27 July 2007
I imagine a coal miner or someone working in a coal yard leaving big black footprints of coal dust on the pavement.
But then I hear about people boarding aeroplanes leaving carbon footprints. Surely the airline wouldn't let them dirty the carpets like that? Do they have diamond-studded shoes, or something.
Can anyone tell me what "carbon footprint" means?
I checked my dictionary, and it should have come between "carbonless paper" and "carbon monoxide", but didn't. But judging by the frequency with which I've heard it, it's becoming common currency, so it would be useful to know something about its meaning and origin.
I'm not averse to learning new words and phrases. After all, it was only last week that I heard "egregore" for the first time, and it seems to be quite a useful word, so maybe "carbon footprint" will be equally useful.
26 July 2007
It came up in a discussion about the cults of fictional deities, such as Yog Sothoth and Cthulhu, from the horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Matt suggested that these might be examples of egregors or egregores, which have been described here as:
...a kind of group mind which is created when people consciously come together for a common purpose. Each of us belong to several of these groups. The process is unconscious. There also are drawbacks, some disturbing psychic influences in many cases, and a restriction of freedom. It is impossible to free oneself from certain egregores, for example the egregores of the country you live in. However we should free ourselves from non-essential egregores. If this process is continued for a long time, the egregore will take on a life of it's own, even if all the members should pass through transition, it would continue to exist on the inner dimensions and can be contacted even for centuries later by a group of people prepared to live the lives of the original founders, particularly if they are willing to provide the initial input of energy to get it going again. These thought-forms are created reality by an individual or a group. They exist in the exoteric and esoteric realms. They are created by groups such as societies or cultures, professions and trades, or any group. They can be accessed by all members of that group. They change as the group contacting them changes. The egregore is prone to change, either to evolve or degenerate as members of that group change. The group then reflects the changing "egregore". This contact of group members to their "egregore" is automatic in most cases, when the member actually feels that he/she is a member of that group. Most members are unconscious of this process. There are also instances where some groups deliberately use the egregore for the spiritual development and well being of their members. This is true of various mystical organizations.
Now this takes me back to when I was a student at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, taking Theology II and New Testament II and the lecturer talked about "principalities and powers". I'd not given these much thought up till then, but when he started expounding a theory of the atonement in which Jesus defeated the "principalities and powers", I asked what on earth he was talking about. In my mind, "principalities" were places like Monaco, and the "powers" were the USA and USSR (back then engaged in the Cold War).
The lecturer, Vic Bredenkamp, referred me to a book by G.B. Caird, called, unsurprisingly, Principalities and powers. From reading this I gathered that behind the nations like the USSR and the USA were spiritual powers -- national spirits, if you like -- and that the ancient Romans actually worshipped this spiritual power of the nation in the form of the genius of the Emperor, and it was their refusal to participate in that cult that got some of the early Christians into trouble with some of the Emperors.
Now in the description of an "egregore" quoted above, we are told that It is impossible to free oneself from certain egregores, for example the egregores of the country you live in. This links up with Deuteronomy 32:8-9: When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. For the Lord's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. "Sons of God" in this case (Hebrew "bene elohim", literally "sons of gods") means gods as in Psalm 82 (81 in the LXX numbering), which is is sung boisterously with much stamping of feet and banging on benches in Orthodox Churches in the Holy Saturday Liturgy while the priest scatters bay leaves all over the place, with the oft-repeated chorus "Arise O God, judge the earth, for to Thee belong all nations". Jesus announced the fulfilment of that prayer when he said (John 12:31-32) "Now is the judgment of this world (judge the earth), now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth (Arise O God), will draw all men to myself" (for to Thee belong all nations).
There is an ikon of the scattering of the nations at the tower of Babel that often goes with the ikon of Pentecost (I have not been able to find an example, otherwise I would have put it here) that shows the nations with their angels leaving in different directions. And the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 32:8-9 says that the Most High set the bounds of the nations "according to the number of the angels of God" (kata arithmon angellon Theou). All nations were given their gods, or angels, except Israel, which had a hot line to the Most High, and did not have to go through angelic intermediaries. According to Psalm 81/82 the gods messed up and ruled unjustly, and with the death and resurrection of Jesus all nations became eligible for the hot line (John 12:31f).
These gods/angels are not simply of the nations. Individuals have their guardian angels. Families and communities have theirs. In Reveleation St John saw the angels of the churches. Business firms may have them too, and even ideas and ideologies can have them. In other words, the characteristics of "egregors" may also be the characteristics of angels, and they may be good or evil. As they become evil, they more and more resemble the characteristics of fallen angels, or demons.
