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IndieFaith Blog
Tuesday, 20 June 2006
Moving Day
Alright crew in case you haven't been informed I've packed up and moved. let's go . . .

Posted by indie/faith at 9:11 PM EDT
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Saturday, 17 June 2006
Me and the Koran
What I find interesting in my continued reading of the Koran is the ongoing emphasis on the unity of the Abrahamic expressions

Believers, Jews, Sabaeans and Christians – whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does what is right – shall have nothing to fear or regret.

However, emerging alongside this emphasis is the clarification of such and understanding.

Unbelievers are those that say: ‘God is the Messiah, the son of Mary.’ For the Messiah himself said: ‘Children of Israel, serve God, my Lord and your Lord.’ He that worships other deities besides God, God will deny him Paradise, and Fire shall be his home.

Though the rhetoric may change I still find this to have basic similarities in to Western society in which a range of basic ‘beliefs’ are accepted so long as they remain within the boundaries of the dominant expression’s interpretation. A good Canadian liberal (as I have experienced him/her in the media) will embrace Christianity so long as tows a particular social party-line.

If my comments have any credibility then perhaps it could said that at least Islam's fundamental beliefs allow for greater clarity in these boundaries. Also I am in no way saying that the Koran would then lead a Muslim towards any sort of aggressive action against the 'unbeliever'.

Let me have it on this one if I am using way too many stereo-types. I am pretty-much out of field of knowledge here.

Posted by indie/faith at 12:09 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 17 June 2006 12:09 PM EDT
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Sunday, 11 June 2006
The Limits of Tolerance?
The native protest over disputed land-claims in Caledonia has gone on for over 100 days now. The situation has received some but surprisingly little national attention. Caledonia is situated right next to the Six Nations reserve and natives from this community decided to occupy a piece of land under development in protest of how said land was acquired by the government. The most recent incident to make news was an altercation between news media and native protesters. It was claimed that a handful of protesters surrounded a vehicle and began intimidating the riders at which time two CH cameramen began taping the situation. The protesters demanded they hand over the camera. The cameramen refused and the protesters physically attacked them and wrestled the camera away from them. One of the cameramen was sent to hospital. The local concern (that incidentally appears to be underplayed in the national media is that when the protesters attacked the cameramen there were up to 10 or 15 O.P.P. officers in the vicinity who saw the incident but did nothing to intervene. I find this situation somewhat ironic given my previous post. I wonder what Canada’s response would be if a similar protest was staged by the Muslim population in which explicit and violent illegal acts occurred (whether or not those acts represented the whole)? Native issues continue to be Canada’s dirty little secret because it is “only” an internal problem and has not been considered important enough or perhaps dangerous enough to be given more attention. However, the Canadian government continues to be “tolerant” in allowing some flexibility in how and when laws are enforced. The fear of course in this incident is to have another incident like Ipperwash were a native protester was shot and killed.
The question that comes to my mind is how far we can tolerate certain expressions (whether they are social, religious, political, or otherwise) before this toleration inflicts intolerance on other groups. In Caledonia the government’s reluctance to step in decisively has caused property damage, financial loses, broken relationships, and now physical harm. There is a part of me that begins to understand the US position of “American first above all” and the attempted hard-line approach of their immigration issues. But this does not seem right either. Are these simply damnable situations?

Posted by indie/faith at 1:47 PM EDT
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Thursday, 8 June 2006
Me and Islam
I wonder if we Anglo-Western-Christians have yet come to realize the presence of Islam in the world. This reflection comes from a number of personal influences. First, I caught a brief documentary by the CBC tracking the political and social response towards the rise of Islam in such countries as England and Holland. Emerging in these countries is an awareness that ‘diversity’ has limits and that tolerance only functions among those who agreed upon what should be tolerated. I don’t know enough of the details regarding these situations to elaborate further, however, an image is emerging in which a social alternative is being lived alongside a particular status quo. What strikes me is the (perhaps unfortunate) validation of such thinkers as Stanley Hauerwas who have criticized Western culture for its ‘myth of neutrality’ in which a governing body simply provides the context in which diverse individuals and groups may coexist. CBC made Holland a pointed and ironic example with its generally “loose” views on other social practices. Canada, I believe to its credit, has wrestled with possibility of multiculturalism. However, looking at the dissatisfaction of many French Canadians or Aboriginals the reality of multiculturalism may be questioned (see my Boundary and Presence). To the mix Canada will likely need to pay increasing attention to the presence of Islam within its borders. I really know very little of the social and religious expressions of Islam. This leads to my second personal influence.

