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Journey Through Montreal with IVCF, Pt. 4- Markeast, The City, and What’s Next (?)

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Dear Friends, Family, and all of my Supporters!

      Jesus has done so much through our students, our churches, our city and in my own personal life that I truly know what the author of the Gospel of John meant when describing his own journey with Jesus that he’s done so many things that “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) but I suppose that I must try. Let us begin with what I was asking all of you to pray for last time I wrote, Markeast!!! Markeast is one of the camps InterVarsity Christian Fellowship runs every year for undergraduate students to spend a week together in an intensive 40 hours of Bible study, whether that’s the first half of the Gospel of Mark, it’s second half, or the beginning of Genesis and we had over a hundred students decide to take a week of their summer after their exams to do such intensive study! It was held at a wonderful Bible camp called Greenhill Camp in New Brunswick, and though the water still had sheets of ice breaking up from the winter, we had three students commit their lives to Jesus publicly in baptism- it was quite the testimony to the non-believers to see Christians willing to go into such freezing water for this!!! Lastly, I had the joy, due to unforeseen circumstances, to teach on the story of the feeding of the 5000– which was great because I got to teach about God’s provision, and shepherding of us, which is what Jesus has been doing in my own life throughout this year, especially through your generous donation to our ministry!

      Our ministry has been entirely through the city of Montreal, though we did have a little fun excursion to Quebec City in order to really soak in the history and culture of Quebec and its complicated relationship to the church. But there have been some wonderful highlights of this city and I’ve been delighted to participate in and share with all of you! First is, St.Joseph’s Oratory, whose original iteration was built by then Brother Andre and Brother Abundius in 1904. Now while the now basilica is so gorgeous who’d think you were in Europe! The story of Brother Andre however is what has been the real gem at the spiritual heart of Montreal. In 1871 an unassuming feeble man became “the doorkeeper, infirmarian, and lamp tender at Collège Notre-Dame. His duties also include running errands, caring for the garden, cutting students’ hair, managing the laundry and working as general factotum.” Over the years he begins to greet the sick who come to him to the school and begins to heal them with oil, much to the complaint of the church hierarchy. He later dreams of building an oratory to St.Joseph, Jesus’ baby-daddy and the saint of labourers, where he continued to pray and heal thousands of people. When he died at the age of 91, a million people attended his funeral! Finally in 2010 Pope Benedict XVI declares Brother Andre a saint, though he for most of his life was never allowed into the priesthood! It is such a story as Brother Andre’s that we relive the Acts of the Apostles in our own time!

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      The second and last aspect of the city that I want to share with you all, is its thriving art scene! The opportunities I have had to perform some of my Hip-Hop music here have been plentiful and diverse, from performing at worship nights to student bars to shows raising awareness about mental health. It has been a wonderful way to invite students into conversation surrounding faith and art, and to upset all their expectations about what Hip-Hop is suppose to be about! Furthermore, one of my last days here, I finally got the opportunity to take some of my students on a wonderful graffiti tour of St.Laurent! We had the chance to walk around for hours taking photos of all the commissioned (and uncommissioned 😉 ) art that Montreal has to offer! It was a way for us to see the cultural of Montreal and its spiritual expression in our contemporary setting as opposed to its colonial history.

      Now to address the hard stuff, the futures of my housemates and I. As all of you know, and I’m terrible sorry I have not kept you all updated as closely as I would have liked to, we all began this internship knowing that it would be for a limited time and that time is now at a close. What will we all be doing next? Well, I am happy to report that Austin Fedchuk and Sebastian will both be continuing with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as staff this upcoming year, at Calgary and Montreal respectively, and if you would like to contact them about their ministry and help them continue with their work, please email me for more info (calebdupton@gmail.com) or you can feel free to email either of them- AFedchuk@ivcf.ca for Austin or SLee@ivcf.ca for Sebastian! As for Julianna, Megan and myself, none of us will be continuing with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for the next stage of ministry and lives. Megan and Julianna’s stories are their own to tell but for myself it came about through much prayer, discernment and discussion with mentors and friends. While their has been much of this ministry that I have loved, such as the love of students, mentoring and witnessing transformation, and campus outreach there have been other aspects that I have been missing a great deal that this role does not lend itself to very easily such as preaching and teaching. Furthermore, not only have I been missing preaching and teaching but I believe that they are my most abundantly given gifts from God, and I need to nurture them and grow them in a church setting, while still being humbled by my lack of skill in counselling and facilating. It is precisely because I have been humbled in these areas and because God has made a way economically that I will be pursuing my Masters of Divinity studies at Wycliffe college this upcoming fall!  God has shown me this year how much I love the church, how gifted I really am in some areas (preaching, teaching, writing, administration, leadership, vision, and creativity) and how gifted I’m really not in other areas (counselling, emotional awareness, facilitation, and networking) that I will be pursuing my MDiv but also pursuing further ministry work in a church setting for elsewhere.

      To all my Torontonians I will be returning on Tuesday May 23rd, but from now till then and further on you can be praying for (1) our fellowship in Montreal and for my students and their continued growth in outreach to their campus, (2) for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) Canada as an organization as they are currently embroiled in controversy concerning their policies due to sexuality, belief and employment for which they will need to discern and navigate continually*, (3) for those in ministry whether IVCF or not that we will continue to pursue education and skill in mental health areas as it is clear that it is becoming an increasingly difficultly and suffering of university aged people in particular, and (4) for myself as I am currently in the middle of discerning employment and pursuit of ministry whether in Toronto or elsewhere, and that as I am continually anxious about my future with God and for pursuing my own self-care, that in both I will continue to trust that the Lord is Good, Good to me, even when I may have difficultly at times discerning that goodness or feeling it in the moment.

Thank you fellow saints for your support always, with love and gratitude, until next time

Caleb Upton

*I intend to write more personally about this aspect at a later date.

Journey Through Montreal with IVCF, Pt. 3- ‘The People’, and Our Relationships and Invitation to them

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Dear Friends, Family, and all of my Supporters!

         As the fellowship has grown together one of the particular items that keeps coming up again and again, especially in our study of the Acts of the Apostles, is our relationship to ‘The People.’ ‘The People’ throughout Acts are always distinguished from the elites, and always seem to be in and around the apostles but have not quite joined the community. In a similar way our fellowship at Concordia is constantly in the midst of ‘The People’ whether other students, international students, students of other faiths, and others in and around the university pursuing community and careers. One of the major shifts that has happened within the past semester is that our English Corner for international students in now entirely in the hands of student leadership as they continue to provide that program and are now intentionally trying to build a relationship with the International Student Office at Concordia. With this change in leadership then, another student of ours Hailey and I have begun to pursue a new ministry project by the fellowship for the wellbeing of our campus- volunteer teams at The People’s Potatoe!

