According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Not Letting Go of Your Vision When Failure Comes and Bitterness Fills Our Hearts

As always Pete hits the subject dead-on. The only answer is to accept defeat. Learn from failure. Reject bitterness. Accept reality. And trust God to bless the works of our hands, the prayers of our lips, the pureness of our heart's devotion to serving Jesus each and every day whether at home, work, ministry or the world-at-large. All things are of God. We are but clay in the Potter's hands. Vessels to be used in the ministration of God's grace. Whether ornate or banged up the vessel does not matter. It is God's Spirit that we pour out. And it is this self-same Spirit that will minister to us at the end of the day when dreams and hopes are shattered and we cease to dream or hope any longer.

R.E. Slater
December 28, 2011

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Revolutionary Potential of the Actually Existing Church

by Pete Rollins
posted December 9, 2011



I was recently reading Slavoj Zizek’s excellent essay “The Ambiguity of the Masochist Social Link” and was struck by his reflection on how symptoms can represent forgotten failures to act. I would like to reflect upon this in relation to what we see in so much of the actually existing church today.

In order to approach this subject let us begin by taking the example of a man who drinks to excess, neglects his children and mistreats his partner. What do these symptoms betray? All too often they are the direct manifestation of a previous (forgotten) failure to act. Let us flesh the example out by imagining that this individual once, as a young man, had dreams of being an artist, that he married a woman he deeply loved hoping that together they would travel the world and that he longed to create a culturally rich environment within which a child could grow. In this fictional example let us imagine that the first year of their marriage was difficult. That they had a child before they were ready, lacked resources to travel and had to get jobs they detested in order to make ends meet. At different times decisions could have been made, risks taken etc. that might have taken their lives in a better, more emancipatory, direction. But these were missed and now an unhealthy relationship exists, one full of pain, suffering, self-abuse and the abuse of others. The symptoms then testify to something missed, to past failures that now make themselves know in oppressive material actions.

The revolutionary move here involves the courage to bring to mind the failures to act that lie behind the present symptoms and repeat history: attempting to relive those moments, but this time without the failures to act. Of course, it may well be impossible (just as it may have been impossible in the first place; the point is that we often have to fail many times before we stand any chance of actually succeeding).

In the same way the violence and destructive behaviour that one sees in so much of the actually existing contemporary church should not be so quickly dismissed as evidence of a poison at the heart of Christianity itself, but rather can be approached as the sign of a revolutionary potential at the heart of Christianity which has been missed.

Often the people who engage in the most destructive and reprehensible behaviour are the ones who began with the biggest dreams of transformation. Behind the drunk at the local bar, or the cynical money-maker who would step over anyone to get ahead, there is often a story of some idealistic youth who believed that the broken world could be rendered wonderful with a little work. In such situations it is the failure to enact such a world, to be a part of its birth, that leads people to the darkest of places (while those without such Utopian ideas just potter along without the highs of success or the lows of failure).

When we see the church institution engaged in the most horrible of abuses we should rightly be sickened and want to see it implode. However some of us also see, in the very abuse itself, the hint of a failure to act, a failure to embrace some elusive liberating potential.

It is this that lies at the heart of the ‘pyro-theology’ I explore in Insurrection. There is no doubt that the book is critical of the actually existing church in its dominant form, but the wager is that the symptoms we see played out are not evidence of a rotten core at the heart of the Christ event, but rather hint at the failure to live into the radical, emancipatory space it opens up.

The underlying argument then is that we must repeat the church so that we might repeat the moment of where the failure to act happened and then act. The danger, and it is a danger of the most extreme form, is that we will simply repeat the failure to act and become as destructive and reactive as the Institution we attempt to overthrow (at best we achieve a little more than before and fail to act elsewhere – which can be seen to be taking place in the various moments of historical reformation). But I for one am still willing to take the risk. And if we fail? Well let us hope that those who come after us, our children, our students, our disciples, will not.


Post a Comment
  1. Daisha says:
    Excellent post. Thank you! Looking forward to the book.
    Dx
  2. Monicalyn says:
    Thanks for this important reminder. Too often, those of us who’ve been hurt by the church forget that others who are broken and hurting stumble towards that building and find love and hope inside.
  3. Very interesting. To what extent is it necessary to plumb the past for missed opportunities and necessities to act? My guess is that being aware of the possibility of the need to repair the past is a place to start, but that the main focus needs to be awareness of how we need to act today. A congregation can find the courage to act in a crisis, and it will be redemptive and life-giving. But yesterday’s courageous act brings us to today with its own challenge that calls us to a new act of courage.
  4. Lyle Taffs says:
    G’day Pete. We’ve all made bad choices mate. the amazing thing is that even in a dysfunctional church (and world) grace still works to break the cycle and helping us to avoid the’repetition compulsion’. Otherwise, in an existentialist sense, why bother to be a Christian? Idealism is often a polite word for ‘perfectionism’ which is well known as a pathology and as such eventually produces fruit after its kind. Hey! How do we “repeat church”? I also hope you don’t fail!! so find some worthy mentors to keep your feet on the ground mate. Great blog again Pete but what about a thoughtful dialogue with Peter Bannister? Cheers from ‘down under’.
  5. Jordan says:
    Try again, fail again, fail better.
  6. David Steenberg says:
    This reminds me of what I’ve heard you say about our self-fictions, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are despite the more authentic story written in our actions. The self-fictions become a way to gloss over the past failure(s) to act, a bridge, if you will, spanning the gap between what we could have been had we acted, and who we are because we didn’t. In that sense, the symptoms of the failure to act become the counter-melody to our self-fiction, and in that way can drive the movement of our life towards authenticity.
  7. James says:
    You have more hope than I, but keep doing what you’re doing.
  8. Margaret says:
    This and your next post I think are linked. On the one hand the church can get so bogged down in the everyday it doesn’t see the opportunity or act, sometimes people confuse Jesus with Father Christmas and expect the church to be there for them and them only, but also there are those who enter church looking for the “Thing” too. There are many who catch the fire of Jesus and come in looking for a world to conquer and rid of evil in his name, but either burn out because no one shares their view, or they gradually get sucked into the everyday and lose the vision they had. Their happiness is stolen too, and disillusion makes them happy/sad to see the church fail, but when it does succeed, their response can be skeptical/cautiously optimistic. Any opportunity to act is seen, but previous experience has left them cynical and unwilling to be bitten again, and always there is this love/hate attitude.
    “Pyro-theology” as I understand it is valuable in that it recognises weaknesses in the church, but also talks of constant renewing, changing and starting over when the junk has been burnt off. I dare say it, and other initiatives like it, will have something to do with the church limping its way further on into the 21st century. Let’s hope so.