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A Plea for Anti-Empire Polemics

The last 8 years have been fertile soil in the U.S. for deploying anti-empire polemics. A key example of this is the long in production, but only recently released Evangelicals and Empire, edited by Peter Hetzel and Bruce Ellis Benson. The book engages Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s books Empire and Multitude, both of which are supremely important books in the field. Evangelicals and Empire features a fascinating diversity of essays which analyze the various streams of evangelicalism from the standpoint of Hardt and Negri’s Empire theory as well as applying forms of theological critique their project. In the midst of this book there are some essays that are rather simplistic reiterations of common anti-Bush sentiments translated into a critique of “American Empire.” The chief example of this is Jim Wallis’ well-worn and whiney essay “Dangerous Religion.”

My point in mentioning this is not to say that critiques of Bush-style neoconservatism are wrong, rather it is that they are just far too easy. Any Christian critique of empire worth its salt must be able to do more than lob shots at the chicanery of the Bush administration. Amid the uproar of exultation surrounding Barack Obama’s inauguration Christians need to remember what it might mean to be true critics of empire. As Andrew Bacevich notes in his superb book, American Empire, the imperial pretension of the American national project are not in any way reducibile to partisan differences within the American political apparatus. The differences between republicans and democrats, between Bush and Obama, as real as they might be are ultimately only differences of degrees. At best.

If America was an empire yesterday it remains one today despite the Obama administration’s proclamations of hope and seismic change. For my part I think Obama’s election makes for no substantive change in regard to the fundamental posture that Christians must take in regard to their view of American imperial pretensions. What is needed now, in a post-Bush America is the kind of vigilance that refuses to assume that that empire has ceased to be a theological problem for Christians in America. We will almost certainly see a lapse in the rush of anti-empire publications in the next few years. For far too many “progressive” Christians being anti-empire just means being anti-Bush. What is needed now, in light of the (false) hope of the newly inaugurated Obama presidency is ongoing critique of the problems of American empire. So that is my plea. Let us not be seduced. We lived in an empire yesterday. We live in an empire today. There are just as many idols to be unmasked today as there were yesterday. Let’s not get lax about it just because Bush is gone.

44 Comments

  1. Hill wrote:

    I was going to mention Bacevich. He’s been so helpful to me in understanding the details of what is going on. His newer book ‘The Limits of Power’ is also very good. There’s a distillation of the book into an essay that he published recently here:

    http://www.amconmag.com/article/2008/sep/08/00018/

    and a Bill Moyers interview with Bacevich here:

    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08152008/watch.html

    and another long video interview here:

    http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/16916?in=00:20&out=06:45

    He’s not exactly a theologian, but he makes very interesting use of Niebuhr, a theologian of whom I’ve long been skeptical. Paul Elie has an interesting article in The Atlantic about the enthusiasm for Niebuhr from all ends of the political spectrum (including both Bacevich and Obama) here:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200711/reinhold-niebuhr

    Sorry for the link deluge, but I think more people should be reading Bacevich. He’s a very generous and thoughtful person and something of a voice crying in the wilderness when it comes to ‘political analysts.’

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    My tongue in cheek assessment of Bacevich has often been that he’s…not a moron.

    But seriously I think that Bacevich really is just a great example of what an ideal citizen should look like in a true democracy. I may not have a theological investment in that particular reality, but I appreciate it on some level, especially in comparison to what good citizenship is supposed to mean in much of contemporary political discourse.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  3. Hill wrote:

    That’s a great way to put it. I’m increasingly realizing that while, like you, I have no theological investment in “liberal democracy,” the inescapable reality of my being a citizen in this liberal democracy may at some point impinge on me in a fashion heretofore unimagined that compels me to some form of “political” engagement. I don’t have a clear idea of what that might be, but I am increasingly ill at ease with my quietest tendencies towards “American politics” and Bacevich, as you suggest, has provided a helpful example of the exercise of citizenly democratic duty, in the best sense possible.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    At the very least I think that I appreciate citizens who have some kind of critical leverage over against the ideologies that run things today. I don’t want to just run with that by bracketing the theological, but perhaps the thing to say is that sometimes its ok to tell people that they aren’t far from the kingdom of God even if they don’t fall into the theological thickness that informs how we think about the meaning of the political.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  5. Hill wrote:

