Samuel Ewell III – Religion in Search of Sociability – Bible Type

Samuel Ewell III – Religion in Search of Sociability

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Foreign gardens, familiar hands

A functional check by

Faith in Search of Sociability: Reflections on Ivan Illich, Christian Mission and the Promise of Living Together
Samuel Ewell III

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2020
Buy Now: (Amazon) (Kindle)

Reviewed by Grant William Currier

"Progress" is a crucial word, whether used as a noun or a verb, but it is a necessary word. As Samuel E. Ewell III. In his recently published Faith in Search of Sociability states: Reflections on Ivan Illich, the Christian Mission and the Promise of Living Together: “Like learning a language, learning the gospel by immersion in Christ and the kingdom initiated by him takes time is dynamic and challenging. In fact, it takes a lifetime. “Ewell explores this immersion and progress in holiness, and as all travelers might expect, the way forward is uneven. Ewell outlines his goals – which are so diverse that they may be overlooked – by focusing on how significantly his lived experiences have shaped his understanding of Ivan Illich, and vice versa: how he understands his life through Illich. Ewell has purposes of preaching and preaching: Theology is active and, like a disguised verb, requires careful examination of its performance. Theology requires careful consideration of how the where of theology is done, how the place influences what is done. Illich still has significant contributions to theology, and Faith Seeking Conviviality is less a critical examination of Illich than a deeply felt examination of a well-lived life and its meaning for the life of Christianity as an "intercultural mission" in spirit and in truth .

Before Ewell begins with his actual reasoning, he rejects the technical understanding of "mission" as "exotic activity overseas that is carried out by a select few" and instead offers "active participation in God's purpose as God's people, starting from everywhere, where we are placed. "For Ewell and Illich, the place and the Annunciation are two benches that support the rich festival of faith. The table between these two benches is" socializing ", an elusive but important term for Illich, and the crossbar on which Ewells Argument is based.

Ewell is right: Illich and his thinking deserve to be better known and investigated in and outside Christian circles. As a devoted and learned priest, immigrants to and later emigrants from America, Illich worked in several Latin American countries, where he significantly developed his ideas about socializing, not identical to, but not far from "cultural Kenose".

Classified as "radical" by the American government, Illich later revoked his priesthood to help shape his life among those in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he led a simpler, less dependent Church life as an institution. He worked to "uncover the myopias and excesses of the American state of emergency" when he tried to understand the incarnated Christ and to live out the meaning of this incarnation.

This kind of life is not easy. Like a symphony, it requires precise harmony. Ewell understands his own approach musically and structures his work accordingly. The counterpoint inclusions – each of the three parts begins with a Virada section and ends with an "interlude" – predict the focus of each upcoming "part" by telling Ewell's own cumbersome and loving experience in Brazil. Although the rhythm is unusually pleasant and shows part of Ewell's intention: learning is organic, awkward, lengthy, but it enables growth that becomes relational.

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I hesitate to present Ewell's thesis for several reasons. First, I found a clear thesis difficult to find; A (gentle) criticism I have of the current volume is that it should do too much: it tells us the development of Ewell's socio-religious life in Brazil, how this life influenced his understanding of sociability, as well as Illich below lived a people who did not live – this-own-who-was-their-own and how Illich's deep thinking affects today. However, Ewell's conclusion states that belief that strives for conviviality is like “entering another's garden” and demonstrates the nuances of cultivating relationships and the common life of the harvest. This is a fitting metaphor, because nowadays products are more of a product, a distinction that infuriates Illich's streak in Ewell, because products require the exploitation and dehumanization of individuals and communities, even if the intent is to abound.

There's a confluence of terms here that get the reader to … what? An understanding of Illich's thoughts? On the way to incarnational life or incarnational testimony? It is more likely that the reader will be pushed around: whether he diagnoses modern thinking and theology as Promethean or Epimethean, identifies agriculture as domicile or industrial, uses apophatic anthropology instead of catapathic, understands Christian life as lyrical or epic theodramatic and referred to as mankind As Homo Sapiens, Industrialis, Miserabilis and others, the confluence of all of these terms contradicts the purpose of Ewell's experience of revelation in "someone else's garden", and none of it supports the claim of the work's introduction and conclusion: simplicity, perhaps amateurism ("Who thinks and acts out of love ") is best. Although Ewell's reasoning has logic, it is separated by the use of its own terms, so that the “tools” it gives us fall more on us à la Wile E. Coyote than are given to us in teaching.

There are two metaphors that both Illich and Ewell focus on as demonstrative tools: the school and the garden. These by far the strongest tools offered here can be found in "Part 2 – Detours: Navigation (Dis) Order and Progress", especially in the chapter "Ivan Illich and the Prophetic Imagination". Ewell compares Illich to the old Israelite prophets and notes that Illich "reveals his (the consuming nature of the West) false expectations and his inability to meet them". Illich "criticizes the false consciousness of a dominant culture" and "encourages others to seek an alternative vision of the future that is animated by the power of God's hope and not by human expectations." For the most part, Ewell comes from the Deschooling Society and does not summarize Illich's critical concerns as ontological or operational, but as cultivating: "What does school do to us?" Illich has no favorable answers, especially with regard to institutionalized schooling, which ultimately brings together production mentalities (certainly not cultivated).

The distinction between product and product is based on the understanding of tools, as Illich makes clear in his Tools for Conviviality. There are social tools and industrial tools, the latter being regressive, even as the ability to make bigger and bigger tools increases.

It is of little importance whether what Ewell concludes offers little new or renewed. What matters is to be reminded and to renew our call for cultivation. We can often forget things that we have known for a long time. The more sunlight a room has, the more dust becomes visible. What I lack in this volume is a broader applicability that goes beyond understanding a man's growth, understanding his own theology within the theology of another individual. The readers are removed from this circle, although we are informed that the conversation is taking place in this circle. Although theology is "made" by individuals, it is never individualistic. It is sociable, a concept of paramount importance for understanding Illich's work and Ewell's hope of “cultivating a sociable way of life” (25). The penultimate chapter and the conclusion have a strong agricultural focus, and the abundance of food-related examples (of the 46 footnotes in this chapter, only 3 come from Illich) raises the question of which application we are referred to beyond the soil .

Perhaps we will not be advised beyond that. Perhaps socializing doesn't have to be more than being and seeing the hands of Christ in our wounded ground.


Grant William Currier

Grant William Currier PhD in English from Oklahoma State University, where he works as a teaching assistant for college graduates and as a research assistant for the writing program. His fiction and reviews have been published in Waxwing and The Englewood Review of Books, among others. Find it online here.

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