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New Blog [Aug. 31st, 2008|10:28 am]
Based upon the ads that the livejournal admin have decided to place on my blog (against my will and against commitments previously made to livejournal users), I have decided to switch to a wordpress blog. I hate working out anything computer related, and I was comfortable here (even with all the limitations) but I really do find this advertising thing to be unacceptable. So, after 4+ years, 500+ entries, and 3000+ comments, I'm out of here.

My new blog can be found at http://poserorprophet.wordpress.com. I'm still working on importing my livejournal entries (even though I lose all the comments!), and I'm also still figuring out how wordpress works, but all my new posts and comments will be entered on the new blog.

Peace out,

Dan
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Regarding the Poor as Members of the Body of Christ [Aug. 30th, 2008|12:47 pm]
Jonas (http://blog.bahnhof.se/wb938188) recently asked me this question, based upon my review of Jon Sobrino's latest book:

Would you like to explain the view of the poor as Christ´s body? Does that mean that the poor [are] incorporated into Jesus, the Messiah, even if they verbally deny him and don´t want to follow him? What would be the biblical base for this teaching?

Here is my response:

Fair question!

I wouldn't necessarily say that "the poor [are] incorporated into Jesus, the Messiah" but rather that Jesus, the Messiah, incorporated himself into the poor. Therefore, there is now an indissoluble and sacramental link between the poor and Christ. By choosing to identify with the poor, the marginalised, and the damned, Christ revealed to us that these people are priests, administering God's presence to the world. Not only that, but Christ reveals to us that God has chosen to locate himself in and amongst the poor. Hence, the poor are the people of God -- because they are the people with whom God has chosen to identify. Therefore, as Porfirio Miranda reminds us, if we are seeking God, we should go where God has told us he can be found -- in and amongst the poor. We are foolish to look elsewhere, when God has already revealed his location!

But let us explore this sacramental connection a little further so that too much is not left in the realm of mystery (which is far too often a refuge for any ideological position).

First of all, the poor reveal to us, in history, the bleeding and suffering of God due to the brokenness of the world. Hence, the poor are the sacramental presence of the body and blood of Christ just as much as (if not more than) the sacramental presence of the body and blood of Christ found in the Eucharist.

Secondly, by bearing our sins -- by taking nothing from us while we take everything from them, by taking our hunger while we take their food, by bearing death as we flee from it -- that poor also hold the potential to be ministers of salvation to us. They reveal the falsehoods structuring our societies, they make manifest the perverse results of our ideologies, and they expose the hypocrisy that runs through our expressions of piety. Hence, in this regard, the poor are the sacramental presence of the Christ who proclaims, "I am the truth".

Thirdly, the poor and those amongst them who choose to act non-violently towards the rich and privileged -- that is, the majority -- are also agents of God's grace. By choosing to work with us in pursuit of new life together, by refusing to respond to us by taking away our lives, our loved ones, and our daily bread, the poor treat us with a value which we have never ascribed to them. This truly is 'amazing grace'. However, to be clear, this does not mean that we can simply go on living lives built upon the blood of others. Such an approach would be the worst example of the 'cheap grace' that Bonhoeffer despised. The grace shown to us, by the poor, is not an opportunity to go on sinning, it is a call to conversion.

This means that the poor are counted as members of the Church, even if they verbally deny Jesus and assert that they do not want to follow him. For, just as with the confessing members of Christ's body, they are simul justus et peccator -- righteous and, at the same time, sinners. If the sin of a good many of the confessing members of Christ's body is their refusal to journey into solidarity with the oppressed, then the sin of a good many of the crucified members of Christ's body is their inability to confess Jesus as Lord (for now anyway). Note, however, even here the sin of the confessing members is greater than the sin of the crucified. Often the crucified have never been truly presented with the gospel, or with individuals or communities who genuinely reflect the liberating news of Jesus' lordship to them -- thus, the Jesus they have rejected is not the historical Jesus and risen Lord. The confessing members, alas, have far less excuses for missing that which is so obvious within Scripture.

