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the groans of creation: johnny cash, jeffrey stout, and jacob taubes on the politics of nihilism

February 23rd, 2006 by isaac · 15 Comments

The man in black… Johnny Cash. I’m sure many saw that new film: Walk the Line. I loved it. What is striking about the filmakers is that they frame Cash’s story with Folsom Prison. At the beginning of the film, Johnny Cash is waiting in a back room listening to the prisoners stomp and clap in excited anticipation for Cash’s performance. Then the body of the movie is a flashback through Cash’s life. Then, at the end, we return to the show at Folsom Prison that he demanded to play, to the chagrin of his record company. He goes to play in the prison because, for some reason, he feels with them. What is that about? Why the solidarity? Why is Cash the man in black? And why don’t we wear black too?

These questions came to mind the other day as I was driving, listening to some Cash. I’ve listened to his songs for years. But this time, my mind became the site of a conflux of thoughts—streams from distinct corners of my life all converging in one song, on some interstate highway. Here’s the thought: Does Johnny Cash, the man in black, give us a lens through which to understand the political vision of the apostle Paul? I know, it’s a crazy connection. Let me try to connect some of the synapses.

When I heard “Man in Black” I was struck by the pain Cash feels as he looks at the world. The injustice all around him pricks his heart as he strums those guitar strings and sings in that rumbling, dark tone. Of course, you have to hear it for yourself to feel the affect of his groans. But, if you can’t listen to it, here are a few lines from the beginning and end in order to get the gist:

Well you wonder why I always dress in black
Why you never see bright colors on my back
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone
Well there’s a reason for the things that I have on
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down
Livin’ in the hopeless hungry side of town
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime
But is there because he’s a victim of the times…
Oh I’d love to wear a rainbow every day and tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
Till things’re brighter I’m the man in black.

Cash wears black as a way of mourning; he clothes his existence with marks of despair so we might be reminded of the groans of creation, the pain of reality. The man in black gives his body as a display of this present darkness, this world that tends toward destruction. Life as mourning—Johnny Cash articulates a way of life that calls us to pay closer attention to the agony, the birth pangs, the tremors.

What does this have to do with a political vision?

Well, what came to mind is Jeffrey Stout’s discussion of the role of tragedy in democracy. He criticizes the movement of Black Nationalism and those moments in Cornel West when despair rules the discourse, when people resort to the rhetoric of excess. In Democracy and Tradition, Stout writes, “We have allowed ourselves to slip into a cycle of mistrust that makes it hard to persuade those who have ceased to identify with the civic nation that there is something tangible to be gained by identifying with it” (56). Those who, like Cash seems to, give themselves to the articulation of pain without also finding reason for hope in current social arrangements slip into a cycle of mistrust that calls into question our desire to identify with the civic nation. The key here, though, is that for Stout the hope may not be transcendent—everything must stay on the plane of immanance, the present social arrangements, the civic nation. Tragedy must not run too deep. If it does, then it can’t be used as fuel for reforming the civic nation. Johnny Cash’s sort of despair breeds mistrust, cynicism, suspicion: “The worse the social circumstances appear, the deeper the suspicion that we may be characters in a tragedy, awaiting only the final compensation for the flaws in our character. The deeper that suspicion goes, the stronger the temptation will be to place one’s hope in some temporal power other than, better than, higher than, stronger than, the people” (21).

The trouble, for me, is that Stout refuses the political nature of those extremely tragic voices—like Cash—because they are not useful for his project: the perpetual reform of the civic nation. On Stout’s account, one must not turn away from the people in search for hope. The dark voice of the likes of Johnny Cash would not be politically relevant for Stout because it “looks away from his own people to find hope and value in some other place and time” (57). But what’s so wrong with a political vision that looks for a hope that breaks in from beyond the present configurations of power? Well, according to Stout, all this rests on a wager, a conviction, a leap of faith: “My democratic wager is that the grounds for this-wordly hope and the evils we need to resist are both to be found among the people.” It all boils down to a wager.

