Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The walking death of hypocrisy

From Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Here's a little sermonette I preached yesterday to a "congregation" of two classmates in a preaching class.  We were pushing the lower limit of Jesus' words in Matthew 18: "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them." (NIV) First, here's the biblical text we were working with, Luke 13:10-17 (also NIV):
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."

The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?"

When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
Read on after the break for my short sermonic reflections...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Economics is ALWAYS a morality play

From Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Whose image is on this? (Mt. 22)
Let me preface this post with a few things:

  • I am not an economist. For better or worse, I dropped out of the one economics class I took in my undergrad because 1) I changed my major (from journalism to English) and didn't need it anymore and 2) the teacher was terrible.
  • I don't know who Paul Krugman is other than what the page whose link I'm about to post tells me. He's a self-described liberal, has a blog on the NY Times site (a column in the paper too?), and writes about economics.
  • My reflections will not be coming from the field of academic study categorized as "Economics" with its various competing theories that are then put into practice in the world.
Now on with the post! In Paul Krugman's NY Times blog, "The Conscience of a Liberal," he posted something whose mere title gave me pause: Economics Is Not A Morality Play. In this short piece, he makes a few subsequent statements that also make me scratch my head. Namely these:
  • "(E)conomics is not a morality play. It’s not a happy story in which virtue is rewarded and vice punished. The market economy is a system for organizing activity — a pretty good system most of the time, though not always — with no special moral significance." (emphasis in original)
  • On our current economic situation, demanding what he describes as "depression economics": "This is a situation in which virtue becomes vice and prudence is folly; what we need above all is for someone to spend more, even if the spending isn’t particularly wise."
  • "(I)t would have been much better if the Depression had been ended with massive spending on useful things, on roads and railroads and schools and parks. But the political consensus for spending on a sufficient scale never materialized; we needed Hitler and Hirohito instead."
Read on after the break for more on why I'm scratching my head...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Post-Christendom theologians and the craft of lightbulb-changing

From Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
So two Dunkers and a neo-Jungian psychoanalyst are having an e-mail conversation about postmodernity and one Dunker (my pastor) cracks a joke that gets the other Dunker (me) thinking of a fun little project involving humor and theology.

The question: How many post-Christendom theologians does it take to change a lightbulb?

I put this question out on Facebook and asked fellow theology nerds there to respond. In the process I hooked one professor at EMU into answering and thought it would be cool to try and get some more scholarly opinion surrounding this question. So I sent groveling e-mails to a few scholars I respect and actually got a few bites!

Read on after the break to see the responses and some commentary from yours truly...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fluorescent Buzzing Silence

From Harrisonburg, VA, USA
The smell of pot strikes me in passing
Simultaneously out of place
But whispering, familiar, and lost.

Words spit into a cellphone:
"Our bikes have been stolen."
Not a good sign.

Settling in, now the chalkboard imperative:
"Leave this room as you found it."
Fine with me. Empty I entered.
Empty I will depart.

Through the slats in the blinds, and glass,
More percussive words punch through
A story between me and the setting sun
Behind the slouching mountains across the valley.

In this fluorescent buzzing what?
Like it's just what I need today.

Myths and fairy tales; Truths for all times.
Except tonight. Tonight they wait.
Tonight we pause, and in the silence...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Let's call him Carl

From Granger, IA 50109, USA
"You should be doing that at home."

The elderly store clerk looks up from the trash can she was emptying and spots the source of this unsolicited comment: He's just a few years younger than her - maybe 70 - and dressed in ragged blue jeans and an untucked dark blue polo shirt, unbuttoned at the neck. The clerk blows him off and returns to her work.

The obnoxious old man (let's call him "Carl"), meanwhile, has strolled over to the beer cooler and grabbed himself a 40 oz. bottle of Busch Light. With a donut in one hand, I look at my phone in the other: 8:30 a.m. on a Thursday. I chuckle to myself and fall into line behind Carl, who's just grabbed the morning paper. At the register he asks for a pack of GPC's, pays for his beer and smokes and struts out the door, the scuffled hair on the sides of his balding pink-splotched head whipping around in the breeze.

The clerk and I stand inside at the register, but we're both gawking out the window at glorious Carl as he hops into a spotless Cadillac SUV, the morning sun gleaming off the shiny silver rims. Our jaws drop a little lower when Carl pops the cap off his 40 and takes a few swallows off the top. Finally, he lights up a GPC before driving away, probably off to enjoy the best day ever.

Monday, September 20, 2010

DFW, James K.A. Smith-watch!

From Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
This is a toss-off post just to mark yet another moment of convergence in a year in which two men have ignited my intellectual and religious imagination: David Foster Wallace and James K.A. Smith. I came to each of them through separate social channels over the course of the year, but found out not too long ago that Smith is a DFW fan.

Well, now Smith is shouting out more DFW love on his blog, Fors Clavigera:
I feel some of the same sense of gratitude for DFW that Smith expresses in his first post, and in the latter, Smith is referencing a brilliant 1990 essay, "E UNIBAS PLURAM," published in Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, which is easily the most funny+brilliant book I've ever read. I mean that.

Side-note: James K.A. Smith bears an eerie resemblance to my brother, Matt, with whom I was just talking to last night on the phone about (amongst other things) both DFW and Smith.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Enter the Religious Imagination

From Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
There must be something about engaging the arts that makes me want to blog. Last fall I took an arts-based research class at EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and blogged at various points along that journey, including the submission of my final project as a number of posts. This fall I'm taking a class called "The Religious Imagination in Contemporary Culture," taught by EMU visual-communication arts professor, Jerry Holsopple (who periodically blogs at Into the Window and writes on things media-related for Third Way Cafe). We just finished our second class session today and I'm already loving the class. It was a good sign when he started off last week with clips from U2 concerts and this week talking extensively about The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One item of class business that Jerry is asking for is the submission of what he calls "Golden Nuggets" from our assigned readings. Rather than turning these in on paper or even over e-mail, I thought it might be fun to post them here throughout the semester, along with a few other blog-friendly ideas I have for assigned class work. Read on after the break for the rest of the inaugural post in this class-inspired series...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Progressive-Conservative leapfrog in the national narrative

From Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
A few of my peacenik friends on Facebook posted this article from Slate, which I'm thankful for in a sense but also suspicious of.  First, the article:

It's Good To Be King: Don't ridicule Glenn Beck's tribute to MLK. Celebrate it
by William Saletan

I'm thankful for the article because it helps me deal with some of the frustrations I was having with Glenn Beck's rally in D.C. this past weekend. These were small frustrations for me because I was avoiding all media coverage of it like the plague, not wishing to witness the options of either 1) joyful adulation/approval or 2) righteous indignation/fear the media was presenting and hoping to elicit in their loyal customers. This article attempts to cut through those options, which I think it does rather well. The thesis of the article is nicely summed up by the author himself:
This [i.e. Beck's rally] is how conservatives embrace progress. First they resist it. Then they lose to it. Then they assimilate it. They frame it as a fulfillment of longstanding values. They emphasize common threads between reformers and founders. They reinterpret the nation's origins to match the new ethos.
The article does a nice job illustrating how this playing out at the Beck rally, especially in its use of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and so helps take a longer sociocultural view of what's going on at this rally, or in the Tea Party movement in general. So read on for why I'm still suspicious...