Homemaking for Pirates

kinnon —  September 22, 2009 — 14 Comments
Squirrel Kanye & Pirate Homemaking

A couple of things jumped out at me as I scanned blogdom and Twitter this morning. The first was Jonny Baker's post, it's clearly richard sudworth day – that pointed at Sudworth's post – which, as Jonny puts it, is "a very poignant critique of the over against rhetoric of kester brewin and pete rollins."

Jonny says,

i often get asked what i think of pete's work and usually respond by saying that i love having his voice in the conversation but it's not the only voice i want to hear. i loved the book how not to speak of god. but this conversation reminds me a little bit of the book nation of rebels: why counter culture became consumer culture which makes a powerful critique that the over against rhetoric of liberals who talk a good game round the dinner table about the evils of the system and overcoming it are not the people who effect real change in society. it's the people who have engaged in the public square, engaged in civil rights marches and so on – often long slow painful processes – who have done more. on reading that book i was challenged to think that actually being alternative is a poor strategy for change (emphasis added)

Sudworth commenting on Kester Brewin's Christians as Pirates attempted meme, says,

What I sense in Kester's piece on piracy, and indeed in Pete Rollins' publications, is a de-centred viewpoint. Both are keen to articulate a place from the periphery that is "unorthodox", "heretical" or "piratical", in their terms. I'm reminded of Alasdair MacIntyre's assessment of contemporary society which has lost any sense of objective morality or authority; one that is working with the "fragments" of moral traditions. The arguments are pieced together, magpie-like, from sociology, philosophy, contemporary culture, with the occasional leitmotif of scripture (I won't even begin a critique of the cod-populist vision of Jesus the de-bunker of Jewish tradition, the anti-authoritarian on a mission that is all about correcting the wrong road of Judaism that Kester offers!). But this de-centred moral perspective forgets the one essential lesson of postmodernity: that all our standpoints are situated; there is no "view from nowhere".

What I feel I am left with if I'm to take seriously "the fidelity of betrayal" and a "plea for Christian piracy", is a moral vision centred on the individual and thus a "theology" that is yet another rotten fruit of modernity, (there are times when I wonder whether I should read this material acknowledging a wink and tongue-in-cheek at the hyperbole, but the gravitas afforded published books, my experience of their persuasiveness amongst Christians and the earnest hopes of the project (?) suggest I should be treating them seriously!). Kester and Pete are in danger of articulating something that is always and intrinsically "over and against" (the "empire" of the church). So where is it? Kester poses the question "what should we think of the Somali pirates", suggesting the global geopolitics of western oppression might give an alternative vision of who the real baddies are. Well, if you ask a poor Somali woman whose children have been killed by the Somali warlords growing rich on the piracy (for that is yet another side of the story), the answer would be a no-brainer. The point is that there is a coherent moral vision to be applied, inescapably, and we practice that moral vision in community and in our tradition. What i would describe as "an ecclesiology of iconoclism" is in fact licence for the individualism and self-referencing that i know Pete and Kester would otherwise disdain. The example of the shift from "pirate radio to BBC" and "Napster to Spotify" betray more than a whiff of the romance of the new, the trendy and the latest: a vision of consumerist heaven confirming my suspicions?

In the comments on Sudworth's post, Jason Clark adds,

I remember reading a well-known emerging-church blogger who wrote an autobiographical piece on why he had left his church. He described how the members of the church drove in their cars past the poor, the homeless and drug addicts, on their way to spending their money on putting on a Sunday worship service, having bypassed the needs around them.

It was enough for him, showing how the people of his church had failed to engage with the poor, to justify the leaving of his church. He had taken 'action' against the failings of his church community.

I did wonder why the author was unable to stop himself on the way to the service, why had he not tried to minister and invite the other members of his community to serve the poor with him.

Perhaps then something amazing and truly revolutionary could have taken place instead.

And beyond romanticizing ourselves as pirates, we know that real pirates do not form a life with others, but conquer, control, steal, loot, pillage, and bends all things towards their own ends and self creation, controlling others with fear and intimidation.

