Intersections: Theology and the Church in a World Come of Age
Published by Noesis Press (Davies Group, Publishers)
Theological discourse typically teeters between obscure, abstract thinking suitable only for academics and direct “how-to” writing: how to preach, how to evangelize, how to educate children and adults into the faith, how to lead for financial stability, how to teach happy relationships. Obviously, neither the abstract nor the practical are unnecessary or unfruitful; however, creative, constructive theological voices fruitfully inhabiting the in-between spaces of the abstract and instructional, who engage and converse with the practical aspects of church life have become rare. Furthermore, theological writing which inhabits this liminal space is sorely needed in our secularized and secularizing world, vital to those seeking a “metapoietic” condition in a post-Christendom world—one that takes seriously the Gospel, the church, and the world “come of age” in science, technology, literature, and the arts.
The titles in the forthcoming Intersections series are envisioned to be short monographs or edited collections which offer fresh and bold perspectives on theology, practical theology, church practice, and religious issues beyond organized religion, by individuals with clear commitments to and entrenchments in the academy and religious assembly. Of particular interest to the series are short monographs which introduce important figures in academic theology or philosophy to a pastoral or seminarian audience with clear application for religious life, or collaborative works between clergy and academics. Intersections series titles will be written for scholarly clergy and seminarians, for those who take academic theology and religious life seriously, who welcome and are searching for theological thinking and writing that refuses to rehash old mistakes, blindly retreat into doctrine, or insult its audience. Read the rest of this entry »
There is a lot of blogging and writing, and tearing of shirts, and pointing of fingers in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell case (see info here), but I just had an observation. If Conestoga Wood, whose headquarters are located in my area, are really “Conservative Mennonites” to the point that they will challenge the Affordable Care Act all the way to the Supreme Court, would they be open on July 4, U.S. Independence Day, since most Anabaptists do not celebrate national holidays? Read the rest of this entry »
Here is the draft of a sermon I am working on for this Sunday for St. Paul’s UCC, Dallastown, PA. The Lections are Psalm 8 and Exodus 20:1-20. The sermon will begin a new nine-month focus on peace in my congregation’s worship life.
I have been so heartbroken over the past few weeks over the news of shooting after shooting. People shot with guns. Death after death. Devastated families. Communities brazen with fear and anger. Reports of funeral after funeral. Embalming fluid and blood. The media selectively reports the details, partially in fear of copycat crimes, partially in fear of being accused of exploiting the facts out of some liberal agenda. I have friends and family who are responsible gun owners, and know a few people who even work in the firearms industry. I also know folks whose lives have been destroyed by gun violence. I have ministered to men in prison whose mistakes and aggressions, usually with a firearm, led them to the situations they now find themselves. I have known too many people who have taken their own lives with a firearm. My own great uncle, John Rodkey, was a nationally known marksman during his life and ran a small gun shop in his retirement. For a short time in Chicago I became friendly with a police officer who introduced me into target shooting, even while I lived in a neighborhood where I would wake up to gun shots fired in the night.
I’m not here to give you my own history with guns but I preface my sermon with these details to say that I’m trying to work out the question of our spiritual sickness of gun violence for myself—and for me it’s not out of some political agenda. I know and have experienced the faces and the stories, the real people, on every side of this issue.
Which is also why I am so sickened by our inability to even talk about the issues surrounding gun violence in our country. One cannot so much as pray a public lament about this problem that we have in our culture without it being politicized. Rational and level-headed discussion are strictly forbidden. We know the lines, and many of them are patently or at least partially false. That access to more guns makes us safer as a nation. That changing laws will change the culture. That mental illness is the root cause of gun violence. That banning guns will make us less violent. That guns don’t kill people. That stricter gun control is an act of aggression by an already oppressive government who wants to enslave us with their guns. That study after study performed by the medical profession, and academics and clergy are part of some big agenda. That a desire to restrict gun access is a slippery slope that will soon lead to the banning of baseball bats, forks, and knives. The debate gets personal, and creates a cultural division between those who are gun owners and those who are not, with the assumption one side wants to take something away from the other.
