Posted by: rogermitchell | February 9, 2012

ecclesia as counterpolitical activism in relation to the powers (ii)

This post develops a perspective on the powers from the first chapters of Luke’s gospel.
The exegesis is informed by two particular approaches.

• The first of these is the hermeneutic that I have developed by combining NT Wright’s critical realism with Graham Ward’s economy of response. This is set out in some detail in the final chapter of my book “Church, Gospel, & Empire: How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West” (for details see “my latest book is available for purchase” on this blog). Simply put, this takes the view that the gospel testimony can be trusted as a reliable source of what actually happened, and consciously opens up to the possibility of an experimental present encounter with the Jesus described there.

• Secondly, in line with the priorities of kenarchy already set out in earlier posts, the approach I am taking is deliberately sensitised to the operation of the powers in relation to children, the creation and the poor, and ways in which this highlights the need to confront the powers or be overcome by them.

So, to begin, note the historical positioning of Luke’s narrative in relation to the governing powers (Luke 1vv1-4) and how similar it is to Eusebius’s approach in his History of the Church as I point out in chapter two of my book. But Luke, unlike Eusebius three centuries later, immediately balances it in tension with the opposing power of the kingdom of God. You can see this clearly in the following contrasts that Luke makes.

• “The days of Herod the king,” … “a priest of the division of Abijah (v 5) … performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division … chosen by lot to enter to enter the temple of the Lord to burn incense” (vv 8-9), all of which are in marked contrast to the excluded multitude (v 10), the disgraced wife (vv 5-7, 24-25) and the “impossible” child (vv 31-37) to whom the Lord God will “give the throne” (v 32) and which will be the means to bring down rulers from their thrones, exalt the humble, fill the hungry with good things and send away the rich empty-handed (vv 52-53). So Luke has God, in the person of Jesus, overturning top men and mediators, inverting succession and human sovereignty, and instead, prioritising the excluded multitude (v 10), women (vv 25, 42), slaves (vv 38, 48) and the humble (vv 48, 52), all in contrast to and confrontation with, the powers.

• But while the contrast is clear, it is important to note that Luke is emphatically not opposing the first century middle eastern political powers by deploying the normative means of power (v 34) but by a reverse kind of power that is distinguished by reconciliation (v 17), repentance (vv 76, 77), salvation (vv 69, 71, 74), humility (vv 48, 52), unearned favour (v 30), blessing (vv 42, 45, 48), mercy (vv 50, 54, 58, 72, 78), and the way of peace (v 79). This reverse kind of power to the politics of empire may be summed up in terms of the loving brotherhood (Theophilus) with which the reader is addressed (v 3).

Before digging more deeply into the implications of all this for our present twenty first century interface with the powers, two further important features need to be emphasised. The first relates to the concentration on children, the creation and the poor, and the second concerns the culminating focus on overcoming the devil in Luke chapter four.

• It is hardly possible to miss the priority of place given to children in God’s exercise of power here in Luke’s account. The scene is set so as to emphasise that without a child there is no challenge or change to the status quo, despite the lifestyle of the aging generation (v 7). The new way of power begins with the unborn (vv 13- 17, 41, 44), and Zechariah’s prophecy emphasises the transformational role of the child (vv 76-80). The creation is not so immediately obvious until we take note of the barrenness that marks biological life under the institutions of king and temple (vv 7, 36) and is manifest in the repression of womanhood that the birth of the child is intended to reverse. This directly connects children and the travail of creation in a way that Paul takes up when he states that womanhood will be saved out of captivity “by the birth of the child” (1 Tim 2:15) and recognises that “the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19). The connection between the focus on the child and an end to poverty and hunger is of a similar order (vv 53, 79).

• The second important feature takes us on through the developing narrative of the next three chapters to Luke 4: 1-11, as the next post will explore. But there, unmistakably, the confrontation with the powers that is developed historically and prophetically in the intervening chapters, is expressed in terms of the intentional conflict between Jesus and the devil. But this is more than enough to be going on with!

