Saturday, March 26, 2005

Of Psalm 59, wind and hope

I've been dealing with Psalm 59 today, trying to come up with something to enter in the contest for the psalm fest. (I have a beginning of something. I hesitated to blog about it at all, because I don't want to somehow taint the competition, but I decided this was worth it). Anyway, I read Psalm 59 a number of times today, trying to figure out what's going on, how I can enter into the psalm and understand it, what I could possibly bring to such apparantly reasonable anger from MY experience. And I'm having a tough time. But the angle I did find has to do with the movement of the psalmist in the psalm from fear and finger-pointing toward confidence in God and security in his (her?) own position as a child of God. It is as though just invoking God in what is a terrible, inescapable situation is enough to give the Psalmist hope.

Tonight at thorubos Gary Schmidt came to talk with us about his book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and he told us a story - a jewish folk story - about a man in Warsaw in the jewish ghetto who takes God to trial before the rabbi. He charges God with not keeping his promises to his people. While the trial is going on this man is outside waiting, and a warm wind comes and surrounds him. And it is the presence of God. And even though the guilty verdict comes through, this presence is enough of an affirmation for him. God's presence brings hope even in horrible dispair. Schmidt used this idea in the way the sea breeze plays and comforts and sometimes represents the presence of God in his novel. And I wonder if it's the same presence that seems to sooth the psalmist in Psalm 59.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

holy week

I've been trying to think of something profound to write about Holy Week since before Palm Sunday. And I don't have much. In Plan B Anne Lamott writes: I don't have the right personality for Good Friday, for the crucifixion: I'd like to skip ahead to the resurrection. In fact, I'd like to skip ahead to the resurrection vision of one of the kids in our Sunday school, who drew a picture of the Easter Bunny outside the tomb: everlasting life, and a basket full of chocolates. Now you're talking.

She captures some of my feeling. I don't have the temperment for Good Friday. I don't know what to do with the violence, the sudden changes in people's attitudes, the confusing and disconnected feeling of some of the passion week stories. But there are themes there that I obsess about year-round: lament and sadness, even when there is hope, the incarnation, absolute love.

I guess I'm intimidated by the extremity of Holy Week. The dispair, the betrayal, the cruelty all seem too much. And the astounding hope is equally inconceiveable. I have a hard time comprehending the momentousness of the events we are remembering. So perhaps my inability to say much says something about the weight of the week. Of Christ's sacrifice and of His astonishing ressurection. Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Religion in Academe

Gideon Strauss alerted me to an article by Stanley Fish that suggests that religion is going to be the next big thing in Academics. This is great news for people like me!
Unfortunately, I can't access the article since I don't subscribe to the chronicle of higher education. you need a subscription to the Chronicle of Higher Education to read his links (Calvin College provides its students access, which I used) but Strauss quotes extensively, so I get the general idea without too much effort.

I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the next few years. A greater tolerance (and even hunger) for religious commitment in academic work would be good news for me, as I try and bring the skills I learned at Calvin and in my involvement with church into a more public sphere.

My lit theory professor, Dr Ingraffia, beleives that theorising from a Christian perspective has long been undervalued and ignored in academics, and perhaps things are changing. How might this effect the way things are taught at public universities? How might this trend influence the way the church as a whole does academics, art, politics and public life? Perhaps it would just give those who have been integrating all along more attention.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

I was shocked and saddened to read that Stan Grenz passed away this weekend. I had an opportunity to briefly meet him during the Symposium this January, and I was impressed with his intelligence and depth as well as his approachability. These same characteristics came through in his writing, which made reading his Primer on Postmodernism a joy (which is a true acheivement for such an elusive and academic topic).

Brian MacLaren has written this tribute to him, and others who knew him and his work far better than I have written about him as well. He will surely be missed.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

literature and explanations

Dialogue (that is, the Calvin art/literary magazine) came out recently, and I had some poems in it. My favorite part is the way my poem about giving blood is opposite an image about the crucifixion. Good editorial choice, dialogue. Look at the way the context is making the meaning! How postmodern!

I was given the opportunity to make an artist statement, which after much thought and anguish, I declined. I beleive in artists making their work clear to more people, and in helping people out with understanding their work. But I also beleive in respecting the intelligence of your audience. The thing that finally clinched it was that I asked myself "what could I say that would further illuminate the poems I wrote?" and I couldn't think of anything. I already said what I wanted to say in the most elegant way I could.

And I wonder how much writing about writing really does accomplish, but then there's a lot of writing about literature that I love and that really does help me understand people's works. And literary theory. So all meta-writing isn't foolishness, but what makes it useful? I'm not sure.

The Gospel According to America

well, apparantly David Dark is way ahead of me. No big surprise, I guess.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Apocalyptic Pacificsm

As mentioned before, thorubos last weekend discussed John Howard Yoder's The Politics of Jesus. I do not claim to fully understand Yoder's position, and I am still processing what he means and what I think of that, but here's one thought, anyway. (be sure to look at the sites of other thorubos-ers for more discussion of themes in the book.)

I have also been all about David Dark's Everyday Apocalypse of late. I'm a big fan of Mr Dark, and his idea of apocalyptic art. Apocalyptic, basically, tells us the truth about ourselves and our situation as sinful people. It subverts the powers of consumerism and selfishness in our culture. It offers surprising hope - the hope that comes from standing against those powers and affirming humanity. I think this is a great idea, and most of my favorite art is apocalyptic.

