Confessions of a Theological Elitist

Aren’t you all entitled to your half-assed musings on the Divine. You’ve thought about eternity for twenty five minutes and think you’ve come to some interesting conclusions. Well let me tell you, I stand with 2,000 years of darkness, and bafflement, and hunger behind me. My kind have harvested the souls of a million peasants, and I couldn’t give a ha’penny jizz for your Internet assembled philosophy.

I’ve recently discovered Mitchell & Webb, and I have a colleague to thank and blame for that. Whether this discovery will bode well for either her or I on judgment day is yet to be seen, but nonetheless, I find these guys absolutely hilarious. This post, however, is not a Mitchell and Webb endorsement. Although, if I was to endorse them, I would do so with qualification, knowing that out of the ten of you who read my blog, seven, or maybe just six, might be a little disturbed by my endorsement, as these guys are a bit bawdy at times.  My only justification for this is that Chaucer, another Englishman, was quite bawdy himself, and he is an iconic figure within Western society. And no, I am not sure how evoking Chaucer justifies this, but honestly, I am equally not sure if justification is needed.

Anyways, as I said, this post is not a Mitchell and Webb endorsement, but rather my confession that I am something of a theological elitist. Why do I make this confession? Because, when I first heard the above quote in a skit, I thought to myself, “You know, I don’t completely disagree with this guy’s sentiments.” This “guy” was a priest who was talking to a couple who were making a friendly visit to check out the local church, and this priest’s response to their visit was far less than welcoming, and nowhere near embodied the love to which Christ calls his disciples. However, I totally get his response to people’s “half-assed musings on the Divine” in that when I talk to people about God, I often pick up an undercurrent that views all people’s opinions as equal, because, well, it’s about God, and so, what else is there to say but our opinions, because, apparently God is an empty concept that is begging to be funded however we want. I disagree with this current.

Just in case my elitism is still in question, I have another quote to share that receives my full endorsement. This quote is from Stanley Hauerwas, whose provocative words I have previously featured on my blog, and the quote is…

Theology is a minor practice in the total life of the church, but in times as strange as ours even theologians must try, through our awkward art, to change lives by forming the imagination by faithful speech. Thus, I tell my students that I do not want them to learn to “make up their minds,” since most of them do not have minds worth making up until I have trained them. Rather, by the time I have finished with them, I want them to think just like me.

What am I attracted to in these quotes? I am not sure except to say that I am having some kind of visceral reaction against the confluence of anti-authoritarian free thought, bourgeois individualism, and pluralistic ideology. It’s not that I want to embrace dogmatism, or absolutism, or any ism for that matter, but it bugs me that people seem to think that the ability to talk intelligently and knowingly about the divine requires nothing more than the ability to draw upon the same resources and methods one might utilize when talking about what shows are cool on TV. The truth is, if there is a God, and that God is transcendent, as the monotheistic traditions conceive him, then we are not just talking about some entity in the world,  but rather an entity upon which everything in the world depends for its very existence. And so, if the world is complex and not easy to get our heads around, how much more is that which exceeds the world.

Of course, having said all this, I am compelled to acknowledge that Jesus said that unless one coverts and becomes as a little child, one will not see the Kingdom of Heaven. Along with this, I oppose the academic monopolizing of theological discourse, as theology is the discourse that most properly emerges from the Church’s proclamation and worship of the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. This revealing means that God has drawn so very near, and often this nearness is discovered precisely by those who are not wise according to worldly standards. So, maybe my confession needs to lead to repentance. Be that as it may, I will close by asserting that “half-assed musings on the Divine” should not be equated with the child-likeness that Jesus affirmed. So there!


6 Responses to “Confessions of a Theological Elitist”

  1. Roger Green  

    Anthony – Oh, goodness, of COURSE you are a theological elitist – you’ve known that for a while, haven’t you? That’s why I come here, because it’s a struggle for me in a way that’s different than the struggle I have with “just follow the 10 Commanments and you’ll be all right,” something my late mother said a few times until I forced a debate about what Kill, and no other Gods meant. BTW, you can count on me to be to be the 3 or 4 not offended by the video.

  2. Tom  

    Two thoughts:

    1. Mitchell and Webb = Amazing and something I fully endorse. One of my favorite skits is the Sermon on the Mount. Super funny and maybe offensive to some.

    2. Thanks for the confession, I sometimes feel the same way about myself. My struggle comes with my frustration at what the church calls doing theology. Most Christians do a sad half ass form of theology that takes no effort, no sweat, no tears, and certainly no Holy Spirit. I feel a little elitist because my study of theology has taken all these things and I still struggle and feel like I know absolutely nothing. Church theology, from my experience, exists as a small group reading Max Lucado drivel. I mean it must be theology if it comes with a matching coffee mug and journal. That does not mean that I think the church is incapable of doing theology. As Christians we are to be filled with the Spirit. This Spirit leads to truth. Christians wrestling, fighting with, and pouring over scripture, church history, and real theologians can do theology. A thinking church might make a difference in this world. A church continually spoon fed on a diet of self help shallow junk food will continue to struggle in the face of an ever more pluralistic world.

  3. Anthony Velez  

    Roger – Actually, I should probably invert my numbers regarding those who my find my endorsement of Mitchell and Webb off-putting. And, if I understand you correctly, I am glad my blog is a place for you to struggle, which I hope means that you see me do so right along with you. Although, it strikes me that deeper faith is more like zen simplicity, which could look like in insouciance, but is really quite the opposite.

    Tom – Even if your wife had not previously commented positively on Facebook regarding a quote I posted from Mitchell & Webb, I would have guessed that you would have liked them.

    That said, if you have some down time, I have an idea for a skit. We do a judgment day scenario where a guy stands on a break away floor underneath which is a chute that goes you know where, and before which is a gate that leads to eternal bliss, and what determines his fate is his response to various bawdy stand-up comedians. I can just see it, the person is standing there tense faced from trying to keep himself from laughing. Occasionally that nostril sound breaks out from when people are trying to not laugh in inappropriate circumstances, and finally, after much desperation, a big laugh bellows and is followed by “Oh c’mon!!! This guy is fuuuuuunnnnnnnyyyyy (the last word stretches into silence as he falls into the abyss).

  4. Roger Green  

    Anthony – Yes, you look at issues that sometimes I didn’t think were issues. BTW, by inference of one of your definitions over time, we’d be best off if we were all monks and nuns, dedicating our whole lives to God. Of course, if EVERYBODY did that, we’d die off as a species.

  5. Tom  

    Tony, I think I would fall through the floor. I like to many inappropriate comedians. One of my favorite heretical comedy shows is a youtube show called “Mr. Deity”. Funny and wrong all at the same time.

  6. Olivia  

    I noticed a post on your facebook, which led me to your site, which led me to browse, and then I found this.

    I forgot that Jesus tells us we won’t see the Kingdom of Heaven unless we are child-like in faith. It seems to me that though we have been given minds with which to reason for ourselves the details of the religion, the faith cannot be rationalized or fully comprehended.
    Thank you for posting this.

    P.S. I wonder if people as ignorant as myself should even be allowed to muse on anything theological. Maybe I need to become the proverbial sheep and follow, not question.