         The People’s Potato is a vegan soup kitchen run all five weekdays providing a free lunch for any and all who come at Concordia University. that is partially funded by Concordia student fees. As one Macleans article describes it,

“The People’s Potato has decided to take a different approach to the standard model of the university cafeteria. Really different. The place, which bills itself as a vegan soup kitchen, is run by happy student revolutionaries, and is dedicated to such goals as “worker empowerment,” “creating a non-hierarchical, supportive work place” and “building alternatives to corporate-dominated capitalist methods of doing business.” All that, and hey, they also know how to cook. Really well. Communism might still be around if these people had been in the kitchen.”

As I have written in past updates, Concordia has a largely ‘liberal’ or even ‘radical’ presence on our campus, and I for one- love it, as I believe Jesus may have been the most revolutionary figure history has ever seen. Hailey is one of our executive fellowship student leaders who feels the same. She is passionate about the environment and other social justice issues. It has been a supreme joy of mine to share with her Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution, as it was such a key work in my walk with Jesus in learning just how central justice is to the Kingdom of God. Both Hailey and myself have seen an incredible opportunity at Concordia to engage on issues that are so important to our campus, and are found on every page of the Gospels themselves. Part of this volunteer recruiting from our fellowship includes prayer and scripture time so that both Hailey and myself not only bring people into serving our campus with us but realize just how important and vital it is to the disciple’s walk to serve our communities and reach out to ‘The People.’ Already we have built friendship with other volunteers in the kitchen, and have brought out a few of them to our Bible studies and other events!

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         As we reach out to ‘The People’ however we recognize that the vital questions of how we relate to one another- whether in romantic relationships, friendships, or family- are often warped, misunderstood, or downright awful and sinful. In response to this our staff leader for Concordia, Charis, suggested that we led a series on relationships for the students where we would use scripture, culture, and particular the viewpoint of Jonathan Grant’s work Divine Sex, to teach our students how as disciples in our context should navigate these waters. Questions of gender roles, desire, our economy, authority, and so much more have been explored and I in particular have had the joy of illustrating to our students through an episode of the hit sitcom Communitythe particular assumptions that our culture has about relationships that we ourselves do not even recognize, that greatly damage our souls!

         In addition to navigating our culture, we’ve also been learning about navigating through others’ cultures. Thanks to the kindness of one of Charis’ close Italian friends, we as a fellowship hosted a pizza making night during which we played games and all made specialized pizzas together. Part of the reason we hosted this evening was so that we could learn more about other culture’s food and hospitality practices. As a fellowship, one of our key ‘strategic priorities’ has been to create a community of hospitality and of sharing life together- as in Acts, when “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (2:46-47). However what we are learning is that North American culture hardly has a monopoly or even expertise on how to welcome people. One of our other executive team student leaders, Kenika Martinez-Deane, shared at this event her experience of her mother’s hospitality to a Japanese student and just how important that experience was for this student. Ten years later this same student offers a place to Kenika on her trip to Japan- this is sharing all things in common! We then got into a discussion about how each person that comes to the table can be an unexpected gift, such as the angels we may be hospitable to unawares (Heb. 13:2).

         Lastly, this semester we have also had to learn how to relate to ‘The People’ during times of trouble and confusion. As I’m sure many of you saw on the news, Concordia University’s Muslim student population during Islamic Awareness Week was recently the target of a bomb threat by the Canadian chapter of a white nationalist group known as the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada. The environment created was one of fear and trepidation, and while we are thankful that no one in particular came to physical harm, we have now an acute awareness that the cultural and racial tensions more obviously present among our neighbours to the south, are just as prevalent amongst us, just under the surface. Many in our fellowship have Muslim friends, and we in particular have had a great relationship with many new international graduate Islamic students who are only more than happy to spend time with us, learn about Christianity, and have a good time. As we reflected upon this threat we used the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis, and one line in particular stuck out, “O Master, let me not seek as much…to be understood as to understand.” In our current context our Christian students and ourselves are often having to explain the actions and choices of other Christians throughout history or even in the recent election of Donald Trump, and continually we say ‘We just wish people really understood Jesus, and did not look at us through the lives of others who carry our name.’ As we reflected on this we realized that Muslims the world over have the same cry in their hearts about their faith- may we seek to understand them.

         As always, there is so much more that could be written about such as our past Christmas camp, and the future of our household but what you can be praying about for our fellowship is MARKeast (!!!!) MARKeast is a week long intensive 40 hour Bible study through the Gospel of Mark at camp! So it’s a wonderful time for students to get away after exams (hopefully after exams!) and work to spend more bonding time with one another, learning about scripture very interactively and creatively, as well as growing closer to Jesus and learning to follow him all the more. We at Concordia want to bring as many non-Christians to this camp as possible, and we could absolutely use your prayers in this endeavour! What a better source for a seeker than the Gospel itself? What a better Christian community than your peers away from life’s pressures? As we continue to outreach in a variety of ways to ‘The People’ at our campus we pray that the Lord will continually add to our number (Acts 2:47).

Thank you fellow saints for your support, with love and gratitude,

Caleb Upton

 

 

Journey Through Montreal with IVCF, Pt. 2- Growth, Disciples, Alienation, and Future

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Dear Friends, Family, and all of my Supporters!

         If you are in ministry you already know the truth of this next statement, full-time ministry is all consuming, devastatingly hard, but possibly the most life giving vocation I could have ever given my life to. Ministry is all time-consuming not merely because its full time work, but because you carry much responsibility for those in your care, and, as Paul says, ‘have them in your heart’ (Philippians 1:7). Learning some of the ministry skills for for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s ministry has been the most humbling aspect of ministry thus far–as I thankfully anticipated. But those, fully honoured in their impact upon my heart and soul, are next to nothing when measured beside all the ways ministry has contributed to my own spiritual growth and discipleship. From Dec. 25th to Jan. 9th I will be home to share much more in-depth personally as an individual but for now I want to embrace the lesson of Doctor Strange which I watched with one of my housemates recently, that really, this is not all about me.

