Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

What I Learned on my Mid-November Vacation – Part 2

Oh hey!  Here’s some more stuff I reflected/ing on!

4. “Why do people talk, when they have nothing to say?!”

Does anyone really care what this guy thinks?

At theological conferences, I unfortunately feel this way often.  There are papers that people write, that are well written and well argued, thoroughly researched, but they just don’t say anything! You may say: “well, of course they say something; there are words and stuff!” But does what they say really mean anything?  Again, you may also say: “well, of course it means something! Everything has meaning!” But let me posit this to you: what is the point of writing something, something meaningful, if it doesn’t do anything.  By “do,” I mean at the very least impact readers of all sorts, and at the most, changes the world.

Academics and scholars run the risk of isolating themselves in their own towers, and tragically all that they produce tends to speak to only themselves or to their inner theological circle. I am convinced that any work in theology should only be done if it can speak to everyone.  Sure, translation is needed from the heavy academic and theological language to the vernacular, but I think it’s tragic that the academy is discovering and learning all this amazing stuff and keeping it to itself, intentionally or unintentionally.  As an academic and scholar, I want my work to matter, and so I work hard to be able to translate it and have it make sense to all people.  If I fail at this, let me know, because I care deeply about this. Don’t let me stay in the ivory tower with the Queen of Sciences: true theology is done on the ground (see this blog post for more on ivory towers).

5. Insecurity’s a bitch

Poster “child” of insecurity…

To be honest, I was really depressed during my time in Chi-town. Not only did I leave Mpls in a bad funk, but being at the conference was at times very difficult.  Here I was, surrounded by brilliant people from brilliant institutions, and immediately all of my insecurities flared up. As many of you know, as those insecurities flare up one descends dramatically into very negative self-talk. Examples may include: I’ll never be like these people…I’m a failure; I’ve failed at life…I’m stupid…I can’t do this; I should just give up.  I took a lot of time to sit by myself and write out my thoughts, just to see what I was thinking and to reason with myself. When I get down like this, my immediate instinct is to find someone to unload everything on.  However, I realized this weekend that, in the end, I ‘alone’ (not fully alone, because I trust in God through prayer, even though that can be difficult in negative times) must interact with these negative feelings to overcome them, or at least embrace them…

6. The intense surreal beauty of the other.

Now, if you thought my “mythonomy” comments were controversial, hold on to your butts!  I went to a luncheon that had a lot of GLBT scholars at it, and among them were two people, one of whom I assumed is a Male-to-Female transsexual and the other I assume to be a Female-to-Male transsexual. While they were a table away from me, the ensuing discussion at the luncheon consisted of discussing what scholarship looks like from minority perspectives. It was a very edifying discussion.

Later on, I was walking through the corridors of McCormick Place when I saw both of them, sitting very close together, tucked away in a corner of the immense convention center.  As I walked by, I couldn’t help but stare; I was struck by what I can only describe as the intense surreal beauty of the two of them together.  I don’t know if they were a couple, and I suppose that wouldn’t matter, but to see both of them sitting there together, removed from everyone else, stirred up something in me.  There was something in me that wanted to go up to them and proclaim to them “You are loved! You are beautiful! You are prized! You are the Kingdom of God!”

Is there anything more to say?

Wow, what does that mean?! Well, Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God was best seen in those that were casted out by the religious authorities, the so-called “sinners.”  I felt that these two, sitting alone, but together, in the midst of the largest theological gathering in the country, were the most prized people at the conference.  I left the convention center with an overwhelming conviction that above all things, above all theological work, I wanted to be a gentle and loving spirit to all those on the outside and at the margins.  I feel this to be a very holy and special call, and if that’s all that I did for the rest of my life, I would be satisfied.  So, as I continue in theological work (as I so far intend to do), I still want to be above all else a gentle loving spirit, a spirit that reflects the love of Jesus, the love of the Christ, the love of God, to all.

Well, those are my reflections! We’ll see you in Baltimore for the 2013 Annual Meeting!


Filed under Excursuses

What I Learned on my Mid-November Vacation – Part 1

I spent his weekend at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Religion in Chicago.  I figured that, considering I have not posted a blog post in near forever, I ought to reflect on my time there.  I have a lot of reflections, so I will split this blog in twain. So, without further ado, what I learned on my Mid-November Vacation, Part 1:

1. I’m studying something that matters and is pretty cool.

What an awesome picture of Tillich! Ha!

So, I’m writing my thesis on Paul Tillich (my man) and Gustavo Gutiérrez (once I read more of him, I’m sure he’ll be my man too). While at AAR, I went to several Tillich talks, one of which was on investigating the early and later Tillich and his idea of history.  At the end of the paper, Jean Richard of Université Laval wrote on how many will like the later Tillich who are more spiritually and mystically driven, whereas others (like Jean) will like the early Tillich who are more social justice driven.  This tension reflects exactly the issue my thesis is addressing.  So, it’s sweet to see that people are thinking and caring about similar things.  Sweeeeeet.

2. Friends matter way more than academic colleagues.

I couldn’t resist.

Instead of going to another Tillich seminar, I had a long lunch with my good friends Maria Francesca French and Thorsten Moritz, and my new friend Holly Beers. Instead of going to a scholar’s reception, I had Friendsgiving at my friend’s place where I was staying.  In both circumstances, I had some of the best interactions and conversations during the whole trip. Not only did I talk about my thesis and theological passions (which people were genuinely interested and fascinated), but we just had a good time together. Now if only friends could pay me a salary to do that…

3. I coined a new word: mythonomy.

Wow, I was lucky to find a picture of them together. Thanks Derek Ouellette!

I went to a ‘conversation’ between Scot McKnight and N.T. (Tom) Wright.  Scot presented his paper “Kingdom as Church, Church as Kingdom: An Examination of an Old Dichotomy,” where he talked about how the kingdom and church are generally interchangeable.  He also talked a lot about “King Jesus” and the kingdom life.  Now, maybe this is because I’ve been studying a lot of Tillich (well, of course it is!), but I was taken aback by the intense evangelical language he was using.  I felt he was taking the idea of the kingdom and the concept of Jesus as king so literally, it almost seemed ingenuous and strained.  And then the word came to me: mythonomy.

Tillich often talks about autonomy (self-law, or the universal law of reason within all people), heteronomy ( strange-law, or a law foreign to humanity’s nature and being. Tillich talks about how ecclesiastical rules and norms are heteronomous), and theonomy (God-law, or autonomy that “is aware of its divine ground.”[1]

Thus, a mythonomy is myth-law; it is a normative rule of law based in a myth or story (keep in mind myth does not necessarily mean fiction).  It is what we understand as an all-encompassing meta-narrative.  How this relates to Scot’s talk is this: is it legitimate to use a Christological symbol such as king, or even Kingdom of God, as a normative standard for all Christian life and conduct.  At first blush we might want to say yes, but let me rephrase the question: ought we to take Biblical symbols and concepts literally and directly apply them to our contemporary lives, or are to be inspired by the Biblical symbols and concepts, interpreting and/or reauthoring them to correspond to our contemporary lives, and more italicized words?  This is a heavy and controversial topic which will need much more thinking, but I like the direction of the discourse. I do have planned a blog series on myth, but that’s another story for another time. Eek!

I have three more points to make, which I will on Wednesday!

[1] Tillich, A Complete History of Christian Thought, II:27. In http://darashpress.com/articles/paul-tillich-and-biblical-theonomy#fntext_13. This is a great article that explains Tillich terms.


Filed under Excursuses