Thursday, November 02, 2017

academic research as speaking peace a la Luke 10

On Tuesday I presented on “religious piety and pigs’ brains”: the faith of zombies. My task was to analyse a communion scene in Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, in which zombies take communion.

I began with the work of Dutch cultural theorist, Mieke Bal in Anti-Covenant: Counter-Reading Women’s Lives in the Hebrew Bible and her insights into the place of religion, particularly Christian religion, in Western culture. I then offered some zombie-gesis and explored Matthew 27:52-3, which I read in light of Ezekiel 37:12-13 and the sense of God’s justice for the righteous. I then moved to Luke 16:19-31 and considered the seeking of justice in that parable. Next I provided an introduction to theologies of communion. First, I mapped Anglican and Methodist sacramental theologies, before examining the role of Exodus narratives in liberation.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 9.40.01 AM

On Wednesday I woke up thinking about Luke 10:1-12. The importance of going, the need to go in postures that offer peace, the task of being a receiver of hospitality, of being seated at the table of another, the value of conversation in which signs of the Kingdom might emerge.

Was my academic research on Tuesday a Luke 10 table? Was I, in the act of doing research, living Luke 10:1-12? Was I speaking peace, both to the initial wierdness of reseaching zombies and to an invitation from a University Humanities department? I certainly received hospitality in the invite to speak and in the financial provision. The result was certainly a conversation deeply salted by Kingdom themes around Scripture and sacraments, all in the light of justice for those oppressed.

Luke 10:1-12 is usually applied to neighbourhoods. Can it also apply to networks like academic research, around zombie-gesis?

Posted by steve at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)

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 | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thresholds: liminal learnings for theological education

I’ve been asked to contribute to a 2018 book on the future of theological education in Aotearoa New Zealand. The theoretical lens is thresholds, which got me thinking about the ways that previous thresholds might resource future journeys. Here is the abstract I submitted for the research project yesterday.

Unknown-10

Thresholds: liminal learnings for theological education from the history of becoming Presbyterian in Aoteoroa New Zealand

Steve Taylor

Our history, according to Paul Ricoeur, tells us how we might become. For Presbyterians in Aotearoa New Zealand, theological education has taken historical shape over 140 years ago, first in the Theological Hall, more recently through the School of Ministry and Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership.

Four thresholds have been significant, including relationships with indigenous people, responses to migration, the impact of secularism and student activism in seeking a nuclear free New Zealand. In this history is embodied knowledge, as a range of thresholds have been negotiated. In each is the opportunity to examine theological education by probing the socio-location of church and college, paying particular attention to the learnings from encountering an-other.

A threshold suggests someone, or something, is on the other side. How has the voice of the other been heard in the history of Presbyterian theological education? The church as institution has power in the form of church discipline, standards for ordination and resources of time and finance. How has theological education positioned itself, both in relation to power and in self-understanding as it encountered the liminal space between stakeholders and marginal voices?

An examination of the history of Presbyterian theological education, using published history, archival research and (potentially) participant interviews will clarify liminal learnings that can address the who, how and what of what theological education might become in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Posted by steve at 09:55 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

Monday, August 28, 2017

the dangers of heavy in weight research

I have been wondering recently if different types of research carry different weight. In July, I was presenting two papers at two different conferences. One was on indigenous responses to Empire. Titled Converting empire: theologies of church and state in the encounter between British and Maori, it involved some pretty sad reading about the impact of the Great War of 1864 on Maori. A second paper was on Christian theology and sexual violence. Titled Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation, it involved some equally sad reading on the impact of sexual violence.

Both papers also invited those who might listen into some difficult spaces. The treatment of indigenous peoples and sexual violence engage us body, mind and soul. Who knows who is in the room, and how they might respond, to presentations that engage heart and head.

I finished both presentations exhausted. There is always a degree of anxiety and nervous tension that goes into a presentation. There is a vulnerability in presenting work to peers. There is the inevitable imposter syndrome – the voices saying I’ve not read enough, that need to be met with the realism of “I never will.”

But this time the exhaustion seemed worse.

This was brought into sharp relief, the next day, when I began looking at a piece of contextual theology, a 63 page comic book titled How to Disappear Completely (2017). I had taken it as holiday reading, intending to enjoy it for pleasure. But within a few hours, I was enormously energised. I had sketched out 750 words. I had done an initial literature review. I found, in a 2nd hand book shop in Bristol, a Faber Gallery book on Stanley Spencer’s Resurrection paintings, which opened up a rich vein of potential comparative enquiry. I had spied a potential arts and culture journal and sent off an enquiry email. I was energised. This was fun.

