Murmurs and Antagonisms

Orthodoxy via Heresy

Month: January, 2015

An Apology and a Promise

I’ve been thinking about the focus of this blog. About it’s design, layout (which I’ve updated to something far simpler), goal. And while there really is no express goal (as such) I want to focus my writing more. I’ve failed, twice, in abiding by my own standards about blogging. Actually, just by my standards regarding social media. Twice I engaged in the Christian blogosphere. I criticized Matthew Paul Turner in a post that was unfair, harsh, and mocking rather than constructive. The other time I criticized, rightly (I think), the tendency to be bland and inane in Christian blogs. I focused specifically on Rachel Held Evans. Both times were different. In one I was in error, the other I don’t think I was. But both posts have been removed. Not because I’m ashamed. Not because I am upset. Rather, I do not want to engage in little spats within a tiny culture. I’m not interested in (sometimes helpful) but rather bland blog posts. I’m definitely not interested in perpetuating little twitter wars over blog posts that will pass within six months time, or less.

Now, this is not to say I don’t think harm was done by the MPT post in reference. I think he made a lot of people feel unsafe. Mix that post in with the Tony Jones fiasco and you have women not feeling safe in the progressive circles which claimed to make safe space for them. But I can’t, in good conscience, continue the endless tirade of blogs and criticisms. Criticism is rightly placed and used, and ought to be used. I applaud it. It’s what good journalism does: pushes back, discovers, tells a story. It must do so, however, with integrity (the way Rolling Stone handled their reporting of the UVA scandal as an example). It’s what good blogging ought to do. Or, maybe not, since the nature of the blog is such that it just creates echo chambers of hits and shouting. [Note: I am not a journalist, the use of this is simply a comparison to how stories of a serious nature ought to be handled. See this post by Caitlin Flanagan as an example of what I think is good journalism.]

The reason for writing this post is that I am done with using twitter as a tool for litigation. I am done using twitter as a tool to start uproars about bullshit, like the “Christian Cleavage” fiasco. I understand all of the reasons for being mad, I do. But I can’t use twitter like that. So, I won’t. Nor will I use my blog to just call out others in the Christian blogosphere (unless I have an actual, meaningful criticism and not a mockery). That isn’t my interest at all. My blog is for my intellectual pursuits, what I’m thinking through, and sometimes my poetry. And maybe eventually the stories of others if they feel safe enough to share.

So, I apologize for turning this blog into an angry, rant space. I’m going to do better. As a friend told me, (paraphrased and slightly reworded), “Some things are best left in a journal.” I am done being bold for the sake of boldness. I want to to push Christendom where it needs to be pushed, at its underbelly. I don’t want to push on the surface at bloggers. And I definitely do not want to push at what I see as surface issues that describe deeper problems. I want to push against the thinkers of Christendom that stand the test of time, that are shaping conversations now.  That’s where I want to wage my little battles, engaging seriously and effectively. So, I promise to try to do better. To always side with victims. To not give an outcry where my voice isn’t needed. And I will try to care less about the popular Christian blogosphere…especially since they nor I will be remembered when we die. Hopefully, some day I can share stories of survivors. I want to share stories. I want my blog to be a safe space. And I want those stories to be emphasized. But I do not want to weaponize those stories. But for now that is not the focus of this blog. As such, I will leave it to other, better equipped and knowledgable bloggers to raise stories and share them.

[As a former homeschooler and conservative Christian, I am fully aware of the abuse/injustice plaguing those communities. I am specifically concerned about the homeschool community within Denver and how they’re shaping so much of America. The ideologies advanced do harm, do damage, oppress, and are abusive. And I want to combat that at its core. And people within Christian circles are doing so. If requested I can provide a list of resources, and will probably create a page on my blog for resources and links.]

 

God Cried First: Thoughts on SELMA

[Critiques are welcome. Just thoughts I had right after seeing the movie last night.]

I don’t cry during movies. It’s not my type of coping with the feelings and experiences in a film. But I cried twice tonight. And it wasn’t just because the images on screen were moving— though they were. It’s more than that. It’s knowing that we’re not past the past, that my brothers and sisters of color are still fighting. And maybe they’re fighting me. And maybe they’re more broadly fighting the dominance of whiteness that has over run this country. In fact, there’s no maybe’s about it—they are. Tonight I saw the film “Selma” for free (theater chain let students in for free). And tonight I saw art. Art that spoke. Art that silenced.

