Monthly Archives: March 2016

Good Friday 2016

HoopoeLast time, I said I’d begin posting sermons from the past few years. I had expected to fulfil that promise gradually over the course of my weeks of study leave, but Tasha asked to see Friday’s sermon here, so I’ll put it up as soon as I finish typing these notes. I worked on getting the best balance between the horrible risk of perpetuating and underscoring anti-Jewish presuppositions (on one hand) and accepting the catholic tradition that sees continuity between the sacrifices of Israel and the sacrifice of Jesus (continued in the Mass). Likewise, the text from Hebrews wants very much to relegate Israel’s covenant to obsolescence (even as Hebrews insists that neither Israel nor those who enter the heavenly sanctuary through Jesus is to be complete without the other). As a result, I aimed at associating and juxtaposing the two scenes without prejudice to either.
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Not Dead Yet

HoopoeI had a small breakthrough in my thinking about my hermeneutical project yesterday morning before church, perhaps the most frustrating time for such an insight, since I absolutely had to be present at the beginning of the Blessings of Palms before the procession and Palm Sunday liturgy. I managed to scribble down what I think were the key notions, and — as my study leave begins sometime in the near future — I’ve made a plan to renew my blogging about “meaning”, along with posting some of the backlog of sermons and devotions I had left unposted.

One of the ideas that’s been rattling around my mind for ages has involved my not having a catchy label for what I’m about. That is in part a matter of stubborn vanity: I don’t want my ideas to gain a toehold (or a casual rejection) based mostly on the adjective appended to “hermeneutics” in a convenient tag. If you’re going to agree or disagree with me, I want you to have thought through my premises, not just ridiculed/embraced a fad. That’s almost pure vanity, of course; the world has lots to do, and keeping up with my random thoughts is not necessarily one of them. It’s my job to earn attention, not just stomp my tiny foot and demand it.

But I resist a label for other reasons as well. Whenever I think of a possible label, in the same moment I conceive a reason for that not being an apt characterisation of my project. “X Hermeneutics” — but it’s not really X, since people generally understand X to refer to this set of premises and activities that I’m calling into question. “Y Hermeneutics,” but Y isn’t a positive value for me, just an adventitious outcome. If someone suggested “Neti neti hermeneutics,” I’d have to concede that that might be the best alternative.

But as I think through the topics about which I want to write [eventually, if God permits me time], I realise that one way to wrangle the problem would take the shape of an essay/chapter that simply catalogues all the vaguely applicable alternatives I can imagine, and explaining their negations. So that’s now on my list (along with about fifty other things I need to write. Mercy, I hope I live long enough to write at least most of them.)

I realise after writing that last paragraph that I should note that the title of this post was meant to refer to the blog, not to me — but both senses do fit.

Accounting for Drumpf

HoopoeThere’s been some online bafflement about how evangelical (or other) Christians can possibly support Drumpf. George Lakoff contributed an essay that uses his now-familiar cognitive linguistic model (widely publicised in his Don’t Think of an Elephant) to spotlight Drumpf’s self-representation as a Strict Father and his concomitant appeal several strands of Republicans and conservative Democrats and independents. True enough, I guess, but there may be another angle, about which I left a comment on Mitch Ratcliffe’s FB page. The clue might be the parallel between (and I can’t believe I’m about to say this) Drumpf and Jesus — as modern Christians often read the Gospels.

The hero of the story confounds his detractors who are hostile, alien, oppressive, self-righteous, elite, from the political establishment, threatened by his candour and popularity. When confronted, he insults them and outwits them, so that they dare not ask him any more questions and people are amazed at his authority. They marshal all their resources in a conspiracy against him, and despite their evil plans, he rises triumphant at the end.

Right away, a careful reader will spot vast discrepancies between Drumpf and Jesus even within this narrative frame, but that doesn’t matter — as long as it feels right to a certain constituency of Drumpf voters. Drumpf has mastered the practice of agonic self-definition — building himself up by belittling others in such a way that they can’t, or won’t, respond effectively in kind; that’s very similar to Jesus’ role in the controversies with his antagonists. Oh, and I could add that both had powerful fathers who set them up with advantageous inheritances, but that’s stretching an already laboured comparison.

I’m last in line to offer advice on political strategy (when was the last time I was elected to anything? I don’t remember, and I’m the one who would have known), but to the extent that I’m on to something, this Drumpf-Jesus resonance will blunt the value of accusations of womanising (“he associates with prostitutes”), direct attacks (supporters will have faith that in the end, he will be victorious), anything that looks like a ganging up on an isolated hero. If I were running against Drumpf, I would avoid any negative characterisation of him at all (there’s no benefit there, there’ll be plenty floating around) and aim for sympathy, suggesting that he needs gentle treatment; facts asserted as a matter of record rather than an assault (“it’s not fair to introduce his failed business ventures as evidence, because he can always just print more money if he wins the election”); and keeping him associated with the very tiny group whose actual interests he represents (“He brought so many casino jobs to Atlantic City, offering part-time employment to hundreds of desperate citizens and giving gamblers a chance at winning big”). But that’s just me.