Friday, November 14, 2008

The Arrogance of Nations (Part II): Voice of the Voiceless

Fundamentally the key for Elliott in unlocking Romans is a particular kind of political reading (I will offer a spoiler and say leftist).  If Romans is about justice (which it is), and justice is something that takes place between human beings (and that is certainly part of it), then the letter to the Romans ought to be an interesting read for just about anyone.   Elliott’s off to a good start here, if he can convince anyone of this.  And here is Elliott’s problem, everybody already knows what Paul’s letter to the Romans is about, and while many may concede that it is about righteousness, or justification, their definition of those terms tend to be abstract and individualized (how god makes me right with him, and then me right with others).  So it is Elliott’s task to offer a corrective.


Well we (the masses) need a couple of ground rules in order to understand what justice is all about.  The first rule is to reject every approach that favors the rich to the detriment of the poor. The second rule is to read the NT texts so that they address the reality of empire as an omnipresent, inescapable, and overwhelming sociopolitical reality (Fernando Segovia, not the guitar player).


So begins Elliott’s quest of explaining the thesis of Paul’s letter to the Romans as a comparison between two rules.  And a quest for Paul to explain which rule is truly righteous and which rule has the power to make the world truly peaceful.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Brief Look at Neil Elliott’s The Arrogance of Nations: Reading Romans in the Shadow of Empire (Part 1):

First off if you liked Colossians Remixed, you will like this book, although it is geared more towards an academic crowd. It is a challenging read that promises to both confound as well as challenge.

Full disclosure, I am a big Elliott fan, and wish this book was published before I submitted my thesis, because I certainly would have changed some things.  I love reading books that offer new answers to some really old questions, namely because they are fresh, but also because they make you think through your positions.  Now my convictions on Paul are pretty loosely held, so if you are threatened by new interpretations, you may not care for this book.  But I have read too many books on Paul that are a mere regurgitation of what everybody already knows, and offer very little to keep but a rehashing of all the overplayed theological arguments in Romans, just picking sides along the way.   This book reminds me of one of my mates synopsis of the movie "The Last Temptation of Christ" and why it was his favorite Jesus movie...

“Because it is the only movie about Jesus where I don't know what is going to happen next.”

Now to be fair Elliott doesn’t just make up stuff, he offers good arguments for what he says, and his conclusions are very plausible.
  So pick up the book, it is worth it!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Apologists Needed

4-1 odds on the existence of God

Online betting outfit Paddy Power is offering 4-1 odds that God exists. So far, folks have wagered $5000 on the question. Interest has increased resulting from an atheist ad campaign on London buses with the slogan: "There's probably no God." From The Telegraph:
A spokesman for Paddy Power said that confirmation of God's existence would have to be verified by scientists and given by an independent authority before any payouts were made, however. 

He added: "The atheists' planned advertising campaign seems to have renewed the debate in pubs and around office water-coolers as to whether there is a God and we've seen some of that being transferred into bets. 

"However we advise anyone still not sure of God's existence to maybe hedge their bets for now, just in case."
"Paddy Power offers odds of 4-1 that God exists"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fear and Loathing in the USA

Edward Said - ©2005Robert Shetterly-

In looking forward to James Crossley's new book, and the little teasers via his blog, I can't help but reflect upon the rhetoric used in the 2008 presidential election, and wonder what poor Edward Said is doing in his grave (restless I suspect). Even worse I can not imagine what it would be like to be a U.S. Muslim, in particular during this political climate. The advertisements that bombard my "swing" state are replete with simplistic binary statements, that are designed to invoke fear of the "other" and in some cases out right hatred. Even the Daily Show, which had a segment of interviews canvassing Palin/McCain supporters about what they thought of the possibility of an Obama presidency was quite disturbing (even if these were just the edited outtakes).  I was glad that McCain during a speech corrected someone in the crowd about Obama, saying that he was a good family man (does this imply though that Muslims are not), but I do not think he has done enough to stop this kind of innuendo (especially when his running mate seems, to me, to be fueling the fire).  The sad thing is that nobody seems to care, as if electing a black man to the presidency mitigates this type of bigotry.  I think Colin Powell said it best when he said America is better than this, but if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I am not so sure how we Americans fair?