Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Join me in a theological mashup

Theological Mashup: Desiring God: A Postmodern Practical Theology

Join me in a theological mashup. The beginnings of this mashup are below (likely above, given how blogs work). Please add your comments - and the section you want your comments inserted into, and I'll "edit" them in. Apologies for not being media savvy enough to insert some kind of "wiki" gadget to accomplish this. This comment style may work better, however, since I want eventually to produce a more polished theological mashup.

Consider yourself, as I did in producing this mashup, as a DJ, or mixologist, grabbing vinyl out of crates and incorporating theological "breaks" into this mashup, or pulling theologically attenuated "samples" out of a file or loop browser within a digital audio workstation such as Acid Pro, Logic, Garageband, or Pro Tools and trying it out in the mix.

The focal point of this mashup (for starters) were these three books:

Wendy Farley, The Wounding and Healing of Desire: Weaving Heaven and Earth (WHD) Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.
Wendy Farley, Eros for the Other: Retaining Truth in a Pluralistic World (EO) Pennsylvania University Press, 1996.
Edward Farley, Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition (GE) Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.

You don't have to have read these books or the books and articles below to continue. I've incorporated "breaks" from these resources and will try to make them understandable. Feel free to add other resources in your comments.

As a theological DJ, the complete list of books and essays I have pulled from my bookshelves and added to my crates to throw onto my turntables (so far) are listed below. Each book is dog-eared with breaks underlined and ready to go.

In the Crates

Robert Adams, “Pure Love,” Journal of Religious Ethics 8 (1980): 90-98.
Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (LM) Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Inc., 2000.
M.M. Bhaktin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Edited by Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
Peter Black, “The Broken Wings of Eros: Christian Ethics and the Denial of Desire,” Theological Studies 64 (2003): 106-26.
Anton T. Boisen, The Exploration of the Inner World: A Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1962).
Michel de Certeau, Luce Giard, Pierre Mayol, The Practice of Everyday Life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.
Rebecca S. Chopp, The Power to Speak: Feminism, Language, God. New York: Crossroad, 1989.
Wendy Farley, The Wounding and Healing of Desire: Weaving Heaven and Earth (WHD) Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.
____________, Eros for the Other: Retaining Truth in a Pluralistic World (EO) Pennsylvania University Press, 1996.
____________, “Emmanuel Levinas: Ethics as Domination or Desire,” in Arlene B. Dallery, Stephen H. Watson, E. Marya Bower (eds.) Transitions in Continental Philosophy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994.
Edward Farley, Faith and Beauty: A Theological Aesthetic. (FB) London: Ashgate, 2001.
____________,Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition (GE) Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.
Gemma Corradi Fiumara, The Other Side of Language: a Philosophy of Listening. New York: Routledge, 1995.
Anna Carter Florence, Preaching as Testimony. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.
Colin Grant, “For the Love of God,” Journal of Religious Ethics 24 (1996): 3-21.
Hanno Hardt, Myths for the Masses: An Essay on Mass Communication. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004.
Maria Harris, Proclaim Jubilee: A Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century (PJ) Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.
Seward Hiltner, Preface to Pastoral Theology. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1958.
David E. Klemm, “Toward a Rhetoric of Postmodern Theology: Through Barth and Heidegger,” (TRPT) Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 55, no.3 (Autumn, 1987), 443-69.
Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority (TI) The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991.
James E. Loder, The Transforming Moment: Understanding Convictional Experiences. New York: Harper and Row, 1981.
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960.
David Lyon, Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times (JD) London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000.
John S. McClure, Other-wise Preaching: A Postmodern Ethic for Homiletics (OWP) St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001.
Deborah Vansau McCauley, Appalachian Mountain Religion: A History. Carbondale: University of Illinois Press, 1995.
Sally McFague, “Intimate Creation: God’s Body, Our Home,” Christian Century 119:6 (Summer, 2002), 36-45.
____________, “The Loving Eye vs. the Arrogant Eye: Christian Critique of the Western Gaze on Nature and the Third World.” The Ecumenical Review 42 (1997): 185093.
Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Press, 2004.
R. Laurence Moore, Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture (SG), New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Rachel Muers, Keeping God’s Silence: Towards a Theological Ethics of Communication (KGS), London: Blackwell, 2004.
Parker Palmer, The Company of Strangers: Christians and the Renewal of America’s Public Life. London: Crossroad, 1981.
Carl Raschke, “Jacques Lacan and the Magic of Desire: A Post-Structuralist Subscript,” in Edith Wyschogrod, David Crownfield, Carl A. Raschke (eds.) Lacan and Theological Discourse (LTD) Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1989, 59-75.
Leigh Eric Schmidt, Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
Paul Tillich, (ed. Robert C. Kimball), Theology of Culture (TC) New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.
Dave Tomlinson, The Post-Evangelical. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Press, 2003.
Charles E. Winquist, Epiphanies of Darkness: Deconstruction in Theology (EP), Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1986.
Rowan Williams, “The Deflections of Desire: Negative Theology in Trinitarian Disclosure,” in Oliver Davies and Denys Turner, Silence and the Word: Negative Theology and the Incarnation (SW), London: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Martin Laird, “Under Solomon’s Tutelage: The Education of Desire in the Homilies on the Song of Songs” in Re-thinking Gregory of Nyssa, ed. Sarah Coakley. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003, 77-95.
Rene Girard, Things Hidden from the Foundation of the World. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003.
Richard Kearney, The God Who May Be: A Hermeneutics of Religion. (GMB) Bloomington Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2001.
Pete Ward, Liquid Church (LC) London: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002.
Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.
Gibson Winter, Liberating Creation: Foundations of Religious Social Ethics. New York: Crossroad, 1981.

