Opening Further

Mike Morrell - Young in WigGrowing up, I wasn’t the most “in-touch” person, physically speaking.

I “couldn’t dance” – I “had no rhythm.”

I leaned against walls to stabilize myself. I tilted my head in photographs – which means I probably did it all the time.

For whatever reason, I felt strongly drawn to a life of the mind, while treating my body like an afterthought. This resulted in being gangly as a teen, and overweight as an adult. Rolfing – the freeing up of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles – is helping me change all this. I had my latest Rolfing session at Raleigh Rolfing – session 6 of 10. Jason Sager, my Rolfer, describes it like this on his site:

Session 6 is the session with the largest territory, covering the entire back body from heels to neck. This opens the backs of the legs, eases issues with spinal curves and brings the body into a better balance in conjunction with session 5. Because this is such a large area session, some clients may benefit from receiving this work in two sessions rather than one, allowing extra time to be spent on problem areas. The “lateral line” session, Session 3 focuses on the sides of the body from ankle to armpit. This session helps to balance the body from front to back and begins to transition the work from surface to deeper fascial work. Many clients find a feeling of greater length of feeling taller at the end of this session. This is also a good decision point for a client to review how Rolfing is working for them and decide if they wish to continue through the full ten-series.

If you don’t know what “opens the backs of the legs” feels like, it simply must be experienced. It both created and soothed in me a deep-down bodily itch, waking up places I didn’t even know were there. I felt deeply relaxed afterward – the altered state I discussed last Rolfing post – but was in entirely too much of a hurry afterward, running to the grocery store and getting back to the house for a Skype session with a client. This frenetic activity, right after an opening-raw Rolfing session, stirred up a lot of emotions in me – mostly anger, sadness, and a general sense of being stunned.

My recommendation? If you’re going to take the time to invest in yourself, to invest in a Ten Series, be sure to invest in a little ‘recovery’ time after your session – at least 30 minutes.

More in this series:

Why Did I Let This Man Put His Hands on Me? A Rolfing Immersion

C’mon Sea Legs, Pull Yourself Together 

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again 

Hurts So Good

Opening Up

 

R.E.M. Live from the Raleigh Underground – October 10, 1982

I’ve lived in Raleigh, North Carolina for nearly seven years. By and large, I love Raleigh – but not all areas equally. Probably my favorite spaces are Hillsborough Street (where my comic shop, Foundation’s Edge, is, as well as awesome restaurants like Neomonde and our local Chipotle), and various pockets of downtown. My least favorite area is North Hills, which is yuppie central – being there really tests my nonviolent commitments. A step or two less intense than North Hills is Cameron Village, which is pretty commercial, and relatively culturally void, save for 10,000 Villages.

Imagine my shock the other day when YouTube recommends I watch this very early R.E.M. show from 1982:

 

Raleigh Underground? I ask myself. Is there a Raleigh, England or something? But no – this was a thing:

In the same way Cameron Village itself was modeled after a shopping plaza in Kansas City, The Village Subway was modeled after the Atlanta Underground. It was a series of restaurants, clubs, boutiques, fashion stores, and a few other shops. Some of the night clubs were The Frog & Nightgown, Cafe Deja Vu, Elliot’s Nest, The Pier, Skyline, The Bear’s Den, and the Midnight Express…

More here.

Enjoy the really young Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, & Co. – positively collegiate!

Open or Closed Table Eucharist – WWJD?

Vaux EucharistThe sacred meal that Jesus-followers celebrate, variously called ‘Eucharist’ or ‘Communion’ or ‘Lord’s Supper’ – is both the centerpiece of most Christian worship worldwide, and is also one of the most divisive rites we practice. My friend and Catholic Celtic contemplative (how much more alliteration can I pack into his descriptor – oh I know, his first name!) Carl McColman blogs about feeling this ambivalence firsthand in Communion and the Broken Body. What follows is a response to Carl, and the others who have interacted in the comments. I recommend you read Carl’s post before proceeding.

I’m grateful to Carl for sharing this – I recall he and I discussing restrictions that Roman Catholics (among others) place around the Eucharist the first time I came to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit with him and participated in the morning prayers and mass. It was beautiful, getting up way earlier than I normally do, chanting Psalms with the monks and Carl as the sun gradually illuminated the stained glass windows with an all-pervasive, translucent purple.