My friend Scott pointed out, though, when he read the book, that Dark doesn't spend much time applying this idea of apocalyptic beyond aesthetics. If apocalyptic art is in concert with the Bible (and I think it is) then it should inspire us to live in an apocalyptic way. I think that Yoder is trying to offer a model of apocalyptic living. Yoder presents Jesus life as that same kind of apocalyptic - turning our expectations on their heads:

Here at the cross is the man who loves his enemies, the man whose righteousness is greater than that of the Pharisees, who being rich became poor, who gives his robe to those who took his cloak, who prays for those who despitefully use him.

So maybe Yoder's idea of being radically pacifist - generous and selfless and nonviolent - is in concert with the shape of the Gospel that David Dark and many artists have pointed to. Maybe it's a part of living apocalyptically, of being salt and light. It seems crazy, but I think that's the point.

Monday, March 07, 2005

more meta-blogging

it's everywhere! See recent NY Times article about religious blogs. the ones they highlight seem much more confessional and less discursive than ours, but some of the discussion seems to apply to those blogs I write and read. This sentence particularly: For many, it is a way to get their beliefs into the public square and, with people who comment on their postings, wrestle with the issues of the day.

I did more metablogging on my xanga, in response to my brothers post.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

What's the deal with thorubos?

The possibility of a wider audience than I had been imagining (thanks mostly to the friendly attention of Mr Strauss) and a conversation with James in the car yesterday about hospitality in a public forum have inspired me to do a post to explain thorubos, which many of us have alluded to, and might also in the future. Indeed, thorubos members have their own designation in my sidebar.

Once upon a time, it was interim at Calvin. I was taking one class that was very little outside work, and the same was true, to a greater degree, for my friend Kent. We share an office with 8 other worship apprentices, and found ourselves for those three weeks hanging out quite a bit in the afternoons, just talking about stuff like theology and philosophy and emergent church and reading blogs and posting in our own. Our friend Matt was taking no classes, and came by our office a fair amount as well. Some of the other Worship Apprentices were there for some of this stuff, as were our mentors, Paul and Cindy. Anyway, one day Kent observed that we tend to read the same books at different times. We should just read the same book at the same time as each other and then we could all talk about it at once. I thought that seemed like an exciting idea, and ideas began to form as we talked about who might be interested in such a venture with us. Emails flew. We wound up with a group mostly of current and former WAs and a few others interested in this idea. We decided to be both pretentious and silly and call the group Thorubos, the greek word for uproar (this was Kent and Sarah's idea).

So, the basic idea is that we get together once a month or so, having done our best to read a book, and talk about it. And it's been wonderful to spend some intentional time with some people I really like and respect who are smarter than I am and talking about difficult issues. Last night Dean graciously hosted us in Zeeland and we talked about The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder. I'm surely not done thinking about it. Kent has posted something, as has James, about last night's conversation. I might come up with more idea-specific thoughts later.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

coteries, cabals, nodes and blog-ommunities

As you no doubt already know, the big buzz around here is that Gideon Strauss has identified us (that is me, dad, Kent and Matt) as a "node of neocalvinist bloggers." We are very pleased by the extra bit of internet attention this has brought us (our readership is, as far as we can tell, predominantly ourselves and a few others, particularly james and dean, who are also part of the club).

What's exciting, I think, about this whole development, is that Mr Strauss has connected us with many other small communities of bloggers who are doing similar things. I imagined our blog-ommunity (as Matt cleverly put it) mainly as an online manifestation of what happens occasionally in real life. Some of us hanging out in the chapel basement talking about stuff. But the extra appeal of the blog thing is that it isn't time-binding - we can all access it when we have the time availible, and it had the possibility for a wider audience. And, in my opinion, it has only made our real-life community better. And we feel extra-special because my dad makes us intergenerational. And how exciting that this is going on elsewhere too! And that these separate communities can interconnect and perhaps even influence eachother.

Community + internet. I think it's fascinating.

As for terminology, I like Coterie because it reminds me of the reniassance. Matt likes Cabal because it sounds more sinister. I guess it's really just some people who know eachother blogging and then talking about it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

voting age

To the possible detriment of my homework, I've begun watching The West Wing again. I am somewhat unapologetic about this, however, because it is an improvement over any reality show. What I've caught of this season has been somewhat hit-and-miss, but more hit than miss in my opinion. I thought tonight's episode was reminiscent of the first season, although it will never be quite the same without Aaron Sorkin and Rob Lowe.

Anyway, this episode reminded me of an issue that was close to my heart when I was 17, and indeed, 13. This issue is the voting age. The young man representing the "lobbying group to abolish the voting age" in the show was articulate in representing many of the problems that had bothered me when I was too young to vote, and continue to bother me today. The voting age does, indeed, seem arbitrary. And arguments about the age of reason and being succeptible to influence don't seem to hold up very well when we have no laws keeping stupid or easily influenced adults from voting.

So, how come, when I've been paying taxes, and paying into a social security that will likely never pay out to me, and watching a national debt stack up for years, have I only been allowed to vote for president in the most recent election? And, indeed, many of the young people in the army for the war on Iraq were not old enough to vote GWBush into office the first time.

The problem, of course, is there needs to be a line somewhere. 5-year-olds probably shouldn't be voting. But I think 14-year-olds could. If you're old enough to be in the work force, then I think you're old enough to have a say in the laws that govern your working and your money, and your future.