Homo Sacer and Civilized Racism?

homosacer

In Slavoj Zizek’s book on September 11, “Welcome to the Desert of The Real,” he discusses the idea behind Homo sacer, in order to describe the kind of racism we often find within our society today. The Homo sacer:

is an obscure figure of Roman law: a person who is banned, may be killed by anybody, but may not be sacrificed in a religious ritual. The person is excluded from all civil rights, while his/her life is deemed “holy” in a negative sense (wikipedia).

Another way of looking at it, which is the way Agamben uses the designation. Here the Homo sacer is a person who is a legal exile, one who may live among the people but has no legal rights. An easy example of this from Scripture would be Cain, who in Genesis 4 is made to be a wanderer and fugitive on the Earth. He is marked so that he cannot be killed – whether it is for religious vengeance or otherwise, but he is left with no community or law to protect him. And we don’t (typically) feel sorry for him, he is after all guilty! Right?!

Continue reading Homo Sacer and Civilized Racism?

Church in Mission: Post-Christendom, Effectiveness and Reshaping Ethics Pt4

Series contents | Introduction | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

According to John Howard Yoder, one aspect that distinguishes this bi-cultural faith community we call the Christian church from the world is it’s insistence upon being non-coercive. This point of view has major implications not only for the mission of the church in our culture as well as in others, but it also brings up some important points about how we read our history.

A Quick History of Christendom

Since the start of Christendom, when the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian and Christianity became the state (re:enforced) religion, the church has struggled to take the teachings of Christ seriously on matters of violence. This is why we call the marriage between Christianity and the state is called Constantinianism. This theological, and political shift for the church, which was a move from the margins of society to the center of power, had profound effects upon the way it understood itself.

Yoder says:

The deeper shift behind it all was the loss of the identity of the Christianity community, as visible over against the world, replaced by the effort to “Christianize?? (thinly) the entire society. Once the premise that Europe is “Christendom?? has been granted, the rest follows. The church-state tie and even the Crusades can make sense (as they still do in our day, in modern forms, to a host of Americans) once the first assumption, namely, that everyone is “in,?? is made?? (104).

Continue reading Church in Mission: Post-Christendom, Effectiveness and Reshaping Ethics Pt4

Church in Mission: Translation and The Bi-Lingual Community (Pt.3)

This is the third part of the Church in Mission series where I am attempting to appropriate some of John Howard Yoder’s thinking in direct relationship to the mission of the church in our culture today.

Series contents | Introduction | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

So far we’ve look at the church in relationship to the question of how the church is to remain “relevant” to our culture, and secondly the question of how Jesus interacted with his own culture. Another way of thinking (that is complimentary to what’s been said) about the mission of the church as something over and against commodified relevancy can be seen this in Yoder’s primary missiological text, Jeremiah 29:7:

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

For Yoder the Jews’ being scattered into the Babylonian empire is not a sidetrack of their history, but a new beginning. “It was rather the beginning, under a firm, fresh prophetic mandate, of a new phase of the Mosaic project” (For the Nations, 53). Dispersion is now the calling of the Jewish community of faith (52). And within this dispersion, YHWH calls the Jewish people to “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile.” Continue reading Church in Mission: Translation and The Bi-Lingual Community (Pt.3)

An Emerging Profession: Sharing Power In A Flattened World

The Gospel has never offered job security.

Drew Ditzel asked me, along with a number of other bloggers (see below), to participate in a project he is doing for his class on emerging models of church at Columbia Seminary. Drew wants us to write about emerging churches and how they are dealing with leadership – mainly through giving everyone a voice, downplaying the role of pastor (or having none at all), and encouraging equality in terms of leadership roles among all members of the church, no matter how old or what gender. And then of course, what does all this have to do with seminary students?

In an email Drew sees some of the possible problems:

…find some Emerging ideas about church, leadership, and being a pastor so refreshing. But they freak me out just about as much…This idea of a church body participating as producers in worship…[and] that church happens around dinner where seminary degrees and humorous sermon antidotes seem a bit out of place.

Here I want to address the question in three ways, culturally, biblically and then through the lens of the Quaker church.

Continue reading An Emerging Profession: Sharing Power In A Flattened World

Church in Mission: Culture and Jesus The Missionary Pt 2.

He Threatend Their NonInvolvement

This post is a part of a series where I am addressing the church’s mission as it pertains (or doesn’t) to relevancy within culture. I am trying to build the majority of discussion around John Howard Yoder’s work in his “For the Nations.”

Series contents | Introduction | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

In our previous discussion we looked at how relevancy is often the guiding question for church and mission. If we think of the question in terms of being an axel on a Ferris wheel, it might look something like this.

The Relevant Question
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But I’ll argue a more theological and biblical starting point for understanding the church’s relationship to culture is to begin with the incarnation as a paradigm for the role of church in mission. In this way Jesus is the missionary par excellence, he is our model for missions more so than even Paul. Switching out the axel on our Ferris wheel for a “Jesus Axel” we might have something more like this.

The Incarnation
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With this in mind let’s look at what it was like for Jesus to interact with his culture as a missionary. John Howard Yoder names four options Jesus had for engaging with his cultural surroundings: realism, revolutionary violence, withdrawal, and establishment religion.

Continue reading Church in Mission: Culture and Jesus The Missionary Pt 2.

Church In Mission: The Problem With Being Relevant Pt.1

God make us relevant

Series contents | Introduction | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

A big question concerning the church in Western culture is, “how do we make the church more relevant for today’s world?” We see this question get answered in many ways: from youth pastors using the video games like Halo to evangelize their teenagers, to church buildings with Starbucks, to Jumbo trons pumping out “Christian commercials,” to building structures designed after today’s modern malls, to churches creating myspace groups or online social networks. I know I have been guilty of thinking that relevancy is the most important question the church faces, and while the best of intentions are behind this, I ultimately think it’s the wrong question.

Continue reading Church In Mission: The Problem With Being Relevant Pt.1