Paul writes – Radio New Zealand had a fascinating interview last week with Julian Treasure. Treasure is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses -- offices, retailers, hotels -- on how to use sound. He challenges us to pay attention to the sounds that surround us. How do they make us feel: productive, stressed, energized, and acquisitive?
It’s a really interesting interview and anyone with an interest in meditation etc will benefit from listening to it. At the very least you’ll come away with some sense of how sound affects us, and the importance of silence.
You can find an Mp3 of the interviewhere by scrolling down to the 27th January 2010. You’ll also find his TED talk on Youtube. TIME carried a little article on him in 2007. You can find it here.
writes – Mike Riddell reflects on Quentin
Tarantino’s latest film Inglourious
Basterds – a film I’ve seen twice. It’s been a Tarantino week for me,
having watched Kill Bill 1 and Kill Bill 2, and the accompanying
interviews on the Inglourious Basterds and
Kill Bill 2 DVD’s.In part I’ve been I’ve been watching
them for the sheer enjoyment of watching them, while in another way I’ve been trying to reflect on movies more
generally and the ways in which they support Jean Calvin’s (1509 – 1564)
assertion that: “Without knowledge of self there is no
knowledge of God; without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.” In
other words I’m reflecting on something Mike, in effect, says below: “Do movies
humanize or dehumanize us?” “Do they assist in or detract from our formation as persons
“created to image God?” “Do they assist in a growing knowledge of self, and does that knowledge result,
thus, in a greater knowledge of God revealed in Jesus Christ?” And, “do movies
assist in our spiritual formation – in our becoming more human, whole, alive,
So – bottom
line I’m asking, “What is a particular film’s affect (used in a very
Ignatian sense) on us, and how might the process of imaginatively engaging with
a particular film shape and form us in ways that are consistent with the work
of the Spirit and congruent with the Christian Narrative, the rhythms of that
narrative, it values and practices, and those (good) contemporary liturgical
practices that serve in our formation and counterformation (in the face of the
liturgies that (unhelpfully) form and shape us as part of the wider cultural
and societal contexts that we find ourselves a part of)?Is a film like Inglourious Basterd’s capable of affecting us in ways that
participate in the larger redemptive process?
I’m of the view, to quote John Pungente
SJ & Monty Williams SJ, that “…when
we watch a film attentively, we participate in a form of contemplation that
allows us t o experience the imagination fully engaged in creating. We are not
accustomed to thinking about it this way, but
it is prayer…” [Italics, mine]. It joins with grace and is formational. Yesterday’s
post on this blog is another contribution to this reflective process.
excerpt from Mike’s post, which you can read in full here.
“…The big question is, of course, do
filmmakers have any moral responsibility whatsoever? After all, they’re not
preachers or lawmakers. They’re story-tellers, and they offer their stories in
a contestable cultural arena. Surely it is simply up to the audiences to make
what they will of those stories, and a great number of people have enjoyed and
admired Inglourious Basterds.
But I feel strongly that the stories we tell ourselves do actually have an
effect on the cultures we forge. To live out of a story of vengeance or fear
looks quite different from living out of a story of grace and compassion. As a
friend of mine said yesterday, there’s the question of whether humanity is
enhanced or detracted from in our artistic output. I for one wish to devote my
abilities to projects, which promote the former. As Arthur may have said, it’s
enough that we live in a world with “Everyone living like there’s no such thing
as right or wrong, like it doesn’t matter how you treat people”…”
Paul writes – I came across the following
“If the root of art is storytelling,
then the taproots are longings. Longings for such things as truth, beauty,
romance, adventure. We long to find the true north that will guide us through
this life and into the next. We long to see some vestige of Paradise that
hasn’t been spoiled by sin. We long to love and be loved, truly, purely,
romantically. We long for something noble inside us to be awakened, rousing the
hero within us to answer the call of adventure. A screenwriter takes these abstract
longings and turns them into a series of concrete images…”[i]
in Lessons from Reel Life:Movies, Meaning and Myth-Making by
Michael Frost & Robert Banks, p. iii.
