Friday, September 14, 2018

the burning bush conference abstract

A conference abstract, on what we learn from objects, in this case taking some of my current thinking, regarding a Presbyterian symbol, the burning bush, into an a more academic, musuem, context. (If accepted) …

The symbol of the burning bush as an object in global exchange and local adaptation

The burning bush is an essential signifier of Scottish Presbyterian identity, an allusion to the Biblical narrative of Exodus 3. This paper will undertake visual exegesis and archival research in order to examine the symbol as it has moved across cultures as part of colonial migration.

Two sources of data are important. One is the archives of the Presbyterian Research Centre, which offer a repository of documents, including sermons, liturgies and newsletters, which open windows into how the burning bush has undergone evolution in the migration from Scotland to Aotearoa. Another is Presbyterian church buildings, including the branding of churches in the Maori Synod (Te Aka Puaho), stained glass windows in St Johns Papatoetoe and a hand-crafted book mark in a pulpit Bible of a Dunedin church.

Analysis of the burning bush as a “thing” over time points toward local appropriation of this colonial symbol of religious identity. As the burning bush has been re-presented – as a twisted vine or adorned by hibiscus flowers and migratory birds – there is evidence of local cultural appropriation. In the craft inherent in graphic design, stained glass and embroidery, there is evidence of the importance of domestic craft as a mechanism through which global exchange and local appropriation occur.

This suggests that a religious symbol, despite historic and colonial origins can undergo transformation through global exchange. In other words, a historic symbol, designed to centralise identity, has become through migration, a subversive affirmation of cultural diversity and vitality.

Posted by steve at 08:42 PM

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

peer-reviewed in an international journal in a discipline not my own

persusionsonline

“Religious piety and pigs’ brains”: the faith of zombies in Burr Steers’s Pride, Prejudice and Zombies,” Persuasions On-Line 38 (3), 2018.

So I’m celebrating having a journal article in an international, peer-reviewed journal (Persuasions Online) in a discipline not my own.  It’s quite an achievement to be published, let alone internationally, let alone in a different discipline.

I’m chuffed. 

It has been a strange and demanding journey.  Flinders University has a Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities (FIRtH) which encourages collaborative and cross-disciplinary research across a wide range of fields in the Humanities and Creative Arts. In 2017, it was the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen. This is a big thing – her appearance on a new 10 pound note in England and Hampshire staging a year-long series of events across the county in 2017. And in Australia, FIRtH decided to make Austen a focus.  Given I still have connections with Flinders University, as I supervise four PhD’s to completion, I was invited to contribute a piece on religion, popular culture and Austen. My teenage kids at the time were enjoying Pride And Prejudice And Zombies the movie.  I was aware it included a communion scene and in response to the FIRtH invitation, began to watch, looking at how the Christian practice of communion was being portrayed.

I provided some thoughts in a cross-Tasman video, was offered an airfare to a symposium presentation, followed by an invitation to develop my work for a special edition of Persuasions Online, a digital, peer-reviewed publication of the Jane Austen Society of North America.   This was very new territory for me – English literature, Jane Austen, international. 

But it gave me a chance to reflect on sacraments and the Gospel of Luke.  It enabled me to think more deeply about post-colonialism. I have also published a range of pieces on U2 and so this was a chance to expand my thinking into zombies.  It also was a chance to test in practical reality a theoretical piece I wrote in 2009 (a chapter in The Spirit of Truth: Reading Scripture and Constructing Theology with the Holy Spirit) in which I argued for the presence of God in popular culture. It sounded good in theory, but would my theory stand when applied to zombies?

I researched and wrote with a constant voice: is this a good use of my time as Principal of a theological college. In the midst of a funding crisis, was this a good use of church resources? 

One way to respond was to do much of this in my own time. I took leave to attend the symposium in October 2017, used days in lieu in March 2018 to complete the first draft and drew down on holidays in June to respond to reviewer comments.

At the same time, I also believed this was public missiology.  Missiologists talk a lot about engaging culture, yet very few seem to work in popular culture, the songs and movies which are the soundtrack to the lives of so many. Missiologists also talk a lot about crossing cultures. So why not cross into another discipline and place my thinking before the critical eyes of Austen lovers (the society has 5,000 members!) and people who care deeply about the English language?

