22 June 2009

Where Sacred Interpenetrates Secular

Filed under: Christianity, Culture, Psychology — ktismatics @ 3:17 pm

Here’s most of an email I sent to a guy last Friday: he’s an academic postmodern theologian who teaches at a nearby university. This is one of the directions I’m trying to take my practice.

I “work on work,” helping people reconnect the circuitry between passion and calling, between subjective agency and objective/intersubjective standards, between who they are and what they do. The ego is decentered in my praxis. Work isn’t all about what makes you happy or where you score on aptitude tests and interest inventories. Work contributes to culture, and hopefully work motivated by something like Truth, Beauty, and Justice can contribute to the construction of a better culture.

As you know, many evangelicals interpret the idea of “in the world but not of the world” in a way that dichotomizes church and human culture. Evangelicals can go into “the ministry” or conduct prayer breakfasts before work and so on, but the secular job itself? It’s a place to work out their individual salvation maybe, but not an arena where God is actively engaged. Emerging types can lament the worldliness of consumerism and pollution and neoliberal globalization, but they’re often more intent on building the church as a countercultural alternative to secular culture than on taking individual and collective stands for “good works” at the secular workplace.

As I’m sure you know, the TV show The Wire has prompted a lot of discussion in theory circles. Some dismiss it as just another racist indictment of inner-city drug-and-violence culture or a crypto-fascist valorization of vigilante justice. I’m more in the camp that regard the show as inspirational. Is it possible for some subset of people to be moved, as individuals and collectively, to Fight the Powers and take an active stand for justice? Are there rhizomatic movements of Spirit that, irrupting in particular places and times and situations, set the preconditions for a just event to break through? Can individual and collective agency amplify and concentrate this movement of Spirit in an intentional act of de/reterritorialization? Even if the world eventually absorbs the event and carries on as usual, such events embody and prefigure an alternate reality in which highers standards prevail.

This is already a long email, so I’ll get to the specific agenda. I’d like to make a push into the church world, looking for people who might see the Spirit at work in the workplace but whose subjective agency is hampered both by the marketplace ethos and by the Christian ethos of ecclesial hermeticism. Can individuals hear and heed the rhizomatic movement of Spirit? Can collective Wire-like initiatives in the workplace be assembled through some kind of Spirit-led biopower? I’m not talking about self-consciously church-branded programs, but emergent efforts where the sacred interpenetrates the secular.

I sent a somewhat shorter and less abstract version of this email to a local pastor. No response from either so far.

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