As for the biblical basis for this teaching, I would simply point to manifestations of God's preferential option for the poor contained within Scripture. Think, for example, of the fact that the very poor are left in the land when all of Israel is carried away into exile. In this event, the poor are spared the judgment that is poured out on all, not because they have lived righteously, but because God identifies with the poor and show them preferential treatment because of the ways in which they have been dehumanised by the social powers who act in the service of Sin and Death. Similarly, think of the unconditional proclamation of forgiveness that Jesus offered to the poor, the sick, and the marginalised. To the poor, Jesus said, "You already are forgiven; come, journey with me" -- it was only to the comfortable and powerful that Jesus brought harsh warnings of judgment. For a multiplication of examples, I'll simply refer you to the writings of Gutierrez, Boff, Sobrino, et al. I think I have adequately made my point.

However, let me reaffirm my prior assertion, while switching the emphasis. Yes, the poor are members of the body of Christ, but they are not the only members thereof. This is why I continually speak of both the 'crucified' and the 'confessing' members of Christ's body. The key thing is to bring those two halves together so that the body can be whole, and so that the Church can truly manifest the presence of Christ in our world. The goal is for the crucified members to become confessers of Christ, and for the confessing members to become crucified with Christ. The new creation of all things is (proleptically) contained therein.
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Eschatology and Ethics (a brief response) [Aug. 30th, 2008|10:05 am]
Michael of "Pisteoumen" recently posed a question regarding the possible relationship between eschatology and ethics (cf. http://michaelhalcomb.blogspot.com/2008/08/eschatology-ethics.html).

Not surprisingly, given that so much of my thesis revolves around this relationship, I believe that, from a Christian perspective, eschatology and ethics are intimately, and inextricably, connected. Eschatology is that which provides us with a narrative framework for understanding history, and our own historicity, in a meaningful way. Ethics is then our effort to embody that meaning in our day-to-day actions. The key here is realising that, from a biblical perspective, eschatology is far closer to a praxis-oriented philosophy of history, than it is to a collection of 'end times' doctrines.

Stated another way, we could say that a properly eschatological (and therefore properly Christian) ethics is a way of remembering the past and anticipating the future in order to live meaningfully in the present.
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Ads?! [Aug. 28th, 2008|06:52 pm]
So, I just noticed that livejournal is running ads on my blog. Oddly enough, the ads don't appear when I'm signed-in to my account. This, I assume, is because I chose a low-quality account precisely because they said they would not run ads on my blog. Looks like they are trying to sneak them in anyway (this thing about ads became a concern about a year ago when livejournal was taken over by a large corporation, but the commitment was made, at that time, that blogs would be left ad free, unless one chose to upgrade to a better blog type, that would also contain advertisments). Looks like the administrators are imposing ads anyway. Bastards.

I guess that means it's time to switch to another blog type. Any thoughts on wordpress versus blogspot?
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June-July Books (overdue as usual) [Aug. 28th, 2008|01:34 pm]
[Pardon the typos and grammatical errors, I pounded these off, and haven't yet had time to proof-read.]

1. The Arrogance of Nations: Reading Romans in the Shadow of Empire by Neil Elliott.
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2. Apostle to the Conquered: Reimagining Paul's Mission by Davina C. Lopez.
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3. Paul Between Synagogue and State: Christians, Jews, and Civic Authorities in 1 Thessalonians, Romans, and Philippians by Mikael Tellbe.
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4. The Satyricon and The Apocolocyntosis by Petronius and Seneca.
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5. Six Prayers God Always Answers by Mark Herringshaw and Jennifer Schuchmann (already reviewed).

6. No Salvation Outside the Poor: Prophetic-Utopian Essays by Jon Sobrino.
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7. The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord.
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8. What We Say Goes: Conversations on U.S. Power in a Changing World. Interviews with David Barsamian by Noam Chomsky.
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9. White Noise by Don DeLillo.
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10. Hope in Shadows: Stories and Photographs of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside by Brad Cran and Gillian Jerome.
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Come on, People! [Aug. 18th, 2008|01:12 pm]
The other day, I had a particular encounter that surprised me -- not because of how I responded, but because of how everybody else responded. I was walking down the alley behind my house, heading to the bus stop, when I thought I heard somebody yelling. As I turned the corner out of the alley and onto the sidewalk, I saw an elderly woman holding her neck, slumped over in a bus shelter. She appeared to be street-involved, and was yelling: "Help me! Help me! I'm having a medical emergency!"

However, the thing that really surprised me, was that I observed people walking by her, completely ignoring her -- and the other people waiting for the bus were all backing up, and moving away from her. There must have been about 6-8 people within earshot of her, and all of them were keeping the hell away from her.

