And Another Thing . . .

The two extremes in the United Methodist Church have likewise forgotten the nature of the Church. Both seek to control it. – Joel Watts

The other day, I wrote a piece criticizing the notion of the indefectability of the Church, the original written by Joel Watts.  After a couple days, these two sentences, which had troubled me since I first read them, crystallized for me in to a matter that lies behind all the offering of distractions, the insistence on a particular type of “christian discourse” that ignores any reality save its own sense of its elevation above the give and take of actual discussions and arguments, and now a movement to notify delegates to General Conference on matters that might not have the full support of delegates prior to them coming to floor.  What lies behind all this is a distaste for politics in the church.

Discussions, arguments, positioning prior to actually considering legislation, presenting the public with alternatives – this is all part of politics.  Sometimes, it can get downright nasty, especially when people feel as passionately as they do about something like their faith and the Church in which they practice and live out their faith.  While I refuse to reduce the realities to “extremes” versus those far more sober, orthodox, middle-of-the-roaders, there is little doubt that the nub of the matters before us as United Methodists is, indeed who controls our church.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

The orthodoxy which Joel Watts praises so highly wouldn’t exist without political trickery.  Martin Luther would be just another dead martyr to ideas for reform of the Roman Catholic Church if not for the internal politics of the Holy Roman Empire (and Charles V’s felt need to wage wars elsewhere rather than deal with the rising heresy within the borders of his realm).  The United Methodist Church in the United States wouldn’t exist without Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury calling a Conference at Lovely Lane Chapel in Baltimore and arranging for delegates to elect them our first Bishops, severing the American Church from its British parent.  I could go on, but I think the point is clear enough: politics is part of church life, and politics is dirty, sometimes nasty, and always about power and control.

To attempt to stand above it all, declaring oneself adhering both to an orthodoxy and a practical via media that excludes those extremes that are so busy dirtying themselves and others with church politics is as much a political move as all the rest.  The difference is the pretense of being above it all.  As political as we are – Aristotle’s famous dictum about humanity being a political animal has yet to be proved wrong – especially we Americans are somehow averse to the idea that we are practicing politics.  Thus in the secular world, we insist we don’t want a President who is political, but more like a corporate CEO.  We want Congress to manage our national budget and financial affairs in the way households do, even though this is both impossible and unwise.  We distrust politicians, insisting “they’re all alike” despite abundant evidence that politicians are as different as night and day.

To disdain church politics because its central concern is power and control is as unfaithful as disdaining the practice of the Sacrament because of intinction rather than separating the elements, or discounting baptism because one was sprinkled rather than immersed.  Church politics are like anything and everything else in the Church – a vehicle for God’s will to become known and lived.  Yes, politics can get nasty.  Arguments can get heated and not always follow the niceties some would prefer.  To insist one is above or between the extremes, thus outside the give and take and push and pull of politics is both to fool oneself and to offer others a vision of Church life that never has been and never can be.  The pursuit of Church practice and polity always includes politics.  Yet, if we are faithless enough to refuse to pray for and see the presence of the Holy Spirit even here as all sides, not just the extremes struggle both to have their voices heard and to get their positions part of Church life, then we might as well hang up our stoles, desacralize our buildings, and find something else to do.  If we are so weak in our faith that we would rather imagine ourselves outside the all too human politics of Church life, then how is it possible to proclaim the Good News, if we do not trust it enough in our common life?

Church politics isn’t a test of faith.  It’s a practice of faith.  Accept that, and so much of the dross can be discarded.

Why Is Some Music So Hard To Listen To?

From Reflections On, thoughts on Adorno’s explanation for the alleged “difficulty” of “the new music”.  I bounce ahead almost 80 years to use a completely different example to demonstrate Adorno’s main point.

