Weekly links 03032011

3 03 2011

A link on “biblical consumerism”:

Beal thinks the current boom in biblical consumerism amounts to a “distress crop,” the last great efflorescence of the old authoritative ideal before people move on and learn to embrace biblical ambiguity. I’m not so sure. Craving the certainty and absolutism of fundamentalism is a fairly common response (across many religious faiths) to the often terrifying flux of modern life. If certitude is the main thing American Christians are seeking when they turn to the Bible, then they’re unlikely to tolerate, let alone embrace, Beal’s “library of questions” model. You can learn a lot about how the Bible was created in the past 2,000 years, and about the many strange forms it has taken in the present, from “The Rise and Fall of the Bible.” But where it’s headed in the future is a mystery much harder to solve.

A Protestant friend of mine once said that the Bible should probably be compared more to a music score than a guide book for living. Americans are notorious for using it as the latter. Even candle shops and botanicas sell books of the Psalms as works of conjure and white magic. The difference between this and using it to justify imperial power is merely a matter of scale. As for me, I never liked reading the Bible, even when forced to do it on my knees in seminary. Oddly enough, it was Luther who would say that the Word of God is expressed best in preaching, not in the written text.

Epistemological distress due to the ripening of late capitalism makes for poor dogma.

This is proof that most people believe in some pretty sloppy history. First off, one must concede that Marx himself called Lincoln a “first rate second rate man”. His subsequent apotheosis should then be seen as unjustified. However, when speaking of the Civil War, Americans are notoriously bad at considering the slaves as entirely passive actors; as poor victims waiting on the plantations to be saved. As W.E.B. DuBois proves in his magisterial work, Black Reconstruction in America, slavery was really ended by a massive general strike on the part of the slaves who left their plantations in droves during the course of the war. Something similar occured in Brazil in 1888: slavery was ended by the slaves themselves a couple of years leading up to the proclamation of the “Golden Law”. To concede that the actual slaves played a vital role in their own liberation would be too much for the bourgeois intellectual, just as the Haitian Revolution proved to be too much for the “world stage” to digest, at least openly.

And, some old news, just to prove that some Latin American “leftist” presidents are not as “left” we think.



2 responses

6 03 2011

Hmm what is happening in Bolivia sounds similar to what happened in 1970 in Poland. After a series of price hikes in December 1970, the workers of Gdańsk and Gdynia shipyard demanded raises in wages. The Polish United Workers’ Party responded that you do not speak to counter-revolution but you squash it, adding that it did not care if they killed the protesting workers or destroyed the entire Gdańsk shipyard.

It is interesting how this may develop. This workers’ movement may turn into a neoliberal coup d’etat similarly to what occurred throughout Eastern Europe. The protesting workers of Solidarność demanded respect for human rights in 1980. In 1989, the political arm of the Solidarity movement came to power. Today the post-Solidarity governments use tactics which call the non-political Solidarity trade union “greedy resentful socialists”. The people who called on Marx in 1970 as a guiding light, became the new guiding middle class..
The point in all of this is that the workers will never be respected in any form of government. They form the backbone, the body of the state, yet they are treated as meat for the grinding machine of the state, not as people. In socialism, they are counter revolutionary fascists, in capitalism they are resentful socialists. There is no justice on earth.

5 03 2011

From Laura Miller, “”The Rise and Fall of the Bible”: Rethinking the Good Book”, Slate, Feb 13, 2011

[Timothy] Beal thinks the current boom in biblical consumerism amounts to a “distress crop,” the last great efflorescence of the old authoritative ideal before people move on and learn to embrace biblical ambiguity. [my addition]

Timothy Beal’s optimistic prediction that the proliferation of Bibles and derivative publications will spark a move towards conscious “higher-level” Biblical criticism falls flat when Bibles are viewed as totems rather than didactic tools. In the mostly a-liturgical and theological freeform non-denominational evangelical world, the Bible and scripture preaching supplant sacramental liturgy as the mediation between God and human being. An implication that Bible purchasers do not read the Bible out of lassitude neglects the primary totemic value of religious literature. The mere possession of a Bible identifies the owner as a follower of a certain interpretation of scripture mediated by not only a preacher but also by the socio-historical implications of an interpretation of the Bible.

A different totemism exists in the “traditional Catholic” community. Many in this community cannot separate older liturgy and piety from strict supersessional underpinnings that Conciliar proclamations have successfully challenged. From the tridentinist viewpoint, any critical reading of the Hebrew Bible separate from a strictly typological interpretation threatens two challenges to the totemic value of the older liturgy. A non-typological reading of the Hebrew Bible, and especially a critical evaluation of the Hebrew Bible according to rabbinical Jewish exegesis, not only challenges the notion of Catholic salvific exceptionality but also the anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism, and intra-religious violence that undergirds the development of Catholic sacramentality.

The removal of either totem risks great belief, faith, ritual, and social destabilization. Ignorance and violence trump education and reconciliation merely because the status quo presents an illusion of personal and ritual-group security.

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