    My feeling based on listening to Bacevich in interviews and reading his more recent stuff is that his Catholic piety and sensibilities aren’t just an incidental aspect of his thought. I think he just feels like he can approach these questions from an angle that might get people listening that might not be receptive to an overtly theological critique.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  6. Hill wrote:

    Put another way, I think that the system has myriad critiques that remain immanent to it (but that are ultimately compatible with a broader theological counter-vision) and it may be that exploring those immanent critiques (which in my mind express residual theological truth in many cases) may be a fruitful line of work.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    That’s essentially a description of the kind of critique MLK made of America regarding race. He just asked America to recognize the contradictions immanent within their own practice vis a vis their proclaimed principles. I feel confident that MLK had a much thicker understanding of race relations than what he called America to, but his form of immanent critique had its place and importance.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  8. Well said, sir,
    Leading up to election time, I couldn’t help but notice that McCain and Obama BOTH wrapped their messages in ‘empirical’ greatness-of-america language. Good reminder here for anti-Bush band-wagoners.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink
  9. Miller wrote:

    Sounds like a job for Stringfellow.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  10. Araglin wrote:

    Hill and Halden,

    Here’s a link to a collection of vignets from various writers and thinkers on “What Obama Should Read,” which includes a thoughtful recommendation from Andrew Bacevich that he read Niebuhr’s Ironies:

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2009/0901.obama.html

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Permalink
  11. Araglin wrote:

    Make that Irony of American History

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
  12. Chris Donato wrote:

    Thanks for this balanced exhortation, Halden. I couldn’t agree more. Like you, I’m content (caveat: Day 1 and counting) with this new administration — as it compares to the last — but knowing where my ultimate allegiance lies forbids me from getting caught up in the euphoria, which, hopefully, will mean a producing of the kind of vigilance that you speak of.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 7:43 am | Permalink
  13. Susan wrote:

    There is so much petit-bourgeois self-loathing in this blog.

    I’m always struck, ironically so, at your distain for liberal democracies as you type away at your computer.

    No doubt, you have solid theological points about empire. You always do. My complaint is only with your general lack of circumspection and commentary upon your own self-complicity. You are always talking about everyone else. I’d enjoy this blog more if you were more confessional. Your theological stances are too contaminated by your neuroses concerning your own moral luck.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 8:00 am | Permalink
  14. Tom wrote:

    I have never taken anything on this blog seriously. To take the trendy disposition of this blog seriously is to some how validate the inherently paradoxical conception of the world its author occupies. It constitutes a worldview of coping and fatalism. It represents everything that is potentially negative about blogging – Someone who should have no voice due to an entire lack of credibility has apparently been given one. Its ever suspicious orientation, the sectarism it promotes, and the gross bifurications it promulgates are just a reversion to early 20th century Christian fundamentalism. This blog represents a hot-bed of what could be described as neo-fundamentalist thought. Other than its attempt to integrate some post-liberal ideas, it expresses the same mentality and distinctives of fundamentalism. In all seriousness, outside of violent threats, reading this blog is like reading one of bin Laden’s letters about America. In fact we should be all very happy that its author is a harmless pacifist.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  15. Hill wrote:

    You should edit this post to include something about Mark Driscoll and see if it causes the internet to explode.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  16. Tom wrote:

    I take Driscoll as serious as the author of this blog and its obsequious followers.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  17. Alex wrote:

    Absolutely agree that the difference is one of degrees, and a reminder is always helpful. Both parties have various ways of exerting control: militarily, monetarily, and morally. In short, they are both statists, it’s just a matter of focus.

    Can you please take this a step further in the direction you have suggested? In other words, what does it mean to be “true” critics of empire? Specifically, what do you think of Rod Dreher’s concept of “The Benedict Option” which he derives from the last passage of Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue?”

