Archives For February 2011

My ministry context revolves around those who, by and large, have sold out to the quest for the “American Dream.” Consumerism and materialism are matters of course, so embedded within the culture they are barely noticed by those who have lived here for any length of time.

Material poverty is relatively low (and well-hidden) yet poverty of time is high. Schedules are packed with work and “play,” both of which attempt to further or reflect the “dream.” As a result, financial margin is low. Many households are living on the brink personal financial collapse. Continue Reading…


The keystone of Karl Polany’s The Great Transformation is what he calls the “double movement” (loc. 3,442). Polanyi explains that at the same time that laissez-faire was encouraging rapid market expansion in all directions, a countermovement to protect citizens from the effects of this self-regulating market (SRM) expansion was also taking place. This double movement was an attempt to resist the disembedded nature of the SRM utopia. On some level, even the staunchest market liberals intuited a need for limitations and restrictions that would protect people from the market’s potential ills (see Fred Block’s comments in the Introduction at loc. 459 and following). Polanyi holds that it was this tension, in the form of the double movement, that allowed SRM to move so quickly from theory to reality in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This got me thinking about other “double movements.” Where else do we see almost paradoxical tensions providing the basis for the actualization of things that could otherwise never be? Continue Reading…

Brueggemann closes the Introduction of his commentary on the first half of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1-25: To Pluck Up, To Tear Down) by writing,

The text does not need to be applied to our situation. Rather, our situation needs to be submitted to the text for a fresh discernment (17, emphasis his).

What it "meant" has incredible power to "mean" now. It meant then that Yahweh would work a powerful, savage, pathos-filled purpose with that people, and it still means that that purpose is at work among us. It meant that Yahweh could grieve a terrible ending, and it still means we face terrible endings over which Yahweh grieves. It meant that Yahweh had the resilient power to work a newness among the displaced, and it still means that Yahweh's resilient power is at work in such displacements. It meant and means that the prideful empire, the pitiful royal leadership, the self-serving religionists, the cynical forces in society, cannot have their way, for history with Yahweh is about another intention. To be sure, the meaning we receive from the text is nuanced very differently from its early "meant." Our meaning is transmitted through our Enlightenment modes of scientific and rational autonomy. We cannot so easily ascribe the shape of the historical process to a single agent. . . . Nonetheless, this textual tradition in its anguish and in its buoyancy witness to an inescapable hovering of God that is oddly sovereign in ways that outdistance our desperate modernity. Poetic anguish, lyrical expectation, metaphorical openness, and imaginative ambiguity are ways in which sovereign hurt and fidelity are mediated to us. This powerful mediating shocks our intellectual self-confidence and invites us to reengage life with courage, awe, and submissiveness (18-19).

Kindle Software Update Version 3.1

Image of Kindle

We have a new, free software update available for your Kindle that is being delivered via a Wi-Fi connection over the next few days. To receive the update, please turn your wireless on and connect to an available Wi-Fi network (learn how to set up Wi-Fi on your Kindle). The software update will automatically download in the background and install the next time your Kindle goes into sleep mode. You can also manually download the update to your Kindle right now. Continue Reading…

Polanyi and Peace

February 19, 2011 — 6 Comments


Most Christians, if asked if they know any words in Hebrew, will come up with at least one: shalom. When asked what shalom means, the most common response is, “peace.” Though it is used in a variety of ways in Biblical literature, shalom is often translated as “peace.” Our connotation of the word “peace” is inextricable linked–and often defined by–its antonym, “war.” Peace is usually seen as the absence of war.

Much of my reading and writing is centering on shalom. Whenever I come across and author’s use of “peace” I’m eager to understand how he or she unpacks the idea and compare that with my developing understanding of a fuller sense of shalom. Karl Polanyi, in his The Great Transformation seeks to chronicle the rise of the modern nation-state and market economy as linked social structures, embedded with one another. Early in the book he deals with the role of peace in the development of both. Continue Reading…


The second half of Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism attempts to weave together Calvinist, Pietist, Baptist, and Quaker contributions to Christian asceticism into the development the spirit of capitalism I wrote about in my last post and which Weber utilized Franklin to typify. With growing emphasis on works as a "proof" of salvation (though not connected to the effectiveness of salvation) Christian asceticism moved out of the exclusive domain of monks and nuns and "strode into the market-place of life, slammed the door of the monastery behind it, and undertook to penetrate just that daily routine of life with its methodicalness, to fashion it into a life in the world, but neither of nor for this world" (Kindle location 2,064).
Continue Reading…


February 2, 2011 — Leave a comment

I think my posts are getting too long. I hope you still read them. However, in case you don't, here is a haiku summarizing my previous post on Part I of Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Is it my duty, or greed
cloaked with religion?

Capitalism is Like Sex…

February 2, 2011 — 9 Comments


Capitalism is like sex. It can feel great and glorify God all at the same time, or it can be used to abuse and dehumanize. I think that capitalism by itself is morally neutral. I want to go ahead and get that out there in the beginning so there is no confusion on where I stand. My own personal experience has led me to a place of great caution (which borders on fear and paranoia, at times) when it comes to capitalistic machinations. However, I realize that my viewpoint is the result of my particular life path and may not accurately reflect the breadth and depth all that capitalism has to offer. Still, the adage “once bitten, twice shy” applies in my case.
Continue Reading…