I'd like to say that I responded to the situation by doing what anybody else would do -- i.e. I ran over to the woman, found out what was wrong, called an ambulance, and waited with her until help arrived -- but it turns out that nobody else responded in this way.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Shortly after I started talking to the woman, a homeless man came over to help as well. So, I guess you could say that I responded to the situation like any other homeless person would.

Thinking about this scenario, made me remember another event that happened several years ago, when I was living in downtown Toronto. It was the middle of winter, night was falling, and I came across an homeless man who was semi-conscious, lying in a puddle of slush. I didn't have a cell phone, but I knew the number for the Street Help Line, so if I could get ahold of them, I knew that they would come and look after this man. The problem was, I didn't have a quarter to call the Street Help Line from the payphone across the street. No big deal, I thought. There was a crowd of people a few feet away waiting for the street car. I turned and said to them, "Excuse me, there is a man lying here who needs help. Can somebody give me a quarter so I can call the Street Help Line?" To my amazement, every single person in that crowd ignored me (just like they were ignoring the man lying in the slush). This made me angry, and instead of asking nicely, I became aggressive and, in no uncertain terms, I told the people what I thought of them. That worked much better, somebody gave me a quarter, and everything worked out.

Now, I understand that middle-class people are scared of pretty much everything and everybody, but I cannot understand how one can allow such irrational fears to override any loving or helpful actions. I mean, in both of these situations, nobody had even taken out a cell phone and called 911. Bloody hell. Besides, it's not like I never get scared. I do get scared. It's just that I try not to let my fear overpower my identity in Christ.
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Capitalism and Homosexuality [Aug. 15th, 2008|12:26 pm]
In certain Left-leaning Christian circles, it is not uncommon to hear the claim that the current attention being given to homosexuality, is due to the ways in which capitalism impacts our self-perception. Capitalism, so this argument goes, leads us to treat our bodies as yet another commodity. Consequently, forms of sexuality that were previously considered immoral are now treated as amoral markets open for consumers. To quote Žižek once again (a frequent dialogue partner these days), the assertion is made that 'capitalism tends to replace standard normative heterosexuality with a proliferation of unstable shifting identities and/or orientations' (In Defense of Lost Causes, 435). Of course, the conclusion that is drawn by the Christians who make this sort of argument is that resisting homosexuality is part and parcel of our resistance to capitalism.

I would like to challenge this argument, for I believe that it is overly simplistic and, therefore, miscontrues the relationship between capitalism and homosexuality.

What is we need in order to understand the relationship between capitalism and homosexuality is a more complex understanding of capitalism itself. Specifically, we need to ensure that we retain the tensions inherent to capitalism that are posited by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

About a year ago, not knowing much about Deleuze and Guattari (except that they were quoted by some of my favourite contemporary theologians), I decided to sit down and work my way through Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus (in retrospect, this probably wasn't the easiest way to become familiar with these authors, and I found a great deal of assistance in Brian Massumi's 'user's guide' to this series). As I fought to understand what Deleuze and Guattari were talking about, one of the things I struggled with the most was their understanding of capitalism. In some passages, they seemed to speak very highly of it, in other passages they seemed totally opposed to it. It was only after some time that I realised that this was because Deleuze and Guattari were expressing a view of capitalism that was more nuanced that a good many on the left (take Naomi Klein as an example) and a good many on the right (say Friedman and Fukuyama).

Thus, on the one hand, Deleuze and Guattari argue that capitalism is a positive development because it reveals that a good many things that were previously considered 'natural' were, in actuality, ideological constructs that were used (amongst other things) to sustain unequal distributions of power within society. Hence, capitalism demystifies a good many of the 'norms' we take for granted, and demonstrates that they are exploitative human constructs (what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as 'overcodings').

However, on the other hand, Deleuze and Guattari demonstrate the ways in which capitalism betrays itself, and functions as an hegemonic movement, which forcefully inscribes a monetary form of 'overcoding' into all aspects of life and transforms desire into a reactive, disciplined force (rather than allowing it to continue on as the productive and creative force that it truly is). Consequently, while noting the positive aspects of capitalism -- which demonstrate, in a properly Marxist fashion, that the seeds for the destruction of capitalism are inherent to capitalism itself -- Deleuze and Guattari are ultimately interested in moving beyond capitalism (for, as Deleuze once said in an interview on this topic: 'Capital, or money, is at such a level of insanity that psychiatry has but one clinical equivalent: the terminal stage').

