Religion

Post about Religious topics. My spiritual journey is a subtopic of this.

Deleuze, Guattari, Fanon, Bannon, and the Synod of Whitby

Reading time: Several days. Read a little bit of it. Think about it. Maybe write something of your own. Come back to this later, wash, rinse, repeat.

Recently, I’ve been stumbling across a lot of random thoughts that seem to relate, in one way or another to other thoughts. Perhaps a good way of thinking about how they all fit together is with the concept of Rhizome from Deleuze and Guattari. The article "THE RHIZOME" - AN AMERICAN TRANSLATION provides a nice starting point. How do our thoughts link together, other than in the five paragraph essay? This post may meander a little bit, and live out a little of exploring my personal rhizome.

As an aside, the article talks about Wikipedia with an interesting comment,

Hell, there’s a whole game built around getting from one Wikipedia page to another using only hyperlinks. If Wikipedia isn’t a rhizome, we quit philosophy.

As a person who has always enjoyed reading encyclopedias, especially following links from one article to the next, even before the days of Wikipedia, this particularly resonated with me. I think I should find out more about the game or create my own version to play with friends, especially those who like Deleuze.

One of the things I want to write soon is my thoughts about which classes to take at divinity school when I start in the fall. One of the courses makes reference to systematic theology. More and more, I’m thinking of an asystematic theology, a rhizomatic wandering, perhaps closer to Celtic Christianity’s Peregrinatio than more specific pilgrimages where there is a clear path and clear destination.

But I digress.

I remember once hearing that the most common phrase in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer is “Or this.” Perhaps the most common phrase for me, in this post, and perhaps beyond will be “but I digress”.

I’ve thought about this asystematic theology, perhaps as an epic poem, as “The Divine Rhizome”. We’ll see if my wanderings take me there.

Back to recent online posts and my thoughts about divinity school courses: A year or so ago, I got into a discussion with my eldest daughter about postcolonialism. I spent a little time looking at the writings of Franz Fanon. I was interested to see a post the other day that referenced Fanon. Excommunicate Me from the Church of Social Justice.

Postcolonialist black Caribbean philosopher Frantz Fanon in his 1961 book Wretched of the Earth writes about the volatile relationship between the colonizer and the colonized, and the conditions of decolonization. In it, he sharply warns the colonized against reproducing and maintaining the oppressive systems of colonization by replacing those at top by those previously at the bottom after a successful revolution.

This idea should come as no surprise to anyone who has read Animal Farm.

If we take this further, I suspect that I’ll end up reading Lisa Duggan and her writings on Homonormativity and Homonationalism. This is another writer that my eldest daughter has recommended to me.

Meanwhile, back to my thoughts about divinity school. I had a great discussion with one of the professors about Agamben’s work on Homo Sacer. Particularly we talked about his book, Cain, Abel, and the Politics of God: An Agambenian reading of Genesis 4:1-16 (Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Biblical Criticism). The idea is intriguing and so I started reading up on Agamben.

I found a great video outlining Agamben’s ideas, AGAMBEN HOMO SACER ANIMATIC. It seems like new colonialists designating those who disagree with them as homo sacer ties back nicely to Fanon and postcolonialism.

I’ve been wondering how all of this relates to one’s thoughts about religious institutions. Recently, I read Scott Cairns’ Short Trip to the Edge: A Pilgrimage to Prayer. It is a really wonderful book about his journey. While Cairns writes about going to Mt. Athos, there is a rhizomatic aspect to the journey that is really appealing. It paints a very attractive image of Eastern Orthodoxy, with a few blemishes to keep things real.

Likewise, I’ve recently read JP Newell’s Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality. This too, is a wonderful book, painting a very attractive image of another Christian tradition. There is a lot of criticism of the imperial church, the church of the Roman Empire and I wonder how this fits together with thoughts about Christianity in the west today, as people stop going to church because it is the socially acceptable thing to do; about the post-establishment church.

For the past forty years, I’ve been an Episcopalian. I’ve worshiped at some pretty established social register churches. One of the books that had been recommended to me early on during the current phase of my spiritual journey, and came on the reading list for divinity school is Dwight Zscheile’s People of the Way: Renewing Episcopal Identity.

I know a lot of people recommend it and it does have some good stuff in it, but so far, I’m about a third of the way into it, it feels more like a book about trying to figure out what Episcopal Identity in the twenty first century should be, which is a strong contrast to Cairn’s or Newell’s books which are much more about, look at the neat stuff of our traditions.

What I like about the Anglican tradition is the reconnecting of the spiritual to the vernacular. It seems as if the vernacular is changing more rapidly, right now, than the Episcopal Church has been able to. I touched on this a bit in a previous blog post and I’ll probably frequently return to this idea.

Last night I came across this line in Zscheile’s book:

Many people in today’s world are looking for an authentic lived faith

It made me think of a post I saw on Facebook the other day,

“I've grown suspicious of anyone who says, "Love is the answer." Maybe 1 in 100 walk the talk.” Friend on Facebook.

This post has gotten long enough, so I think I’ll pause here for the time being. But before I go, I’ll add this one link:

Inside The 'Shakespearean Irony' Of Trump And Bannon's Relationship.

How does the political and the religious inter-relate, especially in a postcolonial world, looked at through a lens of Deleuze, Guattari, and Agamben? How do faith and social justice interact with the ‘establishment’, whether we are thinking about establishment from the view of Fanon, Bannon, or those with Celtic tonsures after the Synod of Whitby?

