Monthly Archives: July 2005

My Cards

In one of the Ekklesia Project conversations, and again this afternoon, I alluded to the Theologian Cards for my Early Church History class. I checked, and only Anthony, Perpetua, Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Tertullian were available online. So I just uploaded another batch, and will work through the rest of them in my copious free time. And yes, I’ll get back to work on the Lego Church History series.

6 Basil the Great of Caesarea, Single PDFSix-Up PDFJPEG

7 Arius, Single PDFSix-Up PDFJPEG

8 Clement of Alexandria, Single PDFSix-Up PDFJPEG

10 Gregory of Nyssa, Single PDFSix-Up PDFJPEG

11 Gregory of Nazianzus, Single PDFSix-Up PDFJPEG

It’s not too hard to format and upload these, mostly just a matter of making the PDFs and JPEG from the main InDesign file, so I should be able to get a few more up here soon. (Though I put “My Cards” in the title bar, anyone interested should know that the drawings were executed by extremely gifted artist-philosopher Steve Lahey.)

Lovely, Lovely

It was a treat to visit the garden home of Scandal of Particularity (after having met her at the Ekklesia Project on Monday), where with her husband she generously hosted Camassia, the AngloBaptist, Liz (who — so far as I know — doesn’t have a website, the horror!), and me for a civilized afternoon conversation about liturgy, theology, sexuality, blogging software, other Blogarians, and the Tour de France — among many other things.

The next time someone tells you that online activity cuts into physical-world interaction, sock ’em in the nose you may correct them based on the empirical data of my experience.


I’ve only just recently found out that anybody cares what I think about the recent sad news from Connecticut. If you don’t care to register with the New York Times, the short answer is that the diocesan bishop inhibited a priest (“suspended” him), took possession of the parish’s buildings and records, changed the locks, and installed an interim rector. It is hard to think that it’s coincidental that the priest in question was one of six clergy who actively resist the consecration of Gene Robinson to the episcopacy (among other vexatious actions taken by the Episcopal Church over the past few years).

Since it’s a matter whose resolution depends greatly on details of the transactions between bishop and priest, I have kept my own counsel — I reasoned that it could hardly help clarify a complicated situation if large numbers of people who don’t know the details take uninformed positions. I’ve been in situations where the presenting issue could not be discussed publicly, which circumstance contributed to an appearance of extreme unfairness on the part of the authority involved; since then, I’ve tried to be especially cautious regarding such situations.

Because this has become a touchstone for determining even-handedness in ecclesiastical commentary, however, and because there’s been plenty of time to make as clear as possible a case for what looks on the face of things like a clumsy power grab, I can without hesitation say that if Bishop Smith has a good reason for the way he handled this situation, he has so far withheld it. The highly-charged atmosphere ought to incline someone who holds power to exercise that power as little and as gently and unexceptionably as possible, with as much explanation as possible. Unless Bishop Smith is in the agonizing position of knowing something very terrible and confidential about the conduct of the Rev. Mr. Hansen’s ministry — something of which no hint of a clue has even been rumored, so one has to consider that option off-the-table — Bishop Smith must be deemed to have mishandled a delicate situation.

In a couple of conversations at the Ekklesia Project, I observed that I increasingly find the pivotal text in Pauline ethics to be 1 Cor 6:7: “In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? ” We demonstrate sinfully constricted imaginations when we concentrate our efforts on prevailing over our sisters and brothers, arm-twisting or out-maneuvering in order to win, to justify oneself.

I can imagine some circumstances that might motivate Bishop Smith to take the actions he did, and I can imagine some circumstances that might motivate Fr. Hansen to have taken the actions that seem to have precipitated the diocese’s foreclosure — but the information circulating in public so far casts the diocese’s side in a pretty grim light. When I wrote “if our charity were not already exhausted,” this dysangelical mess was the sort of sorry outcome I feared.

Closing EP Post

The Ekklesia Project always excites and refreshes me, so it’s not just because I gave a presentation there this year that I have to say what a wonderful gathering they put together for us.

That being said, I was delighted that so many people gave very kind positive feedback on my talk, and that so many people seemed to get the idea of the Disseminary (which Phil mentioned when he introduced me). It’s gratifying, but frustrating, that their feedback suggests that Trevor and I have the right idea — while we’re still having trouble harvesting enough useful material to make the site go.

Thanks, though, to readers from EP who meander over here; it was great to hear from you in person, and I hope you feel welcome to come back electronically fromm time to time.