Charles Williams, in his novel The place of the lion describes what happens when the powers get loose, and when men worship them independently of the power of God. C.S. Lewis sees them as belonging not just to human groups within the earth, but to the planets themselves, the principalities, archontes, princes he calls oyeresu, and each planet has its oyarsa, or planetary ruler, and this was the basis of astrology.
There is one theological problem in all this. As Charles Stewart says in his book Demons and the devil
"The main doctrinal point is simple: NO DUALISM. Satan is not to be regarded as a power equal to God. He is God's creation and operates subject to divine will." Other points:
- Satan is immaterial; this no excessive concern with his form or geographical associations;
- as he has no real power, there is no reason to appeal to him. All rites, sorcery, black magic, astrology and the like that appeal to demons or the devil are fruitless;
- Satan's field of operations is narrow, and the harm he can provoke is limited;
- Satan is strictly and intrinsically evil. The Church does not accept the existence of intermediate or ambiguous fairy-like creatures such as neraides, gorgones and kallikantzaroi;
- Satan is singular. He is the leader of demons who are fallen
angels of the same order as himself. There is no real concern
for the names of demons
This seems to exclude the idea of spiritual powers, such as angels of the nationas that may turn from evil to good and back again, for example when South Africa abandoned apartheid in 1994.
If you found this interesting, there's more here: Angels and demons and egregores (book review) | Khanya
I got a book from the library called "The cult of information" and began reading it. It is a kind of antidote to Toffler's "The third wave", and pointed out the danger of confusing the quantity of information with quality, and information processing with thinking.
It is true that there is a fascination with computers that goes beyond their usefulness. A computer gives one access to lots of information that one could not otherwise obtain, but when one actually gets it, it is often banal and not worth having. A computer can make the task of writing easier, but one needs to have
something to say in the first place and one of my great fears is that, having better tools for writing, I actually have nothing to say. Like John Aitchison, I seem to have said it all, and to have nothing left. The tools should free one for creative writing, but they seem to inhibit it.
That was my journal entry for 5 September 1988, and the book referred to was The cult of information : the folklore of computers and the true art of thinking by Theodore Roszak.
And what I didn't reckon with back then, at least not so much as today, was that I would have to spend quite so much time learning to write. I learnt to write at the age of 5, to ride a bicycle at the age of 6, and those skills stayed with me. I can pick up pen and paper and write now.
Word processors were supposed to make writing tasks easier. Back then I used XyWrite, a word processor that is still unsurpassed at its primary task of processing words, especially since in those days computer keyboards were ergonomically designed with function keys on the left, so editing a document was a breeze. XyWrite fitted on a single floppy disk - not a stiffie, a floppy, a 5.25 inch doublesided disk that held 360k. But it had better functionality than the bloated multimegabyte word processors of today. And it ran faster on an 8 MHz computer running under MS DOS 3.2 than it does under Windows XP on a 2 Ghz machine.
I still use XyWrite every day, but for documents I want to share with others I use MS Word, which has more bells and whistles, takes up a lot more disk space, and is much more clumsy and difficult to use to process words. And soon the Word 97 document format will be out of date, and so one will have to buy another piece of bloated software, and learn to use it all over again.
Computers give one tools for saving time, but they waste as much time or more that must be spent in relearning to use the tools all over again. If only it was as easy as jumping on a bike!
24 July 2007
But apart from that, they work slightly differently. MyBlogLog is a true social blogroll site, where each blog has a "community" that regular readers can join, and if you want to pay a return visit to a blog without the hassle of adding it to your regular blogroll, you can join its community so you can find it again quite easily.
BUMPzee also has communities, but instead of being linked to particular blogs, they are linked to particular interests. This is a bit more focused. I joined and created a Missiology community, since there wasn't one. But as other blogs with missiological interests join, it should become a useful blogroll of missiology-related blogs, and aggregates their posts.
Now you might blog about lots of things, and not every post will be about missiology, so when you add your blog to the community, you can specify keywords, so that only, for example, posts tagged "missiology" or "missional" will be shown in the aggregator.
That seems to have the potential of being a very useful feature.
BUMPzee started as a site for affiliate marketing, and so at present most of the communities are on related topics, but it is now open to everyone (rather as Facebook started as a "students only" social networking site). So don't be put off by the fact that the top communities listed deal with affiliate marketing. Communities can now be on any subject you like, and I think I'll be creating a few more.