Channeling And Disciplining Ecstasy

You were within, but I was without. You were with me, but I was not with you. So you called, you shouted, you broke through my deafness, you flared, blazed, and banished my blindness, you lavished your fragrance, and I gasped. – St. Augustine, Confessions

I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing about transcendence, its limits, and the place of mystery and ecstasy in Christian worship and our common life.  In fact, looking back I was amazed at how much I’d written, including a narrative of my own ecstatic experience.  I’m left with the odd sense that much of this contradicts itself, that I’m offering both the insistence on personal and communal transcendence as well as the impossibility and limitations both on the event itself as well as how far we can interpret and understand it.  I think that’s due in part to my own sense that, unless we as a church understand transcendence not so much as “a thing” or even “an event”, but a part of our corporate life that is available through the Holy Spirit, we are stuck in an individualistic mode of thought, unable to communicate these realities to others.  We need not be Pentecostal to live and experience this going beyond, to feel together the overwhelming power of God in our corporate worship.  Indeed, it can be that still small voice during the sharing of the elements in the Sacrament; perhaps it will be that collective, “Yes!” the congregation offers when the Word is proclaimed both in power and in Truth.  Ecstasy comes in many forms, mystery is the hope with which we live as Christians that, gathered to offer God the praise due the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we shall encounter in the here and now a glimpse of what is to come.

The chancel at Christ UMC has the altar, with a cross on top, surrounded by an oval of kneelers (I think it’s oval rather than circular due to size constraints).  Each week when I celebrate the Lord’s Supper and partake in the feast offered by God for all Creation, I go to those kneelers and am reminded of the vision of St. John on Patmos of the Heavenly throne room, in which the Thrones of the Father and the Lamb are surrounded by a circle of flame.  Inside the circle are the cherubim who sing eternal praises; outside the witnesses are called to lie down, offering obeisance and praise.  Not every time, certainly, but every once in a while, I get this feeling, this frisson, go through me that I am not just in the chancel at Christ UMC on Alpine in Rockford, IL, but that I am also in that heavenly throne room.  This opportunity is offered not just to me, but to all of us, through the gift of the Sacrament shared and the power of the Holy Spirit.

One of the things that stands out in Roy Hattersley’s biography of John Wesley is the constant need to find new class leaders and lay preachers because those appointed by John had fallen away, some rather quickly, from the faith they proclaimed that moved them to become a part of the Methodist movement.  This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon.  I think we’re all familiar with what are called “mountaintop experiences”, and what happens when we come back down from the mountain.  While I believe that Wesley was always a fan of the disciplined approach to the Christian life, I think his experience of high turnover, constantly searching out new leaders from among those who claimed the faith pushed him to become even more insistent on the necessity for believers to follow particular practices.  Not as an authoritarian, at least as we contemporaries might understand the term.  Rather, it became necessary to inculcate the practice of a disciplined life in order to maintain that faith that first grasped them on that mountain top.  Only by meeting with fellow believers, celebrating and mourning together in prayer and praise, and following the lead of John Wesley, who understood many of his own faults and failings and his own need for disciplining the faith and channeling that initial “WOW” moment in to the productive life of spreading the Gospel to all who wished to flee to wrath to come.

We are inheritors of a tradition that understood both the promise and perils of mystery and ecstasy.  We are the inheritors of a tradition that tried, through a disciplined communal life, to channel not only the emotions but far more importantly that faith to the making of disciples of Jesus Christ.  Wesley understood both the beauty and power of ecstasy, that moment when we transcend our normal run of experiences and catch a glimpse of The Eternal, as well as the need to harness that through inculcating a habitus of common sharing of our life of faith.  Ecstasy, transcendence, mystery – it’s all there in Wesley’s experiences.  How to deal with them constructively in order that the Holy Spirit might use them for the uplifting of the people, the making of disciples, and the transformation of the world – that’s all there, too, in Wesley.  There’s no reason not to harness those traditions in new ways, offering our congregations once again the reality of those Spirit-filled moments when we come face to face with the Creator of the Universe, the Savior of Fallen Creation, and the Love that flows from both to all that is.  It isn’t just transcendence and ecstasy and mystery that pose a problem for the churches; it is our inability to offer people the opportunity not only to share them, but to use them for uplifting the Body of Christ.  We have the tools, as Wesleyan Christians.  No reason in the world not to use them.

Nothing Lasts Forever

The Ruins Of Gobleki Tepi In Turkey.  These Predate The Oldest Human-built Ruins By 5,000 Years

The Ruins Of Gobekli Tepi In Turkey. These Predate The Oldest Human-built Ruins By 5,000 Years

A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains for ever. – Ecclesiastes 1:4

A post from my good friend Joel Watts caught my attention for several reasons.

The Church universal is indefectible but people seemed to have forgotten that. Indeed, we no longer remember we are Christians together.