I did however, underestimate the demands involved in moving across disciplines. The last few months have become particularly pressured, as I navigated multiple peer reviews and the challenge to write for literary lovers rather than theologians. The result has been a string of “thanks for your patience” emails, to PhD students and in relation to other writing deadlines.

Anyhow, the piece has just been published – “Religious Piety and Pigs’ Brains”: The Faith of Zombies in Burr Steers’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies 38: 3, 2018.

Because I work in popular culture, the article has pictures:

pictures ppz

The article has headings: 
The meaning of zombies in academic discourse  
Applying zombie theory to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  
Afterlives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke 
(Un)sacramental theologies
The present problems of piety 
 

And here are some words, that point to what I was trying to do:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that art has the potential to disturb contemporary pride and historical prejudice.  Realizing this truth, however, requires us to locate the literary worlds so artfully created by Jane Austen in relation to the economic realities and colonizing impact of the British Empire around the turn of the nineteenth century 

The British empire was powered not only by economic and military might but also by Britons’ understanding of Christianity, including the claiming and exploitation of overseas territories.  Desmond Tutu famously declared, “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land.  They said ‘Let us pray.’  We closed our eyes.  When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land” (The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon (Biblical Interpretation Series) 326).  Tutu’s challenge invites us to consider the religious practices of Austen’s England.  How might the sacramental practices of communion and the prayers and sermons heard by Elizabeth and Darcy make them complicit in the economic injustices that accompanied colonial expansion?  

Rather than dismissing zombies as an example of popular culture hubris, the argument presented here suggests the zombies in Steers’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies provide viewers with an ethical trope, post-colonial in both sense and sensibility.  Analysis of the zombie trope as socio-cultural phenomenon is followed by an examination of Steers’s film—a hermeneutic “zombie-gesis,” if you will—with particular attention to a scene in which zombies partake of holy communion at the Church of St. Lazarus.  This scene brings into focus the portrayal of Lazarus in the Christian Gospels, particularly Jesus’s parable in Luke 16:19–31 and what it means to consume the body of Christ.  It also arguably exposes the entanglement of Anglican religion and the English colonial project in Austen’s world, pointing to the culturally constructed conjunction of Biblical texts, Western Christianity, and the social world of Regency England.  

In this reading, the role of zombies in the movie is neither parodic nor simply a money-making device.  Rather, the movie inserts an ethical trope, post-colonial in sense and sensibility, that questions the economic system on which the literary world of Austen is built, the ways in which religion can use piety to maintain the status quo, and the complexities involved in seeking to enact justice in the present.  

A careful reading of the Exodus story, however, suggests that a third option is possible.  Exodus And Revolution argues that the promised land holds the hope of equality:  “if no member of the holy nation is an oppressor, then no inhabitant of the promised land is oppressed” (109).  Such an understanding provides a way for the proto-zombies to enact a disciplined freedom that would also be a way of applying justice in their present.  As inhabitants of England, the proto-zombies are a physical reminder of the need for justice.  By holding themselves back from becoming full zombies, they seek partnership in a promised land in which none, whether genteel English or zombie, is oppressed or oppressing. Their deliberate formation provides a critique of the actions of Darcy and Wickham and also of the mobilization of religion only in the future tense.  It suggests that Luke 16:19–31 can be read as an apocalyptic text.  The dualisms of proto-zombie and human can be respected.  

The film, read in light of the Exodus text preached at the Church of St. Lazarus, thus offers a vision of a new beginning for England as a place of justice for all.  The servants at Pemberley need no longer be silent; those who grow the finest grapes, nectarines, and peaches will be justly rewarded, and the soldiers at Meryton need no longer be deployed to maintain the power of a colonial Britain.  This future vision begins now, in the sharing of a moral formation in which all—colonized and colonizer, zombie and human—share a common set of standards and take responsibility for their own agency.

The presence of the zombies points to significant fault-lines that threaten the privileged and complacent social world of Austen’s time.  In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies they remind readers and viewers of the unsolved problem of social inequality and the ways in which religion and literature can both support and disturb the status quo, including the apparent certainties of Jane Austen’s social and religious world.