Placing the two experiences of research side by side within the space of a few days was insightful. Sure it is always more fun (for me anyhow) to start something than end something. But something more was going on. I would suggest that some research is light in weight. Not light weight, but light in weight. It takes me into parts of being human that are creative. These are places of joy and life. Other research is heavy in weight. It takes me into parts of being human that are sad. These are places of pain and heartache. Both are important. I need to invest in both, to be light in weight and heavy in weight. For a time, for the time leading up to the two July conference presentations, I had become out of balance, too heavy in weight!

Unknown-2 Last week, the Stanley Spencer Resurrection paintings book arrived. It sits on my desk. I have made an addition to my research pipeline. Under conceiving new ideas and draft proposals, I have added an investigation into Resurrection today, looking at contemporary depictions

Visualising the resurrection in contemporary urban contexts

How to Disappear Completely is the latest offering from UK artist, Leeds-based, Si Smith. It is a 63 page comic that offers a sophisticated visual engagement with the Lenten journey and the city of Leeds, UK.  A commercial cartoonist by day, by night Smith expresses his faith in ways both visual and playful. Previous work includes 40, a creative imagining of Jesus in the wilderness, Stations of the Resurrection as a set of illustrations reflecting on Jesus’ resurrection today and 25 Advent Flatpack a series of paper-based figures to be assembled in the Christmas build up.
 
This research would bring How to Disappear Completely into conversation first, with the existing body of work, to chart the development of Smith’s visual work.  A key theoretical lens would the work of Scott McCloud, who in Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1993, 7) defines a comic as “sequential visual art” that works through techniques of “amplification through simplification.” This allows a reading of repeated visual motifs like smoke and pigeons in How to Disappear Completely as visual amplications of human ephemerality in the urban landscape.
 
Second, I would examine the way that Smith’s work can be positioned in conversation with painter, Stanley Spencer. A Spencer quote on page 2 of How to Disappear Completely offers words to introduce reflection on the nature of contemporary vocation. Spencer painted works on Christ in the Wilderness (1939-54) and Resurrection (1945-1950).  He sought to visualise resurrection as ascent, needing to be depicted in the urban streets on which he worked and walked.  How to Disappear Completely is, I would argue, a response to Spencer.  Both work as examples of imaging the resurrection in contemporary urban context.  Placed on conversation, they allow to consider a constant artistic challenge, that of visualising resurrection. They thus present contemporary attempts to visualise the resurrection not as a historical moment but an unfolding contemporary urban transformation.

After the recent heavy in weight research, I need some light in weight research. Both are important.

Posted by steve at 11:48 AM

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Theologies of redemption and the ‘secondary-victimization” impact of sexual violence

I’m presenting at ANZATS 2017 tomorrow, on Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation. It is a weighty, yet essential topic. Much sexual violence occurs in the context of kin and family. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse leaves no doubt that sexual violence also occurs among the family of God.

28U44ck

In my paper, I consider the impact of sexual violence, particularly ‘secondary-victimization” in relation to Christian understandings of redemption, in conversation with one of the four doctors of theology of the church, Irenaeus of Lyon. His theology has been summarised by Orthodox theologian, John Behr, The Way to Nicaea (2001) as continual presence, making visible and full maturation. (See also Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, (2000)).

This is a table summarising my data:

sexualviolencedata

Given the data, I conclude:

the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 offers an understanding of redemption grounded in the reality of family and kin. In Matthew 1 and in the crucifixion, the invisibility of sexual violence is made visible. Jesus, of the line of David, in Gospel narratives of compassion and truth-telling, acts in full maturity, recapitulating on behalf of other “less than mature” males in his ancestor line.

In resurrection, Jesus is revealed as fully present, both backward and forward, calling Tamar and Rahab as witnesses to the ‘economies’ of God in “each generation.”  Recapitulation provides ways to redeem the ‘secondary-victimization” impact of sexual violence.

Posted by steve at 12:22 AM

Saturday, July 01, 2017

conference bound

After 2 sleeps at home, I am on the road again, heading to Australia for two academic conferences.

The first conference – Australian Association of Mission Studies – is in Melbourne. I am presenting a paper titled – Converting Kings? theologies of church and state in the encounter between British and Maori. I am looking at the story of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana. I am biography as theology (drawing from James McClendon, Biography as Theology: How Life Stories Can Remake Today’s Theology) and feminist research on home-making (drawing from Sef Carroll’s chapter in Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific), to appreciate how his use of the book of Ephesians acts as a public theology of Empire resistance. There are over 10 folk from Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand attending, with 4 KCML faculty presenting. That is an excellent turnout.