Now, the significance of this more nuanced understanding of capitalism is that it prevents us from being able to simply relate something to capitalism, and then brush it off as negative, immoral, or perverse. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, many Left-leaning Christians do precisely this (this is especially evident amongst the new-ish Christian Left that is emerging from Evangelicalism). Stated simply, they argue: (1) contemporary homosexuality is connected to capitalism; (2) capitalism is bad; therefore, (3) homosexuality is bad.

However, the counter-argument could be made that homosexuality, and the heightened attention currently being given to this subject, is actually one of the positive outworkings of capitalism. Thus, rather than reading the heightened attention being given to homosexuality as a sign of the commodification of our bodies and the loss of a stable identity, the current attention being given to homosexuality can be read as a manifestation of the ways in which capitalism has revealed the artificial ideological aspect of prior 'norms' and judgements regarding that which is said to be 'natural'. It reveals how prior standards of heterosexuality were simply an exploitative power-play rooted, not in nature, but in the desire to dominate others.

The lesson to be learned in all of this is that those of us who wish to resist capitalism must ensure that we have a properly nuanced understanding thereof, lest we end up rejecting that which we should be affirming, or affirming that which we should be rejecting.
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On Failing (an aspect of the imago dei?) [Aug. 13th, 2008|01:47 am]
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
~ Samuel Beckett, Westward Ho.

For the last several months I have been coming up against many of my own limits, and many of the limits of the communities in which I participate.

Thus, on the personal level, after approximately ten years of going deeper and deeper into relationships with those 'on the margins' of society -- from going out once a week handing out bag lunches to hosting sex workers in our home for weekly dinners, having wanted criminals sleep on our couch, being a 24/7 contact person for other friends struggling with addictions and suicide, and so on -- I appear to have hit a wall of sorts and find that most of the time I'm just... well... tired. The result of this is that I neglect friendships that I have developed, I withdraw from the people and places around me, and I'm not always there for friends in crises -- friends who often have nobody else to whom they can turn. Not surprisingly, this leaves me feeling frustrated with myself. I am trying to live a life that is other-focused... no wait... I tell myself that I am trying to live a life that is other-focused, yet I quickly come up against my own limits and I actually don't seem able to break through them. Of course, this could simply be a stopping point along the way, perhaps as time passes, as I develop further disciplines, as I learn more of how to love (and be loved), I might be able to progress further down this road. For now, however, it is hard to be at this impasse.

On the communal level, I have twice tried, and failed, to establish an 'intentional Christian community' rooted in the inner-city. The first one I tried lasted for a year and an half and then fell apart. The second one fell apart before it even got off the ground. A third effort might be in the works, but everything is so vague and tentative that I'm not holding my breath. I lot of people like to talk about this sort of endeavour (after all, 'new monasticism' is an hot topic in Christian circles these days) but not a whole lot of people actually like to take the dive and commit to something serious or even a little bit daring. This especially frustrates me. It seems to me that -- if the Church truly is possessed by the Spirit of life, and holds the potential to be an agent of new creation within our present world -- a lot of my hopes depend upon the Church actually living as the Church. The problem is, I can't seem to find this Church. Sure, some churches are taking good steps in this or that direction... but if I look for a community of disciples that looks anything like the community Jesus gathered (and the community reflected in Acts) I'm hard-pressed to come up with (m)any local examples. So, I look to the Church for salvation... but I've given up on holding my breath.

On another communal level, I have gotten to know the social services field fairly well over the last ten years, and have mostly found social service agencies to be amazing in their inability to live up to their inherent potential. It is sad, but no longer surprising, to discover how quickly agencies devolve into corporate entities more interested in building their own brand-status and meeting the expectations of their donors, rather than being entities that genuinely act in the interest of the people whom they claim to serve. What was surprising (at first) was the observation that this is so widespread in social service agencies. So, I'm not saying people should avoid this field (I work in it myself), I'm just saying that one shouldn't be surprised if the largest obstacles one encounters in working with street-involved people, end up coming from the social service agencies themselves.

So, what am I left with? Personal failures, a failed Church, and failed social service agencies.

However, the only way I know how to respond to these many failures is by pressing on and continuing to fail. For some odd reason, although this failure is difficult, I don't find it entirely unexpected. You see, that 'odd reason' is that both Jesus and Paul provide us with prototypes of our own Christian lives -- and they, like so many other saints, were remarkable failures (and don't even get me started on the prophets). Paul, despite his talk of living life in the power of the Spirit, and despite his desperate and pleading letters, seems to have failed to develop many communities that lived up to (or anywhere close to) his expectations. In fact, it seems like a lot of his communities got away from him. It wasn't until after Paul's death that his true impact was felt. In life, however, Paul was likely regarded by many -- and perhaps even himself -- as a failure (just take a read through 2 Corinthians, and you'll see what I'm talking about).