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Responses

  1. Roger – maybe I’m tired tonight and I feel a bit dense about all of this but I need some further explanation. You say: “The creation is not so immediately obvious until we take note of the barrenness that marks biological life under the institutions of king and temple (vv 7, 36)”. . . Hey, I’m with you on that so far. But do you mean this is manifested in low birth rates particularly, even today. Is low fertility a sign of empire? Then you say. . . ” and is manifest in the repression of womanhood that the birth of the child is intended to reverse. This directly connects children and the travail of creation in a way that Paul takes up when he states that womanhood will be saved out of captivity “by the birth of the child” ‘. So women are connected to creation and both are oppressed by empire? Did I get that right? I’ve read quite a number of feminist writers who would applaud that as frequently in literature women and nature are equated, and both were to serve men and so both have been oppressed. So if we take care of creation will we also see women cared for and honoured properly? I note in your last line you talk about poverty. Women make up 70% of the world’s poor and they do about 70% of the world’s work. So both women and their work is devalued. And of course, their offspring, children, are also devalued and frequently not cared for by those in power.

    But I am also wondering about and musing lately on the issue of abortion/contraception as it is framed mainly in American politics. Many who insist on rigid no abortion, no matter what circumstances, viewpoint also deny climate change or other environmental problems. I’ve come to wonder if such people, presuming they are not delusional, believe in some sort of connection between abortion/fertility and a magical healing of creation. That is, if they just, as a nation, can get the abortion issue right – that is, no woman ever has one for any reason, then somehow the destruction of creation will be dealt with, God will intervene to abolish the results of our foolishness and greed and all will be well. . . because we dealt with women and children rightly by totally banning abortion/contraception which demonstrates a love for the unborn child and well, I’m not sure what it demonstrates about women.

    I’ve heard enough of the debate to be aware the many of those arguing for no choice and even no contraception (along with no gay marriage) believe that these are key righteousness issues that somehow determine everything else. That prosperty will return if these issues are resolved rightly. That American will be great again if these issues are resolved rightly. And I suspect in the back of their minds (I am projecting here) that they also think that the environmental issues will go away as well if they could just coerce the whole diverse nation into the correct behaviour. In that sense (and here I am again projecting but since we depend upon creation for our economic well-being, it isn’t such a huge projection) they have connected wellbeing of creation with the right behaviour of women (as coerced by law) to protect all unborn life.

    I presume that is not what you are implying here. I assume, based on your stated thesis of God’s kenarchic love as demonstrated through Jesus, that restoration of creation would also include removing the oppression that weighs down most (all?) women in one way or another. Yes? Just musing.
    c.

  2. Hi Cheryl, thanks for penetrating the key issues as usual!
    i) Creation and women
    I’m reading the text as underlining the need to take care of creation and honour womankind. As I understand it, empire, as manifest in the basic structures of monarchy and temple in Luke’s narrative, uses the creation and fellow members of the human race to fulfil the personal and or corporate needs of monarch, ruling elite, race, or people group. This leads inexorably to poverty because it produces a non-reciprocal stream to the most powerful from the least powerful to the further deprivation of the least. In other words, the reverse of the kenotic “give and it will be given to you” (Lk 6:38). So if there are compounding issues such as age or gender that make people more vulnerable to oppression by the more powerful, then it follows that they will be more oppressed by the governing powers and institutional structures of such a system. While I haven’t got on to applying this to our Western world yet, it follows in terms of my thesis that the current West is the progeny of this imperial system, so this oppression is likely to continue, even if partly covert or ameliorated.

    ii) Abortion and the ‘magical’ restoration of creation

    I’m not taking any kind of “anti-abortion no matter what” position here. Simply pointing out from the text, the crucial role of the child in this narrative, right from the womb. Mass abortion however, does seem to be a mark of empire at crucial times, and I don’t find it at all surprising that in the current Western Empire the womb is such a dangerous place. However, the idea perpetrated by some of my intercessory Charismatic and Evangelical friends, especially in the US, that if we simply reverse the laws that legalise abortion and stop the trend to legalise perceived immoral practices, then the creation will magically restore itself, I take to be utterly inadequate. In fact I see it as a resort to law that is in its current Western democratic form itself a mark of empire. So this is certainly not what I am advocating. But what I do believe is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist as a gift of love to each other, and the cosmos and the human race that it contains are an extension of that loving life to be lived as gift to be enjoyed and continued. I believe that it is only in “living and moving and having our being” in the context of this gift that we all continue to survive, and that preserving and restoring the practice of that loving giving is eternal life. So I might happily call that “deep magic” in C. S. Lewis’s phrase, believing that its practice will bring life and health and peace to the cosmos.

