Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sherry Cothran’s “Strange Woman”: Popular Music as Parahomiletic

Those who spend their time listening only to Praise and Worship music as it is packaged by the mainstream media and publishing houses will miss the brilliant homiletical interpretations of scripture that can be found in music that is being made outside the boundaries of the Christian music industry. Much, if not all Praise and Worship music avoids narrative. It’s verticality is focused on God and Christ in a timeless, “awesome God” kind of way. It is meant to facilitate worship as adoration.  If such music were to stray one inch toward narrative, it would shift from being adoration to being thanksgiving. Instead of praising God for who God is in and of God-self, the music would have to tell some of the story of why one is praising God in the first place – a story would have to be told and we would find ourselves remembering God at work in particular times and places.

Homiletics is always a timely, and time-saturated reflection of who God was and is and continues to be.  It is “expository” and banks on memory, and, as we all know, memory is a theologically contested domain. Memory can be selective. Memory can be influenced by ideology, patriarchy, the will to power, and suffering. How one re-members the past in the present is the key to homiletics.

It is in this contested homiletical domain of memory that we experience the music of Sherry Cothran on her CD entitled Sunland. Cothran wrestles with the memory we have of the women of the Old Testament – Rahab, Jepthah’s daughter, the Woman of Endor, Jael, Deborah, Huldah, and the Strange Woman of Proverbs.

Cothran’s interpretation of the so-called “strange woman” in the book of Proverbs is not standard fare. It owes much to her education with Hebrew Bible scholar Jack Sasson at Vanderbilt Divinity School, filtered through her poetic genius and her pastoral and homiletical sensibilities.

In most of the standard biblical commentaries, this “strange woman” is at odds with the “wise woman.” As Cothran’s lyric puts it:

Maiden of the storm
For chaos you are blamed

But Cothran's lyric doesn’t leave the strange woman there,  “banished to the dark” by “a man” because she is “a woman he cannot tame.” Instead, Cothran sees in her an interruption in human-contrived order – a Godly interruption, “made” by God:

In a world with a rage for order
God sends a wind that won’t obey
In a world with a rage for beauty
God has made something strange
Strange woman.

In a similar way, biblical scholar Claudia Camp speaks about the Strange Woman as a kind of "trickster" character, one who in many ways intersects and mirrors Woman Wisdom.

Instead of seeing her as evil, therefore, Cothran’s song invites us to see in her a feisty, trickster-like power for life in the midst of one’s orderly “place” in a man’s world. 

And she sees other women in the Old Testament, such as Lot’s wife, as representing this same power. And she also identifies this excluded life-force with the narrative of the Christ-child – who represents the same creative chaos in the midst of contrived order.

You bite the serpent back
Upset the applecart
Stare back at what you lost
Without turning into salt
Stay away from our men
Our model citizens
There’s no room for the strange woman in the inn

Again, Claudia Camp:

We need more of THIS kind of music. Deeply poetic, educated, devotional, grounded in faith, and always re-thinking biblical truth for our world in new and helpful ways. Take a listen to this amazing song: Strange Woman

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New Blog about Artists in my Recording Studio

A lot has been happening in my project recording studio (JonyMac Studio). Much of it is directly relevant to the book and to this book-related blog.
Recently I posted about a recent project with Sherry Cothran who wrote 9 wonderful songs about women in the Old Testament and recorded them in the studio.

I also just finished up a CD with rapper I.C. Will who writes incredible "education movement" lyrics.

For more about these truly inventive projects with strong theological overtones, head over to the new website at www.jonymacstudio.com   Be sure to become a "follower" for periodic updates on what's happening in the studio.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Para-homiletics and video games

Increasingly, my students and I are investigating forms of "para-homiletics," by which we mean "homiletic practices" within popular culture. Although we spend a good bit of time looking into music, television, and film, increasingly we've been interested in video games. The potentialities of virtual worlds for homiletics has recently been addressed in an essay by Elana Nord in Homiletic, the online journal of the Academy of Homiletics. According to Nord:
Virtual realities open up the interpretation of actual realities to a variety of new possibilities, and cultivate a keener perception of the imperfect parts of our lives. In this way they show that reality is comprised of much more than only that which appears to be real. Homiletics can benefit from this in several different regards: 1) by generating open-ended worldviews, 2) by opening homiletics more to the future and 3) by activating the body for experimenting with freedom every day.
Virtuality immerses people in visual and sometimes tactile alternative worlds in which they can explore (within a range decided by the program creator and the limits of technology) roles for enacting forms of god-shaped freedom within religiously construed virtual environments. For more conversation about the video games that so construe reality, the reader may want to check out this fascinating website, Gamechurch.com.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