The second conference – Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Studies – is in Adelaide. I am doing two things.

First, I am presenting a posterStructuring Flipped learning: The use of Blooms taxonomy in the classroom experience. I’ve had some playful fun putting together the following.

postertogo

Second, I am presenting a paper on Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation. I’ve worked on this with a colleague at University of Otago, David Tombs and we will be testing some ideas about pastoral theology.

Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation
ANZATS 2017

Much sexual violence occurs in contexts of kinship, including tragically the family of God. This paper tests notions of recapitulation when lines of kin are stained by sexual violence. Tombs has previously argued that Jesus is a victim of sexual abuse. How is this good news for victims in history?

The genealogy of Matthew 1 connects Jesus with the royal line of David. It names women either sexually mistreated or vulnerable to sexual violence. Tamar is dishonoured by male sexual practices, resorting to prostitution. Bathsheba is sexually preyed upon by a powerful ruler. Rahab as a prostitute is likely to have experienced sexual mistreatment. Ruth’s vulnerability is evident in the encounter with Boaz. A further victim is anonymously present, given David is Tamar’s father, raped by Amnon. The Matthean genealogy thus locates Jesus as a descendant: of men who violate and of women violated. At stake is the depths to which redemption is possible.

Irenaeus offers an essential link between theology and anthropology. For Behr, The Way to Nicaea (2001), these can be summarised as continual presence, making visible and full maturation. (See also Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, (2000)). These ground redemption in humanity experience. Jesus makes sexual violence visible when framed as from the Davidic line. In full maturity, Jesus acts justly toward victims of sexual violence. Gospel episodes of compassion, vulnerability and solidarity become a recapitulation, a contrast to actions of the males in the line of David.

What emerges are starting points for ways to respond to sexual violence, including solidarity, visibility, acting humanly and tending bodies broken.

David Tombs and Steve Taylor
University of Otago and Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership: Flinders University

It will be good to be back in Adelaide, which was home for us for 6 years.

Posted by steve at 12:55 PM

Thursday, June 01, 2017

my research pipeline

Last year, I found a helpful article – “My Writing Productivity Pipeline.” A researcher, juggling a variety of academic commitments, began to imagine their research and writing as a pipeline, with work at different places. Proposals were at one end, published work at the other. The aim is to maintain work in every section of the pipeline and to keep that work moving.

I have found it a very useful tool. I took the categories from the “My Writing Productivity Pipeline” article and turned them into a table (click for a better image).

pipeline

Along the top are the various stages of the research and writing process. Down the side are the types of writing – separating book chapters, journal articles and books. This is about the time taken – it takes a lot longer to complete a book than an article, and also helps me look at workflow over a year and in relation to sabbatical projects.

The table sits on my laptop. It helps me keep track of various projects. It helps me to say yes and no; offering accountability in time management and focus in my research.

Posted by steve at 10:01 PM

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Objects of faith: Pulpit bibles and Presbyterian theologies of Scripture

“..religion is characteristically expressed in communities of worship.” Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, Picador, 2005, 99).

Unknown-1 This is the pulpit Pew Bible of the now closed Andersons Bay Presbyterian Church. Embossed on the front cover are the words “Good News Bible. Today’s English Version.” It replaces an older Bible, a King James Version. It thus stands as a sign of change in the life of this church community. One wonders what motivated the change process and how it impacted on those used to the existing version.

Unknown-2 Inside is a handwritten inscription. “To the Glory of God. Presented by Robert Hamilton in memory of his wife, Adeline Maude, June 1985.” The Bible is thus personalised, fused with the life of this unique church community and the individual grief as a loved person dies.

Inside is also a bookmark. It is blue felt and has two hand embroidered symbols, both in yellow. One is of a cross, the other is of the burning bush. Both symbols speak of significant iconography, the Christian cross and the burning bush as the emblem of the Presbyterian Church of Aoteaora New Zealand. They suggest this church community is marked as Christian and as part of the Presbyterian Church.

These three markers – “Good News Bible. Today’s English Version,” the handwritten inscription and the hand embroidered symbols – suggest an approach to Bible reading that is open to change, entwined with individual story yet located within the Christian and denominational history. They suggest a Presbyterian theology of Scripture, embedded in the everyday practices of this community of faith. How consistent is this with other Presbyterian, other Protestant, other Christian approaches to Scripture?

One way to address these questions is to place the Andersons Bay pulpit Pew Bible alongside research by Joseph Webster (“Objects of Transcendence: Scots Protestantism and an Anthropology of Things,” Material Religion in Modern Britain: The Spirit of Things, Palgrave MacMillan, 2015, 17-35). He explores how Bibles are used in Scottish Protestantism.

