Rumblings. Rumblings, untamed. Here are some insightful words from Walter Brueggemann, transcribed by yours truly from an interview with Krista Tippett. This interview was discovered by this man for which this interview has been deemed as this good by this woman.
WB: All of us, Liberals and Conservatives, all of us are basically contained in the ideology of consumer capitalism and we want that to be our universe of meaning. And when you get a poetic articulation that moves outside of that, it’s just too anxiety producing for most of us. So we try and stop that kind of talk and the local church, obviously, people have a lot of leverage for being able to stop that kind of talk.
KT: So what is hard for preachers to talk about here?
WB: At the broadest level, it’s hard to talk about the fact, I think it’s a fact, that our society has chosen a path of death in which we have reduced everything to a commodity. We believe there are technical solutions to everything. We believe we are entitled to a disproportionate amount of the world’s goods and resources and so on. That’s all phoniness, but we don’t want that exposed as phoniness. So it doesn’t matter whether you talk about the over-reliance of technology, the mad pursuit of commodity goods, our passion for violence now expressed as our war policies, all of those are interrelated to each other and none of us, very few of us, none of us really want to have that exposed as an inadequate and dehumanizing way to live. I think if one is grounded in the truth of the Gospel as a Christian that’s what we have to talk about. So preachers are put in a very difficult fix of having been entrusted to talk about this stuff.
KT: But, but they also belong to this culture. We get, you know “these characteristics are apart of our birthright. This is the world we are born into.”
WB: That’s right. We are as deeply implicated in it as anyone else.
KT: You named the Iraq war that that was a hard thing to talk about in the pulpit, without being controversial and inflammatory…but you think that is the kind of thing preachers must be naming or wrestling with?
WB: I think that’s right. When you do that, of course, it comes through to some people as simply liberal can’t and is not really the voice of the Gospel. Because it’s not only tied up with our military ideology, but it’s all tied up for specific families who have sons and daughters in the service and it sounds like a repudiation of them. So it gets to be a very complex issue. But we have to talk about, we have to talk about it so that sort of stuff doesn’t become common place and assumed as normal among us, it’s quite abnormal to be committed to that way in the world.
KT: You know I think that this larger point that you’ve been making about the aesthetic literary, poetic sensibility of the prophetic tradition that the very language is different and transformative. That it takes that voice out of political boxes because I’m really aware that a lot words that religious people treasure and that are core. The word “justice”, the word “peace”, these words themselves are tarnished in our culture. They have all kinds of political associations and baggage, they’re liberal or they’re conservative or they belong to some agenda. I think that’s also a problem when preachers start talking about those things, all of that accumulates around it. The message is not clear, the message may not be powerful and may not be heard.
WB: Which is why a poetic preacher always has to find another way to say it. I’ve recently been thinking more and more…it’s so astonishing that the Old Testament prophets hardly ever discuss an issue. They don’t discuss abut abortion or the Panama Canal or anything like that. I think what they’re doing is going underneath the issues that preoccupy people to the more foundational assumptions that can only be got at in elusive language. The Institutional Church has been preoccupied with issues.
KT: Which automatically puts you one side of the issue or on the other side.
WB: That’s right and when we do that we are robbed of transformative power. It becomes ideology versus ideology, which does not produce very good outcomes.
KT: Can you think of an example where you’ve seen a religious leader or community subvert that, that get outside being issue based.
WB: I think Martin Luther King did sometimes. I think at his best he was a biblical poet. Just think of “I have a dream” it just kind of soared away. He wasn’t really talking about enacting a civil rights bill, except that he was. It was language that was out beyond the quarells that we do. I think that happens from time, like that.
KT: …this was from one of your sermons; you were talking about the need for a city to care about injustice, or poverty, and despair, is not liberalism, socialism, welfare, or radicalism. After all, liberals and conservatives share those same biblical text. It is simply genuine humanness authorized by the God of the bible. But even drawing, circling back to that connection: what’s at stake here?
WB: I think very much, it’s so hard to do, but the task is re-framing it so that we can re-experience the social realities that are right in front of us from a different angle.
…talking about making a distinction between stridency that is self-righteous versus prophetic or stridenct that is toxic or
WB: It is delivered on my part that I do, a lot of to do what I do, as boldly as I can to energize preachers to be bold in what they do. I think it is the courage that comes from the convictions that you have been entrusted with something important. If you do it that, rather than it being a self-announcement, the accent is on the message and not the messenger. It doesn’t need to be strident in an alienating way. What one would wish is that it is emancipatory for people who are hearing you rather than affrontative, but that is a very delicate line.
The rest of the interview.