But what if Stout is wrong? What if his confident conviction is misplaced? What if we have to wait in the dark cloud of history with Johnny Cash till things’re brighter at the consummation of the eschaton? What if it never gets better this side of Christ’s return? What if human political arrangements are destined for destruction, for damnation?

But why would anyone want to believe that, right? Why choose this nihilistic view of the promises of civic nations? I don’t really want to believe that. I’d rather be more hopeful about civic reform and social progress—all those good, enlighted convictions. But the problem is that I hear echoes of the apocalyptic ferver of the apostle Paul when I hear Johnny Cash. Paul:

The appointed time has grown short. From now on,... let those who deal with the world deal with it as as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. I want you to be free from anxieties. (I Cor.7:29ff)

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for the full revelation of the adoption, the redemption of our body. For only in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom.8:22-25)

This is the apocalyptic Paul. All this stuff ends tomorrow. The only thing that lasts is the love of God offered in the body of Christ, the community of agape. Everything else is fading away, heading for it’s own dissolution. In his passionate lectures on The Political Theology of Paul at the end of his life, Jacob Taubes likened this Paulinist vision of the political to Walter Benjamin’s description of nihilism as world politics: “nature is Messianic by reason of its eternal and total passing away. To strive after such passing, even for those stages of man that are nature, is the task of world politics, whose method must be called nihilism” (72).

What sort of political vision is this? And what would it mean for those who consider the letters of Paul authoritative? I have to admit, I am not quite sure. I can say that part of what it means is that the church witnesses to the world to come by the way it lives in the love of Christ, the agape available in the living body of Christ. But what about the groaning of creation, the pangs of this world as it passes away, as it heads towards self-destruction? Maybe that’s why Johnny Cash wears black. That’s what he wants us to see. Maybe.

But can we sing those sorts of songs at church? Not necessarily Cash’s songs, but songs that proclaim the painful groaning of this present darkness? And that’s what brings me back to Jacob Taubes’ articulation of the political/ecclesial theology of Paul, and the despairing characterization of “nature” in that vision:

You notice that Paul has very peculiar worries about nature. Of course they’re not ecological worries. He’s never seen a tree in his life. He traveled through the world just like Kafka—never described a tree, or mentioned one… He doesn’t write: Dear Friend, Nice weather here, or: Glorious nature all around me—he doesn’t notice any of that. Just find me one place in a Pauline letter where he lets up from this passion, from this obsession, from this one theme that moves him… And yet nature is a very important category—an eschatological category. It groans, it sighs under the burden of decay and futility. What does ‘groans’ mean? There he explains that we too groan. You must imagine prayer as something other than the singing in the Christian church; instead there is screaming, groaning, and the heavens are stormy when people pray… This is how Paul experiences the praying congregation. (73)

Is this the sort of praying for those who wear black? Is this the way Johnny Cash prays?

Tags: life · pop culture · theology

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jason // Feb 28, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    I have to admit, Isaac, that my first reaction is “no” to a politics of nihlism for two reasons. One is that the practical implications seem to be an abandonment of the world. If the world is on a train headed to destruction then why care for the poor or try and reform corrupt governments or worry about finding a cure to aids or try and do something about global warming? It sounds like apocalyptic eschatology minus the cataclysmic destruction of the world. Two is that I find it in conflict with Kingdom politics. Certainly the already/not-yet aspect of eschatology needs to be held in tension, but nihlistic politics seems to lean too heavily on the not-yet. I want to hold onto the hope that the Kingdom is like a mustard seed, not bound for being squashed, rather bound for growing to biggest of the plants.