First, Bibles are open (24). Second, Bibles are understood as a living word shaping the behaviour of individuals (25). Third, Bibles are an object that can mediate salvation (26). At work in each of these affirmations is a commitment to the “power of encountering tbe biblical object and its person-like qualities” (26). The use of this object of faith, the Bible, suggests the importance of providing “routes of access to the inwardness of this book (27). What matters is not only the actual text, but also the object, Scripture as an ever-present and potentially transforming reality. “”[T]he saved” become “living epistles” as their lives are conformed to the Bible (29).

Webster reads this alongside cultural shift, in particular the arrival of modernity. Webster argues that these understandings he observed in Scottish Protestantism are neither pre- nor anti-modern. Bibles are used, according to Webster, as consubstantiated hybrids (33). They are at the same time a collection of pages and the breath of God. This is made possible by a worldview of immanence and transcendence in which things are both material and enchanted.

Back at Andersons Bay, we see this materiality. There is the willingness to replace one material book with another, believing that it is not only in specific certain mystical pages that God is encountered. There is the weaving of individual biography, in which tradition is understood in relation to church members who have gone before. There is the craft of embroidery, consistent with a church known for this particular craft. These suggest a commitment to materiality, at odds with stereotypes of Protestantism as not of this world.

Yet we equally see transcendence, in the decision to change the Bible, presumably to enhance the living witness of this text. Also in the belief that in the craft of embroidery and the remembering of individual lives will come inward transformation of individual lives: routes of access in which “the saved” become “living epistles.” (Webster in Material Religion in Modern Britain, 27, 29).

Posted by steve at 12:06 PM

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Is the author actually alive?

For the last month, I have been working to complete a writing deadline. In June last year, I co-presented a paper on theological education in the Pacific at Woven Together, a conference on Christianity and development in the Pacific, run by the School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies at Victoria University. Titled The complexity of being woven together: A microhistory of Talua Ministry Training Centre, the paper involved research on the history of New Zealand Presbyterian involvement in theological education in Vanuatu, using archives held at the Archives Research Centre of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Talua is a partner College of Knox Centre, so doing this research helped me understand and appreciate this historical partnership.

Following the conference in June, I was invited to develop the paper for publication in a book emerging from the conference. In order to broaden the research, over the last few months I have been searching more widely for materials. Doing a literature search at the Otago University Library catalogue, I discovered some potentially interesting titles were held at the Hocken Collections.

C8NjxTZUAAAWpcr

So in late March, I ducked into the Hocken Collections to look at an honours thesis, by Melissa Bray, and a lecture, by Neal Whimp. It was a lovely few hours, in the quiet of one of New Zealand’s wonderful archival resources, reading about mission in the Pacific, taking notes relevant to my research.

On Thursday this week I flew to Tauranga, to speak to the Kaimai Presbytery. I used the time airborne to write, putting the finishing touches to the chapter. This included re-reading the notes I had made at the Hocken Collections on the lecture by Neal Whimp and then adding the reference to the bibliography: The Church in Vanuatu since 1945 with special reference to its role in the move to Independence, 1980. I made excellent progress on the 110 minute flight to Tauranga and later that evening, I was able to send the chapter off to the editors (only 20 days behind deadline!)

On Friday, I was speaking in Tauranga to a group of Presbyterian ministers. Among the audience, asking thoughtful pointed questions, was a person with a name tag “Neal Whimp.” One question in the afternoon session included a very helpful probing about colonialism in mission. The nature of the question suggested that the person with a name tag “Neal Whimp” had some history and empathy toward cross-cultural challenges.

As I packed up at the end of the day, I had this feeling that the name “Neal Whimp” was familiar. Something clicked in relation to my writing the day before. Was the Neal Whimp in person on Friday the Neal Whimp on paper on Thursday? Surely not!? Could the lecture I read at the Hocken Collections actually have a living author? Surely not in Tauranga, surely not some 37 years later?

Before I could check, the person with a name tag “Neal Whimp” was gone.

On Saturday, I spoke again, to a larger group, still Presbyterian, but this time a mixture of ministers, elders and lay people. As folk began to gather, I kept scanning the crowd. Would he return? If he did, would I get to connect with him among a crowd of over 100, moving between multiple workshops and keynotes?

I was delighted to spot the person with a name tag “Neal Whimp” entering and made a bee-line. “Are you by any chance the Neal Whimp who in 1980, delivering a lecture titled The Church in Vanuatu since 1945 with special reference to its role in the move to Independence, 1980? Because if you are, I was reading your work two days ago and I’m delighted to meet you.”