Apart from the missiology one, I've started one for the Inklings -- C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams & Co. I know there are several other blogs that have posts on those authors and related topics, such as theology and literature, and it will be useful to be able to look for updates in one place (if they join, and put the widget on their blogs, of course).
21 July 2007
Witch hunting has been a serious problem in South Africa in recent years, though Limpopo province has probably been more affected than Mpumalanga. Phillip Pare posted the text of the draft bill in the Christianity and Society discussion forum, and I thought it might be worth posting it here too. While witch hunting has been a serious problem, I'm not sure that this is the right way of dealing with it. It is already an offence, under national legislation, to accuse someone of being a witch, and to assault anyone or damage their property, whether one has accused them of being a witch or not. The main difference this will make, if passed in the present form, would be to try to regulate traditional healers in the same way as practitioners of Western medicine are regulated. Traditional premodern society meets bureaucracy.
I have a theory that the prevalence of witchhunting is partly the encounter between premodernity and modernity in any case. The proposed bill seems to be "hair of the dog that bit you."
Sorry if the formatting looks weird. I tried to get it right, but I'm not sure if I succeeded.
MPUMALANGA WITCHCRAFT SUPPRESSION BILL 2007 (Draft)
To provide for the suppression of witchcraft in the province, to set the code of Conduct for Traditional Healers, to provide for the responsibilities of Traditional leaders and to provide for matters incidental thereto.PREAMBLE
WHEREAS Chapter 2 of the Constitution recognizes Human rights for all.,
WHEREAS the Traditional Customs must be transformed to be in line with Constitution.
WHEREAS the Traditional Leaders must promote goodwell, Democratic Governance within their Communities.
AND WHEREAS traditional leaders must strive to enhance tradition and culture in a way that is consistent with applicable laws of the Republic of South Africa.
BE IT THEREFORE ENACTED by the Provincial Legislature of the Province of Mpumalanga, as follows:
Definitions"Constitution" means the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.
"Igedla" means a person who knows and uses muti either to cure, protect from evil spirits, etc or to cause damage, suffering, harm etc. without ukuthwasa and does not foretell the future as an inyanga
"Inkosi" means a traditional leader-
"Inyanga" means a person who uses muti to cause harm, damage, suffering, bad luck, cure diseases, protect from evil spirits and uses mixtures shells, coins, bones,etc. to foretell the future of people, identify witches, perform spells for good and or evil purposes.
(a) underwhose authority , or within whose area of jurisdiction Traditional leaders exercise authority in accordance with Customary law, and
(b) recognized as such in terms of the Traditional leadership and Governance Framework Act 2003 (Act.No. 41 of 2003).
"Kuthwasa" means a special training undergone by Inyanga which teaches the inyanga about muti, ukuphengula (foretelling) and sometimes to train other new inyanga. This training can be done through disappearance under water (river/sea) for a long time or by attending the residence of the Inyanga that trains other inyangas.
"Muti" means any mixture of herbs, water, wollen cufs etc, used by wizards, igedla, inyanga, African Churches, Foreign traditional Healers, etc for the purposes of curing deseases, helping others who come to consult to them for whatever purposes and including causing harm to others or their properties.
"Province" means the Province of Mpumalanga.
"Spells" means a form of words used as magical charm or incantation used by Wizards.
"Traditional leader" means any person who, in terms of customary law of the traditional community concerned, holds a traditional leadership position, and is recognized in terms of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act, 2003.
"Umhlahlo" means a gathering of families or persons with the approval of the Traditional Leader or King at the place of an Inyanga with the purpose of identifying another as witch by the Inyanga, irrespective of whether the gathering is voluntary or involuntary "Umkhaya" has a corresponding meaning.
"Witchcraft" means the secret use of muti, zombies, spells, spirits, magic powders, water, mixtures, etc, by any person with the purpose of causing harm, damage, sickness to others or their property.
"Wizard"means any person who secretly solicit or uses muti, zombies, spells, spirits, magic powders, water, mixtures, baboons, etc. for the purposes of causing harm, damage or suffering to another.
