Posts in: justice

Willie James Jennings, with a really lovely description of theological education at the end of his After Whiteness:

To be involved in theological education is to long for eternity and the end of death. It is to seek the blessed state where our words start to do new work by first joining the chorus of the words of those who live forever in the Lord and who sound the healing and redeeming voice of the living God. Then our words will heal. Then our words will build up. Then our words will help form life together. Then our words will give witness to a destiny only visible through love. Talking together then is a practice aimed at eternity, and it matters more than we often realize for bringing our hope into focus. This finally is the goal of this book and the task I want to leave you with—to bring hope into focus.

Willie James Jennings, After Whiteness:

Theological education could mark a new path for Western education, one that builds a vision of education that cultivates the new belonging that this world longs to inhabit. But we cannot give witness to that newness if we imagine that our fundamental struggle is one of institutional survival, or the challenge of educational delivery systems, or the alignment of financial modeling with our desired outcomes, or the expansion of pedagogical models. All these matters are important, but they are not where the struggle meets us or from where the vision of our futures will come.

Willie James Jennings, After Whiteness:

Theological education is also about resistance. It is the seed from which may grow beautiful habitation or from which may grow mind-bending captivity. Yet how do you design for intellectual resistance? This may be the most pressing question in theological education today, because we theological educators are failing miserably at precisely this—at imagining a form of resistance that builds community.

Yesterday I saw a tweet floating around asking for your “personal canon,” that is, which are the books that you have used to understand the world? Limiting myself only to written works (and not, say, music or film), here’s what I would say, roughly ordered according to when I encountered these books:

I don’t have much reading from my childhood represented; I’m not sure that much reading from before college has stuck with me in this world-shaping way. My list also skews decidedly modern (only three premodern texts), which is a little embarassing for me as a medieval theologian.

I might develop this into a fuller blog post, detailing why each of these books belong to my canon and how they inform my understanding of the world. I’m sure I’ll think of other books to add, too (and maybe, upon further refletion, remove some of these).

This timeline of the Uvalde shooting—a student calls at 12:03 and, over the next 45 minutes, pleads for police, all while officers stood outside—is horrifying and damning. Lord, have mercy.

Elizabeth Bruenig:

Violence begets injury begets death, and any culture debased to vacillating between violent struggle and idle nihilism is shuddering toward its end as a culture of death. And a culture of death is like a prophecy, or a sickness: It bespeaks itself in worsening phases. Right now, we find ourselves foreclosing upon our own shared future both recklessly and deliberately—and perhaps, gradually, beginning to behave as if there is no future for us at all; soon, I sometimes worry, we may find ourselves faced with a darkening present, no faith in our future, and a doomed tendency to chase violence with violence.

Robert Zaretsky, on what a deeper appreciation of the word ‘tragedy’ reveals about tragedies like school shootings:

Yet if we could wring out the word’s semantic saturation, we might glimpse an earlier and more useful use of the word. A usage, in effect, that reminds us that tragedy remains Greek to us. In his recent book, Tragedy, the Greeks and Us, the philosopher Simon Critchley explores how the ancient Greek tragedians understood their world. Tragedy is not simply something that happens to us, the way that, say, a meteor happened to dinosaurs 65 million years ago or, for that matter, an earthquake happened to the residents of Lisbon 250 years ago. Both events were out of the control of its victims.

Not so with real tragedies, though. The works of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides reveal the human factor in the making of tragedy. As Critchley writes, “Tragedy requires some degree of complicity on our part in the disaster that destroys us.” It is not that the gods did this to us, but that we collaborated with the gods to do this to us. The upshot, as Critchley makes clear, is terrifying: “Tragedy requires our collusion with [our] fate. In other words, it requires no small measure of freedom.”

Gary Wills wrote of guns as our Moloch, one day after the Sandy Hook shooting on December 14, 2012. Nothing has changed.

That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector.

Maggie Nelson, on climate change:

As a problem gets harder to solve, ignoring it becomes all the more tempting. Ignore it long enough, and eventually it becomes unsolvable. Giving up can then seem to deliver a measure of relief, in that it appears, at least for a moment, to liberate us from the agonies of our failing efforts. But such relief cannot last, as the unsolved problem will continue to create problems and cause suffering. This suffering rarely feels like freedom.