  3. You know, I think the issue of women and what it means to honour them is a whole, huge subject yet to be unpacked. But just a wee bit more through the lenses of the abortion/contraception debate unfolding in the USA. Anthropological research shows that overall infanticide (an alternative form of abortion really) generally occurred when the woman (or family) felt ill equiped to raise the new baby. Perhaps resources were scarce and it was understood that giving required calories to the new child would threaten older siblings. Or life was just too tenuous in some way, the resources too scarce or unseen and unhoped for to warrent adding another mouth to the family (be it single parent or a larger kin group). Certainly single parent families struggle in most cultures with fewer resouces but many families feel too poor to sustain many children. The exception is in cultures that are still close to the agriculture base as then children become free labour and earn their meals at some level. Though even in that situation, all it takes is a food shortage – a bad harvest for example and any child born that year would not escape an early death.

    From the early 16th century Europe attempted to address the problem with orphanages. In Catholic countries children were taken in by monasteries and convents and raised. In Catholic and other countries there were orphanages and work houses. The death rate in such institutions was upwards of 90%. In fact, to give over a child to one of the institutions was essentially to give it over to death. So it became a state/religious sanctioned form of infanticide.

    Today, the lowest abortion rates and lowest teen pregnancy rates occur in countries with the best social support systems. So abortion is lowest in countries like the Netherlands with their very liberal policies and good support systems for women who need help when pregnant and easy access to birth control to prevent pregnancy. Conservative states in the US tend to have the highest teen pregnancy and abortion rates as they often restrict information about birth control in schools.

    So it seems to me, if we are going to honour women, and the fact that women who bear children also bear the heavier load of providing nearly 20 years worth of calories, shelter, clothing and all else for those children then the issue of social supports for those women becomes paramount. If we want to prevent abortions and want to encourage all pregnancies to come to term then the collective has to choose to provide ample supports first to prevent unwanted pregnancies and then to support women and children who need help. Much of the discussion and debate about abortion/contraception seems to have very confused goals – protection of life of the unborn but quite happy to leave them to perish once born due to poverty and lack of health care.

    I’m not sure what a society that does not oppress women looks like. I would love to see it – writing as a woman. I am sure the Kingdom does not include oppression of women or treatment of them like chattel or children. One of the reasons empire oppresses women is that empire is always militaristic and hypermasculine and therefore the feminine and the female are devalued and become just servants to the cult of hypermasculinity.
    c.

  4. Doh! You got me Cheryl! There I was reading along with a mounting sense of excitement and you didn’t go where I thought you were going at all! So I guess I should go there.

    The link for me between women/children and environment is rooted in the issue of land. The times and places where women are treated as possessions, commodetized, generally refers to their role as heir producers, son makers. Without this the male line will not inherit the land of the father.

    Without the constraint of Jubilee the imperialistic drive that always seems to attach to land takes over, as in Isaiah 5 “Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.” This monopolistic hunger seems universal.

    Beyond the model of agrarian wealth, when economy becomes more diverse and the issue of inheritance more diffuse, women and children instead of being the key to wealth and hence part of it, became secondary to wealth, and were consequently devalued.

    Something like that, anyway. Oh, and incidentally, I was obviously wrong in my last comment on the previous post. Perhaps I am alone in wrestling with those questions! Hope my comment didn’t discourage others.

    • Chris: you are right – that is just another of the issues, deep issues that involve creation and gender, especially women and children. There has been lots of feminist analysis on this issue for the past 25 years but of course, if anything, in most cultures, women have been further devalued in that time. I think Roger is on to something in his priorities that include children and creation. But the problem with this can be that it doesn’t account for women as more than those who bear children, as people in their own right with their own, non child-raising, skills. No, Roger, I don’t believe that is your intent – to devalue women as other than ready wombs waiting to be filled.

      In the 60’s and 70’s feminists argued that women were not their biology, that they were more than just a uterus. But in fact, we are all our biology. It just happens that female biology goes way beyond the womb. It includes strong arms (interesting the interest and fascination with Michelle Obama’s arms and her strength), lively minds, engaged brains, and sturdy backs. So I don’t mind being considered on the basis of my biology as long as my whole biology is considered.

      I do think one of the keys in all of this is a restored relationship with creation, not that we should all be farmers, but that we should all be guardians of the planet. While not a believer in magic, if we did re-engage in a positive way with creation and the creator, then perhaps the relationship with women as one half of the species will also be changed. On my good days, that is my hope.

      re: your last bit of wrestling. Actually I wrestle with the same but I’m not sure I am comfortable yet speaking about it. I’ll let you be the brave one on that issue.
      c.

