Martin Luther famously posted 95 theses for consideration and discussion (though there is some debate as to where he posted them, and whether they were as singularly nailed to a blank door as is often depicted). Although the following theses make no claim to the same cohesion and rigor as Luther’s 95, they do riff on them.
1. Jesus Christ, when he said, “Repent,” willed that our whole lives should be lives of repentance.
3. This stands in tension with the dominant faith of North America, moralistic therapeutic deism, which emphasizes that God exists, helps me live a good life, and is there for me in my needs.
4. Because moralistic therapeutic deism is the dominant faith of most people in our culture, regardless of actual religious tradition, true repentance will be misunderstood by many.
5. When it is misunderstood, it will also not be practiced, and instead practices will arise to take its place–especially self-sufficiency, partisanship, and closed confessionalism.
6. Glory and success will become the markers of communities that forget repentance; the weakness and suffering of God (and the human) will in those places be denigrated.
7. In large part, although secularism is not to blame for this shift, it is the rise of secularities that has created the conditions for this type of religiosity to take hold in our context(s).
8. We have before us the condition where the religious and non-religious can equally disregard repentance because selves have become buffered.
10. We find ourselves each doing our own thing, which amounts to the same thing, so we live under the hegemony of experiencing bondage as freedom.
11. True freedom arises in recognizing our common humanity, our common createdness, and in so doing letting down the barriers to our individual selves.
12. This, or something like it, is an aspect of repentance; being open to the other in order for the other to free us from who we have caged ourselves into being.
13. One of those others to which we are open is Scripture. We are open to the possibility that the Scripture might tell us who we are.
14. However, we also read Scripture against Scripture, because the past errors of our reading have read themselves into Scripture itself.
14. So we read Scripture against Scripture in order to repair gender inequality, address racism, overcome heterosexism, break down the stratification of classes.
15. “The secular is not the taken-for-granted opposite of religion but a set of conditions in which modern ideas of religion are constructed.” (Varieties of Secularism, 25)
16. The fragilizing of our options, secular or sacred, is another instance of the centrality of repentance, of mutual repentance, in order to honor the conditions of our mutual fragility.
17. In this way, new communities can exist in place of the old.
18. Where there was the parish, hierarchical and centered in the church, now there are new parishes, patterned networks of mutual reciprocity that share geographical space and exist for the good of the neighborhood.
19. It is not good to live above place.
20. In a quantum world, the idea of being localized to a place, though not relativized, has been radicalized.
21. So the new parish is both local and in one place, but also networked to all the places where there are places.
22. We know that the secular is truly present not when the new parish has lost its sacredness, but rather when the blend of secularities within a place is held sacred in its mutual indwelling.
23. Everywhere secularities happen, cuius regio, eius religio becomes true again but differently.
24. The whose of whose region (cuius) becomes the network itself rather than the governor.
25. The network in the new parish becomes the new parish when it recognizes itself.
26. The first mark of this network is repentance, repentance to living above place, setting up dividing walls, living inattentively.
27. Repentance is paying attention.
28. Repentance is laughing again.
29. Repentance laughs at itself, and its inattentions.
30. The buffered self lacks humor because its only posture can be ironic, but ironic in the sense of you standing there, being seriously ironic.
31. A mark of repentance is laughing at things others find funny.
32. Communities arise and take shape when they can be humorously human together.
33. Reformation is formation, and formation is neurological. Reformation includes reforming the brain.
34. But the brain isn’t everything, even if consciousness has been an obsession of theologians and philosophers since Schliermacher through Husserl.
35. Reformation includes the the formation of all things, tending towards the grain of the universe and the future of God.
37. Repetition is central to identity in an age of distraction (Kierkegaard, Deleuze, Pickstock)
38. The future of the faith is linked to our best approaches to non-identical, or complex, repetition.
39. Repetition of some kind is integral to repentance properly understood, repentance not as grief over wrong-doing, or shame at failure, but turning and moving in a different direction.
40. The new direction to which we are to turn is the one promised to us, and given to us, in Christ.
41. The age of distraction attempts to cloud the articulation of promise, and hide the gift.
42. Christians are to be taught again and again to enter into solidarity with the poor.
43. Christians are to learn again and again to think of themselves based on what they have been given, not what they earn.