The entire time in the theater I knew factually what was going to happen, at least to Dr. King. But it was no less pressing and beautiful to watch nonviolent (potentially the most violent) action happening on screen. So many thoughts are flooding my mind right now, too many to track and catch and tie down meaningfully…

I don’t think I should try to tie them down. I should just write. And as I write I think and think and think of what else to say. And there’s nothing. As my friend stated on Twitter: “‘Selma’ is singular,” and I think he’s right. Of the films nominated for Best Picture only two make sense to me : “Selma” and “Boyhood”. “Boyhood” only because it’s so artfully done and is a masterpiece of cinema and what slow film making can do. But “Selma”…”Selma”, I hadn’t even heard of it till about three weeks before it came out, and I normally keep up on films. It came out of nowhere. And of course I read reviews and all were correct on their praise.

But something hit home during the movie. Something beautiful seemed to click for me, or I guess, something’s been clicking for a year or so and sealed itself (more) firmly. For a year I’ve been trying to unlearn my ties to whiteness, I’ve desired to center black persons and bodies. And I know I’ve failed and messed up. But “Selma” made me realize something beautiful (a lot of beautiful things actually). During the final sequence when you have Dr. King and a whole army of beautiful souls singing freedom and smiling and walking proudly, the camera frame centers them, focuses on them, emphasizes them. They are the center. And I think it clicked for me that to take seriously the centering of black bodies I need to take seriously history. I need to take seriously what Laverne Cox so beautifully called, “The practice of freedom.” To do that I, we, need to take very seriously what Du Bois said:

“Actively we have woven ourselves with the very warp and woof of this nation,—we fought their battles, shared their sorrow, mingled our blood with theirs, and generation after generation have pleaded with a headstrong, careless people to despise not Justice, Mercy, and Truth, lest the nation be smitten with a curse. Our song, our toil, our cheer, and warning have been given to this nation in blood-brotherhood. Are not these gifts worth giving? Is not this work and striving? Would America have been America without her Negro people?”

Du Bois is right. And that’s what the movie reminded me of. Not my struggle. Not my song. Not my cheer, and not my blood. Martin Luther King Jr’s., blood, Malcolm X’s blood, and the thousands hung from trees and posts in the South. Their blood, their suffering, their toil, that’s what brought America to where it is. They are the heart of America, literally. I think I truly believe that now. I think I finally in some way see it now. I see more clearly what Du Bois was saying through this movie. As Dr. King (the character) says early on in response to a grandfather mourning the death of his grandson at the hands of police, “I know this…God cried first.” God cried first for Trayvon, for Michael Brown, for John Crawford III, for Tamir Rice, for Eric Garner, for Islan Nettles. God cried first for these bodies. God cried first. And I see humanity more truly, more beautifully than before. I left the movie in awe of the actors, actresses, director and screenwriter(s), everyone involved in the film. But I left humbled. I am part of “Jim Crow under a bald eagle,” whether I like it or not.

“Selma” is vital to the American consciousness I think. It makes black bodies matter to white people who only payed lip service previously. It made them matter more to me and I hope I haven’t just paid lip service. It’s odd and wonderful what a film can do to you. I think it made me more human. And I think it’s a reminder that God cried first. God always cries first when a black body is torn from this world by white supremacy, by the white supremacy I am embedded in.

Notes on the Self and Art

You are not your self. I am not my self.

We’re not vacuum forming selves. And we’re not original. We write, make, create art and things that masquerade as art in the hopes of reaching an audience. We create and recreate and vomit on the pages and screens boring and increasingly inane “art”. This isn’t some punt to a transcendent deity to explain why we aren’t autonomous self-creating selves (well, white people probably aren’t at least). We are formed by what we throw up and what is thrown up on us. The people that are thrown into (onto?) our lives shape and make us. Because that’s all writing is, a rereading of previously reread ideas spat on pages and screens…

I’m not sure what the point of this post is, if there is one. It’s more just an endless ramble, notes on a subject that’s been bugging me – namely, me. It might also be my attempt to get free from the b.s. that is significance and meaningfulness. I don’t write because I think I want something new to say, or that I’m good at it, I write because I have an urge to, an urge that makes me sick and angry and somewhat content all at once. I write what I’ve read, in the hopes of dredging up something from the muck of the many things I’ve gorged myself on. No. That’s wrong. The many things that’ve allowed me to become an I by gorging on them. We’re all parasites. We form by being formed by taking in as much as we can. Taking as much as one can without ceasing. Selfish? Maybe but is there really a way to be charitable in consumption? Isn’t consumption inherently uncharitable?

