Christian Humanist Profiles 28: Ice Axes for Frozen Seas by Walter Brueggemann

Cultural critics of a certain persuasion will sometimes suggest that the Bible is a force to conserve what is most stable in human society, to call us back from our radical delusions and into a life that deserves not critique but preservation without much question or disturbance.  Not so Walter Brueggemann.  In his famous 1978 book The Prophetic Imagination Brueggemann introduced Bible students to a text that disrupts and confronts, that imagines a creation crying out for justice and mercy.  And in his 2014 book Ice Axes for Frozen Seas, Brueggemann once more returns to the Bible as a collection of texts that breaks up frozen ideas, making us see what we had ignored and to cry out when despair silences our cries.

2 thoughts on “Christian Humanist Profiles 28: Ice Axes for Frozen Seas by Walter Brueggemann

  1. I thought your comment on how “market forces” have replaced divine providence in some circles were interesting. Do you think forms of deconstruction that say “actually, everything here is all about the power struggle between group X and group Y” (whether it’s social class, gender, or something else) serve the same function?

  2. JoelJ I think that’s often a reductionist mode of explaining things, yes.  And I tend to be suspicious of most theories that exhibit what some writer (can’t think of where I read about this) calls “nothing-buttery”: this is nothing but racial tension, nothing but class struggle, nothing but individual wickedness, nothing but evolutionary struggle, and so on.  

    When I spoke of “market forces” as divine, though, I had in mind an Athenian tragic notion that the gods are forces that are sub-human morally but super-human in terms of destructive power, forces that squash human beings like bugs and leave no human being to blame.  That’s how things seem to work in Hippolytus and Medea by Euripides and Agamemnon by Aeschylus and in different ways in Sophcles’s Oedipus dramas.  

    I see the same sorts of narratives governing those moments when politicians and journalists and folks who don’t tend to get squashed blame “market forces” and “demographic shifts” and other such abstractions rather than human beings for suffering that a more Augustinian account of things would narrate as a blameworthy (and thus not inevitable) act of mark-missing/sin/crime/wickedness.

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