stickin’ to the man

check out this attempt to move beyond criticizing Capitalism…I feel like a new pair of shoes.

“For years, Nike was the undisputed champion of logo culture, its swoosh an instant symbol of global cool. Today, Phil Knight’s Nike is a fading empire, badly hurt by years of “brand damage” as activists and culture jammers fought back against mindfuck marketing and dirty sweatshop labor.

Now a final challenge. We take on Phil at his own game – and win. We turn the shoes we wear into a counterbranding game. The swoosh versus the anti-swoosh. Which side are you on?

Adbusters has been doing R&D for more than a year, and guess what? Making a shoe – a good shoe – isn’t exactly rocket science. With a network of supporters, we’re getting ready to launch the blackSpot sneaker, the world’s first grassroots anti-brand, with a ground-breaking marketing scheme to uncool Nike. If it succeeds, it will set a precedent that will revolutionize capitalism.”

More here.

thanks to the oozeblog for the tip.

a proposal

thank you all for the comments on the article I posted. a couple of important questions has been raised that I intend to address, and one that I want all of us to address.

the questions raised from my article are:

1) How does the particularity of Jesus ‘break out’ of the capitalist ideology (the Real of Capitalism)?

2) Where does the Church fit along the particular-universal line?

3) What is Love, and why does it ‘break out’ of capitalism?

and the question I want to raise for all of us is:

How does the Church break out of capitalism, or capitalist ideology?

I propose that you all write an answer (or on the way to an answer) on our various blogs (and then leave a comment here so we know). And if you have written previously on this topic, maybe you can re-post your entry of link it. And for those without a blog, just email it to me and i’ll post it…

maybe this could be the first joint project [grid blog] of the “sjlbvdnzv school of graduate studies“? [see side bar there…and anglo-baptist: spread the word!]

people and links: this weekend I was in Grand Rapids visiting my wife’s family. While there I was able to have breakfast with James K.A. Smith who teaches at Calvin College and recently published a book (Speech and Theology) with Radical Orthodoxy. I first heard about him through his article at the ooze concerning the ecomonics of the emerging church. I had a great time with him discussing the Emerging Church, Radical Orthodoxy, and the relation of both. also, he has started blogging and I think you all should know about it, so check it out here.

also, postmodern culture has come out with a new issue. I recommend looking though it (and past issues). In particular there is a review of slavoj zizek’s newest book which investigates the relation of “dialectic materialism” and “theology” toward a critique of “deconstructionism.” Zizek is basically saying that Deconstruction is simply the lastest liberal/capitalist ideology.

anyway, (thanks to stephen long) i’ve been reading through Zizek trying to figure out his relation to Christianity, and what we can learn from him, and this book is next. but I’ll write more about my interest in Zizek soon.

Community: beyond a western/pomo justification

now that title might sound a bit pretension, but here’s the scoop. As many of you know i’ve been trying to read beyond my white evangelical theology which currently is leading me through Hispanic America theologians. and here is one of my observations.

To put it simply, for postmodern westerners longing for a return to community the prime source is the inner life of the Trinity. I.e. the foundation of community is from above, springing from the tri-personal life of the Trinity. (You can see this at perichoresis and a recent discussion led by Stanely Grenz which i was part of).

Now from the hispanic american perspective i’ve noticed that the foundation for community is not the Trinity, but rather Christology (the practices of Jesus which affirm universal humanity). This is community from below.

Now of course these aren’t exclusive consideration or opposing perspective. But I do think it is interesting that white/pomo types look at the Trinity from the perspective of how it might inform their interpersonal/spiritual relationships, as means for moving beyond individualism, while the Hispanic thinkers look at the Trinity from the perspective of its socio-economic consequences (i.e how does power/love/sharing


so my question is, while trying to reclaim a communitarian theology through a retrieval of Trinitarian theology, are pomo westerners merely still perpetuating an apolitical “community” which continues to neglect the concerns of true community?

solidarity with Latin America

many of you have probably already seen robyn’s recent posts on latin america martyrs, but if you haven’t please do check them out. In postmodern theory, the is much talk about listening to marginal voices, and the discourses of the oppresses, so talk the time. They are a stunning portrayal of what God is doing outside of the American Empire. There are some long posts, but well worth the read.