Posted by steve at 04:37 PM

Monday, April 30, 2018

Lest we forget: Anzac beginnings through the words of Kingmaker Wiremu Tamihana

I preached at the Knox Chapel Anzac service this weekend. The Bible readings were Ephesians 2 and Psalm 23. I looked at Anzac beginnings through Australian eyes and the words of Maori chief, Wiremu Tamihana (whom I researched through much of last year). This opened up a reflection on Ephesians 2 and New Zealand mission history. I finished with the tekoteko of Te Maungarongo, Jesus the ancestor.

“The most remarkable Anzac sermon I’ve ever heard” commented an Emeritus Professor of Law. “Outstanding” commented a University Chancellor. So here it is … (more…)

Posted by steve at 09:56 PM

Thursday, March 15, 2018

theology and church as an actor in development

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One of my current projects involves responding to editorial reviewer comments on an article I’m writing on theological education and development. The article began as a paper I presented, with Phil King, at a conference on Christianity and Development between New Zealand and the Pacific in June 2016. I saw this as an opportunity to get to know the story of a key partner church and helping me think more wholistically about theological education in general.

Following the paper presentation, the spoken paper was turned into a written paper and submitted in May 2017. It is one thing to talk. It is another to set out your thoughts over 6,000 words as it tests the logic of an argument over an extended period. The written paper was accepted, subject to my responding satisfactorily to reviewer comments, for Sites Journal of social anthropology and cultural studies of the Pacific Region. It is scheduled for release in 2019. It will be good to be taking theology in an anthropology and cultural studies space.

Editorial review is a wonderful thing, for it ensures allows thinking to gain critical engagement. Horizons are broadened in terms of reading and as the forest is sifted from the trees. In responding to reviewer comments, I start by categorising them as major and minor. I then create a table, in order to note the work I need to do and provide an account to the editors of how I’m responding. Here is the table for this piece of work, as at 12 March.

taluapaperedits

So the last few weeks I have been working away. Here is some writing from today …

Helen Gardner (“Praying for Independence. The Presbyterian Church in the Decolonisation of Vanuatu,’ The Journal of Pacific History, 48:2, 2013, 122-143) argues that Presbyterianism is structured in ways that enhanced its ability to be an actor in development and decolonisation. A Presbyterian church is structured with a national assembly, regional presbyteries and local congregations and these result in a cohesive interwoven identity, encourage individual capacity building and ensure an alertness to context. An interwoven identity is possible, given the interplay between national, regional and local bodies. For Gardner, Presbyterianism is a way of organising that “transcended village and island boundaries … a political form that translated readily to the standards of contemporary democracy” (128). Each body (assembly, presbytery, congregation) has a shared governance group and these provide individuals with opportunities to develop administrative and political skills. The result was that ministers were able to play a significant role in a newly independent Vanuatu (Gardner, 142). An interwoven set of governance groupings enables grassroots voices to be heard. In Vanuatu this “allowed the [church] openly to back the call for independence, as decisions were made from the body of the church rather than imposed by a church hierarchy” (Gardner, 128).

Posted by steve at 10:07 AM

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Re-weaving creation and redemption in light of Oceanic epistemologies

water-body-macro-shot-1388772

This project will examine the relationship between creation and redemption as they relate to the missio Dei.   This has particular relevance in Oceania, given the unique water-based geographies that shape history and epistemology. It also has global relevance, given that the Pacific Ocean is the planet’s beating heart and the Cartesian dualisms inherent in the European authors’ who in the twentieth century articulated the missio Dei.

The project will involve a bi-cultural partnership between two authors, one Maori, the other Pakeha New Zealand. Together they will read the Waitangi Tribunal 1999, Whanganui River Report (1999) to articulate how water is understood and consider the implications for Christian understandings of creation and redemption. This will foreground indigenous epistemological realities, in particular threads of ancestors and gift exchange.

The initial working proposal is that creation and redemption are woven together in multiple ways. Water is neither accident nor afterthought. It is the place where one is fully human, connected to ancestors and blessed through Divine gift exchange.  This allows the missio Dei to be located amid Oceanic realities, as a challenge to anthropocentric and individualised notions of missio Dei.

For a baptismal liturgy, that began this project see here.

Posted by steve at 11:44 AM

Monday, January 15, 2018

Where does mission come from? The genealogy of Jesus as deep mission

ajms Delighted to have an article published in the Australian Journal of Mission Studies December 2017, Volume 11, 2, 28-35. Titled – Where does mission come from? The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 as deep mission it notes first that we inhabit a geographic region in which for many cultures, genealogy is essential to knowledge and second the absence of genealogy in the work of missiologists like David Bosch and Chris Wright. Given that the gospel of Matthew begins the story of Jesus with genealogy, what are the implications for mission?

