Time Emptied And Time Renewed – The Dominion Of Capital And A Theo-Politics Of Contretemps, Part 3 (Daniel Rhodes)

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The following is the third installment of a three-part series.  The link to the first portion can be found here.  The link to the second is here.

Time Renewed: A Theo-Politics of Contretemps

If the conquest of capital, as a Marxish read suggests, congeals in the subsuming of space, social relations, nature, and even the faculties of human subjectivity within its rectilinear and homogeneous time, then as Bensaïd and others make clear only the enactment of a dissonant time can truly contest its dominion. Such a socio-political enactment, however, has proven difficult to cultivate and sustain, an issue that impinges on the church just as much as it does any other social body.

Nevertheless, by sketching in this final section a theo-politics of contretemps, I will contend that the social practices constitutive of the church, when fully embraced and performed, offer the possibility of enacting a distinctly alternative time consonant with a newly configured arrangement of power and communal relations. Working within a Free Church ecclesiology that is no less sacramental, following McClendon, I will suggest that the covenant meal and the politics of forgiveness (otherwise referred to as binding and loosing or the Rule of Christ) are powerful practices that not only structure the distinct temporality of the social body of the church but also present a means of temporal transformation to be enacted first in the community and then making their way out to the wider society.

Where the table is the practice of the end epicletically infused into the present as the active communion of God and humanity in the presence of Christ, the ongoing conversation of the politics of forgiveness opens a reconfigured organization of power in the Spirit that makes possible the embodiment of that end in its current context. Thus, in the time of this gathering, in its eating and deliberating in the presence of Christ by the power of the Spirit, new tempos and rhythms are developed that restructure relations by synchronizing them to the reign of God.

As material and political practices, the meal joins the community in the solidarity of the koinonia of the Triune life of love and the practice of reconciling dialogue offers it a means of collective discernment, practical judgment, and conflict resolution necessary for recognizing when its communal life has gone off track or its relations have become distorted or abusive and need to be realigned or adjusted. When conducted in concert with the recognition of gifts and the open meeting, a mode of politics emerges that institutes a new kind of society being configured by a renewed time, one discordant to the competition, atomization, and contractual arrangements intrinsic to the empty ordering-time of capital.

Beyond appeals to the macro-level distinctiveness of the liturgical calendar or a Eucharistic ontology, I argue, the material and social processes of these practices are a means of counter-acting the micro-physics of capital’s dominion because the alternative structure of relations in the meal and the newly constituted arrangement of power intrinsic to the mode of governance of the Rule of Christ offer a way for the ecclesial body to move toward and in congruence with the reign of God.

To make sense of this ecclesiology one must first grasp its cosmology, complete with its specifically theological sense of time. From this perspective, the cosmos is not solely an immanent frame confined by the laws of matter or material forces nor is time left untouched by the transformative work of God in Christ. Theologically, because the cosmos originates and is sustained by God, it does not exist on its own and is not simply bound by the capacities of its own potentiality or innate processes. More specifically, “in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ a new kind of time, end-time, has begun; in Christ a new ‘world order’ (2 Cor. 5:17 NEB) has come to be.”[1]

Seen through the cross and resurrection, a transformation of the time and finitude of creaturely existence is already achieved while continuing to unfold. That is to say, there is no neat distinction between earthly time and eternity if by this is communicated their stringent incommensurability, for in the life of the social body of those joined to the history and work of Jesus Christ the two are not incongruent. Here time is reconfigured by the infusion of its end even as this advent does not mean time is over. The cut of the kairotic advent here is not vertical, but horizontal wherein the line of chronic time is cut internally along its length as the end fills and imbues it, instilling it with new direction.[2] A new time constituting a “new order” is opened, complete with “a new way of construing the world.”[3]

Following the biblical understanding, a time being made consonant with its fulfillment orients and animates the community. Infused with the dynamic content of the divine life, time for the church is not set aside to make space for eternity but God’s reign is established through the healing of time in a real, material kingdom gathered in concert with the Triune life. Relativizing all other configurations of time in the kairotic advent of the end, the truth of things, of the cosmos and history and of ethics, find their meaning in Jesus Christ whose life also transforms them.[4]

