Monday, April 13, 2009


I am about to do something that is harder than I thought.  I am shutting down IndieFaith (in addition to my facebook account and RSS feeds).  I have no grand or dramatic reason for this only that I am trying to take more and more things out of my life.
I wish you all well as I you will no longer hear from me and I will no longer be reading you.
I am hoping to not to fill this online time with anymore activities (I have a feeling that will be difficult).  A best case senario is that my life can be filled with a little more prayer and a little more starely peacefully out into the world.



Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Reflection on Rage and Praise

Why do the nations rage?

Likely a rhetorical question for the psalmist but I want to let that question stand for a moment. I can clearly remember a time when I was at my grandma’s apartment probably in junior high or younger. A few of my relatives were gathered watching TV. As we flipped through channels we came across Much Music or MTV and there was a music video for some metal band like Slayer. It was heavy, hard music and the video was of a large group of people in a cage and they were raging within it; shaking, rocking the cage as the music played. I can remember my uncle saying something like, “See the rebellion of this generation.” What he did not do was ask why were they raging, against what or who were they raging? This is not a question to justify actions because there is little we can do well when gripped by anger but the question should give us pause and help us to think of the internal and external environment that nurtures anger.

John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath can be read at least in part as a meditation on the origins and complexities of anger. The story begins in Oklahoma at the start of the Great Depression. The Joad family attempts to hold on to their farm but as conditions worsen they become allured to the promise of land and work in California. As they travel across the American southwest towards California they begin to see how deep and widespread the hardships are for other Americans. Then as they draw closer to the promised land of California some of the family members begin to wonder whether there will be enough work for everyone. And sure enough arriving in California they are greeted by multitudes, waves of other families who were also hoping for work and a new life. Steinbeck presents the mounting desperation of those who are scrambling for any type of work they can find. He describes the wealthy farms and businesses profiting off of these people. He paints a picture of the hostility that the locals showed towards these foreigners who threaten to take their jobs. These migrant people were pressed on all sides. The locals fought the migrants out of fear and anger for losing what little they had. The migrants fought to under bid each other to secure what little work there was. Steinbeck writes,

“The roads were crowded with men ravenous for work, murderous for work. And the companies, the banks worked at their own doom and they did not know it. The fields were fruitful, and starving men moved on the roads. . . . The great companies did not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line. And money that might have gone to wages went for gas, for guns, for agents and spies, for blacklists, for drilling. On the highways the people moved like ants and searched for work, for food. And the anger began to ferment.”

But anger is not the final word in Steinbeck’s vision. Like the in the psalms rage is not given infinite space to consume and destroy. Rage instead is released into the confines of liturgy. And within this space it is transformed. This is the sort of transformation that Tom Joad experiences in The Grapes of Wrath. The family’s and indeed the country’s situation spirals downward throughout the novel. Tensions and anger increase as work and pay decrease. The Joad family’s friend Casy, an old preacher, who travelled with them started to organize some workers to try and strike so that they can hold out for a liveable wage. Farm owners caught wind of this and begin to hunt those organizing strikes. One night Tom finds Casy who is trying lead a group of migrant workers in a strike.

A group of men come and surround them and eventually kill Casy. Tom losses control of himself becomes enraged and kills one of those men in return. The pure reality of his anger that culminated in that moment lashed out in death against that man. In fear of the trouble that he would bring to his family Tom goes into hiding. His family is still able to bring him food but he no longer interacts with the outside world, the world structured in anger and violence. Tom’s hiding spot acts like a monk’s cell as he is forced into a type of reflective patience thinking about what is going on around him. As he says later to his mother, “you get thinkin’ a lot when you ain’t movin’ aourn.”

Towards the end of the book Tom’s mother brings him some food and she is invited into his small den. Tom begins to articulate to her a vision of how the people could restore their quality of life and work together again. Tom’s mother warns him that this will be dangerous and he might end up like Casy did. Tom does not claim to know all the details of what should unfold but knows that his life needs to be offered in the service of another order. The words and actions of the unorthodox preacher Casy and the circumstances of the world around him began to form a type of litany in the den where he stayed.

