bridge

A Theology of Interfaith Cooperation

SUMMER IS READNG time and there’s nothing I like more during the warm months than delving into geeky works on religion. This summer, Peter L. Berger and Brian D. McLaren have topped my list.

In a set of recent essays, Berger emphasizes that relativism and fundamentalism are two of the most prominent religious paths in the world today. Here’s my one line definition of fundamentalism: “Being me is based on dominating you.” And my simple definition of relativism: “I no longer know who I am when I encounter you.”

For Berger, while relativism and fundamentalism are at opposite extremes, they are actually closely connected in that they are both “products of the same proc-ess of modernization.” As he first wrote decades ago in his book The Heretical Imperative, frequent and intense encounters between people with different identities is the signature characteristic of the modern era. In Berger’s pithy phrase: modernity pluralizes.

Berger continues, “pluralism relativizes ... both institutionally and in the consciousness of individuals.” In the pre-modern era, institutions, ideas, and identities had a largely taken-for-granted status. For most of human history, the vast majority of humankind had little to no choice about which institutions they were going to participate in or what their identities were going to be. Such matters were experienced as fate.

In the modern era, institutions become voluntary associations—people choose whether to participate—and identity has moved from fate to choice. This puts an awful lot of pressure on moderns like us to constantly make conscious choices about what we participate in and who we are. This is pressure that our ancestors, who simply took for granted the network of institutions they grew up in and the identities they were handed, simply did not have.

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Recovering Creatureliness

The following reflection is a sidebar for "A Watershed Moment" by Ched Myers.—The Editors

I began to know my watershed—the James River in Virginia—when I realized that recovering “creatureliness” is at the core of our discipleship. I learned that my life is utterly dependent upon relationships with countless others, including microscopic organisms in the soil. It’s this grand web of mutuality that forms our fundamental context. Watershed discipleship is contextual discipleship. If we seek to follow Jesus in context, nothing is more contextual than a watershed.

Participating in God’s action to restore the world requires us to have a place. Churches have the capacity to become communities of alternative economic and political practice, embodiment, and imagination. To become communities of justice and reconciliation, we need to embrace the simple disciplines of table fellowship, relationship to water, growing food, and ecological literacy. That’s the path of watershed discipleship.

Chris Grataski, founder of Wild Oak Ecological Design, is a permaculture educator and designer living in central Virginia.

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A Bridge Too Far? Not Likely.

Illustration by Ken Davis

SINCE THE 2014 election could be the most decisive political moment in a generation, the most important question is: Who will be Hillary's running mate in 2016?

The second big question is: What else does Chris Christie have to do to make other Republican presidential hopefuls slip back into the woodwork? What part of “you want a piece of me?” don’t they understand? Have they no fear of—just to choose something at random—major traffic delays in their districts? Are they currently enjoying their drinking water or other public utilities? Do they like their kneecaps?

A bit harsh, perhaps, especially regarding a man whose political obituary is already being written, and whose Wikipedia entry may one day not start with “45th president of the United States,” but with the phrase “Angry Birds spokesperson.”

But Chris Christie is a survivor. He may be only six Twinkies away from not being governor of New Jersey (assuming that he eats them all in one sitting), but he enjoys a strong approval rating and, at this writing, is still innocent of all accusations against him, including humility. His only real threats for the nomination are Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush, who is currently trying to be adopted by a family with a different last name.

The influence scandal that has roiled Christie’s staff and highlighted his strong negatives happened, after all, in New Jersey. And what happens in New Jersey stays in New Jersey because, for their own protection, witnesses tend to fugetaboutit.

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What Good Is a Bridge If We Never Cross It?

Rebell/Shutterstock

What good is a bridge if we never cross it? Rebell/Shutterstock

Energy policy and climate change action are inexorably linked, like two oxen in a yoke.

The trouble with this set-up is that while climate action tends to look straight ahead, energy policy is apt to veer off on any number of paths, some of them quite well-meaning, like job growth or “energy independence.”

Last night’s State of the Union address by President Obama was, I’m afraid, one such experience for climate action, which compared to the huge bull of energy issues is a yearling at best. The yoke between energy and climate did get mentioned by the president, but the yoke pressed toward economic growth, the paradigm which many argue is responsible for our ecological crisis in the first place.  It’s enough to strain a vertebra. 

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