As occurs in ecdysis where the old shell is sloughed off as the new emerges from within, or as when reading a novel the time of the story begins to take precedence over the duration of one’s reading, “a reign that reshapes time itself” gives rise to a new age demarcating a new way of life resonate with the living narrative of Jesus in whom God’s purpose for creation is fulfilled.[5]

The advent of the reign of God established in the person of Jesus and cemented in his victory over and disenchantment of the regnant powers of the world through his life, death, and resurrection, is not merely an abstract principle. For as McClendon recognizes, such an eschatological outlook already is an ethic given that the presence of the end in Jesus also conveys and makes possible the way there. In him “God’s life-imparting self in action” provides a “new dynamism for followers of the Way” through the Spirit, bringing them into concert with the divine life and its righteous love and peaceableness.[6]

Thus, rather than upholding an abstract moral individual or unnecessarily distinguishing an ideal social from a degenerative political, this Free Church perspective connects such metaphysical peaceableness to the social manifestation and political operations of the church. As it embodies the “new humanity,” a practice that most assuredly requires the transformation and reconfiguration of relations within, the church “is the good news” of this impossible possibility.[7] The decisive event of Jesus initiates and makes possible a new way of life with a distinct pattern of social relations consonant to the will of God.

As a people whose “purpose is love in the way of the cross and in the power of the resurrection,” the community’s own processes and arrangements embody the new age as they enact alternative rhythms and flows resonant with the meaning of Jesus.[8] Such an eschatologically charged ecclesiology stands in sharp contrast to other theological challenges to capitalism that juxtapose a metaphysical or ontological peaceableness to the competitive and violent ontology of political economy. Such approaches, whether they be of a Radical Orthodox slant or otherwise, frequently fail sufficiently to detail how this ontology informs the power relations of its social theory in a way that can truly reconcile conflicts or make decisions without defaulting to crude and suspect notions of authority and, therefore, seem inept to counteract the politics of the Pax Americana or the ontic peaceableness of the empire of global capital.

As a community constituted in such alternative rhythms and tempos, solidified and actualized in its own unique social practices and processes, the church is a corporate manifestation of contretemps.[9] It is not just that in Christianity time is calculated differently or correlated to the church year as opposed to the operations of markets or the ceaseless seasons of consumption. And it is not just that a new conception of time prevails within a Christian outlook that stresses a qualitative understanding of time versus a geometrical or quantitative one.

But, more importantly, it is that the advent of the new age in Christ sets in motion new and distinct communal processes that reconfigure social relations and structures transforming and reorganizing power relations and, thus, fill creaturely existence with new content as they act together in concert with a renewed temporality. For McClendon, this is most centrally experienced in the “solidarity” and “koinonia” of the covenant meal wherein the followers of Christ are united in oneness with him, incorporating them together into the divine life.[10] Gathered in the presence of their end, and thereby already beginning to participate in it, the meal is a central practice that defines the moral life of the community, establishing and maintaining it as a distinct people whose unique social rhythms and tempos move in consonance to a time that is being healed.

Rather than romanticizing this practice, however, in a way that suggests it cannot go wrong or be coopted by the regnant system, McClendon avers that to understand the church as a political and social reality is to recognize the necessity for it to resolve its own conflicts, to discern its failures, to deliberate on and learn from new information, and to rearrange its structures when they are found to be distorted. Hence, a second central practice is needed, offering the community a peculiar way or mode through which to resynchronize itself to the life of God and one another, allowing it to continually embody its own distinctive (un)timeliness. At the heart of this new people, thus, is a unique mode of ethical reasoning and political discernment joined to a peculiar organization of power, a process of reconciling contesting interests or conflicting perspectives that sustains it and renews its distinctiveness by resynchronizing the community in its creaturely existence to the life and reign of God.

The question for any community, as McClendon recognizes, is not only how it is established and sustained, but also as part of this how it will govern itself so as to “be kept on track?”[11] In the church, just as in any human polity, conflicts and problems arise, situations change, and new circumstances present new challenges; its powerful practices can go astray.[12] This much is evident from the apostolic witness itself. Hence, necessary for gathering in communion with God is “discerning the body”, a point Paul makes quite clear for the Corinthians and which is the source of their failure (I Cor. 11:29).

