Brueggemann’s 19 Theses

Walter Brueggemann is an Old Testament scholar who has spent so much time studying the Old Testament prophets that he seems to have turned into one. He scares me. He’s the Steven King of the authors I read. I remember reading The Prophetic Imagination on a flight from India and writing in the margin, “I wish I hadn’t read this…but I have and I am now responsible.” Walter Brueggemann scares because I think he’s right—that our society is far more distorted than we have supposed. But in this time of economic catastrophe, when Bel bows, Nebo stoops and the false gods of Babylon are shown to be incapable of providing the peace and security they promise, we may be open to a critique of our idols that could lead us to the truly radical alternative of hope in the living God. My prophetic declaration concerning 2009 has been that it is a year of falling idols and rising hope. May it come to pass. So without commentary, other than to say I agree with this prophetic perspective, I offer to you my adaptation and modification of Walter Brueggemann’s 19 Theses..

1. Everybody lives by a script—whether implicit or explicit.

2. We get scripted through the process of nurture, formation and socialization, and it happens without our knowing it.

3. The dominant script in our society is one of technological therapeutic military consumerism.

4. That script enacted through advertising, propaganda and ideology, especially in the liturgies of television, promises to keep us safe and happy.

5. That script has failed. The script of technological therapeutic military consumerism cannot make us safe or happy.

6. Health in our society depends on disengagement with and relinquishment of the dominant script. This is a disengagement and relinquishment we mostly resist and about which we are profoundly ambivalent.

7. It is the task of ministry to de-script that script among us.

8. The task of de-scripting is accomplished by a steady, patient, intentional articulation of a counter-script.

9. The alternative script is rooted in Scripture and is enacted through the tradition of the church. The Bible and the Church offer of a counter-metanarrative to the script of technological therapeutic military consumerism.

10. The counter-script has as its most distinctive feature its key character, the God of the Bible—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

11. The script is not monolithic or seamless; it is ragged and disjunctive. It is ragged and disjunctive partly because it has been created over time by many different sources, but mostly because the key character is elusive and irascible in freedom and sovereignty.

12. The ragged and disjunctive quality of the counter-script to which we testify cannot be smoothed or made seamless, because when we do so the script becomes flat and domesticated and becomes a weak echo of the dominant script of technological therapeutic military consumerism.

13. The ragged and disjunctive nature of the counter-script unfortunately allows the adherents of the script to quarrel among themselves in ways that detract from the main claims of the script.

14. The entry point into the counter-script is baptism, by which we denounce the dominant script.

15. The nurture, formation and socialization into the counter-script is the work of ministry. We do this by the practices of preaching, prayer, education, social action and the practice of spiritual disciplines.

16. Most of us are ambivalent about these scripts, not wanting to choose between the dominant script and the counter-script.

17. This ambivalence between scripts is a venue for the work of the Holy Spirit.

18. Ministry is the attempt to deal faithfully with that ambivalence in order to permit relinquishment of the dominant script and embrace of the counter-script.

19. The work of ministry is crucial, pivotal and indispensible in our society precisely because there is no one to challenge the dominant script and present the counter-script other than the Church.

For you preachers who visit my blog, here’s a a bonus. Brueggemann on preaching (really good stuff!).