This is the first installment of a diffuse and ill-defined project I am calling Invitation and Repair: A Theology of Culture. I will be posting on it intermittently — very intermittently, I suspect. Just laying down a marker here, by way of a beginning.
I have long felt that the standard approaches to a theology of culture — e.g., H. Richard Niebuhr’s all-too-famous Christ and Culture — are too schematic, and that the closely allied discipline of theological anthropology tends to produce work — like David Kelsey’s much-praised Eccentric Existence — that is bloodless, abstract, detached from the human lifeworld. I am not by profession a theologian, but these matters concern me deeply and I want to explore them. Thus: Invitation and Repair.
For the “repair” part, see this post on “broken world thinking”; for the “invitation” part, see this post on Michael Oakeshott’s definition of “culture.” My initial touchstones for the shaping of this project are:
- Steven Jackson’s essay “Rethinking Repair”
- Sharon Mattern’s essay “Maintenance and Care”
- The fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin
- The fiction of Thomas Pynchon
- My recent reflections on “cosmotechnics” and Daoism
- My thoughts from some years ago on anthropocene theology
On that last topic specifically, I tried to write a book — indeed, I wrote 80,000 words of a book. But I am not happy with what I wrote. I could re-write it, but I have decided that it was not framed properly. And that happened in part because I did not know enough to frame it properly.
The process of learning enough is going to be long, and I cannot foresee the path I will need to take to get where I want to be. So after much reflection, I have decided that the way to get there is by planting a new bed in my blog garden. I have resisted doing this because I would like for this to be a book someday, and I know that many publishers are reluctant to publish something that appears, in whole or even in large part, on the open web. And a part of me would like for this project to end up in book form because I want other scholars to cite it, and they are unlikely to cite a personal blog.
But you know what? Screw it. I need to take my time and develop the necessary ideas properly. If these thoughts never develop in such a way that I can turn them into a book, so be it. If they do so develop and nobody wants to publish it, so be it. (I’ll just make various digital versions.) The point, at this stage in my career, after fifteen published books, is not the publication, it’s the thinking. So let the thinking, in public, commence.
It will be slow at first and chaotic probably always. But I suspect that certain themes will, over the longue-ish durée, emerge.