Because of both their hospitality and their declining numbers, Carl and I were able to sit in the monastic choir loft right there with the Cistercians; I felt very included. This made the next portion of the morning gathering all the more jarring, as I was technically not allowed to take the wafer and wine, as per Roman Catholic restrictions on non-Catholic participation. Instead I stood, arms crossed, receiving a “blessing” from the priest. the Christian community’s celebration of unity with God and each other is fragmented, broken much like Christ’s body on the altar, and this does indeed call for sadness. I agree with Carl in his post about both the lamentability of this reality, and working for change from within.

But I also agree with Darrell and some of the other (you could call us ‘green meme’) commentators on this thread – that unlike other things the Church might mourn, such as the energy crisis or genocide in Darfur, this is a matter wholly of our own making and within our purview to change. In stages of grief, if grieving doesn’t lead to fresh beginnings and new action, the griever is stunted in her growth. So let’s move on and become the change we wish to see.

Dines with SinnersHow might we do this? Well, if Catholics want to appeal to tradition and authority, and Protestants want to appeal to conscience and Scripture, maybe we can all agree to hold these in abeyance while taking a moment to appeal…to Jesus. (Ack – I realize upon typing this that it can sound awfully one-sidedly Protestant, even Pietist. Bear with me a moment…)

If I may be so presumptuous, I think Jesus agrees with Carl’s growing realization that there are legitimate boundaries to the community of faith – that there are mysteries to be stewarded, and hard roads to walk, and that while hospitality is a crucial part of our vocation as apprentices along the Christ-path, there are also places where the general public simply won’t go – and this is fine. Inclusive green meme progressives like me struggle with this a bit, but Jesus deliberately thinned out the crowds from time to time – speaking in enigmatic parables, ratcheting up Moses’ law a thousand-fold to show the uncompromising heart of God’s reign, and ultimately inviting followers to a challenging third way path between Roman hegemony and reactive Jewish intransigence. In this way Jesus brought a ‘sword,’ and families were divided over what to do about him and his message. So Jesus is exclusive, yes?

And I hardly need to argue in this esteemed audience that Jesus is inclusive, too. Maybe cranky and reluctant at times, but reaching out to Samaritan women and Roman centurions and – most significantly – to lowest-caste Jewish folks of his day that polite society and religious elites wouldn’t countenance. Jesus seems to genuinely enjoy the company of the outcast and ne’er-do-well.

And Jesus gave us a meal – sometimes somber, sometimes joyous, in re-membrance of him, embodying Christ for the sake of each other and the world. And the question we post-Christendom, postmodern friends of God in the way of Jesus are asking ourselves is,

How then shall we eat?

and with whom?

Recognizing that there are initiation rituals and boundary rituals in any religious group, we could then ask the question “What are our boundary rituals?” and “What are our initiation rituals?”

And is Eucharist the former or the latter? I know that official Roman Catholic polity – and that of many other communions – say that Eucharist is the former, it’s a boundary ritual reinforcing membership in Christ’s Body.

Images from http://smallfire.org

Images from http://smallfire.org

Byzantine/Anglo-Catholic liturgist Richard Fabian makes a brief-but-compelling case for reversing the well-tread order of Baptism and Eucharist in his essay First the Table, Then the Font. I’m not going to reiterate his arguments here, but it’s well worth the read. Summarizing him from my point of view, I have to ask the question “How did Jesus eat with others in his earthly life? Were they initiation meals, or boundary-maintenance?” I have to conclude that, overwhelmingly, in his eating Jesus is precisely at his most inclusive. This is when he dines with terrorists and sex workers and tax collectors, whilst the religious authorities of his day were disgusted.

“But oh,” contemporary religious authorities might object, “his final meal this side of the grave – the one where he told his followers to keep eating in remembrance of him – that was just with his inner circle.” Granted, but let me ask you this: If Jesus was asking his followers to eat in his manner, to celebrate his presence among them, would they be drawing solely on this one ‘final’ meal, or the collective memory of their years shared together? To put it another way: If the Church wants to insist on a closed, bounded-set meal based on one night of our Lord’s life, shouldn’t it work equally vigorously to celebrate the scandalously inclusive, no-strings-attached manner of eating our Redeemer practiced during the vast majority of his public ministry?

And – perhaps more provocatively – shouldn’t we consider that even in his “inner circle,” Jesus extended radical hospitality to a betrayer in their midst! Doesn’t sound like particularly good boundary-maintenance to me.