The debate tinges with sexism, elitism, classism, and racism. Read the rest of this entry »
For anyone in or around London, on July 16th I’ll be giving a seminar on my current book project, Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency. Below is a description of the event, hosted by Nathan Widder of Royal Holloway’s Politics Department. All are welcome.
Prof. Joshua Ramey Seminar – Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency
Date: Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Place: Room 261, Senate House, University of London
Abstract: Michel Foucault was the first to see, far in advance of its full realization, that the neoliberal endgame has never been the decrease of governmental power and the unleashing of economic freedom, but the total governance of everyday life through the strategic, violent, and totalizing introduction of market forces into every affective, intellectual, and biopsychic sphere. But how and why the neoliberal project has so completely triumphed, especially since the crisis of 2008, is a problem with a number of different dimensions. My argument is that a great part of neoliberalism’s appeal is due to its peculiar political theology, which manages to appear in the guise of both an archaic spirituality and a modern scientificity.
Economic historians such as Philip Mirowski (Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown) have detected the politico-theological element in the neoliberal thought collective as a covert extension of Carl Schmitt’s program of authoritarianism. Political theorists such as William E. Connolly (The Fragility of Things: Neoliberal Fantasies, Democratic Activism, and Self-Organizing Systems) have discerned that the neoliberal fetish of market processes as conveyors of absolute knowledge and truth depends on a spirituality of (apparently) radical openness to chance and contingency. And philosophers such as Philip Goodchild (Theology of Money) have analyzed how money itself, as the price of credit, embodies a sacrificial theology wherein the present is permanently indebted to an unredeemable past, but under the guise of pursuing a speculative value of the unforseeable future. Following such insights, I construct the hypothesis that neoliberal governance and economy exhibit a highly specific political theology, one that can be captured as a religion of contingency and a concomitant politics of divination. Following current ethnographic and anthropological research, I define divination as any ritual practice or tradition of obtaining more-than-human knowledge of human life. As such, for neoliberals, the market is the divination tool, par excellence. Market forces and imperatives function as what Mirowski calls a transcendental meta-mind, dispensing absolutely unimpeachable “information,” including the worth, meaning, and purpose of individual or collective destiny. To undo this spiritual-scientific doublespeak, it is necessary not only to fully politicize science (as Mirowski and science studies have already argued), but also to expose the divinatory pretenses of neoliberalism as an inverted echo of universal practices of divination that are, in the last instance, generically human by right. Only in this way can both science and spirituality be politicized otherwise than as neoliberal endgame.
Bio: Joshua Ramey is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Grinnell College (USA). His research covers a range of issues in political theology and political economy from the perspective of contemporary continental philosophy and critical social theory. He is the author of The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal (Duke University Press, 2012), co-translator of François Laruelle’s Non-Philosophical Mysticism for Today (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming), and author ofPolitics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming), on which this presentation is based.
You might be interested to know of a special issue of Angelaki just published entitled ‘Immanent materialisms: speculation and critique’. Co-edited by Patrice Haynes and Charlie Blake, it comprises papers from, and inspired by the theme of, the Association for Continental Philosophy of Religion‘s 2009 conference ‘Towards a Philosophy of Life’.
The issue includes work by AUFS regulars Anthony Paul Smith [the first 50 of you can download my article for free using this token, but please only use if you don't have library access - APS] and Joshua Ramey, plus a host of others, many of whom will be familiar to readers of this blog: John Ó Maoilearca, Jim Urpeth, Colby Heath Dickinson, Frank Ruda, Michael Burns [again, first 50 of you can download this using this token - APS], Alastair Morgan, Patrice Haynes and Benjamin Noys.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England is conducting a consultation on the use of metrics to assess research quality. The current system in the UK is that, every five years, a time-consuming and expensive research assessment exercise is conducted. The last one was called the ‘Research Excellence Framework’ (you can see where this is going). It involves dozens and dozens of academics reading through submissions from more or less every research-active university scholar in the country. At the end of this, an ever-dwindling pot of money is divided up between universities in order to promote further research and ‘reward excellence’ (i.e. concentrate money where there is already lots of it).