In order to incarnate continually the reconciliation, justice, provision, forgiveness, and love of God, the community must know how to negotiate its own failures, to resolve the conflicts that arise in its midst, and to discern where it has become dissonant with the kingdom of God and will, thus, need to make changes in order to remain faithful to its commitments through a “politics of forgiveness.”[13] As McClendon observes, “In terms of technique, the answer lay in a neverending congregational conversation about Jesus’ way—a conversation that may now engage only two or three, but again will involve the gathered ekklēsia itself.”[14]

In short, to persist as the community it is called to be, the church must continually evaluate its practices and power relations, make decisions, consider how social pressures and external forces have maligned its structures, and address the issues and problems that arise in its midst in an open and personal way that is available to all of its members. And in this process Christ promises to be just as present as in the Eucharistic meal (Matt. 18: 20).[15] The practice of the politics of forgiveness through binding and loosing and open meeting is how the community deals with these issues as well as discerns the lead of the Spirit.[16] It is the exercise of the Rule of Christ, or this enriched practice of the office of the Keys, through which the Spirit empowers the community procedurally to discern, to act, and to reconfigure its standards where necessary.[17]

Often mistaken for crude and hierarchically disfigured executions of community discipline or excommunication, the Rule of Christ is instead a pastoral process of governance whose mode is both firm and flexible because it is orchestrated for forgiveness while not being constricted only to egregious cases.[18] The Scriptural basis of this process resides most centrally in Jesus instruction for how to deal with wrongs in the community recounted in Matthew 18:15-20, one of the few places where Jesus speaks directly to and of the “church.”

Hence, it offers a certain rhythm for engaging torts that occur within the community, in a way that seeks reconciliation through accountability and forgiveness. As it does so the community will find it necessary to set limits on individual action, to define more clearly what is permissible or forbidden with respect to its relations, and to offer guidance for each other on following the “way” of Jesus, within a judicial process “in which forgiveness and not punishment is the norm.”[19] Moving within the personal texture of particular cases, this exercise of the Rule of Christ through accountable and reconciling dialogue allows for both community regulation and creativity as it invites the insight of other members into what discipleship means in specific situations.

Thus, forgiveness and discernment are interrelated as are individual and collective practical discernment in a mode of governance characterized by open receptivity, personal attentiveness, and entrusted to the power and guidance of the Spirit. By nature the act of forgiveness implies that those involved together share an understanding of what counts as wrong, or the sin that needs to be forgiven. In addition, the process of working through forgiveness in personal dialogue often involves more expansive moral inquiry, inviting communal discernment as the community reflects upon its standards, assesses its commitments and arrangements, and looks to discover how it might need to change them going forward. The mode of forgiveness remains essential given the fact that no disagreement or dispute within a community can be engaged neutrally even as each registers with varying intensity upon the parties involved.

Finally, this type of ongoing conversation allows the community to determine specifically and personally the line between individual freedom and responsibility to the whole. Because the personal experience of offense is itself what initiates the forgiving concern to counsel, and maybe, admonish or pardon, the absence of offense also leaves room for matters of individual liberty thereby avoiding constrictive totalitarianism.

The practice of the politics of forgiveness is an ongoing process of shaping the community as it orchestrates the exercise of power and power relations within the social body of the church through a politics that determines how the community engages everything from simple torts to larger adaptive challenges.[20] By providing a way to address individual abuses, to discover and engage systemic corruptions or oppressions, as well as a means of discerning how to go forward when the way is not clear, the community practice provides a means of reconstituting and re-synchronizing this distinct people whose end epicletically informs and determines its active operations.

The distinctive power of the Spirit informs this process of receptivity and vulnerable attentiveness, working in it to harmonize them to make shared and authoritative judgments. As a result, the community need not inevitably fall prey to the forces of degeneration and dissolution. Even so, such a process remains contingent and is not insusceptible to failure. As a mode of governance that foregrounds the local community, while certainly not disavowing the church catholic, its vulnerability and contingency are real and remain necessarily so.

Resisting the temptation to take refuge in legal abstraction or to secure a certain kind of peace in the decision of a centralized authority, the process puts the work of the politics within the community itself where real offenses are felt and named, where the specifics of issues can be wrestled with, where the complexities of discernment are felt, and where tactile forgiving care and love can define gospel justice.[21] Exercising discernment in this way, the church performs a judicial power that moves in concert with the reign God exercises over all creation through the Son and in the freedom of the Spirit as it moves toward the rectification of all breaches and shortcomings of community while remaining cognizant of its own limited perspective.

