Tag Archives: capitalism

On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and consumer capitalism?


I read this excellent bvenus_de_milo1logpost by Sarah Schwartz, and American Christian blogger, in which she apologises for the damaging way men are often viewed in her (sub)culture. A quite horrible view of men, that’s preached not just by women, but by men too. The way she expresses it goes probably a lot further than what I know from local Christian circles, but I do recognise it nonetheless. What’s more troubling is that I recognise it not mainly from Christian circles but much more strongly from other places, and it’s something I’ve always been sensitive towards because I found it quite painful.

I posted the post above on my facebook-wall with a quote from her and a short introduction:

Quite sexist to reduce men to this, not? I hope she exaggerates, but I do recognise some of it…
“You are nothing but a slave to your desires. You are a sex hungry, uncontrollable, animal-like creature with no capacity for empathy or self-control. It is laughable to think that you could possibly prize relationships over sex, people over sex, vows over sex. You are sub-human, and no one expects anything different from you.”

The first person on facebook who reacted, Simon, has no connection at all to American Christian fundamentalism at all, but did surely recognise it as a very real problem, even on facebook:

Too bad the capitalist consumerist greedy types never cease trying to rewire our brains… For example: as a male I am constantly bombarded with sex ads on facebook (to a point where it’s disgusting me), even after I ‘told’ facebook I’m in a relationship. It’s a never ending onslaught and I think it’s degrading for men as well as for women. We are more than sex hungry creatures who can’t control ourselves. We are more. People are more. Even most animals are more. But ‘they’ don’t want us to be more. They want to control us, divide us, make us manageable to be able to make lots of profit doing the least amount of effort possible.

And yes, it’s true, if Sarah’s quote above is the description of how men are seen in American Christian fundamentalism and likewise-minded circles, it does not differ much at all of how the media and the advertisement industry in our Western system of consumer capitalism is constantly abusing us, just for profit.
The only big and very substantial difference here is that fundamentalism wants to stop this, to keep men down and to draws walls around them and puts us in boxes imprisoned by guilt, and that consumer capitalism abuses it, that it wants to make money out of it, reducing both men and women to less than humans for the sake of Mammon, which is very, very, very, low.

What’s very painful is that I’ve met enough men (and women) who just go along the lines and follow the flow, who let themselves dehumanise, and act like it could not be differently. As if we are indeed hard-wired for this as modern ideologies as fundamentalism and pop-Freudianism claim, and that we can’t function otherwise. We buy into the lie, and buy the crap the want to sell us, and let it destroy potential relationships and friendships and trust and intimacy, and…
And I refuse to believe the lie, and I refuse to accept that the lie is being spread, that people are indoctrinated and re-wired to fit the “man=animal, woman=prey” stuff. I refuse this as a Christian, as a humanist, as a human being, as the human being that I am, as a friend of both men and women, as a lover, and as a father of 2 little girls.

Problem here, if we speak about ‘wiring’, is neuro-plasticity which results in the possibility of strong conditioning by making connections in our brains. Like Pavlov’s dogs we can be conditioned in a lot of ways, and also reprogrammed later in other ways. If I compare men to Pavlov’s dogs here it’s not to reduce them to animals, but because that’s how it works biologically for both Homo sapiens and Canis lupus familiaris.
On the other hand, conditioning can be changed if we change our habits. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. We are not hardwired, and we can be rewired. We should work on this re-wiring if it hinders us from being human! This leads us to the old-fashioned idea of virtue, in which we follow a certain path of life that forms us.

I might need to clarify the word ‘misandry’ in the title for some of my readers, a words that means something as hatefullness towards man. It is a parallel to the word misogyny, which is actually the more visible part of the same problem here.
I don’t have a better word, but I am aware that it might a word that is rarely used (my spellchecker doesn’t know it) and that when it’s used, it is sometimes employed by people who come from a ‘war of the sexes’ worldview who say feminism should be fought in every possible way and want to turn the relationship between misogyny and misandry in a zero-sum game. I completely reject this line of thought, and want to be clear that I believe that sexism always has 2 sides, and that every system with heavy sexism against female human beings has another way of dehumanising male human beings, no matter how much power and privilege they have. Disconnect both sexes from each other and everybody gets dehumanised.
(I do think about Ursula Le Guins short stories about the planet Seggri here, with men having all the privilege, but women having all the rest, see my post on the sex-life of aliens and sexism on Earth) We need to treat both sexes (and all people who don’t fall into 2 binary genders) equally as humans. There is no other way. A zero-sum game approach to either women’s rights or men’s rights, or emmancipation of any minority group will always and invariably lead to some kind of ‘animal farm revolution’ which ends up with the same amount of oppression but differently distributed.