He knew that his life was now in the order of the people not of power. His anger was transformed into liturgy, a higher ordering. In the climax of the conversation Tom’s mother is concerned about him going off on his own. She asks how she will know whether he is okay or not, alive or dead. Tom laughs uneasily and says,

“Well, maybe its like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big on – an’ then – ” Then what, Tom’s mother asks. “Then it don’ matter. Then I’ll be aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where – wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be the way guys yell when they’re mad an – I’ll be the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build – why, I’ll be there.”

Tom’s anger was transformed so that his life now became a part of a new order. This is the vision of Psalm 2. There is an anointed one of God, a child of God, already enthroned in this new world. This Kingdom is achieved not through the immature or violent outburst of anger but through entering into communion with God and neighbour.

So why do the nations rage? We do we rage? Our anger can lead us to control and violence. Instead, in our anger we should not sin. Like Tom may we find ourselves drawn or even forced outside the world that fuels our anger so that in patience God would transform us to be love in the midst of those things we once hated. That we might be peace in the midst of all that rages. That the anointed one of God would be rule in our hearts and to the end of the earth.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Another World

Having fled the cold of the north I am writing this post in the comfortable shade of the sunny retirement haven of Yuma Arizona visiting my parents.  A few recent thoughts and experiences have converged which I would like to reflect on.  Last week Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo hosted its annual School for Ministers.  The keynote speaker was Duke University’s newly minted professor of homiletics.  He talked at length about the foolishness of both the Gospel and also the foolishness of preaching.  He drew his inspiration from court jesters and holy fools.  He spoke about those risky and vulnerable people who turned ideas and norms on their head.  These were people who had no ‘real’ power and so they subverted power through creative resistance.  Overturning dominant ideas and cultures is also, partially, the theme of Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life which I have just begun to read.  In his introduction de Certeau introduces what he calls rhetorical tactics.  He refers specifically to the Sophists who were known for making the ‘weaker’ position appear ‘stronger’.  In his book as I understand it de Certeau will analyze the different manners of ‘consuming’ in relation to dominant and marginal expressions.  What I think he means by this is how we appropriate and re-appropriate our culture’s ‘raw materials’. De Certeau looks to the indigenous people’s response to Spanish colonizers as an example. 
“Submissive, and even consenting to their subjection, the Indians [sic] nevertheless often made of the rituals, representations, and laws imposed on them something quite different from what their conquerors had in mind; they subverted them not be rejecting or altering them, but by using them with respect to ends and references foreign to the system they had no choice but to accept.”
Yesterday Chantal and I participated in a common Yuma pastime which is parking near the border to Mexico and then walking in the small Mexican town of Los Algodones.  Seniors flock to Algondones for cheap medications, dental work, prescription glasses, booze, and anything else they can haggle down to something they can boast about when they return home.  There is a cultural shift when you enter this town.  Things are no longer fixed or stable.  Everything is open-ended lingering with a question mark.  Is this real silver?  Is the water safe?  Can I trust the dentist?  Am I getting ripped off?  Americans and Canadians think they can come and secure a deal, fight in the market place for the best deal.  They come assuming they are in charge because they bring the money.  But everywhere the locals control the playing field.  Nowhere was this more clear and more ironic then in the Mexican restaurant that we ate in.  The dining area was filled with grey hair, pale skin, and high socks.  For entertainment there was an old local man with a ball cap pulled over his head slouching on a chair.  He sang with a keyboard accompaniment.  It was difficult to make out his words until he broke into his own rendition of God Bless America.  His almost imperceptible lyrics suddenly swept through the dining area like a tidal wave until the whole room culminated with a roar, God bless America my hooome sweet hooooooooome!  As a Canadian this of course struck me as odd (later his Canadian national anthem was met with silence).  More than this though I couldn’t help but think the man simply enjoyed making the people ‘dance’.  It was almost as though Algodones was able to parody in its little village the way that the U.S. has been able to treat countries like Mexico.
There always remain subtle but potentially powerful expressions within our ability.  Our context and circumstances furnish a particular environment that we cannot always change but how we appropriate these raw materials is always a negotiation.  We are able to create worlds within worlds.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Did I Do?