Sure enough, it was the same person.

We had a great conversation. He was delighted to know his lecture was held at the Hocken Collections and was being read. I gained some more insight, albiet briefly, into his work in Vanuatu in theological education between 1969 and 1980.

And I left pondering this striking coincidence. Authors read in archives can actually be alive! A person I cite on a Thursday can be met for the first time on a Friday!

Posted by steve at 05:42 PM

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Undisciplined Austen

austen

Here’s my draft abstract in relation to the Undisciplined Austen research project at the Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities, and in which I am participating, in a slightly bemused sort of way (and in my own time!)

Faith of zombies by Dr Steve Taylor

My “undisciplined” discipline is that of popular culture. I plan to “read” the 2016 movie, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, in which zombies express faith through religious practice.  I will examine the religious service scenes in the movie, in dialogue with three sources. First, the established religion of Austen’s time, in the form of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (still the official Prayer Book of the Church of England). Second, the Biblical themes of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, in particular in relation to the book of Revelation. Third, in dialogue with analysis of Christian imagery generally in zombie movies, beginning with Kim Paffenroth’s Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth, Baylor 2006. The aim is to articulate the uniquely “undisciplined” contribution that Austen genre makes to zombie theology and in relation to current study of zombie theology.

Posted by steve at 09:03 AM

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Theologies of the Walking Dead

So, in a strange turn of events, I find myself researching the walking dead. And in so doing, being offered airfares to Adelaide in October and some research assistance.

The walking dead are part of the Easter story, for in Matthew 27:51-53 “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”

But what to make of this strange story. And how to conduct research on this Biblical text?

First, the backdrop. In order to maintain my post-graduate supervisions, I have retained my status as Senior Lecturer in Theology at Flinders University.

Second, the events. In March, I was emailed by a lecturer in the English Department at Flinders University, asking if I would be willing to be part of a proposed Flinders research project, titled “Immortal Austen.” It involves an international conference marking the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death. It also involves a desire to broaden Austen studies by inviting researchers in light of disciplines other than English to think about Austen. The aim is a research symposium, with the papers becoming a special journal issue “Undisciplined Austen.”

The email concluded: “I notice you have an interest in religion in popular culture, so I wonder perhaps if you might be interested in considering Austen (whether the novels, modern adaptations, or even the various popular constructions of Austen) from a theological or religious angle?”

Third, the response. In some jest I replied, noting that I had not actually (embarrassed cough), read Austen. But my teenagers had been watching Pride And Prejudice And Zombies

And I noted, as I walked past the TV a few times, that it did have zombie church services and links to the book of Revelation. I also noted a number of academic studies of zombie theology, including Kim Paffenroth, Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth. Published by Baylor Press, no less! So, I replied, still somewhat in jest, I could examine zombies in Jane Austen.

Fourth, the result. A very excited group of researchers, keen to welcome my input, successful in their research bid, which included a trip to Adelaide, research assistance and the invitation to participate in a theology of the walking dead.

Strange days. Strange times.

Posted by steve at 10:13 PM

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Doing reflexivity: accounting for emotion and attachment in social research

Jon Dean, Doing Reflexivity: An Introduction, Polity Press, 2017. 180 pages.

Chapter one – Introduction

“Social research requires us to account for our humanness” begins Jon Dean, in his book, Doing Reflexivity: An Introduction. Social research is the study of humans by humans. By definition the study of humans can’t be done in a laboratory. It requires field conditions, amid the networks and relationships that make humans human. This includes the researcher, seeking to unpick the “messy bundle of behaviour and thought” of social networks (5). Unpicking is made possible through reflexivity. Reflexivity providing processes that allow the researcher to reflect on their human involvement in the study of humans. It provides way to account for the role of emotion and attachment in social research. Reflexivity is “the way we analyse our positionality, the conditions of a given situation” (8).

Ironically, this common sense approach is relatively recent. There is a long established hierarchy of knowledge that places pure maths at the top and anthropology and sociology at the bottom. It needs to be inverted. It is far harder to study people in all their inconsistencies, complexity and variability.

Jon Dean examines the increasing number of fields that are taking the attachments of social research seriously: journalism, politics, economics, health, welfare and social work. (And for me, the theological disciplines of ecclesiology, practical theology and missiology – all of which take critical examination of the lived practices of the church in the world as including the study of humans seriously.) Doing Reflexivity: An Introduction by Jon Dean promises a mix of theory, example and practical strategies.

Chapter two – Pierre Bourdieu and the development of theory

Posted by steve at 09:24 PM

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-> 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