Sunday, June 30, 2013

III By Contrast . . .

[Continuing the article by Michael Downey. CSQ, 45.1, 2010]

We find ourselves within a world context marked on many fronts by disillusionment and disappointment. The reason for disappointment is not hard to find. Efforts in the bygone century to present a persuasive picture of a future filled with promise have failed so many. Ours is a time marked by interruption and disorientation wherein the center no longer seems to hold, and where there is increasing doubt about the trustworthiness of claims to any objective or absolute truth, especially those put forward on the basis of authority alone, even divinely ordained authority. The Church's position in the current world is not as secure as it once was. The recent sexual-abuse scandals and the ostensibly incomprehensible decisions of Church leaders in the face of the sexual misconduct of its members has not helped to safeguard the Church's place as an authentic voice of good news addressed first and finally to the vulnerable and the weak, the last, lost, littlest, and least. Even as the Church continues unabated in an effort to convey a coherent, all-encompassing global vision into which everything fits, there is widespread recognition that it is foolhardy to try to establish a solution that is perennially valid, self-evidently true, and intelligible to any reasonable person.
The French term bricolage suggests how to face complex matters in a chaotic, fragmented world marked by plurality and ambiguity. Bricolage is a lining up of whatever is at hand, gathering bits and pieces, pulling together strands from here and there in the way one would stitch a patchwork quilt, or construct figurines from pieces of scrap metal found in a junk heap. The term describes an approach to a particular matter or concern that gathers insight from whatever is at hand, assembling insights in the way of a conceptual beggar in order to provide some small perspective, recognizing that this is necessarily partial and limited. Bricolage is best done not in strict adherence to a plan set in granite, but to the creative dynamism as it unfolds and gives direction in interaction with the materials at hand.

The theologian must be a sort of conceptual beggar, looking here and there for scraps of insight, hunches and intuitions that impel the desire for an answer to theology's prime question. The theologian strives for a coherent, if not comprehensive, view. But for all our striving for comprehensiveness we know that there are facts in each and every "here and now," in this or that "time and place," that don't fit. As a consequence, the adequacy of the theological system itself is called into question. Necessarily each and every theological system fails to answer theology's single most important question: "Who is God?" and so we begin again. And again. This is unwelcome news for the convinced.


Anonymous sgl said...

re: Bricolage

a concrete (and inspiring) example:
Landfill Harmonic (3:28)
The world sends us garbage... We send back music.

a longer version:
Landfill Harmonic Amazing and Inspirational (11:45)

The "Landfill Harmonic" (Landfill harmonic - La armonía del vertedero - Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados de Cateura)

An orchestra for kids with instruments made from trash? A cello made from an oil can and pieces of wood, that were thrown in the garbage; a saxophone made of spoons and buttons. These instruments are crafted by Nicolas, a 'recycler' with no previous experience making musical instruments, who is living 'hand-to-mouth' by the garbage dump in Catuera, Paraguay. Inspired by this initiative and creativity, Maestro Luis Szaran, director of "Sounds of the Earth," formed the 'recycled orchestra,' with children living near the dump. "Our main goal isn't to form good musicians, but to form good citizens." Now 30 members strong, (and looking for more, for a full orchestra) listen to the sweet sounds of these 'recycled' instruments and the hopes and dreams of the children who play them. ... Be Amazed and Inspired!


you can also google and find news stories, but of course text can't capture the sounds, or the look on the kids faces.

10:10 pm, June 30, 2013  
Anonymous sgl said...

and another description of theological bricolage which i like, from richard beck, psychology prof at abilene christian university, from his personal blog "experimental theology":

The Shipwrecked and the Catchers

On my bike ride to work today I was trying to think about how this blog might sound to more conservative Christians and how it might appear to the rest of us. This was the analogy I came up with.

If your faith and doctrine are like a beautiful house, with the clean lines of certainty and the firm foundation of God's Truth, then letting me into your house would be, I'd expect, quite unsettling. Because I'd always be looking at a wall and saying "Is this a load bearing wall? Let me knock it down to see!" Day in and day out, this is exactly what this blog would feel like. Me trying to knock down every wall in the house. In short, from this vantage point--inside a beautiful house--all my work appears to be inherently destructive, breaking down and tearing up this beautiful building. So of course you'd want me to stop that. You'd want to protect the house.

But that's not really the best way to understand this blog. See, I had a nice house once. But a hurricane hit it. From a faith perspective I'm in a post-Katrina situation. All I have left is a bunch of rubble.

So what I do here, week in and week out, is to try to piece this rubble back together. In any given post you'll see me holding up two broken pieces of faith and wondering "Do these go together?" Or, because much of what I find in the rubble is broken and beyond repair, you'll also find me in any given post bulldozing stuff out of the way to clear room for the faith I'm constructing.

In short, when you read this blog you are watching a person pick through the rubble of his faith, a person trying to find anything useful that has been left behind.

So if you come here already living in a nice house what I'm doing here is, given your fireside view, going to feel destructive to you. But if you realize I'm actually standing on a heap of rubble hopefully you'll see that what I'm doing is constructive. I'm building, I'm not tearing down.

And this building is very much a work in progress. I don't know where it all is heading. I just keep at the work, looking for ways to build a shelter of faith from the rubble I'm standing on. And this very personal agenda governs the way I search theology. I'm not a theologian. And much of what passes for theology today leaves me cold. So when I read theology I'm actually looking for a lifeline, some new way of thinking about this rubble that allows me to fit the pieces together.


10:28 pm, June 30, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Please, this is part of a piece by Michael Downey. It is my fault for not putting his name on each section instead of the beginning and the end! Please change the attribution. It is what I have written in other words, but it is his article. Thanks MR

11:20 am, July 09, 2013  

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