Daily Life and the Eucharist

Daily Life and the Eucharist–So, how does this relate to the proverbial person in the pew? What difference does this have to do with our daily lives?

first off, the reason why Milbank’s proposal is appealing to me is that it sees the different images of atonement (ranson, sacrifice, victory) as linguistic metaphors rather than literal statements of Christ’s atonement. “Theories” of the atonement spring from taking one of these metaphors literally to the exclusion of the rest. I’m tired of all these theories of atonement. Where are the theories of reconciliation, or adoption? For this is where the gospel is headed…(interestingly, Milbank’s latest book is called “Being Reconciled” so maybe he feels the same).

Second, all Christian action (practical daily living) needs a frame of reference to give it meaning. But every action is preceeded by a “structuring of the world”, a defining of reality, which makes our actions meaningful. In this way the symbolic act of framing the world is before the physical act in the world. Our exchanging the sign of Forgiveness (which unites us to the person of Forgiveness) frames the world of all our action. The moment of language is before reality; the imagination before the action. (in this way we see how the Eucharist is more than mere rememberance, nor a spiritual feeling, although I would still want to affirm the significance of both).

third, eucharist as sign which doesn’t shift, sign of the same rather than perpetual difference and change. In a society of planned obselescence, consumer fickleness, and political double-speak, the Eucharist continues to signify the same, unchanging event, centering our reality.

lastly, in an age where we have left an understanding of the both “use-value” (the function of an object) and “exchange-value” (what we can buy/sell an object for)[Marx], and entered an age of “sign-value”[Baudrillard] where an object merely signifies something else, or something we aspire to (i.e. wealth, status, cultural sub-group identity; think of name brands and what they signifies. Thinking the Eucharist as linguistic sign allows it to enter into this dialogue and transform it, uniting use-, exchange-, sign-values b/c the element function as natural sustinance for the body, represents the exchange from death to life in Christ body, and is naturally a sign which we pass signifying the reality we aspire to.

The second and fourth aspects I think hold the most promise for connecting daily life with the Eucharistic practice. However, there is much more thinking that we all need to do on this.

recent changes

i’ve just changed/added some links to my side bar as well as adding the books i’m going through. check it out.

Eucharist as sign and practice

In my last post several tension where pointed out b/w the political and the cultic reading of Jesus in the Gospels. The first is that each doesn’t need the other to make sense. The second is that the political makes Jesus a repeatable model while the cultic makes Jesus a non-repeatable, “once and for all” representative/substitute. The third is that the political places Jesus within established practices while the cultic makes Jesus the founder of those practices. But as I said, Milbank argues that these tensions only occur when we look at the political/cultic, with attending Christologies and Atonement theories, separated from ecclesiology which in a sense arrives with Jesus, not after.

Now the tension we should focus on in relation to the Eucharist is the one b/w Jesus as either the repeatable example, or the “once and for all” substitute. For either we enter into the practice of Jesus, repeating and extending his politics of forgiveness/atonement, accomplishing the work Jesus began (which is the liberal perspective), or we affirm the finality of Jesus’ atonement, a “once and for all” act of substitution to which we can add nothing, and therefore cannot repeat (the conservative perspective).

Milbank’s proposal simultaneously affirms both perpsective, noting that the Eucharist also affirms both. To begin with the “once and for all” nature of Jesus’ atonement slides into the realm of language. As Milbank says, Jesus is our “substitute”, “representative” on the cross precisely b/c “he becomes totally a sign,… transformed into a perfect metaphor of forgiveness. Only because of Thursday’s symbolic act of kenosis into a world of signs without power, is Jesus able on Friday to activate this sign in his body…This means that metaphors of atonement–‘ransom’, ‘sacrifice’, ‘victory’–are not to be taken realistically, as approximations to an ‘atonement in itself’, an invisible eternal transction happening between God and humanity. Instead, these metaphors represent the actual happening of atonement as a meaning in language.” So, in this linguistic perpsective, in the Eucharist we are exchanging the ‘sign’ of Jesus body which stands in for us as the “once and for all” substitute for us (and signs in language are meant to substitute/represent what is not immediately present). This is Milbank’s reconfiguration of the cultic.

