Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"True Grit" That Grates Against The Gospel: Calvinism, Popular Culture and the 21st Century.

I've been trying to hold it in but I can't. It's bursting inside of me!

I have held back before out of respect to those who have roots in these traditions, and from a sense of the tortuous paths by which we all got from where we were to where we are, so who wants to disturb old ghosts anyway...? But today everyone in so many ways is uprooted from past worlds these inhibitions cannot work indefinitely.

And recently I have come up against the issue directly.

So now, here it is. I've got to ask. What is up, really, with the Calvinist worldview?

I recently had an online conversation with someone who shared it. He was, as far as I could tell, scouting Girardian thought, agreeing that it was important in showing how, yes, we do tend to scapegoat people, but as an account of redemption...whoahh, never! It was all to do with the incommensurable, metaphysical role that God had to play in our salvation. A role that makes God's very identity. Take this away, it seems, you destroy God.

I am not entirely sure of all the details of my friend's position, as I am well aware that there are numerous distinctions and sub-genres in this area which would repay a good six months hard study. But I do know the line went dead--game over, end of call--the moment I expressed myself in terms of the need somehow to say "Yes" to the invitation of Christ. Yes, as in "I believe, I will follow this way." As in "You're offering me something totally incredible but you don't impose it on me." As in Peter's reply to Jesus' honest question "Will you too leave me?": to wit, "You have the words of eternal life, so no we will not leave, and yes we will continue to follow in the knowledge that it is only you who have the strength and the power to allow us to follow in the first place."

But according to the Calvinist worldview--which in fact is the Augusto-Calvinist worldview (i.e. beginning with Augustine at the end of the fourth century)--this "Yes" does not matter a whit. Everything is God's foreordained choice.


The recent shock of encounter with this thinking in fact goes back behind my online conversation to a movie released late last year and a review of it by Stanley Fish in the New York Times (12/27,'10, "Narrative and the Grace of God: The New 'True Grit'"). Because, you know, if something's in the movies the issue is definitely serious: it's a matter of popular culture. Fish concluded his review by calling the Coen brothers' version of True Grit a "truly religious movie". What he meant by this is the film's portrayal of a total disjunction between any average sense of human justice and what the biblical God (as he reads it) actually metes out. The theology looming over both the review, and that of the original book by Charles Portis, is the classic Calvinist worldview. As Fish expresses it: "There is no relationship between the bestowing or withholding of grace and the actions of those to whom it is either accorded or denied."

He gives an example from the novel in which the young heroine, Mattie, answers the question of why her father went out of his way to help a man who quickly turned on him and killed him (which murder supplies the plot-engine in Mattie's efforts to bring the murderer to human justice). She replies, "He was his brother's keeper. Does that answer your question?" Fish then goes on to gloss her words: "Yes it does, but it doesn't answer the question of why the reward for behaving in accord with God's command is violent death at the hands of your brother, a question posed by the Bible's first and defining event, and unanswered to this day."

In other words the bible is concerned about human violence but has plainly no answer for it, and meanwhile the necessary theological implication is God allows human history to go rip because he has his own supremely relationless scheme of "justice" to apply. So in fact the final hero of the book, and its movies, is "Rooster" Cogburn, a deputy U.S. Marshal, who is simply the best at killing, who consistently kills rather than negotiates, and is therefore the one who imitates God best. Make no mistake, this book and its movies are about U.S. popular religious consciousness. The Rooster of the original movie was the iconic John Wayne ("Fill your hand you son-of-a-bitch!") and the fact that a remake of the movie appears now, with religious overtones strongly marked (sweet singing of "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" as credits roll), is no accident in a situation where the U.S. is at war with a string of nations based in a non-Christian and, therefore, non-elect religion. I watched this movie from the last free seat in the theater and during the religious silence it imposed I thought these people were receiving a mainline dose of theological violence. The way we are depends on the kind of God we worship.

If I thought this God was all the God there was I would feel inclined to launch the most terrible blasphemous j'accuse against him.

I would say this God is murderer who does not even have the decency to put his hapless victims out of their misery but tortures them for eternity as his preferred form of killing! J'accuse!

