Archive for September, 2008

Matt Damon on Sarah Palin

Yeah, yeah, I understand that Matt Damon has no more credibility than any other average person, and that his clout comes from having made some great movies rather than being a viable source for political commentary. However, given my growing disdain for Sarah Palin, I can’t help but post this video due to its valid insight, my agreement with him, and its humor.


Das Kapital: Vol. 1 – Karl Marx

Upon waking up this morning I was struck with a though, “What this world needs, especially in our present moment of political excitement, is a healthy dose of Karl Marx! People should be reading Capital vol. 1.” And what do you know, upon my morning wanderings the blogosphere, I stumbled across a series of video lectures by David Harvey ( David Harvey is a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) and author of various books, articles, and lectures, which can be found linked on his site. He has been teaching Karl Marx’s Capital for nearly 40 years) exploring Vol. 1 of this very book. I know, I couldn’t believe it either! What a coincidence, or dare I say providential moment (actually I won’t dare, I’ll just stick with coincidence. There has been enough misguided melding of divine action and our daily events in the recent presidential campaigns to send half the country to hell in a hand-basket)?

In all honesty, I just happened to find this class through checking out blogs on people’s blogrolls. But regardless, taking up the challenge of reading vol. 1 should be good for everyone, and it can even be done at your own pace. I just got my copy today and am going to try and start lecture 1 tonight. I would encourage anyone else who might be interested to try and work their way through the class as well. While I can’t promise that it will be fun, it will certainly be informative and worth the time that it will require.

The lecture site is linked above, but it can also be found on my blog roll along with the blog of Laura Gonzalez, from whom I found out about the class.

John Caputo on the Religious Right

John D. Caputo, in his introduction to a newly published book on the intersection of religion and politics in America entitled The Sleeping Giant has Awoken: The New Politics of Religion in the United States, offers a perceptive observation on the contradictions of the political agenda of the religious right. I’ve chosen to include it here in its entirety, despite its length, because I believe its worth spending an extra min or so reading a couple of paragraphs to hear what he has to say.

“In his teaching, Jesus advised a life of uncompromising simplicity and nonacquisitiveness, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, which is not bent on providing for oneself and building up a stock against the future, which trust God to provide. He said enough disturbing things about the coming of this kingdom, the rule of mercy, forgiveness, and nonviolence, to make the powers that be uneasy. Saying things like that in an occupied country brought him to an early grave and a cruel if not uncommon execution at the hands of an imperial power. But in death, he was no less forgiving and nonviolent. His earliest followers led lives of exemplary commonality, sharing all things in common, distributing to each what they needed. The first debate that broke out in what we today call Christianity was whether this complete commonality was being observed perfectly.

But the dominant form of American Christianity today, the Christian Right, has sat down at the table with virtually every power and domination that Jesus contested in his own lifetime, with the very powers of imperial rule, the rule of the world, which took his life. It stands for authoritarianism, nationalism, and militarism that contradict the letter and the spirit of Jesus’ words, who said to love one’s enemies, and if one is struck on the cheek, to turn the other cheek. It enthusiastically supports a war that cynically flaunts the classical conditions of just-war theory, “just war” itself being a strange turn of phrase to be found on the lips of a follower of the author of the Sermon on the Mount. It marches arm in arm with an unbridled capitalist greed that has recklessly permitted the rich to grow ever richer while grinding up the poor-flaunting the very ministry Jesus announced for himself. By lending its shoulder to laissez-faire capitalism, the Right undermines the everything it might have been believed to stand for. Unchecked capitalism wrecks family values by impoverishing families and leaving children homeless and parentless. As Lou Dobb-not exactly a member of the Left-has documented, the economics pursued by the Right constitutes an all-out attack upon the middle class, where family life is the mainstay. Unchecked capitalism turns sexuality into commodity; it seeds the fields of abortion, prostitution, drugs, and crime by holding its heel to the neck of the poorest and most defenseless people in society. Where Jesus found strength in the weakness of God, in forgiveness and nonviolence, the Christian Right openly lusts for a Christian Empire, even as it was an earlier Empire that took the life of Jesus.

The cruelest and most bitter irony is that the Christian Right does all this in the very name of Jesus, asking us, “What would Jesus do?”-as if Jesus were a capitalist out to make millions and a militarist with aspirations for imperial power, in search of a kingdom very decidedly of this world. What is this if not the will of humans in love with bare-knuckled power, with themselves and their own will, cloaking themselves in the name of the weakness of God and the nonviolence of Jesus?”

ed. Robbins, Jeffery W. and Neal Magee, The Sleeping Giant has Awoken: The New Politics of Religion in the United States, (New York: Continuum, 2008) pg. 4-5.

Zizek in Portland!

Anyone who lives in the broader Portland, OR area is sure to be familiar with Powell’s Books (the nation’s largest independently owned used book store) and the literary events they host, in which authors come and perform readings of a recent published work. By some lucky chance, Slavoj Zizek is going to be here in the NW presenting his new book, Violence, and reading several excerpts.

The book is part of Picador’s “Big Ideas, Little Books” series, a series designed to introduce key philosophical ideas and topics to a broader, lay audience. This little book is a fun read, and far more accessible than some of his other works (The Parallax View, Organs Without Bodies, take your pick), which can leave some readers, like myself, feeling defeated before completing the Introduction. True to form, Zizek addresses the topic of violence with his usual companions of Lacan, Marx, Hegel, and Nietsche, and offers insightful critiques and correctives. If anyone is in the Portland area tonight the event is being held at Powell’s Books on Burnside. Here is a link to the Powell’s page.

Race: A Theological Account – J. Kameron Carter

Yesterday, I finally picked up my copy of J. Kameron Carter’s new book, Race: A Theological Account, and while I may have shot myself in the foot in buying it during the semester, it is turning out to be well worth it. Having just begun the book, I don’t yet have a detailed commentary, but I can say with confidence that this book is one deserving such detailed engagement. His argument is as provocative as it is learned, and is sure to stand as a future benchmark for any serious theological engagement with the issues of racial identity, body politics, and the corresponding theological discourse that frames them. Skip a couple meals and go out and buy it! I highly recommend!

For now, if anyone is interested in an engagement with the book they can check out David Horstkoetter’s posts. Hopefully more engagement will continue to arise around the blogosphere in the following weeks as people wade through this substantial volume by Carter.