Religious thinking is so bass-ackward sometimes. We’re afraid of ourselves, and afraid of the ‘outside world.’ We think of boundaries as something that we need to institute and enforce, externally, while gratuitous inclusion is something that will result in our loss of distinction and identity. Jesus seemed to reverse this pattern, finding his identity in complete open-handed invitational inclusion at the site of the shared meal, with boundary naturally arising in his call to follow him. It’s good branding, really – being salt and light both attracts and repels different people, or even the same people at different times – even ourselves at different stages of life’s journey.

With this said, I realize that – both practically and intentionally speaking – Eucharistic celebration is primarily for the edification of committed apprentices of Jesus; it is not ‘evangelistic’ per se in its design. Even so, it is invitational when practiced in the way of Jesus. We needn’t be concerned that abject heathens are going to keep beating down our doors to participate in a ritual that they disrespect and that holds no meaning to them – it just ain’t happening, folks. On the other hand, atheists, agnostics, sinners and ne’er-do-wells might just be curious enough to participate alongside us – to see if they can belong before believing, to see if they can ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.’ I long to see creative, prophetic acts of public worship, like my friend Lucas Land proposes in Eucharist as Eat-In. If we unshackle Jesus from our exclusionary practices, the transforming love of God can spill into the streets and the ‘profane’ lives or ordinary people – through our supposed ‘means of grace’ that we keep shut up.

That’s what happened to another friend, Sara Miles, who stumbled into Fabian’s congregation over a decade ago. I loathe to think of where Sara, her city, and even her congregation would be had she not been allowed to encounter Jesus at a no-strings-attached Communion table in her neighborhood. I shudder to think of how Jesus is being shuttered up in buildings across this world – what we’re missing out on by not making liturgy the work of the people, for the people.

I guess I should apologize to Carl – I got into the very argument that he didn’t want to have. And I’m going to ratchet it up slightly here – I don’t think that Darrell was being overly unkind or by describing the closed-handed exclusivity of certain Eucharist practices as ‘demonic.’ This needn’t be seen in an overly polemic way, but rather in the spirit of the apostle Paul, when he wrote a church to say he was giving one of its members “over to the devil.” This wasn’t a curse, but a naming of things as they really are in hopes of full repentance and restoration. I can’t – and won’t – stand in judgment of denominations that fence the table from all who don’t have confessional unity with them. But I do sniff the smell of fear and sulphur around such behavior at an institutional level, at what Walter Wink would call “the Powers” (demonic again. :) ) And I do pray that such power will be broken – for Christ’s sake, and the sake of the world.

If anyone wants to do some theological heavy-lifting on the matter, I’d recommend (in addition to Fabian’s essay above) Come to the Table by Anglican priest Jamie Howison – the full book is available here. Also Making A Meal of It: Rethinking the Lord’s Supper by United Methodist minister and theologian Ben Witherington III. And to be fair to another perspective (thanks Carl for pointing these resources out), Episcopal priest and Thomas W. Phillips Chair in Religious Studies professor at Bethany College in West Virginia Jim Farwell has staked a lot on a generous-but-boundary-keeping stance on limiting Communion to the baptized. His essay Baptism, Eucharist, and the Hospitality of Jesus: On the Practice of  ‘Open Communion,’ as well as its rejoinder by Kathryn Tanner can be found on the Anglican Theological Review website here. (Interestingly, for me anyway, I took a class with Farwell over a decade ago on Eastern Religion with a focus on Zen and interreligious dialogue at Berry. It’s a small Body of Christ…)

It’s also worth noting that, in true house church fashion, I think that the Eucharist is best celebrated as a full meal – why redact God’s feast into a notional meal only? But that’s a subject for a whole ‘nother post…

An earlier version of this was originally posted September 21, 2009

Opening Up.

Emerging from Jason Sager’s Rolfing sessions, I’m always in a bit of an altered state. I haven’t felt this as powerfully as in Session Five of the Ten Series, completed Friday. I’m almost preternaturally calm, my breathing is deeper and more even, and I feel relaxation in more areas of my body than I knew existed. I experienced all of this and then some in this session – but it wasn’t a total joyride.