    That said, I do like your thoughts on Cash and his wearing black. Do you know if priests also wear black for the same reason—as a sign of the groaning of the world? Given the popularity of black today, I wonder if it might be more of a witness to those things you described to go the way of St. Francis of Assisi by rejecting the fashion industry and its insistence on always spending more in order to impress. Time to don my high school graduation robe 😉

  • 2 isaac // Mar 1, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    A few things. First, it is interesting that the distinction for Taubes above is not “church/world” like you (Jason) seem to imply: “an abandonment of the world.” Rather, creation and nature are the categories in play above. And that cuts across any church/world distinction. It’s not about abandoning the world ‘out there’ while we play around in the joyous safety of the only joyous place in creation—i.e., the church. That’s not the vision at all. All creation groans. That means me and you. And that’s why I start and end with Johnny Cash. And the question becomes: Why the hell are we not wearing black like Cash? He said he’s going to wear it “till things get brighter” and if we have the audacity to think we reached that time, then it sounds to me that we aren’t hanging out with the right people. We haven’t spent any time in Folsom Prison—or in homeless shelters, or hospitals where people can’t move because their bodies are eating themselves alive, or down in that borderland on the South side of California’s wall, etc. I’m sure those folks are groaning. But we don’t like to hear that stuff—scream of pain are too depressing; they make us too cynical about what we got, and too skeptical about new proposals to solve the world’s problems. So, to be quite frank, I get pissed when people like Stout start telling folks to get over their pity party and start believing in what we got, this oh so wonderful civic nation.

    All that to say: Sure, Jason, reform is great; we need it; we’d be silly to say that we’re just suppossed to sit around and watch it all go to hell. And that’s not the point of a nihilistic vision of politics. The point is to too look at all the pain and destruction we have caused in the name of “reform” whenever the people on top claim to know the right policy that will make the difference we’ve all been waiting for. This nihilism is the cynicism that comes with a realistic view of history. It puts a big question mark to all those great political ideas we have. And then it asks us why we don’t wear black—in other words, Do we know anyone whose groans beg for the promised kingdom to come, and can we join them in their groans? Didn’t Jesus say that those who mourn are the blessed ones? And those groans reach into the desperation of pain and open us up onto the only horizon of possiblity—God.

  • 3 isaac // Mar 2, 2006 at 6:25 am

    Jason, I wrote that comment late last night as the library was closing, so I didn’t have time to say everything I wanted to say. But, I think you might be onto something with the whole eschatology bit. Taubes is a Jew reading the apostle Paul as a Jew. So, I guess, Taubes might not get his christology right, and so he misses out on the eschatology. And that’s why “nihilism as world politics” might not jive with the kingdom now/not yet. You might be right. But here’s the thing: It seems to me that Taubes thinks that the kingdom comes through the gift of God’s Messiah to this new people of God as it mourns, as it tunes its ears to the cries of creation (church, world, humans, earth…everything!) and groans along with it. That’s what that last quote above is all about: imagine a “groaning congregation.” Now, I don’t think that means that we are destined for despair, although we should never look beyond the concrete pain of those around us (and if there are none around us, then maybe we need to move) in order to find some dellusive happiness—it’s like that dude in the Matrix who wants to go back to his dreamy existence instead of face the harsh reality of this present darkness. Instead, the gift of joy comes to the people who find themselves “in Christ” as Paul puts it, in the body of Christ—as they mourn and despair in solidarity with those blessed ones who mourn, like Jesus said. And who knows what hope might come from that solidarity, from those concrete relationships that are transfigured by the flow of God’s agape as Christ binds us together. But this can’t move too quickly into messianic schemes of reform—like that terrible cover (and article) of Christianity Today a few months ago that featurned Rick Warren (that serene, white Messianic figure) in the midst of all those rambunctious black people who went to Africa to save the world from poverty/Aids. When I hear reform, I think of that; I think of all those nice people with power sitting either commuting to those terribly painful areas of the world and coming up with schemes to help ‘those people.’ I don’t buy that. That doesn’t seem to me to be anything like a “kingdom politics.” That’s just enlightened philanthropy. Leave that to the Rockefellers. The church should have something different to offer: a place that mourns in solidarity with those whose pain shows us that we are part of this that killed Jesus. And then we wait for resurrection, for death to speak the about life. But there is no short cuts, it seems to me, around that death.

