Saturday, June 29, 2019

the role of wiping noses and lactation in theology

I’m working my way through Janet Martin Soskice’s The Kindness of God: Metaphor, Gender, and Religious Language with a yellow highlighter.

This is the second time I’ve read this fascinating book this year. The first time was during my Outside Study Leave, as I searched for ways to construct a methodology of the unique, a way by which theology could learn with and from empirical research. I found helpful the way that Soskice worked with the theology of Julian of Norwich, arguing that Julian was faithful to, yet offered a “fruitful” development of, the work of Augustine (126). Soskice drew out Julian’s “ingenuity as a theologian” in describing a theology of kinship (126). I was able to draw on Soskice on developing an ecclesiology of innovation, for my First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God book, due out with SCM in December 2019.

IMG_7454 This second time, I’m reading Soskice with a yellow highlighter because I am underlining all the domestic words. Words like –

pregnancy,
childbirth,
baby,
children,
toddlers,
infant,
family holidays,
making meals,
washing clothes,
wiping noses,
lactation

- all in Chapter 1.

It is rare to find such words in a theology text book. Janet Martin Soskice is Reader in Philosophical Theology at the University of Cambridge. It is rare to to find words like wiping noses and lactation in philosophical theology. So I’m fascinated by the role the domestic plays in her theology; the way she uses images of family life as a source of reason and what this might mean for theology.

As I read Janet Martin Soskice, I am reminded of the words of Anna Fisk (‘To Make, and Make Again’: Feminism, Craft and Spirituality, Feminist Theology 20(2) 160–174) and her argument that everyday acts of making in the ‘feminine’ sphere, have been neglected in mainstream theology. I also recall the words of Heather Walton, who notes recent moves within Feminist Practical Theology to prioritise the everyday in order to encourage serious theological reflection upon “the fabric of life” (Heather Walton, ‘Seeking Wisdom in Practical Theology’, Practical Theology, 7:1 (2014), pp. 5–18).

I wonder what it means for theology in general, and my theology in particular, to make the domestic an essential resource in faith seeking understanding. As Soskice writes: “Attending to the child is a work of imagination and moral effort … This is the work of the Spirit, this bodying forth of God in history – in our individual histories and in that of our world … under the attentive gaze of love” (32, 33, 34).

Such are my thoughts as I read with a yellow highlighter.

Posted by steve at 06:17 PM

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 140 plus films later, here is the review for June 2019

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Merata Mita, Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāi Te Rangi, was a pioneering Māori filmmaker, the first Maori woman to solely write and direct a dramatic feature film. Her work included documentaries like Bastion Point: Day 507 (1980) and Patu! (1983), feature films like Mauri (1988) and music video Waka, for hip-hop artist Che Fu.

Merata became internationally respected as an indigenous film maker, teaching documentary film making at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa and recognized by the Sundance Film Festival’s Native Film Initiative.

Heperi Mita, Merata’s youngest son, born long after Bastion Point: Day 507 and Patu!, surprised by Merata’s sudden death aged 68, sets out to discover his mother. He begins by turning to the film archives at Ngā Taonga, spooling through the abundance of Merata’s film and television appearances. Having watched the past, Heperi then cleverly splices in the present, interviewing his siblings to gain their human story on his mothers cinematic past. Thus Merata becomes a film about a film, in which a film maker and her family is filmed by her family.

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen is an uncovering of Merata’s work: located in her experience, of being Maori, raised in rural Maketu, a woman, a victim of domestic violence, a solo mother raising four children in urban Auckland. It is equally an affirmation of culture. For Merata, as Maori film maker, she is working in continuity with the carvings crafted by her grandfather for the wharenui. Both carving and film are image and story through which life speaks.

Decolonisation is related to the search for justice. Decolonisation pays attention not to individual acts of protest, but to the processes of liberation by which indigenous communities are freed from the colonial imposition of imperialism, patriarchy and racism. Decolonisation sounds academic but it is as simple as a Maori woman finding her voice, as tough as Merata turning a camera on the reality of Police brutality during the 1981 Springbook Tour.

Merata is a profoundly theological film, an indigenous meditation on resurrection. The first words we hear are theological, Heperi’s announcement that “A resurrection is taking place. Our hearts and spirit respond as the past lives again. She shows me things as I hear her again.”

At one level, it introduces Heperi’s spooling through the archives.

At another level, it affirms that the past brings revelation, ushering in a search for justice in which a whole person transformation is possible.

At times Merata felt a bit like Jesus in the garden, calling Mary Magdalene to declare to the disciples that they are now part of a new family, gathered around ‘my God and your God’ (John 20.17). These five words spoken by Mary Magdalene are an echo of the words spoken by Ruth, a migrant woman, to Naomi, a solo mother, as together they seek to find a community in which they can be fed amid the poverty of a famine.