Heart Chakra OpeningUntil recently, it had been over 18 months since my last Rolfing session. For whatever reason, I dropped out after session four in May of 2011. As I mentioned in my post from that time, Sager sees this alot – starting in sessions four and five, deep whole-body catharsis tends to release – in other words, $#!t gets real. In that sense, I am but a statistic. In my memory of it, though, I wasn’t thinking “This is getting too intense, I need to stop it.” I got busy; and then I had this thought in my head that I needed to lose weight in order to derive the maximum benefits from Rolfing. But in December 2012, I realized the silliness of letting business and other health goals from keeping me from the bodily reorganization and reintegration that Rolfing provides. After all, I had a Mayan Apocalypse Party to throw, and – I had no way of knowing it at the time when I resumed my ten series – I’d fall down half a flight of stairs on Christmas day at my aunt’s house. It was bad. According to the doctors, I could be expected to be laid up for nearly two months. Thanks in large part to Jason’s expert intervention on my muscles and bones, it was more like 2.5 weeks.

When I resumed late last year, Jason determined that it’d be best to begin the Ten Series over again, from session one. Not because all was lost – in fact, sessions 1-4 were easier the second time around because many of the changes wrought in 2011 were lasting – but simply to position me best to get the benefits from sessions 5-10.

And I just had session 5. RaleighRolfing.com describes it thus:

Session 5 continues the work from Session 4 to open and lengthen the rest of the front body. This covers hips to chest and deeper work includes psoas, pec minor, and front of the neck. For clients who tend to slump forward at the shoulders or hips, this is one of the primary sessions that will help.

Such a brief description for such an intense experience. If you’ve never engaged Rolfing first-hand, it can be difficult to describe. It’s not like a medieval torture chamber; my only experience is with Sager, but my impression is that skilled Rolfers do each movement with precision intentionality, designed to move fascia, muscle, and bone from stuck places into newfound freedom, mobility, and interdependence.

If it sounds like I’m veering from a matter-of-fact description of bodily movement and getting philosophical – I am. I’ve come to accept what initially sounded “woo-woo” to me: that our body stores unprocessed, “stuck” emotions at various places within us. (Incidentally, Sager is very soft-pedaling of the philosophy of energy work behind Rolfing; he’ll hardly bring it up unless you do…and of course, I do. : )  It’s clear to me, though, that he knows the “why” of what he’s doing inside and out.) In this session, in particular, he noted that my chest and lungs were almost frozen into place, like a block; and that my gut area, this part of me that I probably pay the most attention to – negative attention – is also stuck, and bloated…stretched to capacity.

And with Rolfing, Sager made room – within myself, for myself. Re-arranging the stuck places; letting hardened knots of muscle and tissue breathe, and relax. The process itself isn’t always “relaxing.” But the effects consistently are. “Rolfing” isn’t to “relaxed” as “Chinese” is to “eating” – 45 minutes later and it’s like nothing happened. As I type, two days after my session, I’m still aware of the differences in my body: Greater fluidity, groundedness, and just all-around “in-touchness.”

In addition to the men’s work I’ve been doing, awesome coaching I’ve been receiving, and the dietary and exercise changes I’m making, Rolfing thus far has proven to be one of my most rewarding investments of time and energy. It’s reinforcing, for me, the links between physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health – vitality – and power.

There’s too much life to live – I’m not delaying my Rolfing sessions anymore.

More in this series:

Why Did I Let This Man Put His Hands on Me? A Rolfing Immersion

C’mon Sea Legs, Pull Yourself Together 

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again 

Hurts So Good

 

Love is Love: Do we believe it?

Calling All Lovers: Augustine (or was it John Caputo?) once famously probed: “What do I love when I love my God?”

I think that Tom Oord in his Nature of Love: A Theology begins to take seriously, perhaps for the first time in contemporary theology, ‘God IS Love’ as a starting point for theology, spirituality, and practice. I think his project is exciting (you should really check out the book if you haven’t already), and if it resonates, it begs the question: Who do I love? What is love? And how can we explore/express these questions together trans-rationally, devotionally, ecstatically, in song?

Well, if these are questions that matter to you, I’ve got your mystical poetry for absorption into the One today. This is Love is Love, coming from post-hardcore band Lungfish‘s visionary, wheel-within-a-wheel frontman, Daniel Higgs. The version that so resonates with me – and with Trinity’s Place, my faith community in Raleigh – is actually a cover by Tortoise, when they collaborated with Bonnie “Prince” Billy.

