I left an annoying comment on Tony’s recent post about liturgy. His post briefly explores the possibility of the Church Year as offering the foundation for an ‘irregular dogmatics’. My comment was simply stating that I wish I could comment because at present the notion and validity of the Church Year and its structural liturgy is, at present, in upheaval. I thought I might try and trace my thought trajectory so that I can see where it might be heading.
As I alluded to my last post I have been preaching Romans for Advent. Paul, having little to say about the historical Jesus at the best of times, has no Christmas story. There appears to be no value in recounting Jesus’s birth for the sake of churches he worked with. This led to a sort of paradigm shift which began to view liturgical practices not so much as rhythms of resistance but as abstractions displacing what should be existentially integrated (did that make sense?). So we set baby Jesus outside of us as opposed to attending to the blood, shit and pain that comes with childbirth.
This thinking was further crystallized by a comment Chris Rodkey made on a somewhat unrelated post at AUFS. He states,
One thing I have been thinking about as I am constructing an outline for a collaborative project a colleague and I are gearing up to write together is Jacob Taubes’ critique of Christianity in his book Occidental Eschatology. Essentially my appropriation is this: The liturgical calendar and liturgical time prevents any sense of Parousia. [emphasis mine]
Perhaps I could be convinced that present liturgies are simply parodies but it hardly makes a difference. The point is the manner in which our lives are presently and existentially engaged. As it turns out Dan seemed to push my thinking even further with his recent post. He writes,
This is the season of Advent and some of my friends are writing pretty words about this time of waiting, hope, anticipation and proleptic action. They are saying the sort of thing I used to say not too long ago. As for me, I am tired of waiting and tired of being a good little fellow and “waiting well.” With all due respect to my friends, I say fuck that noise. If there is a God out there, and that God is lingering, deciding to postpone an intervention, then I think the only way to wait is to act as if God is not coming or to try and force the coming of God. Instead of finding ways to make our peace with our godforsakenness we should absolutely refuse to accept it. Anything is better than that acceptance. Better to risk everything on the wager that God cares enough to intervene (although that usually doesn’t work out well) than to sit back and make peace with this. Better to spit at the back of God if that is what will bring God to act. Besides, it is actions like these, and only actions like these, that actually take God seriously. Anything else in the context of abandonment is either a pale imitation of worship or idolatry.
I am not quite sure how to take this. At present I read it as a Psalm which is fully truthful if not entirely complete (is that an insult Dan?). This leads me to my present reading in Philip Goodchild’s Capitalism and Religion. Goodchild looks at Henri Bergson’s work on time and freedom. Bergson critiques ‘measured’ or ‘counted’ time. Goodchild writes,
For synchronization to occur, real time must be replaced by an abstraction which has eliminated the essential quality of time – change. Measurable, homogeneous time is an abstraction where nothing takes place. In countable time, the living is measured in so far as it conforms to the behaviour of inanimate clocks. (105)
In brief, the representation of reality in both science and metaphysics is a commodification, replacing the thing with a quantifiable symbol fashioned for the purpose of exchange.
Bergson’s alternative is to place reason within the temporal process itself. . . . The experience of thinking replaces the object of thought. Freedom must be encountered in the experience of thinking before it can become the object of thought. (107)
The question this raises is the extent to which liturgical practices actually undermine, overthrow or replace dominant social modes (empire, capitalism, etc.). Or do they simply fall prey the near omnipotent work of commodification? Does a flash mob singing the hallelujah chorus in a food court do anything more than make people feel good about their shopping experience? Even the cultural liturgist Jaime Smith thinks not (I have not read his Desiring the Kingdom). (I also can’t help but cringe at Winnipeg’s attempt to piggy-back on this . . . apparently the press was there waiting for it ‘to happen’)
So that is a bit of the arch. I still retain theological convictions of doxology as a sort of foundation for practice but as for present form of church liturgy I am becoming increasingly dissatisfied. The issue remains the extent to which the acts and the structures produce abstractions or commodities that keep one from encountering and entering into the Gospel. What is my alternative? At present it is little more than an increasingly social form of (or socially aware) existentialism. Or to be more naive . . . a biblical faith. Hopefully, more to come.