I am not entirely sure what I started here (as you could tell from my comment in the previous post).  I started with asking the question regarding Jesus' intent in giving the Sermon on the Mount (or Matthew's . . . whatever).  I do not want to lose sight of the fact that there is an establishing of authority here.  And that from this Jesus is clarifying the authority of life and the authority of death.  I assumed that this meant that part of the intent was to create a crisis between the two authorities/economies.  From this I broadened the question to ask whether not natural/political occurences also speak of this crisis.  I felt that this was most certainly the case for Isaiah and the Gospels too I should add have the natural and political order shake at the resurrection and apocalypse.  So from here I hoped to move to the contemporary.  Now I would like to keep in mind the stimulating conversation on demythologization over at The Fire and the Rose.  Is the natural order any longer connected to the Word of God and further, to what is the Word of God connected?  The social practices of the church?  The sacramental practices of the church?  The preaching and hearing of the Bible?  The expressions of the Good, True and Beautiful in the world wherever they may be?  Does all of reality carry the potential of hearing the Word?  Is serenity as much a medium as crisis?  In the discussion below I moved quickly to the extreme of the Holocaust.  The other move I suppose is to 9/11.  This event has significant markings of a prophetic/apocalyptic event.  Punks and gangsters sang about 'dropping bombs'
but then some guys came along and dropped bombs not in strategic empirical move nor in random desperate move but in a symbolic move.  An Abomination that causes Desolation.  If we can assume that there is an overlay of the Economy of God and the Economy of the World then to what extent to these orders run parallel and to what extent do they rupture and hemorrhage?  Would subscribing to a Bultmannian view of demythology mean that there is no overlay and they there is only surface or perhaps a palimpsest of interpretation and translation?  This would mean that all of existence is interpreted within the kernel of truth that is Gospel, right?  I can't really follow that path.  But I suppose prophecy only becomes canonized after the event and perhaps after the community has discerned the event.
I understand that my thinking is not getting much clearer but I hope (at lest for my own sake) that continuing this monologue will help either develop my thinking or expose its absurdity. The question again is whether God acts in nature/social order with the purpose of creating crisis.  My gut response is still to say yes, yes, yes.  And then to say that this has nothing (necessarily) to do with condemning or justifying people's actions within that economy.  It is only to say that there are multiple economies that at times run contrary to one another.  Sometimes our actions create ruptures and other times we are caught in something larger than our personal actions.  Does this make any sense?


Monday, January 19, 2009

Mark Driscoll Kicks his Own Ass

Lord have mercy (or not)
In Houston, Driscoll was intent on making absolutely clear that he is in favor of masculinity. At the 2 hour, 15 minute mark, he invited five pastors from the audience to take the stage, put his hands behind his back, stuck out his chin, and said, “Hit me with your best shot. Go on. I won’t hit you back. I want to show everyone what this is all about.” When none of the five took a swing, Driscoll had them escorted from the building and proceeded to hit himself five times.
Driscoll Punch
“This is what being a pastor is about, guys. If you can’t handle it, go back to teaching yoga or playing My Little Pony with the other girls.”

PS Geez, He really is becoming his own punching bag!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

