My friends and colleagues David Fleer and John York convinced the inimitable Walter Brueggemann to come of out of his retirement and make his way to Nashville to deliver a special lecture. The lecture was sponsored by the Preaching Workshop at the Hazelip School of Theology, which regularly provides outstanding opportunities for engagement with some of the brightest theological minds in the country.
Walter's assigned title was "The Import of Preaching." Now one should not judge a lecture by it's title. I found the title about as exciting as watching C-Span during the elder George Bush years.
But to those who braved the winter elements, and to those who looked beyond the spine-tingling excitement of the title, a veritable feast of intellect was served: socio-political commentary done in a most outstanding and compelling theological fashion. It was a classic moment, an 84 year old theologian of the highest order, doing his craft with care and enthusiasm and brilliance, bearing witness against the totalizing constructs of our day, bearing witness to the possibility of genuine freedom and liberty and community.
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Light of the world, who came into our darkness;
Lover of all, who came into our hostility;
Word of truth, who came into our delusion…
I discovered a woman far more complicated than the mythos that generally surrounds her and abstracts bits of her life into sermonic quips and sentimental memes. I encountered a “saint of darkness,” indeed: not only one who willingly struck out into the unknown…
Saint Thomas Aquinas insisted that life was ultimately about happiness. This is an odd assertion, perhaps…. To be happy?! Such an assertion sounds suspiciously like indulgent self-centeredness.
The early Christians were undoubtedly “liberal” in important senses: after all, the ancient world held certain strict categories of hierarchy. These early Christians were shockingly liberal in refusing to impose such categories and moralisms. But these Christians held to an orthodoxy that led to a particular form of liberalism. They were liberal in these ways not in spite of their orthodoxy; they were liberal in these ways because of their orthodoxy.
“My phone would ring, and it’d be Motown wanting me to start working and I’d say, ‘Have you seen the paper today? Have you read about these kids who were killed at Kent State?’ The murders at Kent State made me sick. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop crying. The notion of singing three-minute songs about the moon and June didn’t interest me. Neither did instant-message songs.”
We let all sorts of melodies and lyrics roll over us, inviting us to participate in the sorts of beautiful human communities of which Moltmann speaks…
Here’s the thing, Cash the man and Cash the artist were now one in a way the image of the outlaw/saint never allowed him to be… Under this gospel, it was possible to be both outlaw and saint, but in reality it was a hard act to pull off, both musically and personally. This is my proposal…
So, now we have folk Dylan, electric Dylan, Christian Dylan, fat tires on smooth pavement Dylan, Christmas album Dylan, and even torch singer Dylan. Who is Bob Dylan? Here’s my bold claim…
Springsteen has a way of making me ache when I listen to him. He touches places I’ve been and feelings I’ve had. Some of it in sepia tones, home, glory days, regret and longing for home. But some of it is…
To be, or not to be, that
may be á question, but
cannot be thé question, whence
Was Mother Teresa’s remarkable care for the physically destitute rooted in “mercenary” missionary intent? Should we be handing out Nobel Peace Prizes to folks who combat poverty and distress ultimately for the sake of making religious converts—who, in fact, teach those converts to embrace their suffering for the glory of God?