         Allow me to introduce you to two of our students- Miriam Carjan and Mae Anne Devera, a dynamic female duo that make me question how much I have to contribute to their discipleship really but am glad for the opportunity anyway. Having known that Mae Anne suffered from an anxiety disorder, I wanted to offer a spiritual perspective on such things given my own experience with O.C.D.. Miriam in her spiritual journey had already been compelled to care for Mae Anne! All three of us then are mutually discipling each other together with the theme of faith, and specifically faith as taking risks toward God. During our Fellowship’s Bible studies in Acts we have been learning a lot about prophecies and dreaming, and that the Holy Spirit is still giving these gifts now in the midst of our students is clear. Mae Anne had created a thought map of spiritual discernment that had lead her to the same clear centre that I had been already led to lead them, which was faith both as asking God to take responsibility for anxieties, but also in taking risks toward him. As we’ve been exploring this idea Mae Anne has been growing in her clear gifts of teaching others such as in our weekly English conversational group English Corner, but also in wisdom as to how to understand Biblical truth and apply it to her life. Likewise Miriam is at a place where she is so effectively leading our English Corner team that when I forget things I am so glad she is there to remind me. Lastly with regards to both of them, they are learning so much about the Bible and both of them are shining examples to the rest of our students as to how to witness to their friends and invite them into learning about Jesus! Mae Anne has invited and successfully brought more people to English Corner than the rest of our team combined, and now has invited a friend of hers to learn about Jesus through the Gospel of Luke. Miriam has surpassed all of us in inviting people from English Corner into learning about Jesus. Miriam genuinely was concerned about how to witness to others, but now that she has been given the confidence she has taken off immensely.

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         One other student I want to introduce you to is Josh Brown. Josh is an unexpected gift and challenge from God to our ministry. Josh is half-Canadian, half-American, and was part of the Marine core for many years having been compelled by the attacks of 9/11 to enlist. Having now finished up, he has come to Concordia University to pursue a business education. Josh, much to the surprise of some of our fellowship is an active, dedicated and servant hearted disciple of Jesus. He and I have had many conversations about life, the Bible, and politics. It is his strong political opinions in particular that has put him at odds to the rest of our fellowship. The rest of our fellowship are polite cultural Canadians- Josh is a Donald Trump supporter who believes that God is giving, by Trump, America its last chance to repent. How to both honour all the wonderful passion that he has for us, and his long and genuine desire to serve God and find community, while at the same time learning to navigate and manage such stark differences has been a ministry lesson that will last long beyond this year. In serving students, I did not expect to be serving a soldier. Josh reminds me greatly of the centurion who had greater faith than anyone in Israel (Matthew 8:5-13), though no one would have expected someone like him to have such faith. Nevertheless, we pray that he will grow in spiritual maturity, particular as we study together what the Bible calls us to with regard to politics, and as we learn in practice the important application Paul gave in Romans 14 to “not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister,” including strong political views.

         In the midst of these testimonies however, there are stories about students who choose to run away from God. In one relationship, a student of ours from English Corner was seeking to learn about Christianity in general but as we were studying together his personal confrontation of his own pride from what he was learning in the story of the younger brother in the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) was far too overwhelming. He ran away from learning more about Jesus, his life and teachings, ultimately because addressing our own pride is never easy. In another relationship, a young non-Christian man and his nominal Christian girlfriend had been hurt by other ministries and therefore choose to end our friendship together for fear of further hurt and the disintegration of their relationship. The circumstances around these stories does not permit me to divulge much material but what I can say is that evangelism more than anything else, fills me with such self-doubt. “Was I too aggressive?” “Would it have turned out any different if I had been more gentle?” “Was what I was hoping for from taking these risks of invitation and asking these questions–that of bringing them into a relationship with Jesus–really outweigh the cost that may be incurred, of not only further alienation from me but their further alienation from the Christian message?” Evangelism is when you find out just how much you are really willing to risk for your faith in terms of your human relationships, whether family or friends. Are you willing to risk all the fun, all the affection, and all the joy that comes from those relationships for the sake of the well-being and the very salvation of those with whom you are in relationship with, by the means finding their innermost longings in a joyful and affectionate relationship with God? Conversion is something that I dearly long for, for all people, a result of my heart for evangelism inherited and nurtured primarily by my earthly father as I’ve learned. Bringing such a heart into ministry was one of the most important things God has done in our ministry thus far.

         Friends, there is so much more I could right about, such as  our Myers-Briggs training, our Gender and Sexuality training with InterVarsity, how my outreach to the Socialist club is going, our ministry partnership with Haiti, our annual fundraising dinner, two Hip-Hop performance opportunities I’ve had, my relationship with St.Peter’s Anglican Church, and my latest opportunity to preach there but I would like to end with how you could be praying for us. First, please pray for the men in our fellowship to take a more active role in discipling one another. Since Sebastian, my co-worker at Concordia, and I have arrived the amount of men in around our fellowship has doubled, which, while creating an immense opportunity for the men in our fellowship to be discipled by their male peers, has been mostly reliant upon Sebastian and I, a situation we want to remedy. However, as much as Sebastian and I try to create these opportunities for growth, nothing will change unless God moves in the hearts of these young men to start looking out for one another. Second, and lastly, please pray that our fellowship will continue to have a good relationship with Concordia University for whether it has been the student union or the MultiFaith Centre we have had good relationships with them and they remind us that our fellowship does not exist solely for ourselves but for the betterment of our campus.

Thank you fellow saints for your support, with love and gratitude,

Caleb Upton

In the next Episode:  St. Joseph’s Oratory, Social Service projects, Christmas, more on the outreach to non-Christians, and more!  