I have begun reading the Koran. The genre strikes me as an interwoven mix of Law, Prophecy, and Wisdom in the way it moves from prescription to critique coupled with terse maxims. What is missing so far is any sense of narrative flow. People and history are alluded to but are not developed or integrated into a discernable whole (again I have not read very far). What surprised me most is the reasonableness of the text. So far I find the Koran much more reasonable than the Bible. There is an even-handedness to its method. Idolaters are of course far from God. However, Jews and Christians are to be engaged with discernment. Those who reflect the qualities of Abraham are to be respected. Rather than attacking Judaism and Christianity I find the Koran validating Islam as an appropriate response to the one God. In this way the Koran appears to provide space for the world religions so long as they reflect the basic truths of monotheism as revealed to Abraham. With an almost modern tone of tolerance the Koran reads (with respect to Judaism and Christianity),

We (God) have ordained a law and assigned a path for each of you (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Had God pleased, He could have made of you one community: but it is his wish to prove you by that which He has bestowed upon you. Vie with each other good works, for God to God shall you all return and He will resolve the differences among you.

I hope to offer more reflection and comments as I continue this reading.

Posted by indie/faith at 9:18 PM EDT
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Sunday, 14 May 2006
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-05) Max Weber puts forward the thesis that the spirit of modern capitalism was nurtured in developing models of Protestant asceticism (i.e. Calvinism, Puritanism, Methodism, etc.) which demanded not a retreat from the world but a march into the world where each individual must be equipped with a personal sense of calling which, as a worldly form of monasticism, forms a rational framework for all of life. A fundamental characteristic of this “calling” is the need to reflect the fruit of election or salvation. This view resulted in the rejection of Catholic “magic” in which sacraments gave evidence and assurance of salvation. Thus evidence was sought in work and actions of the everyday life. Someone in the communion of God must demonstrate a different life than the unsaved. As an ascetic movement all of a person’s life was to be included in their calling. This left idleness (the wasting of time) to be one of the greatest sins for this reflected a lack of calling or a lack of pursuing God’s calling. The wealthy were not exempt from this (wealth generally only condemned as it to led to laziness). In this way an industrious people were cultivated who pursued excellence in their calling (including greater production and efficiency) and the rejection of frivolity (a frugality that did not indulge in worldly pleasures). Weber argues that this culminates in Benjamin Franklin’s maxim “Time is money”.

Near the conclusion of his work Weber offers an interesting quote by John Wesley that encapsulates much of his developed thesis.

“I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. . . . Is there no way to prevent this – this continual decay of pure religion? We ought not to prevent people being diligent and frugal; we must exhort all Christians to gain all they can, and to save all they can; that is, in effect, to grow rich.”

This of course is followed with the admonishment to give all one can as well. And this is something that I have been struck with recently. I have recurrent thoughts that it would have been good to develop a business in which I could provide quality employment and products to whichever community I belonged.

The issue raised for me and in Weber is how central economic activity is to one’s calling from God. It will take me further reflection to understand why, until recently, economic activity was almost entirely marginal to my quest for God’s calling. However, according to Weber, economic activity became a primary model of exhibiting the fruit of God’s calling.

Weber concludes prophetically,
“The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did it part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. In Baxter’s view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the ‘saint like a light coat, which can be thrown aside at any moment.’ But fate decreed that the cloak should be become an iron cage.”