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  18. Austin wrote:

    Thanks for this post… good reminder.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink
  19. poserorprophet wrote:

    Halden,

    Good stuff, as per usual. Also good to see that your commentators have retained their senses of humour (I had a good laugh at what Susan and Tom wrote… so thanks for that!).

    I might add that if you look at whom Obama has appointed for the various positions within his inner circle, you very quickly realise the truth in the maxim, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink
  20. Tom wrote:

    Irony is cheap.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink
  21. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Great post. And Halden, Susan and Tom are right you know. You’re totally an early twentieth century bourgeois neo-fundamentalist.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  22. Halden wrote:

    I do so love my petite bourgeois self-loathing.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  23. Great thoughts. Irony is certainly cheap. And criticizing empire is SO passe. It truly is a good thing that pacifists are so darn harmless. I strain to think of a single example of an anti-imperial pacifist that has made a difference….

    ;)

    By the way (sorry for the self promotion here), but Jesus Manifesto (which has been down) is relaunching on February 1st. I’d appreciate it if you could stop by when things are up and running and take a gander.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  24. Tom wrote:

    It sure does sound like he is. Just like the pre-1940s American Evangelicals, he does not vote, is horribly skeptical of secularism, loathes liberalism and apparently has has replaced inerrancy with community. He has rejected his evangelical heritage for the very tradition that Neo-Evangelicalism once rejected. The great regression has begun, yet its coverted in the name of Barth, intellectually justified by post-modern arguements and yet behind all of it is the residual beliefs of your grandparents. You have rejected your parents Evangelicalism for your grandparents fundamenalism. Do not respond to me with irony and sacarasm. Perhaps try to answer the accusation.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink
  25. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Tom, so let me get this straight. Because Halden insists on a theological critique of capitalist modernity rooted in the church he is a fucking fundamentalist? You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink
  26. Tom wrote:

    Do you have any idea what the definition of a fundamentalist is? He meets all the qualifications. So yes he is a fundamentalist (it does not constitute an oxymoron to be a fundamentalist and to proffer the phrase “fucking fundamentalist”) . What keeps him from not being a fundamentalist? You tell me? A fundamentlist has a nostaligia for the pre-modern and attempts to some how revive it. Hence a fundamentalist speak of martyrdom. A fundamenalist is hyper critical of contemporary culture at large. A fundamentalist is a sectarian. A fundamentalist invokes apocalyptic language and imaginary. A fundemantalist is ultimately a blinded modernist, taking advantage of the benefits of the era yet denigrating with out cessation. I actually think the practical implications of the theological disposition of this blog makes it quite similiar to being a Jehovah’s Witness. This sectarinism does not make you strange in an attractive sense it just makes you weird in the least appealing way.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink
  27. Billy Sunday wrote:

    You’re awfully chatty and venomous for someone who claims not to take the author of this blog seriously. If he is as harmless as you say why are you so frantic, edgy, and anxious about what he writes?

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink
  28. Tom wrote:

    You are totally right.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink
  29. Tom, this is a terrible misreading. I tried quite hard to find a single sentence, in all your comments on this post, that could be read as factually correct about Halden or an adequate summary of a position, other than perhaps a statement of your personal opinion. Seriously, stop trolling and get an education. This is embarrassing.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  30. poserorprophet wrote:

    I wasn’t being ironic. I was serious. I’ve really grown to appreciate people who throw out nutter comments like accusing Halden of “petit-bourgeois self-loathing” (Susan) or of saying things like we should all be happy that Halden is a “harmless pacifist” (Tom). Maybe I’ve been reading too many of Shane’s comments (that jackass!) but I don’t know why I can’t say that such comments are hilarious (they honestly do make me laugh), especially when the commentators don’t seem to mind making what others consider to be “venomous” remarks.

    Besides, are such comments really conducive to conversation? Or are the authors simply trying to get a rise out of Halden et al., because Halden managed to get a rise out of them?

    Such b.s. and throw-away remarks like those I mentioned, or like saying “Irony is cheap” (Tom), are about as useful as me responding by saying something like “Oh yeah? Your mom is cheap!” (The appropriate response to which is, of course, “Oh snap!” but, again, that doesn’t get us anywhere.)