The two extremes in the United Methodist Church have likewise forgotten the nature of the Church. Both seek to control it. For them, it is there Church. Like Shea’s comment above, both extremes have lost faith in God — failing to realize the foundation of doctrine. Whereas the Church was once the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit that is supposed to lead us into all truth — it is now a battlefield between Justice-without-Righteousness and Righteousness-without-Justice. Both sides want to win in a place where we are to be made one, in a place where we are to be humble — in a kingdom established by the self-sacrifice.

I honestly had no idea what the word “indefectible” meant, so I checked it out.  It is a Roman Catholic doctrine that means that Church shall not pass away.  Watts is here transferring the idea to “the Church universal” from a specifically Roman context, via a post by Mark Shea at Patheos.

In short, neither Progressive nor Reactionary dissenters really trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit or the indefectibility of the Church. Both believe the development of doctrine is, at bottom, not the Church coming to a deeper understanding of the will of Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but a random collision of power and mere human will in which anything might happen and any ideology might become top dog depending on who is the strongest.  And therefore, they believe it is all on them to (for Progressives) Change the Church into modern reflection of Liberal Values or (for Reactionaries) Save the Church from mutating into a “dark and false Church“.  Neither really believes the job of Savior of the Church has already been filled, so they need to make it happen.

To both I would respond: Everything dies.  It’s really that simple.  The photo above, showing the excavation of the ruins of Gobekli Tepi in Turkey, is really a marvel.  Not so much “discovered” as pointed out by local goat herders who knew the rocks peaking above the sand meant something but couldn’t care less, the painfully slow process of unearthing . . . whatever these ruins might be – temple? waystation for travelers? part of a larger city? – has done at least one thing: Doubled the time span during which human beings are known to have built settled habitations.  These ruins are as far back in time from the civilization in Sumer as we are from the Sumerians.  Which, of course, creates a whole set of questions as yet unanswerable about evidence for what happened in the millennia in between.  In any event, hazarding a guess, the folks who built the structure at Gobekli Tepi, folks like us who worried about putting food on the table, making sure their children grew up safe and happy, whether the government would be fair or arbitrary in the dispensation of justice; something tells me the folks who built this assumed it, and they, and the society that created it, would last forever.  The irony, of course, is that at some point other people came along and purposely covered the entire site in sand and dirt, not so much destroying it as burying something as dead as Jacob Marley.

To claim either the Roman Catholic Church or the Church universal will last forever absent human action to make it so is ridiculous.  What else is the action of the Holy Spirit but people actively continuing the work of the Church?  What more potent statement of our sinfulness would there be than the closing of the last United Methodist Church, the sale of our assets to pay our debts, and the scattering of our people because we assumed it would just last without actual human beings fighting for it to do so?  To claim that those actively involved in the process of moving the United Methodist Church forward both have forgotten the Holy Spirit and are “extremists” who should be ignored is deeply troubling.  Where else do we see the Spirit in action, other than human beings engaged in the important work of ensuring the continuity of the ministries of the United Methodist Church?  Where else do we hear the voice of the Spirit than in those vigorously engaged in discussions and disagreements about our future?  Rather than claim some group or other seeks “control”, it might actually do us all good to look at what is actually happening.  People passionately concerned about the future of the United Methodist Church are trying in faith both to discern the best course of action for our future and to move us toward that future together in the only way we have as a denomination to do so, through the mechanism of General Conference.  To insist we should not listen to these “extremes” would be to insist we not become engaged in making our voices heard about the future of the people called Methodist.  To insist upon the indefectability of the Church, whether Universal or some part thereof, is to ignore the reality that like all things zwischen den zeiten, the Church of Jesus Christ is simul iustus et peccator.

As much as we may rest our faith in the Holy Spirit to guide us, to proclaim the eternal presence of the Son for the sake and Glory of the Father, the churches are also human institutions, fallible and prone to all the foibles and evils our fallen state carries with it.  We cannot sit back, call those who speak and act most forcefully “extremists” to which we should pay no attention, but rather listen to their voices, watch their work, and prayerfully seek to find the Holy Spirit in their words and deeds.  Nothing lasts forever, human institutions most of all.  It may well be the case that the particular ministries and what we call our emphases as United Methodists are now or will at some point in the future no longer either be relevant or serve their Lord.  In either case, there will come a day when that last United Methodist church will shut its doors, and the people called Methodists no longer exist.  In order to delay that as long as possible; in order to push that date far in to the future so no one is burying the last UM church in sand and dirt like some people did Gobekli Tepi, all we can ever do is act in love and faith and hope.  This isn’t being extreme best ignored.  It isn’t forgetting the presence of the Holy Spirit, but actively seeking it.