    Why isn’t this “kingdom politics”?

  • 4 Eric Lee // Mar 2, 2006 at 11:17 am

    Isaac,

    I read this post a few days ago and have been enjoying the discussion so far. This is probably one of my favourite posts I’ve read from you (aside from a few rad sermons). I haven’t read any Stout yet, but I find it rather unsettling that much of his argument hinges on a ‘wager,’ and not a very good one at that.

    By the way, I still need to post that paper I wrote on Hauerwas. There’s a newer piece by H. that rehashes some stuff with Stout that I found recently, too, which I’m going to blog a bit about in regards to some similar stuff. Now if I can find some time… maybe I’ll e-mail you the revisions I made to that one piece to make sure I’m not being sloppy.

    Peace,

    Eric

  • 5 isaac // Mar 2, 2006 at 7:31 pm

    Eric, thanks for reading the post. It is one of the more empassioned lines of thought I’ve followed. I think it’s because that Jacob Taubes book is infectuous. His passionate style snatches me right up into his Paul.

    About Stout… I don’t think this post is an accurate account of what I think about Stout’s Democracy and Tradition. Like I said above, I was pissed at him when I wrote this thing. I actually have great appreciation for his work because it really shifts the landscape of political theory and has the potential to move democracy in interesting directions. I would choose him over John Rawls any day. But, that said, I think Romand Coles gives you everything Stout has and more (see Beyond Gated Politics).

    I definitely think you should post that bit you wrote on Hauerwas. And, like you said, definitely see where that new Cross Currents article takes you (I assume that’s the one you’re talking about—I don’t know of any others). It’s about time Hauerwas shows his debt to Sheldon Wolin. By the way, check out the piece Peter Dula and Alex Sider wrote on “Radical Democracy, Radical Ecclesiology.” Great stuff. But I’m biased—they’re friends of mine from church. They give a more generous read of Stout, and offer some interesting criticisms of Hauerwas. They also bring Stanley Cavell into the conversation about American democracy, which seems like it would be quite helpful. Cavell’s Emerson is a whole lot more interesting than what Stout has to say about “emersonian democracy”.

  • 6 isaac // Mar 4, 2006 at 7:35 am

    I don’t want to interrupt the flow of the conversation or anything, but I was talking to a friend last night about an essay Peter Candler wrote about Johnny Cash a couple years back in First Things. It’s great. Check it out if you get a chance: Johnny of the Cross

  • 7 Gus Abraham // May 27, 2006 at 4:27 am

    Thank you. Donbt know why a Scottish repubican was drwan to your site but i like it. Yes to Cash’s line ‘Oh I’d love to wear a rainbow every day and tell the world that everything’s okay
    But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
    Till things’re brighter I’m the man in black.’

    I like to be cautiously pessimistic about things and I think this is only realistic given where we are. Too much wild-eyed, pie-eyed optimists about ignoring some harsh truths.

  • 8 isaac // May 30, 2006 at 6:06 am

    Gus, thanks for stumbling across the site. I think your comments about a cautious pessimism rooted in realism is important. But I don’t want to say that pessimism is the answer, that there is no room for hope, for joy. I recently preached a sermon on Psalm 4 that talked about how our Christian witness in tough times takes the form of a greater joy. Joy is important. But the question is how we decide to receive joy. A joy that isn’t honest about the painful world in which we live (the “harsh truths”, as Gus puts it) seems to be a selfish sort of joy. But Jacob Taubes is helpful because he talks about Paul’s vision of love and joy that is rooted in the pain and agony of a creation that groans. For Taubes’ Paul, the gift of joy comes to the people who find themselves “in Christ” as Paul puts it, in the body of Christ—as they mourn and despair in solidarity with those blessed ones who mourn, like Jesus said. And who knows what hope might come from that solidarity, from those concrete relationships that are transfigured by the flow of God’s agape as Christ binds us together. We must give up our optimistic hopes that escape the reality of a world that suffers and instead abide with those who are in pain (some of whom are in pain because of our sins) and learn of an unspeakable joy and love that can only come as a gift of God’s Spirit. We must be optimistic in the work of the Spirit to do the impossible when we least expect it, in the places that are furthest from worldly hopes. This is an optimism that believes that Jesus really died and that God did the impossible and raised Jesus from the dead.