Women are human beings!
Men are human beings!
Everyone else who doesn’t fit in those 2 gender is a human being too.
And as a Christian I believe all human beings are made in Gods image.

There should be nothing radical about this !!!
It is more logical than our ABC or 2X2=3.

peace

Bram

More posts on similar subjects:
Nothing more natural than cross-gender friendships?
I don’t understand ‘complementarianism’
‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa
the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…
on sexy porn models and human dignity
Some old critique to ‘true love waits’ and Joshua Harris…
A purity culture I don’t know…
teenage flashback: I’m not flirting, but I might need a hug…
On the sex-life of aliens and sexism here on Earth…
Meditating on sexy models

Capitalism vs. Christianity I: Rule of the Market


Coin of Augustus PAS 200 px sh“Markets, like merchants, are nothing new, but they are central to the capitalist society in quite a new and more abstract way” – James Fulcher

A bit late because of work, illness, bad time management, alien abductions and the birthday of my wife, but here it is: my first post in what will become a series about the incompatibility of Christianity and capitalism. (Click on link for the introductionary post)

Central to capitalism as it is currently defended by a lot of people is not ‘in whose hands the means of production’ are or should be, but the idea of ‘the free market’. And even more: the ‘free market’ itself has to be quite a priority according to those who like to preach capitalism. Not only is it important for ‘the market’ to be ‘free’, it is also important for that ‘free market’ to be really important in all aspects of our lives. And indeed, for some reason unknown to me ‘the market’, together with the whole idea of ‘the economy’ which is centered around it, is seen by some as the center of reality, and even as the only reality that matters.

Not reasonable or logical at all
So what’s my first problem with this ‘marketisation of everything’? ‘My first critique to this is just philosophical: Contrary to what I’ve heard from some people sometimes, there is nothing ‘rational’ or even ‘realistic’ about putting the economy, centered around the so-called free market, as our top priority in life and all human affairs on planet earth, and as a lens through which all of this world has to be interpreted. If you want to look at the world this way, fine, but know very well that it is purely an ideological choice, and if you ask me it’s a very poor hermeneutic which leads to a very bad and unbalanced exegesis of the book of ‘reality’. Continue reading

Capitalism series: intro


‘If we truly learn to love our neighbor as ourselves, capitalism will not be possible and Marxism will not be needed’. – Shane Claiborne

the posts in this series:
Introduction
Part 1: Rule of the market
I’m genercapitalismally known as ‘a person critical to capitalism for religious reasons’, something which, never ceases to surprise certain people for some reason. Sometimes in discussions people really don’t understand why I am so negative about capitalism, or why I assume it to be completely incompatible with my Christian faith. So what is quite evident to me seems to be completely weird and otherworldly for others, and that’s why I decided to write my views down in a series of blog posts and explain the reasoning behind certain conclusions that I’ve reached. This has also helped me to work out what exactly my thoughts are….

So practically I will do a series with one post every week or (more likely in my current scheme) every 2 weeks on Wednesday. But before we start, I want to first explain with this what exactly I’m going to do, and define some terms. Continue reading

godless consumer-capitalism, it’s everywhere…


… even inside of me…

After reading a very interesting article on Roger Olsons blog about a book that criticises what goes for capitalism these days from a Christian POV, stating that contemporary neo-liberal (some Americans would call it neo-conservative for some reasons, but American conservatism is built on the tradition of enlightenment liberalism anyway) capitalism is completely incompatible with Christianity. Something which makes a lot of sense to me.

I’m actually quite economytired of people who call the economy ‘reality’, as if the reality of people working for slave wages in sweatshops oversees or the mass extinction we cause are not more important realities than just ‘the economy’. The economy is there for the people (all of them!) and not vice versa, otherwise there is something completely wrong…

But what’s troubling :

Have you ever noticed how stores, especially “big box” stores, lure you into buying things you had no intention of buying when you entered them? I often go to a store, neglecting to pick up a cart as I enter because I am only there to buy a couple “necessaries” and then, halfway through the store, realize I need to find a push cart for all the stuff I’m carrying. As I exit the store with my bags full of things I didn’t plan to buy, I feel manipulated. Sure, I could resist, but it would be an enormous, almost super-human effort always to resist that.