  5. There are obviously several important directions to travel in from Luke’s text! One that is becoming clearer to me, as I reflect on Cheryl’s comments and connect further with the gospel narratives as a whole, particularly including the Johannine testimony, is that I am tending towards adding the instatement of women as a further priority of kenarchy. I have always thought there would be more than five such priorities, probably at least seven! So I will post on this in due course.

  6. That would be good, Roger. I can’t develop what was growing when I made my response yet but some question seeds were sown. I am wondering about the way in which women and children might be seen as the first casualties of sin (as in the conversation recently on Martin’s blog). And as the first casualties of the maleness of empire.

    The first thought that occurs to me is the difficulty of developing a vision of this from historic sources. We have no source for Eve narratives what was not written from within the established dominance. (A factor well noted by feminist theologians for many years) Perhaps, as a response just to this fact, our resistance should be to push the pendulum as far as it will go towards radical and total equality.

  7. I am certainly with you on your last statement, Chris. The hermeneutic I employ insists on reinterpreting the OLd Testament and its sources in the light of the incarnation of the divine in the textual and experiential testimony to Jesus of Nazareth. No holds barred.

  8. gosh, now I’m getting shivers. Yes, please, lets look at this issue through the hermeneutic of Jesus. Funny how so much of the church has missed doing that. Strange eh? The evangelical church right down the street from me (the closest church to where I live) still restricts women from leadership roles. Yes, really. For that reason I choose not to attend that church. Think of the renewed culture wars in the USA right now with all Republican candidates calling for restrictions on access to birth control. Amazing. Women are not to be given the freedom to manage their own sexuality and fertility. Men will have to do that for them – at least in the conservative playbook. Since this is the 21st century and these issues continue to arise, it is clear that theologically there is much thinking yet to be done.

    But back to creation and children a bit. Seems to me that some of the best care we can give children is to live in a healthy, sustainable ecosystem. The more we degrade the planet and destroy various ecosystems the more perilous become the lives of children today and tomorrow. The chance of children growing up in poverty increases. The struggle to live at all gets harder. And of course, the majority of the poor are women so we are right back to that one. Creation care appears to be one of the most important means of affecting increased well-being for the poor, women and children provided we also address the powers that tend to take control of the earth’s resources for their own profit.

    Fun fact (my students do this to me all the time – send me fun facts when they turn in their assignments): in the US today about 30% of all households are single person households. In urban areas that rises to 40%. But the US is slow in this trend. In places like Stockholm it is 60%. In other words, at an unprecedented rate, never before seen in history, people are living alone. There are some interesting aspects to this as discussed on Up with Chris Hayes yesterday morning. Much of this has to do the with increased economic equality of women. We are not at parity yet with men, I think the highest rate anywhere is still about 70% of what men earn. But it has been sufficient that women can leave bad relationships and support themselves and their kids. Women, in other words, now have choices, that that they do not have when poor.

    The trend is driven by 3 different age groups. People are marrying later, as is normal in an economic downturn, so now getting your own apartment is considered the rite of passage that marriage used to be. Then there is the group from 35-65 who generally are in the midst of transition in or out of relationships and use time alone to recoup and rethink their lives. Then, of course, there are the more elderly who have lost their partner to death. Interestingly, people who live alone socialize more, get out more, and volunteer more. Marriage restricts all of those activities. And living alone does not equal lonely. People can be and often are lonely inside of relationships.

    So if we are going to speak about the poor and women (the two are most often the same) then it is clear that allowing women economic equality allows them choices. And those choices are likely to upset the typical patriarchal structure of society. It raises interesting questions. Get on with it guys – can’t wait for more of this conversation. c.

  9. Nothing profound, and certainly nothing new, I was just thinking about Gen 3:16. In the narrative of the consequences of sin, Eve’s desire will be for her husband but (this will fail) and he will have dominion over her. The same phrase appears in the next chapter but it this time it is sin that stalks and desires Cain. These are matters of domination with the suggested meaning that male domination, far from being ‘God’s order’ in human relations is actually a description of fallenness.

    • I was musing on this issue of male domination/control over women last night. And I had to laugh a bit. The old Bill Gothard line (he is a very conservative religious educator in the US) is that women need to be covered by their husband’s protection like an umbrella, and that he stands as a priest between her and God. But then I thought about the economic disaster of 2008 – led by a male dominated stock market, and the current huge number of ecological/climate/planet disasters in which we find ourselves – led by male dominated governments and businessess.