Music, Ecstasy, & Christian Worship

It is precisely modernity’s incomprehensibility that art confronts, in one of two ways: either by attempting to stuff modernity back into the clothes of the pre-modern, pretending to a familiarity that is only ideological – in other words, denying reality –  or by acknowledging modernity’s radical strangeness (and estrangement) by direct confrontation via art techniques up to the task,, thereby making critical sense of it.  But to accomplish the latter, new art must make itself strange, because the techniques of old no not permit access to modernity, and this fact results in art’s distance from an audience that social conditions regressively shape.  In an art worthy of the name, production and consumption cannot be productively brought together, Adorno maintains, unless society itself changes.  And he is clear that art itself is not going to change the wordlld – its role is principally diagnostic. – Richard Leppert, “Commentary: Locating Music”, in Leppert, ed., Theodor Adorno: Essays On Music, p.95

Have you ever been to a concert?  Rock, hip-hop, country, jazz, classical, it doesn’t really matter.  Just being together with other people to enjoy the performance of music.  If the music is done well, and if the performers are reaching the audience, something magical can happen: there’s this flowing back and forth of energy and emotion, in which each drives the other forward and upward, making the music better and better, pushing the audience even deeper in to the experience of the music.  You close your eyes and let the sound wash over you; you clap your hands to the beat, sing along, even at heavy metal shows you bang your head and wave your hand in the air with the “devil’s horns” sign.  At its best, music as a communicative art form should transport listeners to the place the music is.  That is why it is such a demanding art form; for all its contingency and the limits on its ability to communicate more than mere emotion and feeling, its purpose is to move listeners and performers alike, only the listeners have further to travel.

As Leppert makes clear in this overview of Theodor Adorno’s general thoughts on music, our modern age has made this all the harder.  First, it has stripped our ability to place what we hear in some kind of historical context.  Music is little more than a product now, and even those most devoted to any particular style of music are still kept at a distance from it by the fact of exchange.  Furthermore, modernity forces even the most “radical” music either to move backwards (Adorno considers Stravinsky to be this kind of primitivist) or make listeners comfortable with the status quo (Adorno considers the neo-classical composers, particularly of the post-WWII era to be this kind of comforting friend of the bourgeoisie).  When music confronts us with the real disjunction and dysfunction of our modern, late capitalist age, it can become almost impossible to listen to precisely because it offers us a view of reality that we understand is true, but do not confront in the normal course of events.  Thus it is that 20th century composers such as Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, and their followers in composing using 12-tone and serial style are difficult to hear precisely because they are, to use Leppert’s term, diagnostic.

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted a link to this article, in which the author states that, for some Christians in some traditions, music has taken on a priestly function, even a sacramental one, which in the author’s words makes it more akin to “ecstatic pagan practices than to Christian worship.”  The biggest problem with this article, besides offering no evidence whatsoever that this is actually happening, beyond a few fliers and some quotes from a book, said quotes also having no actual evidence, is that defining “ecstasy” as “pagan”, and akin to a priestly, sacramental function denies not only the experiences of two thousand years of Christian experience, but even evidence from the Scriptures themselves.  Furthermore, he makes the category mistake of insisting that an expression of deep emotion during hymn or praise singing is what we should experience during the declaration of God’s Word and in the sacraments.

From Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel to Sts. Peter and Paul, the Bible has numerous instances of reports of ecstatic experience.  St. Paul’s is actually first hand, in which he writes about being lifted up to heaven.  In the centuries that followed, the anchorite St. Anthony often reported ecstatic experiences.  Martin Luther claims to have encountered Lucifer in his monk’s cell.  St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Merton and more all have left us vivid accounts of ecstatic experiences that have shattered their understanding of the world and planted their faith in a place far different from that of the rest of us.  To claim, then, that ecstasy is “pagan” is to deny our collective history as Christian believers.

Furthermore, when it comes specifically to worship, the best worship services are those where all elements combine to bring the congregation out of the world, out of our mundane worries and fears and joys and in to the presence of God.  The altar is a stand-in for the throne we read about in Isaiah and Revelation.  The hymns we sing are echoed in heaven in the praise of the cherubim who sing eternally before the throne of God, as St. John of Patmos reports in his ecstatic experience of Divine Worship in heaven.

