last meeting

So we will be having our last class meeting tonight, which is a bit sad. I agree with Eva that it is unfortunate that our little blog here never “came alive”, but perhaps it can continue as a forum for discussion in the future if we want.

A few online resources for continuing the quest we’ve been on:

Amazing talks by remarkable people: http://www.ted.com

Poetry Chaikhana: Sacred Poetry from Around the World: http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com

Interesting Lectures by Process Theologian David Ray Griffin: http://www.anthonyflood.com/griffinpostmodtheol00.htm

Christian Meditation website: http://www.thespiritualsolution.com

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next meeting

Our next meeting will be Thursday March 27th at 7:15pm.

We will read the middle chapters of McDaniel’s Living from the Center and will augment it with an article by John Cobb on process christology from The Handbook of Process Theology. This extra Cobb article is available as a pdf for you to download and print yourself, or copies will be available at the church.

get the pdf here: process christology reading

questions for January 24th

Friends,

Here are some questions to think about as we prepare to discuss Living from the Center by Jay McDaniel this week:

1. What did you find accessible or easily understandable in this text? What was more difficult?

2. How do you feel about the Buddhist element in this book?

3. How has what McDaniel calls “consumerism” affected churches? How has it affected you and your spiritual life?

4. What did you like best about this book? What was your favourite passage? What did you like least? What was your least favourite passage?

notes on “On Religion”

Here are my “lecture” notes from Thursday’s class. Thank you to everyone for the lively and engaging discussion, it is a real privilege to struggle alongside you.

In this text by Caputo we find him using the tools of deconstruction, as made popular by Jacques Derrida, to work on the question of what religion “is” or could be in our contemporary world. Caputo argues for “weak thought”, for humble statements about how we each attempt to love, in general or love God in particular. He shows the misplaced concreteness of the modern notion that we could or should have an absolute, scientific-like understanding of God or religion.

some definitions/key words: “the other”, deconstruction

As is typical of the deconstructive methodology, Caputo begins with a classic, traditional text from which he can then tease new meaning for this time and place. The text he chooses, the text he mimes, the text he has a love-affair with, is Augustine’s Confessions, particularly book 10.

(read excerpts from Confessions 211, 215)

Deconstruction gives us permission to keep reading texts like these anew for our time. “I want to keep the right to read these texts in a way which has to be constantly reinvented. It is something which can be totally new at every moment.” says Derrida in Deconstruction in a Nutshell (21-22).

Deconstruction should never be mistaken as that which takes apart and destroys leaving nothing. It does the exact opposite in fact, it instead opens up new possibilities. “Deconstruction” says Caputo in in a nutshell “is turned toward opening, exposure, expansion, and complexification, toward releasing unheard-of, undreamt-of possibilities to come, toward cracking nutshells wherever they appear.” (This is why we ought to be suspicious of Caputo when he tells us what something is “really” about.)

Derrida speaks of faith as something that is integral to our everyday life – “You cannot address the other, speak to the other, without an act of faith, without testimony. What are you doing when you attest to something? You address the other and ask, “believe me.”… “Trust me, I am speaking to you” is of the order of faith.” Faith is not just religious then, but is implicit in what it means to be human. And faithfulness is not a one-time decision, is not a singular act, but an ongoing process of saying Yes over and over again. “If tomorrow you do not reinvent today’s inauguration, you will be dead. SO the inauguration has to be reinvented everyday.”

Every tradition, every institution, is inaugurated anew every day (sound like process? hm? things constantly in flux?) which means that new meaning is always being revealed and opened-up, new possibilities always possible, new futures always not yet to come. The exciting thing is that this possibility allows those seemingly immovable structures to become vulnerable to new meaning-making, yes, even that monolithic structure to beat all structures, religion.

And perhaps it is that monolithic, immovable structure of “religion” that Caputo’s religion is without (religion without religion, he calls it, quoting Derrida). That too is open to re-imagining.