But in relation to the political he says, “If Jesus’ death is efficacious, not just as the offering of an enabling sign, but also as a meterial reality, then this is because it is the inauguration of the ‘political’ practice of forgiveness…This practice (of forgiveness) is itself continuing atonement.” And if this is right, then “it follows that for atonement to be materilly efficacious it cannot be “once and for all”, like the sign or metaphor of atonement, but must be continuously renewed.” From this he concludes that the Church is both the “transmission of the signs of atonement, and the repetition of the atoning practices.”

And to bring be to where I wanted to go with this, Milbank says the Eucharist is both of these aspects at once. In the Eucharist we are exchanging the sign of Christ body and blood which signifies the accomplished act of atonement on our behalf. The cultic sacrifice has been accomplished. But also, in the elements which represent the Body of Chirst, we find ourselves represented as his Body the Church, not separate from him, and therefore enter into his work of atonement, repeating it weekly (or monthly) hoping to find the strength to repeat his work of forgiveness at every moment. (in a sense we are offering ourselves as sacrifices throught the elements, this is Augustine’s view which I mentioned in the Three Bodies post.) For only through our repetition of Jesus atonement can that atonement becomes a material reality here and now.

So in summary (well, all this has been summary, and a not too cojent one) in the Eucharist we appropriate the “once and for all” nature of Jesus’ atonement through exchanging the sign of his Body and Blood, and we enter into his repeatable example through his Body and Blood.

While Milbank’s presentation might not be convincing at all points, his linguistic approach to the Eucharist is very interesting, as well as his linking of the cultic and political. (but i’m not sure i’ve address some of the question for the last post, sorry.) Later I’ll reflect on the practical significance for all this, how it relates to people in my congregation. what do you all think?

political/cultic Jesus and the Eucharist

this post accomplanies my “three bodies of Christ” as I’m exploring my sacramental theology (w/ echos back to the worship/community/individual discussion). This will be in two parts: the first an outline of tensions; the second the Eucharistic resolution.

When we come to the gospels two reading of jesus emerge, the political and the cultic. And when taking the cultic route we generally presuppose Christological and Atonement doctrines. When coming from these two perspectives several tensions emerge.First, the political (his teachings/practice) doesn’t need the cultic (sacrificial death); and the cultic (bloody atonement) doesn’t really to be supplemented by the political. Second, the political reading makes Jesus an example, a model, a repeatable figure who we follow (continuity); but the cultic reading makes Jesus the represetative, substitute, non-repeatable second Adam (discontinuity). Third, the political reading see Jesus as entering into established practices of love, justice, and forgiveness such that he is merely an instantiation of the universal standard; while the cultic reading sees Jesus as the founder, establisher of these practices of love, justice, forgivenss. But these tensions only occur when we look at the political/cultic, with attending Christologies and Atonement theories, separated from ecclesiology.

In his essay “The Name of Jesus” (in The Word Made Strange), which I have been summarizing above, John Milbank seeks to move beyond a merely political (liberal) and cultic (conservative) reading of the gospels, while still upholding the a type of high Chistology and Atonement. His basic premise is that “Christological and Atonement doctrines…are theoretically secondary to definitions of the character of the new universal community or Church.” These doctrines are the end of an argument concerning the nature of the church, and what happen through Jesus.

He says, “The gospels can be read, not as the story of Jesus, but as the story of the (re)foundation of a new city, a new kind of human community,” and we must therefore make an ecclesiological deduction of the incarnation and the atonment. In a sense, Jesus arrives with the Church. Jesus is presented as the founder (beginning) and the culmination (end) of the new community. He is both the seed and the tree; the foundation and the temple; the cornerstone and the capstone; the head and the body.

When we focus on Milbank’s ecclesial deduction of the atonement we can see how he links together the politic and cultic and how it bears on our understanding of the Eucharist. As we will see, the Cross and the Eucharist represent and inaugarate both a new meaning in language (the passing of signs) and a new political practices.

but enough for today. sorry its so heady.