Wednesday 4th of August 2021

we're not approaching the end... are we? are we making any sense of being where we are?


"The hardest thing in the world is to be where we are," observes Rowan Williams in his Lent book, Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles Our Judgment . Enigmatic though it may be, I think Williams's remark is one worth pondering if we are to negotiate faithfully the current challenges before church and world. By reflecting on this remark, I hope to show why we were so fortunate over the past decade to have had Rowan Williams as our Archbishop of Canterbury. He is an extraordinary theologian whose work is an invaluable resource for helping the church "to be where we are.


These are the enigmatic words by Stanley Hauerwas, the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law at Duke University. His most recent books are The Work of Theology and Approaching the End: Eschatological Reflections on Church, Politics and Life.


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Enigmatic?… Yes, so much enigmatingly that it is senseless, that is to say this means nothing… Believing in fairies isn’t going to improve the garden, is it? Where are we anyway? Are we all in the same place? Good question, 99...
The anthropologist David Scott has described our time as "damaged." By "damaged," he means we live in a time in which the once familiar characterizations of time no longer seem compelling. According to Scott:

"inerasable residues from the past stick to the hinges of the temporality we have come to rely on to secure our way, and consequently time is not quite as yielding as we have grown to expect it to be.”

The persistence of racism and war name the "inerasable residues from the past" that make the time in which we live seem damaged. We live after civil rights and after the cold war - but nothing, it seems, has fundamentally changed. In fact, the problems of race and war seem even more intractable because the past now seems useless for helping us discern any hope for the future.


Ah now I see. The past — or believing in fairies and divine royals — now erased by us believing in de-mo-cra-cy, (or in the UK — a relative constitutional democracy, where the Lords still control the loot) isn’t helping… So what do we do? In reality the past was not just divine royals but our long established empiredom that any British thingy was superior in race and in manufacture. How do we erase these residues from the past? Brexit? Yep, that will do it… Just joking…

So, what is the most inerasable residue from the past: Religious hubris… But this is the one that the purveyors of religious hubris do not want to erase. So we’re back in the doldrum of doing nothing about the residual stuff… 

Much of the other problems of race and war should not rely on the way the past is often depicted (believed). Most of what we remember from the past is an ersatz of history — a simplification of decrees for profits. That a prick like Trump squeezes the boils on our social butt has actually been cathartic. It shows the hypocrisy all around… But if you wish to find the solutions in the past, you’re going to repeat history and waddle in religious crap some more. The solutions have to be secular and have to be seen as relative, never absolutist otherwise they will be fascist. Religion(s) is (are) fascist.

Stanley tells us:
At the heart of Yoder's work has been the attempt to teach us the difficult task of living where we are. Yoder's defence of Christian nonviolence depends on an account of time very similar to that of Rowan Williams. For Christian pacifism does not promise to give us a war-less world, but rather Christian pacifism depends on the presumption that in a world of war, a people exist who have the time to engage in the slow and painful work of living in peace with one another. 


The Christian pacifism is something quite recent in the “development” of the Church. Christ has been an agent for peace — but religion in the past HAS NOT BEEN. In order to defend its hubris, the churches, of whatever creed, including Islam, has fought with armies. THIS IS HISTORY. THIS IS THE PAST… And this past included twisting natives nipples to make sure they believed… It’s only at the advent of “Enlightenment” that the Christian churches went for the “love of god” rather than His (god is a male) wrath. Enlightenment made more sense than the religious hubris, so the church(es) changed the selling pitch to catch more flies with honey rather than using vinegar...

Stanley concludes:
In short, ministers live in ordinary time, undramatic time, in which their lives seem to dribble out one grain of sand at a time. But at least ministers know where you are: they are in the time God has made possible, kingdom time, and the work they do is the peace of God. Hence they are called to be patient, practice word-care, keep the conversation going, and may God help them even learn to love our damaged church; which is the only hope we have if we are to endure this damaged time.

Oh boy… This is the major problem. The arrogance of the believers like Stanley Hauerwas: trying to teach us the same old trick...