Saturday, October 07, 2006

WWJD

I used to spend down time during first year Greek at Harding making up alternative meanings for the WWJD acronym. Wild Women Joke Dirty was one. Wet Willies Jiggle Dangerously. Willie Wonka Jives Deliciously. I think MTR was implicated in this as well but now that it's nearly a whole screaming decade ago, my memory's a little fuzzy. Or maybe it's just that my little gray cells are already multitasking to capacity these days and have no spare energy for frivolity.

Anyhow, my mom's been blogging lately on the shortcomings of the WWJD impulse. This week as I was reviewing Tillich in preparation for Friday morning's precept I came across a lovely passage which speaks directly to the concerns my mom is expressing. Full of joy that reading old dead German guys can still be relevant to the task of theologizing today, I include the passage below:

"Imitatio Christi is often understood as the attempt to transform one's life into a copy of the life of Jesus, including the concrete traits of the biblical picture. But this contradicts the meaning of those traits as parts of his being within the picture of Jesus the Christ. These traits are supposed to make translucent the New Being, which is his being. As such, they point beyond their contingent character and are not instances to imitate. If they are used this way, they lose their transparency and become ritualistic or ascetic prescriptions. If the word "imitation" is used at all in this context, it should indicate that we, in our concreteness, are asked to participate in the New Being and to be transformed by it, not beyond, but within, the contingencies of our life." Systematic Theology II, 122-3.

10 comments:

Greg Kendall-Ball said...

I'll have to go back and re-read the larger section to get the context, but I'm not sure I understand what he is trying to say. I understand the desire to not imitate the concrete traits of Jesus (I'm not planning on moving to the Middle East and learning to perform carpentry), but I wonder how he sees this imitatio playing out in our lives.

Of course, I'm thinking about non-violence here, and I'm wondering how he would see imitation of "turning the other cheek" in the concreteness of our lives today.

Greg Kendall-Ball said...

Er, "contingencies." Not "concreteness" of our lives today.

Carry on.

JTB said...

I guess it would all depend on whether T considered non-violence contingent, or an integral part of the New Being. I think it's probably closer to the latter, but T on nonviolence is an interesting question given his context. (I don't know all that much about it, but I do know that he supported the use of military force against Nazi Germany. However, he was a lot more nuanced in his read of the sociopolitical situation than a lot of others (then and now) in that he understood the complexities leading up to that 'necessity'.) My instinct on this is, Tillich would identify any one particular nonviolent action (say, stooping down and drawing in the dust with a finger) as "contingent," but leave adequate room for claiming the impulse and ability to enact such nonviolence constitutes part of the New Being.

Greg Kendall-Ball said...

Excellent. I'm all about that New Being stuff!

Greg Kendall-Ball said...

Speaking of T, did you hear about the time your youth minister rescued his daughter from purse snatchers?

Greg Kendall-Ball said...

How odd is this? Here I am commenting on your blog, while paperclipping articles from Ellen Charry in preparation for class this evening.

What a small, weird world we're livin' in.

JTB said...

youth minister? did I have a youth minister? am I dumb to be confused 'cause I don't know what in the world you're talking about.

Ah, Dr. Charry...one of my favorite eccentric academics.

Greg Kendall-Ball said...

Don't you attend the Manhattan CoC?

I was referring to "your" youth minister as in that J-Wild character.

Check out his 10-30 post.

JTB said...

I haven't been to Manhattan but once since the CCfB started meeting--thus my confusion. But thanks for the link, that is one wild story! I am just as excited about this tangential connection to greatness as meeting Heath & Michelle!

Martin said...

MTR, implicated. I won't comment on Tillich, but I will point out that you completely passed over "We Want John Denver!"