From "Air Guitar" to "Air Preaching"

In my book, Mashup Religion: Pop Music and Theological Invention, I suggest that those who compose theology at the interface between the academy and popular culture, whether creating blogs, engaged in religious education, advocacy, preaching, etc., could learn a great deal from those who make popular music. One element from popular music making that could easily migrate over into performance-based modes of popular theologizing, especially preaching, is the art of "covering" other artists work (riffs, hits, beats, rhythms, etc.), and then "styling" on those tropes until they become one's own. There are many aspects of the larger process of "covering" the work of others, but one useful aspect is found in what is known as "air guitar." Air guitar playing is the act of imitating the rhythms, notes, accents, movements, riffs, cadences, and overall style of another guitarist. For the actual guitarist, this is the beginning of the process of "living into" another artists unique style, absorbing much of it, and making it one's own. Here's a great short clip of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page almost unconsciously engaging in air guitar to a classic riff by guitarist Link Wray.


This practice could easily migrate over into the way one learns to preach or compose theology in general. For instance, now that so many sermons are available in recorded form online, it is simple to listen to or watch preachers who are seasoned and have lots of great "riffs," and then "air preach" their work, embodying gestures, attitudes, or facial expressions (if video is used), but more importantly, learning any number of stylistic "tropes" or figures of speech that could be used in sermons. Here is one I sometimes use in class by the renowned preacher Fred Craddock. Like Link Wray in the video clip above, Craddock's style represents a now classic genre of preaching sometimes called "inductive preaching," in which the preacher begins with the particulars of experience and moves slowly toward a large idea. One of Craddock's favorite tropes for getting listeners on board experientially is to have them imagine a word or category of thought with him. It's a simple trope, and I sometimes have students listen to him several times, then "air preach" with him, and finally "style on" his work by choosing another word or category and developing it in a similar way. Try it out. Here's the sermon clip containing the trope used by Fred Craddock.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Wound 3: The Wounding of “Spatial” Desire

This is the third part of a series of posts in which I've been developing a "practical theology of desire" as a mashup of a cluster of books on my shelf - asking for input along the way from readers. I've received a few revisionary thoughts, and suggestions of songs and images to post. Thanks! If you want to go to the beginning of this project click here. Now, on to the next post.

The third deep desire that we all have is desire for a dwelling space with God and one another. This side of heaven, this desire is deeply organic, a desire for fullness of dwelling as a creature of the planet and cosmos – in a dwelling space that cannot be possessed, but is simply given to every living thing. This desire is eucharistic and doxological, laced with thanksgiving and praise for the freely given and all encompassing space in which the organism flourishes.

This desire is wounded, however, by another form of spatial desire, the cultural desire for a dwelling space fitted to human creatures. According to Paul Tillich “the power of space is great….It is the basis of the desire of any group of human beings to have a place of their own….” (Theology of Culture, 32) This desire for cultural space often runs at odds with organic spatial desire. Cultural desire can insulate itself from cosmos, lose touch with the environment, become a totality referring only to itself, a world in which human beings are estranged from each other and from the planet…objects, consuming and manipulating other objects.

Legendary Shackshakers, "Somethin in the Water."

Listen to full Mp3 here.  

Joe's got the Union Carbide Blues.
Diggin' ditches since '62.
West Paducah, "City on the Glow."
Baby fingers growin' out of his elbows.

Down in Building C-4 double nought,
Sonsabitches thought they'd never get caught
Guzzlin' Golden Pond whiskey at work,
Beatin' them drums down into the dirt.

And puttin' somethin' in the water.
Somethin' weird in the water.
Killin' your sisters and your brothers.
Somethin' in the cold well water.

(So while you're) sneakin' gold out of hydrogen bombs,
Platin' pistol grips and carryin' on,
Your boss is doin' the exact same thing...
Suckin' atoms out of your sewage drain.

(And that) dense fog of uranium dust
Can't hide them leaky buckets of rust.
The ugly truth'll put you in the ground,
So rise up and burn the pumphouse down.

(They said) "Joe's a hero of the Cold War, man.
Died with a broken witchin' wand in his hand.
Got to keep this wet county dry as a bone.
Y'know some stories are best left untold."

