Recruitment and Databases

Here’s a subpart from No Child Left Behind and some news from Marketplace. It seems that children aren’t being left behind from military recruiting, that’s for sure. Uncle Sam is also collecting teens’ data. The same company that helps catalog companies collect and track “deep insight” about customers is helping the government track high school and college kids.

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The Story of Language and the Body

The biblical story can be told as if the plot were one that took as a main theme the relationship of language and the body. It is a story with intricate twists and turns which is told and retold in the account in which we now have it. It is plural even in its beginning. In the first version (Genesis 1.1-2.4a) God speaks creation into existence. God’s language creates human bodies and the story begins with the precedence of language before bodies. In the second version (Genesis 2.4b-25) God forms a human (ʿādām) from the ground (ʿǎdāmâ) and the animating action is not words but breath; the precedence is reversed. Language only enters the second story with God’s expectation about what humans are allowed to eat. God speaks to let the humans know what they may take into their bodies. After the fall and decline of human civilization God begins again. God does away with all flesh, save a representative of every creature (Genesis 7). In response to this destruction of flesh God gives a promise―God’s words―that God will never bring this level of destruction upon living creatures again. God also gives a law which allows humans to now eat all living creatures but requires that the life of the creature, which is now located in its blood, be respected. Words take a new prominence in regulating the body with Noah, but the body is still the only concern of these words. These three creation accounts each figure the relationship of language to the body slightly differently.
Questions of language become God’s sole concern upon a plain in the land of Shinar (Genesis 11) as God recognizes that the unity of human language and the challenges and affronts this unity pose to God. This lack of difference and the violence inherent therein require God’s intervention and language becomes plural/confused. The plurality restored to language at Babel is then coupled by the particularization of the covenant with Hagar, Sarai→Sarah and Abram→Abraham. This particularity is marked on the male body by circumcision (Genesis 17.10). In this part of the story, which in its own way is a fourth beginning, the focus is on plurality of language and the particularity of the body.
In the next part of this story, the plot thickens as Moses receives two gifts. God gives both God’s name and the law as gifts which reveal to humanity who God is. In the giving of God’s name ( e͗hyeh a͗šer e͗hyeh) God reveals Godself to be a God who is what God does. The self-referential action orientated nature of God’s name points to the plurality of God’s body. In the giving of the law God expects the same of God’s people. The words of the law become the life of the Israelites. In the law the focus on language moves from plurality to particularity. A second reversal happens and the focus is now on the particularity of language and the plurality of the body.
God’s strategies for relating to humanity to this point are both particular and plural and happen through both language and the body. The prominence of language or the body is observable at one or another point in the story but not resolved. God’s strategies are careful and nuanced, but things aren’t going very well. From fall to flood, from the gifts of green plants to the gift of flesh, from the single command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to the Noahide code to the decalogue, God is more and more specific and lenient and humanity and then its chosen nation Israel only show an inability to follow God.
A radical shift occurs much later in Ezekiel where language and the body are combined. Ezekiel receives words from God but the point is not to follow them but to digest them. Ezekiel is faced with the particularly difficult challenge of how to incorporate God’s words. Language here becomes a body and Ezekiel’s body becomes the host, in a new way, for God’s words. In the incarnation God continues to act along this radical trajectory by decisively bringing together body and language as the Word becomes flesh. The law which was once written on tablets of stone is now written on the hearts of the followers of Christ.

