The following are a few Lent related links from previous years.
My (uncompleted) Forty Days of Exoduses series from 2013
Lent, Individualism, and Christian Piety (an email conversation with Jake Meador)
Our whole cast is back for the latest Mere Fidelity podcast on the subject of weekly worship and its purpose. I lost connection to the call early on, and the others had to go on without me.
My latest guest post has just gone up over on Political Theology Today:
Sovereignty has historically been manifested and exercised in no small measure through spectacle and through glory. The regal finery with which monarchs are attired, the imposing grandeur of government buildings, the elaborate ritual, ceremony, and pageantry of state occasions, the extravagance of titles and honours, the grandiloquence of state speeches, the exactitude of official etiquette, the lavishness of the provisions for state banquets, the grand exhibitions of marshalled might in military reviews: in these and many other ways sovereignty, power, and authority express and exert themselves in the mode of glory. The spectacle is the clothing of power and sovereignty, the manner in which it manifests itself to the world. As sovereign majesty and might present themselves to be gazed upon in the spectacle, populations can be entranced, enthralled, and arrested, bound together in a sense of reverence, deference, awe, fear, solemnity, delight, or admiration, the public’s imagination captivated.
In the spectacle the quasi-transcendence of sovereignty is affirmed and displayed. A constant lurking fear is that the mortality and weakness of the king’s ‘natural body’ might appear beneath the majestic clothing of the ‘body politic’ (Ernst Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two Bodies is a significant treatment of this distinction), the latter proving to be naught but a fragile and fading façade over an underlying impotence, or that the mask of the state’s glory might slip to expose its face of brutality. Maintaining the spectacle imbues realities with dignity and symbolic purchase in the popular imagination that they might otherwise lack.
The Transfiguration is a spectacle displaying royal glory and majesty, a manifestation of a rule that is operative in the world. Yet Christ’s kingship, while gloriously displayed in the Transfiguration, is no masquerade beneath a tissue of symbolism and spectacle: his is no ‘hollow crown’. Christ is a king who divests himself of the spectacle of the Mount of Transfiguration, being raised up in the immediacy of his naked mortality on the Mount of Calvary. The dazzling body of the Transfiguration and the whip-furrowed body of the Crucifixion can only truly be understood in relation to each other—they are one and the same.
Read the whole thing here.
In the latest episode of Mere Fidelity, four effete academics—Matt, Derek, and I are joined by our friend Matt Milsap—discuss the ethics of American Football, especially in light of research suggesting its connection to long term brain damage. We also briefly discuss the corruption of soccer’s governing body and the surpassing glories of the sport of cricket.
The fourth part of my ten part treatment of the Transfiguration and Christian reading of Scripture went online earlier today on Reformation21.
The claim in John 1:18–‘no one has seen God at any time’–is a statement that needs to be qualified (cf. Exodus 24:10-11, which explicitly says that Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel ‘saw’ the God of Israel). Exodus 33:20 helps us to clear up what might be meant here. No one can see God’s ‘face’ and live, while Moses could see God’s back. Ezekiel saw the figure of a ‘likeness with the appearance of a man’ (the accumulation of phenomenological terms is important here, serving as linguistic veils at points beyond which direct expression dare not tread) in Ezekiel 1:26-28. However, while the body is described both above and below the waist, no description of the face is given. Moses saw the pre-existent Son, but not as we see him. The face is the focal point of the person’s identity–their countenance. By contrast with the theophanies of the OT, Jesus’ face is central at the Transfiguration (this is also the case in Revelation 1, which shares with Matthew 17:2 the description of Jesus’ face shining like the sun in its glory). In Jesus, God’s face is finally seen.
Read the rest here.
A guest post of mine has just gone up over on Mere Orthodoxy. Within it I respond to claims that Donald Trump’s supporters are merely driven by racism, xenophobia, a hunger for unjust power, and enthralment to celebrity culture. I make the case that a more attentive examination will reveal unflattering truths about American politics and the deep yet often dissembled classism of American society more generally and the responsibility that Trump’s opponents and critics have in preparing the ground for him.
The success of Trump, if I am correct, is in no small measure a result of the failure of other politicians and the establishment more generally to take a number of genuine public concerns seriously, to treat the working class with respect and dignity rather than self-righteous superiority, to address the ineffectiveness of government, to resist the special interests of lobbyists and business that undermine the government’s commitment to the public interest and the common good, to stand for America as a nation, and to encourage a society of robust civil discourse rather than officious and censorious speech policing and pathologization.
When the establishment has demonstrated its lack of genuine respect or concern for a large segment of the population, it is not surprising that such pronounced anti-establishment sentiment should arise. Much as one might wish that Trump supporters—especially the evangelicals among them—followed politicians that sought to maintain a well-ordered and dignified political system, the appeal of Trump is at least as unflattering a revelation of the failure of the establishment to serve the common good and its captivity to party interest as it is of the sentiments of people who will vote for him.
Read the whole thing here.
A very short piece of mine has just been published over on the Political Theology Today blog, on the question of the relationship between religion and violence.
Here, I believe, we find a helpful place to begin a discussion of the association between religion and violence. Religions directly concern themselves with the sphere of self-transcendence and sacrifice, with all of its elevating and destructive potential. They neither create nor monopolize this realm, but they are peculiarly focused upon it, sensitive to it, and active in the formation and confirmation of people within it.
That is one of the reasons why the task of political theology is such an important one: it unearths the forgotten and dissembled roots of the state in the soil of sacrifice and exposes them to the light of critical examination. As Halbertal remarks, it is in religion that we discover means by which to challenge misguided self-transcendence: ‘idolatry … is the utmost sacrifice to a cause that is not worthy of the corresponding sacrifice.’
Within the very brief scope of the piece, I suggest that we should attend, not only to religion as a cause for which people kill and die and to religion’s explicit support of the state in its wars, but also to the way in which religion shapes human solidarities within which people find self-transcendence and the way they negotiate the differences between their solidarities and those of others. Read it all here.