It's been a long time since I wrote that article on Christian pacifism. I have been very busy, but half of the reason is I just can't get going on finishing another article. I have a couple half finished, but i'm very unsatisfied with the writing and the way I am communicating the ideas. The future does not bode well for them if history repeats itself; the documents folder in my computer is littered with half-finished blog posts dating as far back as when this blog first started (3-4 years ago).
Do I cast them aside and begin on something entirely new? The problem is I just can't get a few issues out of my head. Indifference towards the third world, American Politics, and non-violent resistance. The recent attack on the Gaza strip really affected me. Obviously it isn't the first conflict in recent years to depress me, but I guess it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Reading a collection of Noam Chomsky's political thought, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky
, only amplifies the feelings of alienation.
I have not always had a passion for social justice. I remember early 2003, when I was 15 and appropiately naive, I watched the fighting in Iraq and was quite ambivalent and indifferent towards the whole thing. It was only a year later that I was arguing at school with a new student who recently came over from the US south; he loved Bush, guns, the confederate flag, and everything else that teenage boys from those parts of America are supposed to love. Looking back, I was still completely oblivious.
It took a number of years to change my perspective on life to be where I am right now. I would have to say it began with a close friend of mine in high school coming out of the closet, and revealing his homosexuality to the very conservative school and group of churches we both belonged to. The way that he was treated by fellow students, the faculty, the church pastors, and everyone else I knew at the time shocked me. It was really disgusting to me. By that time a number of intellectual disputes I had with the independent Baptist tradition (e.g. infallibility of the Bible, atonement theology, the Pauline priority, ignorance concerning the life of Jesus) were taking shape, and for me it was all over. Many things I had taken for granted all of my life had become meaningless to me, but I still held an ardent desire to know what Jesus really said, and what God really wants out of me.
For awhile it felt like limbo. I knew what I didn't believe in, but not what I did believe in. This continued for quite awhile as I gradually felt for an anchor to ground myself with, and then I started going to university. I came to the philosophy of Christian existentialism on my knees. It asked questions I was very familiar with, such as "What is the meaning of life?", "how do we make sense of the suffering in this world?", "how do we make sense of these feelings of angst, anxiety, and guilt?", "how do we have a proper relationship with God?", but the answers were so refreshing and relieving. At that point I was quite familiar with the basics of traditional philosophy, and the way that existentialism cut through the very presuppositions that founded my traditional philosophy was shocking and exciting. It was the author Soren Kierkegaard that really helped me re-find my Christianity; a Christianity that is true for me, a Christianity I could live or die for. I devoured
Fear and Trembling, The Sickness unto death, Philosophical Fragments, and some others. However, it was not until I read through his journals that I came across it."Christianity is no doctrine, but an existential communication"
That was the sentence that inspired this blog. After that I read quite a few people who helped me understand Jesus more. Specific mentions deserve to be given to Paul Tillich, John Howard Yoder, Chris Forbes (lecturer in the two early Christianity units I did at university last year), and others. Nothing helped me more, though, than an earnest reading of the Gospels, over and over. I decided to call this blog Existential Christianity to further develop this idea from Kierkegaard's journals. Interestingly, Christian Existentialism has often been taken to be highly individualistic and inward. In fact, John Howard Yoder often criticised Kierkegaard and the Christian Existentialists for being obsessed with defining Christianity as an inward and individualistic phenomenon. I think this site is often the complete opposite. Why I still call it "Existential Christianity" is a topic for another post I guess.
The development of my political beliefs started shortly after Kierkegaard. There has been a very strong direct correlation over the years between my understanding of and love for the teachings of Jesus and radical political/social beliefs. I believe this is quite natural; as it is Jesus who taught that serving the poor was one of the most important thing his followers can do. He taught people to love unconditionally (even your enemies), to resist non-violently, and to forgive radically. My inclinations towards radical political theories increased when I learnt about the very early tenement Churches in Rome, how the early church in general treated each other economically, and also modern political/military history. The number of political authors who influenced me would be too large to list.
I started writing this post with the intention of it being a one paragraph excuse for why I have not completed a new blog post, and it has (hopefully) turned into the very solution for my writers block.