Sabbath as Resistance (Brueggemann)

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Brueggemann, Walter. Sabbath as Resistance.

Let's go ahead and get the "bad" out of the way. Brueggemann's sabbatarianism is largely divorced from explicitly theological concerns. On the other hand, though, he comes down close to the Sabbatarian side and sees the healing aspects of the Sabbath (don't worry; just spiritual and mental healing, not necessarily physical).

“The demands of market ideology pertain as much to consumption as they do to production” (Brueggemann xii). It is “Pharaoh’s insatiable script.”

“Wherever YHWH governs as an alternative to Pharaoh, there the restfulness of YHWH effectively counters the restless anxiety of Pharaoh” (xiii).

Sabbath and the First Commandment

God is embedded in a narrative and cannot be known outside that narrative (2). The Sabbath commandment is drawn into the Exodus, whose narrative matrix is that of YHWH.

The economics of Pharaoh:

  • every socioeconomic system will be legitimized by some god (3).
    The system is designed to create endless surplus, and thus endless storerooms.
  • it makes a fetish of the market. The market generates a desire for commodities of a social value, making us want even more commodities, which takes on a life of its own.
  • It creates anxiety.
  • Pharaoh is anxious about the food monopoly (26).
  • It is an ontology of violence (30-31).
The Sabbath is a commitment to covenant (relationship) rather than commodity (bricks). Most of the ten commandments have something to do with the horizontal “Other,” my neighbor. The economics of Pharaoh does not allow for neighborliness. The economics of the Sabbath demands it.

Both Creation and Exodus culminate in Sabbath.

Thesis: “Sabbath is a bodily act of testimony to alternative and resistance to pervading values and assumptions behind those values” (21). Images domesticate God and turn him into a commodity. The Subject becomes an object.

Resistance to Anxiety

Anxiety makes neighborliness impossible (26). God counters anxiety with neighborliness.

Resistance to Coercion

The prosperity of the land will eventually lead to two economic systems: possession or inheritance (38).

The aim of consumer ideology is to make us forget our rootage and to let ourselves be defined by alien expectations (39). The Sabbath makes us remember that God broke the cycle of coercive production.

Resistance to Exclusivism

Who does Brueggemann think are the “Insiders?” Brueggemann suggests that Isaiah 56 reworks Dt 23 so that Sabbath is the criterion of membership (54). A Sabbath person is defined by justice, mercy, and compassion, and not competition, achievement, and production.

Sabbath and the Tenth Commandment

The 10th commandment rejects an attitude of “and a forced action to secure what is craved” (71). Given that the term “neighbor” occurs 3x in the commandment, it is also about preserving the neighborhood.

Brueggemann speculates, albeit with some justification, that these were agrarian peasants and the commandment ultimately applied to protecting them against urban elites, which in today’s terms meant:

  • state power
  • corporate wealth
  • legal sharpness
  • credentialed religion
In conclusion, the tenth commandment, and Sabbath-practice in general, is a safeguard for a certain way of organizing social power in the interest of the neighborhood (77).
 

Seeking_Thy_Kingdom

Puritan Board Sophomore
Am I wrong for getting really strong socialist vibes from your review? This is reminding me of a discussion I had regarding the Sabbath with a radical socialist Christian.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Am I wrong for getting really strong socialist vibes from your review? This is reminding me of a discussion I had regarding the Sabbath with a radical socialist Christian.

Brueggemann leans close that way. I am not a socialist (as anyone who follows me on FB knows). I do think, however, that we can reject the commodification and consumerism of modern life and not be socialist.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
I read this book a while ago, and actually re-read it recently. I was surprised at how much Bruggeman assumed the Puritan conception of the Sabbath. I even heard an interview with him about the book where he was deriding Sunday football games. While I do not agree with the end of where his politics were going, I think he made a good critique of our modern consumerist society and found a lot to be commended in the book.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I read this book a while ago, and actually re-read it recently. I was surprised at how much Bruggeman assumed the Puritan conception of the Sabbath. I even heard an interview with him about the book where he was deriding Sunday football games. While I do not agree with the end of where his politics were going, I think he made a good critique of our modern consumerist society and found a lot to be commended in the book.