I would say this God was less than human, less even than all sentient creatures, because he did not know how to relate, did not in fact care to relate, and that he would feel much more at home, like Nietzsche's spider, in some other cosmos where there are only rocks and dark matter to knock up against! J'accuse!

Most of all I would accuse him of not being worthy of Jesus, who as a real human being kept the company of sinners, ate and drank with them while they were sinners, loved the rich young man even though that man turned away from him, was talked into a miracle by a pagan woman, was anointed by a woman who was a sinner, wept for Jerusalem, and died praying for his torturers. J'accuse!

But of course this God does not exist, and I do not have to imagine myself in quite this melodramatic (and hopeless) situation.

This God does not exist because he is not like Jesus, and that is by far the best reason.

But we can also easily deconstruct how such a "God" got put in place. The God of this worldview is a hyper-Roman God. He is a combination of the redemptive narrative of the bible and the harsh legal mindset in which Augustine was trained and to which he gave a metaphysical turn. God is the supreme law-giver and when scripture says he makes a ruling that is not part of a much larger creative exercise of new human meaning, worthy of a creator God, it is a once-and-for-all imperial edict. Thus far from representing a "Reform" Calvinism is Roman legalism deprived of mediating social structures and then raised to the n'th power, to the level of pure consciousness.

But then, we don't even have to rely on deconstruction to free ourselves of this "God". The emerging human sciences of the 21st century, the frames of thought which tell us what we're like as human beings, they assert more and more forcefully that we are supremely imitative creatures. We are not made of law and we are not made of metaphysics. We are composed of an unbelievably sensitive and reactive structures of imitation. For this reason any God who made us this way, in his/her "image and likeness", would have to possess the possibility of relationship and response to an eminent degree. The best word for that, in respect of God, is "compassion", the ability to enter profoundly into the situation of another, to take it on, and in so doing to change it, into love. If in the past we have thought of God in terms of law and metaphysics that is because these are the hardened shapes of volcanic lava left us after terrible explosions of imitative rivalry and violence. Now we are seeing beneath these strata, to their formative energies, we can begin truly to conceive of God as a power that can re-shape us from our white-hot human core outward.

For which reason Calvinism, along with its parent Romanism, can only be seen in the 21st century as anachronistic, the survival of a form beyond its time. In the world of satellites and facebook where we are rendered continually sensible to the lives of other the only God that makes any sense is not made from the grit of violence but the grist of compassion. The true God is the grain of Christ crushed into bread for our sake, in order that we might assimilate such love to and as ourselves.

And, yes, we need to say "Yes!" Just like Adam on the first morning of creation in response to the exuberance of life, but this time round with the knowledge that then we got off to a completely false start. This time the "yes" is the truest freedom we possess, to respond to the relationship of compassion that God has first formed with us through Christ, that makes the imitation of compassion possible. Freedom is an extremely tenuous reality, but it is real. It is exercised mostly in surrendering what seems like freedom but is really servitude, in favor of a relationship that breaks in upon us in the deepest quality of self-giving. It pervades our world and we can let it pervade us, letting our will die to the former way and allowing the way of Christ to grow in us. This is human transformation. This is redemption for the 21st century.

Tony Bartlett, Theologian in Residence

P.S. My confidence in popular culture was restored after True Grit was nominated for 10 Oscars and came away with exactly none.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Unspeakable (and) Glenn Beck

The strong word at work in the title carries two meanings. Usually it refers to something morally and socially repugnant, as in "the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable," Wilde's merry quip about men and women who dress up in scarlet jackets and ride huge horses to hunt the fox. It may, however, mean something deeper, much more elemental and dangerous, as in Thomas' Merton's use.

According to Merton the unspeakable is exactly what is not spoken, what in fact may not be spoken, what may not be raised to the level of human discourse. In his book Raids on the Unspeakable it applies to the vast empty space at the heart of language where the true character of our public world resides. It is the guilty collective violence and murder on which society thrives, plunged in the abyssal silence on which the rest of our inconsequential conversation depends.

It is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said; the void that gets into the language of public and official declarations at the very moment when they are pronounced, and makes them ring dead with the hollowness of the abyss. It is the void out of which Eichmann drew the punctilious exactitude of his obedience ...