PROMOTION OF GOOD RELATIONS AMONGST COMMUNITY MEMBERS
2(1) No person shall point, imply or direct that any body practices witchcraft or has been bewitched by anybody.(2) The King or Traditional Leader shall promote good neighbourhood amongst his or her subjects,
(3) The King or Traditional Leader shall in promoting good neighborhood amongst subjects, advice:
(a) any person who is of the opinion that his or rights are being violated to:
(i) open a case with the SAPS on the alleged violation of his or her rights, or (i) report the matter to the King or Traditional leader of the offence by the other person,
(ii) Call upon all parties involved to give evidence of the nature of the allegations by the other party and the plaintiff to defend her/himself in a form of a trial,
(iii) be available on the request by the King or Traditional Leader when trying the case.
(b) If for any other reason the aggrieved party is not satisfied by the ruling of the king or Traditional Leader, he or she may:
(ii seek recourse from a Court of law of the Republic of south Africa under whose jurisdiction he or she falls.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS
3 It shall be the responsibility of any traditional leader to:(1) Issue permits of practice to traditional healers who are registered with the Traditional Healers Association.
(2) keep a register of all practicing traditional Healers under his jurisdiction.
(3) Prohibit, in consultation with the Association,’ any person from practicing, who is found to be breaking the code of conduct of traditional healers or any laws applicable to the Republic of South Africa.
(4) Discourage any members of the community from obtaining permission to conduct umhlahlo.
(5) Prohibit the holding of Umhlahlo within his area of jurisdiction.
(6) Prohibit and not entertain any group of people alleging witchcraft and who request the chasing away of any person or family from the community who is alleged to be practicing witchcraft.
(7) Report to authorities, any person known to be breaking the provisions of this Bill.
REGISTRATION OF TRADITIONAL HEALERS
4 Any person who is currently practicing or wishes to practice as a traditional healer shall:-(1) Register with the Traditional Healers Association within his area of operation;
(2) Ensure that his or her name is kept in the register of the Traditional leader for people practicing as Traditional healers in his area of jurisdiction; and
(3) On the registration form must indicate at least tree areas of specialty of his or her practice.
CODE OF CONDUCT OF TRADITIONAL HEALERS
5 Traditional Healers shall in abiding by the Code of Conduct:(1) Promote the harmonious living environment for their clients.
(2) Co-operate in the open and in a manner that indicates professionalism through:-
(a) abiding by the rules and regulations of the Association;
(b) keeping a register or inventory of all medicines or muti he/she uses;(c) clearly marking the muti and it’s purpose;
(f) prescribing muti for curing purposes and not for killing purposes, causing damage or harm to another nor help any person with regard to the killing, causing damage or harm others; (d) permitting unscheduled and scheduled searches by authorities through the Association to inspect and verify the muti so kept and any other related matters’;
(e) signing a code of conduct with the Association not to use any prohibited substances and or any human tissue as defined in the Human Tissues Act;
(g) reporting anyone soliciting human tissues or selling them; and
(h) co-operate with Police on any investigation.(3) If the traditional healer is also an Inyanga, he or she shall not:-
(a) Point any person as a witch;
(b) Involve himself or herself in or prophesy any need for ritual killing;
(d) Perform umhlahlo with the purpose of identifying any person as a witch or wizard
(c) Provide help to anyone bringing or soliciting the use of human tissue for muti purposes; and
6 Any person who conducts himself in the manner below shall be guilty of an offence:-
1 (a) Imputes to any other person the causing, by supernatural means, of any disease in or injury or damage to any person or thing, or who names or indicates any other person as a wizard;
(b) In circumstances indicating that he professes or pretends to use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or disappointment of any person or thing to any other person;
(c) Employs or solicits any witchdoctor, witch-finder or any other person to name or indicate any person as a wizard;
(d) Professes a knowledge of witchcraft, or the use of charms, advises any person how to bewitch, injure or damage any person or thing, or supplies any person with any pretended means of witchcraft;
(e) On the advice of any inyanga, witch-finder or other person or on the ground of any pretended knowledge of witchcraft, uses or causes to be put into operational any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing; and
(f) For gain pretends to exercise or use any supernatural powers, witchcraft, sorcery or enchantment.
SHORT TITLE AND COMMENCEMENT
9 (1) This Act is called The Mpumalanga Witchcraft suppression Act and comes into operation on a date fixed by the Premier by proclamation in the Provincial Gazette
Harry Potter fans might be riled by the definition of "wizard". I think Kim Paffenroth and others might be interested in the reference to zombies (though zombies are not defined).
