Walter Brueggemann

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Online Materials

Awakening / Contemplations Part II of VI (2020):

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Awakening – In this 16 minute film, Brueggemann confronts our subservience to what he calls ‘the totalism’ and how serving opposite sorts of forces in everyday life can lead us out of the current distress. As an Old Testament scholar and world-renowned theologian, Brueggemann, leads us to consider neighborly economics and a posture of solidarity.

  • Produced by Bittersweet Monthly. Directed by Eliot Rausch. Edited by Brandon Bray.
To read the transcribed version of the video, follow this link

The Ache / Contemplations Part I of VI (2020):

The Ache – In this segment Walter Brueggemann leads us to considering lament, the switching of narratives, and life as a covenant people.

Walter Brueggemann: An Interview (2018):

Further Reading

7 thoughts on “Walter Brueggemann

  1. Through analyzing both segments of the interview between Eliot Rausch and Walter Brueggemann, many important and profound messages are relayed.
    The main purpose of the interview is to gain an idea of how we as humans can begin to connect more with God and the spiritual being, rather than being caught up in the concern for oneself and the pursuit of individual and worldly happiness.
    One of the most profound messages that I took from the interview was Brueggemann’s approach to neighbourly communion as opposed to living in the “totalism” community. He states that we as a people have become so used to the idea of doing anything and everything in order that we get our due, that we often forget there is a better life awaiting us once we live more in-tune with the intentions of God. Brueggemann provides the analogy of how God cared for the Israelites during their 40-year journey in the desert. Initially, they were afraid and unsure of leaving the totalism of Pharaoh’s Egypt because they were so accustomed to it. However, after having lived in the desert, they soon learned that God would provide for them with whatever they needed.
    This idea is at the heart of our daily struggle with our faith as Christians. We have begun to lose sight of God’s power and intervention, and instead have become accustomed to comfort and assurance that we will always have what we need.
    I find Brueggemann’s message profound and inspiring because he urges that human beings become more aware of their failures and short-comings, and actively try to do better. In addition, he challenges us to live more in communion with others rather than pursuing happiness of the self, and this idea is exactly what Jesus Christ taught during his ministry on earth.

    1. “In addition, he challenges us to live more in communion with others rather than pursuing happiness of the self, and this idea is exactly what Jesus Christ taught during his ministry on earth.” I love this line of your response, Valuscha. This is exactly what I have been seeing not only to Brueggemann’s prophetic voice, but it seems to be the thread that has been pulling all the prophetic voices together. I spoke extensively throughout in my responses on the ego and the self-centredness of human beings, and that our choices make it clear whether we are selfish or selfless. We are all called to a different vocation in life – here, the vocation means “calling”. While our primary vocation is to that of holiness, we have secondary vocations that young people, especially, are discerning whether it be marriage, religious life, priesthood or single celibate life. People can selfishly live their vocations, but at the end of the day, living these vocations selfishly leads to no where but dissatisfaction and maybe even despair. Yet, those who live selflessly live in a sense of happiness and peace. For those who live selflessly whether it be as a parent, nun, brother, priest or single live in a way in which their love is directed totally towards the other and nothing can hold that love back. To live selflessly is to experience true freedom because selflessness is to serve not oneself but serve no one else but God who is love, the prime example of love manifested in his Son, Jesus Christ.

      As human beings we certainly have times when we feel like we are limited in truly living love, living in a spirit is not always easy. No one said it would be easy as living selfishly is much easier than living selflessly. However, Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.” (Lk 13:24) Living selflessly requires oneself to get rid of their ego, putting aside their wants, their desire in order to serve a greater love.

    2. Valuscha,

      Great reflection! I think you did a great job synthesizing some of the main points that Walter Brueggemann was trying to get across. I also found his approach on neighbourly communion as opposed to totalism to be quite interesting and it reminds me of my life before Covid. I would go about my daily duties, going to school, shopping, hanging out with my friends, and then once a week or so when I would visit my local mosque I would be reminded of the intentions of God for my creation and shortly after attempt to live my life the way in which the Imam has related in that particular session. What I found was that in the hustle of everyday life, it becomes quite easy to “forget” God, but once I realized that I live my best life when living attuned to His intentions – I began to implement small daily actions that always keep me connected. This is a very important aspect in Islam, given that we also have five daily prayers to keep us in check with our Lord. Great job!