Not utopic, the process is rather a real discipline, or habitus, the practice of which exercises a certain kind of power and therefore gives rise to a peculiar kind of political subject.[22] In learning to engage conflicts, deliberate alternative perspectives, and discern resolutions through a tempo and rhythm of vulnerable openness aimed at forgiveness, the community can learn to configure its social relations and structural arrangements drawing heavily upon received wisdom and the established practices of inherited institutions while remaining receptive to new insights that call for making adjustments.

Here, a unique possibility for the necessary transformation of renewal opens up for the church willing to learn from the practice of community organizing. In contrast to an order dominated by the structuring tempos of exchange, contract, or the quantified time of accumulation, through the gift of the presence of Christ through the power of the Spirit in this ongoing process God gives the church time for meaningful dialogue, patient discernment, and caring attention to wrongs that arise, thereby, imbuing it with an alternative political subjectivity in its enactment.

The advantage of this Free Church orientation is that it does not resort to theological spatial fixes in order to resolve the crucial issue of temporal captivity under capital, spatial fixes that persist either as universal utopian alternatives whose actuality is both as unlikely and undesirable as a return to Christendom or as an acquiescence to the modern universal framework of the secular whose prefigured neutrality already disciplines the community’s enactment through its fabricated role for religion. Neither the complex space under Christendom of Radical Orthodoxy nor the faithful participation in the categories of the secular suffice for engaging late capital on the level of a counteraction.

What is necessary is not simply a new theoretical constitution no matter how complex nor a dedication to the containment and reform of capital excesses. On the contrary, a transformation on the level and dimension of time is what is required to deliver us from the captivity of capital. Oriented to a view of the present that is being flooded by its dynamic end, the community’s mode of operation no longer remains captive to the imaginative limits and capacities of capital time. For it, lines and circles no longer remains conceptually appropriate for attempting to explain time but instead something on the level of beat, rhythm, tempo, or score become more fitting as they tend to encompass not only regularity, duration, and content but also corporate power, agency, and diversifications of narrative intensity as well. A temporalization and materialization of ecclesial politics that breaks down the entire secular/ sacred framework in what Stanley Hauerwas and Romand Coles have tried to name the “radical ordinary” comes into view.

Neither a simple negation of each nor a negation of their negations that settles for an atemporal eternal, but a rich combination of their terms opens up the complex notion of the apocalyptic materialism, recasting the rules that had governed both in their opposition and social indexes. Within this perspective, the community does not crystalize into an alternative location or sphere, but stands out in its running ahead of the world temporally opening up time and history.[23] Such is a never-ending work that remains continually pioneering and dissatisfied, discerning thick and innovative practices of justice and peace as it seeks to refract current particular circumstance through the prism of God’s loving reign made known in Christ.

The depth of this process is not captured if one understands this simply as slowing down. Instead, it is that a different end suffuses the process determining its moments of celerity and patience in a time and history that has been elongated, or better, enriched. Acting in resonance with the reign of God, the end that in Christ has now encroached up the present serving to enhance, expand, and redirect it, the community moves forward at a pace and cadence attune to the will of God, embodying a time made new because it is filled with more possibilities for moving slowly when things are unclear or rapidly when the community together agrees on an opening. No longer is its time flattened or emptied, distorted or debased in being rendered up for crude accumulation.

But through the enactment of discerning forgiveness, through loving deliberation in pursuit of resolution, time is healed and renewed as it becomes filled with the life and meaning of God’s love manifest in a real social institution. Those inhabiting this time, thus, find themselves being conformed to the very life of God under the Rule of Christ. They exhibit new political subjectivities emboldened and commissioned to bear one another’s burdens, to forgive, to practice peace, and to make divinely binding decisions together in love.