But Michael Carneal, born to kill at will,
Mollycoddled on curdled mother's milk,
Smuggles his muzzle into Heath High School
And shot his friends holding hands 'round the flagpole.

Must be somethin' in the water,
Somethin' weird in your mothers.
Blame your greedy grandfathers,
For puttin' somethin' in the cold well water.

According to Tillich, his own existentialism expressed a protest against this cultural wounding of spatial desire, a protest “against the position of man (sic) in the system of production and consumption…become a part of the reality he has created, an object among objects, a thing among things.” (Theology of Culture, 46) Tillich's existentialist theology was a protest against life lived in a self-imposed illusion. Wendy Farley elaborates on the way in which this illusion functions: “A theory of reality (in this case the reduction of reality to things) is permitted to mediate the experience of beings to such a degree that not only is the reality of beings concealed but the very question about their reality is precluded….To struggle with questions of environmental responsibility in a way that accepts this reified ontology already cedes most of the questions in advance to powers bent on the most efficient exploitation of the environment possible. It is as if one agreed to accept, ‘for the sake of argument,’ the Nazis’ characterization of some persons as subhuman and then, on that basis, decided what range of treatment was appropriate….”(Eros for the Other, 198)

John Prine: Paradise

When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.

And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away

Well, sometimes we'd travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Adrie Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we'd shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill.

Then the coal company came with the world's largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I'll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin'
Just five miles away from wherever I am. 

Cultural desire for space can potentially work together hand in hand with organic desire for space. Cultural space is potentially a much needed good, a way to create hospitable spaces in which more forms of life can flourish than could otherwise survive or fully flourish in a strictly evolutionary organic context –the weak, vulnerable, and those easily trampled.

Steve Earle: City of Immigrants

Livin’ in a city of immigrants
I don’t need to go travelin’
Open my door and the world walks in
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

Livin’ in a city that never sleeps
My heart keepin’ time to a thousand beats
Singin’ in languages I don’t speak
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of black, city of white, city of light, city of innocents
City of sweat, city of tears, city of prayers, city of immigrants

Livin’ in a city where the dreams of men
Reach up to touch the sky and then
Tumble back down to earth again
Livin’ in a city that never quits

Livin’ in a city where the streets are paved
With good intentions and a people’s faith
In the sacred promise a statue made
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of stone, city of steel, city of wheels constantly spinnin’
City of bone, city of skin, city of pain, city of immigrants 

[All of us are immigrants
Every daughter, every son
Everyone is everyone
All of us are immigrants

Livin’ in a city of immigrants
River flows out and the sea rolls in
Washin’ away nearly all of my sins
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of black, city of white, city of light, I'm livin' city of immigrants
[All of us are immigrants, every daughter, every son]
City of sweat, city of tears, city of prayers, livin' in a city of immigrants
[Everyone is everyone, all of us are immigrants]
City of stone, city of steel, city of wheels, livin’ in a city of immigrants
[All of us are immigrants, every daughter, every son]
City of bone, city of skin, city of pain, city of immigrants
[Everyone is everyone, all of us are immigrants]
[All of us are immigrants]

What is it that can keep organic and cultural desire on the same pathway? What can keep them linked together in such a way as to express both a eucharistic and hospitable desire for dwelling space, in the deepest sense of these terms? Gibson Winter, in his book Liberating Creation, argues that only the emergence of a genuinely organic-aesthetic paradigm of thought can bridge these two deep and often conflicting spatial desires. Winter argued for a broad theological ethic of the organism’s dwelling in the world, organized by an overarching symbol and aesthetic of divine justice.

Similarly, Wendy Farley argues for a unity of the aesthetic and ethical dimensions of desire. As Farley puts it, “The throb of beauty running through life carries with it a judgment against wanton destruction or exploitation.” (EO, 80) “Beauty refers to that about a thing which makes its existence not a matter of neutrality or indifference….a kind of pure gratuity.” (EO, 80) Beauty refers to ”the value ladenness of reality.” (EO, 81)

Spatial desire, like our other wounded desires, always, in Farley’s words, “runs in a direction opposite to that of totality: outward, toward others, toward the world.” It is desire that is “enchanted by this reality, in its concreteness, variety, and beauty….” (Eros for the Other, 67) Spatial desire, therefore, has the potential to draw us ever more deeply into the world in which we dwell, experiencing the wounding of that world as, in Sally McFague’s words, the wounding of “God’s Body.” (“Intimate Creation,” 36).

