Friday, June 11, 2010

An Arena of Contestation

A recent response by APS on AUFS's blog thread read,
so you’ve essentially [p]ut a little hedge around your beliefs and ideas so they can’t be criticized. That’s called ideology, which is surely a part of religion, though not one that I think should be encouraged.
The issue as I take it is the manner in which theological discourse is open for public engagement and mutual correction/criticism. At first I thought APS's remarks were a little harsh (though they were not directed at myself). I had this response because the folk at AUFS (that I am engaging with) are not working with a neutral space for such correction/criticism. It is a space in which one must decide whether the parameters are acceptable for or worth engagement. While I do not believe that there are neutral public spaces (and I am not saying that these folk advocate that either) I do accept 'the public' as an arena of contestation. The Christian faith, as I would read it, is not concerned with what parameters the public may place on its presence (though it is concerned with what parameters it may place) but embraces, rather, that it is in the public that the faith is ultimately manifest or at least cycled (I am thinking dramatically of martyrology . . . yes AUFS you are my persecutors!! . . . to ease interpreting prior line think misplaced irony and smiling emoticon).
I am trying in as much as is possible to discard those instruments that buffer a more direct encounter with 'the public' that I might continually be exposed to those things I use to secure my position so that my thought and action can be refined (to use a pious expression!). I certainly do not claim that the people I am engaging with share this understanding and I am only articulating what is emerging for myself as I ask the question of what value this engagement offers. So I am increasingly happy to cede to various parameters because it is for my benefit (selfishly) with the hope that to the extent that I continue to be embedded in the institutional church it might also be for its benefit.

6 comments:

Anthony Paul Smith said...

We're the public murdering you and making you a martyr? Quite dramatic...

IndieFaith said...

Would you care to respond to the content . . . I was really hoping that the joke would be taken as such.
The allusion itself more related Tripp York's work.

IndieFaith said...

I should also note that I probably should not have linked to the AUFS post. I was not looking to continue that particular conversation. This is a place where I work through all those things that are problematic according to many other spaces. This is explicitly biographical, explicitly confessional. It is not a theological statement. This is all process for me.
In this mode I am using an analogy in which a critical stripping (persecution) is of benefit for me. That is why hoped it would be taken as a joke but I continually underestimate this medium to my detriment.
I mean is it not the case that a certain critical mode is there to persecute weak thought for what it is? So if nothing remains of my fragile intellect after such 'fire' then that would be very telling. Here I am simply not concerned with that mode of discourse (nor will I be making any future condemnation here of other modes unless rigorously supported).
Here I plan to continue in a mode that remains personally/biographically genuine with all the problems that entails. I was wrong in earlier forms and I repent. And to the extent that anyone else cares to comment and interact here I will take it seriously and try to apply it appropriately.
So I hope it is clearer what I am doing here. And if that bores or repels readers and commenters away that is fine. But this does not change the fact that I will try and respect other discourses that indeed it might be 'refining' (I do not feel the need to shake that image). Sorry for the joke I really did not intend to position those I engage with in that manner this was reflective of my process and experience.

Anthony Paul Smith said...

I think martyrdom is something real in the world and find it rather distasteful to compare it to the kind of intellectual discussions that happen online. It has been common in the kind of theology I also find distasteful to create a kind of maximalism of martyrdom where you extend it to all areas of one's life (often rather comfortable lives... even after being asked to account for one's beliefs and pieties).

As for the rest, yes, I don't think we ever proclaimed the idea that there is some neutral space. People have often accused me of holding to that philosophy, which I have never understood. The implication seems to be that, because I eschew the authority of tradition, but not tradition as material for thought, I am somehow labouring under the illusion I'm free of the constraints of my own history or whatever. I find that this is ideology which allows one to hold up their own lack of self-criticism as a virtue, rather than a vice (which is what it actually is).

IndieFaith said...

I respect your distaste towards any improper reference to martyrdom. I suspect we both know of people for whom that is no metaphor. Though alluding to York's work there is, I believe, a manner of appropriating a certain understanding martyrdom into the larger political and public life of the church (and no it is not in reference to Christians in the work place who are 'persecuted' for not swearing). I really think you are missing the point there.
I actually explicitly stated that you were not working with a neutral space. What I was reflecting on was the disconnect in my mode epistemology as opposed to other spaces in which I must decide whether it is worth participation . . . and I say yes it is.
Do I continue to come off as having some negative view of you or others engage at AUFS? As poor taste as the martyrdom reference may have been it was actually a joke. The whole point was the value in the engagement that occurs there . . . while also acknowledging the vast difference I how I perform these engagements (in other spaces). And to the extent that others would like to substantially criticize those modes in this space they are welcome. But I have learned to be careful where I offer them.

IndieFaith said...

Again, APS, the post was about an initial reaction to your comment and how that response no longer reflects my understanding.