A certain cadence, set by something of a divinely ordained social ostinato, sets the pattern of relations of the concrete community of the church, constituting it as a new humanity and allowing it to move as the first fruits of creaturely existence whose time is being healed. This people thus regains its peculiarity as it embodies the possibility of this new social time, and in doing so, can be the good news that provides a real alternative to the structures and organizing powers of world. When it does so the community moves as an “intropolation”, exhibiting a new structure whose distinct rhythm and tempo generates frequencies and waves that impact the surrounding society.[24]

As a social body in its own right, it gathers “to do business in His name, to find what it means here and now to put into practice this different quality of life which is God’s promise to them and to the world and their promise to God and service to the world,” as a beachhead and pilot of the new age.[25] Rediscovering its political reality consonant with the person and work of Christ, the church can function as a contretemps of its own in this right, challenging the debased time of capital. Within the structure of the old age and amidst its power, God in Christ inaugurates a new humanity, a people constituted by the new age of a time that is being healed and renewed, a time given for reconciliation and the restoration of creaturely existence. This public is the church; and its politics is the revolutionary Rule of Christ.

As contretemps the alternative process of conflict resolution and discernment is not a sect but a catalytic counter-structure. Against the distorted and homogenously quantified time of accumulation and exchange, the process of the politics of forgiveness operates in a mode of deliberation and discernment that privileges face-to-face interactions, forgiveness, mutual agreement, community input and prayerful listening, and the possibility of reconciliation and starting anew as opposed to the impersonal rule of contracts and the quantified laws of profitability, efficiency, exchange, and accumulation.

As stated this is not a simple opposition of slow time to the celerity of capital time, for such sentimentality will only lead to a paralyzed and parochial nostalgia, uncritically valuing the one over and against the other.[26] Again, neither is it a static spatial alternative, for none such alternative could really counter the complex circulatory dominion of capital. A church of contretemps resists societal establishment and remains dynamically flexible in its community-building as its mode of community governance is decentralized though it is no less powerful, rigorous, or thick in its practice. As such it will be more informed by practices of deliberation and collective discernment, especially in an era where the speed and simplicity of executive decision-making dominates, but this does not mean that it will only move languidly.

For in contrast to an era where ceaseless change serves to perform the task of homogenizing reality, a community harboring discordant time(s) can instigate real change that embodies a true celerity that runs
ahead. Indeed, as it is being storied into the event of Jesus Christ, its renewed history not only subjects reality to re-narration but also reconfigures action by opening it up to more fellow pilgrims and certain accelerations, jolts, and ruptures or decelerations, pauses, and closer consideration.

From the pattern of relations instituted and maintained in its covenant meal and reconstituted in its process of practical judgment, the church publicly practices this art, infiltrating the processes of capital and its time with an alternative mode of operation determined by a different purpose. In this way the church functions as something of a minoritarian-experimental bloc,[27] operating as a public witness and servant to the world by making available a new social embodiment of time determined by a different content and counter-flow. Sticking to the track of Jesus’s way and following in resonance to the event of his life, the church exercises a “creative deviance on the front line” that resists the norms and structures of the dominant culture while offering positive alternatives.[28]

A new, alternative order, the community’s public practices mark the way to humanity’s true end and as

John August Swanson, “Peaceable Kingdom”

they do so its own independent (trans)formation serves as a transformative pressure on the wider society. A political practice of untimeliness, it can serves as “pilot project, and podium, pedagogical base and sometime power base” that challenges capital’s regime of accumulation.[29]

Abiding in this new age parturiated in Christ, the church as Christ’s body in the Spirit is enabled to deliberate and make political judgments that enact an alternative to capital time and instead flow with the “order of redemption.”[30] In a way that moves beyond simply a critique of the system, it is the true independence and freedom of the church as contretemps that establishes the possibility for a real alternative to the order of global capital. As a politic and structure in its own right, the church acting in this practice shirks neither social responsibility nor effectiveness, but ultimately redefines them in light of Christ. It refuses any preoccupation with otherworldliness or hermetic purity that would render it immaterial and unavailable publically.

Moving with the pace and rhythm of God’s justice and love, the community carves a trail of this time-being-renewed in opposition to the governing techniques of capital. Far from awaiting the annihilation of the world and its structures, this mode of communal discernment and practical reason work within them to open the world in a way that here and now already begins to embody its end, reconfiguring the cosmos and history beyond their immanent limits. Enacting this new time in its own social life, the church tastes real freedom and moves in this freedom to make the justice of God’s reign in Christ available where it is needed.

As the practice of contretemps, the politics of the Rule of Christ resists the capturing of time by capital, disrupting it and countering it with an alternative mode of collective discernment. Thus, moving in accord with the new organization of power in the Spirit, through this process the church can begin to embody the peculiar pattern of social relations consonant with the reign of God. Additionally, as the church continually performs this practice it offers a transformative politics that not only resists the orchestrations of capital’s regime of accumulation, scrambling and disturbing them, but also opens new and different ways of configuring and constituting reality.

