Finding the Words

If it brings me to my knees// It’s a bad religion – Frank Ocean[1]

I’m a deadbeat cousin, I hate family reunions//Fuck the church up by drinkin after communion// Spillin’ free wine, now my tux is ruined – Kanye West[2]

Here it is not the creativity of the fatwa that matters, but rather its capacity to enable a self to stay and advance upon an already defined path toward an ideal Muslim self. And that capacity is found not in reforming them to fit modern times, but in the skill of using them discerningly to “say the right words at the right time” for the person who seeks guidance… – Hussein Agrama[3]


I’m not terribly pious these days. And it is for that reason, that I have a growing respect for the Catholics who only cross themselves when the bulls are down by three and there are only seven left on the clock. This strikes me as an honest way of living, because it proceeds from within the practices at hand without attempting to supersede their fictional character. It’s all in the act. But there are two ways things can go: Are we working with the material or is it working on us and moulding us? Or perhaps there is a third way (no theobro), could it be the case that it is both? No, it is not both. And I’m not going to elaborate on that.

It turns out that the taxi driver knows very little about unrequited love, and the kinds of ‘bad religion’ that try to redeem it, and sometimes the communion wine is not enough to drown out debt or police sirens. Can I have a bottle to myself, please? And yes, I will drink from a chalice and I would like to see you try and stop me. With that said, it is still the case that we are just trying to discern how to say the right things at the right time. It would be nice if there were mufti’s who cared for all of us, but the wilderness is pretty remote and sometimes it is hard to stay in touch.

On his latest album The Life of Pablo, it seems like Kanye is exploring the hard work of discernment and guidance. This is a gospel album, but in what sense? Where exactly is the good news of this album? It is in no particular place. It makes its appearance on no particular song. If you are looking for some kind of ‘event’ (truth or otherwise) you will not find it here. Instead, you will find the sounds and textures of the extended present, and if you listen carefully you can hear some good news. The good news is that there is still news to be told. The rights words to say, have not been discerned, but thankfully there are still words to be said. And thankfully, there is still a Kanye West to say things amidst the ongoing failures at saying the right things at the right time. The scattered nature of Kanye’s latest runs against the grain of other artists attempts to retrieve ‘purpose’ and reach a state of stability. The gospel of Purpose vs. The gospel of ongoing discernment and making of life. Bieber has found a gospel or a “purpose” that acts upon him. Kanye has found nothing, and is trying to slog through the material at hand, and occasionally say a prayer or two.

The Life of Pablo is not that far from ‘no church in the wild’. There really is no church in the wild, but all is not lost. There is still the sounds of our attempts to organize, to say the right things at the right time. This might not be church in the wild, but I think it works for now. Like Buzzer-beater prayers, it is a fiction that I can live with.



[1] Frank Ocean “Bad Religion” Channel Orange (Def Jam, 2012).

[2] Kanye West “Real Friends” The Life of Pablo (GOOD music, 2016).

[3] Agrama, Hussein Ali. Questioning Secularism, P.182


Miroslav Volf’s theo-statuses

I’ve been following Miroslav Volf on Facebook for the past couple of months and I’m consistently surprised at the amount of people who “like” some of his (pretty much daily) status updates. I have to say, I’m somewhat bewildered as to why, and I’m not really sure what the purpose of his theo-status updates are. Here are several recently popular ones:

“Overheard: When speaking about others in their absence, say only what will make them look better in the eyes of those who hear you.” 256 likes

“On the cross, God doesn’t treat sin as if it were not sin; God doesn’t merely disregarding it, but condemns it and bears the burden of it.” 148 likes

“If you can buy or sell it, it’s not the water of life. “To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment.”” 154 likes

“Our fear magnifies the power of terror; to combat terror and its effects we need courage more than we need guns.” 210 likes

“We love Jesus, but we in fact keep him at bay. We don’t want to come too close because he demands almost as much as he gives.” 225 likes

“To love God is to love what God loves; to love what God loves (and love it the way God loves) is to love God.” 171 likes

“We disrespect our faith & diminish its power in trying to convert others. Better to bear witness to Christ who draws people to himself.” 318 likes

“We act as if our anger, even anger at injustice, can bring peace to the world—an example of the self-defeating politics of impure hearts.” 215 likes

“One died—all died; One was raised—all were raised with him. God separates sin from the sinner through humanity’s dying with rising with Christ.” 182 likes

Summer in Pauingassi First Nation or Why I have not been posting

My posts here for the spring/summer have been quite meager, almost unforgivably so. And this is likely to continue throughout the rest of the summer right up until fall when I head back to school. This is because I am spending my summer in Pauingassi First Nation, a reserve in Manitoba, doing children’s programming under the auspices of Child and Family Services here partnered with Mennonite Church Manitoba. To say the least, it is a great job with many moments of joy and challenge. To read more about what I am up to, or to stay posted in general throughout the summer, you can check out where I will be blogging more regularly.

In Praise of Ignorance?

Over the past few days this image has been floating around on the internet.Image(It would seem that putting together complete sentences is also a struggle…)

While this meme is (or appears to be) rather innocent, worth a few laughs, it is also a blatant articulation of a troublesome attitude I have noticed amongst a variety of “Arts-Humanities” type people. This attitude roughly follows the subsequent progression: Continue reading

“You scored as Emergent/Postmodern”

Quizzes have their limitations but are occasionally interesting.  I am a little bit concerned with my results on this one because I don’t feel alienated from older forms of church and I’m not concerned with connecting the church to modern culture either.  I would not associate myself with the Emergent church and its American forerunners (Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, etc.) but the emphasis on dialogue and ecumenism both inter-denominational as well as inter-faith is something I am interested in, but for political, social, and ethical reasons.

You Scored as Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don’t think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern                         82%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan            57%

Roman Catholic                                       50%

Neo Orthodox                                          50%

Classical Liberal                                      39%

Modern Liberal                                       36%

Charismatic/Pentecostal                       18%

Reformed Evangelical                             11%

Fundamentalist                                         4%