Bruce Cockburn: Lord of the Starfields

Lord of the starfields
Ancient of Days
Universe Maker
Here's a song in your praise

Wings of the storm cloud
Beginning and end
You make my heart leap
Like a banner in the wind

O love that fires the sun
Keep me burning.
Lord of the starfields
Sower of life,
Heaven and earth are
Full of your light

Voice of the nova
Smile of the dew
All of our yearning
Only comes home to you

O love that fires the sun
keep me burning 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

II. The Second of Five Wounded Desires: The Wounding of Ethical Desire

Wound/Desire 2: Violence and Ethical Desire

The second wound is violence, which wounds ethical desire or the desire for human flourishing in the world today. In this situation, according to theologian Sally McFague, the “arrogant eye” which objectifies, triumphs over the “loving eye” which “acknowledges the other as subject.” (McFague) Levinas calls this “voluptuosity” – not love of the other, but love of the love of the other, which is really love for oneself (see Black, 121).

PJ Harvey "Me-Jane"  

Oh damn your chest-beating, just you stop your screaming
It's splitting through my head and swinging from the ceiling
Move it over, Tarzan, can't you see I'm bleeding?
I've called you by your first name, good Lord it's me-Jane!

And I'm rolling 
Split head
And I'm moving 
I'm me-Jane

Oh damn your chest-beating, just you stop your screaming!
All the time you're hunting swimming fishing breathing ?
Don't you ever stop and give me time to breathe in?
I've called you by your first name, good Lord it's me-Jane

And I'm running 
Split head
And I'm moving 
I'm me-Jane
And I'm trying 
To make sense
You're screaming

Don't load it on me
Don't load it on me
Don't load it all on me

Tarzan, I'm pleading, stop your f...ing screaming!
You've got me many walls around here, but no ceiling
Oh, move it over Tarzan! Can't you see I'm bleeding?
Good lord you never stop!

Don't load it on me 
Don't load it on me 
Don't load it on me 
Don't load it on me-Jane

Don't load it on me-Jane
Don't load it on me-Jane
Don't load it on me-Jane
Don't load it on me-Jane 

Rene Girard comments on this wounding of desire, naming it “mimetic desire.” According the Rowan Williams’ summary, "I learn to desire by seeing the desire of others; and the danger of this imitative process is that I then conceive myself as competing with the other for what I have learned from the other to desire. This rivalry in desire more and more distracts me from the object and locks me into a destructive mutual hostility with the other: I look no longer at the object but at them.” (Williams, 126).

The writings of Jewish post-holocaust philosopher Emmanuel Levinas capture many of the elements of this wounding of genuine ethical desire. For Levinas, the visage or “face” of the vulnerable other presents each of us with a profound obligation or responsibility. Understood in its best light, this obligation is not a suffocating burden but a liberating desire for the freedom and wholeness of the other person. (See W. Farley) As international xenophobia increases, however, mimetic desire increases and the desire for the well-being of the other is hidden behind the trumped up need to protect “one’s own.” The myth of scarcity overwhelms the myth of plentitude, and “I have to get and hang on to what is mine” even at the expense of others. We worship God as “Totality” rather than “Infinity,” the Holy One, instead of the Holy One-for-the other,” a triumph of the god of ontology over the god of ethics. 

This often leads to a belief in what Walter Wink once called "the myth of redemptive violence." Like the Western B-movie plot line, redemption is tranquility in our town and anything goes in protecting it from dangerous "others." 

American girls 
American guys 
Will always stand up and salute 
Will always recognize 
When we see Ol' Glory flying 
There's a lot of men dead 
So we can sleep at peace at night 
When we lay down our heads 

My Daddy served in the Army 
Where he lost his right eye 
But he flew a flag out on our yard 
Til the day that he died 
He wanted my mother, my brother, 
My sister and me 
To grow up and live happy 
In the Land of the Free 

Now this nation that I love 
Has fallen under attack 
A mighty sucker punch came flying in 
From somewhere in the back 
Soon as we could see clearly 
Through our big black eye 
Man, we lit up your world 
Like the Fourth of July 

Hey, Uncle Sam put your name 
At the top of his list 
And the Statue of Liberty 
Started shakin her fist 
And the Eagle will fly 
Man it's gonna be hell 
When you hear Mother freedom 
Start Ringing her bell 
And it will feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you 
Ohh Brought to you courtesy 
Of the Red, White and Blue 