Redeeming and renewing the time, such an ecclesial practice opens the possibility for a truly revolutionary politics against which even the present dominion of capital cannot prevail because it cannot ultimately catch.

Dan Rhodes teaches at Loyola University of Chicago where he is Faculty Co-Ordinator of Contextual Education.  He is also Editor-in-Chief of The Other Journal.  He holds a Th.D. from Duke University Divinity School.  He is co-editor Christian Amondson and Silas Morgan of Faces of Debt: Theological Calls and Struggles for Material Forgiveness (a joint project of Syndicate Theology and The Other Journal).

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[1] McClendon, Ethics, 271. It should be clear that Barth’s discussion of Jesus Christ as the “Lord of Time” in the Church Dogmatics, III/2 stands in the background of McClendon’s statement. Were it to be more developed with respect to the Triune life, I think something like Robert Jenson’s conception would be necessary to make this perspective intelligible. See Robert W. Jenson, The Triune Identity: God According to the Gospel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002; reprint of Augsburg Fortress, 1982) and Systematic Theology, Volume I: The Triune God (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

[2] My construal of time here has also been influenced by Giorgio Agamben’s reading of St. Paul in The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, translated by Patricia Dailey (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005). See particularly his discussion of Apelles’ Cut (49-50).

[3] McClendon, Ethics, 262, 270.

[4] John Zizioulas, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), 80. John Howard Yoder, “Historiography as a ministry to Renewal,” Brethren Life and Thought 42, no. 3-4 (1997): 217. To cite Zizioulas in connection with Yoder signals that I tend to agree with the critique of Zizioulas’s monarchalism and its corresponding ecclesiological order offered by Miroslav Volf in After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998).

[5] McClendon, Doctrine: Systematic Theology, Volume 2 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1986), 66.

[6] McClendon, Ethics, 271, 276.

[7] John Howard Yoder, Royal Priesthood: Essays Ecclesiastical and Ecumenical, edited by Michael G. Cartwright (1994; reprint, Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1998), 91.

[8] Ibid., 149.

[9] For a discussion of the interconnection of subjectivity and social practice, see Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (1977; reprint, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012); and Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990). While Bourdieu is certainly no theologian and the communities he has in view are not the church, his insights are no less helpful for understanding the social body of the believing community.

[10] McClendon, Ethics, 218-19. In my view, with some slight adjustment McClendon’s baptist construal of the table should find great support and development in the relational ontology of Zizioulas.  Speaking to the koinonia of the table fellowship, Zizioulas states, “The Eucharistic community is the Body of Christ par excellence simply because it incarnates and realizes our communion within the very life and communion of the Trinity, in a way that preserves the eschatological character of truth while making it on integral part of history.” (Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 114).

[11] McClendon, Ethics, 225.

[12] Ibid., 222.

[13] McClendon, Ethics, 222. One should see in this social process an ongoing practice of the self-critical “deliberative reproduction” discussed by Kathryn Tanner in The Politics of God: Christian Theologies and Social Justice (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1992), 45. However, Yoder’s sacramental realism would of course incline him to see this process as connected less to the transcendence of God as it commonly understood and more to the hypertemporal nature of the Triune life. See John Howard Yoder, Preface to Theology: Christology and Theological Method (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2002), 276.

[14] McClendon, Ethics, 225-26.

[15] McClendon, Doctrine, 378.

[16] In her explanation of the Anabaptist practice of the open meeting Gayle Gerber Koontz states, “‘seeking together the will of God’ implied an intentional process of discernment through which [the church] would come to know the mind of Christ for specific questions or situations. Community discernment was basic to ethics.” See “Meeting in the Power of the Spirit: Ecclesiology, Ethics, and the Practice of Discernment,” in The Wisdom of the Cross: Essays in Honor of John Howard Yoder, edited by Stanley Hauerwas, et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 338.

