Luke Bretherton / (Un)Common Life: Secularity, Religiosity, and the Tension Between Faith and Culture
Manage episode 329226999 series 2652829
Jesus's teaching to be in but not of the world (John 17:14-15) has gone from a mode of prophetic witness that could lead to martyrdom, to bumper sticker ethics that either feeds the trolls or fuels the tribe. We're in a moment where the ways that Christianity's influence on culture—and vice versa—are writ large and undeniable. And yet, how are we to understand it? How are we to live in light of it? How does that relationship change from political moment to political moment? In this conversation, ethicist Luke Bretherton (Duke Divinity School) joins Matt Croasmun to reflect on the purpose of theology as a way of life committed to loving God and neighbor; the essential virtue of listening and its role in public theology; the interrelation between Church and World; the temptation to see the other as an enemy to be defeated rather than a neighbor to be loved; and how best to understand secularism and religiosity today.
- Do you call yourself a theologian?
- “You can't understand the water you're swimming in without understanding something of the theological frameworks that have helped shape it”
- Where does the idea that our contemporary context is secular come from?
- “The world is as furiously religious as ever”
- People think that our modern age is like a shower, that we can just “step into the shower and be washed clean from the foul accretions of superstition and step out enlightened, rational men and women,” but we're actually in a ‘jacuzzi’ of ideas
- The internet and plurality of opinion
- What happens when we step away from the institutional framework of the Church?
- “Who tells the children what Christianity is, who tells the children, what Islam is?”
- Do you actually want to show up on a Sunday?
- Then tension between believing and belonging
- Sacrality and its many guises
- “The many forms of life which we don't necessarily name as religious, but they're functioning in that way”
- How do we name them?
- If you talk to an atheist, they feel marginalized in this country, but if you talk to an Evangelical Christian they feel the same way
- “Everyone feels under threat, whether you're a humanist or an atheist or a Christian or Muslim”
- “But if you take the victim view, it generates a failure of imagination, a failure of patience, and a failure of paying attention”
- Churches talk a lot about how to speak but not about how to listen
- “What does Christian listening look like in a pluralistic context?”
- Learning something about God by talking to an atheist
- Listening is pointing to what is already there: “We point to what Christ and the Spirit are already doing. And it is a privilege is to participate in that.”
- What is truth?
- “It is how well you love God and neighbor. And the apprehension of the truth is measured by the quality of the relationships”
- “So, I think faith begins with hearing and listening first”
- What’s right with theology?
- How can we have a synthesis of tradition and critique?
- Having a sensitivity to political order and whether it is constructive or destructive is theological work
- Epistemic humility and interdisciplinary study
- The beauty in becoming aware of what you don’t know
- What is the state of the field right now?
- The overemphasis on the hermeneutics of suspicion, and the world as it is versus the world as it should be
- Cynicism and redundancy
- “If all we’re saying is that wolves eat sheep, well, we kind of knew that already”
- What is a realistic hopefulness? What does ‘the world as it should be’ feel, taste, smell like?
- What is the purpose of theology?
- It “articulates what it means to heal a particular form of life in the light of who we understand God to be”
- “There shouldn't be an over-inflation of what theology, as a technical act, does. But neither is it nothing”
- “It is a cultivation of a faithful, hopeful and loving way of being alive”
About Luke Bretherton
Luke Bretherton is Robert E. Cushman Distinguished Professor of Moral and Political Theology and senior fellow of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. Before joining the Duke faculty in 2012, he was reader in Theology & Politics and convener of the Faith & Public Policy Forum at King's College London. His latest book is Christ and the Common Life: Political Theology and the Case for Democracy (Eerdmans, 2019). His other books include Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship and the Politics of a Common Life (Cambridge University Press, 2015), which was based on a four-year ethnographic study of broad-based community organizing initiatives in London and elsewhere; Christianity & Contemporary Politics: The Conditions and Possibilities of Faithful Witness (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), winner of the 2013 Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological Writing; and Hospitality as Holiness: Christian Witness Amid Moral Diversity (Routledge, 2006), which develops constructive, theological responses to pluralism in dialogue with broader debates in moral philosophy. Specific issues addressed in his work include euthanasia and hospice care, debt and usury, fair trade, environmental justice, racism, humanitarianism, the treatment of refugees, interfaith relations, secularism, nationalism, church-state relations, and the church’s involvement in social welfare provision and social movements. Alongside his scholarly work, he writes in the media (including The Guardian, The Times and The Washington Post) on topics related to religion and politics, has worked with a variety of faith-based NGOs, mission agencies, and churches around the world, and has been actively involved over many years in forms of grassroots democratic politics, both in the UK and the US. His primary areas of research, supervision, and teaching are Christian ethics, political theology, the intellectual and social history of Christian moral and political thought, the relationship between Christianity and capitalism, missiology, interfaith relations, and practices of social, political, and economic witness. He has received a number of grants and awards, including a Henry Luce III Fellowship (2017-18).
- This podcast featured ethicist Luke Bretherton and Matt Croasmun
- Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
- Hosted by Evan Rosa
- Production & Editorial Assistance by Nathan Jowers and Annie Trowbridge
- Illustration: Luke Stringer
- A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School https://faith.yale.edu/about
- Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture: https://faith.yale.edu/give