  • 9 dawn // Jun 6, 2006 at 6:47 pm

    Isaac, what a great post! I appreciate the convergence the streams of philosophy, theology, and bible onto an interesting contemporary cultural icon. I love Johnny Cash. I always have. But I never would have put that stuff about him being “the man in black” together in the way you did. Very compelling argument.

    I thought you might also be interested in a quote from Cash’s autobiography, Cash. When reporters ask him why he wears black, Johnny Cash quotes the same verse from the song “Man in Black” that you quoted. This is what he writes, “I wore the black, I sang, ‘for the poor and beaten down, livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town.’ I wore it ‘for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, but is there because he’s a victim of the times.’ I wore it for ‘the sick and lonely old’ and ‘the reckless whose bad trip left them cold.’ And, with the Vietnam War as painful in my mind as it was in most other Americans, I wore it ‘in mourning for the lives that could have been. Each week we lose a hundred fine young men. I wear it for the thousands who have died, believin that the Lord was on their side.’... Apart from the Vietnam War being over, I don’t see much reason to change my position today. the old are still neglected, the poor are still poor, the young are still dying before their time, and we’re not making many moves to make things right. There’s still plenty of darkness to carry off.”

    I thought you would appreciate the quote. I bet Cash would still be wearing black today for all those deaths in Iraq, and all the poor roaming the streets, made invisible by our secluded life-styles.

  • 10 Philip J. Hanson // Sep 5, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    I, too, was equally moved by Taubes’ Heidleberg lectures on Paul. I like his comparison of Nietzsche, Benjamin and Paul on the sinful/nihilist world. In addition, his thesis on the Jewish Paul, in contrast to the Hellenistic Paul, is compelling, although his Christology could use some “tweaking.” (I’m still wondering about his definition of “God-fearers” and these people being the exclusive audience of Paul’s ministry.) His ritual (Yom Kippur) interpretation of Romans parallels Austin Farrer’s St Mark offering an exciting avenue to pursue.

    My question of Taubes’ exegesis, however, goes in a different direction. It approaches suspiciously the line of recent exegetes from Barth, Bultmann, and Bornkamm, to Hans Jonas, Ricouer, Kasemann and Wright. The problem may be seen in Taubes’ deliberation about visiting conservative Catholic jurist Carl Schmittt. He writes (I do not have the lecture with me, but quote from memory), I cannot judge the man CS, since as a Jew, we were all tempted to join the Nazi movement. It was only by an historical accident that we Jews were excluded. How enlightening! Remember, CS wrote as a legal theorist, in which he defines sovereignty as a decision for the exception. The key word is “decision.” Like CS, Taubes’ defines Paul’s theory of law as decision-based, and Paul’s mission as a decision (not “”conversion”) to preach the Jewish apocalytic Messiah. The philosophical heritage is Kierkegaard, and the image is a decision to “leap” into the abyss (nihilistic world). Unlike the Lutheran leap, in which the individual jumps, the Taubesian tumble is a collective movement of the community. Perhaps, Taubes’ tumble misses the all-pervasive, omnipotence of God? His fear of Spinoza’s pantheism may have pushed him too far to the other side. Just as the local Jews “excommunicated” Spinoza, Taubes assigns to the synagogue the power to excommunicate the Son of God.

    The order decided on by Taubes is, first, all have sinned (guilt), second, decide to give up the ego (sacrifice), third, the Messiah establishes the righteous community. Taubes does not like the interpretations of Paul and the conversion experience, because this theology has potential to undermine his schemata. It might be possible “to be saved” without recognition of sin! That is, by demoting Jesus the Messiah to the creator of community, Jesus the Christ has little to do in the transfiguration of both the community and individual. What is the role of grace in Taubes’ interpretation of Romans?