Paul writes - Luke Bretherton has
provided the second of two reviews of Graham Ward’s The Politics
of Discipleship (I
mentioned the first one here – by Ronald
Kuipers). Graham Ward’s response should be onthis site (Tuesday / Wednesday (NZ-time). I’ve also previously
linked with Barry Taylor’s reviews (here).
Jamie Smith, in his series foreword for
Ward’s book, had written:
“What do we do now? This might be the first
question of discipleship. It is the question asked by the disciples at the foot
of the cross: The Messiah is dead. What do we do now? It is the question
asked by the same disciples after the resurrection: He’s alive! What do we
do now? And it is the question asked by these same Jesus followers after
the ascension: The King has left us.
What do we
do now? If this is
the first question of discipleship, it is also a perennialquestion of
struck me about Bretherton’s very good review was the following; call it a
“…One can read this book and have a
excellent overview of various debates about metaphysics, enjoy fascinating and
insightful ruminations on such cultural phenomena as Harry Potter and American
Psycho, and be edified by profound meditations on Scripture, but still have little idea of what in
practice a politics of discipleship might involve or demand. Given
the stated aim at the outset of the book is not just to interpret the world but
to change it (p. 16) and the emphasis throughout on the importance of
embodiment and the threat of dehumanization and dematerialisation this is a
serious flaw. It is a flaw that raises a question about what kind of
theology is being done in the book. Is
it a theology that has any use for real people and their performances of church
in the contemporary context? There can be no doubt that Ward is
deeply concerned with ‘real existing’ disciples and their faithful practice of
politics; however, without any clear engagement with forms of public action it
is difficult to see how the ‘theological imaginary’ Ward hopes to develop can
in any meaningful way ‘transform aspects of the civic imaginary’ (p. 17)…” [bold text, mine – Paul]
Now, I haven’t read the book (and indirectly the
reasons for that will be made clear below), but I have had a very very good look through it. And I need to say;
I have a huge amount of sympathy for Bretherton’s conclusion. I had expected
more from Ward’s book than I believe it delivers. I’ve been delighted by the
series, of which Ward’s The Politics of
Discipleship,is a part. Jamie
Smith’s was the brilliant first in the series – Who’s Afraid of Postmodernity?(2006)It came in at 156 pages (including the index). Merold Westphal’s
excellent Who’s Community, Which
Interpretation?(2009) came in at 160-pages (including the index). Ward’s The Politics of Discipleshipcomes in
at whopping 317-pages, by comparison. And therein, for me lies one of the
problems (note to editor). It’s too big and it’s too dense for this series.
writes – Jane Stranz is was born and brought up in
Britain and is an ordained minister of the United Reformed Church, which is a
small non-conformist church. For over 10 years she worked as a minister in
local parishes of the Eglise Réformée de France in Dunkerque, Chambéry and
Ferney-Voltaire (you can read more of her bio on her own very good blog). She lives in my ancestral homeland –
has been a reader and commenter on this blog for a while, and I’ve appreciated
“Prodigal Kiwis are a great read and a good
reality check for clergy like myself. There are many, many people out there who
love God, are fascinated by theology but really cannot hack the church at all
... a real challenge for those like me who work for the institution…”
a friendly “outsider” (in relation to church belonging) I appreciate and value
what she’s affirming. It’s not always easy being an isolated (in a physical
sense) individual trying to sustain and grow a spiritual dimension to ones
life; trying to become more fully human, and trying to ensure that there is a
religious reality underpinning and nourishing who I am, how I am, and what I
In my case, while reading widely across religious
and denominational traditions, I remain firmly rooted in the Christian
tradition but have had to leave church-belonging in order to do that. What do I
miss about not going to church? Eucharist, and an experience of community
(centered on following Jesus of Nazareth). But, ironically, the more and
further afield I explore, the harder it is to return to the kinds of churches
I’ve left. The ways I want to express my faith; my understanding of church and
mission etc, spiritual formation, and the diverse sources I draw from (e.g.