[17] The Rule of Christ was understood by the Radical Reformers as a means of communal organization and discipline that cannot be divorced from a Christology stressing the lordship, or kingly office, of Christ. As Yoder argues, “The rule of Christ was a technical term referring to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:15-20: If believers commit an offense, talk to them about it. The Swiss Brethren made this not simply a good piece of advice in pastoral relationships or personal reconciliation but a definition of the church. These verses in Matthew 18 are the only place in the words of Jesus where the word church is used, with the admonition to his disciples to do this. For the Zurich radicals, then, the way to reform the church is by observing the rule of Christ, not by getting city council votes or episcopal rulings. If something is wrong with the church, believers should talk about it. The way to reform a church is to talk to one another, to deal with offenses; the result will be forgiveness and reconciliation.” It was the alternative to a reform by coercion, the alternative to the sword, as Yoder continues, “so rule of Christ should not be equated with ban. The noncoercive process of admonition and reconciliation is the way to handle conflict; it is the alternative to the sword. The reason we do not use the sword is that we have this other instrument to use in the Christian community.” John Howard Yoder, Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution, ed. Theodore J. Koontz and Andy Alexis-Baker (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009), 170, 173.

[18] McClendon, Ethics, 224, 226.

[19] McClendon, Ethics, 226-227.

[20] Larry Rasmussen, “Shaping Communities,” in Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People, edited by Dorothy C. Bass (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1997), 120.

[21] John Howard Yoder, Revolutionary Christianity: the 1966 South American Lectures, edited by Paul Martens et al. (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 19.

[22] On the notion of habitus, see Bourdieu, Logic of Practice, 52-65. Further, we can agree with Foucault’s analysis of the interconnection between power and knowledge, yet while recognizing that not all power is the same. There are different kinds of power. For a concept of habitus more resonant with radically democratic modes of collective engagement see Romand Coles, Visionary Pragmatism: Radical and Ecological Democracy in Neoliberal Times (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016).

[23] See Romand Coles and Stanley Hauerwas, Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary: Conversations between a Radical Democrat and a Christian (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2007). I’ve tried to elaborate on Coles’ and Hauerwas’ notion through recourse to a Greimas Square, where S1 is the sacred and S2 is its opposite the secular. Hence, ~S1 is the contradiction of the sacred, or, the “not sacred” and ~S2 is the contradiction of the secular, or, the “not secular”. Hence the radical ordinary, or what I have called the “apocalyptic” is the complex metaterm as the compound of the two initial terms: sacred and secular. Of course the privileging of this complex metaterm recasts the entire configuration of time and its social dimensions. This view is also informed by Yoder’s comment that “the church precedes the world epistemologically” and “axiologically.” John Howard Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel (1984, reprint, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), 11.  That churches are being led back to the practice of binding and loosing through their involvement in community organizing can only be seen as filling out more completely the arguments suggested by Coles and Hauerwas. As a result,my own view of how theologically to understand what congregations involved in this activity are doing can be distinguished from the framework developed by Luke Bretherton in Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship, and the Politics of a Common Life (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015) whose account of broad-based community organizing despite its attempt to re-envision the secular continues to think it within the contradictions and rules of this dominant temporal framework. Not only do I think this framework predetermines the content of organizing for Bretherton, but it also seems to ignore the important imperializing (and therefore polarizing) tendencies intrinsic to notions of the secular itself as outlined by Saba Mahmood in Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016).

[24] Antje Jackelén introduces this term in, Time and Eternity: The Question of Time in Church, Science, and Theology (Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2005), 213. She also goes on to note the close connection between temporality and power, especially when, as I think Jenson prompts us to do, considering time in a relational manner (229).

[25] John Howard Yoder, The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism (1971; reprint, Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2003), 30-1.

[26] The focus of Connolly’s critique in this regard is of course Sheldon Wolin, whose vision of radical democracy resembles the image of the church I have attempted to sketch. While remaining somewhat skeptical of the pluralism Connolly seeks to promote, I think he is exactly right about the need not simply “to slow the world down, but…to work with and against a world moving faster than heretofore to promote a positive ethos…” William E. Connolly, Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 142-43.   My thinking has also been influenced by Coles’ insightful discussion of Connolly’s work. Coles, Visionary Pragmatism, 36-40.

[27] I am alluding here to elements of Gramsci’s notion of a “historic bloc.” See Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, trans. Q. Hoare and G. Nowell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971), 366.

[28] Rasmussen, “Shaping Communities,” 125.

[29] Yoder, Royal Priesthood, 126.

[30] Yoder, Royal Priesthood, 371.

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