Similarly, Jesus also failed. Despite his efforts to bring the good news to the people he loved, despite his efforts to unite the 'healthy' and the 'sick', the 'righteous' and the 'sinners', the 'privileged' with the 'marginalised', despite his efforts to show a 'way of peace' to a people heading down the road of self-destruction, he found that, by and large, people refused to listen, refused to act, refused to follow. And so he, too, died, forsaken by God, and abandoned by all except a few faithful women. Like Paul, his true impact wasn't felt until after his death -- because it was the resurrection that changed everything. It was the vindication of the Son of Man, that transformed a failed messianic pretender into the risen Lord.

But we can, perhaps, take things one step further. With a great deal of hesitation, could we not also argue that the history of God's engagement with creation, is also an history of failure? Let's sketch out some of the broader points:

(1) God creates a good and pleasing world and places the man and the woman in a good place... but this fails to work as intended, the man and the woman are expelled from the garden, and death enters the world;
(2) therefore, God becomes tired of watching death develop into murder and rapacious living and so he tries to start anew -- flooding the world, so that only one righteous man, and his family, survive... but this fails as this man, Noah, goes astray, and once again things begin to fall apart;
(3) thus, noting that 'final solutions' don't end up being so final, God decides to choose another two people -- Abraham and Sarah -- to parent a nation that is called to be a blessing to all the other nations of the world... but this also fails as this nation, Israel, goes astray and, rather then serving others, seeks to become like the others in power and domination;
(4) therefore, running out of options, God chooses to become flesh and become a member of this nation, so that their destiny can be fulfilled, and so that a new people, possessed by God's own Spirit, can go forth and be agents of new creation in the world... but this Spirit-empowered people also ends up losing its way. And we find ourselves where we are today.

What is the history of God's engagement with the world? Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

So, given that humanity is created in the image of God, perhaps this means that it is in our failing that we are most like God. What is our calling as Christians? Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Because, and here we find ourselves in the realm of mystery, I think that it might be through our failures that we come to the place where we triumph. Here, apart from the way in which this seems to be the model provided for us by Jesus and Paul (who, through a series of failures, end up overcoming far many than any expected or imagined), I am reminded of the words of Žižek. When speaking of previous (failed) revolutions, Žižek emphasises the fact that, if we wait for the revolution to arrive (so that we can join in), it will never arrive. Rather, he argues, the revolution only arrives after a series of failed attempts. Hence, Žižek argues, the revolutionary must have the patience of losing (the battles) in order to win (the final fight). Thus, he concludes:

These past defeats accumulate the utopian energy which will explode in the final battle: "maturation" is not waiting for "objective" circumstances to reach maturity, but the accumulation of defeats (cf. In Defense of Lost Causes, 392).

This is why Žižek continually cites the quotation from Beckett that has served as the conerstone of this post. I can only hope that what he says is true. Because if it is not... then what are we left with?
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What do we do with Acts and the Deutero-Pauline epistles? [Aug. 10th, 2008|07:07 pm]
A good many New Testament (NT) scholars have demonstrated the value of reading the NT in light of extra biblical sources -- be those sources literary, epigraphic, numismatic, or archaeological. Hence, the NT scholar finds it necessary to explore the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Greek and Latin classics, public inscriptions, images on coins, and the city plans and buildings found within the NT era. All of this leads us to a fuller, and more accurate, understanding of the content of the NT scriptures.

However, where this becomes curious (at least in my own particular area of study) is the way in which the genuine Pauline letters are still, by and large, studied without serious regard given to The Acts of the Apostles or, more especially, the Deutero-Pauline epistles. Why is it, for example, authors like Virgil, Tacitus, and Suetonius are given so much weight in our readings of Paul, while Luke's narrative account of parts of Paul's life is given less weight? Or, to take another example, why is an author like Juvenal considered an useful resource (even though he wrote after Paul did) when the Deutero-Pauline epistles are not (even though they were likely written earlier than much of Juvenal)? Or, to mention an even later work, on what basis can we refer to The Acts of Paul and Thecla while simultaneously ignoring 1 & 2 Timothy?