I use this song frequently – working out on the ROM, and as a prelude to prayer or contemplation. Here it is:

 

The lyrics are anybody’s guess. Here’s mine:

Love is love in the shape things take

Love is love in the womb of wombs (wound of wounds)

Love is love at the highest height

Love is love at the deepest depth all right

Love is love as the risen rise (as the risen Christ)

Love is love in the sight of creation

Love is love in patterns of light

Love is love at the root of the grave

Love is love in the life of all life

Love is love in echoes through space

Love is love a vigil for this world (a vision for this world)

Love is love in the marrow of new bones

Love is love as above so below

Love is love in the record of events

Love must be love to let time begin

Love is love always reconciled

Love is love in the wind and shade

Love is love – alien and strange

Love is love in truth and falsehood

And, for your added enjoyment, here’s the original Lungfish version. Sink in!

This was originally posted on January 23, 2011. 

Karma Unbound

(Yes, this is in the key of Radiohead, while imagining Jean Valjean on the run from Javert…for richest effect, play this while reading…)


Karma Unbound 

O Grace-in-Chief
Unbind this man
he talks in tongues
his heart is like a dirge
It’s playing for the mourning

O Grace-in-Chief
Release this girl
Desire bound
is bound to press the world
We’re grapes hard-pressed for the party

Now is how we’re met
Now is how we’re met
Now is how we’re met
When we’re met with you…

O Grace-in-Chief
I’ve given all I can
It’s not enough
Ac(/Ex/)cept I AM
Drawing you in through mouth and lungs

Now is how we’re met
Now is how we’re met
Now is how we’re met
When we’re met with you…

For a lifetime
I lost myself, I lost myself
In our breathing, now –
I lose myself, I lose myself

For a lifetime
I lost myself, I lost myself
In our breathing, now –
I lose myself, I lose myself…

* * * * *

The story behind the meditation…

I’ve had an incredibly full past two weeks – from spending time in Memphis with people (like DonSarah, Doug, George, Wendy, Drew, Riley, Brian, Dani and Mark) at the Great Emergence event in Memphis, to checking-in with my MKP brothers in IGroup, to ringing in seven years of marriage, to staffing alongside some of the most brilliant souls I know at H Opp (getting to know equally brilliant – and courageous, inspiring – participants), to showing my dear friend Aline around Raleigh while she stayed with Jasmin and I this week, to delving into ecstatic dance at Carrboro’s FlowJo, to – finally – he pauses to take a breath – participating in yet another spirited, loving exchange between Muslims and Christians at the IITS/Divan Center in Cary co-hosted by Peace Catalyst International.

I am overflowing with the goodness and abundance of a wildly diverse group of friends and colleagues who are showing up and offering their gifts and presence to the world.

And.

It seems to me that we still haven’t found what we’re looking forGranted, some of us are far more contented along the journey, while others of us are more ravenous. I judge neither. But last night, driving home from a biblical-Qur’anic discussion on Adam and human origins, while reflecting on my abundantly divergent friends and experiences in this past couple of weeks alone, I had this overwhelming, beautifully aching feeling: we long to be seen in our individuality, and to merge in communion.

I Tweeted:

We are the all, aching for All;  
we are the many, longing for union.

Now – I realize that I’m using “we” generously here, maybe even presumptuously. I have no idea what you are consciously (or subconsciously) longing for.  There’s a saying in personal-work settings: Use “I” statements. So – if this fits for you, claim it. Either way, feel within myself a spaciousness and constriction that I identify with “the human condition” – I feel the ache of longing for connection, for communion:

With my wife and child,
With friends, new and old;
With family members,
With strangers that who catch my eye for the first time,
With people who, by virtue of initial dislike or slow-conditioned disdain, have become enemies.

This is why – whatever else I am – I’m a committed Perennialist. (and I’m in good company!) When it comes to my basic orientation toward reality, it seems that

  1. There is something bigger than us
  2. We either are (West) or seem to be (East) separated from it
  3. Through various means [or perhaps One Mean, apprehended in a diversity of forms] we can become reunited with it (or realize that we already are)
  4. Once the separation is overcome, we will lead larger, richer, fuller lives

Valjean ImagesFor whatever reason, I feel further called to steward this universal Mystery in her Christian manifestation (which, believe me, sometimes feels like more trouble than it’s worth!) As a Trinitarian (some fun little rabbit trails in that link), I would say that my tradition’s highest conception of God points to the paradox that reality is ultimately One, and yet, also Many. This is the (or at least a) mystery that the Three-in-One God points to. Oneness and plurality, transcendence and immanence, individuation and communion. And grace is the aroma that’s shot through – the All in all.