Posted by indie/faith at 7:50 PM EDT
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Sunday, 30 April 2006
Can Revelation Be Anything But Special?
I have believed for a long-time that revelation has ceased. Now why have I believed this? It strikes me that I have believed this in the same way that I believed my sister when she told me that a tree would be begin growing in my stomach if I swallowed my bubble gum (I think I may have melded two warnings together here). Why oh why would revelation have ceased? Sure evangelicals allow the category of “general” revelation. This is revelation accessible to all through nature or reason. This is the inferior and almost useless of the various revelations. The evangelical quickly qualifies it; “This is revelation, BUT it is not enough to bring someone to a knowledge of God.”
Hmmm . . .

Then there is “special” revelation. This is the revelation recorded in the Bible. Questions of textual criticism and canonization aside I no longer understand this doctrine. I hope I am not being too trendy or critical but I see this doctrine as relating to issues of control. No one else can claim to have experienced the truth of God unless it can be directly reconciled to some passage of scripture. The irony for me is that the more I read the Bible the more I understand the Bible to be stepping out of the way for the living holy presence of God as the powerful red letters of Jesus tell us to realize that we cannot find eternal life by searching scripture.

I can’t help but think that this understanding of revelation has impoverished the evangelical church especially when it comes to the arts. I see us (I too am evangelical) setting up the elaborate structure of the Tabernacle. However, we ourselves huddle in the Holy of Holies, finding sanctuary from the ambiguity and chaos of the outside world. We choose this ordering because we believe that our understanding of God is the most stable and true. This choice is contrasted when we place at the centre of our significance and life the rupturing and terrible presence of the seemingly empty space between the Cherubim, that holiness concentrated but not contained.

In art, I believe at its best, we lay prostrate before emerging and often revolutionary images of reality. Now revolution has become co-opted and consumerized, much the same way “special” revelation has, we trade in it daily to keep us in the style we are accustomed to. Where now can the Christian seek to come into the presence of God? I ask this because I am coming to believe that revelation is on the loose. God help us.

Posted by indie/faith at 5:34 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 30 April 2006 5:37 PM EDT
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Sunday, 23 April 2006
Boundary and Presence
Well it has been some time now. Work can quickly become life, and non-work simply becomes rest with little time or energy for anything else. Regardless life is good.

I woke up Thursday morning and turned on AM 900, a pretty good little talk radio station (always a little right-wing, but not too right-wing). It was 5:30 in the morning and the morning show hosts said that police had just been dispatched to the native protest in Caledonia (I believe this made national headlines). Caledonia is small town neighboring Canada’s largest native reserve. Some native people moved onto a section of land under development claiming it was rightfully theirs. This was interesting, but all the more interesting to me as I knew that I would have to drive through Caledonia to pick some materials for work that morning.
As I approached the small picturesque town (most small towns in southern Ontario seem to at least be quaint) I realized that I would need to turn before reaching the disputed area. As good grace would have it there was construction at my turn-off. I could have turned around and tried another route but I thought, “Why not go a little further?” Before I knew it a scene emerged ahead of me where large trucks were pulled across the highway, gravel was dumped on it, black smoke billowed into the sky (I found out later that these may have indeed functioned as 'smoke signals'), police cars and officers were scattered throughout the town, and radio reports offered contradicting reports of what happened ('force' has used on both sides of the conflict).
It struck me that this story would have had little to no impact on me had I not come into its presence.
Most of life is lived in well maintained boundaries. And indeed this must be so. Our bodies only function within the boundaries of our skin. The difference of form whether in art, language, or culture only exists with boundaries. However, to engage with life around us things must pass through or boundaries. Air must enter our lungs, food our stomach, and, well, other things must enter other things for life as know it to continue. It is this largely this final unspoken (or overspoken) reality of sex that bridges our concepts of the seen and the unseen boundaries. In our sexuality we carry the greatest possibilities of triumph and terror. Here accepted frameworks of belief and practice strain under the force of our god-like but fallen selves.
Our sexuality does not and will not lay down to prescribed categories, and here I return to Caledonia. The native position (as I have witnessed it) is one where, for whatever other complexities are involved, a people have not lived along the boundaries set for them. If the national government is our “body” then with the native community there exists the constant possibility of haemorrhaging. The native “bloodline” will flow along its given channels until it is met with obstruction (the police moving in Thursday morning). Caledonia began to throb with the possibility that its citizen’s established life was no longer tenable in the relation to native reserve it bordered.
What I reflected on was that this carried with it the great and terrible possibility of holiness. Those in its path would either be cleansed in its flow or charred in its wake. In any event, that morning was a reminder that we live largely to insulate ourselves from such possibilities. Most experiences with the intimate realities of another can at best be called “raw.” This was not so for the Israelites. While both the Tabernacle and Temple were highly ordered structures they existed for the express purpose inviting or perhaps enduring the holy presence of God. But Christians believe that the Temple curtain has been torn and holiness is on the prowl, hugging the walls of constructed social forms pressing at seams, unrelenting in its movement and engagement with us. As an evangelical I need to discard irreverent notions of achieved holiness. “Be holy as I am holy.” This is not a call to action. This is only one of two possible options. Be holy as I am holy, or as with the sons of Aaron, be consumed as I come into your presence as I find the gate to the Temple of your body.

