The actual title of this book is "Cadences of Home, Preaching among Exiles". As it indicates, this is a book about preaching that I have been assigned to read for seminary. The theme of this book is that of exile, which is an important topic both in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. What is inescapable at the start is that this white, American, male, tenured, mainline professor who has spent his entire life as a leader in America's dominant ideology of modernism is not exactly the best person to tell us of his experiences in exile. As I read the laments of his sense of alienation, I can't stop smirking because our current president is from the same United Church of Christ (UCC) religion as Brueggemann and he (along with an army of judges) is busy imposing the UCC's religious ideology onto the US. Exile? Yeh, right.
At the same time, it is a fact that the mainline religion is rapidly shrinking. This is deemed to be something lamentable. I should be happy to see it dead and gone, except that there is the nasty fact that the mainline is dying precisely because it has succeeded. Christianity says that God (i.e. Yahweh per the old testament Jewish naming of God), is powerful. He has an objective existence that transcends any group's experience. He interacts directly with you and me, but on His terms - not ours. We are only involved in the narrative that Yahweh authors. And then Yahweh came to Earth incarnate, as Jesus, to save us from our sins. Mainlineism isn't even sure if Yahweh exists. Instead it is convinced that the power of religion is entirely bound up in the Yahweh narrative, or whatever that might be for Mayans or Tartars or Inuits. Once you go that route, however, you have the inescapable fact that everyone can make up their own Yahweh narrative. Thus, Global Warming or anti-Imperialism can become your Yahweh, if you are persuaded that you are more sophisticated. For others a football team will become their Yahweh. Even marijuana, crass materialism, and child porn can become someone's Yahweh. It is precisely because the Mainline theologians succeeded in their message of group Yahweh narratives that their houses of worship have emptied out. In fact, many of these alternative Yahweh narratives are ones that Brueggemann advocates in this book. The disenfranchised poor. The American hegemony. Yet somehow Brueggemann thinks that prescribing a return to the Yahweh narrative will help them recover. The problem is that if Yahweh isn't real, unique and directly involved in the affairs of mankind, then you might as well make up the Yahweh narrative that suits you. The Mainline has checkmated itself.