  2. “[Rausch] But would you argue that until you step away from the dependency or attachment you can’t truly . . . [Brueggemann] That’s right. You cannot, we cannot know it. And most of us are not ready to step away very far. […] The biblical ethic that you shall love your neighbour, as you love yourself, is non-negotiable. That’s what’s in jeopardy among us.”
    “A self-serving narrative is elementally destructive, and we don’t have to live that way.” (Brueggemann)
    From the first clip, “Awakening”, it is the concept of selflessness that I was drawn to. Egoism, the Ego, the self-centredness of the people are all terms that I have used in the past responses for Prophetic Voices. I think Brueggemann’ prophetic messages regarding totalism really draws what I have watched and listened so far throughout the past week or so. Totalism, capitalism, communism… those views go no where as they are egocentric, focused solely on one individual or one authority and is merely self-serving. As Brueggemann said, such elements in a community is “elementally destructive.”
    Rather, for a society to truly be “ideal” or in common terms, “happy”, everyone must take care of each other and look out for one another, “love your neighbour, as you love yourself.” The vibe I got from the videos were that humans were not made to solely serve the self, but rather, to live as a collective, as true brothers and sisters in a community. “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Ps 133)
    “[Rausch] Would you argue that relationships are more important than achievements? [Brueggemann] Yes, yes… which is very counter-cultural, isn’t it?” Brueggemann is right, people are chasing after achievements. Well that is fine… I want to graduate with a University Degree in my hand in three years, people want to pursue higher education, become entrepreneurs and own a business… I think all of that is not bad. What Brueggemann stresses are the relationships in life. You can have many degrees, but they are nothing if they are valued over the relationships you have with people. Degrees are meant to help humanity and are worthless if they are used for self-serving purposes.
    Together as a collective, we must value every human person and sincerely value relationships over achievements. We must use whatever we have for the common good.

  3. Brueggemann’s perspectives and insight bring many questions to mind.
    1. Western societies are increasingly polarised. This is reflected in party politics, and almost every other kind of politics too. Has being forced to ‘choose a side’ become its own kind of totalism? a totalism of self-righteous indignation and social media echo chambers? If so, what does it mean practically to ‘step outside the totalism’ and yet also be politically involved?
    2. Brueggemann suggests that a key ideological error in Western societies is taking the individual as the ‘social unit of meaning’. In Canada, I can think of several situations where this may not be true, especially among marginalised groups. For example, families of refugees may arrive to Canada from societies that have a much more communal sense of meaning. Is this one avenue through which marginalised groups could be the agents of positive change in our society? How would we encourage that process?
    3. Brueggemann suggests that ‘bringing pain to speech’ turns pain into energy. Not bringing pain to speech creates despair. This is seen in the Psalms. What kinds of speech have this effect? I am thinking specifically of social media. Do online posts have this effect of transforming pain? Or does the speech require an identifiable interlocuter? If the kind of speech possible on social media is not capable of transforming pain into energy, are there other kinds of speech that are more neighbourly available to us? This seems like a particularly important issue in the times of COVID where our means of communication have changed dramatically almost overnight.

  4. This interview with Walter Brueggemann was very interesting to watch as someone who does not identify with the Christian faith and really gave me a window into observing how allusions to the Bible serve as foundational bases in cultivating and nurturing a relationship with God. Although I did not understand all of the Biblical references made, Brueggemann made some very gripping comments on human ego and selfishness. I found his quote of “We cannot secure ourselves” to be very profound and really encapsulate how I view my relationship with God. In my religion of Islam, one of our God’s 99 names is “Ar-Razzaaq” meaning “The Provider”. I find comfort in knowing that I have a solid reliance on my Lord and that I can depend on Him to provide. I also find comfort knowing that I can be self-sufficient to a certain extent, but He is the most sufficient for me and this is one of the bases upon which I premise my relationship with my God. I also found Brueggemann’s connection to lament Psalms as an expression of the feeling of pain to be related to Bono’s urge that Christian arts find a way to express such a raw, deep, and conflicting emotion in today’s works.

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