    That said, in his more recent remarks Tom has raised some more interesting and sustained (albeit confused) objections, so I’m curious to see if anybody wants to bother with them. However, given Tom’s tone and what he said in his earlier remarks, I doubt anybody will bother.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  31. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Tom,

    First of all, the meaning of the term “fundamentalism” is really not so self-evident. Iif we’re going to have a conversation about whether or not Halden is a fundamentalist, we’re going to have to agree on what that actually means. It is a sticky term, indeed–and, of course, it is now primarily a pejorative one. Because the meaning of the term is basically contested, and you obviously intend to use in a pejorative way, I really don’t understand how it could be helpful.

    I suppose it could be helpful if we were trying to compare Halden’s work with say those associated with early American evangelical fundamentalism. That would be a pretty fascinating investigation I suppose. You’re right to point out that Halden and early evangelical fundamentalists have both been critical of capitalism and modernity, but it doesn’t follow that Halden’s position is a “fundamentalist”–unless you’d like to include say Karl Marx among the fundamentalists as well.

    I should also note, with D.W. Horstkoetter, that so far you’ve terribly misrepresented Halden’s positions. As he has made evident in many posts, Halden is not at all concerned with “reviving” the so-called “pre-modern,” which in your view is essential to being a fundamentalist. As far as speaking of martyrdom and apocalyptic goes, I should just say that the fundamentalists of early American evangelicalism were not the first to use such categories in theology. Nor do they have a monopoly on the categories. If you can’t tell the difference between Halden and Jack Van Impe’s use of apocalyptic than I don’t really know what to say.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  32. oldman wrote:

    I am partial to the trajectory (if not the details) of Tom’s analysis. Halden has many fundamentalist habits of mind and expression, merely substituting community for the Bible, Yoder for radio preachers, empire for Satan(same goes for Dan). Add to that an acute indifference to subtlety in dealing with the world(thus the apocalyptic charge) while being overly subtle in theological matters.

    As to Dan’s point about why make these pot-shot comments. I think it is well-known that you can’t persuade most young theologians of almost anything especially while they are in school(after the initial re-orientation of course) and certainly not in blog comments. You must simply wait for the events of life to overtake their philosophies or hope they just get bored. Alternatively you may just have to outlive them.

    But in the meantime I think it is somewhat useful to remind them in their extreme self-confidence that there are mentally competent “experienced” readers out there who find a particular post silly and often their entire theological outlook misguided. In their assertiveness they often seem unaware of this possibility. So every now and then those of us who have gone through similar stages of psychological maturation and are on the other side offer up a sarcastic slap in the face hoping it might cause you to stumble, hesitate, and so perhaps be delivered. We are helpful beacons to your future not to be dismissed as mere trolls.

    Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 12:18 am | Permalink
  33. Billy Sunday wrote:

    Dear Oldman,

    For someone who styles himself as an experienced beacon of light and wisdom to the ignoramouses of the internet you come off as quite a bombastic, snippy, and childish little snot. At least Halden et al have made a sizable amount of material detailing their opinions available to you all (which it seems you have never read a jot or tittle of). You show up out of nowhere and presume that others should simply regard you as more “mentally competent” than everyone else? When all we know about you is that you can semi-competently insult others? This is suppose to convince people of your more measured wisdom? All it evidences is a juvenile smarminess that thinly veils an infantile insecurity and foolishness. Might you simply be a little bitter about not having a real education of your own? Or are your flacid attempts at argumentative self-validation trying to compensate for…something….else?

    Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 12:30 am | Permalink
  34. Yes, please oldman, give us young whipper snappers the spanking we deserve because of our inability to read theology well, understand subtlety, and all in all, live in this world as long as you. Its nice to know that empire criticism is just youthful ideology. Its nice to know your christology ensures you a long life.

    Oh wait, even R. Niebuhr, the ever pragmatist at the end of his life came around and realized that his realism had been hijacked for (or simply enabled) the rationalization of the Vietnam war and other empire endeavors. And at the very end of his life, he read some of James Cone’s early work and said he thought that the book was headed in the right direction and actually carried on in a direct he wanted his project to go. It was fairly critical, just so you know.