It seems to me that, given the tensions (and, perhaps, even contradictions) that exist between the genuine letters of Paul and the Deutero-Pauline epistles (especially the later pastorals), it is easier for us to ignore the epistles and find extra-biblical sources that verify what we want to find in Paul. The problem is that the Deutero-Pauline epistles might be closer to Paul than a good many of these other sources.

Perhaps another reason to ignore these epistles is the bulk of material a person would have to address. Academic specialisation leads to narrow foci within scholarship, and it is probably easier to, for example, read Paul in light of Virgil (a relatively unexplored realm, which also makes this more excited work -- and work that is more likely to gain recognition) than it is to read Paul in light of the Deutero-Pauline letters.

Of course, there are scholars who continue to view these Deutero-Pauline epistles as genuine letters of Paul, but, IMO, this is an oversimplification. Rather, what I think we should be asking is 'how was it that these epistles developed out of Pauline communities, and in what ways are they faithful and unfaithful to Paul?'

Consequently, given all the appeals currently being made to extra-biblical sources, I am somewhat baffled that The Acts of the Apostles and, more particularly, the Deutero-Pauline letters are still largely neglected in Pauline scholarship. Indeed, those scholars who engage in 'counter-imperial' readings of Paul (i.e. the scholars I have been reading a lot) should be especially ocncerned with addressing the questions listed above. Rather than brushing aside Acts and the Deutero-Pauline epistles simply because they were not authored by Paul, they need to explore how communities that begin with such a radical founder can devolve into communities that embrace the dominant sensibilities of the empire (if, indeed, the Acts and the Deutero-Pauline epistles do this).
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The Pietà: Christ Bleeds in a Thousand Places [Aug. 8th, 2008|04:11 pm]
About two weeks ago, I saw something that has stayed with me... something almost unspeakable. It impacted me very deeply, so much so that I did not tell anybody, not even my wife, until about a week after. Since then, I have tried to write about this event a few times, but have been so dissatisfied with the way things appeared in words that I have always deleted what I wrote. Let me try again.

Lately, as I have been going through Vancouver's downtown eastside (where the poor of Vancouver have been concentrated), I have been asking myself these questions:

What does it mean to say that the poor are the crucified body of Christ today? How, in our day to day encounters, do we come to see the poor as the presence of God in our cities? Where is this Christ who is said to be present here? Have I simply bought into some well-intentioned, but essentially false, ideology?

Now don't get me wrong, I have long believed that Christ is just as present in the poor as he is in the Eucharist, or in the Church. I have also frequently encountered Christ in my relationships with the poor, and been humbled, disciplined, and even saved by being a part of their lives. However, these beliefs and experiences have always had an element of the mystical to them (or, to use another type of language, an element of the Event, or the traumatic Real) that would lead others to wonder if I am simply projecting a (false) belief onto the poor (or, to continue with that other type of language, engaging in a spurious act of overcoding). Consequently, I found myself asking myself the questions listed above.

Then, about two weeks ago, I was taking the bus into work and we were stopped in front of the bottle depot, a place where people from the neighbourhood tend to congregate. As I was looking out the window, I saw something that took my breath away. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of all the binners, boosters, dealers, passersby, and community members, there was a street-involved man crouching on the sidewalk, with another man laying across his lap. This second man was emaciated, wearing only a small pair of torn jean shorts, and appeared to be only half-conscious (if that). The thing is, the two men were positioned exactly like the Pietà -- the image of Mary holding Jesus after he had been crucified and taken down from the cross. It was unbelievable.

But nobody else on the sidewalk took any notice of them. It was simply one street-involved man looking after another -- not an uncommon sight in that neighbourhood. So, the bus pulled away and nobody -- not the passersby, not the other passengers -- seemed to give a second thought to the two men in front of the bottle depot. Except, perhaps, for me. I was left feeling... well... I can't describe the feeling. It's the same sort of feeling that one gets when one is met by God (if you have ever had that feeling, you know what I'm talking about, and why it is incommunicable). Traumatised and amazed, wanting to weep, wanting to worship, but struck dumb by it all.

So, for those who doubt the assertion that Christ is present in the poor, for those who suggest that this is a false ideology, I extend the invitation to come and see. Come, as Christ once said to another person who doubted, place your hand in these wounds. Then you too will come to know the crucified Christ who walks in our midst. The Christ who is stretched out in front of the bottle depot, and in a thousand other places.
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