Ok. Now let's get the sampler turned on, set up the turntables, boot up the computer, and get my digital audio workstation (Logic Pro) fired up.

Here is the first installment of this theological mashup. Other installments will follow. Please add comments, including other references, trajectories of thought, ideas, paragraphs to insert, quotes (with reference to hyperlink please), etc. If you don't tell me where to introduce your comments into the mashup itself, I'll make that decision. Feel free to suggest links, pictures, videos of songs, other videos, artwork, etc. I'll revise according to your wishes, and keep re-posting, and we can watch our little theological composition develop.

I. Introduction 

With respect to desire, Edward Farley points out how some modern anthropologies of desire “reduce desire to the need system we share with other primates or to the complex of interests that constitute advanced industrial societies.” (Good and Evil, 98) In a postmodern context, Farley observes “cynical versions of both desire and reason…reducing desire to a visible and manipulable phenomenon of the marketplace.” (98)

In this mashup, let's identify a deeper and more “elemental” desire – a wholly O/other directed power (eros) as the central resource for developing a practical theology for a church emerging into our new post-institutional situation. I.e we are not positing a phenomenology of existential need which “seeks to fill a lack of negation in the subject” but a phenomenology of an eschatological or messianic (to use Derrida’s language) desire “which is positively attracted by something other not yet possessed or needed.” (see John Wild, Introduction to Totality and Infinity, (TI), p. 19.)

Our anthropology (idea of the human condition), therefore, is not taken from the analysis of the structures of finitude and lack deduced from the estrangement of existence from essence. Rather, it asserts that the state of separation or estrangement is better understood as a “separation with regard to the Infinite” (Levinas, TI, 105) that opens not upon fulfilling need, but upon the creation of desire in its positive aspect. This desire, according to Levinas, “does not coincide with unsatisfied need; it is situated beyond satisfaction and nonsatisfaction. The relationship with the Other, or the idea of Infinity, accomplishes it. Each can live it in the strange desire of the Other that no voluptuosity (Levinas’ word for eros oriented toward erotic, sensual relationships) comes to fulfill, nor close, nor put to sleep.” (TI, 179) Although, as W. Farley observes, eros “thrives on absence” (EO, 69), this absence is not existential lack, but eschatological “reaching, never grasping.”

Wendy Farley’s theological method in The Wounding and Healing of Desire is fundamental to our method of thinking theologically in this mashup. The goal is to identify the key “woundings” of desire among religious seekers, and to initiate a conversation about the nature of those desires, how they are wounded, and how to bring healing to those wounds.

Note: we will not assume that desire is an unqualified good.

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