Deconstructing Derrida

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I just returned from the 2007 Emergent Theological Conversation with John Caputo and Richard Kearney speaking on the deconstructionism of Derrida. The basic idea of deconstructionism, (as Caputo and Kearney have interpreted it in a Christian context), is based on a "theology of the cross" that crucifies the flesh, crucifies pride, deconstructs what we think we know in order to open up the possibility of us getting closer to the absolute beneath all our biases and blinders. This is surely something crucial to do if we want to be faithful to Christ who calls us to die so that we might find life.

In the final session, Kearney was asked whether he thought that all religions lead to the same God. He responded:

"Yes, I think they do. I think that all religions are pointing to the indeconstructable source and end of life which is love... hence the need for constant deconstruction so as to preserve that kernel which remains unknowable and unpossessable by any one religion. That's not relativism, that's a respect for the absolute which no finite human being or institution can claim to possess."

Now I don't have a problem with what Kearney says above. Where I do have a problem is what he leaves out. He rightly says that Christianity is, to quote E Stanley Jones "the human system built up around Jesus, man-made and fallible". But Christianity is not the Gospel, Christ is. Christianity is not the truth, Christ is the truth. Both Caputo and Kearney speak of Christianity as it that was all there was - our fallible human religion, and do not seem to have a working understanding of Christ as beyond and above that, as God's speech to us. The Gospel is not about proclaiming religion. The Gospel is not even about proclaiming Christianity. The Gospel is the proclamation of God's personal self-revealing in Jesus Christ in order that we messed up humans can encounter the living God of the universe, that we can meet Truth with a big "T" relationally and salvicly.

Deconstruction is about us chipping away at the crust to get to the absolute core, but the Gospel is about the Absolute breaking through the crust to us. That is way bigger that any religion. It is in the thundering words of Job "Higher than heaven, what will you do? Deeper than hell, what can you know?" Indeed, what the Hell do we know? I know nothing. But the Gospel is not about what I say or know, it is about what God has said through the Incarnation. The Absolute has entered into our broken and blind world and revealed to us this "treasure in jars of clay". I can't claim to have a hold on truth, but I can let Truth get a hold of me, and I can do that because Truth has broken through the crust to me. That's not about knowing, it is about being known. It is about trust. In trust I proclaim that the one true God above all culture, religion, and thought has been revealed in Christ.

In an earlier session Caputo expressed disdain for the kind of evangelism characterized by a triumphant Christendom. Think we can all agree that we we can do without that "anti-gospel". Again the problem is not in what they say, but in what they leave out. No body wants that. But what I do want is - out of trust, in humility, in compassion, with fear and trembling - to boldly and unapologeticly proclaim that the Absolute Truth beneath the crust we chip away at has come to us in Jesus Christ, and that because of that act of the Absolute towards us, we can know the Truth in a personal intimate relationship and let that Truth set us free. That Gospel is the very deconstructive hammer that shatters every religion (including ours) and every philosophy (including Derrida's). It is, as E Stanley Jones says "an evangelism that evangelizes the evangelist because it sends us to our knees even as we proclaim it". Jesus is the indeconstuctable cornerstone. Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed. (Luke 20:18)

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Let's Boycott "24"

Monday, April 02, 2007

I was totally hooked on the first season of the FOX cliffhanger “24”. We watched it back-to-back on DVD over two nights staying up into the wee hours. But as things went on I found my self more and more uncomfortable with the glorification of violence on the show. As an artist I'm against censorship, but I also believe we artists have a moral responsibility for the kind of statements we make through our art. With every season the show seemed to get worse and worse, until I had to just turn it off. But now I heard a news story that is just over the top:

NPR reported recently that both the U.S. Military and Human rights groups are teaming up (very strange bedfellows) to try to convince the producers of the show "24" to ease up on its positive portrayal of violent and brutal torture as effective and patriotic.

A study done by the human rights organization Human Rights First found that U.S. soldiers were imitating the techniques they have seen on television. This may sound unbelievable at first, but keep in mind that many of the troops are just 19 and 20-year-old kids with no psychological or professional training who were encouraged to be "creative" in their techniques. Former Army interrogator Tony Lagouranis, who was at Abu Ghiraib says, "people were watching movies and TV and getting their ideas from that".

Based on this study, The New Yorker reports that this past November, Human Rights First teamed up with the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, and three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, to fly to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24”. These military experts told the show's producers that the positive portrayal of torture on the show was having two terrible effects: giving the public image world wide that the U.S. condones abuses such as Abu Giraib, and worse, inspiring US soldiers to implement the techniques they see on the show in real life.

Despite the fact that it was the US Military asking for FOX's cooperation (asking in the name of the "war on terror" no less), the producers of "24" refused to comply. Which goes to show that FOX is not conservative, they are simply amoral and money hungry. In the same way that other shows glamorize adultery by portraying it as the "only way" out of an unfulfilling relationship, “24” glamorizes and desensitizes people to abuse. I think it's time for Christians to boycott the show.

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