Journey Through Montreal with IVCF, Pt. 1- “Settling” In

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      “Settling” is in quotations marks because though I am now settled enough to write this update on the ministry, what God has been doing through our household is so unlike anything that I have ever experienced in my spiritual journey thus far that it can be questioned whether settled is something I will ever be again. But before I get into that, let me introduce you to our household- six people, three rooms- again, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced being an only child. First there are our directors, Charis Goh and Steve Schalm. Charis is stern but underneath is extremely compassionate and possibly the wisest of us all- she is a campus minister, not just by profession but by character and love. Steve Schalm was one of the worship leaders at Urbana 2015, so it has been great getting to know him personally. Steve and I are very similar people, we both have masters degrees, love books, and are well versed in genres of music nobody would ever expect. Next are the other interns, first there is my co-worker at Concordia University, Sebastian Lee who was a biochem major in Vancouver who, having come from a missionary family, has taken an interest in theology and ministry- we have some great conversations and have grown quite close. Second is Austin Fedchuk, a native Albertan with a background in teaching physical education. He has a simple Christian faith that humbles me immensely- he is also the most energetic and funny person I have ever had the joy of knowing. Third is Julianna Lei, another Vancouverite with a undergrad in criminology and psychology, who was working in the mental health services but was disenchanted by its operations, and was called by God to serve students. Fourthly and finally is Megan Broadfoot, who was originally from Texas but having done arts school at Emily Carr in Vancouver and having a great deal of experience in discipleship, has been inspired to serve students with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

      Now back to our definition of “settled.” I have found our local Starbucks’, having even made some friends with the baristas and taught them a trick or two.  St. Peter’s Anglican Church has become my church community in Montreal, as it has the same welcoming spirit and heart for mission as is reminiscent of Kingsway Baptist Church. We have explored our local grocery stores, having now committed myself to learning how to cook this year, beginning with a cookbook by Fresh.

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We have our weekly rhythms of Bible study, prayer, intern training, mentorship of students, and leadership meetings- as well as various arrayed social events, and personal one-on-one meetings. Lastly, our chores list is complete, our finances are sorted out, and everyone knows that I rap and have a Masters of Theology. According to most definitions of “settled”- I am now, but lately God has been redefining for me the meanings of ‘settledness’ and especially ‘accomplishment.’

      People have frequently been asking what it is that we are doing, and truthfully, its hard to say. At first, I wanted to give simple answers of ‘we lead Bible studies’ or ‘we evangelize to non-Christians by giving out pamphlets’ both of which seem like pretty tangible activities that can be measured and shown that the investment that has been made in this ministry can have very visible fruit. But truthfully, I have been struggling to articulate exactly what it is that we ‘do.’ Our theological conversations vary between ‘we’re here to minister’ all the way to ‘God is the one doing all the work.’ Caught between being an activist and being a passive receiver, the tension has been eating away at my nerves. Coming into this internship however, I didn’t come just to be everything I am and give to everyone everything I have, I came to grow into what I am not yet, and to receive from the Holy Spirit working through my brothers and sisters what I am lacking. Gifts such as diplomacy, listening, empathy, and actively cultivating sincere love are all things of which I fully acknowledge that I am lacking, but ready to receive.

      I was excited to begin this internship with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship because I was impressive by the breadth and depth of their engagement with academic issues and topics relating to justice in this world- I wanted to throw in my lot with the Christians that came out in support of Black Lives Matter. What I didn’t anticipate coming into this internship was all the spiritual work to be done on my own heart and mind in relation to my devotion to Jesus himself. Possessed by a vision of the Kingdom of God, I have yet to learn, like all Christians in one way or another, how to give full homage to Jesus everyday. What are we doing on our campuses? Hanging out with students that need friends, being vulnerable about our brokeness and fragility with each other, laughing together about the most frivolous and unimportant things you could ever imagine, playing games that are fun and learning about each other through them, giving international students who may be lonely a home, preparing BBQs for a bunch of leaders and a few students at Fish Frosh with the hope and the fervour of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to go find the one. All of my activist and academic tendencies are still being nurtured both by the free books I have been receiving from Steve, sharing my writings and sermons with students that may be interested, and my personal outreach project to the Fightback Socialist Club at Concordia- believing that as much as Christian needs to incorporate socio-economic and political organizations and relationships into their theology, so do I believe that atheistic marxists and socialists need Jesus and the Holy Spirit should they ever want to bring about a poverty-less society. Alongside of this jubilance however is the often painful growth into ministry maturity such as accepting that I am part of a team of diverse people, and that often my notions of success need to be challenged in light of the reality that we are living in and through relationships, not in impersonal visions or ideas.

      Let’s conclude with how you can be praying for us as a household, and for our ministry. We collectively are studying the Acts of the Apostles so please pray that when we teach our students we will teach it to them in unity as well as creatively as Sebastian and I in particular want to instil into our students at Concordia the transformative power of the scriptures when your story is read by the Biblical story. Pray for our Concordia team as we are currently discerning social service projects in which to participate on our campus with other student clubs. We need creative imagination in discerning the needs of our campus and city, and especially our ability to shape our context and society. We took a group of students to see the recent biopic on Edward Snowden– I in particular was hoping that they would be inspired by his moral courage and self-sacrifice- but by the end many of them felt powerless to change our situation. Our students often feel powerless not only to change the mental afflictions or debt that they often face, but even the condition of our world- we need the Holy Spirit more than ever, just as the disciples in Acts did.

Thank you fellow saints for your support, with love and gratitude,

Caleb Upton

In the next Episode: Particular students we’ve gotten to know, St. Joseph’s Oratory, more on the outreach to non-Christians, and more! 

_____________________

*For more: http://intervarsity.org/page/media-engages-intervarsity-and-black-lives-matter 

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Our Generation’s Neoliberal Apocalypse: The Thessaloniki Programme, The Golden Dawn, and Paul the Apostle, Pt. 6

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Authorial Note: Pt. 1 can be found here,  Pt. 2 here,  Pt. 3 here,  Pt. 4 here and Pt. 5 here

     At the beginning of the first letter to the Thessalonians Paul praises his community for their ‘work produced by faith, your labor promoted by love, and you endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1:3). We have mentioned that these letters were produced in the light of the question ‘now that everything is about to end we can work toward something else, so what kind of society do we want?‘ and in our mutual task we should also remind ourselves that any work in answering this question is produced by faith– we ultimately have to trust that despite the overwhelming appearance of the permanent world order we can build something else. CB_VuOnUEAES-rwThe labor that we have whether in teaching or in food production is promoted by love for all the people and environments in our lives that apocalypses always threaten. Finally, for this community their endurance to continue their task was not built upon new legislation or a new political leader but was produced by the hope that this community had in light of their resurrected Lord. The resurrected Lord is too, our guarantee, not that we can prevent the apocalypse, or that we can postpone it, or even that we will physically survive through it. Jesus Christ is the guarantee that the society that we are working towards will out last us, and that we too will out last our own destruction. Paul then  finally defines his community as chosen by God (1:4) because it is moved by the Holy spirit- or we may say, a whole-other force or air- and is evidenced in power, or in full effect, which, as we will see, is not only changed beliefs but an entire new social structure founded on this new anthropology modelled by Jesus in particular, which is founded on theology. We have up until now merely traced three alternative socio-economic and political practices to accompany this new vision but now we need to continue this task. Traces, is what is proposed here, for so much more in terms of alternative praxis can be discovered by our brothers and sisters globally who have had already lived through various apocalyptic moments then we can possibly outline here. How might then Paul’s letters be further read to address and help us through these other seven socio-economic and political issues and fears?