I confess a profound weariness with the kool kids who want to blow up the present church to create what – a groovy new way of doing church? Who spend more time dancing with the words of Foucault, whilst wearing Lyotard's – than struggling with St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.

But then I see something like this – via @lensweet on Twitter. The Horner Homemaking House.

"Having a facility that truly models the home environment will allow students to put into practice the foundational principles learned in the classroom.This is an exciting and practical way to impact a future generation of families in a way no other conservative theological institution can," Terri Stovall, dean of women's programs, says.

It is only the healthy fear of the strong Estonian-Canadian woman I am married to that prevents me from writing words of which Patrol Magazine completely approves. You have got to be kidding me! A Homemaking House. This isn't a "conservative theological institution," it's a white bread, lost-in-the-50's school that has confused American Consumerism with the church. God help us all.

Both stories remind me of Imbi's favourite lyric from a Bruce Cockburn song, The Trouble with Normal is it Always Gets Worse. And the normal at both ends of the Church conversation just seems to get worse.

The last word goes to Sudworth,

What story are we a part of? If we own the Christian story, we have a responsibility to bless and be blessed by the whole church; to challenge and be challenged by the whole church. There is truth and there is authority; we just don't have the complete take on what that truth and authority is.

kinnon

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

14 responses to Homemaking for Pirates

  1. Indeed. Kester recently won the parable-writing contest on Pete’s blog, and the parable itself is a pretty good example of what Sudworth is critiquing; all subversion and no fixed moral center. It really has come to the point where folks on one side are virtuous by merely being subversive and folks on the other side are virtuous by merely being traditional. The radical middle is a larger piece of real estate than it’s ever been.

    One last note, just for perspective. I personally know the blogger Jason Clark is referring to. He did try to engage his church in a different vision of service to the community, and it was only after they made it perfectly clear that there would be none of that messy business did he leave. Moreover – and this is really the important part – his leaving had more to do with a conviction against an ecclesiological model that literally required people to drive for miles passing the needy on their way to church, than it was a judgment of the people themselves. Staying in order to influence individuals toward more service in the community is one thing, but when the structure itself short-circuits that kind of practice the only logical option is to abandon the structure. It was this kind of conviction against consumer/church-growth/attractional models that spurred much (or, at least some) of the emerging movement in the first place. In my view, that remains a valid issue and still has not been adequately answered.

    Jason Clarke makes an important point, but it’s easy to argue against a reduction of reality. None of us are as bad or good as our rhetoric would prefer.

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  2. I, on the other hand, am proud to report that my daughter won the right to dress with her boys hockey team today. She did this in a peaceable, gracious manner.

    That damnable castle needs to be burned … what a waste of money. If a young woman needs to go to college to learn homemaking then her mother is no decent Christian woman by their definition anyway, so what’s the point? Good Lord … what a temple to an idol.

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  3. Not sure I like being thought of as a ‘kool kid’. I take a lot of time attempting to read, reflect, talk through and write about the church, theology, philosophy and change. I respect it when people take seriously my position and, whether agreeing or disagreeing, engage properly with it. I have tried to be clear about my project. And its anything but ‘cool’.

    I find it strange that you could think anyone interested in religion could think themselves cool. Maybe some do, but really, theology is the equivalent of playing Dungeons and Dragons in school (something I must confess also doing).

    Spending years working through Heidegger, for instance, never seemed to be the thing that got me invited to parties or asked out on dates. I am all for a tense and aggressive debate. But lets get stuck into the arguments and try to avoid ad hominem attacks.

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  4. Pete, or Dr. Peter if that makes you more comfortable, I’m sorry if I confused you in whether or not I crave your respect or need your approval in engaging with your bon mots. I’m not one of your adoring fans.

    Perhaps rather than spending so much time with Heidegger and his Nazi sensibilities, you might want to dig into the life of someone like Anglican priest Charles Simeon. His life might well inform you of the profound impact one simple churchman can have on the world.

    And, unlike Sudworth, I wouldn’t want to waste the enjoyment of a good single malt in a bar conversation with you.

