April 23, 2010

colonization and confession

Along similar lines, back in March, Ben Myers (F&T) posted some significant writing on the topic of the church's identity in relation to Australia's indigenous populations, which he argues must be based on a confessional stance. Obviously, we have a different history among the colonies, but I still think Myers' work is instructive for the church in Canada. Although the entire thing is worth checking out, the best is piece from his series is an excerpt entitled, "Jesus was already in this land: discerning Christ in indigenous cultures."

His final summary is, I think, bang on.
The following points then are intended as an illustration of how the language of a preamble could form part of the church’s confession. Here, the church speaks not from a position of privileged insight into God’s ways, but from a vulnerable position of pilgrimage within history. The church does not occupy an elevated ‘view from nowhere’, so that it could survey the whole arc of human history at a single glance. Standing within history, the church sees another world to which it humbly bears witness. Listening to the voices of indigenous believers, the church hears Christ’s own voice calling, and so is compelled to confess:
  • Guided by Jesus Christ, the church’s Second Peoples listen attentively to the voices of our indigenous brothers and sisters, knowing that we cannot be the church without them, and that we cannot have Christ except together with them;
  • we rejoice in their witness to the Creator God who was already at work in this land, through Christ and the Spirit, long before the arrival of the colonisers;
  • in this witness, the church hears and recognises the word of Christ—a word that judges us for our cultural imperialism, our spiritual paternalism, and our hardness of heart; and that graciously liberates us to become together the people of God;
  • together with the First Peoples of this land, our brothers and sisters in Christ, we confess that there is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. Together we entrust ourselves to this God, pledging to journey together as Christ’s disciples: to speak the truth in love, to bear one another’s burdens, and to seek and find Christ in one another along the way.

April 22, 2010

theology in a fair country

A poster advertising a public lecture by John Ralston Saul caught my eye the other day. Turns out he's speaking as part of a conference on "doing theology in a changed relationship with Aboriginal People in Canada" that is being put on by the Faculty of Theology at the University of Winnipeg in association with the CCTE (Churches Council on Theological Education in Canada). I don't much care for Saul's work, but I wrote a brief review of his latest book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada, last year and I'm very interested in whether it is possible to speak of post-colonial theology, so if I can I hope to attend his lecture. Below is the better part of my review, which should at least provide some explanation for his presence at this conference.

“We are a people of Aboriginal inspiration organized around a concept of peace, fairness and good government. That is what lies at the heart of our story; at the heart of Canadian mythology, whether Francophone or Anglophone.” So concludes the prologue to A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada, the thirteenth book by political philosopher and novelist John Ralston Saul. Undoubtedly one of Canada’s most esteemed public intellectuals, Saul’s has produced timely essay on the complexities of our national identity and a reality-check for a country notoriously at odds with itself.

As Saul demonstrates, our future as Canadians depends on a thorough engagement with this nation’s past. We are a uniquely diverse and egalitarian nation, not because of our bi-national ancestry, but rather, because we are a Metis nation, Saul argues. When Europeans began to settle this land, their survival was dependent on Aboriginal people, whose way of life contrasted European ideas of conquest because it grew out of a sophisticated process of adaptation to the environment. In other words, European settlers were enveloped by a new narrative when they set foot on this land. While the most adhered to enlightenment paradigms like progress, rationality, and human mastery over nature, aboriginal culture privileged complexity over singularity and negotiation over violence, lived in continuity with nature and socially practiced what he calls the inclusive circle. This means that the qualities often used to describe or define “Canada” are, in fact, profoundly aboriginal. Our country’s resistance to acknowledge the overwhelming influence of aboriginal culture and philosophy, argues Saul, is precisely what holds Canada back from true national awareness and international confidence.

Saul’s writing, though mildly academic, is clear and makes for an easy read, but can quickly become quite repetitious. For those who’ve bumped up against post-colonialism in their studies, A Fair Country fails to offer much that’s new in the way of critique, but it does deal with Canada’s muddled economic policies and the often misguided elites who shape current acts of legislation. Alongside Saul’s national reality-check, we must recognize that colonial violence remains deeply rooted in our imported economic system and methods of governance.

April 16, 2010

Old Books, New Science in action

This semester I've been taking a course on book history and its relationship to the current rise of digital technologies. For the most part it's been a fun, eye-opening seminar that has significantly influenced the way I approach literary texts. Of course, I could spell all of this out; but thanks to our professor's oddly original idea for the class' final exam (a collaborative paper on a Wiki page), I can simply present a link and let you see for yourself.
Ladies and gentlemen: "Old Books, New Science!"
Thus far, I have contributed most of what falls under the heading "Form and Content," and have added a paragraph or two on Roland Barthes (and the relationship between modern notions of authorship and the need for authority in early modern print culture) to the section on "Accessibility and Mystery."

Overall it's been an interesting experience. I've never really had an opportunity to write a collaborative essay and it's amazing how easily it can be done via the wiki we're using. It reminds me a lot of blogging.

April 11, 2010

odds and ends

Two new reviews in Stylus! (follow the links)

Retribution Gospel Choir - 2
Quite a good album, this one. And I'm not simply basing it on their fantastic band name. Sounds like Soundgarden crossed with Low.

Jookabox - Dead Zone Boys
Especially good if you have a thing for zombies, the end times, or Nine Inch Nails.

I'm flying to Arizona at the end of the month to visit my grandparents. Coincidentally, I've become totally obsessed with Gillian Welch's now classic album, Time (The Revelator), and its predecessor Hell Among the Yearlings. There's something very comforting and weirdly apocalyptic about Welch's Americana. Nothing quite captures the dust bowl like the banjo-twang of songs like "My First Lover" and the beaten-down spiritual, "Rock of Ages." Here's a video for the title track from Time (The Revelator). Best not to watch it if you're easily depressed.

April 3, 2010

the strangeness of Easter

“Theologies” of Easter only do their job, perhaps by their very theoretical untidiness, by their capacity to point back towards the disorienting “He is not here” of the very first Easter witness; back to the confusing narratives and the frustrating impossibility of pinning down and defining “the” Easter experience. . . .

The cross ceases to be an ideological weapon when it is recognized not only as mine but as a stranger’s; and it is the stranger whom we meet on Easter morning. To stop with Good Friday is to see the crucified simply reflecting back to me my own condition and even to remember the crucified, in the superficial sense, can merely leave us with a martyr for our cause. The women come on Easter morning to look for the corpse of a martyr and the find a void. If we come in search of the “God of our condition” at Easter, we shall not find him. . . . Holy Week may invite us to a certain identification with the crucified, Easter firmly takes away the familiar “fellow sufferer.” It does not even allow him to be a consoling memory, a past hero; he is not here because he is risen, because his life continues and is not to be sealed off with a “martyr’s” death. There is at Easter no Christ who simply seals our righteousness and innocence, no guarantor of our status, and so no ideological cross.

~ from Resurrection by Rowan Williams

April 2, 2010

Good Friday.

                 O My chief good,
How shall I measure out thy bloud?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?

Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one starre show’d thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?

Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or can not leaves, but fruit, be signe
Of the true vine?

Then let each houre
Of my whole life one grief devoure;
That thy distresse through all may runne,
And be my sunne.

Or rather let
My severall sinnes their sorrows get;
That as each beast his cure doth know,
Each sinne may so.

Since bloud is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloudie fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sinne:

That when sinne spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sinne may say,
No room for me, and flie away.

Sinne being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sinne take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.

~George Herbert