So why does that matter? What has that to do with discipleship? Bell’s main point is the way in which contemporary capitalism distorts our desires—away from God toward money, power and possessions. Capitalism is an economic system of disordered desire. Even if it “works,” Bell argues, it is contrary to the spirit of Christ.

The thing that worries me here is that the next thing I did was ordering the book he’s talking about…

Bram

Sodom, its abominable sin and its restoration


The destruction of Sodom as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicles

The destruction of Sodom as depicted in the Nuremberg Cronicles

One of the strange stories in the bible is the story of Sodom and Gommora. It is a weird and scary story of God destroying some cities because all the inhabitants being quite evil. which they do prove in the story by attempting to gang-rape 2 angels. This is after a story where God (in human form) is being debated by Abraham who asks for mercy on the city, in which God says that if there are 50 innocent people, that He will forgive the whole city. (This alone could incite heavy discussions about forgiveness and salvation!) God then sends two angels to Sodom, to see if the sin is indeed that big, and the inhabitants want to gang-rape those two… But they get out unharmed with Lots family, who get out safe (except for the wife who turns into a pilar of salt, which is another story)

Some have concluded because of this that the abominable sin of Sodom was homosexuality, hence the English word ‘sodomy’ as derogatory term for all things homosexual. But the bible itself gives another explanation, which is mostly supported by extrabiblical Jewish sources:

Ezekiel 16:49-50:
See here – this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had majesty, abundance of food, and enjoyed carefree ease, but they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and practiced abominable deeds before me. Therefore when I saw it I removed them.

If these are the sins of Sodom, Western countries are getting more like Sodom with the moment currently… Which is not a very happy thought… The abomination of Sodom is getting increasingly institutionalised in our late-capitalist systems… And it has been part of our political systems for ages!

Many commentators also speak about their violations of hospitality, something very important in the Ancient Near East. Not being hospitable could mean death to someone in a desert climate anyway… And gang rape is a very serious way to violate hospitality, but the sins of Sodom were a reason to destroy it long before the story… Jesus himself is most likely alluding to inhospitality when he compares the fate of those who reject the disciples when he sends them:

Matthew 10:14-15:
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

My conclusion is thus that the sin of Sodom can not be seen as ‘homosexuality’ as we know it. And that means that the English word ‘sodomy’ is misguided… But my interest in the story in this post is not to enter in the discussion here about homosexuality in the bible, but about judgment and restoration.

We have seen already that Jesus calls the judgment of Sodom more bearable than that of the Jewish town which rejects the disciples of Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom of God. I have no idea what this means, actually, but it seems that the Sodomites (the real ones!) are in some way more lucky than the Jews of those mentioned cities…

What I find very strange, but encouraging, is this part from Ezekiel. It is from a strange chapter of a strange prophetic book, in which God compares Jerusalem and Samaria to 2 wives that are unfaithful, and later in the story their sister Sodom also comes into the picture. But after all the judgments on the unfaithful wives there are promises of restoration. Which is a very common theme in the prophets. Even if it seems God says everything is gonna be destroyed forever and ever, even then in the end there seems to de restoration and renewal!

And the interesting part is that the restoration is not just for Jerusalem and Samaria, but also for the most wicked of cities, Sodom:

Ezekiel 16:53-55:
I will restore their fortunes, the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters (along with your fortunes among them), so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done in consoling them. As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters will be restored to their former status, Samaria and her daughters will be restored to their former status, and you and your daughters will be restored to your former status.

I have no idea what exactly this means, but I would say that there is hope. Even if we Westerners behave like Sodomites (in our treatment of the poor) there might be hope for us!

But seriously now. I don’t know what to do with all the pictures of judgment in the bible, and I think they speak about things we cannot picture at all with our human minds, but we look forward to a renewed Heaven and Earth in which no evil will even be able to exist anymore. And it seems to me from these verses that even Sodom, the symbol of evil, shares in this restoration.

The good news is probably bigger than we can understand!

What do you think?

Shalom

Bram

the love of money vs. the way of Christ…


Thee ebible.com verse of the day, reminded me again how different the Way of Christ is compared to the assumed ways of life of this modern world:

5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. ” 6 So we can confidently say,”The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5 – 6

In a world where our current economic systems are based on greed, ‘more more more’, and ‘I’m cooler than my neighbour coz I have X’, and where people think that greed is a good driving force behind an economy, the Way of Christ is actually quite subversive…

If  only all of us Christians would effectively live according to the last of the 10 commandments about not coveting what belongs to our neigbor, there would be a big problem for our contemporary Marketing and Advertisement industry, which tries to create new needs every day, and tries to sell us everything we don’t need… (And then I’m not even talking about the commandment before that one, about not bearing a false witness!) If one would try to set up a system that is opposed to the words of Jesus and the OT laws, our late modern consumer capitalism would be a pretty good candidate of what would emerge…

But instead of keeping our focus on what shouldn’t be but is, let’s look at what should be and how it’s meant to be, and let’s for a moment meditate on the following words of Paul in 1 Tim 6:

:6 Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit. :7 For we have brought nothing into this world and so1 we cannot take a single thing out either. 6:8 But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that.6:9 Those who long to be rich, however, stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains. 6:11 But you, as a person dedicated to God, keep away from all that. Instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.