Posted by indie/faith at 2:13 PM EDT
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Thursday, 23 March 2006
The Antichrist - Part 1
Awhile back I planned to address some of the critiques of Christianity that shaped the Twientieth century. Nietzsche's Antichrist is certainly one of those critiques. I remember first trying to read The Antichrist a year or two out of high school. I was at home working on the farm for summer. We had this little area of the yard that was sort of like a camp-site. There was a fire pit, picnic table, and good place to set up a tent, so I did. I set up a tent and every evening I would make a fire do some reading and sleep in the tent (man, I forgot what great set-up that was). I started reading the Antichrist and found myself simply pulled along by the force of his persuasive words. I thought to myself that perhaps the Christian story was all silliness and archaic. I had never really heard someone blatantly attack Christianity before and I had no rebuttal. It was amazing how easily such thoughts were stirred in my mind. What made this event so striking is that very next night when I went out of my parent’s house to the tent it was already dark. As a good small town Mennonite I had been formed in way that guilt can strike with paralyzing force. And as I walked out into the darkness I was struck by an overwhelming sense of fear of God’s presence. The image that came to mind was Jacob wrestling with Esau. I prayed fervently, “God I do not want to wrestle with you tonight.” I literally felt like a hand would emerge from the shadow, come over my shoulder and pull me to the ground. Was this God reminding me of his presence? . . . I don’t think so. Writing now I am struck anew by the force of “persuasion”. I am convinced that we may learn from Nietzsche’s critique. However, his greatest impact comes in the force of his presentation. As walked out of my house the next night I was struck by the accumulation of guilt and shame that my Christian formation had no way of responding to. This too was persuasion. It was the persuasion of accusation, of the Accuser and so, ironically, another encounter with the Antichrist.

Posted by indie/faith at 7:29 PM EST
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Thursday, 9 March 2006
Raskolnikov's Dream
Before any of you get the impression of Dostoyevsky as the sentimental love-struck author here is another moving passage towards the end of Crime and Punishment. Throughout the book Raskoknikov suffers with a type of feverish illness which makes his perception hazy. In the prison hospital in Siberia Raskolnikov remembers the dreams which he had while in fever induced delirium.