The Bill also refers to African Churches, and since the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa is the original African Church, having been established by St Mark the Evangelist in AD 42, I wonder if the oil used in Holy Unction counts as "muti", and would have to be registered in terms of the Act if it becomes law in its present form?
19 July 2007
I posted this on my WordPress blog, and somehow it just didn't work out. It seems that there are some things that Blogger still does better than WordPress, and graphics is one of them.
The MyBlogLog widget, which used to work OK in WordPress no longer does so, and there's a stats counter that seems to display a whole lot of code. So I'm not going to move this blog to WordPress yet, though I'll continue to play with the WordPress one.
Concerning the test itself, I noted over on the WordPress blog that it was very much American centred.
Consider, for example, the last question:
If you could pile any three people into a naked pyramid, who would you choose?
- George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld
- The CEOs of Exxon, Chevron, and Shell
- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito
- Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling, Andrew Fastow,and the ghost of Ken Lay
- Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh
- Revs. Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Ted Haggard
So faced with those questions, I chose question 1, because those are the peo[ple I've heard of.
That's how the test is skewed by its ethnocentrism and chauvinism.
18 July 2007
A long time ago I wrote an editorial for a magazine called Ikon, which is reproduced below. It was for the Summer 1970 Issue (published in about January/February 1970)
One hears much these days of the "New Theology". There is a great debate about God. Is God dead? Is he up there or down here or in here? And this debating makes the fundamental assumption that God can be known by talking about him. This seems to be especially affecting white Christian students in South Africa. There is a demand for a theology which is relevant to secular man. This demand was created by the theologians, and they are now doing their best to fulfil it by creating a god in the image of modern secular man.
But this demand for a modern secular God is the demand of a minority. Modern secular man is white, prosperous, and has the leisure to engage in theological debates. The 'new theology' is another product of Western neo-colonialist society, and for the vast majority of mankind this theology is totally irrelevant. They are not so much looking for a revolution in theology as for a theology of revolution.
For decades now we have been conditioned to think of a world divided into two opposing camps -- East and West. The East consists of "democratic" peoples republics, and the West likes to call itself the "free" world. This distinction has been fostered by power politicians to keep people ignorant, and to serve their own ends. The real division, however, is not between East and West, but between North and South. In the North live the haves, and in the South live the have-nots. Most of the wealth of the world is concentrated in the North -- Europe, Russia, North America. The bulk of the world's population, and the poorest, live in South Asia, Africa and South America.
The poor of the world are not interested in singing anthems to the status quo, as the secular theologians would have us do. They look to a God who changes things, who upsets the existing order. They look to a God who will depose the mighty and exalt the poor and powerless, who will literally turn the world upside-down, putting the poor south at the top in place of the rich north.
Theology is important, but the Church makes two great mistakes. The theologians are generally set apart from the rest of the Church. They engage in debates in a cosy academic setting, in the calm unhurried atmosphere of ripe scholarship. They throw away years of research into trivialities, which have nothing to do with the proclaiming of the Gospel of the Kingdom. And the rest of the Church suffers, because it has nothing to guide it. Christians go on doing things that were done by their forefathers, but they have no idea why their forefathers did these things, and therefore have no idea why they themselves do them. We need something more than academic theology -- we need applied theology -- a Christian ideology which can interpret events and forces in the world in the light of the Kingdom of God. Up till now they have been kept separate -- "Religion and politics don't mix".
Theology is important. And it is important that theology should be capable of application in the world in which we live. The 'Message to the people of South Africa' is the first step towards such a theology, but it must not be the last. It will be noted that the Message is not debate-theology. It makes a series of proclamations about what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. To the academic or the secular theologians this is arrogant. One cannot make proclamations, one can only make a tentative contribution to the debate. But the world does not have time for drawn-out debates. We have to act on the answers to these questions now. To the Christian theologian there is only one relevant question -- What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? To the Christian activist, only one course of action is open -- proclaim the Gospel, and make visible God's revolution in the world.
Perhaps Abraham is a good model for theologians, and for all Christians. Abraham was not seeking a way -- he was on the way. He was aware of direction, but not of his ultimate destination. He did not know what the promised land was to be like; all he knew was that God was leading him there. It is important for Christians to know where they are going, for they cannot be effective otherwise. We should stop playing around with ideas around an abstract God, and rather concentrate on where God is leading us. Action which is not based on sound theory is what the Marxists call adventurism. For Marxists all action must be directed towards a goal -- the revolution and the classless society. For Christians likewise, all action and theologising must be directed towards a goal -- the revolution and the Kingdom of God.