I’m guessing that Adorno wouldn’t quite know what to make of music in Christian worship.  Whether it’s the use of historical artifacts such as ancient hymns, or the cozy, comforting sounds of contemporary “praise” music, both I think would raise his hackles as attempts to avoid the needed confrontation with our modern age that real music, real art, should present the listener.  The problem, of course, is that it is the whole worship experience that should, in fact, present this confrontation precisely by moving the congregation out of this world, offering the stark contrast between what God promises for us and what we experience.  In this way, Christian worship is little different than Adorno’s understanding of music, except that it is more than “diagnostic” precisely because we Christians are called to go forth and offer others the vision of faith and hope and love we receive in our worship together.  Prayer, our offerings, music, the preaching of the Word – when done well and with the presence of the Spirit, the congregation is moved.  And music is a part of that.

The first video above is of a traditional African-American Ring Shout, an ecstatic expression of faith still practiced in some part of African-American churches.  To deny ecstasy in Christian worship is to deny the very real experience of African-American Christians who experienced the freedom they didn’t have in this world; the love they shared for one another as a bulwark against the hatred of a society that consistently denies their humanity; to celebrate their love for God and God’s love for them when there was little more to celebrate.  The ring shout is more than ecstasy. It is more than just a part of worship.  It is God moving the people to express the freedom and joy that comes to a congregation that believes they are named and loved by God, the Creator of the Universe, and that no amount of dehumanization can take that away, at least at this moment.

The second video, of Freddie Mercury leading a crowd chant at the old Wembley Stadium, is an example of how, when musicians and audience connect through the music, it becomes possible to act as one.  When music in corporate worship moves us to see ourselves before the throne of God, that altar up front, we become like that crowd at Live AID, ready to follow the lead together in the faith that is communicated through song.  Our secular experience of music as an emotionally communicative medium (thus all the discussions about “is music language?”) occurs in our worship as well, readying us by dragging us out of our lives in this world and syncing our voices with those angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts and the Lamb who was slain.”  When we give ourselves over through music in worship, we confront the disjunction and dysfunction of our world with the present and coming Kingdom of God.  This is more than mere political or social ideologies clashing with a sudden insight in to the contradictions of these systems; this is the radical break between our sinful world and the hope and faith and promise of renewal through the power of the Spirit.

To dismiss all this as pagan is not to understand that Christian worship is supposed to grab hold of our whole lives, using all the elements possible, place us really and truly before the throne of God, so that we are ready to go back to our lives in our sinful, broken world and be the hands and feet and voices of God.  If our music isn’t doing this, if it is little more than stately, quiet recitation-in-harmony-and-rhythm, what, then do we do with King David, wearing only a loin cloth, singing and dancing and leading the procession on the entrance in to Jerusalem?  We should never deny the very real place ecstasy has in Christian worship, or the role of music in making this possible.

You Have To Have Tradition To Overcome It

One must have tradition in oneself, to hate it properly. – Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia, p. 52, quoted in Richard Leppert, ed., Theodor W. Adorno: Essays on Music, p.81

Properly, this post belongs on my other site.  Yet as I was reading Leppert’s interpretation of Adorno on tradition, I couldn’t help but find parallels to our on-going discussions in The United Methodist Church.  Precisely because Adorno insisted that all of us, including this author and Adorno himself, were inescapably involved in the compromises and contradictions of late modernity, the best he believed was ever possible was to highlight those contradictions without offering a resolution, precisely because that inferred some kind of clear-sightedness past our current dilemma that isn’t possible.  For Adorno, this offered at least the hope, the Utopian promise that, as commentator Richard Leppert says, things could be better than they are.

While dealing with aesthetics, specifically with music, the aphorism above applies in all areas of life.  For Adorno, tradition, like everything else, is no longer a living thing, a historical, social, political, human reality, but a commodity to be purchased.  We believe buying antiques, or listening to an older piece of music puts us “in touch with tradition” when in fact we are only consuming a product sold to us as fulfilling a need.  Late capitalism has stripped the living human world and reduced it to products to be packaged and sold.  We are no longer in touch with our past because it has become commodified.

