Welcome to A Body’s Grace, my reflections on the theological way of life. Here I (will) collect thoughts that aren’t quite ready for my more professional writerly ventures, sermons as I preach, snippets from bits I’m reading, and my thoughts on the mundane, those bits of life that we don’t usually stop to contemplate. I’m trying to foster two habits here: contemplation and daily writing.
I used to write over at The Land of Unlikeness with AD, a friend and the godfather of two of my sons. Members at the same parish, TLOU was AD and my stab at sketching out a vision of Catholic Anglicanism. I was heading to grad school, and AD was finishing a PhD in Religion. Together, we read von Balthasar, some nineteenth century Anglican dogmatics, and thought deeply about poetry, liturgy, and life. It was good while it lasted. Sadly, TLOU has been hijacked by some shamanistic, cabalistic Osteen/Oprah fan. More’s the pity.
In recent years, I’ve taught college theology (in a variety of settings). Along the way, I find that I and my students have thrived when our study has taken the mundane as the point of departure. By the mundane, I mean something like lived experience. So, for some of my students, this meant the lived experience of their imaginations (a class on Harry Potter). For others, it meant their lived experience of polemical cosmology (a class on Creation and Evolution). Finally, for others it meant the lived experience of the work of their hands (a summer ethics class that focused on DIY).
My interest in DIY, or craft, or “Meaningful work,” as Matthew Crawford calls it in Shop Class as Soulcraft comes from my own experiences. I was reared by parents who had grown up in the mid-west. Children of depression era farmers, my folks learned early and often how to do it for themselves. As boomers, they would continue that tradition, albeit in ways that were less connected to the land and disconnected from our sustenance. Still, working with my hands, innovating from scratch, and generally knowing my stuff were virtues inherent to my childhood. I’ve continued to “know my stuff” and am interested in helping others know their stuff. I’m also interested in making more connections between this way of life and theology.
Now, I’m in a period of discernment, which I may or may not go into here. But I’m convinced that the my future, and the future of us all, lies in revisiting the mundane, contemplating the every day, becoming better acquainted with our ways of living, and thinking about how those patterns of living connect us and distance us from others. Many authors have already done this, like Ivan Illich, Wendell Berry, and others. And you should go read them. But because the mundane, or the quotidian for you David Kelsey fans, precisely is our lived experience, the face of it is always changing, always refreshing. Our reflection on the mundane must therefore always be renewed. It should merely be the publishing wheelhouse for an elite few.
Some of you will notice the rather blatant allusion to Rowan Williams’ essay, “The Body’s Grace,” in the title of this blog. This is intentional. It’s a brilliant essay. But more to the point, Williams’ way of connecting the body, it’s work, and it’s significance, to theological reflection gets at, in a very precise and salutary way, what I want to do in these musings.