The amazing truth, however, is that exactly here with Merton's "raids" the blocked realm of the unspeakable is now--at least partially--accessible and open to speech. The information of our systemic violence is available and transmissible because the figure of Jesus has made it so. The Crucified and Risen has entered the pit of the unspeakable with an equal and answering compassion, a movement which both discloses the abyss of murder and in the same moment fills it with the endless possibility of nonviolence and forgiveness. Merton says as much about the cross in the same book, commenting on the way the "magicians" of official Christianity have always tried to turn the shock of divine mercy back to the cosmic order created by violence.

The cross is the sign of contradiction--destroying the seriousness of the law, of the Empire, of the armies, of blood sacrifice, and of obsession.

But the magicians keep turning the Cross to their own purposes. Yes, it is for them too a sign of contradiction: the awful blasphemy of the religious magician who makes the Cross contradict mercy!

This of course is the ultimate temptation of Christianity! To say that Christ has locked all the doors, has given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved--while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy which alone is truly serious, and worthy of being taken seriously.

We can usefully apply some of this profound insight to contemporary events.

In a casual remark on his radio show the Monday after the tusnami in Japan, Glenn Beck proved himself to be just such a religious magician, speaking with "the intolerable flippancy of the saved".

He said, "I'm not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes," and then he quickly added, "I'm not not saying that either."

In other words he casually invoked a crushing divine violence, because invoking and channeling violence is his stock in trade as a T.V. and radio broadcaster. He also thought it a cute thing to say because he feels untouchable from a "theological" point of view. After all who can know what God really is or does? But there is also a more visceral sense in which he feels he's on safe ground. The received "God" of Western Christian tradition can very easily be understood as the sort of maniacal revenge freak who would occasionally flip and send a tsunami on a random human target who, in this latter instance, happened to be the Japanese.

This is of course "unspeakable" in the first old-fashioned riding-to-hounds-in-velvet sense. It's plainly disgusting, and plenty of other commentators have expressed outrage at Beck's remarks. But Beck is also treading on the other sense of the word and this is where both his game is truly played and where in fact his game is up.

Beck, and other media personalities like him, are always maneuvering for the right leverage point to establish the void, to find the vantage place from where they can tip an individual or a group into the bottomless abyss of justified violence. They have an instinct that this is how power and the everyday world are created, how in this tried and trusted way the cosmos is divided comfortably between the saved and the damned, and how many people long for it to be that way again. But as Merton in fact demonstrates, and theology derived from Girardian anthropology shows, it is not possible anymore completely to cover up the abyss. The victim, of whatever race, nation, creed or orientation, will always return to visibility because of the extraordinary action of Jesus shining the light of compassion in the void.

This means that Beck and his ilk are fighting a losing battle. Rant and rave as much as they may, the face of the victim will appear behind them like the Risen Christ behind the soldiery of Rome on Easter morning, filled with the gentle splendor of a creation alive with compassion.

It is not important to come to God's defense and say, "Glenn you've got it wrong, God is nothing like that..." This is a pointless and self-defeating argument because at that level, truly, who can know? What is much more relevant is the way the argument has been outmoded by the agency of the gospel itself. What is at stake in the gospel is not primarily the nature of God but the nature of humanity, and the way that is changed by Jesus. And with that change progressively the nature of our understanding of God changes. We see God with the lens that Jesus has provided, and that lens is a new human possibility of a universe based in compassion.

And it is the change in humanity that Beck is resisting. His very bluster and braggadocio are testimony to the impact of compassion. He has to offend against it grossly and clownishly in order to try and turn back its power. He and Limbaugh and O'Reilly and others have to keep up a continual barrage of bully-boy and thuggish talk in order to stem the counter tide of compassion. They are terrified of the silence itself, from which wells the tears, the cries, the peace of Christ.

Merton's comment of blasphemy is then appropriate, in the way Jesus himself described it. Jesus said the unforgivable sin was "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" and this is precisely the Spirit of forgiveness and compassion let loose in the world. You cannot be forgiven for such a sin because precisely you reject forgiveness! What you ladle out to others must inevitably be inside your own heart, the intolerable flippancy of the saved which in truth rejects salvation. We must therefore have compassion for Beck, even as we reject his words and his way. He is basically terrified of the tide of compassion sweeping the world because of Christ, and in seeking to hold it back he is standing outside of history, outside of time, outside of creation itself. Even if he call down nuclear annihilation on his enemies it is annihilation of himself that he is bringing.

