Seeing Through the World’s Interpretations


The conclusion of the chapter in Jamie Smith’s book, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? on “nothing outside the text” is important for us today, as it frequently dawns on us in various ways how “our ways are not God’s ways, and that we have to “see via the text” in order to be the “Deconstructionists” that God actually calls us to be in this community of ours.

the deconstructive church embraces tradition but not the traditionalism of the status quo. It is a community of interpretation that values marginalized readings largely because the “foolishness” of the gospel itself is an interpretation of the human condition sidelined by secular modernity. To proclaim the gospel is actually already to speak from the margins. ….

this church, while recognizing that the gospel is an interpretation of the world and the human condition —perhaps because it recognizes this is an interpretation — focuses on the proclamation and witness of revelation. It does not focus on an apologetics of demonstration or on a “culture wars” agenda that, using logic as a weapon, seems to think that all Americans should simply see that Christianity is true. In fact, we can’t help but be impressed by the prophetic stance of the deconstructive church with respect to its culture. One of the primary goals of the worship experience embracing Word, sacrament, prayer, and singing is to equip and empower the saints to see through the interpretations of the world and the human prospect offered by the cultural forces of capitalism, consumerism, and hedonism. In other words, the worship in a deconstructive church is aimed at forming believers who can recognize Wall Street’s construal of happiness as an interpretation as well as articulate the countercultural gospel’s interpretation of human flourishing. The deconstructive church, in other words, is deeply prophetic reflecting the voice not so much of Derrida as of Amos.

This “countercultural gospel’s interpretation of human flourishing” is what is so tragically missing in the neocon/Chritian Right version of “the story”. The insertion of WAR as a legitimate means of “accomplishing the Kingdom” is outright blaphemy, but this is precisely what the Southern Baptist Convention leadership does by rushing to defend Bush’s choices about Iraq. (They’re not the only ones, but they are the largest and most vocal, and the representatives of a body among whom I once walked. Many of the mainline denominations seem to encourage caution in addressing the issue of war, just as they always have on issues of money and wealth. The “caution” is a membership issue. The “caution” pushes the churches toward stepping outside the text to alternate, more palatable interpretations, or ones more attractive to the persons who need assurance that allegiance to nation is recognized.

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