Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Don't wanna study war no more...

Blogs beget blogs. A great deal of the energy for this blog ends up coming from other blogs, from what they are saying. And a great deal of that ends up being negative. My "break point" appears to have come yesterday, when Chuck Currie posted at Street Prophets about Tom DeLay's resignation, and included a link to his own blog where he had enouraged readers to e-mail Tom DeLay's pastor and tell the pastor what he should be preaching and saying about his most famous congregation member.

It crossed a line for me, and I told Chuck so in a comment there. But it wasn't an argument I wanted to engage in, and I knew I would be sucked into a defense of my comments, so I regretted it even as I was comfortable doing it, and I walked away. It's another problem with blogs: there is less discussion in them than there is justification. One posts looking for confirmation for one's views, and as you seek more confirmation, your views get more and more strident. Like a child you test the limits of the envelope, find out just what the extent of your grasp is, and how much you can carry before you drop it all.

So maybe I'm about to drop it all.

Some blogs avoid this problem, but they do it by avoiding politics. It is hardly a critique to say they avoid it; it is a compliment, because the dominant style of blogging is becoming harsh political diatribes, whether they are dressed up as news analysis and recovery of minor news items, or are just community billboards for roiling discussions. But this is the only reason the media are paying attention to blogs, and attention equates to power, so surely this is a good thing?

But it leaves me with a different question: why is it easier to curse the darkness than to light a single candle? What is it about trust, that we no longer trust? The word "faith" that our Bibles usually translate from the koine Greek of the New Testament, is actually the word "trust." It isn't that we are asked to believe in what ain't so. It is that we are asked to trust in what we no not see affirmed in the world.

Maybe it's the new book I started that prompts this reflection: In Search of Paul: How Jesus's Apostle Opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom, by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). It was certainly the comments here in the last few days. Crossan and Reed put forth a thesis that Paul co-opted the language of imperial Rome, of Augustus as Savior, Lord, Redeemer of the World, and God, Son of God, and God from God (which they call a Roman theology), and preached a counter-empire where the first were last and the last were first. Ironically that approach to the kerygma is very American today; we call it "secular religion," and it fuels our public discussions by everyone from Tom DeLay to Jim Wallis to Gore Vidal. You don't have to be a believer, in other words, to engage or critique the idea of American exceptionalism, but few question that the very notion springs from Christian roots. Our political discourse has co-opted the language of the church: all that is lacking is to call our President our savior, just as Augustus was proclaimed Lord, Savior, and redeemer of the world, and the circle will be complete.

But that's getting political again, and I don't want to do that here. Reflecting on what Merton said, I can't help but find it true, and yet realize that I don't reflect that here and even if I do, I look too much to other blogs for my reflection, and end feeling like an unsilvered mirror. I need to light a candle. I need to find some light I can reflect. And I'm going to start with Merton's insight, and this thesis, from Crossan and Reed's book:

The Roman Empire was based on the common principle of peace through victory, or, more fully, on a faith in the sequence of piety, war, victory, and peace.

Paul was a Jewish visionary following in Jesus' footsteps, and they both claimed that the Kingdom of God was already present and operative in this world. He opposed the mantras of Roman normalcy with a vision of peace through justice, or, more fully, with a faith in the sequence of covenant, nonviolence, justice, and peace. In Search of Paul, xi.
The political applications are perfectly obvious. But the spiritual applications are the ones I am interested in.

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