Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.

When We Are Untimely


The more I drift from my daily engagement with formal academic theology, namely in an editorial capacity, I feel my small driftskiff beginning to take on a kind of water. Which is fine. So I pour out ink and blood and tears, my water.

Because the personal is the theological (like the political), we tend to universalize our theology for our universal purposes. It might be justice. Or love. It might be both. Or more. It might be salvation. Whose? I’m not sure. But when we create a theology, we do not create it ex nihilo. Theology is derivative from encounter. But perhaps a hubristic act of theology is that as we construct it from our selves and from our encounter, id est, being/becoming and re/action, we also project it universally and architectonically. That is, we claim to be contextual and resisting systems, believing we have pressed systematic theology, by his shoulders, into a shallow grave, writing out our freedoms on our own and liberated and naked arms and thighs. But we cannot escape ourselves, the universal part of our selves to our selves. We are always there with ourselves. We are our own universals. So, even our context is our system. We cannot escape ourselves, even if we think we can escape ourselves in “the new creation” of our selves drowned and reborn. Our universals are in relation to God, who we perceive in all manners of time. And, so, with the absurd, Kierkegaard speaks of “The Absolute,” against such systems and universals. Against the universal, his self relates to its self, though the self is not the relation, itself.

But, our problem is that we probably always perceive ourselves as timely. This is another problem of our personal universality: we view our timing as perfect, in that we have full appropriation of our time because we move in and through time. But what if we were untimely to ourselves and to others? What if our systems, our personal, universalizing theologies were like our organs, our bodies, themselves. Our hearts skipped a beat, our lungs gave out and collapsed. What if this internal timing failed? And we felt it happen as it happened? We became arrested, toward rest, to stasis? And keep on living in a different way, off-kilter from as we’ve lived before, our theologies perceived and and treated as such. How would we and our theologies become in/appropriate/d? How would we be handled? With tongs? Or perhaps with distaste? Or worse, boredom, the root of all evil?

I mean this and I shall attempt to speak write draw move plainly: we must come to terms with the notion that most likely our theologies are not for now, only that we think they are for now, because of the perceived now of our selves. Our bodies tell us that we are for now. Our stories and impulses of God, it is not so certain. Our perception shows us that we are now. But what if we are for then or were for later? How was Bonhoeffer for now? How is Bonhoeffer for then?

When will then be now? Soon, it has been said.

Our egos tell us our theologies are important, that what we are doing, deliberating, acting toward is significant. Perhaps, for the Kingdom of God Heaven. Sometimes, we call our ego God. It is hard to tell, sometimes. We now say that the patriarchal and kyriarchal theologies are oppressive. They are no longer timely. New, competing theologies have come/ are coming/ will come into their fullness of time. Pick a contextual theology that you find timely. You will universalize your favorite theology, your necessary theology, for your self, and you will re-actively create a universalizing architectonic for your self and for your justice or your love or your salvation or whatever you strive to pray for. When did/does/will your theology fall out of favor, fall out of time?

In my little skiff, there is paper that I have torn into a book, pages pressed firm with spit and blood, maybe my own. Here is some gritsap I found to serve as binding. The ink bleeds through the pages. Theology is never written on a single side. (You know that.) As they float by, I am gathering new pages from the water, for a home has slid into the new river and its library is drowning. I am taking on the water of the house, the water that has poured through it and stolen its pages. These pages from seminaries, from sermons, from journals. Words drowned and dried, a function of baptism.

I am creating my book of my theology, sutured from encounter and classes and lectures and volumes. It is untimely, my theology, my function, absurd. I am writing over the pages with blood-ink. Greek glosses with scum-mud grease. I am weaving my appendix out of moss and old cable. I carve my apparatus out of driftwood windows. My breathing is scattered, heartbeat arrhythmic, an embodiment of untimely theology. My boat and I, we drift along a flotsammed shore, just out of reach.

When will it happen to you, when you will fall out of fashion?

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By Burke
Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.


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