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On the Christian Calender

My friend Halden over at Inhabitatio Dei just did a post yesterday entitled “On this day…”, and while his aim in the post was to discuss the Augsburg Confession it raised a question in my mind concerning the Christian calender: How is an event or person deemed valid for inclusion into the calender year?

While for some the idea of the Christian calender may be foreign, especially given the low-church tendencies of the N. American expression of Evangelicalism; however, for much of the Church scattered throughout the world, in centuries past, presently, and most likely in centuries to come (I’m thinking here specifically of the dominant presence of Christians in the world found in the “global south” which tend to ), the liturgical calender of the Church is a primary staple in Christian worship. As with most conceptions of time, framed in political schemes rather than philosophical ones, the Christian (or Liturgical) calender is centered around God’s drama of redemption, bearing witness through the Church’s celebration to God’s redemptive acts in human history. For those, like myself, who may not come from a high-church background or liturgical community, the idea of the Christian calender may seem new and novel. However, such political framing of time, despite what some may think, is nothing new to anyone. While people may not consciously realize it or directly acknowledge it, everyone participates in some political schema of time which ascribes value to certain persons and events, namely, those that have established or furthered the values of a particular people. Therefore, countries like America that value things like independence and freedom, democracy and civil rights, have certain days to commemorate and celebrate the events and people that have sought to see these values actualized (i.e the 4th of July – America’s Independence day, Martin Luther King, Jr. day, Presidents day, Presidential election day, etc.). Participation in such national “holy” days is an endorsement of the values underlying these celebrations. It acknowledges an allegiance, at whatever level, to a certain socio-political structuring of time that functions determinatively to ascribe value to people, days, and events (while some may object here to the language of allegiance, felling that it might be too strong, I would suggest that what goes on in the socio-political structuring of time is nothing short of baptizing certain people, places and events into the value system of the nation-state with the end of endorsing and furthering these values. It is not an arbitrary fact that in schools and other social gatherings people are called upon, not asked, to recite the pledge of allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands…” ; and to not do so is deemed subversive and rebellious).

Coming back to Christian calender, the People of God have consciously acknowledged this political laden reality of time and, therefore, operate according to a Theo-political conception of time – a schema that frames time in terms of God’s saving acts in his drama of redemption. This Theo-political understanding of time, in contrast to the socio-political conception of the nation-state, has its own allegiances (namely, to the Lordship of Christ), values, and holy people, places, and events. Among other things, the Church celebrates the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ, and to an obviously lesser extent the lives of saints throughout history.

With that said, I want to come by to my initial question that has prompted this post: By what criteria is an event or person deemed valid for inclusion into the calender year? Or maybe its better to ask the question this way, along similar lines of the biblical canon: How are certain events and people recognized as deserving to be included into the “canon” of the Christian calender? For certain, God’s great drama of redemption is not over; there is more to come, and God is continually act work in the our world. Along the lines of socio-political conception, is it those people and events that seek to embody and further the values and life of a particular community (in this case the People of God) that deserve inclusion? I’m interested to hear peoples thoughts and ideas on this issue; so tell me: who and what makes it into the calender and why?

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The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Accommodation

The Province of Quebec has recently headed up another report on the nature of our postmodern condition addressing specifically the issue of accommodation and integration with reference to the influx of diversity that Quebec has seen over the past several decades (the first was the now famous Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge by Jean Francois Lyotard). The council was commissioned to (a) take stock of harmonization practices in Quebec [that have taken place since the 70’s], (b) analyze the issues [concerning accommodation practices related to cultural differences in Quebec] bearing in mind the experience of other societies, (c) conduct an extensive consultation, and (d) formulate recommendations to the government.

This report, co-chaired by Charles Taylor and Gerard Bouchard, is quite interesting in its assessment of pluralism in our postmodern (late-modern, whatever you want to call it…) setting. Essentially it seeks to address head-on the issue of the relation between the “I” and the “Other” at the level of the province of Quebec, recommending the appropriate action the government of Quebec should take concerning this issue. Currently, I’m only about halfway through the 100 pg abridged edition, and while I can’t endorse this as the standard for addressing the relation between the “I” and the “Other” at the level of political philosophy, I would recommend it a something worth reading, given that it is co-chaired by Charles Taylor- a philosophical giant who has written extensively in these areas and a native of Canada . Far anyone interested in the issues of ontology and otherness, like I am, I would encourage you to look into this report. I have included the link to the pdf abridged version here.

Mark C. Taylor on “Play” in Life

“In our sports-obsessed world, true play is rare. Ever eager to make a profit, crafty investors turn play into serious business. Customer recruitment begins when players are very young: children barely old enough to walk punch away on cell phones that carry video games; Nike runs sports camps to hook seventh-graders on expensive shoes; kids not yet in their teens compete for countless hours in massive multi-user-online games where they learn skills better suited for the trading floor than the playing field. When nothing escapes the logic of the market, losses become incalculable. These distortions of play have serious consequences – a society that has forgotten how to play has lost its way.

I have long thought the historic phases of economic development can be charted by the games people play: agrarian society loved baseball; industrial society, football; network society, basketball. It is not only the grass that makes baseball a field of dreams but also the leisurely pace of the game – nobody ever seems to be in a hurry. The long warm-ups, breaks between innings, walks to the mound, jumping in and out of the batter’s box seem designed to slow everything down. Baseball is not governed by the clock and often seems to go on forever.