    Or, do you want to make fun of, or call childish, the hope of the slaves in the work of God and that while other humans said that imported Africans or sons and daughters of then current slaves were not human, they knew they were human beings and called for deliverance in an apocalyptic fashion of sorts.

    The point is, the language has changed. Halden (and I) simply haven’t substituted one word for another, or maintain the same way we spoke before. Clearly, you have a hard time at subtlety as well. And if you know much about different traditions in theology, perhaps you should look for those in the young pups’ writings. We happen to read, you know. And because we read, we also happen to know that people disagree (some of us even go to places where we find a plethora of helpfully critical conversation partners and life experience), but if you’re just going to write us young’ins off as unreachable outside of some revelatory cognitive dissonance, and not worth the time to engage, then quit your whining, because you aren’t engaging in theology (which is primarily a discussion, if you weren’t aware).

    And since you wanted to factor in your age as a lofty ideal, perhaps you’re a tad old to realize that people use blogs to discuss, not to justify babbling in some misguided notion of prophetic voice. Get dirty in the discussions with something worth saying or get out of the way oldman, because you will have let time and people pass you by so you could see your self as right.

    Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 2:21 am | Permalink
  35. Hill wrote:

    Since the flamewar has died down a bit, I thought I’d post a link to a helpful analysis of this topic by Daniel Larison on his blog:

    http://www.amconmag.com/larison/2009/01/21/ideology-of-national-security/

    Larison’s blog in general is a great place to find solid political commentary from a thoughtful, intelligent and committed (Orthodox) Christian.

    Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  36. Marvin wrote:

    I keep navigating back to this post meaning to leave a comment, but have been at a loss as to what to say until now.

    The post reminds me of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son who won’t come in and join the celebration. Tuesday was a fine, fine day, and I guess I’m sad, more than anything, for anyone whose political, theological or ideological commitments, whatever they are, prevented them from stepping over the threshold and abandoning themselves for a while to the sheer joy of the occasion.

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that the thick ecclesiology of the black church, brought to bear in the public square in the 1950s and 60s, made Tuesday possible. I am not quite sure what to make of communitarians who want to deny themselves this vindication of their own vision. So, even more than the older brother, I am reminded of Jonah, sulking under his withered vine because the Empire repented.

    Of course we had to celebrate because, if just for a day, this lost country found itself. And if the Lord God is concerned about the Empire, its people and animals, shouldn’t we too?

    Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 7:22 pm | Permalink
  37. Hill wrote:

    Comparing the inauguration of the United States’ first black president to the conversion of a sinner (at which the angels in heaven rejoice) is a bit of a stretch. Likewise, the “thick ecclesiology” of the black church is largely an alien category foisted up on it by (generally white) theology graduate students. I’m not sure I’d want to be involved in an ecclesiology that was devoted in any significant sense to getting a member of my church elected president. Again, I’m not speaking materially about “the black church,” only a common narrative about it that generally serves a kind of liberal white complex about African-Americans and not African-Americans themselves.

    Within a certain very limited context, I’m as happy as can be that we have an African-American president, but when “equality” means ascending to the same corrupt power structures that had previously been reserved for the racial majority, I don’t see much reason to rejoice in it.

    “I have chosen to be an abject in the house of my God, rather than to dwell in the tabernacles of sinners.”

    You are (in some sense arbitrarily) ascribing theological significance to Obama’s inauguration when that is precisely what is being called in to question. The possession of a black man of something previously denied him is not an a priori good. I don’t even know what it means (other that buying in to the pseudo cult status of this whole phenomenon) to say that a lost country had found itself. Your rhetoric sounds dangerously close to Obama-messianism.

    Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  38. Christian wrote:

    Did Marvin just make an analogous association between the Prodigal Son and Barack Obama? Good Lord! Billy Sunday, pour me a drink; I can’t believe what I’m reading! (By the way, I think Marvin has completely missed Halden’s point that a regime change in America does not mean that we once were lost but now are found… at least not in any theologically meaningful way.)