   The fourth resultant of our socio-economic and political apocalypse is the destruction of the family with the accompanying fear of the break-up of social cohesion. The destruction of the family is not merely the reduction of the model of nuclear family for more alternative family structures, it is quite literally and more forthrightly the lack of families themselves– the loss of communities that have a sense of unconditional obligation to one another. The phrases “you’re family” or “do this for the family” appear more and more in popular culture to be phrases associated with a  mafia mentality- that the only reason one could possibly have obligations or a ‘code’ between one another is for criminal activity! Chris Rock, the black American comedian, in one particular stand-up special, commented the following on the black American family and the acute crisis of the lack of fathers, in describing his comical view of the difference between black people and ‘n*ggas’

“N*ggas always want credit for some sh*t they supposed to do…”I take care of my kids.” You’re supposed to…”I ain’t never been to jail!” What do you want, a cookie?! You’re not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherf*cker!”

Low-expectations is not only prevalent throughout much of the black community in the United States but throughout much of the world as neoliberalism’s vision of the commodification of life has entrapped us into making obligations solely dependent on our whims. The fascist-esque ‘right’ sees phenomenon like abortion, divorce, and especially infidelity or divorce precipitated by alternative sexualities and gender identities, as symptoms of a culture that has abandoned the notion of unconditional obligations, resulting in the lack of families. While they may decry the loss of the nuclear family or the embrace of alternative sexualities as the cause of it, it is important to note that the destruction of the family or the lack of communities with unconditional obligations toward each other is discerned by the radical ‘left’ as well in other phenomenon such as  the lack of consent in the rise of sexual assault and rape, the bystander effect, and in the treatment of 9/11 first responders or veterans. What then would the alternative vision offered in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians have to say to this lack? For Paul’s community, the assembly at Thessalonica became a surrogate family, for this is why Paul constantly refers to them as ‘brothers’, employs a trans-gender metaphor about being a mother (1 Thess. 2:7), and even that Paul and his companions became ‘orphans’ when they were separated from this community (1 Thess. 2:17). So close was this surrogate family that Paul instructed this community to greet each other with a  holy kiss (1 Thess. 5:26). Your obligations are no longer centred around biological familial lines but around those who sacrifice and labor for you, and who you share common mission with. Neoliberalism decimates the notion of family because one cannot have unconditional obligations, whereas for Paul and his community, the community of work becomes the surrogate family to whom are owed obligations out of mutual sacrifice.

     As for our fifth consequence of neoliberalism-the secularization of spiritual realities like nature and ethnicity, and its accompanying fear of the disenchantment of life- one would think that Paul’s answer to it would be fairly simple given its theological outlook- but let’s not haste. The mere association between anything and it being ‘spiritual’ in no way implies that it would become any more ecologically or ethnically rich and honouring than other more secular endeavours- religions too can make a bore of life. Given also what we have outlined about asceticism it may be difficult to see how Paul’s letters would re-enchant life or provide what G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy called “the pleasure of paganism.”34dca20fb4b14ac0a45a35b177b454f6.306x407x1 What the fascist-esque ‘right’ fears is nihilistic hedonism or as the prophet Isaiah put it millennia ago, “Let us eat and drink,” you say,  “for tomorrow we die!”(Isaiah 22:13). One example from popular culture of this nihilistic hedonism is Joe Budden’s song “Last Day” from his album No Love Lost (2013), the entire premise of which is

“Now when they call me to them gates and they ask me how I live
I feel I ain’t have a choice like my stomach’s to my ribs
N*ggas wanted me dead, I kept hammers in the crib
But nah, I don’t regret a f*ckin’ thing I ever did
So I spend like it’s my last day”

Jubilant hedonism in constant awareness of death, which seems to draw all the pleasure out of pleasure itself. Nihilistic hedonism is a perennial human predicament but neoliberalism makes it particularly acute because it is secular– redemption, resurrection, or conversion are impossible features of a materialistic and deterministic universe of secularism. In opposition to this pleasure pursuit in the shadow of death, Paul’s letters, while also speaking of the inevitability of suffering (1 Thess. 3:1-4) couple this experience of suffering with joy (1 Thess. 1:7, 5:16). Neoliberalism leads us to envision suffering as something that is to be avoided at all costs- is this not the real underlying message of advocacy for euthanasia? – as humanity is meant to consume the whole world and himself for pleasure. For Paul and his community however, pleasure is not found in its pursuit before the closure of never being able to pursue it again- death- rather joy is to be found in the realization that everything you are suffering and working toward leads to “a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12). Furthermore, this is why understanding the resurrection of Jesus and of his followers is so important. Readings of 1 Thess. 4:16-18 that read it as Christians running away from the earth do not understand the passage. The ‘rapture‘ is a religious attempt to make this life a bore, resurrection however is the guarantee that despite the suffering, and even beyond death, this life will be a joy. One does not ‘live in the moment’ as in neoliberalism nihilistic hedonism, rather one lives for the future.

    The economic exploitation of neoliberalism in free trade deals and its accompanying fear of privileged secretive conspiracies- the sixth consequence in our list- is much like sexual exploitation, for like grown men that watch pornography in darkness, so too are trade deals like the Trans-Pacfic Partnership made in secret. Free trade associations are made with the promise to bring equal opportunity to all in the name of partnership, but in practice ineffectively create unequal power relationships. The radical ‘left’ often discusses privilege and micro-aggression, while these concepts are much debated in identity politics, they are remarkably helpful in understanding what free trade deals do to world economies. When ‘privilege’ is discussed in social relationships it is meant to highlight that often certain ethnic or gender identities have implicit advantage over differing ones given the social structure- so too in world economies. When NAFTA was first composed its promotional campaign was filled with promised about cultural enrichment, alleviation of poverty, and general equality of opportunity. In smaller picture terms- a flea market decides to loosen up the regulations for having a booth so that everyone has a greater opportunity to sell things. Some of the loosened regulations include no longer having to be for the community, not paying extra fees to have a booth, and no longer having to employ people from the flea market roster. As a result, the flea market comes over run with larger retail companies that no longer have to employ the more expensive employees from the flea market roster, they no longer have to care about the community’s health interest in their products, and, to maximize the most amount of money- no longer having to pay membership fees. What looked like an opportunity to make things more fair, equal, and open, in reality made it only easier for the bigger dogs to get an even bigger share of the pie. What might the letters to the community at Thessalonica respond to this equality of opportunity for unequal relationships in resource distribution?

