Joel and Dave discuss a potential alternative to Christians adopting the tactics of special interest groups, madly scrambling for power in the competitive world of politics. They reflect on James Davison Hunter’s proposal for ‘faithful presence’. Hunter argues that Christians must form persons and communities in different spheres of life that foster peace or embody the character of God. But can ‘faithful presence’ be cultivated in the absence of a political vision? Hunter’s account of politics (and its dangers or limits) is arguably governed by the sociologist’s obsession with power, something that Christians might challenge. Constantinianism is mentioned. As are Batman and Superman. It’s all related.
Joel and Dave consider what is needed to create cultural change. They discuss James Davison Hunter’s claim that Christians are all too individualistic, pietistic, and worldview-istic. And his argument for networks of elites at the centre of cultural institutions. Is this Christian theorising of change or business card exchanges at popular NYC churches? Dave’s class-sense is tingling.
This week Joel and Dave go all 'why, church? why?' and discuss many of their pet peeves about how churches can order their worship. From pastors trying to out do the creeds, to 40 minute explain-athons, they've got complaints about everything!
Joel and Dave discuss how disability poses a challenge to a liberal understanding of dignity grounded in personal autonomy. How can a Christian personalist perspective provide resources for understanding disability and human flourishing? What does it mean to view people with intellectual disabilities as a gift to the Christian community? All this and more on our 20th episode extravaganza!
Joel and Dave discuss what it means to be a person. Liberal thought tends to understand the dignity of the individual as arising from a capacity for ethical freedom. This poses difficulties – not simply for how we understand the ends of the individual, but how we understand those who do not fit the autonomy mould. In contrast, Joel and Dave raise Christian personalism. Within this tradition of reflection, the person is understood fundamentally as a creative gift, uniquely needed for the building of a communion oriented to God. That has radical implications: for our churches, for labour practices, for understanding disability (next week’s topic), for recognising Dave’s gift for imparting wise words to newborn babies.
Dave and Joel are taking the week off. Never fear! As a substitute enjoy a recording of Dave's recent public lecture 'Loneliness and the Search for Self' where he talks loneliness, totalitarianism, social media, and the redemptive power of art.
Dave introduces Harry Frankfurt's influential essay 'On Bullshit'. Frankfurt describes a new form of discourse that disentangles itself from traditional categories of truth and falsehood. What happens to politics, academia, and religion when language becomes a game? Can concern for social justice or the souls of others justify meaningless or manipulative discourse? How will Dave handle Natalie Portman becoming Thor? Answers abound!
Joel and Dave discuss religious liberty and the on-going case of Israel Folau, a now former Wallabies rugby player with a not so good meme-game. They consider several problematic arguments circulating: the claim that contract is foundational; an emphasis on brand management; and a focus on religious liberty as moral autonomy. Call it a syllabus of errors all round. Call it the closest Dave will ever get to talking rugby.
Joel and Dave talk about love, the popular show Fleabag, and Augustine’s Confessions. They discuss how our desires can both be directed towards something good but at the same time destructively disoriented, how desire needs grace – so we can experience each other as a subject of fathomless depths who is loved by God – and how desire may consequently move us towards God. What does a sex-mad 30-something in London have to say to us? Quite a bit. And this podcast? That youth groups can be messed up.
Dave and Joel discuss how talk of ‘cultural Marxism’ can distract us from a much more needed examination of liberalism. Rather than radical cultural Marxists, we have different ‘sides’ within an intra-liberal debate. Market freedoms or expressive individualism – the state facilitating forms of autonomy. Dave and Joel get worked up about what this says about the nature of freedom and society, and how the Church, participating in this tradition, is stripped of its moral vocabulary. It’s your weekly rant (or, for some, ‘illicit pleasure’).
Dave and Joel discuss the concept of 'cultural Marxism' and the role that it plays in strands of contemporary conservative discourse. Does the term 'cultural Marxism' actually point to anything? How might supposed 'cultural Marxists' help the Church criticise contemporary social imaginaries? Can we all please stop using this term? Is Dave a Ninja Turtle? All this and more on the first Eucatastrophe two part special.