Thankful Ignatian Poetry Online

Last March, I attended a workshop on pastoral care at Fordham University. It was the beginning of Lent and I spent a little time praying in the chapel before the workshop started. I picked up some literature about the Ignatian Daily Examen and thought about how I might work aspects of it into my prayer life.

In May, I went to a poetry conference at Yale Divinity School, where there was additional discussions about Ignatian spirituality, including references to the Daily Examen. It struck me. I should write my reflections from a Daily Examen as poems.

So I started two months ago. My goal was to put up a new post every evening. Over time, the poems have become shorter fragments. I haven’t always managed to polish and post them in the evening and at times, I’ve posted several at once after the fact.

I’ve also thought of this practice as part of other goals. Bringing poetry and gratitude into the daily discourse online. At times friends of mine have participated in gratitude challenges. Some post regularly about Thankful Thursdays. Others post wonderful poems about the stuff of their daily lives. It seems like these sort of posts are especially important in these current days.

I’m not sure what I will do with the Daily Examen posts I have put up. Some I may further polish into better, more complete poems. Some might be combined with others for some sort of longer poem.

I’m not sure yet. However, I invite all of you to join me in a poetic Daily Examen. A good card that is helpful in thinking about the Daily Examen can be found on the Ignatian Spirituality website.

Celtic Retreat

This week I went to a wonderful retreat focused on Celtic Christianity. Near the beginning of the retreat, we broke into small groups to talk about our initial thoughts. We were asked to say one word to the whole group about our hopes for the retreat. I used the word “journey”.

I am thinking a lot about my own journey now, as I prepare to start seminary in the fall and as I try to find people and organizations that will walk alongside during my journey. For me, this word journey carries additional layers of meaning. There is the aspect of ‘pilgrimage’. Many people at the retreat had been to Iona. One had walked to Santiago. My journey or pilgrimage, right now, is much less about physical destinations and how to get there. Instead, it is more in the tradition of the “Peregrinatio Pro Amore Christi”. A quick simple description of this can be found in PEREGRINATIO, PILGRIMAGE CELTIC STYLE.

There was a brief comment about the idea of ‘Anamchara’, The Anamchara Fellowship describes Anamchara as

Anamchara is a Gaelic word for "soul friend". It was the style of formation given to a new monk or nun in a Celtic monastery, whereby the new member would be paired up with an older, more experienced monk

As I think about my journey, my peregrinatio, I find myself looking for Anamchara, perhaps not in the strictest original sense, but at least in terms of soul friends who will walk alongside me in my journey.

There was a lot of talk about Pelagius, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and others whose writings and approach to God were seen as a threat to the Roman church, the church of Empire. I look at the decline of the established church in western culture and some of my own struggles with the established church, I wonder what sort of ecclesiastical organization might walk alongside me in my journey.

Somewhere in this is something about connecting our faith and spirituality to the vernacular. The vernacular of Rome was of emperors and empire. The vernacular of the Celts was of nature. What was the vernacular of other indigenous cultures Christianity encountered and what can we learn from them?

What is the vernacular of twenty-first century western culture, the vernacular of Millenials and GenX? While it might sound like an oxymoron, what is the vernacular of modern academia?

Somewhere in this is I find echoes of Foucault and counter narrative. I find echo of Agamben and homo sacer.

As we left, we thought about where we go from here. I spend a lot of my time these days working with and thinking about online education. How might the School of Celtic Consciousness exist online and connect with similar efforts? I have a bunch of thoughts around this as well and hope to explore all of this in more detail in the future.

Two Types of People

It is an old cliché, “There are two types of people…” Those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t. I tend to think more in terms of continua and less in terms of binary oppositions. Nonetheless, it is a valuable rhetorical device.

One such example is the quote attributed to Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” It is tempting to head off on a direction about the life of fear that seems to grip so many in our nation today, and the life of adventure. I choose adventure.

This came to mind this morning as I was reading some of Scott Cairns’ “Short Trip to the Edge”. On page 178, (at least in my copy of the book), he says,

Sometimes I think there are two Orthodoxies (as, perhaps, there are two Christianities) – the mystical faith of those who glimpse how little we know (and are drawn and driven by love), and the cranky faith of those who appear to know everything already (and wish the rest of us would either agree with them or disappear).

This resonates with me on several levels. It seems that those of us drawn and driven by love and willing to admit not knowing everything are too few and far between in politics. Likewise, it feels like the discernment process, at least in my branch of the Jesus Movement, fails to embrace those of us drawn and driven by love who admit to not knowing everything.

It feels like allowing God to shape and change me doesn’t fit with institutions that want to do the shaping themselves, perhaps out of fear of confronting changes they need to look at.

Yet again, perhaps we are confronting a false dichotomy. It is not binary oppositions, it is a continua. Our journey is to recognize what we don’t know, where we aren’t as loving as we could or should be and asking God change us in these areas.

The Snowflake

I pause to consider
the snowflake
that has landed
on the handle of my shovel.

Was it part
of the waters
that were separated
from the dry land
on the third day?

Was it part
of the sweat
that fell from Adam’s brow
after he was cursed?

Was it part
of the great flood
God sent
to destroy corruption?

Was it part
of the river
that brought
the infant Moses
to Pharaoh?

Was it part
of the Red Sea
that Moses
parted
providing a path
for the Israelites?

Was it in the Jordan River
when Jesus was baptized
or in the jars of purification
at the wedding feast?

Was it part
of the water that flowed
from the pierced side
of Jesus?

Did it irrigate
hazelnut trees
in the time of Julian
in Norwich?

And what will become of it
after it melts,
flows into the pond
and rejoins
the great cycle
of evapotranspiration?

“It lasts
and ever shall
for God Loves it”

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