Conclusion
We work in a region of the world in which for many cultures, genealogy is essential to knowledge. Given that Matthew begins the story of Jesus with a genealogy, I have considered the genealogy of Jesus as a starting point for mission. I began by noting the absence of the genealogy of Matthew 1 in contemporary Western missiology. Three important contemporary missiology texts make claim that Matthew 1 is important in the mission of God. Yet the genealogy garners little attention: gaining a minimal mention in David Bosch (Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission) and Chris Wright (The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative) and none in Senior and Stuhlmueller (The Biblical Foundations for Mission). None of the three missiology texts show an appreciation of genealogy as genre or consider the way that genealogy might function as a distinct and important approach to epistemology and identity.

However, when indigenous understandings are applied to Matthew 1, the missiology of the genealogy acquires great significant. Two indigenous texts were examined, one located in Aotearoa New Zealand, the other in Australia. Both stress that for indigenous cultures, knowledge must be located in relationship to ancient memory. One (Tangata Whenua: A History), provides a mechanism, that of genealogy. Genealogy provides knowledge that is worthy of respect as it functions in ways that are replicable, rigorous and reproducible. The other (“Mission in the Great South Land” in Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific), provides an invitation to value deep memory. It also provides an intercultural hermeneutic, in which the knowing of deep memory is parsed into beliefs, values and modes of teaching. This provides a further set of rich insights into genealogy; that the genre invites modes of teaching that are replicable, rigorous and reproducible; that the genre communicates beliefs and values worthy of deep respect. Thus indigenous scholarship offers a rich set of resources by which to approach the genealogy of Matthew 1.

This insight has been tested in practice, in teaching on mission in one indigenous context. This teaching demonstrated the vitality of the genealogy of Matthew in framing mission as an ancestor story, a structured transmission in which God as the primary actor is weaving ordinary and indigenous people into the Messiah’s story. It is time that indigenous scholarship, in particular the role of genealogy in structuring knowledge and affirming deep mission, is respected in both the theory and practice of mission.

Posted by steve at 02:40 PM

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

translation and cultural change: the impact of Scripture for a church in mission

jerome Jerome (347 – 420) was a priest, theologian and Bible translator. A Doctor of the Church, he is best known for his translation of the Bible into Latin. But not without conflict.

Translation threatens existing patterns. It causes conflict. When the new translation is read: “A great uproar ensued in the congregation.” (White (ed), The correspondence (394-419) between Jerome and Augustine of Hippo, 92-3). That which was familiar was now different. The church leaders are asked to intervene. Scripture is causing conflict.

Lawrence Venuti, a professional translator, uses this as an example in arguing that “a translation practice cannot fail to produce a text that is a potential source of cultural change.” (The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 87).

Translation of Scripture was challenging the church. It was disrupted what was familiar. It was raising questions about the location of authority. Is it in the familiarity of tradition or the pages of Scripture? Should the scholar or the bishop be making these decisions? In a church with different cultural identities, some Greek, some Latin, any use of languages from another culture challenged power. So how did Jerome bring about change? In the midst of conflict, what strategies did he use to change what was familiar and precious?

Venuti describes four change strategies (The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 80-1). First, Jerome took time to explain. His translations include a preface, in which he outlined what he was doing. Second, he listened to the objections. He noted the fears, including the impact on stability, uniformity and cultural identity. Third, Jerome offered a new way of looking. He framed his translation not as a replacement but as a supplement. It would aid in the tasks of understanding Scripture. It would protect the church from accusations of ignorance. “Jerome’s version was thus presented as an institutional support, assisting in … debates with the members of a rival religious institution … who cast doubt on the cultural authority of Christianity.” (The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 80). Fourth, he found resilience in his heart for mission. Jerome began to translate because he was part of “a culture in which sensitivity to a foreign language was an integral element.” (Kamesar, Jerome, Greek Scholarship, and the Hebrew Bible: A Study of the Quaestiones Hebraicae in Genesim (Oxford Classical Monographs), 43). Jerome’s awareness of his cultural context, when combined with his desire to offer credible Christian witness, motivated his work.

