A few weeks ago Walter Brueggemann was at ACU for our Summit gathering. It was good to reconnect with him. He'd read The Authenticity of Faith since we'd last seen each other and he had some nice things to say about the book. He's a kind man.

During his Tuesday evening sermon Walter had as his text Hosea 11.1-11. It's an amazing text (one of my favorites in the whole of the bible) and Walter gave an amazing sermon. During the sermon Walter talked about Hosea being haunted by God, a haunting that expressed itself in the poem found in these verses. In a way similar to Hosea, Walter called for our consciences to become haunted in a world where moral consciences are increasingly unhaunted, untroubled, and anesthetized. Walter spoke of the need to experience enchantment in a world that has been disenchanted, emptied, and hollowed out by consumerism, militarism, and other forms of social and moral decay. The final words of Walter's sermon:
We must live haunted lives in an unhaunted world.
Those words struck me as I'd been thinking something similar. That is, I don't believe in an enchanted world. Rather, I believe to enchant a disenchanted world. I don't believe in a haunted world. I believe to haunt an unhaunted world.

I'm not exactly sure what I mean by saying all that. What I think I mean is that I don't think that belief is, at root, accepting a lot of enchanted cosmology and metaphysics. Most of us begin with a world that is unhaunted, disenchanted, and emptied out, scientifically speaking. In the face of that flat and hollowed out landscape belief seeks to haunt the unhaunted world. This is a haunting that aims to fill the empty world with beauty, depth, weight, meaning, drama, story, art, poetry, comedy, tragedy, mystery, wonder, grace, love, adventure and a sense of open-endedness.

I don't believe in ghosts. Rather, belief is the ghost, the vitalizing spirit that haunts us in an unhaunted world.

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19 thoughts on “Haunted”

  1. "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God . . . ."  Our calling is to utter Abba and to praise God, to love and bless others, and to nurture and "enchant" God's creation.  It is idolatry that disenchants our bodies, hearts, minds and spirits.

    The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,Doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven.And as imagination bodies forthThe forms of things unknown, the poet’s penTurns them to shapes and gives to airy nothingA local habitation and a name."A Midsummer Night's Dream," 5.1.12-17Blessings!

  2. I just finished "When God Talks Back" - an anthropologist's study of the mechanisms of belief in the more charismatic end of the church.  Her analysis of how believers are trained to a particular theory of mind in order to hear/experience God resonates with Bruggemann's much more poetic idea of haunting the unhaunted.  

  3. Today's post, I'm sorry to say, seems a tad wishy-washy to me. If reality is unenchanted, no degree of wishful thinking is above futility. Sorry.

  4. The kingdom is here, but people do not see it, and the kingdom is not of this world.

    Therefore, Jesus taught about an "enchanted world", even as his opponents did not.

  5. That's close to what I'm trying to say. Naming the Kingdom in places where, objective speaking, it looks not to exist is "enchanting" and "haunting."

    For example, the cross was an unhaunted and disenchanted place, a place that God had forsaken/abandoned. Thus for the Christian to say that God is there, upon the cross, is a form of haunting and re-enchantment.

  6. Wise,

    with thanks as always

  7. I wonder if I sense the hand of MacDonald on your shoulder here, Richard?  Either way, it's a wonderful lens to bring to his work.  I think I can identify a little with this experience of haunting unhaunted communities.  In my experience, truth and love bring death along on their journey through our souls.  I was reminded of this passage:

    Thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?

  8. The Ghost is a ghost of innocence that has died, the little boy in us that looked at the world with such wonder and amazement but now has become so cynical. I long to see this wonder again and hope to enchant and haunt the world with it.

  9. Goethe writes: "Why are we modern people so open to distraction, why so easily provoked into pursuits which are bound to lead nowhere?"  Or as Eliot writes: "We had the experience and missed the meaning." Sadly, one of the characteristics of modernism is an easy form of analytical literalism and self-deception (i.e. idolatry)--whether fundamentalist exegesis or scientific facticity.  Something along the lines of Wordsworth's "we murder to dissect."  Fundamentalism murders the text; fact murders reality. 

    Let us go a-haunting! Blessings!

  10. The paranormal is in some ways analogous to enchantment.  Good horror tales and movies likewise.


  11. More than anything else, this brings to mind the first few pages of Derrida's Spectres of Marx, where he unpacks the rhetoric of "haunting" and what that means in a post-Soviet world...

    ...but I can't say more, because I've had ten years to forget what exactly he was saying and how it might relate to what you're saying now.

  12.  'I don't believe in ghosts. Rather, belief is the ghost, the vitalizing spirit that haunts us in an unhaunted world."

    This is so good, especially after a day in which I've felt hollowed out. How refreshing. And challenging.

  13. I am not a skeptic by inclination. A million eyewitness accounts, not all of which could be from drunk, crazy, or morbid minds, when studied diligently, compared, and competently organized into categories, are enough to convince me. I am fascinated by the unknown reality that is just beyond our sensory grasp.

  14. The poets win over the scholars....who'd a thunk it? Ah, the possibilities of postmodernism!

  15. Hi Richard,

    I shared this excellent and provocative post with a friend of mine who is an artist.  He sent the thoughtful reply below, and I'd be interested in hearing your response to his questions, if you have time. Thank you for always pushing me to think wider, deeper, and different.

    Andy Wall

    From my friend the artist: I wonder if I am understanding Mr. Beck, is he saying that the
    world is unhaunted, disenchanted, and emptied out, and therefore it is
    up to us to project onto this empty world, through our faith, dimensions
    of mystery and enchantment that aren't really there? Or is he saying
    that we live in a culture that has reduced our understanding of creation
    to mere scientific knowledge and has stripped away all enchantment and
    mystery, but that we, as followers of Christ, know better and accept the
    givenness of things in all of their glorious mystery and enchantment?

    believe deeply that God's Creation is amazing in it's ethereal, sacred,
    mysterious, beauty, and that I can receive this revelation in varying
    glimpses and undulating epiphanies, but that I do not need to aim to
    fill an empty world with characteristics of my choosing, they are
    actually already embedded in a wondrous Divine Design. Am I in agreement
    with Mr. Beck, let me know?

    I do not agree
    with the postmodernists that beauty is merely a human construct
    harnessed into various causes seeking power or control, I believe it is a
    blessing given to us by God and exists whether we acknowledge it or
    not. As you say, Ken Meyers often talks about the givenness of things
    and that we actually bump up against the world that we inhabit and there
    is a truth or reality behind it that defies our attempts to name or
    project as we see fit.

    I think Walter
    Brueggeman was saying, we must engage the full beauty and mystery of
    God's enchanted world, regardless of the flattened cynicism that
    surrounds us?

    "Catholics live in an enchanted
    world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive
    candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures.
    But these Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more
    pervasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the Holy
    lurking in creation. As Catholics, we find our houses and our world
    haunted by a sense that objects, events, and persons of daily life are
    revelations of grace." - Andrew Greeley, The Catholic Imagination

    I see in the textbook of creation that you fill the earth with beauty
    as well as with practicality; that even in the useful lies the purely
    ornamental, and that in seeing your holy and artistic design, I may,
    with your grace, do and be the same." - Edward Hays, Pray All Ways

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