Walter Brueggemann Helps Us Re-Examine the Script

I only discovered Walter Brueggemann ( he is now aged 76), sometime last year when Ron Rolheiser quoted from him and a lot of what he says makes sense and/or provokes further reflection. My last post drew from his book Prophetic Imagination here

The Jesus that Brueggemann writes about  is the one that I can relate to and he always stresses  the freedom of belief rather than its constrictions but it is not a sentimental or reckless liberty - it comes with responsibility.

Here's a sample of what Brueggemann says : 

 “Christ's teachings evoked radical energy, for they announced as sure and certain what had been denied by careful conspiracy.”
"Jesus amazed people with his actions: healing, calming storms, raising the dead to life, ignoring traditional customs, eating with the unclean. 

His ministry was extraordinarily surprising; he did not pander to the ruling elite, nor did he hobnob with the religious leaders. Instead, he reached out to the poor, the broken-hearted, the sick, the mourning, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers. To the people who had never had reason to hope, he gave them a new future."

“His ministry evoked a passion and an energy that had disappeared in the old helplessness. Both his adherents and his enemies sensed the same thing: 

An unmanaged newness was coming, and it created a future direction quite different from the one that royal domination intended to permit.”

The article Counterscript here by Walter Brueggemann also worth a read. When I started to read it I was reminded of Eric Berne's classic work on lifescripts and I suppose Brueggemann is applying some of this to what he says here.

A brief edited extract follows to give you a foretaste.

" I have been thinking about the ways in which the Bible is a critical alternative to the enmeshments in which we find ourselves in the church and in society. I have not, of course, escaped these enmeshments myself, but in any case I offer a series of 19 theses about the Bible in the church.

1. Everybody has a script. 
People live their lives by a script that is sometimes explicit but often implicit. That script may be one of the great meta-narratives created by Karl Marx or Adam Smith or it may be an unrecognized tribal mantra like, "My dad always said . . . ." The practice of the script evokes a self, yields a sense of purpose and provides security. 

When one engages in psychotherapy, the therapy often has to do with reexamining the script -- or completely scuttling the script in favor of a new one, a process that we call conversion.


As the self is organized by a script, so are communities. And leaders of a community are skilled in appealing to that script.


2. We are scripted by a process of nurture, formation and socialization that might go under the rubric of liturgy.

Some of the liturgy is intentional work, much of it is incidental; but all of it, especially for the young and especially for the family, involves modeling the way the world "really is." 

The script is inhaled along with every utterance and every gesture, because the script-bestowing community is engaged in the social construction of a distinct reality....

3. The dominant script of both selves and communities in our society, for both liberals and conservatives, is the script of therapeutic, technological, consumerist militarism that permeates every dimension of our common life.

• I use the term therapeutic to refer to the assumption that there is a product or a treatment or a process to counteract every ache and pain and discomfort and trouble, so that life may be lived without inconvenience.

• I use the term technological  to refer to the assumption that everything can be fixed and made right through human ingenuity; there is no issue so complex or so remote that it cannot be solved.

• I say consumerist, because we live in a culture that believes that the whole world and all its resources are available to us without regard to the neighbor, that assumes more is better and that "if you want it, you need it."

Thus there is now an advertisement that says: "It is not something you don’t need; it is just that you haven’t thought of it."

The militarism that pervades our society exists to protect and maintain the system and to deliver and guarantee all that is needed for therapeutic technological consumerism. This militarism occupies much of the church, much of the national budget and much of the research program of universities.
It is difficult to imagine life in our society outside the reach of this script; it is everywhere reiterated and legitimated.

This script -- enacted through advertising, propaganda and ideology, especially in the several liturgies of television -- promises to make us safe and happy.  

Therapeutic, technological, consumerist militarism pervades our public life and promises us security and immunity from every threat. 

And if we shall be safe, then we shall be happy, for who could watch the ads for cars and beers and deodorants and give thought to such matters as the trade deficit or homelessness or the residue of anger and insanity left by the war or by destruction of the environment?

This script, with its illusion of safety and happiness, invites life in a bubble that is absent of critical reflection.

5. That script has failed. I know this is not the conclusion that all would draw. It is, however, a lesson that is learned by the nations over and over again.

It is clear to all but the right-wing radio talk people and the sponsoring neoconservatives that the reach of the American military in global ambition has served only to destabilize and to produce new and deep threats to our society. The charade of a national security state has left us completely vulnerable to the whim of the very enemies that our security posture has itself evoked. 
A by-product of such attempts at security, moreover, has served in astonishing ways to evoke acrimony in the body politic that makes our democratic decision-making processes nearly unworkable.

We are not safe, and we are not happy. The script is guaranteed to produce new depths of insecurity and new waves of unhappiness. And in response to new depths of insecurity and new waves of unhappiness, a greater resolve arises to close the deal according to the script, which produces ever new waves and new depths.

6. Health depends, for society and for its members, on disengaging from and relinquishing the failed script. This is a truth that is exceedingly difficult to utter, and even more difficult to imagine acting upon across the sociopolitical spectrum. And besides that, we are ambivalent about disengaging and relinquishing, because we are indeed well-off, comfortable, and by any standards better off than most of the world can imagine.

7. It is the task of the church and its ministry to detach us from that powerful script.  

Finally a prayer.....

This prayer is called “You with ears bent close to our lips.” It comes from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.)

You, you are the one we address,
always you,
only you… who has given us life,
who waits for us to answer.

We, toward you, speak and remain tongue-tied,
for we lack words that are honest enough,
and dangerous enough,
and fierce enough to match you.

We do not speak first, but after our mothers and fathers,
who knew cadences of honesty about our troubles,
who knew cadences of danger about your presence,
who knew cadences of fierceness to fit our rage and loss.

So we speak to you words that we have always spoken:
words of praise and adoration:
…into your gates with thanksgiving
into your courts with praise…
words of confession and remorse:
…against you and only you have we sinned…
words of thanks and astonishment:
…you have turned our mourning into dancing…
words of rage unabated:
…dash their heads against the rocks.

So many words we need to speak
to you from whom no secret can be hid,
you beyond us, you with us, you for us,
you with ears bent close to our lips,
You…and our woes turned toward you, always you, only you,
yet again you.


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