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.

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  1. The Modern Technocrats Definition of Results: If you talk about things, they get done. If you “stand in the pain” with your fellow painaholics, we can all come to feel good even when talking about things does not gain results.

    The idea that we must be re-trained to ask difficult questions really is damned funny.

  2. Caleb,

    Is your beef with the absence of language of repentance, putting off the old self, being clothed in Christ, etc? I don’t think that you find something inherently problematic with corporate lamentation and Scripturally founded conversations as such…or do you?

    I went through the links and if I were to critique what they said – being confessional and conservative myself – I would say that they weren’t specific enough in addresseing the root of the problem, that it is not dialogue that is needed per se, but humility, recognition of gross sin, repentance and a life found in Christ.

    Just curious…thanks.


  3. I’m not really sure what the “Krustianity” that Peters describes among the “NASCAR fans” has to do with the people who participated in the Duke Summer Institute. Instead of throwing around “ritualistic pantomimes” and “ideological agitprop”- ironically, just the kind of language one would expect from a graduate school seminar- you might have just said this is Christianity that isn’t to your taste.

    As Justin said, above, the only real problem that I can see with these people is that they may have put the cart before the horse; rather than focusing on cultivating the Christian spiritual qualities that might bring about peace, good stewardship, and tolerance, they’ve instead opted to discuss political questions. And although discussions accomplish nothing by themselves, so long as they are framed “in a theological and scriptural framework,” can they not still be fruitful? Without direct revelation, how else does the Christian know how to engage his world without this kind of fellowship with others?

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