Well, another year come and gone. This year I read 65 books, watched 23 movies, and watched 41 documentaries. Good to know that I’m doing something with my life.
Reviewed in this post: 9 books (Conflict is Not Abuse; Solidarity and Difference; Paul and the Stoics; Personal patronage under the early Empire; Seiobo There Below; Giovanni’s Room; The Story of a New Name; teaching my mother how to give birth; and The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni), 3 movies (The Battleship Potemkin; Andrei Rublev; and On the Silver Globe), and 5 documentaries (Author; Little Hope was Arson; An Open Secret; Rape in the Fields; and Rape on the Night Shift).
1. Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair by Sarah Schulman.
The Heavens have innumerable plans for us, but after we are born there is just a single one. ~ from Seiobo There Below by Lázló Krasznahorkai
Be sure to find me, I want you to find me, and we’ll play all over, we’ll play all over, we’ll play all over again. ~ from Georgia Lee by Tom Waits.
I was going to write about the death of Ryker and the trial (now mistrial) of his parents, when I learned that one of the jurors – a woman – had suicided. It’s that time of year. And she had spent the last few weeks being exposed to pictures of an 18-month old (some reports say 20-month old) baby boy who died because he was burned – scalding with instant coffee is the probable cause – and the jury was shown images of these burns, clustered as they were, on Ryker’s lower back, side (sometimes “torso” is used), buttocks, genitals, and thighs (almost all the way to his knees). It is the very incarnation of David Foster Wallace’s “Incarnations of Burned Children.” Only here the child is real, the child was alive, and now he is not. They say he was left in his crib for three days before he died. He was never taken to receive medical care. In the local news, the burns that killed him are described as “red, blistering burns.” They are also often described as “angry” as in “red, angry burns” or “red, angry injuries.” The pain they caused was probably excruciating. A mistrial resulted because the mother was declared unfit to participate due to a recent surgery for appendicitis as well as some other complications. I spent half the day explaining to people that, no, this doesn’t mean the charges have been withdrawn, and, no, this doesn’t mean she has escaped whatever our justice system might have in store for her, it just means that everything is delayed and will have to start all over again next summer.
The houses in this neighbourhood are bought and sold not rented
To single parents who made the mistake
—Of wanting to help more than they wanted to make money
——Never realizing that only fools see that as an either/or
—Or who simply made the mistake
——Of getting married
The homeowners in this neighbourhood don’t walk, they all drive cars
—But a lot of hybrids because they care about the environment
And the most dangerous time to be about on foot
—Is when they’re picking their kids up from school
—Or dropping them off
—Because everyone is in a hurry
——To get to work and pay their mortgages and car payments
The sidewalks in this neighbourhood are rarely plowed
And although homeowners are responsible for clearing the 20 feet of sidewalk in front of their houses
—They mostly don’t
And so I slip and slide
—Flail and pirouette
—Laugh like a maniac when I make a particularly good recovery
—And curse like a father (“dangit!” or “Yowza!” or “Freaking heck!”) when my elbow
———Hits the ground
As I carry the kids to school
Then wend my way to work
—Because even though I have pneumonia
—And the kids are old enough to walk
——I won’t make em when it’s especially cold
———(Memories of my own childhood prevent me)
———(So I put em in snowsuits and wrap em in blankets and carry one in each arm, with my hands locked across my stomach)
—And rent is due on Monday
Many years ago, when I was first being introduced to readings of the Jesus stories that took things like politics, economics, power, and oppression seriously, one of the key books people in the know talked about was Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther. I read it around the same time that I read Binding the Strong Man (Ched Myers) and Liberating Paul (Neil Elliott). These books, taken together, really reoriented my understanding of the early Jesus movement, although I did not read them alone — I read them while also immersing myself in liberation theology (and social theory) and while seeking to move into relationships of mutually liberating solidarity with people experiencing oppression, violence, and colonization in my own context. Still, I was (and am) very grateful for the ways in which these texts helped me to orient myself and better understand ancient texts that were very important to me at that time.
In recent years, I’ve been fortunate to become friends with Wes. Mostly online, but I was able to visit with him in Seattle when Jess and I were out there in October. He had seen my interview with Neil Elliott and invited me to engage in a conversation with him around his two books, Come Out, My People! God’s Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond (2010) and Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced what Jesus Rejected 2nd-5th Centuries (2016). I was more than happy to do so! Wes was a gracious and always encouraging dialogue partner. I very much appreciate his writings, his eclectic sources of inspiration, and his willingness to chat about all of these things with me. Thanks, Wes! All the best to you and Sue and those with whom you live and move and have your being — may the death squads never prowl on your streets and may you always find ways to choose love no matter how violent the world becomes.
This is our conversation:
So, I’m rather busy at the moment and I accidentally read too many books and watched too many movies in November. These reviews-that-aren’t-really-reviews will be even shorter and less adequate than usual.
Discussed in this post: 8 Books (Secret Path; Citizen; Imperial Ideology and the Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire; Picturing Paul in Empire; Empire Baptized; My Brilliant Friend; The Painted Bird; Hyperbole and a Half); 5 Movies (I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House; February; When Animals Dream; Hour of the Wolf; Inglourious Basterds); 5 Documentaries (The Mask You Live In; Miss Representation; The Witness; 13TH; Sour Grapes).
Discussed in this post: 6 Books (I Am Woman; Destroyer of the gods; Paul, the Fool of Christ; Come Out, My People; The Ancient Economy; The Rings of Saturn); 1 Movie (Atanarjuat); 2 Documentaries (People of the Kattawapiskak River; Tickled).
1. I Am Woman by Lee Maracle.
Response to Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World
Introduction: Christianity without the Cross?
In Destroyer of the gods, Larry Hurtado manages to do something remarkable: he writes a book about early Christian distinctiveness in the Roman world, without ever discussing the single most distinctive element of the early Jesus movement—the cross. The crucifixion of Jesus. The fact that the person whom the early Jesus followers proclaimed as “Lord,” “Son of God,” “Christ,” and “Saviour,” and incorporated into their “dyadic devotional pattern” (68), was crucified. However you want to call it, this is missing from Hurtado’s book. Yet there was nothing more scandalous, offensive, revolutionary and genuinely distinct about the early Jesus movement than this (and even if some folks may disagree that the cross is the most distinct element of the early Jesus movement, I imagine that they will all agree that is a distinctive element).