I hear this in the cry of Jesus to his Abba, just before he was betrayed with a kiss:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will trust me through their message
That all of them may be One, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You.
May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be One as We are One
— I in them and You in me—
so that they may be brought to complete union. 
(John 17:20-23a)

We long to feel this union – with the Divine, with each other, with our surroundings and environment, with our own spit and sinew, bodies and selves – and yet…so often we feel chained.

‎”I always rely on the kindness of strangers.” – says not just Blanche DuBois, but Everyone, to Everyone Else. Interdependence – recognized or unrecognized, cozy or cruel – is everywhere. It seems to me that we are all aloft on a streetcar named Desire.

With this desire unusually palpable in me, and reading an awesome re-written Psalm by a friend who emailed it to me, I sat down to my Centering Prayer practice this morning. In the midst of the silence – and, if I’m candid, some tears of recognition – the tune to Radiohead‘s Karma Police welled up within me. And then, the words you read above began to come. I bent the rules of Centering Prayer to step away and put them down, and then some more, adding flesh to bones. (I will resume in the Unconditional Silence early this evening, I hope.)

This may not be its final form; its derivativity (that should so be a word) feels mildly kitschy but it’s hitting me in a deep place considering the life I’m living.

Your feedback is welcome. You feelin’ me?

Darkwood Brew: For the Love of God

Darkwood Brew LGBTMy friends Eric Elnes, Scott Griessel and company are putting together an awesome Darkwood Brew series I wanted to tell you about.

For the Love of God will be addressing the Bible passages that people commonly cite to oppose LGBT equality and adding several more that show that inclusion and acceptance is part of the flow of a “biblical” faith. There’s a truly stellar line-up:
Dec 30: Rev. Bruce Van Blair (UCC minister 40 yrs, not well known but kicks ass on biblical stuff. We featured him for our entire series on Colossians last year)
Jan 6: Dr. Jacq Lapsely (Princeton Seminary OT scholar and editor of the Dictionary of Biblical Ethics)
Jan 13: Dr. James Forbes
Jan 20: Dr. Jack Levison (NT scholar from Seattle Pacific U with Pentecostal roots)
Jan 27: Sue Fulton (first female graduate from Westpoint, lesbian)
Feb 3: Bishop Gene Robinson

Check out this trailer!

God in the Material World: Altizer and Žižek in the ‘Wake’ of the Death of God

Eccentric visionary and radical theologian Thomas J. J. Altizer created napkin-scribble icons to God’s mysterious demise at Atlanta’s Dark Horse Tavern in the mid-1960s, Carl McColman once told me; 40+ years later, Brittian Bullock and I would sit in the same bar pondering the same thing.

Now, about four years after that, I’m once again thinking of the death of God – the crisis in the life of God, God’s mysterious disappearance from the stage of history and even faith; the self-abnegation of God in Christ; the emptying of ‘the Sacred’ into ‘the secular,’ the ultimate kenosis that makes the here-and-now holy.

Feeling nervous around all this talk about theothanatology? You’re not alone. In a 2006 Emory Magazine article, Altizer himself said he felt “violently misunderstood” in his ideas and intent. “My work really means just the opposite of what everyone thinks.”

Altizer’s is, you see, a conversion story for our age:

Descended from General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Thomas Jonathan Jackson Altizer grew up mostly in West Virginia in a family that was “deeply Southern” and marked, he says, by madness. He did learn a love of books from his father, who told Altizer his own father also revered the printed word, with one notable exception: in a fit of rage, Altizer’s grandfather once hurled Nietzsche’s The Antichrist into the fire. Although Altizer claims he was deeply taken with Christianity as a youth, he was raised with little religious guidance, left to find his own way through reading and prayer.

Altizer attended the University of Chicago from 1947 to 1954, finishing with a PhD. During his early years there, he also served as a chaplain at an Episcopal church and was on a path to becoming an Episcopal priest. But candidates for the priesthood were required to undergo a rigorous psychiatric exam, which, as Altizer writes, he “unexpectedly and totally failed.” Indeed, a psychiatrist told him he could expect to be institutionalized within the year.