About half of what he says in any given book is outstanding. The other half is awful.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
About half of what he says in any given book is outstanding. The other half is awful.
This is pretty much Brueggemann in a nutshell. He is a stimulating writer, but his presuppositions are so different from ours that he can be extremely frustrating. A discerning reader can benefit from him, but he cannot be recommended widely.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
This is pretty much Brueggemann in a nutshell. He is a stimulating writer, but his presuppositions are so different from ours that he can be extremely frustrating. A discerning reader can benefit from him, but he cannot be recommended widely.

Agreed. I wouldn't recommend his works to the average layman. I know his presuppositions and I went to undergrad under profs who were friends with him.

Some of his lectures on Jeremiah did show a fairly sophisticated understanding of the textual history (wish I could find them).
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Brueggemann, Walter. Sabbath as Resistance.

Let's go ahead and get the "bad" out of the way. Brueggemann's sabbatarianism is largely divorced from explicitly theological concerns. On the other hand, though, he comes down close to the Sabbatarian side and sees the healing aspects of the Sabbath (don't worry; just spiritual and mental healing, not necessarily physical).

“The demands of market ideology pertain as much to consumption as they do to production” (Brueggemann xii). It is “Pharaoh’s insatiable script.”

“Wherever YHWH governs as an alternative to Pharaoh, there the restfulness of YHWH effectively counters the restless anxiety of Pharaoh” (xiii).

Sabbath and the First Commandment

God is embedded in a narrative and cannot be known outside that narrative (2). The Sabbath commandment is drawn into the Exodus, whose narrative matrix is that of YHWH.

The economics of Pharaoh:

  • every socioeconomic system will be legitimized by some god (3).
    The system is designed to create endless surplus, and thus endless storerooms.
  • it makes a fetish of the market. The market generates a desire for commodities of a social value, making us want even more commodities, which takes on a life of its own.
  • It creates anxiety.
  • Pharaoh is anxious about the food monopoly (26).
  • It is an ontology of violence (30-31).
The Sabbath is a commitment to covenant (relationship) rather than commodity (bricks). Most of the ten commandments have something to do with the horizontal “Other,” my neighbor. The economics of Pharaoh does not allow for neighborliness. The economics of the Sabbath demands it.

Both Creation and Exodus culminate in Sabbath.

Thesis: “Sabbath is a bodily act of testimony to alternative and resistance to pervading values and assumptions behind those values” (21). Images domesticate God and turn him into a commodity. The Subject becomes an object.

Resistance to Anxiety

Anxiety makes neighborliness impossible (26). God counters anxiety with neighborliness.

Resistance to Coercion

The prosperity of the land will eventually lead to two economic systems: possession or inheritance (38).

The aim of consumer ideology is to make us forget our rootage and to let ourselves be defined by alien expectations (39). The Sabbath makes us remember that God broke the cycle of coercive production.

Resistance to Exclusivism

Who does Brueggemann think are the “Insiders?” Brueggemann suggests that Isaiah 56 reworks Dt 23 so that Sabbath is the criterion of membership (54). A Sabbath person is defined by justice, mercy, and compassion, and not competition, achievement, and production.

Sabbath and the Tenth Commandment

The 10th commandment rejects an attitude of “and a forced action to secure what is craved” (71). Given that the term “neighbor” occurs 3x in the commandment, it is also about preserving the neighborhood.

Brueggemann speculates, albeit with some justification, that these were agrarian peasants and the commandment ultimately applied to protecting them against urban elites, which in today’s terms meant:

  • state power
  • corporate wealth
  • legal sharpness
  • credentialed religion
In conclusion, the tenth commandment, and Sabbath-practice in general, is a safeguard for a certain way of organizing social power in the interest of the neighborhood (77).
It seems like he is a sort of James K.A. Smith type, is that correct?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
It seems like he is a sort of James K.A. Smith type, is that correct?

They overlap, though Bruggemann long predated Smith. Brueggemann is also a textual scholar and is usually more anchored in the actual text. But yes, they both have the same type of rhetoric.
 
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