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September 29, 2006


Markus Watson

Whoa... That's deep....

Existential Punk

i don't know but i will chew on this.


Great post - that one touched me. Can You tell the title of the book by Bakthin?


At the danger of sounding too individualistic, I wonder if this movement needs to start within ourselves as we seek to more greatly understand and appropriate the freedom and grace we have received from Christ.

Under the tyranny of what hierarchy are we allowing our spirits to be controlled? What creative and godly voices are we silencing within ourselves? What are we holding on to that is preventing our liberation? Are we unable to laugh at ourselves? By what fears are we controlled?

Perhaps if we are able to resolve these internal questions in the light of Christ we will be better equipped to create the kingdom environment for which we all so deeply long.

Bacho Bordjadze

I appreciate your thoughtful comments on the need for Christians to take the already/not yet eschatological tension of our existence seriously. I also appreciate your use of carnival analogy. Yet I am concerned with the general trend among modern evangelicals to freely rummage through some of the precursors of postmodern literary studies in search of images for faithful living in our postmodern context. Bakhtin's "Rabelais and His World" has been criticized for its lack of historical accuracy. Also it is clearly a piece of writing that is anarchistic in nature. How far are we willing to follow him in setting aside the moral fiber of our existence in affirming the messiness of life? How much of Bakhtin's writings reflect his escapism from oppressive Stalinist regime in Russia? While the image of "Carnival" might seem like cutting edge, cool, and evocative, I wonder why we run from more standard, old-fashioned Biblical imagery of the "Body", "Bride of Christ", and “Holy Nation"? Why such high premium on "play" rather than "practice of righteousness" or "living in the manner worthy of the gospel"? What does that prevalent aversion to biblical imagery say about the current state of North American Christianity?
Overall, Ryan, I like your blog. Keep it up.


"I wonder why we run from more standard, old-fashioned Biblical imagery of the "Body", "Bride of Christ", and “Holy Nation"? Why such high premium on "play" rather than "practice of righteousness" or "living in the manner worthy of the gospel"?"

These are great questions. For me at least I think it has to do with the fact that familiarity breeds contempt. These are wonderful, powerful images to be sure, yet they have settled into our church life in ways that so often lead to little or no distinction.

They have, in a way, become christianized language, religious code words that express a piety not often seen in action. But because of their source it is assumed that mere use of these words is enough.

The carnival image is helpful because it is different and being different it evokes a similar change of perspective that Paul evoked in his earliest readers.

For contexts which have not been burned over by Christian ministries maybe this isn't the case.

John W. Morehead

Ryan, this was an interesting and helpful post. I find the subject of carnival of great interest and with great relevancy to mission in the West. I recently attended the Burning Man Festival, and like other alternative cultures there is great emphasis put on festivity and within it expressions of carnival.

In the late 1960s Harvey Cox wrote in The Feast of Fools that Protestantism had lost its ability to engage in festivity and fantasy. I have thus begun research into this so as to consider what a theology of festivity would look like and how a social space of sacred festivity might play a part in our engagement with alternative subcultures. Cox's notion of Christ the Harlequin or Christ the Fool also seems to be relevant to this.

Thanks again for posting some interesting thoughts.


Ryan, thanks for this. It ties in well with what we've been chatting about in our house church of late - how our job as followers of Jesus is to enact the Kingdom. I love that you push it to the "all swim" time instead of watching an Olympic swim meet.


I was recently given the intro to that book because i'm studying theology and culture, and my dissertation is going to be on flannery o'connor. I'm doing a directed reading with someone in the literary world, and the first thing she told me was to read that, so i could get an understanding of flannery.

very interesting.

i greatly enjoyed your theological connections. maybe i'll copy them and throw them into my dissertation and act like i came up with them.

does rob johnston read this blog?


I read through your post again and thought of something else. i'm teaching through the old testament right now. and god's act of freedom for the hebrews (the exodus) was not complete in and of itself. it was only completed in the set up of a new society - a contrast-society as Bruggemann puts it. a society that does not enslave, does not separate the rich from the poor. instead, the new society is to have only liturgical leaders, and everyone is suppose to be equal, receive an equal plot of land and be able to provide for their families. this is, of course, why god is against them having a king "like all the other nations" in 1 Sam 8. god lists there the reasons they should not have a king, reasons that basically come down to the fact that the king will inevitably enslave them. that's what kings do. that's what power does.

god allowed for the possibility of a king in the laws. in deut. god talks about when they get into the land and are setteled and want a king like all the other nations that it is ok for them to have a king - BUT, and it's a big but, the king needs to act in certain ways. one of which is to not raise himself above the other people (deut 17:14-20). another is not to gather up horses or gold.