Translation of Scripture brings cultural change. It can disrupt existing hierarchies and challenge established authorities. This is evident in the translation of the Scripture into Latin. This change happens because Jerome is skilled not only technically, in translation. He also shows skill in innovation. He brings about cultural change as he listens, explains, frames and nurtures his resilience.

Christian art represents the Spirit, whispering to Jerome as he works. It suggests the inspiration of God. This inspiration originates in mission, the gospel’s inherent translatability across cultures. Inspiration occurs for Jerome not only in the hard graft and technical skill of translation. It also occurs in the skills of bringing cultural change, of listening, framing and being resilient in and through conflict.

Posted by steve at 10:28 AM

Monday, December 11, 2017

Indigenous knowing: Decolonisation and the Pacific

Decolonisation and the Pacific: Indigenous Globalisation and the Ends of Empire, Tracey Banivanua Mar, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Let justice roll was part of Martin Luther’s King I have a dream speech. It drew on Scripture, Amos 5:24. If King was dreaming of justice in the Pacific, he might have called for justice to roll like the sea. He would have been inspired by Tracey Banivanua Mar and her recent book, Decolonisation and the Pacific: Indigenous Globalisation and the Ends of Empire (Critical Perspectives on Empire). It is an examination of the search for justice, Pacific style, Melanesian made.

It is a unique book. First, it argues that decolonisation has been uniquely experienced in the Pacific. Unlike Asia or Africa, the Pacific experience needs to be appreciated as unique. Second, it takes a long historical lens. It begins not with the development of nation states in the independence movements of the 1960’s through to 1980’s. Rather it begins with first contact. Thus decolonisation is located with geography and history, from which it draws energy. Third, it foregrounds indigenous agency. It argues for networks of relationships among indigenous peoples. These have emerged from the oceanic geography that is Oceania, the mobility of networks, including those imposed by colonisation, like black-birding. Through them flowed information, consciousness raising and leadership development. This makes decolonisation the story not of Empire and of political upheaval, but of the practices of indigenous agency. The argument is that “Indigenous peoples from numerous angles established resistant, convergent and accommodating discourses with and within empire.” (51) The result is a celebration of resistance and creativity. The focus shifts from the upfront and legal, to the home and the every day.

It is a book, beautifully constructed. Each chapter begins with a story that draws in the reader. Each story locates us in another Pacific place: Fiji, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Each chapter ends with a lengthy conclusion, in which the data is located in relation to the books’ overall themes. Chapter titles, with words like currents and churn, saltwater and flight – recall the oceanic geography essential to the exploration of justice rolling like a sea.

What Decolonisation and the Pacific lacks is a considered engagement with the religious dimensions of the Pacific context. For example Walter Lini, first Prime Minister of an independent Vanuatu, is described as a “formidable builder of networks” (198). These are listed as including the Western Pacific Students’ Association and founder of newspaper, Viewpoints. There is no mention of church linkages, so essential to the context of Vanuatu and the identity of Lini, as an Anglican priest. A set of important questions are thus left unanswered. How did faith help or hinder the processes of decolonisation?

Decolonisation and the Pacific is essential reading. It provides new ways to approach decolonisation, that celebrate indigenous agency and the practices of everyday life. It provides a thoughtful examination of the nature of justice rolling like a sea across the Pacific. This includes the telling of the Pacific story on a prestigious academic stage, with publication by Cambridge University Press. It also offers a way of telling a Pacific story that honours the Ocean that all peoples share, in ways that maintain the uniqueness of local cultures. As such, it offers windows into the future search for justice, including the nurturing of networks and education that shares Pacific style, Melanesian made indigenous creativity.

Posted by steve at 08:58 AM

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Resisting Empire: A Maori theology of church and state

In January, I was reading Vincent O’Malley’s wonderful The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800–2000. I was surprised to read a speech, made by Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana, that used Scripture to resist the power of colonial expansion. “A public theology of church and state?” I tweeted. O’Malley tweeted back within minutes, in the affirmative. Intrigued, I asked the amazing Hewitson Library if they could track down the speech. Within days, copies of the Great Britain Parliamentary Papers 1861 were on my desk. I offered the speech to the KCML interns at a February Summer intensive, as an example of public theology and together we find in the speech the formative factors of theology all at play – not only Scripture, but also experience, reason and tradition. A public theology indeed.