      Hey guys! It aint working so well. Really. Not good. You might want to step aside for a bit. You know the well-being of all those women and children you claim to care about might actually depend upon you giving up power. Just a suggestion. . .c.

      • Would that it were just a matter of the gender of who is ‘ruling’. The problem is that the all the systems and the cultures that drive them are, effectively, male. When it becomes a matter of a female prime minister or women on church leadership teams their capacity to function often requires that they act like surrogate males. Thatcher was the most domineering macho man Britain had had in decades. Just being part of leadership teams often affects women in distorting ways. I can only think of one, perhaps two women who made their contribution to church leadership by retaining that essential feminine distinctive (whatever that means) and one of these did this by working very hard to identify and erode issues of control and manipulation. She’s fab!

        I was reminded of this last night while listening to Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech for the Bafta best actress award for her protrayal of Thatcher. She stressed how their aim had been to get inside the character and show other sides to her. My reaction was still, after all these years, that I am not interested in discovering the iron lady’s inner Heidi, she was a right wing thug who did enormous harm and enjoyed the Falklands conflict way too much. She was the worst man for the job!

  10. Roger, In response to “Luke is emphatically not opposing the first century middle eastern political powers by deploying the normative means of power,” do you think that Jesus had this in mind when he said, “If I were of this world, I’d call my angels to fight” (my paraphrase)? The world is left with no other option outside of the Holy Spirit in which to operate. My thought is that the contrasts have the opportunity to expose the myth behind sovereign power and introduce folks to the possibility of God’s kenotic rulership. To me, recognizing that Jesus recognized this and didn’t try to overthrow it in the “normative” way, takes away the defensiveness that has been associated with how the church opposes the political (at least in America) and the aggressiveness it has used to push the Judeo-Christian political structure. We could say too, “If I were of this world….” but we are not. Jesus mentioned in his prayer before he leaves (John 16 or 17?) saying of the disciples that they were no more a part of this world than he.

  11. I know you have put up the next thrilling installment, Roger, and I am really glad that this is not a fast-moving blog. It deserves slow and considered responses. I appreciate the way the direction changed a bit here, and your response to that, but the question of kenarchy and children has not been resolved. But I, for one, am not finished here yet! Something is growing for me still, and I am not sure how to put it. So, here goes my small thought.

    I am very uncomfortable with the way in which we talk about children, about the way they exist, almost, within our worldview. But this time it is not a matter of contrasting a better Hebraic view over against a later Greek one, or an purer earlier view over against a corrupted modern economic one.

    My problem is with the way their existence, experience, meaning, import and value is predicated, constantly it seems, on their potential as adults. It doesn’t much matter where you slice history, this is the case. Hence, the commonest way of claiming to value children is to attribute to their potential our future. They are valued because the family name, fortunes, the shape of society or whatever will be in their (adult) hands long after they are not in ours. Children are an investment in the future, they are adult surrogates or adults in the making, they are insurance policies, retirement plans, they are the contributors to the pension schemes we will one day need to afford. But the one thing they are not, and rarely have been, is valuable as children for being children.

    Every child I have ever met, every child I ever was, is full to the brim with becoming. Many adults, though, have lost their becoming, it is in the past, we became. But every child I have ever known is also more present, inhabits her moments more insatiably than any adult I can think of. For the child it is the adult that is symbolic, it is the adult that is mimicked, watched, seen without filters or obfuscation. But emphatically seen and experienced symbolically as a child, not as a diminished adult or a potential adult.

    This is surprisingly difficult to express, which probably means I am writing when I should be thinking. Because I can see the holes in what I just wrote, it might work better if I shift position and look at what I feel from another angle.

    Jesus did not do this. When he spoke about children it was in the present tense, ‘for of such is the kingdom of God’. It was the way the child already was that expressed what the kingdom is. This is not an idealistic statement (about some supposedly perfect child) and it is absolutely not about the child’s potential. Whatever Jesus meant was already established. There have been hundreds of sermons about how this is about the child’s capacity to trust without question. But children still learn to mistrust when trust is betrayed. Others have described this essential quality in terms of hope, and this is certainly an enduring capacity. But I am not so sure this is much more than looking for an idealised quality that sits comfortably within religious categories.

    What, for example, of the child’s utter transparency to absolutely feel what it feels. Joy and misery are absolute, and frequently rapidly exchanged. I saw a small girl in town the other day squealing with some great misery, and skipping as she cried. But what, perhaps more importantly, of play?

