First a note: I have not been working on this blog much lately. I have any number of excuses -- Matthew class, work, hectic family life. I am also having a bitter time fighting off partisan-political complaints about the current era. (And while I don't apologize for my political decisions, I buy that Jesus doesn't support either candidate. Consequently, I am in tension between my knee-jerk reactions and my feelings of responsibility to be fair -- which usually means being unfair to my candidates.) But the bottom line is that I have been feeling less and less pontifical (I still envy Al Kimel's calling dibs on the title "Pontificator," but he at least has some substantial claim to it); I feel less and less confident that I have anything to say. And I think I'm in a thinking-burn-out zone.
So I'm going to fall back a bit and simply note good things I'm reading, along with any questions that may arise for me. And I'll continue to hope that I get meaty replies from the two or three of you who check in.
Today's tidbit comes thanks to Walt Brueggemann. I think he's a good writer -- and one with a lot to say (and most of which I agree with). I hope he stays healthy and productive for a long time.
In the current issue of Theology Today (a fine journal -- even if not of the quality of Pro Ecclesia), he writes a most timely article, "Prophetic Ministry in the National Security State." It's good reading (his styling is wonderful to read; it must have been honey to hear at the 2007 Festival of Homiletics). But I pick up on one little point.
He cites to Abraham Heschel (who will be in heaven -- that's all there's to that), who has written (in Who Is Man?) that "the loss of embarrassment is the quintessential loss of human capability" (Brueggemann's characterization of Heschel's point). In context, Brueggemann is exegeting Jeremiah 6, where Jeremiah castigates his society which has so perverted language that they hide the effects of their greed behind the claim that "all is well" -- i.e., "shalom." Bruggemann shows that Jeremiah says, as his great indictment -- a kind of coup de grace --, that the society has so deteriorated that "They do not know how to blush." Then he (Brueggemann, not Jeremiah) cites to Heschel.
That observation is ripe with connections for me. I remember that what brought Joe McCarthy down was the attorney's rhetorical question of him, "Have you no shame." And I wonder is this: Does this relate to the Genesis narrative? When the man and woman in the Garden, in Genesis, cover themselves with leaves, they explain to God that they knew they were naked and were ashamed. Does the Genesis author signal that, as depraved as the human condition was as a result of the Fall, the durability of the imago dei remained intact -- so that the ability of humanity to feel shame, embarrassment, acknowledgment of its/their less-than-should-be held out hope for humans?
With all the Bible's talk of pride, arrogance, self-importance -- the very opposites of embarrassment or shame -- are we called to shame, to embarrassment at our sin?
I know that linguists among us will want to make fine and broad distinctions between embarrassment and shame. But do they not root in the same emotional state? So can we not take them together.
Robert Jenson taught me that a quality of being alive is the ability to surprise. Here we have another fundamental human capability -- the ability to feel the need to hide one's face.