Naturally, the government would prefer the bean-counting to be done in a cheaper way, ideally not involving actual people (whether this constitutes an accelerationist moment, I will leave you to judge). As a result, they are keen to promote metrics-based assessment, hence this consultation.
The primary way of measuring the quality of a piece of work would be to count how many citations it attracted. This raises huge questions about the adequacy of the measure employed, and, of course, how the measure distorts what it is that is being measured, as people indulge in all sorts of game-playing to give and get citations. Meera Sabaratnam and Paul Kirby have written a response to the consultation, arguing against the proposal. You can add your name to it, if you wish to support it, though this applies principally to academics based in England. Others might wish to read the response anyway, and reflect upon the neoliberalisation of humanities research, and how it might be resisted.
Totalizing, teleologizing, triadic: standard readings of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit are monotone. In The Hegel Variations, Fredric Jameson re-encounters the rhythm and dynamism of the text, reprising the fluidity of the negative. Come tune your dialectic with InterCcECT at our first reading group of the summer, Wednesday 25 June, 12noon, Bucktown-Wicker Park Public Library Study Room.
What’s on your reading/talking/writing/making list? Email interccect at gmail to propose summer collaborations, or to request the texts.
I was recently the respondent to a presentation by Dr Mathew Guest of the findings of his recent co-authored report (with Sonya Sharma and Robert Song) on gender and career progression in Theology and Religious Studies departments in the UK (Spoiler: it’s not good); he asked me to make my response available online, and so I’m posting it here in the hope that it might spark some useful discussions.
The presentation I was responding to was at the 2014 meeting of the Society for the Study of Theology in Durham, UK. I was asked to be the respondent at the last minute, the day before the seminar, because when the programme was released, Kate Tomas pointed out that the session looked like this:
As someone who has spent a long time living with a plant-based diet and wrestling with many of the philosophical and personal issues Adam alludes to in his post, “Why am I not a vegetarian?” I feel compelled to give a response particularly to the matters of killing, hospitality, and dispositional ethics. I apologize for the length of this, as Twain said, I simple “didn’t have time to make it shorter.”
To jump right in, I agree with Adam that abstract appeals against killing are rarely valuable, but this is because, as Haraway, Derrida, Butler and others have mentioned, these abstract, categorical appeals always fail to take an account of the discourses through which certain bodies have been made killable while others reserve the right to kill. In the case of our consumption, certain bodies (and not others) are made killable when they are rendered legible through discourses of species, animality, ability, edibility, proximity to the human, etc. Within the context of meat eating, and by pointing toward an ideally administered death penalty as one example of a way killing could be acceptable, Adam inadvertently highlights this juridical production of animals as edible. By citing the right to kill those who have committed heinous crimes in the context of the potential “non criminal putting to death” of other animals, it is as though cows ought to be killable because they are guilty of being edible. Adam does not make this strict parallel, but the logic gestured toward is so common in meat-eating discourses it was worth at least a brief mention (for more, see the section on Edible Intelligibility here). So while I agree with that we cannot simply suggest killing is always bad, we must also agree that whom and when we kill are not neutral facts of biological consumption, of law, etc., but products of discourse, language, and power. That we can begin the conversation with the given that by meat we do not mean the flesh Homo sapiens is precisely evidence of the discursive production of those who are edible and those who are not. For a poststructural, non-essentializing version of compassionate eating choices, a genealogy of edible bodies and their production as edible in the first is as important as the ontological inquiry about the species-specific richness of each life that stymies my justification for systematically consuming them. Read the rest of this entry »