Well, that is ancient history. It was written more than 37 years ago. The world has changed then, and I have changed. If I were writing it now, I would not have written it in the same way, and would be more aware of how I have allowed myself to be caught in the trap of academic theology. But it is worth asking what has changed? What has remained the same?
Some answers may be found in an article mentioned on another blog, Believing in the Global South, by Philip Jenkins. Jenkins says
some western Christians have since the 1960s expected that the religion of their Third World brethren would be fervently liberal, activist, and even revolutionary, the model represented by liberation theology. In this view, the new Christianity would chiefly be concerned with pulling down the mighty from their seats, through political action or even armed struggle. All too often, though, these hopes have proved illusory. Frequently, the liberationist voices emanating from the Third World proved to derive from clerics trained in Europe and North America, and their ideas won only limited local appeal. Southern Christians would not avoid political activism, but they would become involved strictly on their own terms. While many espoused political liberation, they made it inseparable from deliverance from supernatural evil. The two terms are indeed related linguistically and often appear together in biblical texts, but the juxtaposition of the two thought-worlds of liberation and deliverance seems as baffling for many Euro-Americans as it is natural for Christians in the Global South.
The last part was obvious to me when I first went to study theology in England in 1966. The first essay I was asked to write was on "Jesus and the demons", and when I had finished reading it to the college principal he said, "But you haven't told me whether you think demons exist or not." I replied that I didn't think it was important. When you have been run over by a bus, you don't think to ask philosophical questions about the existence of a bus. Coming from South Africa, I was aware of our conflict being against principalities and powers, which were bigger than Mr Vorster's flesh and blood security police, but nevertheless inextricably linked with them. One of the things I find interesting is that this kind of thinking is beginning to penetrate Europe as well, if the film Pan's labyrinth is anything to go by (see review in an earlier post). Whether the director is a Christian or not I don't know, but his vision seems far more in tune with the South African experience of the 1960s than the Western secular theology of the 1960s ever was.
Actually Jenkins is a bit off the mark when he said "some western Christians have since the 1960s expected that the religion of their Third World brethren would be fervently liberal, activist, and even revolutionary, the model represented by liberation theology." That kind of liberation theology only penetrated the consciousness of Western theologians in the 1970s. In the 1960s they were too busy uttering paeans of praise to the status quo. Liberal theology led to conservative politics and vice versa. As G.K. Chesterton put it: the modern young man will never change the world, for he will always change his mind. Western theologians were concerned to change their theology to fit the world, and the last thing on their minds was to change the world to fit any theological vision. They wanted a revolution in theology, not a theology of revolution.
But for the most part Jenkins gets it exactly right. Over the last 37 years the differences between Western and African Christianity have become clearer. Neither is monolithic, of course, and Jenkins points this out. But if we want to know what Christianity will be like in the 21st century, Africa rather than Europe or North America will be the model. One question, however, may be whether South Africa will continue to fit that model. South Africa is becoming increasingly secular. People have long said that South Africa is both "First World" and "Third World". Outmoded as such Cold War terminology may be, there is nevertheless some truth in it.
16 July 2007
And so the Freelance Cynic has come up with the Moaning Meme.
I'm not doing it here, because:
1. I haven't been tagged
2. I do enough moaning anyway, I don't need more encouragement.
So I mention it just as a social phenomenon.
14 July 2007
I finally got to see it last night, and it lived up to expectations. Even my wife enjoyed it, and she is not normally a fan of horror films, and this one, as those who have seen it will know, is a blend of fantasy, horror, and stark brutal realism.
It probably had a greater impact on me because I'm in the middle of reading George Bizos's Odyssey to freedom, a memoir of his time as a human rights lawyer in the apartheid era. Pan's Labyrinth is set in Spain in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, where Franco's fascist forces are mopping up the remaining groups of Republican insurgents hiding out in the woods.
The villain of the film, Captain Vidal, could stand in for just about any of the police witnesses that George Bizos had crossexamined in court, when any evidence of torture of political detainees was denounced by prosecutors, and sometimes by the flagrantly biased judges, as attempts to besmirch the good name of the South African Police.
I wonder if the release of the film in South Africa wasn't timed to coincide with the release of Bizos's book. In the torture scenes in the film I kept thinking of the lonely death of Steve Biko, or the defenestration of Phakamile Mabija, a church youth minister who was being interrogated by the Security Police in Kimberley. The day we heard the news of his death, I was with a group of people who were saying Anglican Evening Prayer, and the Psalm set for the day was Psalm 94, which seemed most appropriate, especially verses 20-21:
You never consent to that corrupt tribunal
that imposes disorder as law
that takes the life of the virtuous
and condemns the innocent to death.