Joel and Dave discuss the modern quest for authenticity, a key idea in our time. ‘Authenticity’ is often wedded to theories of ethical individualism, or even pursuing commodities in the market. The person true to his own understanding of the divine or moral conviction; the sneakerhead cultivating an identity; the social media profile presenting an authentic me. Is authenticity the antithesis of searching for shared ends? Joel and Dave consider how authenticity, differently understood, is crucial to a life together. All part of Dave’s plot to bring more of the feels to the podcast.
This week Dave makes Joel uncomfortable by getting confessional, discussing his conversion to reformed Evangelical Christianity, and how it provided him with intellectual resources necessary to deal with a messy world. The power of Reformed theology, according to Dave, is its great explanatory power. Yet what happens when the intellectual system collapses as it does for so many? Dave and Joel discuss two possible responses to such a crisis: post-evangelicalism, and militant atheism, and how both operate on the same logic as the thing which they are seeking to reject.
Joel and Dave discuss 'The Benedict Option', Rod Dreher's book arguing that Christians, now alienated from a world they thought was their own, must form parallel communities. (AKA Hauerwas for reactionaries.) While sympathetic to the communal themes, they have some problems. Is Dreher's 'option' another project of liberalism? Why this option, singular? Can Christian attempts to build parallel communities ever be divorced from civil authority, or the common good? Will Dave escape the clutches of cultural marxism? Same bat-time. Same bat-channel.
Joel and Dave discuss what happens when the state withdraws from a place, creating a sacrifice zone of economic and environmental devastation. They ruminate on dark things: geographic places and economic spheres in which those deemed unworthy of full moral consideration must live. How is this central to the logic of the liberal state promoting infinite desire or freedom? Where does a response begin? Spoiler: St Paul helps.
Joel and Dave discuss the fire of Notre Dame. What does the outpouring of grief over a Christian cathedral tell us about the longings of a post-secular age? They contrast this with the tendency to create 'non-places' in late-capitalist, cosmopolitan cities: spaces transitory, ahistorical, interchangeable, empty, and unjust. Unsurprisingly, they suggest that ecclesial spaces may offer an alternative to this dehumanising trend.
Dave and Joel offer an unapologetically pretentious and exuberant review of Avengers: Endgame. They discuss narrative delight; Christian humanist heroes; desire for enchantment; and the joy of the eucatastrophe – the denial of universal final defeat. Wordsworth, Tolstoy, and Homer are mentioned. Spoilers, both emotional and narrative, are constant.
Dave and Joel discuss Paul Schrader's 'First Reformed' - what it says about a life of introspection, despair against a backdrop of cataclysmic climate change, the hope of natality, and the sense of alienation from one's own tradition. Spoilers abound.
Dave and Joel rail against a common line: "Christianity is a relationship, not a religion". Against talk of an individualised relationship, they discuss how Christian religion points to ethical formation for a common life. Religion is something - a practice, an orientation, a virtue - that shapes us personally and corporately, spiritually and politically. Cards are put on the table. Listeners will be alienated. Ministers will suggest "meeting up for coffee."
Dave and Joel discuss what it means to respect a religion. In the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, there have been renewed calls to embrace our Islamic neighbours and reject anti-Islamic bigotry. While positive, much of this (and current) rhetoric does not address Islam on its own terms, instead reducing it to a form of identity. Dave and Joel discuss how respecting religion means recognising the nature of a community or tradition, and the claim that there is in fact a (good) religious end to be sought.
Dave and Joel discuss whether loneliness is ‘baked-into’ a liberal understanding of society and political authority. They then turn to Hannah Arendt’s thought that loneliness is a precursor to totalitarianism because it reflects a loss of ‘common sense’. This, they wildly suggest, is echoed in some churches. An emphasis on an unmediated and personal relationship can mean memory loss or loss of the grammar of a tradition.
Dave and Joel discuss the religious desire for the transcendent, and how this can go in terrible and banal directions, as well as the theological task of making things in the world strange. JRR Tolkien’s essay ‘On Fairy Tales’ provides the jumping-off point. It also provides the name ‘eucatastrophe’. Convenient.
Joel and Dave lay some of their cards on the table, unpacking a few of the basic assumptions framing their conversations. They discuss how the primacy of the self-determining individual cuts across most political and religious thought and why they think that is a problem.