    The first five phenomenon of our neoliberal apocalypse have specifically to do with politics, and thus we have read Thessalonians, but now that we have come to the next five we are in the realm of socio-economics, which is why the scholarship on 1 Thessalonians concerning it being a professional voluntary association is so important. What we have in Paul’s letters, in addition to providing us traces about a alternative body politic, is an alternative socio-economic arrangement. Paul instructs his community “…to aspire to live quietly [φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν], to mind your own affairs…so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Die_protestantische_Ethik_und_der_'Geist'_des_Kapitalismus_original_coverWhat Paul here does with the term φιλοτιμεῖσθαι is profound, for normally in other professional voluntary association this term is used to encourage competition- a neoliberal virtue is there ever was one- but Paul instead employs the term to encourage meekness. What prima facie appears to be the  ultimate proclamation of the  Protestant work ethic is actually the devaluation of the ideal of competition. What Paul would say to NAFTA may look something like protectionism but not in the self-interested orientation of wanting to protect communal resources. Rather, in our other-oriented anthropology, we do not impose our standards, cultures, and wealth upon others so as to not harm them or become a burden on them. Self-sufficiency and  meek/humble economies are not selfish in this sense but are precisely compassionate because they do not create even the possibility of unequal power relationships- you are solely dependent on  anyone, and no one is solely dependent on you. We must understand, this is not to deny the relational ontology we outlined earlier or to say that we are not interdependent- Paul just a few verses earlier promotes love in the surrogate family (1 Thess. 4:9-10)!!!- but rather that part of being interdependent is not making someone solely dependent on you, or making yourself solely dependent on others. Is this not exactly what free trade deals to do smaller economies, a neo-colonialism of sorts?

    If an other-oriented protectionism is a trace of a response to the decimation by free trade, the deregulation of financial markets, and the accompanying fear of fraud and deceit are the next phenomenon to be addressed- after all, in these secret deals, someone is obviously not being told the truth. When we discuss the deregulation of financial markets we could be speaking about any variety of phenomenon, whether the use of fiat money instead of commodity or representative money, the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act, the financialization of economies, or even the credit theory of money which holds that all money is really debt. However, of more importance than monetary theories even is the increasing anxiety and differential gap between ordinary working class people’s view of the economy and the proclamations about economic recovery. How is it, as Derek Thompson at the Atlantic rightly points out, that we can have these two narratives “…produce a dissonant, but not contradictory, summary of America…”, that  “…on average, everything is getting better, but for many people, nothing is going well”? Many working class people in western countries feel lied to, tricked, and feel within their gut level that the economy has not improved- but technically it has, once you understand that there are two different definitions of our economy- one from those who live in reality, and the other from those who live in a world of financial and numerical fantasy. In financial theory terms, as John Maynard Keynes popularized, this is called the money illusion, which originally referred to lay people’s lack of awareness between wealth and the nominal stated value of their money- there is an enormous difference, especially in fiat money based economies. What however has happened to economies globally, including Greece, is that entire governments have come under this very illusion. Whether its small consumer credit debt, or large governmental public spending debt- it is not real because it is all based on a fides or a trust that we no longer believe in. Our outward display of wealth and opulence is ultimately fraud and deceit, for in reality the actual wealth, while growing is concentrated, and as long as the rich’s illusory financial wealth is accepted as their credit for their lifestyles and as part of the rest of the population’s wealth- we are held under the restraint of this illusion that we too can come into such illusory wealth.

    Paul’s second letter to his community at Thessalonica give us a sobering view of the power of such illusions over our imaginations and our economy. In reference most likely to a Roman Emperor during the Jewish war, Paul writes of the ‘lawless one’ that

“The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.” (2 Thess. 2:9-12)

Has not neoliberalism too, like this ‘lawless one’ for Paul’s community, brought us so many ‘signs’ and ‘lying wonders’?  Have we not heard over and over again of economic ‘miracles’ such as in China or India? Paul’s testimony here about God’s actions is actually quite observable in social interaction, its called confirmation bias. We like this lie we have constructed and 41LMUsSTaNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_because we refused to accept a more reality based alternative we will be told by all our advisers what we want to hear from them- that everything is okay. What then would Paul say to this rampant mythology and delusion of neoliberalism and imaginary wealth that has taken hold of our imaginations? Paul seemingly here offers almost nothing original of what we may expect as he writes, “Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:20-21)- a passage which can even be quoted verbatim from Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion in his alternative ten commandments asTest all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them” (pg. 299). Is Paul just offering skepticism as the remedy to our delusion? Paul further writes, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound” (1 Thess. 5:23). Paul’s alternative to neoliberalism’s illusion, fraud, and deceit of imaginary wealth facilitated by financial deregulation is not only skepticism toward all mythologies or words of prophets, but a skepticism coupled with a faith in a God who will protect you.

    Our myths and ideologies like neoliberalism are things we cling to because we have a personal investment in them and believe that our very survival is dependent upon them. Faith in a God that will protect you- Paul’s encouragement and alternative to the belief of our need to be protected by myths- will actually and counter-intuitively free us to be the most skeptical towards ideologies and beliefs that claim to be permanent and set themselves “above every so-called god or object of worship” (2 Thess. 2:4), because our survival is not dependent on clinging to them. We can test neoliberalism’s claims with full skepticism, with the assurance that even if we reveal the empty idol that our survival does not depend on propping up this myth. Having come now only partially through our list, what might Paul’s letters continue to reveal for our last three phenomenon of fiscal austerity, privatization, and our public governments divestment of any ability to assert control, even for the public good, even democratically over financial institutions?