    Play is the child’s mode of being, not something that it does do pass the time. It is this capacity for play that makes distinction between the real and the imagined irrelevant, almost meaningless. Play is not primitive work, work is degraded play. And what forms of nonsense have we imposed upon children through our adult categories of understanding. I had a disagreement once with someone who bemoaned the fact that children have such a short attention span, so little ‘focus’ as she put it. But the attention span of the child is limitless, their focus absolute. It is just that what they give their attention to is whatever is most fascinating in that moment. Is there something perhaps, in the child’s ability to be utterly distracted in an instant that has something to do with something that could be conducive to the kingdom?

    I have no idea. But what I am feeling is that the first stage in kenarchy and children is for us to learn from children before we teach them, for us to appreciate them for what they are not for what they might become, and perhaps for us to learn to play again.

  12. Chris – you are such a constant challenge in terms of your thinking. Yes, to the above. Somehow we need to learn to respect children as people, valid people, not potential people. I was a nanny for a short time in between all my years working in children’s camps. I always tried to be clear and honest with kids. If they began to cry, quite rightly, for their parents, I would quietly explain that their parents would return soon and that crying at that moment would not actually be effective. Believe it or not, it worked. They would always stop, look at me with speculation, and then lay down and go to sleep. The thing that worked is I tried to accord them the dignity of a person, a full person, who deserved an explanation for the situation.

    But expand this thinking a bit. I’ve been reflecting, as I’ve read Roger’s next blog on our relationship with animals. Someone once said to me that the way you treat an animal and a child are very similar. So I am always nervous around people who tell me they dislike animals. It always makes me wonder how they are around children.

    I see my cat as a personality and he is quite a challenge. He has the strongest will I know of, in any person. He is relentless when he wants something (he dug up a lino floor once when he wanted a door opened – not kidding). Today he has decided he is not happy with the new food on offer. You know, the new healthier food, the one a cat in 3rd stage renal failure is supposed to eat. So instead of eating, even though he is hungry, he has gone on a hunger strike. He sits by the bowl, refuses to eat and waits for me to remedy the situation. I will give in before he does.

    I’ve always tried, in most of my relationships with animals, as a horse trainer, dog and cat owner, to again, like with children, to accord as much autonomy as possible within the confines of a domestic relationship. It isn’t always easy by any means. But it makes me wonder about the larger issue of our relationship with other personalities within creation, and even those created things we do not necessarily regard as having personality like water, soil, air, vegetation. We tend to treat persons (women, children, animals) and things we consider less than us in particular ways, perhaps according some of them the possibility of some day reaching equal status. In the meantime we are able to righteously maintain our own control and authority in the situation.
    c.

  13. The way you spoke to those children at camp is very telling in two respects. First, that the child deserved an explanation. Many an adult view of the child is that, for its sake or for adult convenience, the adult task is to manage the child. We have commented that women through the biblical period had legal status only in relation to a man (their father or their husband). But a child had no legal status at all, other than as a property of the father. The child that Jesus talked about had no rights as such, no social standing, absolutely no authority and no defense other than that afforded by parents. But the child deserves an explanation!

    Second, it is natural, I suppose, to resort to some sort of condescention towards children. To view them as diminished adults. Nearly everything in education is predicated on making up or putting in place that which they lack, and so little appreciation is given to that which they have which we as adults might have lost.

    The story goes of a tutor at an art college who, when his seven year old daughter asked what he did when he went to work, replied that he taught grown ups how to draw. She was so puzzled and asked, “You mean… they forgot?”

    And can anyone explain why we never need to teach our children to laugh?

  14. I wanted to keep this bit separate to see if it triggers its own response.

    Having mentioned education above, and still thinking about Jesus’ astonishing claim that it was to those like children that the kingdom belonged, not to the priests, the politicians, the king, the rich or the Roman.

    The relationship between adult and child has this powerful role of exemplar and mimesis. That quality of imitation that is so powerful (and frequently embarrassing for parents) is the natural learning capacity of the child. The humility of the child (which should not be mistaken for the absence of pride) is in that process of mimicking, of see, hear, do, that is part of that hungry ‘becoming’. The imagination of the child makes the child its father’s equal for those moments of ‘let’s pretend’. This functions, of course, if Jesus watches Joseph hew a beam for a house. It works too if Oliver looks at Fagin as he sings ‘You gotta pick a pocket or two, boy.”

    My point? Just to put mimesis into the frame as another way in which the kingdom belongs to children.


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