Something resembling a thesis proposal?

(Unlike my previous attempt, this might actually be something resembling a thesis proposal. Comments and advice are very welcome.)

The key anthropological insight of mimetic theory is that human identity is received and constituted by patterns of desire that originate externally. Thus humans are naturally caught up in and shaped by patterns of communal desire, particularly conflictual patterns of rivalry and unifying patterns of scandal and scapegoating.

Mimetic ecclesiology is an ecclesiology “from below” that applies this key anthropological insight to the identity, mission, and constitutive practices of the church. It understands the church as the community of persons who receive their identity from Jesus Christ (to whom their desires are directed by the Holy Spirit, and who in turn models desire for and identity received from the Father) and renounce rivalry and unification by scandal and scapegoating. Mimetic ecclesiology provides an explanatory and normative framework that connects traditional ecclesiological language with the concrete experience of church, and assesses church practices as authentic and constitutive based on the degree to which they neutralize and dismantle violent patterns of rivalry and scapegoating, and support the emergence of new, nonviolent patterns of desire, identity, and unity in Christ.

Informed by systematic, concrete, and practice-based ecclesiology, this paper will draw on mimetic interpretations of theology, particularly in the work of James Alison, to construct a mimetic ecclesiology; demonstrate its application to the important contemporary issue of polarization and conflict within the church; and examine its consistency with the Roman Catholic document Lumen Gentium and the ecumenical document Called to be One Church.

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7 Responses to Something resembling a thesis proposal?

  1. Cheryl Campo says:

    ding ding ding ding! sounds like you’ve got it! how does it feel to you?

    • Thanks! I dunno, it still feels kind of dangerously vague in the middle — but I guess that is why they call it “research”? and still pretty ambitious. But it does also seem like I’ve got a clear “review, construct, apply, assess” structure going, which feels like the kind of thing a thesis is supposed to have.

      And it has a clear way for me to talk about scandal, which I really want to do. I worry a bit that I’ve got the wrong focus, and would be better off writing “A Mimetic Interpretation of the Doctrine of Scandal” instead of “A Mimetic Ecclesiology, with application to scandal and division”… but that would be less systematic and so less useful and interesting in that way.

      • Cheryl Campo says:

        Really? You think the first phrasing would be less systematic/useful/interesting? While I do think it’s a bit pointed, that doesn’t automatically make it any less of anything. I do think that the one you pick decides the direction in which any subsequent writings might go (i.e., the first one would allow you to expand outward into mimetic ecclesiology broadly while the second one puts a picture out there that’s painted with broad strokes with future writings refining/clarifying different strands…not sure if I’m making any sense). Since your synthesis of these two areas — mimetics and ecclesiology — is the heart of the matter, I think, I do like the second phrasing a bit more…though I’m not sure that I’d highlight the application in your thesis but perhaps incorporate it as part of your summary/wrap up. Regardless, I’m super excited to see that your thesis is taking shape. 😀

        • I think it’s less systematic and useful because “scandal” is a doctrine whereas “ecclesiology” is a discipline! Like writing about “carbon molecules” instead of “organic chemistry.” 😉
          I’m naturally a top-down thinker, so I think laying out a schema for a discipline first makes sense: then there’s a structure within which to work.
          Thanks for the excitement! 🙂

  2. Audrey Rogers says:

    Keep the insights coming! This should be a spectacular thesis.
    I do need help with para 2, line 5 “…and unification”
    Do you mean the cohesiveness that comes from ‘group identity’ with a position?
    If ‘yes,’ can you find another term? ‘Unification’ is too close IMHO to the Spirit-graced unity we dream for.

    • Thanks Audrey!!
      The “unification” in that sentence should be read with its subsequent modifiers: “unification by scandal and scapegoating.” It is that particular modality of unification, that unification over against somebody else, that we renounce.

      And I don’t think I can find another word, really. Part of what makes that particular pattern of desire so insidious is that it *does* resemble the unity in the Spirit.

      Does that help?

  3. Pingback: Thesis proposal! | Gaudete Theology

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