both Protestant and Catholic) have all grown and changed and as I didn’t “fit”
before I left the last church I was at, I definitely won’t fit now.
meantime, without wanting to create a substantial distinction between the
so-called “inside” and “outside”, I want to talk and interact from the outside(in)
and quietly argue for change, the kinds of “ancient-future” changes that will
be both missional (in the sense of engaging and bringing into conversation the
gospel and contemporary Western / Kiwi culture) and (trans)formational (in the
sense of humanizing and enabling people to become and to live more humanly etc)
– the kinds of changes and new approaches that might allow friendly insiders to
belong and actively participate again.
You can find the post here. Most interesting were Trevin Wax’s
interview of Jaime, and the review-response (by Smith)-final comment by Matthew
Anderson. There are a number of audio links, though the only one I could see
was a downloadable Mp3 was the one at Centred Radio online. I’ll be listening
to this on my way into work this morning.
Paul writes – I
picked up the following post via Tallskinny
Kiwi. In it Stuart Murray Williams describes the phrases we’ve used to talk
about the challenges of mission in a changing culture.
“In the 1990s lots of
people were talking about church planting – and some of us were actually
planting churches! Today, many of us are suspicious of the phrase ‘church
planting’ (doesn’t it imply church growth oriented, programmatic,
goals-obsessed cloning?) and prefer ‘fresh expressions’ or, cooler still,
But before we discard a
term that has been used for many years and is familiar across the world and in
many Christian traditions (and even has a Latin tag – plantatio ecclesiae), maybe we need to ask what these alternatives
actually mean and how long they will last.
Actually, in the past
twenty years or so we have used or coined various phrases as we have wrestled
with the challenges of mission in a changing culture:
congregations - Church planting - Missional church - New ways
of being church - Emerging church - Emergent church -
Mission-shaped church - Fresh Expressions
Some of these terms are
associated with particular denominations. Some are familiar in some countries
but unknown elsewhere. Some carry quite a bit of theological or cultural
freight. Some started out as generic terms but have narrowed their meaning.
Maybe some historical
perspective will be helpful:
In the late 1980s Anglicans (and then others) started talking about missionary
congregations. By this they meant that churches needed to stop
concentrating on maintenance and put mission back at the heart of church life.
In the early1990s many people started talking about church
planting, arguing that many churches could not make this shift, so new
churches were needed to reverse the trend of decline and to be genuine
By the mid-1990s church planting was stalling – for
several reasons: most of the easier plants had already happened; growth was
slower than expected; recovery times were longer than expected; there was a
dearth of suitable leadership; many plants had failed or were struggling; and
not all plants were actually missionary congregations.
Some denominations paused for reflection and began to ask two questions:
what kinds of churches should we be planting (rather than how
many), and how can we make sure they are focused on mission?
The language of missional church became more popular –
imported from the US and used to emphasise church DNA or mindset or ethos,
rather than activities. New churches and existing churches were encouraged to
At the same time some began to use the phrase new ways of being
church to talk about experiments that were taking place around the
margins of church life. This was not church planting in the usual sense: it was
more tentative, quieter and reflected the culture of the people involved or the
place where they lived.
But there were problems with this language: it seemed dismissive of ‘old
ways’; it got confused with the ‘New Churches’ (as the House Church Movement
was now known); and some groups were remixing old elements.
By about 2000 the language of emerging church had became
more popular to describe the increasing number of new churches that were
springing up. This had significant advantages: it was a dynamic and
developmental term; it was tentative and humble; it reflected the reality that
this was disparate, not a coordinated movement; it linked with the idea of
‘emerging culture’. However, some people found it rather passive and wondered
if it was truly missional.
A variant on emerging church was emergent – a more
coordinated movement in the US with some similarities to other developments in
western culture but also with significant differences.