    This has been one of the more humorous posts I’ve read in a long time. Who are these people that seemly to despise this blog, yet manage to take time out of their day on a regular enough basis to have you all figured out, Halden? This is high comedy.

    Anyhow, I agree with Dan that it would be interesting to pursue this notion of fundamentalism a bit further. And, although I think the charge is off base, it would be nice to see Halden be a little more confessional about this claim (and others like myself and Dan and David and RO and any other of the young–and thus willfully blind–theo-bloggers who post here). Let me explain a bit more…

    In his book _Violence_, Slovoj Zizek makes an interesting distinction between fundamentalists and pseudo-fundamentalists. He claims that those groups we new commonly to refer as fundamentalists (of both the Red State Christian and the suicide-bombing Islamic varieties) are actually not really fundamentalists at al, for they lack “a feature that is easy to discern in all authentic fundamentalists, from Tibetan Buddhists to the Amish in the U.S.: the absence of resentment and envy, the deep indifference towards the non-believers’ way of life.”

    In other words, a fundamentalist is one (or a group) who are confident that they have found the truth, to the point that all they feel toward those who do not share their vision is a sense of pity (compassion?). There is no need to defend or tear down or destroy the other.

    So my question is two-fold: 1) Does Zizek’s definition of fundamentalism work? and 2) If so, is Halden (and are others of us) a fundamentalist according to this definition?

    Come on Billy, pour me another!

    Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  39. Halden wrote:

    Christian, I posted something about Zizek’s definition of fundamentalism a while back. See what you think.

    Friday, January 23, 2009 at 12:12 am | Permalink
  40. Roger Flyer wrote:

    Fun thread. I love the main characters! I never thought I’d see Billy Sunday, Jack Van Impe on this blog. Now you’re talkin’! Buckle up now or someone’s gonna be left behind!

    Friday, January 23, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink
  41. Miller wrote:

    Marvin makes a good point about the fruit of the witness of the black church. The prophetic word broke in and revealed a new possibility for human community. Let’s say it, Well done God, via the Church, [clap, clap].

    Of course, the Church never stops critiquing. While an African-American waves from air force one, a tide of slurry descends a Tennessee hillside. There are more dreams to be had.

    Friday, January 23, 2009 at 8:54 am | Permalink
  42. Glenn King wrote:

    Tom, I am aware that certain scholars particularly Martin Marty have defined fundamentalism as being primarily a retreat from modernity or post modernity as the case may be. If fundamentalism were only the rejection of certain aspects of modernity , I would have little problem per se with it. Many aspects of modernity or post modernity are objectionable and should be opposed.

    Further more apocalyptic language perhaps has its uses. It seems to me that perhaps one of the reasons for the flabbiness of contemporary Christian liberalism may be because of its complete rejection of both prophetic and apocalyptic language.

    I think instead it is the exclusionary hubris of fundamentalism that is its most important characteristic. This is its tendency to look upon it’s texts, interpretations, and institutions as containing absolute truth and value and its corresponding certainty that all outside of its realm is untruth and falsehood. That is what I think separates fundamentalism from other more open expressions of faith.

    Note. I have only very recently found this excellent blog. Even the insults here in which people are sometimes indulging are very articulate and well done. This is my first post here.

    Friday, January 23, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  43. Marvin wrote:

    Not sure if much is to be gained at this point by continuing the conversation, but for the purposes of clarifying, let me say that I don’t object to the content of the post and its friendly comments so much as the timing. I think that we ought to treat Empires the way that we properly treat rebellious adolescents: carrots for good behavior, sticks for bad behavior. Certainly occasions for criticism will follow, but when the Empire does right, I don’t believe in doubling down on the criticism, but giving credit where credit due. Not to do so is churlish. It’s the tone-deafnessness of the post that troubles me, more than anything.

    Put differently: “Dude, the President’s a black guy! Ditch the hair shirt and partay!”

    Friday, January 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink
  44. Notbell wrote:

    Empire? Oh, what a polymorphous word. Your semantics will only settle down and be propositionally comprehensible if you would discipline your vocabulary. “America” is sufficiently challanging without multiplying the difficulty by linking it to its anti-thesis.

    Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

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