Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Taking Semiotics to Church

I just came across a review titled Taking Semiotics to Church in the Other Journal by Carl Raschke of Crystal Downing's new book Changing Signs of Truth:  A Christian Introduction to the Semiotics of Communication.  The last two paragraphs are below.  I highlighted the next to the last sentence because it strikes a chord with me.   I decided to download the book to my Kindle.  Carl wrote "Next Reformation." A book I found very helpful.  I also read Crystal's other book How Postmodernism Serves My Faith It was great.

Changing Signs of Truth is a valuable contribution to the academic and semi-academic literature on cultural semiotics, if only because it portrays in a thorough and engaging way the glaring problem of how language is intertwined with culture and, more importantly, how language evolves over time. Interestingly, the same kinds of points Downing makes about contemporary Western culture would be a no-brainer for missiologists having to contend with the challenges of making the gospel intelligible to non-Westerners. It is a genuine sign of our current age that the controversy over language and culture has come down to whether the meanings of religious terms are somehow set in stone, as the more orthodox instinctively assume, or whether they are simply episodic types of language games, conditioned and rendered contingent by present-day attitudes and practices.
The view that these meanings are set in stone, as I have remarked extensively in my earlier work The Next Reformation (2004), relies on a pseudo-universalistic and hyperrationalistic version of epistemology that is neither biblical nor ancient but thoroughly modern, dating no later than the late eighteenth century. The notion that they are merely historically contingent amounts to an uncritical and inconsistent form of intellectual laissez-faire fostered during the late industrial era by social scientists who somehow fell under the delusion that they were in the business of solving classical problems of theoretical knowledge, when in fact they were merely substituting a naive descriptivism for what used to count as a philosophy of knowledge.
God will undoubtedly not allow the future of Christianity to endure as an interminable mud fight between shallow inerrantists and smug liberals. But in the meantime, readers will take away from this little book some genuine insights in how to rise above the fray.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

gender, God, and spirituality

This is deep and profound.  An article from last year by Richard Rohr. 

Do men approach spirituality differently than women, have different starting places and different symbols? My studied opinion is that we do have quite different entrance points, but nevertheless end up much the same, because the goal is identical -- union, divine union, where we are being guided by One who is neither male nor female, but "all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28). 
Anthropologists suggest that the majority of male initiation rites were concerned with leading the young male on journeys of powerlessness, whereas female fertility and puberty rites had the exact opposite function: to sign the young girl with emblems of power and dignity. The rites gave them both what they needed to get started, but from opposite starting places. The male could not be trusted with power unless he had made journeys of powerlessness; the female would not even know she had power unless she was taught and encouraged to trust it.

This could seem shocking, but read the four Gospels and note Jesus' consistently distinctive attitude toward the two genders. He is invariably calling the woman upward: "Go your way; your faith has restored you to health!" (Luke 8:48) and "Neither do I condemn you" (John 8:11). To a woman who has just spoken "up" and "back" to Jesus, he says, "Woman you have great faith!" (Matthew 15:28).

Conversely, he is steadily calling the males downward: "Zacchaeus, come down!" (Luke 19:5); "If anyone wants to be first, he must be last" to the Twelve (Mark 9:35); and "Get behind me, Satan" to "the prince of the apostles" who wants to avoid suffering (Mark 8:33). Our selective memory is really rather amazing, that we have not noted this clear pattern in the Scriptures. Could that be what we mean by patriarchy?
This is the unique area of male and female spirituality, as I see it: the differing symbols, stories, images, rituals and metaphors that get us to enter the temple. We must honor the need for action, movement, building, repairing, rescuing and heroic hardship that men love. We must honor the community, relationships, empathy, intimacy, healing and caring that women value. We know, however, that the final spiritual question, and the goal, is to get men and women to love and live both of these.

All things being on course, the genders tend to be much more alike than different by the second half of life. This illustrates much of my lived experience: men start hard and get softer, whereas women start soft and get harder. It can often be a quite difficult dance of missteps, misinterpretation and mutual hurt until we meet somewhere in the middle. 

I learned of this from the excellent blog of Len Hjalmarson  Next Reformation.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Interesting Site: The Governance Lab and “Participation is Law”

Just discovered The Governance Lab

GovLab Research convenes an interdisciplinary network of thought leaders across academia, government, and industry to analyze novel forms of collaborative problem-solving in public and private institutions.  Despite advances in collaborative governance, there has been little systematic study of what approaches work best under varied conditions. We produce scholarly research and map real-world developments to create a robust understanding of how scientific and technological advances can be harnessed to improve 21st century governance.
GovLab Academy inspires, trains and catalyzes the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and problem-solvers in collaborative governance. Through project-based work, multidisciplinary teams of graduate students hone their analytical, empirical and design skills by developing, iterating on and implementing innovative platforms and projects. Members of the Academy take charge of their own learning and develop new and diverse skills under the mentorship of a wide-ranging network of professional advisors.  Members will also have access to a unique curriculum that synthesizes insights from social and behavioral sciences, history, public policy, design and engineering to inform the project-based learning experience.

And here is a recent blog post.

“Participation is Law”

Cyborg Selves III

Excerpts from the Chapter "The Cyborg Manifesto"  by J. Thweat-Bates

Her (Donna Haraway) interest in cyborgs is driven, not out of a desire to conceptually define what is human (and not), but to encourage the creation of alternative social practices – “for responsibility in[ boundary] construction.
Haraway’s posthuman discourse is organized around the central figure of the cyborg, a simultaneously epistemological, ontological, political, and moral position deliberately taken up outside the categorical boundaries of nature and culture, science and politics, man and woman, human and nonhuman.  This posthuman figure is a harbinger of the dissolution of those boundaries, a reality both threatening and hopeful.  Haraway’s hope lies in the possibility of transgressive power and potential agency of the cyborg and its posthuman kin, the threat lies in the possibility of the continuing exploitation of those who find themselves already out-of-bounds with respect to the powerful discourses defining identity with technoscience.  

We will not be able to turn back the clock.  The postmodern world will continue to push us in directions that many will fear.  At the same time medical science helps us to live longer and well, it will be by becoming cyborgian.  But it will be at the cost of altering how we look, how we live, and what is inside us.  New capabilities will transgress boundaries we thought were clear and distinct and make us uncomfortable.   We think we know who we are and we do not want to change that.  "This is not how it oughta be" we will tell ourselves.   There will be a new normal and before we are acclimated to that another one and another one. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Quote from Dorothee Sölle

from Theology for Skeptics Chapter 6

Jesus' attitude toward life was that it cannot be possessed, hoarded, safeguarded.  What we can do with life is to share it, pass it along, get it as a gift and give it on.

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