Adorno was critiqued, in particular by Georg Lukacs, for living in what Lukacs called “the Grand Hotel Abyss”, never once disturbing the quiet of his thought or the pleasures of his retreat from the Abyss in to which he would gaze.  Yet, Adorno was always consistent that action, even in his youth, went against the historical realities, which Leppert described as fascist on the one side, Stalinist on the other, and neither attractive.  In the years of his American exile, Adorno didn’t so much come to despise the United States as he came to understand how it was the epitome of all that was both great and terrible about modernity in its dotage.  Even in his late years – the mid- to late-1960’s – Adorno refused to become involved in the student protest movements in Germany and elsewhere, because he believed the students had become far more enamored of praxis without thought, whereas for Adorno, thought either guided or reflected upon practical action or the action became little more than mob violence, serving the ends of modernity’s real goal – making even revolution a product to be sold.

For Adorno, the most difficult thing in late modernity was to think.  More precisely, whether it was fascism, Stalinism, or the totalizing tendencies of the Culture Industry in the United States all worked against thought.  Nothing was more revolutionary than to think, specifically to think about what is and more importantly what could be.  In order to do this, one has to be aware of the past in a way that late modernity’s political systems worked so hard to prevent: the past had to become a part of one’s life, a living thing against which one struggles in thought first.  You cannot overcome a past you do not know, but only own, offered to you at 20% off.

We United Methodists have an abundance of multiple traditions from which to draw.  Some of them overlap.  Some of them contradict.  All of them, however, need to become part of our marrow, part of our heart and life if we are to overcome them and become the United Methodist Church for the present and future.  Yesterday, I offered a Moltmannian approach to our problems, in which we dared to be a church that could stand before the cross, emptying ourselves of pride, of power, of our reliance upon doctrine and the Bible in order to be what God is calling us to be – those willing to die in order to follow God’s call.  Today, I’m insisting that there are things we need to do before we take this via Dolorosa.  We need to acknowledge that our traditions are, by and large, no longer a part of who we are.  Oh, we mouth platitudes toward John Wesley, toward Bishops Coke and Asbury.  We talk about the Holiness movement and how it changed and electrified our churches.  Do we also acknowledge the depth of Boston Personalism, a religious/philosophical system developed by United Methodist theologians to respond to the perils and problems of Gilded Age Christianity?  Do we even remember the multiple threads of tradition from what was the Evengelical United Brethren Church, its deep German pietism and commitment to congregational autonomy?  Are we willing to embrace the history of racism that still infects our church?

We are confronting not just our recent history of refusal to acknowledge the full humanity and dignity of sexual minorities, and all they can and do offer our churches.  We are confronting our own forgetfulness, our own refusal to understand this as part of a real, living, human tradition called the  United Methodist Church that has always tried to overcome its worst demons while never doing so completely.  We cannot take the steps necessary unless we first acknowledge, and then repent, our forgetfulness, our traditions of discrimination, of bigotry and white supremacy that still exists, that these traditions are a living part of who we are.  We cannot become who we should be until and unless we are willing to acknowledge who we are.

I want to end with an apologia for Adorno’s overall philosophical project, written by Neil Lazarus, from an essay entitled “Hating Tradition Properly”, originally published in No. 38 of New Formations in the summer of 1999 and included by Leppert on pp. 81-82, at the close of his general introduction:

The point for Adorno . . . is that while the tradition of European bourgeois humanism has always insisted upon its civility , has always gestured toward – even made a promise of – a unversalistically conceived social freedom, it has never delivered on this promise, except, arguably, to the privileged few, and even then only on the basis of the domination of all the others.  To have tradition properly is in these terms very different from championing this exclusive (and often excluding . . .) tradition; on the contrary, it is to keep faith with true universality, with the idea of a radically transformed social order, and to oppose oneself implacably to the false universality of modern (bourgeois) sociality.  It is to use one’s relative class privilege to combat all privilege, to shoulder the responsibility of intellectualism by “mak[ing] the moral and, as it were, representative effort to say what most of those for whom [one] say[s] it cannot see.

The man for whom the whole is the lie, desire only to save the spirit of the Enlightenment, from which the Methodist movement, arguably at least, was born, from its actual history.  Its tradition, you might say, a tradition with which Adorno was intimately familiar.  In the same way, I have no idea what the specifics of the future for the United Methodist Church will be.  I only know there is much in our past to overcome, to stand against, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit giving us the courage to set it all aside and stand at the foot of the cross and say, “Yes”.  Not only for ourselves, but for the whole Church and the world we are called to transform.


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