So, I don’t know why I write and I don’t know if I ever will. I don’t know that I am an I. In all likelihood I am a they, and so are you. Individuality seems excessively off putting. I’ll just let Nietzsche say what I think “I” might be getting at:

“The fundamental false observation is that I believe it is who do something, suffer something, ‘have’ something, ‘have’ a quality.”

Against Apologetics (Sort Of)

I got involved in philosophy through apologetics. And now I’ve got a deep aversion to apologetics. As Craig defines it in Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics apologetics is giving an answer, a two-pronged answer. One side is offensive, a positive case, and the other is a negative, a reactionary defense. Ignoring for a moment the issue with this weird two pronged approach I think I’ve realized some of my problems with apologetics.

I get this weird sense that it functions poorly, if it functions at all. It seems distant, separate. In fact, I think it requires a separation from existence, from language. It uses language to separate from language. Apologetics gives a language which is absent from the experiences of day to day life, of liturgical practices, of the moment. Which, oddly, seems to cause a self-refutation of sorts. Apologetics has this notion of not “checking your brain at the door of the church” or in your Christian life but it seems to do just that by using language and arguments that are separate any functional purpose beyond arguing and masturbatory praise regarding our evidences.

None of this is to say that apologetics is bad. These are just thoughts on the topic.

 

cigarette sadness (working title)

Cigarettes taste better with sadness.

Something about the sudden bitter buzz

and taste of shared spit on the butt sings

to the soul: gospel. Temporary relief will

always be better than timeless truths. Cause

at least it’s a fix to stop the bleeding, sometimes,

ironically, by bleeding. Cigarettes taste better with

the coughing lungs of a sad person not crying.

Who needs drink when you’ve got nicotine?

Who needs nicotine when you’ve got no one?

A lonely existence is still an existence full of

truth and sacrament. A lonely existence never

can be sad, truly, because isn’t living better

than dying? But aren’t we all fucking dying with

each breath? With each breath we take our next to last.

With each pull on the cigarette we eat more death

like Jesus and conquer it when we don’t keel over then

and there. Every moment a gospel of temporary relief

over death.

On the Inability to Kill God

Humanity sucks at killing God.

If Nietzsche is right then why the hell does God keep getting reborn?

And I don’t know if this is push back or bouncing off of my friend Matt’s intriguing post about the birthing of God, but it sure is piggybacking, at the very least (so, my apologies to him in advance). He queries, quite fairly I think, “We know that finite and infinite supernatural and supranatural agents are neither relevant or logically possible, so why do we maintain the façade that talking about them is anything but pernicious; that maintaining this discourse is flatly disingenuous, and immensely problematic?” But I wonder if Marion’s discussion of the idol in relation to the dying of God makes sense of the continual desire to “reactivate” the “vocabulary and discourse surrounding God.”

Marion discusses the idea of “the death of God” that Nietzsche puts forth (in God Without Being) and states that this death is limited to whatever “God” entails. Thus, the only way that Nietzsche’s death of God “is [only] valid as far as the idol that renders it thinkable aims…” (pg. 31). Which, for Marion, means there is always a new dawn to “God” as concept, as an idol. (To be fair, Marion has more to say that I still need to read and I may write more later.) Now, how does this relate to McCracken’s analysis/critique/confusion with “birth of God” theologians? Or, how do these thoughts function in relation to his post? I’m not sure. It seems to at least put forth the question of whether God is being reborn or if it’s just another experience of an idol being set forth? And if it’s just another idol can we not kill that also? So, maybe the birth of God theologians aren’t birthing God so much as “God”?

Which I guess means that people will keep validly experiencing the divine (Vattimo’s understanding of the death of God works here) and making out idols based on those experiences (loosest possible use of this term here) and we’ll keep killing them. But we’ll never kill God, whatever that word refers to.

Just some thoughts. If incoherent please tell me.