The Strong Right Arm

This morning we all woke up way too early, and Margaret and Pip and I trundled down to DePaul so that we’d be sure to arrive in time for me to give my plenary at the Ekklesia Project Gathering. We were pretty sleepy till partway through breakfast, but by my third cup of coffee I figured I’d be able to keep my eyes open through the whole presentation.

I’ll add the transcript of the whole presentation in the (More) area; PDF available here, and an mp3 from ChuckP3 here. For casual readers and RSS, though, the short answer is that it seems to have gone well. We had some active conversation afterward, and I could spend the rest of the day relaxing and jawing with friends rather than kicking myself.

“Relaxing,” that is, until 7:15, when the presenters and I were called to the front for a panel discussion of our papers, led by Barry Harvey. Barry asked us hard questions, which struck me as decidedly unfair, given how little sleep I’d had. When the EP crowd got tired of hearing us panelists talk, Margaret and Pippa and I hastened back north to Evanston.

Within an hour, I’ll be fast asleep.
Continue reading The Strong Right Arm

Ekklesia Talking

I’m mostly set to go for this morning’s talk, although I’m not quite sure I’m awake yet (if I fall asleep in another session, please excuse me). I will post a full version (with notes!) as soon after the presentation as I can get back online.

Canavaugh’s Empire

Bill Cavanaugh begins a talk about theology and empire by citing Michael Novak’s observation that democratic capitalism has constructed for religion an empty shrine — not out of hostility, he says, but of reverence. The difficulty is that the empty shrine ends up excluding the God of the Decalogue, and that the emptiness and openness that lie at the heart of empire lend themselves to expansionism and imperialism.

In the U.S. liberalism has been wed with corporate and state imperialism.

The reluctant empire: in order for the U.S. to have an empire, it must constantly deny that it has one. Since the democratic ethos that the U.S. sponsors lies at odds with the actual practice of dominating the world with military and economic power, we need to demur from the appearance that we might be willing actually to exercise that power.
And our modesty and reluctance confirm our worthiness to exercise dominant power.

The policy of pursuing “openness” serves the exploitative ends of developed capitalism: the U.S. needs “open” foreign markets for the export of our surplus; and now, we need cheap industrial goods bought on loans from foreign banks.

The openness of our system, the emptiness of the shrine ensure freedom and happiness for everyone: we’re the “universal nation.” American values are a sort of universal solvent for the flow of freedom and wealth — if we force others to accept our way. Because we are the truly universal nation, we’re unlike any other — the same rules don’t apply to us. In the emptiness of the shrine, the absence of an absolute end, the American way of life itself becomes the absolute end of the system.

American idealism and American selfishness both derive from the idea of limitlesss expansion. Bill combines Voltaire’s “I may not agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it” with the cinematic George Patton’s “Nobody ever won a war by dying for his country; you win a war by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

At the very moment when peace was supposed to arrive, as liberal democracy and free-market capitalism triumphed over communism, our very “openness” turns out to put us at ever-greater risk. National defense is supplanted by national security.

So, empire is understood as an attempt to see and act as God sees and acts, without limits; it stands at the point of universality, overcoming all particularities. The national God of the U.S. replaces

Exodus 19:5-6 — God instructs Israel that God encompasses all the earth, but makes a covenant with a particular people. The particularity of Israel won’t be effaced, because God has made a covenant with this people. The problem with transferring this covenantal relation from ancient Israel to the modern U.S. is (among other things) that the correct complement of Israel is not the U.S.A., but the church.

Exodus 20:2-6 — If the empty shrine has been filled with a national God, then we’re obviously breaking the first commandment. But “openness” doesn’t make a functional candidate for “idolatry.” But the invisibility of the national god shields it from critique. The empty shrine becomes the new Holy of Holies.

Exodus 20:13 — The state determines for itself whom it may kill — you can profess faith in any god you want, so long as you’re willing to kill for the American way of life. You may not kill, because life and death belong to God.


Those were my notes. I may have gotten some things wrong, because Bill was talking faster than I can type — so if anything’s amiss, blame my stenographic skills, not Cavanaugh’s thinking.

EP Today

I’ll spend most of the day at the first day of the Ekklesia Project Gathering — will blog some notes, at the end of the day if not sooner. Phil Kenneson tells me that all the presentations will be digitally recorded and posted online; that’s great to hear, because the other speakers (I’m thinking of William Cavanaugh and Sylvia Keesmaat, right off the top of my head) should be terrific.

Potter Query

Has anyone noticed an oddity on page 485 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Pippa observes that on that page, Prof. Slughorn tells Harry that he “had a house elf taste every bottle after what happened to your poor friend Rupert,” after an incident in which Harry’s friend Ron (played in the movies by actor Rupert Grint) was nearly poisoned. . . .