now is this really possible? can you have a king without him raising himself above the other people? Saul couldn't do it. but perhaps david achieved it at times. in the same spirit in which he did not use saul's spear to kill saul when saul was hunting david down in the wilderness. perhaps in this spirit of humility, david at times reached this ideal. though he was living in the now, where all kings ruled completely, he reached for the not-yet, where all people are equal before god. this humility often comes across in his psalms as well.

he of course was not able to reside in that place. he ended up not going out to war and finding bathsheeba left behind, and then placed himself and his office much higher than uziah by commanding his murder.

anyway - all that to say. god's plan from the beginning was that we would live as a contrast-society, living out of a different mindset - a mindset that has to do with equality and justice. it's taking us a long time to get it


A great prayer is to "make me my own story".

If storytelling has a carnivalesque edge to it, how much more the lived story itself? A story is sacred space, without us having to work to create it. Engagement with others brings them into the story as well, where all manner of transformations can take place.

Just a thought.

Existential Punk

So much for keeping up this blog this semester! LOL!!! You must be slammed! Pax, Adele



'Tricksters make this world'

I've not read the article, but Hyde's work on it is wonderful. And you're right, it's something we've lost.


have you seen - http://hauntedgeographies.typepad.com/basho/2006/12/44.html


Really great posts here -- thanks for giving some new things to consider...


Jonny Baker. You is a ‘line of flight’!

Can’t argue with Ryan's thesis– but what's with the jester– well ‘gay’ (-!


I minister in what is, by some accounts, Africa's most densely populated suburb. Society is deeply traumatised. I have dealt repeatedly with the seizure or invasion of property (including my own, and the church's), ruinous corruption, violence and destruction, the lack of medical treatment, severe and protracted intimidation (including myself, and the church), murders, suicides, and so on. The pressures on people are at times immense. Every week, nearly 20 per 1,000 persons are victims of violent crime. With this in mind, would it seem sufficient to offer "carnival space ... spaces where the oppression of the world does not reign". While I don't wish to be unsympathetic to what may seem to be a compelling way of thinking in the USA, or unsympathetic to the relief that this may offer, I cannot see that true terror is lifted merely through carnival as described. I see that I need to qualify, however. The above states that the Carnivalistic life offers spaces "where the oppression of the world does not reign" -- that is, it would seem to be acknowledged that oppression may reign. Further, I note that carnivalitic relief is qualified by the words "even for just a few moments". While I have only read this page with regard to The Carnivalistic Life, there would seem to be a serious disconnect between such thinking and realities in some parts of the world. When one speaks of not yielding to the powers of this world, has one really understood what it means to come under them? I have the sense, if I have understood the above correctly, that it does injustice to the many who are truly oppressed.

High above, the dawn is waking
And my tears are falling rain
For the carnival is over ...

-- Boney M. --

Bryan Riley

First, I think we must continue to pray continually. And, thinking of the words of Jesus... "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Second, I just finished reading the Hobbit to my sons, who are 8 and 5, and we liked this quote, which I just posted on my blog:

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song [as you do] above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” - Thorin Oakenshield to Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit


Thomas, seeing no one has replied, I will (and actually, I have no right to say this really, London is pretty cushy). Nevertheless, Bakhtin wrote all this shit under a regime (that’s why he cloaked it under ‘carnival’), and that’s what formed him and his practice– it has relevance, to all of us all. He rocks.


Nic, totally right -- carnival for Bakhtin existed within an oppressive society, hence the need for such a contrast --


Defo– this is why I love encouraging ‘open’ readings of all texts. Allowing creativity to speak into any situation and on many levels. Bakhtin utilised a ‘Double voice’ because it was too dangerous to ‘tell it as it is’. Admittedly, London is a ‘relatively’ democratic place and so carnival practice is not tested under extreme conditions. However, as this link shows


Bakhtin is still incredably relavent (It was a memorable experience).


Bakhtin was fond of aliases apparently.


In time, it became public knowledge. He'd left his "fingerprint".

Paul Lonely

Enjoyed this blog. I put a link to it on my site.


Paul Lonely

propecia online

Some carnivals are amazing specially when the pleople have clustered the varous strands together for make the show. It is really outstanding.

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  • Hi, welcome to my former blog! My name is Ryan Bolger, and this is where I posted my thoughts on Jesus, culture, new forms of community, among other things. Come visit me at my new blog: http://www.ryanbolger.com. I still teach at Fuller Seminary in Southern California where I'm doing some writing as well. Feel free to bounce around the new or old website -- I hope it might stir your imagination -- feel free to stir mine as well by leaving some comments, preferably at the new site... Peace...


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