Monday, July 02, 2007

Calvin SCS —Summer 2007—Day 3
June 27, 2007

Text: Smith, A. D. 2003. Chosen peoples. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press; Hauerwas, S., and S. Wells, eds. 2004. The Blackwell companion to Christian ethics. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

John's summary: Smith says reports of the death of nationalism are premature. Nationalism is persistent. There are certain elective affinities between religion and national identity. ADS gives 3 models of their relation: [1] secular replacement of religion; [2] reformulation of religion into nationalism; [3] millenialist religion transmuted into nationalism. ADS examines the second—the nation as sacred communion—by showing how religious modes of being are adapted to support national identity. JR’s three reactions: [1] The historiographical context of ADS’s work. There are other clusters of scholarship saying similar things. An old tradition by Carleton Hayes (Chicago) generated work on "the surprising emergence" of nationalism after WW1. Within German historiography this is also a well-worn theme. Studies of the history of central Europe have taken three foci on "confessionalisation": a) Christian traditions consolidate convictions in form of confession as anchors of identity; b) The efforts of each group to communicate confessions to resistant populations; c) Tracking the rise of the modern state and its appropriation of impulses in social disciplines (how the state co-opts the church in using it as an agent of disciplining citizens). This is a somewhat reductionistic and top-down view. Smith’s view parallels Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Experience. Religion as the worship of the corporate body. [2] The history of church in ADS’s account disappears into the history of the state. It’s worth inquiring as to how religion and nationalism coexist.

Two directions of conversation: 1. the need for a more robust account of how religious groups ceded authority to the state. E.g. The Lutheran Augsburg Confession obliges the Christian prince to attend to the religious and social wellbeing of the subjects… yet no Lutheran would think this legitimate today. Even the early Luther contradicts this: he initially wants to define space for Christians outside the state, but after 1525 the Prince becomes summus episcopus. There’s nothing inevitable about this. Conscious choices were made. Eventually we get "God with us" on belt buckles. [3] We need a counterhistory (to that of ADS and AM) that traces the history of resistance. For instance, Norbert Elias on the civilizing process through examining a history of manners… collective rules of behaviour that are internalized. What would be the ecclesial analogues? We’ve talked about the Eucharist, but this hasn’t always carried the freight. Are there other forms? E.g. from the Mennonite tradition Sunday laws. Behind these there is a genuine concern to keep buying and selling from defining one’s life. Similar with "cultivated modesty" in speech (gelassenheit) that makes it more difficult to kill one’s enemy, or modesty in dress that shields from fashion world. Note the response to the Amish community killings. There was an immediate and collective understanding of what was to be done. What kinds of practices make that thinkable? Finally… is the problem nationalism? Or is there something deeper, traceable perhaps to when the sword became used to ensure the church’s survival? Can we distinguish among these forms: nation, kingdom, body of christ, new world, America as holy experiment, modern Israel, eschatological gathering? What does it mean to pray "thy kingdom come"? Does this prayer abet the process ADS describes? And how would we know the difference?

SL: Wolterstorff sees a rupture with nationalism--Constantinianism is at an end. SM: Augustine pushes the Fall back to Cain and Abel. CP: actually he pushes it back further to fall of angels, disembodied beings that are embodied (in states?) MG: Fleshing out how agencies function with reference to discipline. CP: does JR’s list have an anti-institutional bias (as if institutionalisation = fallenness). MG: What does agency look like? MB: Weapons of the spirit. SL: There’s an important question here. What is the relationship between agency and liturgical practices? There’s no simple causal relation. SW: Wink’s theology of the powers. CD: Question about what is agency? What’s the relation with intentionality? SL: Does Thomas’ natural, connatural, and supernatural help? The supernatural sheds light on the connatural and natural. […]