In these five words, the resurrection becomes a call to decolonise. All those who respond to ‘my God and your God’ are finding a community in which women have voice and the poor are given daily bread. Which leaves the church – having heard ‘my God and your God’ – with the question: what might we need to decolonise?

Posted by steve at 09:45 AM

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Indigenous home-making as public theology – Wiremu Tamihana

Unknown-12 Happy Steve, stoked to have a book chapter published on the life of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana, in which I argue he’s an extraordinary public theologian.

The theme of home yields rich insights when it is examined through diverse cultural lens, in this case in relation to New Zealand history. Methodologically, an approach of biography as missiology has been used in researching the life of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana. In word and deed his reimagining of home has been outlined: in planting an alternative indigenous community, in leadership reorganisation and in public speechmaking as a set of ethical acts shaped by a christological ethic. Translation theory has clarified Tamihana’s reading of Scripture, including the reversing of what is foreign and domestic, and a household code shaped by Christology. What Wiremu Tamihana offers is a theology of homemaking as a public theology of empire resistance. His theology offers significant resources for those seeking to reimagine home in response to dominant cultures, in encouraging a Christology interwoven with ethics and the use of place-based readings to reverse categories of what is foreign and domestic. It suggests that creative responses to the empire can emerge through the ongoing renegotiation that happens as people move in the tides of history. A flexible justice-making is encouraged, one that uses the translations from the empire in resistance against the empire.

This is part of research begun in 2017, which has resulted in 3 conference papers, 1 (unsuccessful) research bid, 2 keynotes, 2 sermons, 2 short publications for the Presbyterian Church and now this longer academic piece. It is published as one of the conference papers from Australian Association of Mission Studies 2017. It was nice to slip a New Zealand indigenous story into the mix!

Details: “Indigenous home-making as public theology in the words and deeds of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana,” Re-imagining Home: Understanding, Reconciling and Engaging with God’s stories together, edited by Darren Cronshaw, Rosemary Dewerse and Darryl Jackson, Morling Press, 2019, 188-207.

Available from Morling Press. Thanks to Darren Cronshaw, Rosemary Dewerse and Darryl Jackson for their editorial skill, Morling and Whitley for their hospitable approach to scholars and scholarship.

Posted by steve at 10:20 PM

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Remembering death live: an analysis of live music concerts postponed after terror attacks

Abstract proposal in response to call for papers on Death and Event: Death, Remembrance, Memorialisation and the Evental. 

Remembering death live: an analysis of live music concerts postponed after terror attacks

Dr Steve Taylor

Terror disrupts the event. A tragic dimension of contemporary life involves suicide bombings that fatally disrupt live music concerts, including Paris in November 2015 and Manchester in May 2017.

While terror disrupts the event, sometimes the event experiences a resurrection. Following the bombings in Paris and Manchester, artists U2 and Ariana Grande returned in the weeks following to perform live music concerts. As entertainers, skilled in the enacting of large-scale public events, these concerts invite examination. How was terror narrated and death remembered amid life at these postponed events?

Sociologist Paul Connerton (1989) has argued for a collective autobiography in which societies make sense of the past through a bodily social memory. Taylor (2014) has applied Connerton to U2 concerts, while Taylor and Boase (2013) have considered the memorialisation of death in live entertainment. Building on these studies, the particularity of the relationship between terror and event requires analysis in order to further theorise concerts as events of collective autobiography.

The concerts of U2 and Ariana Grande will be examined, analysing video footage (Kara, 2015) of the concerts that exist in the public domain. A methodological lens is provided through Connertons’ distinction between inscription and incorporation, between what might be expected based on the standardization inherent in album production and what was performed live. This approach pays attention to lyrical changes, gestures and spoken segue, seeking the variations through which the collective bodily memory of terror, trauma and death were re-presented. Particular attention will be paid to the juxtaposition between remembering death in the context of live entertainment and how difference might be theorised given the shared experiences of communal grief and branded assertions of “One Love”.

This paper will be of value to those seeking to theorise the evental and understand meaning making in popular culture. It will also be of practical benefit to those who might sadly be required to create further public events of remembrance in the wake of terror.

Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Taylor, Steve and Liz Boase. “Public Lament,” Spiritual Complaint: The Theology and Practice of Lament, edited by MJ Bier & T Bulkeley, Pickwick Publishers, 2013, 205-227.

Taylor, Steve. “Let “us” in the sound: the transformative elements in U2′s live concert experience,” U2 Above, Across, and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Assessments, edited by S Calhoun, Lexington Books, 2014, 105-121.

Kara, Helen. Creative research methods in the social sciences: A Practical Guide, Policy Press, 2015.

Posted by steve at 09:59 PM