How The Eucharist is Related to Gentrification and Why Urban Housing Is Sacred – Part I
The words “Eucharist” and “gentrification” may seem to be quite disparate in their context and meaning. One alludes to ceremony, tradition, religion, and sacrament, while the other connotes cities, housing, displacement, and economics. They are seemingly worlds apart. However, it is my contention in this paper that these worlds are not so far apart as they may initially appear. Rather they are connected at a foundational level through their respective understandings of place. What is it? Is it special? To whom does it belong? And do any of these things matter? As Christians we are a part of a story, a story that is centered, interestingly, on a particular understanding of place. Rooted in the Old Testament narrative of Abraham and Sarah and the stories of exile, the Scriptures are intent upon forming our understanding of the inherent specialness of place. Moreover, Christian tradition speaks to that same understanding through the development and process of its liturgy. Particularly, through the Eucharistic liturgy we are told a story week after week of the specialness of sacred space and our place. So then in this paper I will begin to build a bridge from Christian liturgy to our urban neighborhoods and explore how an understanding of the Eucharistic liturgy can provide the urban church with a prophetic voice against redevelopment at the cost of displacement. Continue reading →
In 1889, William Morris delivered a lecture titled “The Arts and Crafts of Today,” which addressed the degraded state of labour and commerce in industrial England by working through the question of art’s purpose in everyday life. Not simply an indictment of late Victorian society, Morris’s lecture functions as a manifesto, justifying his radical position to an audience of artists while laying out the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement. Like the manifestos of later design movements, such as The Bauhaus, Morris’s lecture assumes a close relationship between what he calls the “applied arts” and the complex form of society at large. For both movements, the design manifesto is a polemical call to all creative labourers to recognize their collective capacity to overturn and transform the status quo; it is an attempt to articulate an alternative vision of society in which art does not simply mask reality but actually improves it. Continue reading →
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
It’s a true, but a challenging statement. Its true, because while we may not put our money where our mouth is, we do put our money where our hearts are. Its challenging because we need only look to where we put our treasure to find where we’ve placed our values. Indeed, as a country, as a church, and in our families, we need only look at our budgets to discover what we actually believe. Continue reading →
“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
This afternoon, I came to the conclusion that I needed to overthrow the state, and so I baked a loaf of bread. It seems like an odd response doesn’t it? What does yeast rising have to do with revolution, and perhaps more to the point: why would I need to overthrow the state in the first place? The simple answer is that I’ve come to realize how deeply my imagination as a Christian has been held captive by the state. Continue reading →
“And he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem, who were two years old or under” (Matthew 2:16).
We do not know, of course, if this was a historical incident. That’s a debate that’s not going to be settled. But I can easily treat it as historical because, if it did not happen at that exact time and place, it has happened a thousand other times. A routine atrocity in an unimportant country, recorded by almost no one; and if I named for you now Kraras or Fence of Legs or the Markale marketplace, these words would have no meaning for most or all of you, these small massacres in distant lands, as unremembered by the world in general as a slaughter of children in a corner of the empire was by the empire’s own chroniclers.
It is a part of the normal operations of power. But even worse, in this case, it is the direct result of the coming into the world of the Incarnate Word. Continue reading →
Two recent titles from Stanford UP’s excellent series Cultural Memory in the Present focus on seventeenth century English poetry in an effort to address contemporary debates over theology and secularism.
In Sacramental Poetics at the Dawn of Secularism, Regina M. Schwartz credits the Protestant Reformation with providing a necessary critique of Church officials who sought to control the domain of mystery and instrumentalize the sacred. At the same time, she cautions, this upending of the sacramental tradition also enabled “a new instrumentality—not of the Eucharist by the Church, but of the sacred by the state” (29). Over the next hundred or so pages, Schwartz explores the effects of this theological-political shift through its expression in the poetry of John Donne, George Herbert, and John Milton. In such post-Reformation poetry, she writes, we see a lingering hunger for the divine, “a poetry that signifies more than it says . . . through image, sound, and time, in language that takes the hearer beyond each of those elements” (7). In other words, Schwartz treats seventeenth century religious verse as a form of compensation for the loss of sacred liturgy; and the effects of this loss, she argues, are still relevant for the way we understand the relationship between theology and secularism today. Continue reading →
Borders have, in contemporary discourse, had a rather rough time of it. Perhaps, at the end of a century that saw the partition of India and Pakistan, the ruler-happy imperialist line-drawing in Africa and the Middle East, and the blood-soaked, increasingly microscopic division of the Balkans, it is simply impossible to believe that borders are anything but a sign of failure. After all, even the gentlest uses of the word suggest something to be overcome, something to be crossed, and the images most commonly associated with it – barbed wire fences, armed guards, desperate refugees, watchtowers, customs officers – are steeped in the biometric panopticism of the modern state. Even to the white middle class, perhaps the most privileged of all international travelers, the border is an ambiguous site of anxiety and potential trouble. In the academy, the border has become increasingly fashionable as a site of transgression. “Border Crossing” and “Liminality” are celebrated as ways of resisting the totalizing logic of the centre, and even those who criticize (consider, for example, Roy Miki’s excoriation of those who are drawn to the margin’s “curious exoticism”) do so from the position that the border still names a painful division. It would seem that transgression is all the border is good for in the modern world. Continue reading →