What the Church Needs: Calling Bullshit and Imagining the Impossible

This week, while I’m at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, I was asked to respond to the question What do you see in Anabaptism that is needed for the church today? It’s one of the themes for the week; there are lots more people saying intelligent things about it, and I’ve tried to collect some of them here. Given the nature of the question, I’ve put on my rose-colored glasses and examining Anabaptism at its best.

Anabaptism today offers two major contributions to Christian conversation. The first is that Anabaptists have a unique framework well-suited for the theological task of calling bullshit. This task is a theological task, and a critical one in our time—I’ll say more about this in a minute. When I was in seminary, one of our assigned readings was a thin book by Harry G. Frankfort called On Bullshit. I want to read an excerpt from the opening chapter:

“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit…. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and avoid being taken in by it…. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what function it serves.”

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On Bullshit (and Other Theological Words)

You may have noticed a crass word in my previous post (since it was titled “Relativism Ain’t Shit“). You may believe that pastors ought not to use curse words. I disagree–in fact, pastors are some of the people best qualified to use curse words. How in the fuck to do we name sin if we can’t say shit like “fuck wealth disparity“?

I’m being a little gratuitous here. Look. Language is the building block of our world. No word is an inherent sin, or wrong, it’s only the way a word is used and put into context that makes it wrong. There is a right and proper time for inappropriate words–mostly, to name an inappropriate action; to express the depth of hurt caused by that action. For example: “Did you hear Monsanto sued a farmer for $85,000 for patent infringement? That’s fucked up.” Continue reading