The way of Christ is not to follow money, which becomes an idol called Mammon in the bible, but to use money or the unrighteous Mammon (if we have it) to make friends. Yes, people are put before money here.  And people who hoard riches, which are living out our neoliberal dreams in other words, are even used in the gospels as an example of human wickedness… Kingdoms are clashing here. Which one do we choose?

The way of Christ is to love, first and foremost. Mammon should desacralised and instead of turned into an idol that guides our lives, and riches and money are to be used to help other people, and not to build our own empire. Jesus even said to the rich young rules that he had to sell everything and give to the poor if he wanted eternal life, and before we are too quick to dismiss that, let’s remember the first church in the book of acts effectively lived like that, as did the first Christians in the first centuries, a lot of monastic orders throughout the ages and even New Monastic today…  So it’s not impossible…

Imagine how the world would be different if we really followed Jesus, settled for enough and shared the rest with all those in need. It has been done before. The Roman emperor Julian the apostate, who didn’t like the Christians very much, said that ‘the Christians fed their (Roman) poor in addition to their own. So why do we think of these things as so otherworldy?

And I am part of the problem here!

I know I’m preaching to myself now, and I still have a long way to go in this.God help me, Spirit lead me, Jesus teach me!

Any additions, examples, whatever?

shalom

Bram

Music is life, sacred and beyond all that can be bought and sold!


My grandfather Wies Pichal, the late father of my mother who died of cancer some years ago, was a much more inspiring man than I realized when he was still alive. One could say he was a man like they don’t make ‘em any more, a good catholic man with old-fashioned values that we could probably learn a lot from now that Belgium is a post-catholic country of which the roots have been dissolved. And at the other hand just himself, a man who knew what he stood for, and a very good grandfather for me when I was a kid. He came from a time when people could be honest working people, and he embodied the best of the old-fashioned Flemish catholic folks, in a way that probably cannot exist any more… But I miss it, and I miss him…

One of the things that I learned from him was his approach of music. He was a very musical person, something I probably have inherited from him, but he lived it in an universal way that does not exist any more in late modernity and postmodernity. He was a man of natural music, music sung and played by everyone, and for everyone. He liked simple tunes that could be hummed and played with a few chords on the piano. He also liked music as something to do together, or at least with each other. To sing together (he was part of the parish choir as long as he could) or to play music for someone. Music as interaction between humans. Something very powerful, and might I add, sacred even!

These things are very different now. Music is not something we think about as something played live, since most music we hear is recorded, an a lot of these recordings weren’t even played by musicians on instruments; I’m not saying I am against sample-collage music or electronics, but there is something in unmediated music that is just being played and sung together, even without audience, that is completely lost in most of our contemporary approaches of music. And if you’ve never experienced the ‘organic and together’ version of music, you don’t know what you miss. But I’m happy for church house groups, semi-acoustic band practices and hippie campfires. CD’s, mp3’s and whatever means of playing recorded through boxes or earphones alone are not enough to really experience the dept of what music can be, and even the best live show, good as it is, leaves you incomplete if you don’t have the music inside and know how to let it out, together with others…

Music is big business now, and something that is being sold t us in our capitalist system. Something for professionals only. Singing together is something for churches or maybe sport happenings, but not something most people engage in very often in real life. Music is property of the radio, the record companies and the Cd-stores and i-tunes website. But please let’s not forget that music first and foremost is something inside of us, something of us humans together. Stealing music from humanity and make people pay for it is one of the most devaluating thing that could happen to it. Music should not be a consumer commodity that can be bought, but it should be be part of our lives and beings, and be inside of us, not something we have to buy or get from a machine. That means a disconnect to one of the core parts of our mere humanity. We should as humans be able to sing and play, and be music to each other! Everyone should be singing, regardless how their voice sounds. Music is too sacred to be left to professionals, and too important to give out of our hands!