The problem with the body

The role of the body in the history of western thought is conflicted and diverse. This sentence accurately depicts a significant dilemma in writing about the body; that any beginning point in any approach to the body is necessarily arbitrary and and account necessarily incomplete. But in its very structure this acknowledgement points to a further, perhaps more important, problem. This more important problem concerns the possibility of speaking or writing about the body in thought. Since Descartes, thought and embodiment have been set in opposition to each other. Other thinkers directly oppose this highly dualistic thinking. The challenge posed by the diversity and conflict in accounts of the body is met by the further challenge; in Western thought human reflective faculties are set against the body dualistically or hobbled by the need to attack this dualism so that almost all language about the body finds itself positively or negatively associated with dualism. A final problematic theme asserts itself at this point in the recognition that any writing or speech about the body is exactly that; language about the body. Bracketing for the moment the possibility of communication about my body in immediate situations without language, the question of the relationship of language to/about/in/before/after the body is again conflicted and diverse. At the simplest level should I talk about the body using nouns or verbs?
Is the body a person so that I privilege identity or the self when talking about the body? Is the body a place or a site open to the construction of a particular kind of building or colony? Is the body a thing so that I can account for it as an object, albeit a very special kind of object? Or should I employ verbs in approaching the body, so that I privilege what bodies do: bodies that touch, feel, see, occupy attention, smell, taste, hear, hum, move, relate, love, burn? Or, as much of contemporary thought on the body actually proceeds, should I privilege the adjectival body: the political body, the economic body, the female body, the gendered body, the black body, the brown body, the red body, the white body, the textual body, the machine body, the virtual body, the cybernetic body, the body of a cat, the body of Christ?


Every moment of a process of interpretation or performance is stratified into at least three levels: pretheoretical, intentional, and reflective. These strata can never be separated or picked apart. A given strata is never necessarily present but we can never expect that any are not present. For example, there is the potential for intentionality at every point across the interpretive/performative process. The writer has an intention, though this is mostly occluded. The text has intentionality although this is the strange intentionality of particular orderings and trajectories. The writer’s intention and the text’s intention are interdependent but they are not identical. The process of interpretation has intentionality as foreunderstanding and prejedice play on the text. The interpreter or actor is intentional both with respect to the text and with respect to the audience. The process of performance intends certain goals and the audience with respect to itself and the performer intends certain changes or feedback. Every moment in this interpretive/performative process shot through with both pretheoretical and theoretical, voluntary and involuntary, tacit and explicit understanding. These strata are detailed in table 1.

































However this table indicates that one is able to enter the interpretative /performative process at a specific point at a given strata and penetrate through to deeper or other levels. I do not believe this to be the case in reality these strata should be thought of as tightly coiled, constantly rotating so that it is never possible to determine from the outside at which point or into which strata one will first plunge.

Against Research

I want a new word for what I do because I’m not at all convinced that I do research. My work is more or less wholly about the consumption of media-92% of it in book form-and the reguritation of new orderings of that media. Theologians don’t, as a rule, conduct surveys, dissect corpses, collide atoms, or blow things up. My hunch is that we started calling what we did research because to fit into the idea of the scientific university. I’m not admitting that what I do is less valuable than people who conduct surveys, dissect corpses, collide atoms, or blow things up; it’s not. I’m not admitting that what I do belongs in the university any less than people who conduct surveys, dissect corpses, collide atoms, or blow things up. I belong in the university; anyone who has endured my standard comeback to the intended slight, “oh you study theology, the queen of the sciences” … “well yes thank-you it’s so rare to hear anyone outside my discipline acknowledge that these days”, knows I believe this. But I don’t do research. I read and watch and think. I hug people sometimes. I talk alot. I want a word for this.

Seabury Graduation Report

Graduation was great. It’s nice to go back to a place without anything to do other than see people you like complete something important. It’s nice to just hang out for eight hours with them watching the slow realization that they are actually done creep over them. It’s nice to hug people who are crying. It’s nice to see just how decked out Haiwaian’s can get if they really want to. It’s nice to recieve those tiny gifts that let you know you belong no matter what anyone else says.

Seabury Graduation

I return to Seabury tonight to attend the graduation of the class that I entered with 3 short years ago. I’m looking forward to the day eagarly but in many ways it will also be the last event that connects me to Seabury and that makes me somewhat sad. I really enjoyed being at Seabury. I’ll know most of the people that graduate next year but most will have only had one class with me. This year’s graduates, for better or worse, had all of there required courses in theology and ethics with me.