Ohh Justice will be served 
And the battle will rage 
This big dog will fight 
When you rattle his cage 
And you'll be sorry that you messed with 
The U. S. of A. 
'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass 
It's the American way 

Hey, Uncle Sam put your name 
At the top of his list 
And the Statue of Liberty 
Started shakin her fist 
And the Eagle will fly 
Man it's gonna be hell 
When you hear Mother freedom 
Start Ringing her bell 
And it will feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you 
Ohh Brought to you courtesy 
Of the Red, White and Blue 

Zygmunt Baumann notes that the wounding of ethical desire is deeply influence by “the wish to consume. To imbibe, devour, ingest and digest – annihilate. … Desire is an impulse to strip alterity of its otherness; thereby, to disempower. …In its essence, desire is an urge of destruction. And, thought but obliquely, the urge of self-destruction; desire is contaminated, from its birth, by the death-wish.” (Bauman, 9)

And so we encounter within our human condition a second wound – violence, which is the wounding of ethical desire –  or a wounding of the desire for the healing and wholeness of all human others.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I. The First of Five Wounds/Five Desires: the Wounding of Our Desire for God

Theological Mashup. 
Wound/Desire 1: The absence (of God, peace, dwelling, self, truth) and desire for transcendence

We start with anthropology - the human condition, and posit first of all that at the heart of this human condition is a desire for the absent God - or the God who is made present by a felt absence. 

Peter Black speaks of eros (desire) as a form of “lack,” and the search for “completion.” (Black, 108-109)

"Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him." (Luke 24:13-16)

The experience of desire funded by absence, in our context today, seems to be driven most fundamentally by otherness and multiplicity, rather than historical or existential crisis. The experienced absence of God does not come to us so much as an experience of existential separation - modern industrial humanity’s alienated existence estranged from essence. It is not so much the experience of longing for reconciliation, acceptance, and return - existential lack and anxiety that creates a deep need. Neither does it seem driven by despair over the fate of progress within history. Instead, desire (eros) is experienced in the separation implicit in the idea of infinity, difference, or otherness, in all its multiplicity. 

Desire, as we will speak of it here, is desire for that which is, by definition, other - that which is unattainable and beyond fully knowing or possessing. According to philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, this infinity “requires separation, requires it unto atheism, so profoundly that the idea of infinity could be forgotten. The forgetting of transcendence is not produced as an accident in a separated being (Tillich); the possibility of this forgetting is necessary for separation.” (Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 181). We see, therefore, in the absence of God, the possibility that is produced by the idea of infinity, or radical otherness itself.

Wendy Farley makes a few key observations about absence. “True life is absent” 1) “from totality itself, which is “structurally incapable of encountering the mystery and beauty of particular beings,” 2) metaphysically, that is beyond grasping, comprehension, or possession, and 3) within the self – in the absence of self-sufficiency and our “capacity for relationship.” (Eros for the Other, 70-71)

David Klemm asserts  “the very act of negating also makes being present.” “The withdrawal of being from thought” if an “ironic presencing of the primordial.” (Klemm, 459, 461). He then speaks of a “wound,” and the “loss of primary immediacy…to be and not to be in the presence of religious reality.” (462 ff. 466).

The advent of postmodernity heralds a shift from historical crisis to a crisis of reflexive existence, to reflexive “otherness.” We migrate from Barth’s “Krisis” of “negation” (unknowability of God) as a result of proclamation, and Heidegger’s “Krisis” of “inauthentic existence," the result of a forgetting of Being in an over rationalized and technologized world, to the crisis of the self's desire for itself-as-other - the reflection of the self on the self reflecting on itself on the self reflecting on itself........, and the self's desire for the self's other (the mystery of alterity in all of its forms).

In this context we encounter sociologist Wade Clark Roof’s “seekers.” And as Lyon puts it in his book Jesus in Disneyland, “…not only in America, but in several European countries, a vague, inchoate, but seemingly serious religious quest is in evidence.” Robert Wuthnow identifies “a shift from religious life as “dwelling,” to “seeking.” (see Lyon, 88)

Consider among seekers the crisis of self/other reflexivity noted above, coupled with the “malleability” of desire (Ludlow, in Laird, 509). As the self de-centers endlessly, desire shapes itself in many ways. It can be mimetic (and potentially violent) (Girard), consumerist (Lyon, Ward, Bauman), eroticized, spiritual, etc. In all manifestations it seeks transcendence. 