Tony Bartlett, Theologian in Residence

Monday, March 14, 2011

Re-Wiring Wisconsin And The Whole Wide World!

This is getting too serious to ignore.

I normally wouldn't venture on the topic, given I come originally from England where "socialism" is perfectly polite public speech, and so perhaps I lack cultural sensitivity to comment in the US context. But don't worry what I'm saying is really very little to do with that whole traditional framework. And that's the serious point!

In Wisconsin Governor Walker pushed through a bill stripping bargaining rights from public sector workers. Originally linked to a budget proposal the legislation became a piece of flat-out union-busting.

And it's not just Wisconsin that's on the line. Over a dozen states are considering similar legislation as a way of balancing books by undoing union agreements as well as making cuts in local government programs for schools, health care, social services etc. As in Wisconsin the overall effect will be to weaken unions to the point of rendering them meaningless.

Michael Moore on the Rachel Maddow show called this "class war" and issued a call to working people everywhere to mobilize, demonstrate, protest. Without resorting to that exact nomenclature a chorus of mainline church voices has been raised, urging the protection of workers' rights and supporting collective bargaining, but to no effect. Walker and other Republican politicians like him are gambling that the present political climate in the USA, backed up by a compliant corporate-owned media, will allow them to make economies on the backs of their workers while a tiny minority of super-rich experience an epochal shift of taxation and wealth in their singular favor. Michael Moore's hope of an Egypt-style mobilization seems fanciful While the official Christian voices raised to defend workers appear politically negligible.

The political language of workers' struggle and its church theological support were evolved in conditions of 19th century industrialism. In the dense setting of the new manufacturing cities and the long, crowded, dangerous workday of mechanized factories it was impossible for workers--and any who accompanied them--not to feel a huge sense of collective identity. Automatically this identity would and did define itself in fierce opposition to the group of people who owned the factories or the mines, who hired them and fired them, and at the same lived at a vastly different level of material well-being. It was the experience of this mass of unhappy humanity that convinced Engels and Marx it would be England which would witness the first communist revolution.

Well, as we all know, it didn't happen that way, none of it. Instead progressively living standards of workers in the Western world improved, and at the same time a mass media developed which substituted the collective and anonymous identity of the Radio and TV audience for the solidarity of workers at the pit-face or production line. And now, yes, the internet is a different phenomenon, allowing individuals to communicate one-to-one in large numbers; however, its ability to mobilize must depend on relationships of solidarity that are already there--it cannot create them. And that solidarity is what is missing in the West. Or at least still to be revealed.

For the truly critical thing is the anger and hostility directed against the owners, the bosses, those in power. This is what has classically "mobilized" the masses. But by constant media orchestration popular anger in the U.S. has been made to feel thematic, not against super-wealth, but against government taxation and social legislation. The very thing that should appear as the "class enemy" is what many ordinary people seem to be siding with, against themselves! And it's very difficult to see how the voices of Michael Moore or statements from bishops can turn that round. Therefore the whole notion of class struggle seems outdated and futile.

But hold on here, am I expressing here some sort of pure nostalgia for the good old days of workers' revolution, now gone but much regretted? Not at all. I put this out front and center in order to show how things have changed (really) and so clear the way for a whole new sense of solidarity and identity. From this point of view the loss of workers' political identity in mobilized anger against their bosses is a good thing. All that is based in an old violent anthropology. In its place, I believe, there can and will emerge a much deeper solidarity, one even more subversive and eventually much more effective against the legislation in Wisconsin. It's time is coming, and it's high time the churches caught up with it and their teaching about it became consistent, conscious and persistent!

Mimetic anthropology indicates how deeply wired to each other we all are, and in a way that potentially goes much deeper than mere class solidarity. Sure, we can connect powerfully as the crowd in opposition to the blameworthy oppressor, but because of unconscious imitation of the rival we can end up no different from the one who is oppressing! In contrast compassion might seem weak and directed only toward those who are too helpless to help themselves. But on closer study we can see Jesus has released into the world a radically re-wired compassion, a solidarity with everyone, simply as a way of being in the world. And there is no limit to the lengths to which this compassion can and will go.

