Over on the hip lefty Sojourner’s blog, Chris Rice douses the fires of American sin with the holy waters of sanctimony in an entry ominously and alliteratively titled: “The War, the Well, and the Wall.” In the process, he demonstrates that Krustianity is not the sole property of poorly bred NASCAR fans but flourishes quietly and more subtlely in the upper reaches of most divinity schools, seminaries, and Jesuit institutions everywhere.
Mr. Rice uses a lot of Krustian, Phd. buzz-words to paint a picture of “hope” amid the decay of American selfishness and profligacy. The hope is found in the participants of the Duke Summer Institute who, over five arduous days “organized difficult conversations” in order “to engage critical challenges.” These challenges being how to shame other “captive” Christians into repenting for their participation in Iraq/Afganistan, in the oil economy, and in wanting to stop illegal immigration.
Rice points especially to the statement The BP Oil Spill: A Call for Lament and Reconciliation, which was apparently written by Ragan Sutterfield and Norman Wirzba and others at Duke Divinity School. This statement nearly made me cry, so maudlin and mawkish was its call for repentence. Now both Sutterfield and Wirzba are good guys who have thought and written deeply in the Berrian school, and both wrote for my former internet rag, The New Pantagruel. Sutterfield in particular was wonderful, I always thought, because he was an honest to goodness sheep farmer from the hills of Arkansas where he was born. It just goes to show that there is nothing good that graduate school can’t ruin (or even a summer seminar!).
For all their sophistication, these kinds of ritualistic pantomimes are no less ideological agitprop than the flag waving Forth of July sermons on the righteousness of America preached under touchdown Jesus. Rice unwittingly summarizes the essence of Krustianity, Phd. thus:
Yet most striking was the journey which shaped them and speaks to faithful practices we desperately need to learn: multiple conversations over several days between Christians from different traditions, cultures, and political convictions; people invited to ask difficult questions; to not try to win but to discern; framing discussions in a theological and Scriptural framework (including the gift of lament, that is, seeing, naming, and standing in the pain); and doing all this in an atmosphere of worship and eating together.
This is so forced, so ridiculous, so far-removed from anything resembling the real uses of power in this world (and not in an ‘I’m a fool for Jesus’ kind of way), so delusional about what kind of fidelity this world really needs, that only a grad student seminar could have come up with it.
Where have all the sheep farmers gone! ? To seminary, apparently. Now there’s something worth lamenting.