In the weeks before the examination, Altizer remembers being in a “turbulent condition,” a period when he experienced a violent transformation that would profoundly inform his work from then on.

“This occurred late at night, while I was in my room,” he writes. “I suddenly awoke and became truly possessed and experienced an epiphany of Satan, which I have never been able fully to deny, an experience in which I could actually feel Satan consuming me, absorbing me into his very being. . . . Satan and Christ soon became my primary theological motifs, and my deepest theological goal eventually became one of discovering a coincidentia oppositorium [coincidence of opposites] between them.”

In 1955, the year before he arrived at Emory, Altizer was reading in the University of Chicago library when he experienced a similar revelation—but the inverse of his encounter with Satan.

“I had what I have ever since regarded as a genuine religious conversion, and this was a conversion to the death of God,” he writes. “Never can such an experience be forgotten, and while it truly paralleled my earlier experience of the epiphany of Satan, this time I experienced a pure grace, as though it were the very reversal of my experience of Satan.” (You really should read the whole article here.)

I’m not going to summarize Death-of-God theology for you here; instead, I’m going to show you some videos in Altizer’s own words, as he discusses the implication of this radical Event for the life of the world. He is joined here by Slavoj Žižek, superstar Lacanian philosopher and cultural trickster (whom you might recognize from Pete Rollins love-fests or perhaps from Welcome to the Desert of the Real, often paired with The Matrix DVD commentaries of Cornel West and Ken Wilber).

Without further ado…let the out-pouring begin!

 

 

I, for one, am looking forward to Altizer’s latest book, The Apocalyptic Trinity, out on Christmas Eve.

ONE: The Gospel vs. Christianity

Mike Williams became a rising star in Evangelical circles during the 1980’s as an “Ex-Gay” preacher who had been cured of (or “delivered” from) homosexuality.  He was the poster-boy for the Christian agenda to eradicate homosexuality. Mike appeared on numerous prominent broadcasts including Pat Robertson’s CBN as well as TBN.  He also became a well-known and highly respected Bible teacher in the Charismatic movement.

During that time, Mike tried desperately to make his Ex-Gay “testimony” true.  From the time he was a child, he had taken his beliefs seriously.  So seriously that they caused him intense inner suffering resulting in his first of three suicide attempts when he was just a teenager.

But ONE: The Gospel According to Mike (currently only $3.47 on Kindle) is not a book about being gay. It’s a story of grace trumping religion – and the theological breakthrough that allowed him to leave behind questions of “what is Lawful” forever.

Last year, Rob Bell made waves in publishing and spirituality alike with his book Love Wins (not to be confused with my friend Hugh Hollowell‘s Raleigh, NC ministry to traditionally marginalized people, also called Love Wins, which had the name first, sorta-kinda…).  Bell asked questions about the nature and manifestation of God’s goodness that Christianity (and Western religion in general) has grappled with for ages. He was a heretic to some and a hero to many.  In ONE, Williams – who has become a veteran grace teacher – goes perhaps even further than Bell, challenging interpretations of virtually every major Christian doctrine from salvation to damnation, while presenting Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection in a Scriptural context seldom seen in spirituality and practice.  What’s interesting is Mike’s perspective that not only does love win – love already won.

Rooted deeply in a love of Christ and Scripture, with a disdain for the bean-counting, score-keeping element of organized religion that’s reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, ONE mounts Scriptural arguments against the doctrines that have propagated the fear of a still-angry God and eternal torment in the fires of hell.

Wherever one comes down on soteriology – the eternal-conscious-torment/annhilationism/inclusivism/universalism scale – what fascinates me are evangelical universalists like Mike Williams, Thomas Talbott, and Robin Parry – who make their case for the unconditional, persistent love of God in Christ not from the vantage point of some all-roads-lead-to-the-same-path liberal idea of the brotherhood of humanity, but from a precisely-made, patient, biblically-literate standpoint. One: The Gospel According to Mike (this is the official booksite, with an in-depth table of contents and more) is a worthy addition to this discussion – I’d say a must-read.

PS: Check out Gospel Revolution, Williams’ thriving online tribe.