In February, I wrote an article for SPANZ, the quarterly magazine of tbe Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. Titled Religion and politics: Learning with Wiremu Tamihana, in 600 words it provided some initial thoughts on The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800–2000 and why Wiremu Tamihana might be articulating a public theology of church and state.

In May, I did further research, doing more work with the Great Britain Parliamentary Papers and in July I presented a 20 minute conference presentation at the Australian Association of Mission Studies.

During that conference, participants were invited to present a short 3 minute video summary. The editing took a while, but here is mine, which arrived yesterday. In it I explain what why missiology must research indigenous thinkers. It was a challenge, to explain a 20 minute paper in 3 minutes, but a useful exercise.

Resisting Empire: A Maori theology of church and state from steve taylor on Vimeo.

In October, that conference paper became three written papers. First, it was summarised into 1000 words as a contribution to Snapshots for Mission, a (just released) KCML publication that aims to make research accessible to the wider Presbyterian Church. Second, the thread of indigenous sovereignty became a 6,000 chapter contribution to a potential book, edited by Mark Brett and Jione Havea. Third, the thread of home-making became a 6,000 contribution to another potential book, on the Australian Association of Mission Studies conference theme of Re-imagining home. While Tamihana is one person, there is a depth and complexity to his life that deserves to be considered from multiple angles.

In addition to this 1 video and 4 publications, there have also been 4 further talks over the year.
- In January, a 60 minute keynote at Rethink, Restore, Renew in Clevedon.
- In March, a sermon at First Church Dunedin, celebrating their anniversary as a church.
- In May, a 60 minute keynote at Kaimai Presbytery.
- In October, a 40 minute conference presentation Rethinking the Reformation: Sola Scriptura in Aotearoa New Zealand, at REFORMATION 500 NZ.

So, some summer reading has, by the end of year, resulted in 1 video, 4 publications, 2 conference papers and 3 talks. A single 140 word online tweet has birthed over 15,000 written words, both popular and more academic. It has been one of the unexpected surprises for me of 2017, a rich and generative year of learning from a bi-cultural Treaty partner.

Thanks Vincent, thanks Twitter, thanks Hewitson, thanks to KCML interns, particularly Hone Te Riri, thanks to conference organisors and book editors. Above all, thanks to Wiremu Tamihana.

Gracious and eternal God,
as we honour Wiremu Tamihana,
keep us honourable and fair
in our dealings with each other,
true servants of the Prince of peace.

Wiremu Tamihana, Prophet, Kingmaker, 1866, New Zealand Prayer Book. He Karakia Mihinare O Aotearoa, (Auckland: William Collins Publishers, 1997)

Posted by steve at 12:33 PM

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

“religious piety and pigs’ brains”:  the faith of zombies

I spoke yesterday at FiRTH (Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities). I was part of a symposium on Jane Austen and found myself exploring post-colonial readings of Christian sacraments.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 4.20.19 PM

My paper was titled “religious piety and pigs’ brains”: the faith of zombies and was an investigation of a communion scene in Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, in which zombies take communion. It might be parody (the Catholic News Service thinks so: “ghoulish, quasi-sacriligious parody … moviegoers would do better to stay at home and brush up on their Austen”). But I also examined it using a post-colonial lens, in which “the zombie tells the story of colonization: the reduction of human into thing for the ends of capital.” (Jon Stratton, “Zombie trouble: Zombie texts, bare life and displaced people.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 14 (3), 271). I also found myself reading that strange parable in 16:19-31, about the role of Lazarus in relation to justice.

Here is an excerpt:

Lazarus is also mentioned in Luke 16:19-31. The parable begins in the world of the living, with a rich man and a beggar. Both die. The beggar moves into what seems to be an in-between space. It is a world of the dead, alongside Abraham and close to a rich man in Hades.

In Luke 16, in this is in-between world, the beggar is an active agent. The request is made that he become an intermediary, seemingly with power to speak and move. First, an intermediary in the world of the dead: “send Lazarus to dip the tongue of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I (the rich man in Hades) am in agony in this fire.” (Luke 16:24).

Second, an intermediary in the world of the living: “send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let [Lazarus] warn them, so that they will NOT also come to this place of torment.” (Luke 16:27-8).

So in this in-between world, there are active agents, an eschatological concern for justice, with consequences in this world and future.

I’m still playing with how all the threads tie together, but this was my resting place yesterday.

