BRIAN J. WALSH
After Dr. Smith on Friday, we have the splendid opportunity of hosting Brian J. Walsh, author of several books,
all dealing with the issues and problems that Christians face as they try to live the radically counter-Empire call of Christianity in a global capitalist and postmodern world. Having written extensively in worldviews, postmodernism, and Empire,
Walsh has managed to influence both local communities and scholars like N. T. Wright. His most recent work, Kicking at the Darkness, is an investigation into the critique embodied by musician Bruce Cockburn. Interlacing voices like Cockburn and Leonard Cohen through the Christian narrative and a clever mind that spares no barbs, Walsh has explored what it means to truly live with one King of kings, the Lord of lords, who, as the psalmist says, sits in heaven while laughing and scoffing at the power-hungry rulers of the earth (Psalm 2).
In his co-authored book Colossians Remixed, Walsh and Keesmat say:
“Empires are totalizing by definition. In the words of the psalmist, imperial “mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth” (Ps 73:9 NIV). Empires are built on systemic centralizations of power and secured by structures of socioeconomic and military control. They are religiously legitimated by powerful myths that are rooted in foundational assumptions, and they are sustained by a proliferation of imperial images that captivate the imagination of the population” (31).
In response to this, we find a subversive reading of the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In the very beginning (1:15-20), Paul introduces us to an alternative imagination through his use of a poem. Walsh and Keesmat comment:
“In a world populated by images of Caesar, who is taken to be the son of God, a world in which the emperor’s preeminence is bolstered by political structures and institutions, an empire that views Rome as the head of the body politic in which an imperial peace is imposed–sometimes through the capital punishment of crucifixion–this poem is nothing less than treasonous. In the space of a short, well-crafted, three-stanza poem, Paul subverts every major claim of the empire, turning them on their heads, and proclaims Christ to be the Creator, Redeemer and Lord of all creation, including the empire” (83-84).
The type of life that Walsh envisions is one in which Christians might operate in a prophetic mode, rather than an imperial one, which may very well hold the keys to liberating the poor and rich alike. Perhaps things really are as Mary said: He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble (Luke 1:52).
J. MATTHEW BONZO
The interview with Walsh will be conducted by Cornerstone’s Dr. J. Matthew Bonzo, the primary pedagogical voice in philosophy here. The two are old friends, and their discussion will be both challenging and entertaining. Dr. Bonzo will also be speaking on Saturday morning. His paper is entitled “After Christ and Culture,” and with his background in Reformational philosophy of the Institute for Christian Studies variety and his position as director of the Institute for Christianity and Cultural Engatement, it will surely prove helpful in relation to the themes of our conference.
Dr. Bonzo’s research interests are quite broad, considering his dissertation’s subject of Jürgen Moltmann’s Trinitarian ethics, his co-authored book, with Michael R. Stevens, on farmer and author Wendell Berry, and his current research on the philosophical concept of “the gift” and gratitude. More than an academic, Dr. Bonzo has given Cornerstone students a vision of the Good Life not primarily through rigorous coursework (though there is plenty of this) but through his embodied existence as both a professor and farmer. Students each semester are invited to Small Wonders Farm, where we gather not only to discuss philosophy, stories about Jim Olthuis, and the latest Žižek joke, but to cook with and sample the delicious food of his humble and elegant wife, Dorothe Bonzo, and share a table with his son, Matthias. Dr. Bonzo invites students not only into the life of the mind, but the life of the body as well.
For a glimpse into the work of Dr. Bonzo, who seems to have a reputation for being a bit of a gadfly at Cornerstone, listen to his recent chapel talk regarding food and justice.