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Monday, September 18, 2006 

What possessed me to voluntarily attend church

... twice in as many months.

this is not to mislead anyone (especially the likes of the young gentleman i ended up sitting next to at brunch today post-service, who desperately needed to figure out how to categorize me... not an xian but why did you go to church?!? etc.)

i don't know. i think i'm a christian as much as i am an atheist, but i prefer to avoid both descriptive self-referential signifiers (and others similar to them) because both terms are SO FREAKING LOADED. what i mean by both is so incredibly different from what others assume i mean, that it doesn't really make sense to try to "explain" my beliefs without the vast swath of context that comes from months, years of candid conversation and friendship. you know, that and very long theoretical blog posts, manifestos, etc.

what i am isn't even as simple as the space in between a single binary, say christian/atheist (i'd love to just write that out and draw an arrow pointing to the slash, but it's too simple). i don't even have the wherewithal to explore the trace in both (and surely they are tightly wound, entertwined at certain points).

the two signifiers seem to pretend to be opposites, such a neat binary opposition, but they are so dependent on each others' limitless strings of signifieds that i think the slash signifies some crazy endless patternless weave between the two.

and you want me to trace the slim thread known as "shanna" that is wound so tightly in knots and curlicues, patterns without pattern within that string of characters while sipping a mojito and eating a veggie burger?

i promised not to use the weaving/tapestry metaphor again but it's simply too convenient, and this one is infinite (i'm reminded of "the blanket thing" in i heart huckabees).

okay, so here it is. caputo said something that i really love (please don't kill me for the heresy of paraphrasing, for this was spoken in a small session at a conference a few years ago). one of the arrogant young pastors who kept insisting that jesus (or the bible, or his particular interpretation of certain portions of that text) is the final signified became very irritated and questioned why, then caputo was catholic. caputo replied very simply that it's the tradition from which he, jack caputo, theologian and college professor, sprung. thrives. (it's contingency, folks!)

okay, wait for it, because this is the really odd, exciting part. the mysteries of the unexpected! who thought in my early militant atheism, in the sloe-eyed passion of agnosticism, the extraordinarily painful and frightening loss of particularly charasmatic xian faith, the early nihilistic deconstructive days* -- that i would return to the christian conversation? why do i give a shit about the emergent church? the assumptions embedded in the language spoken from pulpits/lecterns/podiums drives me nuts. the language assumes that i share the same myriad of first principles, beliefs, definitions as the speaker. i'm not a big fan of participating in liturgy; i'm uncomfortable and frankly bored by most religious services, even those i grew up attending.

it's the conversation that i'm interested in (and admittedly some deep-seated hope that somehow things will end up in a sing-a-long that involves the songs i know and love). the breaking of bread, sharing of wine, intimate conversation and community. no one else is discussing these things (well, i suppose they do in academia, but i don't currently have access to those conversations, and you must admit that a campfire or a spaghetti dinner is preferable to an ivory tower), and this is what i'm passionate about.

on a weekday afternoon from the blue office of an independent press i took a quick break from editing a paranormal fantasy novel to google a couple of high school friends i had lost touch with. (this was before myspace ;-) i stumbled across david hopkins' musings on postmodernism and christianity.

how could this be? at the time i could not imagine that those two could do anything other than repel each other like opposite poles of a magnet.

and so, on a lark, in a few brief moments, i shot david a quick email that would serve as a marker, a pivot upon which my life would turn, change.

i got drawn into -- no, i dove into -- the conversation. one unlike those i shared with my marxist, freudian, feminist professors and peers, those who viewed my passion for theory, deconstruction, derrida with bewilderment.

i'm friends with some people just as crazy as i am, perhaps even more so to try to marry christianity and deconstruction with heart and integrity.


listen: i have church nearly every sunday morning while listening to garrison keilor. when i sit quietly with a book, engaging with the text, reading and writing. twice a year when i throw dinners spaghetti and chili. when i'm in my kitchen preparing dinner, creating something to share across a table from loved ones.


the contingency/ies of a human life lived bring us to the unexpected places. bran is a queer theorist, a buddhist, a vegan. i'm a chef, a friend, an editor, a mediocre seamstress, a one-time songwriter, an attendee of emergent gatherings and conferences, a lover of rorty and caputo, derrida and dollimore, a reader of books and a friend of two cats.

i am defined by the life i faithfully create.

*please note that these are listed in no particular order