And then there is the spitting – what is it about baseball and spitting? In no other sports do athletes spit like baseball players. They spit on the ground, in their hands, on their bats, in their gloves and, when they can get away with it, on the ball. It seems to be a ritual vestige of an earlier era when times were rough and edges had not yet been smoothed.

Football is all about strategy and timing and, as such, it is the ideal game for the military-industrial complex. Metaphors of war dominate discussions of football and violence is intrinsic to the game. More important, football is rigidly hierarchical – the command structure is strictly top-down. Plays are first diagrammed by coaches acting like generals and then executed by troops equipped with the latest high-tech body armor heading into battle against a hostile enemy. Carefully staged rituals make the point obvious: fighter jets flying low in tight formation over stadiums, military paratroopers landing on fields, color guards carrying the flag and high-soaring eagles released while fans belt out the national anthem. Warriors one and all.

Basketball is improvisational and spontaneously emergent rather than programmed and deliberately plotted. Like jazz, basketball is played best when it flows freely. Though some plays are planned, most are riffs that cannot be anticipated. The structure of the game is lateral rather than vertical, distributed and not hierarchical. Basketball does not conform to the logic of the industrial grid(iron) but follows the alternative logic of information networks. Though the court is circumscribed, the game is decentralized and the action is free-wheeling. If football players following commands recall movements on a chessboard, basketball players bumping into each other as they constantly adapt to the continuously changing flows surrounding them resemble packets darting across worldwide webs.”

Mark C. Taylor, “The Games We Play,” (http://www.ssrc.org/blogs/immanent_frame/2008/02/06/play/).

The Immanent Frame: Secularism, Religion and the Public Sphere

I came across a blog today that is part of the Social Science Research Council called The Immanent Frame: Secularism, religion and the public sphere. For anyone interested in the social sciences this blog looks to be promising. The blog contains post by many contributors including prominent figures such as Charles Taylor, Scott Appleby, Robert Bellah, William Connolly (who’s most recent book Capitalism and Christianity, American Style (Duke University Press, 2008 ) looks quite interesting), Dwight Hopkins, David Hollinger, Nancy Levene, Leigh Eric Schmidt, James K.A. Smith, and Mark C. Taylor. For anyone with a particular interest in the work of Charles Taylor (which I hope would be many; if not you might want to pray about that) there is quite a bit of engagement with his most recent 896 pg. tome, A Secular Age. I’ve included a link above to the blog and encourage you to check it out. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts after you get a chance to view the blog and read a few posts. There are a couple of other SSRC blogs that can be accessed through the SSRC link above. However, I haven’t had a chance to look over them much so I can’t make any direct recommendations. Enjoy!

The Rock (music) upon which the Church is Built: Celebrating the U2charist (cont.)

For all those that took interest in the previous post on the U2charist I have added another video. This one is an advertisement for a U2charist celebration that took place in Chicago. I’m still trying to be fair and not too quickly dismissive of this whole ordeal, but this ad seems to confirm some of my difficulties.

I find movements like this, ones which seems to latch onto some cultural icon and baptize it as a Christian icon in a desire for relevancy to the surrounding world, to be very frustrating, to be quite honest. I am all for seeking to be all things to all people, to be engaged enough in the community you live in to speak to those around on the level of their day-to-day concerns. However, as Christians, our greatest relevancy to those around us comes not in knowing this or that band, having seen this or that movie, or wearing this or that brand, but in being faithful to Christ and growing closer to him, and others, as members of his body. Only in doing this are we, as the body of Christ, able to embody an alternative lifestyle as part of a (forgive the term) counter-cultural community (maybe better put, a counter-political community), one that operates on a whole different set of values and allegiances. Only in this are we able to offer a new way of being human, a way that exists in Christ, as his body, empowered by the Spirit, to the praise and Glory of our Father; not in simply showing the world that we have found Jesus in the music that they listen to and therefore listen to it as well. Yes, Bono has values that overlap with that of the Church, and yes U2 has lyrics that are vaguely Christian, but I think that we would be far better off seeking to get Bono connected to a church than trying to connect the Church to Bono. True relevancy is not giving those who don’t know Christ what we think they want but offering to them what we know they need, which is not Bono, but Jesus – incarnated in the self-giving life of the church (his body) as it follows him in his call to radical discipleship on a path that doesn’t lead up, onstage with the cultural elites of our day, but down in a life of self-dispossession.

The Rock (music) upon which the Church is built: Celebrating the U2charist

I was talking with my friend Halden the other day and in the conversation he mentioned to me something he had heard about called U2charist. Halden explained to me that the U2charist is the celebration and partaking of the eucharist to the music of U2. I could hardly believe what I was hearing, but upon searching YouTube I was able to find several videos of congregations celebrating the U2charist. I’ve included one of them below for everyone’s…everyone’s…well, do with it what you want.

Apparently, this is the new way of some of today’s churches as they are emerging from…something/somewhere into/unto…something/somewhere else. I’m not really sure how all that works, but maybe they too still haven’t found what they are looking for.

While there is much that could be said about this movement I will hold off for now and allow people to comment as they like. I will add a follow up response soon after I have thought a little more about the reasons this bothers me so much.

God Bless America! Land of the Free…

I found this picture online and had to share it with everyone else.