I have been undisciplined by offering some inter-textual readings of a communion scene in Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. This has included conversations with Biblical material, particularly between the Church of St Lazarus, the dimensions of (Un)Sacramental theology and the post-colonial readings. This invites the Christian church to consider sacramental practice. Is it a piety that freezes change? Or is it a converting ordinance in which liberation is anticipated? It also invites us to affirm the subversive potential of popular culture, even shock horror!, in the undisciplined use of zombies to mess with the privileged world that is the world of Jane Austen, both in social history and in literary scholarship.

It was good to be back in Adelaide, and I was very grateful for the hospitality both financial and relational, extended to me by FiRTH and their commitment to foster collaborative and cross-disciplinary projects across a wide range of fields in the Humanities and Creative Arts.

Posted by steve at 10:59 AM

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rethinking the Reformation: Sola Scriptura in Aotearoa New Zealand

(My abstract for REFORMATION 500 NZ: a multi-disciplinary conference on the Reformation and its impact will be held in Hamilton, New Zealand, to mark the 500th anniversary of the symbolic beginning of the Reformation on 31 October 1517.

Rethinking the Reformation: Sola Scriptura in Aotearoa New Zealand

Essential to the Reformation was the claim of sola Scriptura that destablised received patterns of church tradition. Yet contemporary reader response theory shifts the focus of Scripture from text to reader, from tradition to context. How might indigenous strategies of Scripture reading in Aotearoa New Zealand help us rethink the Reformation? Two examples are provocative.

One is the speech of Wiremu Tamihana recorded in the Great Britain Parliamentary Papers. In response to the ultimatum presented by the Crown to Waikato Maori in 1861, Tamihana drew on Deuteronomy 17:15 and Ephesians 2:13. The result was a contextual theology of church and state which reconceived Maori political initiatives, preserved difference and offered a Christology framed by justice.

A second is Te Whiti O Rongomai’s use of the Bible at Parihaka in the 1880’s. His use of the Samson narrative in Judges 15:4-5, as outlined in Nita McMaster’s research, shows a remarkable sensitivity to the narrative development of the book of Judges. Te Whiti invoked the implements of the oppressor, both their sacred text and their plough. This was a radical reading, an indigenous strategy that pre-dated by some hundred years Western interpreters (including Robert Boling and Roger Ryan) who argue that Judges 15 offered a guerilla strategy of non-violent resistant.

The Reformation impulse that prioritised vernacular translations of Scripture is evident in the historical commitment to Bible translation in New Zealand. What is intriguing is how this privileging of text results in indigenous readings that challenge the patterns of tradition being imposed by colonisers. Such is the power of sola Scriptura when people read for themselves in their own language.

Hence the examining of sola Scriptura in Aotearoa New Zealand is instructive in rethinking the reformation. Sola Scriptura is a key resource in resisting imperialism and complexifying understandings of cross-cultural transmission.

Posted by steve at 11:42 AM

Monday, September 04, 2017

video of my “hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation talk online

nativechristianities Video from all the conference presentations of the “Resistance and Innovation: Empire and Native Christianity in the Pacific” conference hosted by Auckland University on March 24, 2017 are now online. The video of my 20 minute paper is here along with the introduction and the followup questions.

Native Christianity in Papua New Guinea: “hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation in Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain

by Steve Taylor, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership; Flinders University

The interaction between Christianity and indigenous cultures can provide rich insights into cross-cultural exchange in liminal spaces. Equally the complexity of such insights can be masked by totalising narratives, including hagiography and Euro-centric imperialism.

One way to approach native Christianity in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is through Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain. It has been acclaimed as PNG’s best historical novel (Moore, 2012). The post-colonial methodologies of Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific (Postcolonialism and Religions) (2014) will be used to read The Mountain for indigenous agency in resistance and innovation. Such a reading requires locating Modjeska as an academic and novelist who refuses to accept totalising binaries, in both her writing and her life.