I was reminded of all of this when I read a blogpost called ‘the song of God’ by Father Stephen, an Orthodox Priest, whom starts with a quote from Gregory of Nyssa, one of the Cappadocian fathers, about man being the song of God:

Man is a musical composition, a wonderfully written hymn to powerful creative activity.
– St. Gregory of Nyssa (PG 44, 441 B)

In Father Stephens words:

In St. Gregory’s thought,  man is not only a singer, but a song. We are not only song, but the song of God. Indeed within one theme of the fathers, all of creation is the song of God, spoken (or sung) into existence. “Let there be light,” is more than the voice of command: it is the uttering of a phrase that sets the universe as fugue. God sings. All of creation sings. The song of praise that arises from creation is offered to God, the Author of all things. It is also the sound of the creation itself, a revelation of the truth of its being. Music is not entertainment: rightly sung, it is the very heart of creation.

You should read the rest at Father Stephen’s blog (it’s not long), but I will give you the last paragraph to wrestle with.

I would never predict a disappearance of music – for human beings are a song and the song will not disappear. But to live in a manner that is alienated from ourselves as the song of God is to live with an existential emptiness. If man is a singer, then he must sing – and he must sing to God.

What do you people think? And what does it mean for our musical ‘worship’ in church? And for the rest of our lives?

Let us be the songs, together and when we’re alone.

Never let the music die, or be property of anyone, it sould flow from our hearts to the world!

Shalom

Bram

The worst of all sins, the Jesus creed and an orthodox hell…


Let’s start with a quote that could come from some classic book about Christianity of the sort that should be read by everyone, but in fact just is stolen from a blogcomment by the ever incredible Scott Morizot, on Sarah Moons blog. (The context is a discussion about premarital sex, but I’m not going into that now)

The modern church has largely lost sight of the deeper understanding of the ancient church. The physical passions, lust, gluttony, and the rest can be very destructive, but they are the lesser passions. Greed, anger, hatred, bitterness. Those passions form us into subhuman beings and are more dangerous for most people in the long run.

- Scott Morizot

I think this is really important stuff. We shouldn’t put our main focus on outward sins like a lot of Christian moralists do, but on the structural sins that reside in our heart. We should not fight symtoms, but cut to the core of the problem. And the problem of sin is much deeper than breaking a law and doing what we shouldn’t do:

Sin” in the Christian sense does not mean breaking a law or violating ritual cleanliness. The closest meaning would be ‘missing the mark’ and the ‘mark’ for Christians, as I understand it, is always Christ. Communion with Christ. Forming Christ in ourselves. Being Christ to others.

- Scott Morizot

This is something I’ve been thinking about, since I’ve reread Scot McKnight’s ‘the Jesus creed‘, I’ve very clumsily started to at random times recite to myself the “Jesus Creed”, or Jesus adaptation of the Shema that we mostly know as ‘the great commandment’, and wondering if I do indeed in any way even try to live up to that. Which can be a really confronting exercise!

The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Christ, From Mark 12

First comment here is that loving God is something strange, but I do believe that it means to know God, a personal relationship with God. If we believe that in the afterlife we’re going to be with Him without end, then it’s worth trying to get to know Him in this life too, isn’t it?

Another comment: If the law is summed up in “love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your fellow human as yourself”, then this must be the first thing to which we turn to see whether something is sin, even if we take the definition of sin as law-breaking. Everything that hinders us in growing this double love of God and neigbor in any way is ‘sin’. And the most dangerous sins here would be indeed things like greed, anger, hatred and bitterness. Which is scary sometimes to realise, for example if we consider that our economy does run on greed, when, like Paul says, love of money is the root of all evil…

If we allow those things to grow in our lives, they will hinder love, and in the end make it impossible. And if love is really impossible, we indeed become ‘sub-human’, we become a child of darkness that will never be able to endure the light. Which is a very scary definition of hell which I did encounter in orthodox thought: for the lost soul eternity with God IS hell, an all-consuming fire…

those are just thoughts that are incomplete; so all comments are welcome!

Shalom

Bram

Slavoj Žižek, the philosopher and cultural critic, on the collapse of society and the failure of capitalism.


See a very interesting interview with philosopher Slavoj Žižek on the English Al-Jazeera on the end of the world as we know it, the end of capitalism and democracy, and bio-genetics:

http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/rizkhan/2010/11/201011111191189923.html

I think the subjects he’s bringing up are not te be avoided. But it’s all so hard to look those monsters in the eyes when they are ready to devour them while we deny their very existence.

what do you think?

shalom

Bram