This post is part of a blog tour around John Caputo’s latest book – The Insistence of God: A Theology of Perhaps. Check out this link to see lots of other folks weighing in on this book.My post engages Chapter 4 “The Insistence of God.” I was sent copy of the book as part of participating in this blog tour. It was made out of paper.
As per usual I was too lazy to condense my thoughts into the written word, so a video (in four parts) is what you have.
[These links go into the video itself if you want to skip around]
First Part: Contextualizing this book in Caputo’s trajectory
Second Part: Discussing the broad content of the chapter itself
Third Part: Caputo’s use of theopoetics in the context of his “theology of perhaps”
Fourth Part: My commentary on the nature and Caputo’s (possible) intent for this project.
So the basic gist is that Mike Morrell of Speakeasy book blogging sent me a copy of Daniel Meeters' Why Be Christian (If No One Goes to Hell)? fromShook Foil Press and below I interview the author about the book. Neato.
Author John C. O'Keefe (no direct relation) releases his new book, The Church Creative on July, 31, 2012, and as he got ready for the launch we talked a bit about the text and his hopes for it. My Google+ video wasn't working though, so I'll have to get that taken care of before I do any more of these interviews I have planned for the fall…
Cribbing from wikipedia, I know that Scarry is the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University, which means at least some other people think she knows a thing or three about aesthetics. For my purposes though – that is, thinking more seriously about the body and its experience(s) as the primary site of theological thought – this book was elusive. Wild, weird, and a bit fun, yes. But still elusive.
From Pages 111-113
At the moment we see something beautiful, we undergo a radical decentering. Beauty, according to Simone Weil, requires us "to give up our imaginary position as the center… A transformation then takes place at the very roots of our sensibility, in our immediate reception of sense impressions and psychological impressions." Weil speaks matter-of-factly, often without illustration, implicitly requiring readers to test the truth of her assertion against their own experience. Her account is always deeply somatic: what happens, happens to our bodies. When we come upon beautiful things—the tiny mauve-orange-blue moth on the brick, Augustine's cake, a sentence about innocence in Hampshire—they act like small tears in the surface of the world that pull us through to some vaster space; or they form "ladders reaching toward the beauty of the world,” or they lift us (as though by the air currents of someone else's sweeping), letting the ground rotate beneath us several inches, so that when we land, we ﬁnd we are standing in a different relation to the world than we were a moment before. It is not that we cease to stand at the center of the world, for we never stood there. It is that we cease to stand even at the center of our own world. We willingly cede our ground to the thing that stands before us.
The radical decentering we undergo in the presence of the beautiful is also described by Iris Murdoch in a 1967 lecture called "The Sovereignty of Good over Other Concepts." As this title indicates, her subject is goodness, not beauty. "Ethics," Murdoch writes, "should not be merely an analysis of ordinary mediocre conduct, it should be a hypothesis about good conduct and about how this can be achieved." How we make choices, how we act, is deeply connected to states of consciousness, and so "anything which alters consciousness in the direction of unselﬁshness, objectivity and realism is to be connected with virtue.” Murdoch then speciﬁes the single best or most “obvious thing in our surroundings which is an occasion for 'unselﬁng' and that is what is popularly called beauty.”
I met Thom Stark at 2010's American Academy of Religion and was excited to hear that he had a book out. His The Human Faces of God is an unapologetic critique of biblical inerrancy, earnest engagement with the text, and (apparently) is making a big splash in Bible circles. The video will give you a great sense of Thom, but for a small taste here he is in his own words from a recent comment on a blog. Folks who frequent The Image of Fish will find ready thematic ties between Thom's work and my own.
As is clear to anyone who reads the book, the kind of Christian faith I articulate is not at all “the Christian faith” as traditionally understood. I don’t believe in having doctrines; I don’t believe in giving assent to metaphysical propositions. Rather, I want to critically appropriate the vocabulary and grammar of all traditions (beginning with my own), in order to better understand the world and ourselves. Part of the way we do that is by condemning aspects of our traditions, but in doing so, recognizing that those condemnable perspectives linger, in various ways, within our modern “progressive” selves.
As I’ve said around and about the place, all God-talk is poetic, not scientific; evocative, not descriptive. So in that last chapter I’m using some vocabulary from my tradition to articulate a coming out of an architectonic religion of dogmatic propositions into a way of acting upon the world through dialogue and conversation with the endless Others, that we’ll find are really little different from ourselves.
I recently received the following email and figured that since I was going to reply anyway, I might as well post about it and see if others have opinions they want to share. Please give the questions below a read and weigh in if you have any thoughts about them. I’d be interested for sure, and I imagine that Christopher (who is doing his PhD on matters related to this) would be too.
I recently read the book ‘Thy Kingdom Connected‘ by Dwight Friesen out of Mars Hill and wanted to get more insight on a theory developed in chapter 4 of the book ‘Connective Leaders’. On page 85 Friesen writes that in addition to allowing new and often fringe voices to the conversation (which very much follows Bruce Bimber’s theory of accelerated pluralism), the Internet also connects these groups beyond themselves, thus mediating their extreme, thereby keeping them from developing ‘totalitarian, heretical, cultish tone(s)’. This last bit here is quite an important development as it neatly extends Bimber’s theory of ‘accelerated pluralism’, at least as far as it pertains to religious organizations. I am wondering if you believe this to be more or less exclusive to religious groups and/or other bodies with high levels of social capital? Is so, why? If not, why not? Is the presence of face-to-face in-person contact/meet-ups (church going) important? And perhaps most importantly, why do you think this moderation takes place?
Bimber here is a reference to Bimber, Bruce. 1998. ‘The Internet and Political Transformation: Populism, Community and Accelerated Pluralism.’ Polity XXXI (1): 133-160.
The fragmentation of American political discourse into narrow interests preceded the Internet but the medium accelerates the tendency. As citizens turn away from conventional channels of political participation, will they substitute new political forms, or retreat into private spheres of atomized interests? What happens to serendipity and community, cross-cutting issues, and process?
Bimber calls this process “accelerated pluralism”, and it does seem to be a general characteristic of on-line life, political and otherwise. Just as urbanization affords exposure to a wider range of experiences but allows greater social segmentation, electronic media can further fragment civic society by microtargetting people in increasingly individualized affinity groups. In Norris’ words, “virtual democracy looks more like anarchy than ABC news.”
Can cyber-space complete the transformation from village to urban cliques, permitting disembodied interests to aggregate electronically?
Oh, the off-camera commentary was from my housemate Michelle Long, and the swing dance community I mentioned was http://yehoodi.com/ .
I’d love to hear other thoughts on these questions.