I will argue that the portrayal of native Christianity in The Mountain assumes indigenous approval and indigenization. Themes of ancestor gift and “hapkas” will be applied to Jesus as “good man true, he die for PNG” (The Mountain 2012: 291). The creative reworking by which native (Omie) people locate Jesus as ancestor gift of Canaanite descent will be examined. This is consistent with recent scholarship in which indigenous cultures are Old Testaments (Charleston 1998; Brett 2003) and the book of Genesis a demonstration of indigenous faiths being woven respectfully into the story of Israel (Moberly 1992). This subverts the “big man” as a key trope in the ethnography of Melanesia (Strathern 2009). It suggests that post-colonial theology pay attention to cultural hybridity and indigenous innovation. Or in the words of The Mountain: a “hapkas” Jesus who is “good man true” for PNG.

Posted by steve at 12:38 PM

Friday, March 24, 2017

Resistance and Innovation: Native Christianities in the Pacific conference

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I spent today at the University of Auckland, participating in the Resistance and Innovation: Native Christianities in the Pacific conference. There were about 35 folk in attendance and I was one of 18 presenters. There were papers on Samoan born diaspora church, Maori Christologies, Chinese indigenous churches, along with numerous papers exploring the relationship between Maori and the Latter Day Saints. So it’s been an excellent workout on the complexity of interaction between religion and culture, especially indigenous Pacific cultures.

I went for a number of reasons. First, it was part of my return to New Zealand, which must include listening again among Christianity and New Zealand. So this conference provided a chance to connect with contemporary research and networks. Second, it was a chance to use work twice, taking a paper I had presented in Korea in 2016 and offering it again. Third, it was a chance to be in a University context, with is always important benchmarking for independent higher education providers. How does our research sit alongside what are our University peers are thinking is important?

My paper went well. From the organisor:

Steve, thank you for a most fascinating presentation on ideas of missiology and hapkas in Papua New Guinea … your discussion of moving between different worlds was very thought-provoking.

The questions after the presentation were helpfully clarifying, mainly in reminding me of the specific limits of what I am doing: reading literature, specifically one book. Here are the questions

Q: Your paper focused on the identity of Jesus. What about the death of Jesus?

A: I was wanting to be faithful to the themes of the book.

Q; You explored the complex relationship between fact and fiction in the work of author, Drusilla Modjeska. Can you apply any of that learning to the Scripture?

A: I’ll need to think about that more. The approach I used in terms of Scripture was to focus on how Israel understood the Canaanites, as an indigenous faith. I am pleased with the creative space that approach opens up, the way it makes sense of the book of Genesis and the Rahab narrative.

Q; Does your argument emerge only from the text of The Mountain? Should it not also emerge from the local context of indigenous people?

A: I am using a literary text. Methodologically, I am using Paul Riceour’s notion of each text having a surplus of meaning, in which the reader might see things beyond the scope of the author’s intention. My approach seeks to move beyond an either/or: universal faith that generalises or local faith that particularising. Every local context lives in more fluid relationships with other worlds and I am seeking to explore those textures in my paper.

Q: I’ll have to read this book, The Mountain.

A: Yes.

It was a privilege to have anothers engage with me around some of my current research. Here’s the conclusion to my paper:

I have examined The Mountain and outlined ancestor agency, gift child and the richness of “hapkas” as a “native” Christology. I have noted recent Biblical scholarship regarding the Genesis narratives in the Old Testament and placed the Christological title “(‘good’ man true”) in critical dialogue with the “big man” and “great man”. My argument is that post-colonial theology must pay attention to native Christianity, including cultural hybridity and indigenous innovation. Or in the words of The Mountain: a “hapkas” Jesus who is “good man true” for PNG.

Posted by steve at 06:57 PM

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Where does mission come from? The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 as deep mission

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-> Journal article submission today:

Where does mission come from? The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 as deep mission

Abstract

We inhabit a geographic region in which for many cultures, genealogy is essential to knowledge. Given that Matthew begins the story of Jesus with genealogy, what are the implications for mission?

Three missiology texts are examined – The Biblical Foundations for Mission, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission and The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative – to understand how they conceive Matthew’s genealogy. Genealogy is then considered in two indigenous texts, one located in Aotearoa New Zealand (Tangata Whenua: A History), the other in Australia (Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific). Both demonstrate how genealogy functions as an essential way of knowing, in which ancient memory is structured to clarify relationship with people and place.

The implications of genealogy for missiology are tested, through teaching mission in one indigenous context. This clarifies the vitality of Matthew’s genealogy in framing mission as an ancestor story, a structured transmission in which God as the primary actor is weaving ordinary and indigenous people into the Messiah’s story.

Posted by steve at 05:46 PM