God Did It

At a Christmas party this past December I was in a friendly conversation in which I was asked what I hoped to achieve or accomplish in my sermons. I talked a little about how at the very least I hoped the congregation could actually learn something about themselves, God or the world. I talked a little about my hope that the sermon contributed broadly to a person's overall spiritual formation. Then today I preached partially on Jesus's command to store up treasures in heaven. This passage of course is found in The Sermon on Mount. As I prepared for this message I began to ask myself what Jesus possibly could have hoped to 'accomplish' in his sermon. Before I could to anything very relevant I felt as though Jesus was first of all establishing his authority. Going up the side of the hill evokes images of Moses ascending Mt. Sinai to receive God's instruction. The imagery in Matthew is complete with a tiered ascenscion with Jesus at the top, the disciples in front of him, at the crowds in background (at Sinai the 70 elders ascended partway while the rest remained at the foot of the mountain). Jesus acknowledges the law but places under his authority. Following this I wondered whether Jesus hoped to create a crisis for the people. The sermon runs along in dialectical fashion always exposes the audience to the appeals of two authorities from which they must live.
I shared some this in the sermon and then in the adult educaton time afterwards we talked a little about the message. I asked the group about my suggestion that perhaps Jesus was trying to create a crisis in his audience. There was some general agreement to this idea but then the conversation quickly turned to whether or not God wills or creates 'crisis' in people's lives. To this we could not of course agree. God does not creates crises, right, though he seemed to be doing in so in his message.
Is this the difference between natural theology and dogmatic theology? Does natural revelation function in the same manner as special revelation. It did for Isaiah. And today I would argue that at the very least natural (and manmade) crises are in fact revelatory. Crises expose false foundations and de-centre our lives. The expose the spirit of a person or community.
Is it so horrible to say that indeed God caused perhaps even that God sent that crisis? Why does this have to then be equated with retribution for sin? Most often what a crisis reveals today is not the sin of those who suffered but of the ones who ordered things so that those might suffer. The connection of God with natural events carries a whole host of unhelpful associations. I am asking honestly, is it so horrible to say that God causes all or particular (I am not sure what is more helpful) crises? Is it possible to say that in a manner that then allows us then to appropriately discern and respond to the revelation latent within that event?


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thanks for the Thankless

Here is a thank-you to all the devoted bloggers out there. I began blogging first to keep in touch and discussion with my peers from college. Then I blogged to work out some of my thinking. Now I rarely blog well or with any insight but I continue to read blogs. I am no longer surrounded by an academic community. I am no longer guided or challenged in my thinking or my reading. So I look to you faithful bloggers for my inspiration for my window into contemporary theology and social theory. Without you I would flounder in my work-a-day world peering through the single-pane window of popular thought. Because of you I remember that critical thought (can) shape practical worlds. Because of you I remember that the church is more than a western hobby. So I thank-you for the thankless pathology-filled task of sending posts into the void of cyberspace for I pilgrim there seeking outposts and sanctuaries, prophets, sages and scoundrels.
Thank-you Jodi for wrestling with social order and showing your scars.
Thank-you Dan for challening us and challening yourself.
Thank-you Levi for bringing contemporary metaphysics to the masses.
Thank-you Richard for opening the lens of pyschology for us to view theology.
Thank-you David for breathing life into the misunderstood field of systematic theology.
Thank-you Adam for swimming upstream in contemporary theology.
And thank-you Ben for bringing credibility to theological blogging.

There is much to criticize in the world of web 2.0 but I will stand as a witness of one who has been at least to some degree educated by this so-called democratic platform of knowledge. So keep it up. Unless of course you can get paid to do something else!

Your faithful and fellow blogger,
David CL Driedger


Saturday, January 10, 2009

You Cannot Shrink Everything

I wonder if at some point people will be begin the calm and honest discussion of how if young women in Hollywood continue to get anymore skinny their heads will continue to look more and more monstrous. You cannot shrink everything. I know this is not a new problem but my wife and I just got through reliving Beverly Hills 90210 when we heard about the new series and well to whatever shame their might be we enjoy it. However most of their heads seem just a little silly. Anorexic Kelly in the original would come off as bloated in the new generation. Is it just me or does it just start to look bad at some point?


Monday, January 05, 2009


I am almost always impressed with the book selection in my town's thrift store.  I addition to picking up a spare Greek New Testament I also found an excellent condition copy of Walter Benjamin's Illuminations for $2.  Here is a quote from the first essay titled, "Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting."

Of all the ways of acquiring books writing them oneself is regarded as the most praiseworthy method.  At this point many of you will remember with pleasure the large library which Jean Paul’s poor little schoolmaster Wutz gradually acquired by writing, himself, all the works whose titles interested him in bookfair catalogues; after all, he could not afford to buy them. Writers are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but do not like.

 This is great support for my rationale of why I have written any good fiction.  Its because I still find too many great works out there to read! (it helps me sleep better at night)