Our Generation’s Neoliberal Apocalypse: The Thessaloniki Programme, The Golden Dawn, and Paul the Apostle, Pt. 5

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Authorial Note: Pt. 1 can be found here,  Pt. 2 here,  Pt. 3 here, and Pt. 4 here

     Deep theological and political reflection will be the norm for most of our generation in the upcoming decades as the socio-economic and political apocalypse of the demise of neoliberalism unfolds, and, particularly for committed Christians young adults for whom 9/11 was the central event of their lives, the questions of praxis that result from this realization and embrace of the coming apocalypse are profound and detailed. What began as a vague question about the connections between the economic and political crisis in Greece and the questions raises by St. Paul the Apostle in his letters to the church in Thessalonica 300px-PaulThas become an exercise in something that Fyodor Dostoevsky undertook while envisioning the apocalypse coming upon 19th and 20th century Russia. Simply, this series has been an exercise in providing ‘spiritual’ answers to ‘political’ problems, or better yet, re-envisioning the faith of the New Testament not as a private religious belief, but as a socio-economic and political alternative to the ideologies that are bringing about a apocalypse in the world order. What we are not engaging in here is an exercise in Christian apologetics- defending a faith that is increasingly been abandoned or trying to revert to something- rather we are asking another question- what would it mean to be a Christian now? What would it mean to conceive of the vision of the Kingdom of God as an alternative society, in light of our current apocalypse? What is amazingly hopeful for writers, preachers, or really any believer right now should be is that the socio-economic questions and political questions that are being raised in our climate are eschatological questions. The questions are no longer about reacting to problems, or reforming broken systems, or legislating new laws, but precisely now that everything is about to end we can work toward something else, so what kind of society do we want?

     Listing the symptoms and the corresponding fears of the neoliberal socio-economic crisis and political apocalypse as we have perceived them from listening to the alternative visions being proposed, we would list them as follows:

  1. Internationalism and the loss of sovereignty  (Loss of Identity and Control)
  2. Mass illegal immigration (Invasion of an uncontrollable external force)
  3. The shaming of national pride by international law (Shame and humiliation)
  4. The destruction of the family (The break-up of social cohesion)
  5. Secularization of spiritual realities like nature and ethnicity (The disenchantment of life)
  6. Free trade (Privileged Secretive Conspiracies)
  7. Deregulation of financial markets (Fraud and deceit)
  8. Fiscal austerity (Loss of Material Security)
  9. Privatization (Theft)
  10. Public governments divested of any ability to assert control, even for the public good, even democratically over financial institutions (Overt Violent Domination)

Any alternative positive vision for society must address these fears and offer at least partial responses and alternative social practices to accompany them. But more then this, as we have seen, any alternative positive vision for society must offer a different anthropology then the antagonistic permanent binaries offered by either (1) self interested particular secular individualism (me versus everyone that stands in the way of my desires/ neoliberalism), (2) us-interested general egalitarian secular collectivism (humanity versus anyone we deem inhuman/ the radical ‘left’), or (3) us-interested particular ethnic glorified collectivism (us versus them/ the fascist ‘right’). What is suggested here is an extended thesis from a quote attributed to Thomas Merton that

“We are not at peace with others [socio-economics and politics] because we are not at peace with ourselves [anthropology], and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God [theology]”

     What however makes St. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians a suitable candidate for a spiritual resource to draw upon to offer an alternative positive vision for society?* The community Paul is addressing in his letter is a professional voluntary association in the ancient world- a rough contemporary equivalent are worker’s unions. The professional voluntary association is made of up of mostly non-Judean manual working men, perhaps in the leather trade of which Paul was a part of and of whom Paul is endeavouring to identify himself with in his appeal to this community- he too is part of the ‘working class’ if you will.  Voluntary associations are usually either religious groups or associations of a shared  trade, but more often than not these two functions went together- they were both a workers union and a religious group. Voluntary associations such as the Thessaloniki community often had rotating leadership cycles, and home grown leadership from those among their rank and trade, rather than imposed from the outside. Finally such groups often encompassed a general ethos of competition, orderliness, and contribution for funds relating to funerals, banquets, weddings, and such. If there was one ‘church’ from whom we could discern what a socio-economic and political alternative vision would look life, a ‘church’ whose central concerns were about what proper leadership and organization was and the distribution of resources, and was also asking these enormous important questions of praxis in the light of their current world order coming to an end (1 Thess. 5:1-3 in particular)- it was Paul’s voluntary association at Thessalonica.

     Let us begin then to read 1 & 2 Thessalonians** with this focus in mind and work our imaginations into seeing if and how the socio-economic and political alternative may be birthed from drawing upon this spiritual resource. What is the alternative anthropology is outlined in Paul’s letters? It is not based self interested particular secular individualism (me versus everyone that stands in the way of my desires) because it is acknowledged that human beings are communal creatures, defined by who they are related to, not what they are as isolated subjects. Paul introduced himself by mentioning his companions, he grounds his community based in their geography, he bases their movement in their resurrected leader, and that all of their action is formed by imitation of one another. The Thessalonian community is not defined in anyway abstractly as ‘sentient beings with rights’ or what not, but precisely by their relationship to everything else. Nor is the anthropology here a us-interested general egalitarian secular collectivism (humanity versus anyone we deem inhuman), because, as we will see, this community is defined separately from other groups of people not because they are human and their opposition are monsters or demons, but based precisely on their reception to the new movement of this particular community. Finally, it is not us-interested particular ethnic glorified collectivism (us versus them) because their identity is not rooted in their ethnicity, and they actually have international and ethnically diverse solidarity in Judea and elsewhere (2:14).

dilbert_misinterpretation

Apologies for the obscure terminology here

  The anthropology that Paul offers is none of these options but precisely a other-interested particular egalitarian glorified collectivism. The Thessalonian’s anthropology is rooted in its sole interest being for those outside its domain, it is particularity in its relationships, its glorification in being identified with the model divine human Jesus Christ, and its collectivist orientation is witnessed in its communal social structure and practice. Primarily then, having an other-orientation does not require you to erase your own identity, as in the radical ‘left’s’ vision- its not important to remember just how ‘human’ you are and have that shared humanity as your connection with others or boundary mark by which you exclude others. You and your community are particular subjects, not subsumed or erased by a general collective- you are allowed to be defined differently from others. Furthermore, being other-oriented and particular leads to egalitarianism because the “other/neighbour” that your are orientated to is an “other” precisely because they are unlike you, and thus your community must be ready to be unlike yourselves for you to even be included in who you are! Or as Paul says in another letter, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Cor. 9:22-23)- Paul cannot himself share in this community unless his own identity is radically egalitarian. It is this anthropology alone then that can address the first fear of our list of ten, of a loss of identity and control, a resultant of internationalism and loss of sovereignty. It offers an internationalist solidarity dependant upon no other particular secular authority that can take away your inclusion in the community- you have your particular identity, and your sovereignty cannot be revoked, while at the same time being internationalist in a shared transcendent authority of a common struggle. As Slavoj Žižek writes in Against the Double Blackmail in his rejection of liberal multi-culturalism, “Don’t just respect others: offer them a common struggle, since our problems today are common; propose and fight for a positive universal project shared by all participants” (100). The Thessalonians do not have to be uniform in anyway to the Judean Christians, nor do they have to be instructed and controlled by them, but they share international solidarity in their shared struggle (1 Thess. 2:13-16).

