September 6, 2007

about NOoutcasts

[back]ground:

NO Outcasts was an idea I had while working on my MA in Theology at Bexley Hall Episcopal Seminary.  Ever since then it has continued to grow.  Originally it was conceived as a ministry of St. Paul’s Epsicopal Cathedral, in downtown Syracuse, New York and has become increasingly emergent as it branches out to network with folks from a variety of traditions and backgrounds, Christian and non-Christian.

NO Outcasts is a blog, which relies on the Mimetic Theory [link] of Rene Girard [link] as it primary source of inspiration.  I find Rene Girard’s insights and Mimetic Theory to be incredibly provocative, and relevant in the interpretation of both scripture and contemporary culture, especially when it comes to addressing the issues and concerns of my generation, Gen-X, and younger.  In fact, Mimetic Theory (or MT for short) has proven to be very revelatory in my own life.  My goal, then, is to take Girard’s thought, which has been stuck in the academy for far too long and make it available to those who matter most: you and me.

In addition to Mimetic Theory, I find it necessary to turn to postmodern philosophy, in particular, phenomenology, the work of Jacques Derrida and especially the theology of John D. Caputo, who’s influenced much of my thinking of late.  While Mimetic Theory exposes and explains the crisis of contemporary society, it is postmodern philosophy which best speaks the language of love, the response to that crisis.

[de]scription:

NO Outcasts is an ongoing discussion of the biblical scripture directed at, but not limited to, young adults, Gen-x and the un-churched.  It provides short interpretations of the Revised Common Lectionary in a format attractive to those who do their spiritual searching in cyberspace. NO Outcasts encourages open conversation through blogging and invites those interested to participate in further discussion at local coffeehouses and pubs [link], at regular movie nights [link].  Those who are interested in Christian tradition are invited to join us at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral [link] Sundays at 9:00 am for Lectio Divina [link] and traditional Anglican Eucharist at 8:00 and 10:00 am. In addition, I’m actively engaged in an emergent worship gathering, The Feast [link], which invites folks of all traditions and backgrounds to participate in an organic, potluck style liturgy.

Drawing its inspiration from Bishop Browning’s historic statement, “there will be no outcasts. The hopes and convictions of all will be respected and honored,” No Outcasts deconstructs controversial passages, which are often used to exclude or marginalize others. At the same time it attempts to shed new light on passages often considered too violent or difficult to digest, especially those, which the cynical culture points to as reasons to reject Christianity and the church, not to excuse those passages, but in some cases to expose them for what they are. In addition, No Outcasts tries to respond to the difficulties of contemporary life and relationships.  Mimetic Theory and postmodern thought prove most valuable when navigating the mine field of love, hate, and attraction.  In fact, it is here that I find the combination of Mimetic Theory with postmodern philosophy to be most fruitful.

My intent is to raise questions and state objections we rarely get the chance to voice. For instance, how are we, who live in a world threatened daily by rumors of terrorism, to react to threats of god’s wrath and judgment? Does god, who supposedly commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, require the sacrifice of those people and things dearest to us? What are we to make of all the prohibitions in the bible, especially those concerning sexuality? Should we seek answers to global problems such as AIDS and malaria, from a god who supposedly uses plague and pestilence to punish people? And who is this God anyways? Do we really want to pray “him”?

By questioning scripture within the context of all the uncertainties and anxieties of contemporary postmodern existence, the conversation, both on the web and in the discussion groups, will tap sources of meaning and inspiration born out of personal experience and a cross pollination between  Mimetic Theory and postmodern thought.

All are invited to participate online, at local meeting places, or Sundays mornings at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral.   Please feel free to join the conversation at any time!

Many thanks to Tom Luck and Barbara Price for supporting the initial idea, to John Shaffer and Doug Mouncey for their support and feedback, and finally to Mariellen Brown for the site’s design and maintenance.   Also, my sincerest thanks to Imitatio, Inc. for supporting this effort with a generous grant.


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