GMO Labeling: Let the Buycotts Begin

GMO labeling in America: Where we won –

Last week more than 5 million California voters stood up for transparency and labels on genetically engineered foods by voting Yes on Prop 37. We came up short on election night, but have built a powerful movement that has changed the conversation on GMO labeling in the U.S. forever.
At Food Democracy Now! we want to express our gratitude for you and all of our members who helped place Prop 37 and labeling of genetically engineered foods as a central part of the national debate during this year’s election.It was a hard fought race and we’ve been amazed and inspired by the grassroots support in California and across the country. Despite being outspent nearly 6 to 1, the Yes on 37 campaign fought Monsanto and DuPont to a standstill with 47.6% to 52.4% at the polls.

We may not have won on election night, but what we did gain is unprecedented and can never be taken from us: the fact that millions of people have stood up for democracy and labeling of genetically engineered foods, and we have fundamentally changed the conversation in the U.S. forever.

What’s next?

Along with our allies, we’ve been encouraged to hear this question ring throughout California among those who gave their heart and soul to this fight and within the growing national food movement: “What’s next?”

Food Democracy Now! has been a part of this fight from the beginning and along with our close allies who fought with us every step of the way, we can tell you that this fight is not over and we will not stop until we achieve transparency and the basic Right to Know what’s in our food.

Why do 61 other countries enjoy this right while Americans do not?

It’s time that we make sure these questions are heard at the highest levels here in the U.S., from the White House to Congress to state capitals across the country.

Right now efforts are unfolding in Washington state where volunteers are gathering signatures to place an initiative similar to Prop 37 on the ballot in 2013 and there are attempts to get President Obama to enact his 2007 campaign promise to label GMOs in Washington DC. No matter what, GMO labeling in the U.S. is going to become a reality.

Give Thanks and Reward Our Heroes

Today there are there are 2 things that you can do to move this conversation forward and help thank those who stood with us during the historic battle on Prop  37.

1. Please join us in thanking those Organic Heroes who stood with us in the fight on Prop 37, from the moms, grandmothers and grassroots activists to the California farmers and organic and natural companies that helped make the fight possible. Without their help, it wouldn’t have been possible!

2. Please join Food Democracy Now! in committing to doubling down in the marketplace by supporting those companies that supported your Right to Know at the grocery store.

A lot of these companies are small in size, but their leaders gave a generous amount to help us in the fight to Label GMOs in California. Please reward them with your undying brand loyalty at your local coop or grocery store because when the next fight comes, we know they’ll be there for us!

Thank the Heroes of Prop 37

Thank Dr. Mercola, Dr. Bronner’s, Lundberg Family Farms, Nutiva, Amy’s Kitchen, Organic Valley, Clif Bar, Udi’s, Earth Balance, Annie’s Homegrown, Applegate, Eden Foods and Good Earth Natural Foods. They have stepped up to the plate and stood beside their customers and this grassroots movement to Label GMOs.

The people who run these companies care a great deal about doing the right thing and Food Democracy Now! is proud to stand with them in the fight to label GMOs!

Click on the link below to thank the Heroes of Yes on 37 on Twitter.

 Thank on Twitter Click on the link below to thank the Heroes of Yes on 37 on Facebook.

 Thank on Facebook

Now spread the word and share this with your friends to show who stood with you and who is against you and your Right to Know! Let them know that you intend to vote with your dollar!

Heroes and Zeroes
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Election Results and False Reports of Voter Fraud

Despite numerous reports of voter fraud in the election on Yes on 37, there have been no proof of fraud or vote tampering in California. As with every election, not every ballot is counted on election night and currently Food Democracy Now! is working with the California Right to Know campaign to monitor the final vote tally from the state.

As of November 16, 2012, the vote totals are 5,869,382 NO to 5,329,994 YES, with the NO side ahead 52.4% to 47.6%.

California state law requires county elections officials to report their final results to the Secretary of State by December 7. The Secretary of State has until December 14 to certify the results of the election.

Food Democracy Now! will continue to monitor these election results with our allies and report the latest results.
Thanks again for participating in food democracy. Your involvement has help build a stronger movement and brought us one step close to GMO labeling!

Thank you for contributing what you can today – Together we can win!

Thanks for participating in food democracy,

Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team

P.S. As we move forward in our efforts, we need your help! Please chip in today to help defeat Monsanto’s bid to silence GMO labeling in the U.S. – It’s time to fight back to make GMO labeling a reality!

from Food Democracy Now!