms with the relation between sexism, racism, and classism. Are my own theories and modes of action taking into account the fact that I am deeply complicit in this system of oppression? How can I become more conscious of the ways in which my own struggle to resist sexism might also come alongside those who struggle to resist the systems and structures of racism and classism? These are incredibly difficult questions that take nothing short of a lifetime to begin to answer.

Once hooks recognizes this complicated connected character of these various forms of oppression and dominance, she calls the reader to nothing short of revolutionary political action. Only this sort of revolutionary struggle will offer hope in the midst of those who advocate feminism. As one who has become sympathetic to revolution through my engagement with apocalyptic theology, I deeply appreciated hook's omission that this struggle is far from safe. But then again, this is the sort of mode of action I think Christians are called into as they seek to be a disciple of the Crucified Nazarene.

"Often emphasis on identity and lifestyle is appealing because it creates a false sense that one is engaged in praxis. However, praxis within any political movement that aims to have a radical transformative impact on society cannot be solely focused on creating spaces wherein would-be-radicals experience safety and support. Feminist movement to end sexist oppression actively engages participants in revolutionary struggle. Struggle is rarely safe or pleasurable.

Focusing on feminism as political commitment, we resist the emphasis on individual identity and lifestyle. (This should not be confused with the very real need to unite theory and practice.) Such resistance engages us in revolutionary praxis. The ethics of Western society informed by imperialism and capitalism are personal rather than social. They teach us that the individual good is more important than the collective good and consequently that individual change is of greater significance than collective change. This particular form of cultural imperialism has been reproduced in feminist movement in the form of individual women equating the fact that their lives have been changed in a meaningful way by feminism "as is" with a policy of no change need occur in the theory and praxis even if it has little or not impact on society as a whole, or on masses of women."

- bell hooks, "Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression", 54-55.