About 10 years ago I tried to write a children's fantasy novel set in the apartheid era, with a similar blend of fantasy and reality. It wasn't very good, and was probably too dark for a children's novel, so I abandoned it. But one thing different about Pan's Labyrinth was that the this worldly and other worldly realms appeared to have different agendas, which coincided quite coincidentally, as when the little girl's ailing mother gets better following the advice of the faun who sets her tasks for the other world. In this there are echoes of Narnia, where the young Digory Kirk is seeking an apple from Eden to heal his sick mother.
But there are also sharp contrasts with Narnia. In Narnia the faun, Tumnus, regrets and repents of his role as a Security Police informer, and ends up being detained himself, but in Pan's Labyrinth the faun turns out to be not much different from Captain Vidal, demanding unconditional obedience in the same terms and in the same tone of voice.
I go out to see films about once or twice a year, and Pan's Labyrinth was well worth seeing. Thanks to all my blogging friends who wrote reviews of it and made me want to see it. If it weren't for that I would probably have missed it.
12 July 2007
Many have had such a vision of a perfect society, but acknowledge that no actual examples can be found in the everyday world. Utopian literature was revived in the 19th century, with Samuel Butler's Erewhon, a satire on nineteenth-century Britain, and Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia Limited, in which the inhabitants of a remote island believe that the best way to achieve perfection is to turn their country into a joint stock company on the British model. I don't think it has been performed much since Margaret Thatcher came to power.
In the nineteenth century there were also a number of "utopian communities" -- groups of people who, while recognising that a perfect society could be found nowhere on earth, nevertheless tried to criate a microcosm that would reflect this vision.
In this sense, the Christian Church has always been utopian.
In the Christian vision, the perfect society is the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that is "not of this world" in the sense that there are no borders, nowhere you can show your passport to get in. But the Church itself is to be an ikon, an image of the Kingdom.
This applies even to the Christian family, as Father Alexander Schmemann points out in his book For the life of the world. The crowns in the Orthodox marriage service are symbols that the husband and wife are to be king and queen to each other in a little kingdom that reflects the heavenly kingdom. The vision may be lost, perhaps even in a single night. But the fact remains that every Christian family is a utopian community, trying to reflect in this world something that is not of this world.
Immigrants to new countries often gather for celebrations to remember their distant homeland. In many parts of the world one finds Caledonian Societies to gather emigrant Scots, Hellenic Communities for the Greek diaspora and so on. In a way Christian Churches are like this, in that Christians gather to remember a distant homeland. The difference is that those who gather to remember earthly homelands remember a place they have come from. Christians gather to remember a place they are going to.
As Peter Abelard put it once in a hymn:
Now in the meanwhile, with hearts raised on high
We for that country must yearn and must sigh
Seeking Jerusalem, dear native land
Through our long exile on Babylon's strand.
Some Christians, however, have found that the weekly gatherings of the Christian community are not enough. The "little kingdom" of the Christian family is not enough. They have looked for a more permanent expression. And so there have been monastic communities, which are, in the sense in which we are discussing it, utopian communities par excellence, trying to live the life of the heavenly kingdom on earth. As one monk put it, monasteries are the lungs of the church. In this world we breathe the polluted air of a broken and sinful world, but in the monasteries we breathe the pure air of heaven.
Christians are essentially eccentric, and Christian communities are eccentric communities. Eccentricity is another way of expressing the idea of utopia. It is having a different centre.
In his novel Perelandra C.S. Lewis conveyed the idea of eccentricity by describing eldila (angels) as appearing to people looking at them with earthly eyes as standing at a slant. When we stand, a line from our head through our feet, if extended, points to the gravitational centre of the earth. But the eldila are aligned on a different centre, and so to earth-bound mortals they appear slanted.
The "utopian" theme of this Synchroblog was inspired by an earlier post by John Morehead: Morehead's Musings: Searching for Utopia, and it has also been discussed a little in the Christianity and society discussion forum. John's post is a good introduction to the theme, and he includes some examples of utopian intentional communities.
Communes or intentional communities are not necessarily utopian. Many of them have quite mundane aims. To qualify as "utopian" a community needs to have an intention not merely to live together, but to create or express a way of life that is different from that of the society around them, or at least based on different values. A utopian community must be, in some sense, countercultural -- in other words, eccentric.