In 2004 the Anglicans produced the Mission-shaped Church
report. This started as an update on their church planting report (‘Breaking
New Ground’) in 1994 but grew into a survey of many different forms of church.
The title of the report underlined a concern that mission should come before
church and shape what emerged. Emerging church quite suddenly became hot news!
However, the report preferred the term fresh expressions of church,
for reasons it explains. A new organisation, Fresh Expressions, was set up to
map, resource and reflect on what was happening. And Rowan Williams endorsed a
‘mixed economy’ church.
Meanwhile, church planting was back on the agenda, with
more church planting underway than for several years – somewhat chastened but
purposeful and gaining momentum.
Here are a couple of excerpts
from the review to whet your appetite:
“...Who’s Community? Which Interpretation?
belongs to a series by Baker Academic called “The Church and Postmodern
Culture." The editor, James K. A. Smith, provides the rationale for
reading Merold Westphal's contribution: "For 'peoples of the Book whose
way of life is shaped by texts, matters of interpretation are, in a way,
matters of life and death"
"To Read or Not to Read," a 2007 report from the National Endowment
of the Arts, we are living in a post-literate or sub-literate culture where, it
is safe to conjecture, the biblical text plays a diminutive role in the
formation of Christian identity. Friedrich Nietzsche's once controversial claim
– "there are no facts, only interpretations" – seems irrelevant in
the absence of a text to interpret...
"the church as a communal conversation of interpretation" (120), Gadamerian hermeneutics helps Christians
recognize – at the descriptive level – that we always read the Bible from
somewhere as opposed to nowhere, thus we cannot escape "hermeneutical circularity"
(129). At the prescriptive level, we should practice "epistemic
humility" (129) when interpreting the Bible by listening to the
instruction of the Holy Spirit through the resources of other traditions,
thereby befriending Christians with whom "we may find our disagreements
are more like family quarrels than all-out warfare" (129).
Westphal reminds us, is a mirror at once capable of showing us an honest reflection,
if we obey the truth (James 1:22-25), and a dishonest reflection, if we
"suppress the truth" (Rom. 1:18). Masterfully appropriating the
insights of postmodern hermeneuticists, Westphal
brings greater honesty to the interpretive practice of Christians by robustly
acknowledging how "the divine nature of Scripture lives in dialectical
tension not only with its own human origins but also with its ongoing human
interpretation" (149). Only fear would suppress this dialectical
tension, and what makes Whose Community?
Which Interpretation? a gift to the church is precisely its fearlessness.
Westphal is a philosopher who has heeded the command of Jesus, "Do not be
In times like ours, and
particularly within Anglican circles, I love to see this book read and engaged
widely by both lay and clergy. It’s a very fine and useful body of work. And
could I just add; the whole series is well worth investing in if one is
inclined to bring theology, philosophy, and culture into conversation for the
sake of faithfulness, contextualisation and mission.
writes – We had some good of friends over for a
BBQ last night, at least two of whom knew Barry Taylor, and one of them
mentioned a cartoon (reproduced above) on Barry's Blog Site, so I checked it out and thought it was brilliant, especially as
I’d read (via Jason Goroncy - thanks Jason) Slavoj Žižek’s inciteful (and
poignant in the light of Haiti’s devastating earthquake) August 2008 review of
Peter Hallward’s 2008 book Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the
Politics of Containment. I knew nothing of Haiti’s history and would
have loved to have been able to read Hallward’s book – but funds and not a lot of time to read make
that unlikely – a shame really, as it sounds like a fascinating read. Žižek’s review essay will have to suffice. I commend it to anyone who wants a little insight into Haiti's troubled history, and the way The West (US and France in particular) have been significant and damaging players in it's history.
Also (finally) got a chance to watch the award winning movie Waltz with Bashir. It's a fabulous and politically / psychologically insightful film. The animation and music score are wonderful. Both reinforce why film is such a significant way to tell a story! I felt it useful to read the wikipedia site and get some historical background. As I was watching it on my laptop I paused it 70% of the way through to get the backstory. It was useful to do that.