In this era of ambient copyright and undefined roles, when people invent themselves by even rejecting their own names for some descriptive (or self-deprecating) moniker, it behooves me to lay claim to some original thinking. The following are phrases I arrived at myself to describe thoughts or theories I have developed over time. In one case — that of “benign genocide” — I later found that an Australian thinker had used the same phrase to describe the fate of aborigines.
Here are phrases I feel are significant with brief explanations.
Christianity is the attribution to Jesus of messianic status and the transition of this thinking into a creed which effectively distorts and even inverts the meaning of the narrative we have been given. A living way that only a few brave minorities have embraced was turned into a religion that has compromised the values of nonidolatry, tolerance, helpfulness and democracy. Religion is the problem in my declension of things. I have developed creedal messianism in most of the theological writing and podcasts on this site and in my book Beyond Creed: From Religion to Spirituality.
MORE ON CREEDAL MESSIANISM: JESUS IN “BEYOND CREED”
Benign Genocide I arrived at this during my time working in UN agencies a decade ago. It refers to the fusion of capitalism and philanthropy into a system that accepts and even helps perpetuate predictable loss of life in the millions around the world to the absence of education, human rights and medical care.
MORE ON BENIGN GENOCIDE: THE BENEVOLENCE CONUNDRUM
Herculean Conscience Following Jonestown in 1978, my book Jesus and Jim Jones proposed the term herculean conscience to describe the sort of person (found in the middle class members of the Guyana community) who takes on his or her shoulders the burden of achieving justice throughout the world. When a reasonable desire to be a good citizen and decent person becomes fused with rage at injustice and subject to paranoid leadership it becomes herculean conscience and can lead to destruction both of the herculean individual and those he or she would “help”.
MORE ON HERCULEAN CONSCIENCE: MY BOOK JESUS AND JIM JONES — SCARCE UNFORTUNATELY
Jaws of Hell There is a real world out there where power is fused with the capacity to act with impunity. I see this as the actual residence of what theology has understood to be the devil or satan. I believe that one of Jesus’ purposes was to overcome this construct and locate the resolution of the problem of evil within history. I have used the term jaws of hell to cover speculation regarding conspiracies, crimes, the results of deception by powerful persons and other depredations that are entirely the result of the fusion of power with impunity, the absence of laws or values that can restrain the impulse to confuse ends and means.
Grass Roots Church This is the title of a book I wrote in the 1960s. The phrase refers to the idea of local ecumenism in which the functions of the church, chaplaincy, teaching and abandonment — are carried out in a rational way.
As a sort of antithesis to all of the above, I will append this little sonnet:
Being remembered is our great brass ring:
Lou Gehrig waving to a tearful crowd
Top gun first woman tour de anything
A photo of some fleeting moment proud
How fatuous to store what time defies
Believing our forevers really last
This life is fleeting as smoke on the rise
Wind dissipates the dust of every past
Some say that love will in the end remain
Thus the Apostle in his greatest text
He staked his whole life on life yet again
He had no question what was coming next
It’s much more likely we’ll keep keeping on
Than we’ll have life here after we have gone