This new compassion brought into the world by Jesus is in structural opposition to the brutal individualism of right-wing politics. And now in its light the right wing are overplaying their hand.

By continually stripping people of the protections of social policy it makes the real solidarity of Jesus stand forth, a limitless, self-giving, transformative sense of being human. Naturally in the short run this does not help the public sector workers, as it doesn't help the city schools and state welfare programs. And it doesn't stop the ever growing threat of random or manipulated violence when people individually and collectively are driven crazy by the lack of care and meaning in society. But all this together simply acts vastly to increase the urgency and centrality of transformative anthropology and the task of the church to teach, preach and live according to it.

The word of this anthropology cries out to the church, "Let's be done with insurance-policy salvation for the hereafter, just as much as good works for God's approval, and let's hear instead Jesus' radical intervention in the human condition, and especially now in the 21st century. Jesus teaches human solidarity in and for itself as a new way of being on the earth, a radical re-wiring of humanity, and it stems directly from his own transforming humanity raised up by God for all to see. The one and only act of salvation!"

The more this teaching penetrates our Western mind the more the idea of possessing a billion dollars while a family is scraping by below the poverty line will become as inhuman and barbaric as ritual sacrifice to ensure a good harvest.

And if that seems like a harsh comparison remember I am not talking rhetorically, to score a point, but in terms of anthropological actuality. Human compassion as a dominant way of being in the world has to come, and will come, because truly that is all that is left us!

Perhaps then, to change the image, we could say that the character of Gov. Walker's policies are in effect like the tsunami in Japan. That natural disaster fills us with horror but also very quickly compassion, with an overwhelming desire to help and make good the disaster. Because of the brutal policies now gaining vogue in our society the same thing will happen in terms of our inner cities, our poor, our weak, and the world's poor and weak. We will come to see selfish ideological politics as a kind of tsunami, wrecking our world, but then in the same moment that will become an infinite call to help and make good.

So here's what I think. Any people who are demonstrating in Madison or in any state capital across the nation, yes, be there, get there, raise your voices. But do so not from the old 19th century righteous anger against the bosses, rather from the deep emerging well of compassion that Christ has broken open within us, brimming up to change the face of our earth.

Tony Bartlett, Theologian in Residence

Thursday, March 3, 2011

To Hell With Hell? Or Gehenna At The Gates?

A couple of recent books have hit a main nerve in the Christian body of meaning. Their argument undermines the idea of a place of eternal torment as punishment for sin, suggesting the traditional Christian concept of hell is misconceived at best and harmful at worst.

Sharon Baker called out the fire marshal against hell's flames with her Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You've Been Taught About God's Wrath and Judgment. But it is Rob Bell's Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived that has the full brigade tearing out of the station, at least it seems so if we are to judge by conservative evangelicals desperately blocking the road. When advance publicity about his book alerted the media it briefly became one of the top trending topics on Twitter, with Bell denounced by some for heresy.

I have every sympathy with neutralizing this standard piece of pulpit bullydom--we all remember sermons on the mind-boggling endlessness of suffering awaiting the sinner. There is simply a stark implausibility of a God of love keeping his private torture chamber going for interminable ages when at any time he could reverse the situation with a nod. But the danger in dropping the concept is that the scriptural passages from which it is derived lapse to the level of meaninglessness and embarrassing rhetoric. What after all was Jesus saying when he warned about Gehenna?

Just about everyone knows that the word refers to the smoldering fire of Jerusalem's trash dump, situated to the south and west of the Kidron valley. (And if not these books will be sure to enlighten.) No one imagines that hell is to be found there, literally, at ground zero just outside the Holy City. So at once we recognize Jesus was using a metaphor or trope. But for what?

Jesus did not think in a Greek other-worldly way. He was not talking about a metaphysically split-level cosmos as is now second nature to Christian consciousness. Heaven was simply where God lived. And the key issue for him was the direct reign of God in and on the earth, the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven (God's realm) here. More importantly still, not only did he preach this kingdom but he enacted it, he made it happen with everything he said and did.