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  5. Peter,

    You have to admit that, party invitations or not, you are pretty cool right now in certain circles.

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  6. I am really chewing a lot on Jonny Baker’s concept of “loyal radicals” and what it means to be a radical – my late father thought he was a radical in the ’60s but I am starting to see now how he and many of their peers relied on the university system (he was a priest and a professor) to enable them to maintain what I see now is a pseudo-radical lifestyle – this is similar to when you see wealthy kids pretend to be in solidarity with the poor by the way they dress, where they live, etc. while having the cushion of their trust fund.

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  7. wow i think what started off as helpful debate at Sudworths place has maybe fallen off the apple cart here

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  8. Really Maty? How so? Or should we just keep our positions/opinions to ourselves and let the kool kidz discuss?

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  9. I should clarify that my wading through Heidegger (1) did not stop me from reading many other thinkers and activists (it was an example, I wonder what makes you think otherwise) and (2) reading him does not equate agreeing with everything that he has written (it is strange for me to think that anyone would not read an important thinker because they do not think that they would agree with them). I am afraid it is hard not to hear a distinct ring of resentment in the way that you write – e.g. using ad hominem arguments that would be picked up in any academic institution

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  10. Gee, Pete, you were the one flexing your cred by bringing up Heidegger. I just happen to have a Jewish Grandmother – so Nazi sympathizers tend to push my buttons.

    And I’m afraid it’s virtually impossible to not hear a distinct ring of arrogance in the way you write- e.g. making yourself the arbiter of how one engages with the purportedly academic opinions you so freely share.

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  11. Wow Bill. Pete comes on here being self-deprecating and conciliatory, and you insult him and call him a too-cool-for-school Nazi sympathizer? You, sir, are coming across like an @$$.

    It used to be that you seemed like you cared about all kind of people, and being ‘missional’ or what have you. These days, you sound angrier and angrier.

    Maybe you should unplug from these here interwebs and give up the blogging bit before your heart completely turns to coal.

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  12. KoolAidDrinker,
    I take it that English is a 2nd language for you.

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  13. Blimey Bill you’re a bit cross about all this.
    I didnt agree with the pirate motif personally, and I have some reservations about the elitism of language that goes on at times, if only because I’m personally too thick to understand it all.
    But dont you think it’s actually helpful to have a few wolves in the sheep fold? People like Pete and Kester serve a real purpose snapping at us with challenging and evolving philosophy which we dont have to accept, but which, if considered, often challenges our thinking.
    I sometimes wonder if Pete actually agrees with what he’s saying anyway, or if he actually thinking out loud. In any case, I personally welcome the contributions of people like Kester and Pete, although I often disagree with or dont fully understand their thinking, for instance I really didnt like the parable one of your commenters mentioned, but there’s lots of things I dont like out there, and they come from all different directions. In that case it represented one persons understanding of God, which is coloured by his own experiences and theology, necessarily different to mine.
    Cheers, Simon

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  14. “Pete, or Dr. Peter if that makes you more comfortable, I’m sorry if I confused you in whether or not I crave your respect or need your approval in engaging with your bon mots. I’m not one of your adoring fans…

    And, unlike Sudworth, I wouldn’t want to waste the enjoyment of a good single malt in a bar conversation with you.”

    Holy shit. Pardon my language, but did you really just say that? Leaving the various theological wrestlings out for a minute, there wasn’t a single ounce of grace or Christlikeness in what you just wrote. Prior to this post I read your critique of Frank Viola’s forceful language, and then you turn around here and say much much worse – that was just plain nasty. Plank, speck, anyone?

    Moreover, you may disagree with some of Peter’s concepts, but you are using that to make unfounded assumptions his character. Having met the guy in person a few times, I can assure you that whatever image you’ve built up in your head is completely wrong. Peter is a genuinely lovely guy, very humble and not at all trying to be cool or impress anyone.

    I’m afraid you’ve just proved Pete right that you haven’t really engaged with his thoughts but turned his arguments into strawmen and then gone one further and made attacks on his character. Perhaps this is something you need to repent of…?

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What do you think?