I've written about this before, then, as now, inspired by something that John Morehead wrote: Notes from underground: Morehead's Musings: Symbolic Countercultures and Rituals of Opposition, so I won't reiterate the whole thing here. The main point then was that the so called new monasticism needs to be supported by and linked to the old monasticism.
There have been many more dreams and visions of utopian communities than there have been actual examples. We need the dreams and visions, perhaps, but there is also the danger that Dietrich Bonhoeffer warns of in his book Life together:
Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream... He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and ernest and sacrificial.
God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions the visionary ideal of a community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself. Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ long before we entered into common life with them, we enter that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients.
- Nudity, Innocence, and Christian Distopia at Phil Wyman's Square No More
- Utopia Today: Living Above Consumerism at Be the Revolution
- Nowhere Will Be Here at Igneous Quill
- A This-Worldly Faith at Elizaphanian
- Bridging the Gap at Calacirian
- The Ostrich and the Utopian Myth at Decompressing Faith
- Being Content in the Present at One Hand Clapping
- Eternity in their Hearts by Tim Abbott
- Relationship - The catch-22 of the Internet Utopia at Jeremiah's Blog
- U-topia or My-topia? at On Earth as in Heaven
- A SecondLife Utopia at Mike's Musings
- Mrs. Brown and the Kingdom of God at Eternal Echoes
- John Morehead at John Morehead's Musings
11 July 2007
A 16-page document, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict used to head, described Christian Orthodox churches as true churches, but suffering from a "wound" since they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.
But the document said the "wound is still more profound" in the Protestant denominations -- a view likely to further complicate relations with Protestants.
If it weren't so, we'd all have been Uniate long ago. That's one of those areas of disagreement that still has to be hammered out before the churches can be reunited. The Orthodox, of course, see it from a different viewpoint. The "wound" is the claim of the Pope of Rome to "universal ordinary jurisdiction", and perhaps his claim to be "the" Pope. We have a Pope in Alexandria, and as far as we are concerned, he is "the" Pope. The one in Rome is just the head of a non-Orthodox denomination.
All sorts of people seem to be getting their knickers in a knot over this document. But that's just silly. Would they rather that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pretended to be what they are not, or that their ecclesiology is other than what it is? How can we have dialogues and discuss differences in ecclesiology if everyone is pretending that their ecclesiology is something else? Christian unity is not brought about by papering over the cracks and pretending that differences don't exist. We need to face the differences honestly. Let's face it: Roman Catholic ecclesiology is dffierent from Orthodox ecclesiology, and different from most Protestant ecclesiologies. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is just being honest. Would we prefer it if they weren't?
10 July 2007
I could understand why, because when I switched to the much-hyped Blogger Beta, lots of features no longer worked. Nine months after it was announced that the "new" Blogger was introduced, and that it was now "fully-featured", most of the features that didn't work in the Beta version still don't work, and a few more have got broken along the way.
As a result of that, I started an experimental WordPress blog, called Khanya, back in February, and now for the first time, it has passed this blog in the number of people reading it in a day.
Yesterday Khanya had 64 readers, and Notes from Underground had 47. Khanya was ranked 145 on Amatomu, while Notes from Underground was 167. That may just be a temporary thing, of course -- Notes from Underground still has far more links to it from other blogs (according to Technorati), and so perhaps it wouldn't be a good idea to move this blog to WordPress because it would break those links.
They also seem to have different sets of readers, according to StatCounter:
Notes from Underground readers:
So perhaps the time has come to move this blog to WordPress, as so many others have done.
I'm still not sure though. Most of the features of Blogger that no longer work were never part of WordPress anyway. And the Blogger template is still easier to edit than WordPress.
Blogger features I miss most:
1. Blog this!
2. Search all blogs
3. Click on interests, books, movies in user profile to find those with similar interests
When you're at the Dashboard, you can click "Dashboard" to get there when you're already there, but when yuou're at the blog, you have to click "Customise" to get a place where you can click to get to the Dashboard. This not only wastes time, it wastes bandwidth, having to load another page unnecessarily.
When you click "Link to this post", the "Edit HTML" no longer works -- you have to save the page and then edit it, loading two more pages in the process -- wasing more time and bandwidth.
So I'm still in two minds about whether to switch. Perhaps when the next thing breaks in Blogger.