This very notion of possibility, of vulnerability, of daily reinvention, is what religion is all about for Caputo. The entrustment of ourselves into this uncertain future is an act of faith, and whether we name it as such or not does not seem to matter so much to Caputo. “The meaning of God is enacted in an openness to a future that I can neither master nor see coming, in an exposure to possibilities that are impossible for me, which surpass my powers, which overpower me, which drive me to the limits of the possible, which draw me out to God, a Dieu. With whom nothing is impossible.” (139) “The meaning of God is enacted in… multiple movements of love, but these movements are simply too multiple, too polyvalent, too irreducible, too uncontainable to identify, define or determine…. It is not a matter of finding a dictionary equivalent for the love of God but of  doing it, of giving testimony to it, of seeing that its effect is to translate us into action, to move and bestir us. Love is not a meaning to define but something to do, something to  make.” God, for Caputo is not what is to be translated, we are, our lives, our actions. “The love of God is something to do. The love of God is not explained or explicated in a proposition but testified to, enacted performed.” “”God” – is not only a name but an injunction, an invitation, a solicitation, to commend, to let all things be commended, to God.”

How then can we love our God? Neighbour? World?

In the radical Yes to possibility is the implicit sacrifice of status quo, of normal, predictable existence. When we open ourselves to the possibility of love, when we make ourselves culnerable so as to live the Yes, we are taking a risk, making ourselves uncomfortable, binding ourselves to the passion of God – a passion which, at least in the Christian tradition, leads to The Passion, namely a hill, a cross, a conviction, a crucifixion. The Yes is a path so uncertain that we risk nothing less than everything. Any “religion” that demands anything less than everything ought to arouse suspicion. “We are supposed to be crucified to the world” says John Caputo in On Religion (54). This is a path where victory is always ironic, triumph always suspect.
Here, at the end of Christendom, we who find ourselves in the so-called “mainline” churches are discovering anew what the cruciform path looks like. Could it be that from the belief of victory through death, we too, in our triumphant religion, have inevitably reached the point where we must allow Christianity itself to be crucified as/with Christ? Ought the task of churches really be “survival” or “growth”? I would argue that a posture of openness to possibility, embodied in and through radical hospitality, is our proper work in the world – not survival or growth. We must allow ourselves to be humbled, levelled, bound by the love of God.
The city is perhaps one of the best examples of where radical hospitality is most needed and where it is put to the greatest test. There is no more important place for “religion without religion” (Derrida), for religion without the dogmatics, victory cries and dominations. Today we are called to do theology – and likely implicit, not explicit theology – in all of the places where justice must be enacted in the city, where devoted service is needed.

References
John Caputo. On Religion. New York: Routledge, 2001.
John Caputo, Jacques Derrida. Deconstruction in a Nutshell. New York: Fordham, 1997.
Saint Augustine. Confessions. Translated by Garry Wills. New York: Penguin, 2006.

November meeting

Our next meeting will be on November 29th in the salons at St. Andrews-Wesley and we will be discussing the book On Religion by John D. Caputo.

readings for october

A package of readings for our next meeting on October 25th will be available at the church.

Here is what it contains:

Living from the Center by Jay McDaniel, pp. 11-32 (introduction)

Life Abundant by Sallie McFague, pp. 3-24 (chapter 1), & appendix

Postcolonial Theologies edited by Keller, Nausner & Rivera, pp. 1-19 (introduction)

Urban Christianity and Global Order by Andrew Davey, pp. 3-27 (chapters 1 & 2)

Then a couple of resources on process theology are also included:

Handbook of Process Theology edited by McDaniel & Bowman, pp. 4-7 (key terms list)

God, Christ, Church by Marjorie Suchocki, pp. 237-259 (appendix & glossary)

our first meeting

We met for the first time on September 27th to discuss where we wanted to go and what we wanted to get out of the group. It was an exciting first meeting. To help start discussion (not that we needed anything but our own questions!) some of us read an article from Cross Currents entitled “Theology and the City: Learning to Cry, Struggling to See” by Jim Perkinson.

In my understanding of our discussion, I would highlight these interests of the group: We are particularly interested in how theology speaks to our particular context in the city of Vancouver. We are interested in new ways of thinking and talking about ‘God’. We are interested in the pressing justice questions of our day: poverty, homelessness, the ecological crisis, economic segregation, individualism and consumerism. We are interested in the relationship between how we understand God and how we understand the city and the justice issues at play in the city.

What do you think we need to talk about?