Bill Friskics-Warren, in I'll Take You There: Pop Music and the Urge for Transcendence, asserts that much of popular music is oriented toward various forms of self-transcendence (through beauty, compassion, sex, sheer volume, community, exorcism, etc.)  

Paul Tillich says it this way: “each person is locked up within himself, and each desires to transcend himself through the power of eros.” (in Black, 113)

See also Laird on Nyssa, and the “clenched fist of desire” when turned in on itself. (510)

According to Tillich religion is the “depth” dimension of the human spirit (ultimate, infinite, unconditional). (Theology and Culture7), and his statement that “the religious and secular are in the same predicament…both of them…are rooted…in the experience of ultimate concern.” (9)

Charles Winquist goes in search of desire and lack in theological discourse. According to Winquist “The unrestricted desire to know is part of what is semantically given in explicating a theory of theological discourse. It is a characteristic of theological text production.” (Winquist, Epiphanies of Darkness, 102) In other words, to be a theologian, and to write theology, or to be a seeker, and to read theology, is to give expression to "the unrestricted desire to know." 

In this regard, Winquist exposits the work of theologian Thomas Altizer. Altizer focuses on faith “as the fullness of speech,” but by that he means a “fall” from “the quiescence of silence.” (Winquist, ED, 111) Speech, then, is a kind of essential difference – the beginning of meaning and identity. Like Derrida, “the origin of identity is the substitution of a signifier, a name, for the transcendental signified, and a displacement into a network of signifiers.” (ED,111) In Derrida, this is an act of difference, a “deferring that is also a differing.” (ED, 111) The naming of God, then, is experienced as “an exile,” an exile from God. In our context today, we are hyper aware of this exile. And the more the name is named, and reified, and familiarized, the more the person on the street cringes – the familiarity, the proliferation of names, locations, systems, etc. seems to increase the exile – create a pornography of God – a proliferation of pictures that only yield a surface, increase a lack, and perpetuate an unquenchable deferral of the thing itself. And yet, it is not simply a matter of becoming silent. We know that God “has an identity through difference” in all of this speaking and naming. Traces of God are there in the rubbish of names. So emerges the creative urge to subvert the names…to speak transgressively…on behalf of God.

So Dave Tomlinson in his book The Post-Evangelical, speaks about a group of seekers meeting in bars and coffee houses while talking of God. (see for instance Moot at http://www.moot.uk.net/ And Tomlinson argues that living together before marriage, or without marriage, may not bring the system of God to a screeching halt. We're in a situation in which there is a broad “No saying to the name of God” even as a resounding “Yes” is said to an eschatological God who is coming, or emerging.

Is this the death of the God of totality and a(nother) birth of the God of infinity, the death of the God of the text and the birth of the God who peers at us through to gaps in the text? For Altizer, the negation of this God “is the realization of faith.” (ED, 114) According to Altizer, “there can be no real parousia of God, no real final and total presence of God, apart from a negation of every other presence and identity of God.” (in ED,118, Altizer, Total Presence, 49) Perhaps we are stumbling into kenotic Christianity, in which incarnation and eschatology will be the prevailing doctrines. The incarnation as “a fall into experience.” And eschatology as a radical proclamation of the Kindom of God in the middle of experience that completely reverses religious consciousness?

Or, from another perspective, of John of the Cross’ “dark night” of the spirit, according the R. Williams, “on the cross…the Father, we might say, has ceased to be in any way a graspable other for the subjectivity of Jesus. … In the life of God, love is always deflected from the ‘object’ that would close or satisfy, that would simply be the absent other imagined as the goal of desire; the other is always engaged beyond, engaged with another otherness. So to be included in the love of the Son for the Father is to participate in a love without satisfaction or closure – an endless love; and for us as creatures, that can only be felt as pain and privation before it is recognized as freedom….Divine love is most free in Jesus at the moment when the Father is no longer a determinate other over against him but an absent love that will not stand still to be consolingly viewed.” (in Davies and Turner, ed. Silence and The Word, 121) 

This sounds a lot like the desire that is invoked when the “named” God recedes – is parodied, lampooned, shadow-boxed, exorcized, in postmodernity.
In all of this, the first wound - an absence of God creates a desire for transcendence.