Friday, 21 November 2008

Faith and Theology: Dishonest money: what the financial crisis tells us about ourselves

Faith and Theology: Dishonest money: what the financial crisis tells us about ourselves

It is worth reading this post for two key features: identifying the inversion of vices to virtues between Aristotle and today; and the appeal to Christians to constitute the Church.

The vices identified by Aristotle (greed, lack of self-control, profit through usury, ...) are now virtues and building blocks of the capitalist model. Having just finished with Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals, it seems apparent to me that there is a great deal of truth in what Nietzsche wrote. Morals are not universal constants in society. They change and develop over the years in order to support one class against another. The morals of the Situation (c.f. Badiou) are plastic and support the moral centre, the prevailing world order. Consequently, morals inherited through unconscious societal imitation (c.f. Girard) have feet of clay - no support for themselves. We therefore need to be careful about which moral or ethical code we promote.

Second, whether the solution fits the problem or not, the appeal for Christians to be the Church is timeless. It opposes the notion that the Church is the accidental occurrence of a group of Christians. The Church must be the Church through the intentionality of Christians. Unless Christians intend to be the Church, it will never happen. It cannot be there by accident. This might sound like tired rhetoric, but it isn't. Instead, it is a necessary and sufficient condition to establish the reality of the Church, and therefore to manifest the presence of an invisible God in the material world.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Save the banks!

From an article by Slavoj Zizek:
The financial meltdown has made it impossible to ignore the blatant irrationality of global capitalism. In the fight against Aids, hunger, lack of water or global warming, we may recognise the urgency of the problem, but there is always time to reflect, to postpone decisions. The main conclusion of the meeting of world leaders in Bali to talk about climate change, hailed as a success, was that they would meet again in two years to continue the talks. But with the financial meltdown, the urgency was unconditional; a sum beyond imagination was immediately found. Saving endangered species, saving the planet from global warming, finding a cure for Aids, saving the starving children . . . All that can wait a bit, but ‘Save the banks!’ is an unconditional imperative which demands and gets immediate action. The panic was absolute. A transnational and non-partisan unity was immediately established, all grudges among world leaders momentarily forgotten in order to avert the catastrophe. (Incidentally, what the much-praised ‘bi-partisanship’ effectively means is that democratic procedures were de facto suspended.) The sublimely enormous sum of money was spent not for some clear ‘real’ task, but in order to ‘restore confidence’ in the markets – i.e. for reasons of belief. Do we need any more proof that Capital is the Real of our lives, the Real whose demands are more absolute than even the most pressing demands of our social and natural reality?

"Save the banks!" indeed. It's like shouting "Fire!" rather than "Help!"

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

More Obama Analysis

This is an interesting exercise in demographics. It's a series of maps of America, identifying racial, religious and voter groups. Check it out and draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Christianity without Creation

Although I am not specifically a New Testament scholar, I take an interest in it.  From what I've read, the writers aren't so interested in studying the origins of the universe.  The universe is a given.  It simply is.  There are some plausible explanations for this, and I'm going to write a little about two of them

1. The authors assume that God created it, and see no reason to expand on this.
Since most of the NT documents were written by converts from Judaism, it may well be that the Jewish belief in the origins of the universe were brought along with the authors.  The universe was created by God from out of the waters.  Go and read Genesis 1 for more details.  With this assumption so clearly in the culture, there's no need to write more about it.

2. The authors see that New Creation is more important.
Regardless of the origins of the present situation, the origins of the New Creation take precedence.  The consequence of Jesus' death and resurrection are to be worked through in the lives of the believers and should take more attention and focus than meditations about the origin of cosmos.

If #1 is correct, then we are left with a universe that suits classical theism.  God is the Big Three omnis, with all the mind-twisting problems that this entails (e.g., theodicy).

If #2 is correct, then we are left with an absurd universe that has always been absurd and which requires an intervention to give it meaning.  It also means we should probably shut up about where the universe came from and get on with the issues of being Christian.  Kierkegaard was right.  The real question concerns how we can be Christian, not how we can argue about it.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Elections Have No Connection To Policies

It has been impossible to avoid the news of the recent American election.  Yes, American now has a new president, and for some reason the most celebrated aspect of the electoral winner is skin colour.

Yes.  Skin colour.

Amongst all the reports about the victory was one with a snippet of a speech made by Martin Luther King.  It included this statement:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Barack Obama is not being celebrated (or plotted against, it seems) because of his politics, or his gender, but because of the colour of his skin.

Regardless of the reasons that people voted for him, I think the more interesting feature is the reporting of the victory.  Why is it such an issue that Obama is black?  I can only speculate that it is because the context in which he ran is so horribly racist, deep to the core.  Only in a society that has a clear socially dominant class could there be such emphasis on the exception.  Suppose that Hillary Clinton was the winner, then gender rather than skin colour or policy would be the distinguishing issue, and would clearly identify the American situation as sexist.

Putting so much focus on the colour of his skin serves only to show that in America, race is still an issue, and that genuine democratic consideration of a candidate's policies plays no part in the mind of the voter.

Note: In the interests of full disclosure, if I was eligible to vote, I would have voted for Obama in order to extract the Republicans from office, and because I think Obama is more likely to implement socially responsible policies.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Misc - Kierkegaard

David Chalmers (yes, yes, I know this is two references in a short space of time) has published a taxonomy of philosophy that he has compiled with David Bourget. I, being the self-interested being I am, only bothered to look at the sections of interest to me. Under 19th century philosophy there were the usual suspects, categorised by country. Then I saw the one that made me laugh.


This wins the internet for today.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Remember Remember the Fifth of November

Yes, it is Guy Fawkes Day once again, and all across the world people are celebrating it by watching the US election. The irony is delicious.

And in case you'd forgot, allow me to remind you.
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

And if you have time to watch a movie, then make it V for Vendetta. You might never see a finer illustration of mission, resurrection, and Church. Here's a teaser to jog your memory.