“Raskolnikov was in hospital during the last weeks of Lent and Easter week. When convalescing, he remembered the dreams he had while running a high temperature and in delirium. He dreamt the whole world was ravaged by an unknown and terrible plague that had spread across Europe from the depths of Asia. All except a few chosen ones were doomed to perish. New kinds of germs – microscopic creatures which lodged in the bodies of men – made their appearance. But these creatures were spirits endowed with reason and will. People who became infected with them at once became mad and violent. But never had people considered themselves as wise and as strong in their pursuit of truth as these plague-ridden people. Never had thought their decisions, their scientific conclusions, and their moral convictions so unshakable or incontestably right. Whole villages, whole towns and peoples became infected and went mad. They were in a state of constant alarm. They did not understand each other. Each of them believed that the truth only resided in him, and was miserable looking at others, and smote his breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know whom to put on trial or how to pass judgment; they could not agree what was good or what was evil. They did not know whom to accuse or whom to acquit. Men killed each other in a kind of senseless fury. They raised whole armies against each other; but these armies, when already on the march, began suddenly to fight amongst themselves, their ranks broke, and the soldiers fell upon one another, bayoneted and stabbed each other, bit and devoured each other. In the cities the tocsin was sounded all day long: they called everyone together, but no one knew who had summoned them or why they had been summoned, and all were in a state of great alarm. The most ordinary trades were abandoned because everyone was propounding his own theories, offering his own solutions, and they could not agree; they gave up tilling the ground. Here and there people gathered in crowds, adopted some decision and vowed not to part, but they immediately started doing something else, something quite different from what they had decided. And they began to accuse each other, fought and killed each other. Fires broke out; famine spread. Wholesale destruction stalked the earth. The pestilence grew and spread farther afield. Only a few people could save themselves in the whole world: those were the pure chosen ones, destined to start a new race of men and a new life, to renew and purify the earth, but no had ever seen these people, no had heard their words or their voices.”

Growing up on a farm I suppose what struck me here was nestled in the midst of people stabbing and devouring each other on the one hand and “wholesale destruction” on the other is the simple line, “they gave up tilling the ground.” The question was asked on my “Rose Machine” post whether the greenhouse I work in has “soil”. I suppose the short is yes there is soil, but there is certainly no land to grow flowers and I also question whether there is earth. Containers of prepared “soil” are shipped in and flowers are grown analogously to our society and to our TV’s (pre-plasma). Soil in the greenhouse is pixelated. Each flower grows independently of the other. At first glance there is an image of unity across the flower “beds”. However, like looking closer at your TV screen it becomes apparent that the whole is composed of entirely independent units offering an illusion of the whole. This is no integrated body. The individual is managed to control the whole. Hmmmm . . . tilling the ground, more to reflect on here (a fertile topic :))

Posted by indie/faith at 9:24 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 9 March 2006 9:27 PM EST
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Sunday, 5 March 2006
Crime, Punishment, and Repentance
I just finished reading Crime and Punishment. There is simply not enough good that can be said about Dostoyevsky. For any of you who would like to read this book and savour the anticipation please don't read on, it may well spoil it for you.

The book revolves around Raskolinkov, a young intellectual who has discontinued schooling for lack of funds. The story tracks his struggle with the consequences of murdering an old woman who was a money-lender (and subsequently her daughter who comes in during the act). The murder is committed to raise support for further endeavours. His idea is that many “great” men in history have conquered others to further their cause, and surely the murder of an insignificant pawn-broker would pale in comparison to such acts as that of a Napoleon.
A significant movement in this book is how Raskolnikov deals with the reality of his “idea”. The following events torment him mentally and physically, not because of the “guilt” of what he has done but because of the arbitrariness of how the world interprets all our actions. They condemn him only because he did not succeed in his plan.
Into his life comes Sonia. This is someone who understands the world’s judgment and commits herself to Raskolnikov. The book culminates in repentance. However, nowhere does Dostoyevsky indicate that Raskolnikov repents of his murder. Rather, he understands that he has not loved and now he does love. Sonia has loved him, and while he sensed it earlier only now does he himself love. He is re-born into love. And so in one of the concluding paragraphs,

“And what did all, all the torments of the past amount to now? Everything, even his crime, even his sentence and punishment appeared to him now, in the first transport of feeling, a strange extraneous event that did not seem even to have happened to him. But he could not think long and continuously that evening or concentrate on anything. Besides, now he would hardly have been able to solve any of his problems consciously; he could only feel. Life had taken the place of dialectics, and something quite different had to work itself out in his mind.”

In many ways this reminds me of the pleas of Kierkegaard who says that there is an aspect of engaging life irreducible to conceptual analysis.

Posted by indie/faith at 4:29 PM EST
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