Floating Like Jellyfish with the Tide

Chagall WindowsOn my way to something else this morning, I unearthed a gem from Miroslav Volf that lay buried in a long-forgotten meditation on capitalism that I had published many years ago. While reading that gem today, I immediately remembered what Walter Brueggemann recently wrote about capitalism. Together, their ideas merged in my mind with the previous post, which is not about capitalism. It’s funny, is it not, the alchemy of independent and seeming disparate ideas meeting as if guided by, well, shall we say, an invisible hand to give birth to the Aha! moment of a new and important connection.

The birth this morning was the thought that capitalism is one of the love affairs we have that sidetracks us from a more consistent practice of the kind of Christian identity and subsequent relevance in society that Jürgen Moltmann’s words in the previous post remind us of. See if you too get the connection.

For some time now I have been troubled by the seeming disappearance of any robust alternative to the pervasive culture of late capitalism, whether in the church or in the society at large. We are drowning in floods of consumer goods and are drenched in showers of media images. We live a smorgasbord culture in which everything is interesting and nothing really matters. We have lost a vision of the good life, and our hopes for the future are emptied of moral content.

Instead of purposefully walking to determinate places, we are aimlessly floating with random currents. Of course, we do get exercised by issues and engage in bitter feuds over them. But that makes us even less capable of resisting the pull of the larger culture, a resistance that would take shape in formulating and embodying a coherent alternative way of life….

If we can neither state what the gospel is nor have a clear notion of what constitutes the good life, we will more or less simply float along, like jellyfish with the tide. True, a belief in our ability to shape the wider culture is woven into the fabric of our identity. So we complain and act. But in the absence of determinate beliefs and practices, our criticism and activism will be little more than one more way of floating. (The Christian Century, April 5, 2000)

The liberal U.S. state has morphed into a predatory economy of unfettered freedom for the powerful. (Walter Brueggemann’s shot across the brow, warning about the deep and unreserved affimations of the liberal state that come from some theologians. From The Christian Century, March 5, 2014.)

©2015 by Charles Strohmer

Photo: Chagall Windows, by Benjamin (Google Images)

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