Posted by: HAT | November 3, 2009

Responsible Utopian Discourse?

image of mosaic A Glimpse of Paradise

A Glimpse of Paradise

What constitutes responsible utopian discourse? How does a person, how do people, engage in responsible utopian discourse?

In this context, “responsible” means something like “telling the truth,” “offering hope without encouraging false hope,” and “taking action in a utopian direction, without atrocity.”

Obviously — perhaps to everyone but me — my interest in utopian discourse has a lot to do with my involvement in the church. It is an extension of the same old question I’ve been asking in various ways for the last 30 years. Where is the truth in this, and how do we [christians] embrace that, without perpetuating the untruth, and the harms and injustices that have been part of the life of the church since its inception?

Because the church, christians, are perpetually engaged in utopian discourse, part and parcel of christian messianic expectation. The existence of the church is an affirmation of the foolhardy wisdom of utopian expectation and pro-utopian practice. Christians are all about looking for and participating in the in-breaking of the kingdom of God in the world, and proclaiming the good news of that.

Or anyway, are supposed to be all about that. In historical and contemporary fact, we are not all about it, on many occasions we are visibly also about other things, like making the congregational budget, or “supporting our troops,” or doing ethnic cleansing.

Sometimes the messianic expectation gets lost in a thicket of theological complexity, or theological argument. Sometimes it gets portrayed as something to expect after death, as a prescription for resignation and the embrace of suffering in the present, without any efforts to realize good news in the context of life. Sometimes it gets so spiritualized that a person could forget that the kingdom of God is about food, and wine, and touching and being touched (Jesus touches people a lot, and Song of Songs was in the Bible long before 1 Corinthians).

The church, christians, really only have one story to tell. But how to tell that story, so that it remains true to its truth, and doesn’t get captured and coopted by the various alternative versions that in the end turn out to be “other gospels”?

This is one of those questions that we actually need to answer, and some answers are better than others.


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