44. Christians are to understand their whole lives as non-identical repetition of Christ’s own life in them.
45. Christians are to be taught this means they are completely open to the other, and the discovery of faith in the other as the rediscovery of their own.
46. Christians are to be taught this includes the religious other, perhaps especially the very other.
48. Christians are to be taught they will discover this identity again and again in the Eucharist.
49. Christians are to be taught they are washed into this identity in baptism.
50. Christians are to be taught that this identity is sustained in Scripture, but never at the expense of the other or the community.
51. Christians are to be taught again and again to confess their faith, but hold it light.
52. Those fully committed to secularism are still haunted by the transcendent. Immanence is too full for itself.
53. Those convicted in faith are still haunted by secularism, for the transcendent is ever-receding in greater and greater immanence.
54. Part of the continuing reformation is recognizing that not everyone is haunted by secularization, and so not everyone is haunted like we are.
55. All institutions who have entered into full communion agreements in the late modern era who have agreed about communion but have not yet joined up their institutions have not actually entered into full communion.
56. The speck in the eye is the best magnifying glass. (Adorno)
58. Yet just deserts are not at the heart of repentance. True repentance leads to dessert.
59. That there are food deserts gives indication we have not yet accomplished Christian unity.
60. The failure of each religion is entwined in the success of the others, and the hunger of the poor.
61. No direct correlation between the disunity of the church and the hunger of the poor has been established, but unity and an end to hunger both should be tried.
62. There is one church.
63. The church is holy.
64. The church is catholic.
65. The church is apostolic.
66. No one knows what these terms mean in a divided church in a secular age.
67. If it means anything it means unity in diversity.
68. If holy, then holy precisely in lowliness.
69. If catholic, then whole only in part.
70. If apostolic, then apostolic arising from the grass rather than handed down by the hands of the apostles.
71. If the 20th century was the century of the Luther Renaissance, the ecumenical movement, and Vatican II, then the 21st century will be the century of the Nietzschean Renaissance, the ecological movement, and Vatican III.
73. It remains to be see whether this new conversation will include the Holy Spirit.
74. If it does, the task of this century will be to properly think through the work of the Spirit in penitential reform.
75. The further task of this century will be to reconsider architecture and faith, architecture once again wedded to the suffering of the world.
76. The worship wars will end, and those who worship may simply go home.
77. The economic forces of late modernity will send most clergy home as well, blending once again what has too long been put asunder… the laity and clergy.
78. But all prognostications, all future theorizing, will be proven wrong, sometimes by being proven right.
79. The end will not happen, because it already has.
80. The end will not happen, because it is on the way.
81. The end will not happen, because it is happening.
82. To wit: Even if a unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is. (Hans Urs von Balthasar)
84. Again: Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. (Stanley Hauerwas)
85. Again: To sing about freedom and to pray for its coming is not enough. Freedom must be actualized in history by oppressed peoples who accept the intellectual challenge to analyze the world for the purpose of changing it. (James Cone)
86. Again: “And so I ask God to rid me of God,” Meister Eckhart says. The God who is known and familiar is too small for him.” (Dorothee Soelle)
88: Again: This is an anthropological discovery of unimaginable proportions. At exactly the same moment as God is revealed as quite beyond any human understanding marked by death, entirely gratuitous love, so also it is revealed that the human understanding marked by death is something accidental to being human, not something essential. Here we have the linchpin of any understanding of original sin: that what we are as beings-toward-death is itself something capable of forgiveness. Furthermore we can see that the only way we are able to appreciate our true condition as humans-marked-by-death is precisely as it is revealed to us that that condition is unnecessary. It is in this way that the doctrine of original sin is the culmination of the revealed understanding of being human: the shape of divine forgiveness revealed in the resurrection of Jesus shows itself to stretch into our congenial involvement with death. The doctrine of original sin is the doctrine of the un-necessity of death.” (James Alison)89. In the midst of all this thinking and reforming, we are called to remember that it is music that will carry us forward. Reformation is sung.
91. Additionally, many reformations have been too static, too focused on stability, whereas the mark of true Reformation is agility. Reformation dances.
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace!
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!
94. The Reformation is dead.
95. Long live the Reformation.