But what would happen once he had introduced the kingdom and people did not respond? The result could not be business as usual, but an enormous rolling crisis, one that he helped precipitate by introducing the kingdom in the first place. Gehenna, therefore, is Jesus code for a a distinct human possibility, the historical and existential reality of violence devouring humanity both externally and internally if it refuses the good news of peace.

Mimetic anthropology has enabled us to see this in analytic terms. But it is Jesus himself who is the driving force.

Take the passage at Matthew 5:21-22. "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the Gehenna of fire" [conveniently rendered 'hell of fire' in the translations].

Jesus' ascending order of consequence would normally be reserved for what we would call "serious crime" like murder or blasphemy, but he relates it simply to interior anger and its verbal expression. I have never ever heard a preacher say people would go to an eternity of torment for calling someone a jerk--that would just be too much to believe!--but it makes perfect sense if the fire he is talking of is the self-consuming fire of human anger and violence. And the ascending consequences which are this-worldly (the judgment of scribes and then of the full Sanhedrin) mean the fire is logically the same: this-worldly. Moreover, when we step back to view the teaching historically we can see that his actual teaching has consistently turned our attention to the human springs of violence and their absolute consequences.

But not only did he teach, he went to his death as the innocent victim of collective violence and in doing so he exposed its age-old mechanism for all to see. He showed us--by not retaliating--how violence is indivisible, and yet we seek all the time to blame and kill the other so we can feel falsely in the clear.

However, once Jesus unmasked this self-duping mechanism and made us recognize that all victims are innocent, violence itself comes into crisis. It begins to lose its "natural" cultural force, and it must--and can only--redouble its efforts to impose its old power: just as an addict's drug waning in effect has to be used in ever greater measure. This redoubling violence is in fact the fire that does not go out, the one that burns endlessly, exponentially.

In our contemporary era we know exactly where the exponential fire has led--to the limitless terror of nuclear war and the limitless war on terror. Rene Girard in his latest book, Battling To The End , assembles a persuasive argument that the direction of our world history tends inevitably toward a cataclysmic end--"the implacable law of escalation" as he calls it. In other words Gehenna is at the gates, waiting for us.

At the same time Jesus did not make a distinction between this-world relationships and relationship to God (as for example in the Lord's Prayer to the Father--"forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors") so it's evident also that the fire of violence encompasses an "interior" personal state--of alienation from the Father. We can see, therefore, how the fire of actual violence can also be an internal existential state, and one that can accompany us even to death.

The point of death may be experienced as an absolute violence, one afflicting the individual and which at the same time the individual levels reciprocally and hatefully against life. At this point we are up against a drawn curtain. We can see no further than this possibility. At the same time we must also count in here the New Testament teaching of universal resurrection, of the righteous and unrighteous together. What I would personally judge is the possibility of bitter self-annihilatory violence must be granted, but alongside the enormous magnetic power of a reconciled nonviolent creation revealed in resurrection. Without the freedom to refuse there is no freedom to love, and yet with the triumph of the new creation it's hard to conceive of even a negative echo remaining.

At any rate the concrete historical sense of Gehenna is now increasingly clear. Because of mimetic anthropology, but also plainly because of contemporary history, we clearly see as hell recedes in our imagination violence moves to the fore.

What would it mean then if evangelicals could jettison their inheritance of a fixed metaphysical eternity of torment for an historical existential sense of the violence which we generate both within and outside ourselves? What if they were to realize that they are still conceptually in thrall to medieval Catholic doctrine? That they have found a way to be free of it (being "saved") but it is this that they are saved from, and so they are not truly free! That in fact the narrow doctrine of salvation stands against Roman Catholic works as the nicotine patch stands against cigarettes. It's a great deal cheaper and possibly better for your health, but still basically the same chemical formula!

So, again, what if evangelicals were to put the considerable effort they expend in trying to save souls from hell into combating war, greed, fraud, poverty, destruction of the environment, precisely as the hell that Jesus is seeking to save us from? What would the earth possibly look like then? I think if they did the revolution in Egypt would look like a mere break in the clouds in comparison to a day of full sunshine. Would it not mean anything less than the rebirth of first-century Christianity in a twenty-first century world?

Tony Bartlett, Theologian in Residence