Sunday, 22 September 2013

He sat back, took a long sip of whiskey, and said, 'It All Started One Thursday...'

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Brothers and Sisters,

Comrades and Friends,

I’d like to welcome you to my first foray into the blogosphere. 

'Reflections for Thursdays’ is going to be a repository for my thoughts and feelings in and around the space where faith, politics and culture intersect. The expensive, academic term for that space is ‘Ecumenics’, a term whose meaning I’ve been spending the better part of a decade exploring. This blog is, in some ways, a continuation of that ongoing journey, a place to continue to sharpen my own praxis of reflection and action around how our society’s religious/political/cultural beliefs and actions affect how we all live together and build our shared history.

Before I get ahead of myself, a personal introduction is probably in order and my biases should be named, so...

Nationality-wise, I’m an American/Irish dual citizen, raised in the working class suburbs of Newark, New Jersey. I moved over to Belfast in Northern Ireland in 2000 and lived and worked there for the next thirteen years. I’m now currently in the US, living in the Flathead Valley of northwest Montana.  

Academically, I hold an M. Phil. in Reconciliation Studies from Trinity College Dublin, specifically post-conflict social reconciliation (which I often explain as ‘the study and practice of what to do when the shooting stops’). The decision to pursue that particular course of study came out of my experiences living and working in Belfast- particularly North and West Belfast, areas particularly hard hit by the 30 years of civil conflict that finally erupted in Northern Ireland in 1969. Practically, I was involved in community development, research, and developing resources for a variety of peacemaking, reconciliation and social justice projects. I did a lot of work in the education sector, working to help children develop a better skill set for living together well, despite the violent legacy of the conflict and an ongoing reality of a deep social  divisions and ongoing sectarianism. 

I also have a Ph.D in theology, also at Trinity College Dublin, which was rooted in how Latin American liberation theology and theologies of reconciliation might be combined to help shape new ways of doing theology with integrity in Belfast and (hopefully) beyond.

Spiritually, I am nourished by a delightful theological salad of Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Rasta theologies. My spirituality is rooted in the contemplative, the liturgical and the sacramental. I love being at mass; it is the central fulcrum of my spiritual life. I’m deeply devoted to the Eucharist, reflecting on the lives of the saints, and devotional prayer throughout the day. Simply put, I’ve never been happier since I finally accepted that I don't have an evangelical or charismatic bone in my body.

Politically, I’m an anarchist. Let me make that clear: I’m not a liberal, I’m not a progressive, and I’m not a libertarian. I’m an anarchist. I embraced anarchism in the mid-90s and nothing that’s happened since in the social or political realms has ever led me to regret that decision. I’m deeply nourished by the radical Christian anarchism of Tolstoy, Jacques Ellul, Ammon Hennessy and the Catholic Worker movement. The practical outworking of that has been my involvement in the Irish anti-war and anti-globalisation movements for over a decade.

Culturally, I love books (Irish history, theology, political theory, music and film criticism), film (anything directed by Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, Terence Malick, Kevin Smith, or Michael Mann), poetry (Miłosz, Mayakovsky, Heaney and the vast corpus of Irish poets) and music (far, FAR too eclectic to categorise, but suffice to say there’s a fair amount of deafening punk, global hip-hop, Irish traditional, classic 60’s and 70’s reggae and what might be ambiguously known as ‘world fusion’... Basically, the most common question asked of whatever music I have on is ‘What IS this?’ This will quickly be followed by ‘Where do you FIND this stuff?!’).

In addition to I’ve also been involved with the Belfast-based theological/philosophical/art collective Ikon pretty much since it began in the early ‘00s.

Well, that’s perhaps a brief summation of who, what, when, and where. I suppose the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ are- as I suppose they are for all of us- works in progress. Do watch this space for ongoing thoughts on all of the above, and if you find my stuff interesting or in any way thought-provoking, enjoying or infuriating, please send others in my direction.

One last thing: why the use of ‘Thursday’ in the title of this blog? A few close friends know the significance. Beyond them, I think I’ll just leave it a bit ambiguous. 

Trust me, it’s not all that important...

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