     The other-orientated particular egalitarian community then is glorified and not secular, because only if it is glorified can it even be other-orientated.  The other anthropologies offered by neoliberalism, the radical ‘left’, and the fascist-esque ‘right’, are all secular anthropologies precisely because in their definition of humanity, humanity is all on its own to protect or glorify itself- no grace or guidance in this universe, we must look out for ourselves or for our group. Only if then, like the Thessalonian community, you believe that grace is available and needed, that peace is on offer to you, can you begin to give up self-interest or your own community’s interests for others. The grace of God is the theology that can give birth to this other-oriented anthropology, nothing else. If peace with God leads to peace with ourselves, theology giving birth to anthropology, then what do these together birth in terms of a socio-economic and political organization of our relationships to each other and the planet. Or, what makes it collectivist? If the radical ‘left’ and the fascist ‘right’ offered proposals, what may we say some of the ethical proposals here are? Furthermore, how does the orientation of this community in Paul’s letter guide us as to how we should address the other nine fears associated with these large socio-economic and political forces at work?

     One of the central purposes of Paul’s first letter is to outline his own behaviour as a exemplary model, which he characterizes as sincere, gentle, and sacrificial. The first of many proposals then we might say from these letters is to actually sacrifice one’s own rights- the intentional relinquishment of judicial/human/earned rights. Paul says that he acted in this way ‘though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.’ (1 Thess. 2:7). Paul is speaking of relationships between individuals within a group, but what might this look like as a wider socio-political practice? Let us discuss honestly the issue of illegal immigration as the resultant socio-economic and political upheaval of the second of our ten fears- that of an uncontrollable external force that drains resource. Two ‘rights’ constantly referred to in the debate throughout much of Europe and North America about the current refugee crisis- a resultant, we might add of the demise of neoliberalism- are the human rights of the refugees to live free from persecution, and the rights of a nation to a secure boarder and to privilege its own citizens in its distribution of resources. When Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany responded to a Palestinian girl begging for asylum, she answered quite honestly, “… if we were to say you can all come … we just can’t manage it.” Let’s be frank, if everyone in Germany wanted to live with the same standards they have always had, there would not be enough. What if however we were to sacrifice our rights? Paul’s first proposal to us, of sacrificing our own rights for the sake of another, might lead a community founded upon this socio-economic and political alternative to embrace open boarders- sacrificing their right as a community to be protected from an outsider, and furthermore, the refugees would be encouraged to sacrifice all their rights of accommodation, recognizing that they too are to live self-sacrifically.

     Continuing from our first two conclusions thus far of (i) embracing internationalism on a transcendent common struggle and not uniformity of identity and (ii) embracing open boarders in a self-sacrifical ethic; another proposal we may glean from Paul’s letters is self-control when it comes to addressing our third phenomenon and its accompanying fear. We have international law in order to publicly shame nations that do not conform to some other international authority’s idea of the common good- we do not trust that they will hold themselves accountable to a moral standard, that self-control is an unreasonable expectation because neoliberalism has endowed us with the vision of pursuing desires without restraint as a good. 31ee61a06b428d2ce3b930b083576f36Paul speaks of self-control in sexual matters, making a passing pun to a male’s genitalia as a tool, not because sex is dirty or that the ‘flesh’ is evil, but precisely, ‘that no one wrong or exploit a brother in this matter’ (1 Thess. 4:6). Far from traditional religious prudishness, Paul and this community understand, alongside of Frank Underwood in HBO’s show House of Cardsthat “…everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.” We may say then that what Paul makes insight into here is that relationships of exploitation begin in matters pertaining to sexuality, where human beings are most naturally inclined to exploit each other for desire. We should not be surprised then that when its comes to shaming and humiliation of nations by bankers that there will be a sexual eroticized element to it for these bankers, a sado-maschism prevalent in all behaviour. What self-control as a socio-political practice may look like then is a communal asceticism such as celibate sexualities, non-consumption of pornography, the criminalization of procurers, and zero tolerance for sexual assault and rape- beginning with sexuality moving onto other areas of exploitation. Self-control can no longer be viewed as an unreasonable expectation as in neoliberalism, and thus external legal standards on which to humiliate and debase people can also no longer stand. Self-control is to embrace a restraint on desires because they are exploitative, and as a result of this internalization we can recognize that the desire to shame and humiliate others by external legal standards is in itself a sado-maschistic expression of desire.

     Thus three traces of alternative socio-economic and political practices to be enacted that we can discern are

  1. Internationalism and the loss of sovereignty  (Loss of Identity and Control)
    • Embracing internationalism on a transcendent common struggle and not uniformity of identity. Identity and struggle remain particular but internationalism is embraced on the commonality of struggle.
  2. Mass illegal immigration (Invasion of an uncontrollable external force)
    • Embracing open boarders in a self-sacrifical ethic. External forces and peoples use of resources are no longer things we must be afraid of for our own protection but rather opportunities for us to practice self-sacrifice in our other-interested orientation.
  3. The shaming of national pride by international law (Shame and humiliation)
    • Embracing self-control and communal asceticism, especially rooted and beginning with human interactions of sexuality. An internalized conscience addresses the fear of being ashamed and humiliated because you already examine yourself critically, and, furthermore, only diminishes the need for an external force law that people use against one another as an expression of a sado-maschist desire itself.

Traces, that is what we have so far. How might these letters be further read to address these other seven socio-economic and political issues and fears?

__________________________

*Most of the following is drawn from:  Ascough, Richard S. “The Thessalonian Christian Community as a Professional Voluntary Association.” Journal of Biblical Literature 119, no. 2 (July 1, 2000): 311–28. doi:10.2307/3268489.

** Readers are encouraged to read both letters, for instance here, before continuing if there is no imitate knowledge of the content of these letters already.

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