SL: How is confessionalization played out in evangelicals? How does a creed differ from a confession? CP: Councils are revisable in a way that confessions are not. CD: How to break out of confessionalism? SM: Can confessions be liberating in one context and not in others? CP: … and what’s the relation between the sacred text of the nation state and its practices? SL: There’s no penance before saying Pledge of Allegiance. MB: ADS gives four dimensions to nationalism appropriating biblical traditions: 1. community; 2. territory; 3. history; 4. destiny. These give rise to five core doctrines of nationalism: 1. world divided into nations; 2. the source of power is nation; 3. to be free every individual must belong to a nation 4. nations are autonomous; 5. a world of peace and justice must be founded on nations. MB: Example of this is in grafting nationalism onto former colonies. Basil Davidson’s account of nationalism in sub-Saharan Africa. CD: Christians can play into the hands of state builders by self-segregating, which feeds into state-building of four components.

SL: Let’s turn to the Blackwell Companion. How does liturgy as practice form and shape us as Christians in a way we can inhabit it, and why doesn’t it "work"? Ordered practices… habits… models. ecumenical diversity and divergence. Threefold form of the Body of Christ: historical body is absent (hence can’t be fetishized), but is mediated by word and sacrament. The eucharist makes the third form of the body of christ, the church (de Lubac). Question: what is the role of the liturgy and how does it help us address the question of identity? AS: Is their "Eucharist" like Levinas’ other that never shows up? A Baptist Eucharist has same ontological significance as a civil war reenactment. Compare this to a Russian Orthodox service. Are we talking about the same thing in each case? That said, there can be different liturgies within one tradition. (JR: does this foreground dogma? AS: No… it’s more like "see how we pray and you’ll see what we believe." GC: But what happens after the liturgy? Where’s the law of love? CP: Can we even call it "liturgy" if it’s not working? GC: Look at the Amish again… especially their response to the murders. And they don’t have a liturgy. KS: Here’s catechisis and the importance of it.

SL: Remember that the purpose of liturgy is not to form us but to worship God well. We have to watch instrumentalisation of liturgy. There has to be a Matt 25 … but the liturgy is not justified by Matt 25. AS: The liturgy is being used in different ways in this discussion. For me it’s shorthand for a way of life: the church year… fasting… BD: Reminds of the problem of distancing of laity from Eucharist. e.g. of Evensong where work of people is extracted from the people (where the people are an audience). AS: Leiturgia is a public work done for the people. Jesus is our chief liturgist.) CD: The Companion has no historical analysis of liturgy. Does this reify the eucharist (CD has the same critique of Cavanaugh)? SL: How does diversity of practice underwrite nationalism (assuming Marx’s point that catholic homogeneity does not provide a basis for nationalism)? MB: The book is part descriptive, part aspirational. AS: At some point dogma has to count. BP: Which comes first: liturgy or dogma? Why can’t we just eat? CD: Eschatological banquet… that’s where we’re going. SL: Mike and I are good friends but we can’t share the Eucharist. Maybe not having it is also formative.

SL: We have to be careful of identity politics in life of church. We may have to give something up for the sake of communion. The new creation is pouring out your life for others. The truth might mean that the Zwinglians and the Orthodox can’t both be right. We don’t have a right to our identities. CD: There’s a crisis now that there’s nothing to check capitalism. Are we prepared to risk? Will MacIntyre deliver us? Is he his own St. Benedict? The liturgy messes up predictibility of traditions… we don’t know where we’ll end up. The whole world is part of glory of God. If we don’t do liturgy the world will disappear. SL: Perhaps we should be doing this Maryologically. If Mary doesn’t say yes to God the incarnation doesn’t happen. The task of liturgy is to stand in the place of Mary and say yes. Hauerwas says the church makes Jesus possible. SL: The (over)use of "incarnational" is also a problem. MB: Can it be that unlearning nationalism and unlearning ecclesial divisions are two sides of the same coin?

Will Campbell debating someone on capital punishment: "you can’t be right because what you said is ugly and capital punishment is ugly and therefore it can’t be true. I didn’t learn much in philosophy but I did learn about the convertability of the transcendentals and if something isn’t beautiful it can’t be true or good."

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