    Haunted by Heidgger, a Nazi who sided for a kind of intellectual passivity (what Pieper calls “the life of leisure;” and Arendt “vita intellectus”) and, interestingly, Junger and Schmitt, the first a military officier and, the second, a jurist, both actively involved in the National Socialist German Workers Party, Jacob Taubes balances the mystical (Albert Schweitzer) with the voluntarist (Bultmann) hermeneutic. Taubes seems to favor the mystical, yet always within the redeeming community (his critique of Buber’s I and Thou would bear this out).

    I like your homiletic connection with Johnny Cash; however, it works only if you buy the argument that Paul, as Nietzsche describes, requires the acknowledgement of sin prior to belonging in Christ. Does Paul renounce Jesus when he says (in John 15:16), “You did not chose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.?”

    Philip J. Hanson
    http://faculty.ulv.edu/~hansonp/Index.htm
    iblog: http://web.mac.com/hansonp/iWeb/Arizona%20Aridity/Welcome.html

  • 11 Ari Akkermans-Amaya // Aug 18, 2007 at 5:59 am

    Dear Isaac,

    I read with much surprise your post on Taubes (which is already rather old) and I would like to offer my two cents; albeit the whole blog is very interesting and wish I had more time to read through much more. Now down to business:

    Scholem and Taubes parted ways already in the 1960’s not only for personal reasons but out of their variegating interpretations of Benjamin’s politics and history. I think it’s highly misleading to approach Taubes only from his lectures on Paul without the “Abendlaendische Eschatology” which unfortunately has never been translated, and also without the lectures on Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History that were delivered in 1984. The project of Nihilism as world-politics is of course a frame of the 19th century and derives out of a notion of history which in the postmodern political condition and reflected autonomy-contigency-historical consciousness is no longer tenable because it implies a critique of “techne” similar to that seen in Heidegger’s “die Zeit des Weltbildes”. This is no longer tenable if only because it constitutes a critique of modernity that leads the way into an unsolvable problem that can be somehow repaired by means of a catastrophic/apocalyptic view of history. You see in Hans Blumenberg book when he speaks about “Modernity in place of Eschatology: Modernity as Eschatology”.

    Taubes’ greatest contribution to the field of religious history was his decisive step to place the beginning of all eschatological thinking not in the Church itself but in Paul and therefore throwing it back upon older Jewish sources no less than hermeneutically speaking finding these same antinomies in other places in the Jewish tradition; notwithstanding how disputable this could be. But coming out of the world that came to an end with the Nazi Holocaust, that what Hans Urs Von Balthasar called “the apocalypse of the German soul”, is very unlikely that Taubes would have seen his model of politics in the way you interpret it. That despair of mourning is the key virtue of postmodern thought and by tour de force its greatest failure because it adopts the same values that it rejected: the catastrophic end of rationality within reason that the Weimar Republic experienced. For example, you can find much better models for this post-apocalyptic politics or the reflection thereof in Herbert Marcuse, but more than anything you find in Guenther Anders and in Hannah Arendt.

    I agree that Stout is wrong, along with many others… it is this refusal to look at theology as politics, the legacy of the Enligthenment. What is so problematic with them is the total instrumentalization of everything, including politics and therefore human life per se which leads to human superfluousness, whereby the common world disappears and therefore the political sphere turns into a realm of theatricality, but theatricality without virtuoso performance. The “black” vision of Paul and Taubes is doubtless aesthetic and that’s why it’s so important… because it relies on some basic tenets that enable trascending a model that has wiped out all possibilities thereof. Yet, the eschaton is a line, whereas time is not, nor is eternity… the three concepts seem to stand on different conceptual planes, and eschatology as politics means throwing the teleology upon the absolute present of St. Augustine, and also of postmodernity by the way… It recreates the immanentism which it’s trying to eliminate somewhere else. Taubes’ Christology is also disputable, and I think one should go better by Bloch in those cases… because Bloch rejected the theocracy (the kingdom polity/politics) but didn’t overlook the importance of political theology, if not see his book on Thomas Muentzer as theologian of the Revolution. I’m no Theologian of sorts, or was a little bit but no more. May you succeed in the seminar, and me in the meantime just in the research room :)

    Ari
    Between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

  • 12 Ari Akkermans-Amaya // Aug 18, 2007 at 6:09 am

    You might want to look at a little book called “Hannah Arendt and the Political Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth”, by F. Dolan, the book of Klaus Harms “Arendt and Jonas: Grundlage einer Philosophische Theologie der Weltverantwortung” (the foundations of the philosophical theology of world-responsibility). Also the articles on Taubes by Eveline Goodman-Thau or the essay by Elettra Stimili “Messianism as a Political Problem”, on Taubes and Scholem and which I deliberately disagree with. The rejection of the world is what one achieves in the end going the way of Taubes, that Hegelian tendency to constantly escape the pressures of the present and which is the benchmark of the German philosophical tradition, to find a home in “Greece”. What if not this, is what the theology of liberation seeks? Taubes is famous for his saying “In this world as it is, I want no spiritual investment”. His wife Susan commited suicide, and so did his father—a famous rabbi from Zurich, then he married twice more, had a life-long affair with the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann and wasn’t particularly an exemplary citizen through his friendship with outlawed Schmitt and other well known Nazis in the political scene of Munich. Pity his letters to Eric Voegelin aren’t published, so much one could learn from his Pauline theology from them. I forgot about keybook “Die Auferstehung des juedischen Jesus” (the resurrection of the Jewish Jesus) by Agnes Heller.

  • 13 Rocket // Aug 27, 2007 at 5:15 am

    Hmm interesting. I haven’t read all the authors referred to above. But I had googled (that’s a verb by the way) “creation” “groan” and “Romans”, whilst preparing a sermon, and found the blog and comments enlightening. Cash (that’s JC) wearing black was a great observation and quote for me to use. At least both JCs spoke in action, as well as words. Maybe that’s part of Paul’s point: prayer is action. Prayer – not just groaning, lamenting our sad state, but “groaning with” and being ourselves born (again!) as part of a new creation. I have long been interested in the Spirit groaning, Creation groaning and we ourselves joining the chorus of sighing as we wait, and wait and wait for a new body. Could possibly (I haven’t checked the Commentaries) the singular use of “body” indicate the church community joining creation (rather than the individualistic view of almost all translations)? So, like God, we groan with the human and non human world, not just visit and jet home again, and with God in Christ we join creation and the church in a joyful resurrection.

  • 14 isaac // Sep 1, 2007 at 5:40 am

    Ari, I am very grateful for your comments. I wish I could read more Taubes to pick up on the thoughts that you think are important. My problem is that I can’t really read German. And not many of Taubes’ works are translated yet. Either I bite the bullet and learn some German, or wait (and ‘groan’) until some more get translated. That’s also the case for most of the authors and books you recommended—I just can’t read them due to my language insufficiencies. I very much want to read Bloch’s book on Thomas Muntzer. Muntzer is becoming more and more important to me as I think through my Mennonite/Anabaptist identity. It’s surprising to me that Bloch’s book has not been translated into English.

    But thank you for your comments; please visit again and lead us into other important nuanced discoveries.

    peace.

  • 15 Jeffrey stout | Ashtangabrasil // May 31, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    [...] the groans of creation: johnny cash, jeffrey stout, and jacob taubesExcellence and the Emersonian Perfectionist: An Interview with Jeffrey Stout, Part I … Jeffrey Stout (JS): The texts that mattered most to me in high school were James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Gandhi’s Autobiography, King Lear, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” Walden, and “Self-Reliance.”… [...]