Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why "FYI evangelism" is an epic fail

From 80 Court Square, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Photo by litherland via Flickr
Story 1: When I was in my early 20s, working for a software company in Lawrence, Kansas, my boss used to call me on his daily commute from Topeka to Lawrence. He was clearly bored driving through the rural eastern Kansas landscape. (I made the same commute in reverse, as I lived in Lawrence and went to college in Topeka...I actually liked that drive.)

One morning he came into the office chuckling, saying he'd just seen something amazing on the way in. First, he passed a car with the "Jesus fish" affixed to the back of the car. Next, he saw a car sporting the "Darwin fish" (with legs, evolved; get it?!). Finally he saw a third car with the Jesus fish eating the Darwin fish! I can't quite recall but there may have even been a fourth car with some further episode in the saga, but the point remains: The "science vs. religion" battle was playing itself out before my boss's eyes, on the backs of cars. His response? Laughter. This is the only good and right response, because this form of communication sucks.

Story 2: When my 11 year-old daughter sees someone smoking, she says "Doesn't that person know they're killing themselves?" She's right; given enough time and practice, smokers are indeed killing themselves. So in the face of decades of research and anti-smoking PSA campaigns, why do people still smoke if they know it's killing them?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ecclesia and Occupy: Through a glass darkly

From 80 Court Square, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Paulette Moore speaks about Occupy Harrisonburg,
at the #Occupy Empire conference last month.
Arun Gupta has a great analysis of the Occupy movement's history (albeit brief) and current state of affairs, posted at the Al Jazeera English site: What happened to the Occupy Movement?

Especially powerful in my reading is his section, "Colonised by consumption," where he argues that the public commons has been eroded or "colonised over decades by full-spectrum consumption - shopping, eating, drinking, entertainment and paid spectacle." Occupy embodied a recreation of a public commons, enacting something different in the creation "mini-societies" within places like Zuccotti Park in Manhattan's financial district. Gupta states that:
The scene of hundreds of people exchanging food, art, music, knowledge, politics, healthcare, shelter, anger, ideas, skills and love was unlike anything else in our consumer societies - because not one exchange was lubricated by money (of course the goods were paid for at some point).
This "alternative society" aspect of Occupy is what keeps my theological interest engaged in the movement. It is in some ways a vision, as through a glass darkly, akin to what the church should look like in public: a distinct assembly (ecclesia, what we translate from Greek into "church") that lives its collective public life amidst other bodies politic.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Theological technologist?

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Koru photo adapted from
Jonathon Colman via Flickr.
More transitions are afoot these days, in addition to what the last two posts have indicated. While my blogging here has frequently made reference to my academic work at EMU, I rarely talked about my professional work at the same institution. For almost as long as I was a graduate student, I was also the Web and Information Systems Coordinator for the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. This was a part-time job as CJP's "nerd in residence," primarily responsible for web and social media for the program. But as my past-tense speech indicates, I've moved on to something new.

As of Thursday of last week, I am now the Distance Learning Technology Analyst for EMU (@DistanceEd_EMU), which is housed in the Information Systems department. This is a short-term, full-time assignment that is designed to guide interested graduate programs at the school into cutting-edge educational technologies and a distinct pedagogical approach that, when combined, provide for a deeper level of relationality and connection in virtual learning spaces. This job is a new one at EMU, and was created as a result of my work with Howard Zehr and others at CJP in the design and implementation of the program's first ever online class, which I wrote about here: Elicitive Pedagogy in the Digital Age.

Another way to put the mission of this new position is: How can we do Anabaptist-influenced graduate education online? If EMU is, as its tagline states, "a Christian university like no other," then how can those distinctives be embodied in disembodied media? Those questions and their practical implications will be what I'm focusing heavily upon over this summer and into the fall.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who is this blog for?

My wife and I had an interesting conversation the other night about the nature of my public writing on this blog, and how it has been received in various social circles in which I find myself. At this transitional point in our life together as a family, I've been in a reflective mood in general, but as it relates to this blog and our conversation, it seems the right time to ask: Who is this blog for?

First, a theological preface: My goal in life is to faithfully answer the call to discipleship issued by Jesus Christ. So anything I do in my life, including writing this blog, should be first and foremost an offering to God, who is the "first who" in answer to the question.

But in line with the "double love command" of Jesus (love God, love neighbor; Mark 12), this "first who" puts me in relationship with the "second who": my neighbor. Who is my neighbor? Perhaps a better question in the digital age, on a public blog no less, is who isn't my neighbor?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lead me not into temptation: Restorative Theology after grad school

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
"not many of you were wise by human standards... God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise"
(1 Cor. 1:26-27)
The sands are shifting. This blog was born in the first half of four grueling years of graduate school, which came to a close this past weekend. My writing on this blog thus far often served as a testing ground for applying in-class reading to pressing issues and concerns. It's where I applied William T. Cavanaugh's "myth of religious violence" thesis to U.S. military adventurism and James K.A. Smith's "sacred/secular liturgies" thesis to the military-consumerist complex in American society and its cultural practices, as I began describing myself as a "Christological, theopolitical pacifist" and "neo-Anabaptist." Writing here landed me my first writing assignment for a scholarly journal.

But before grad school I was a minister in the church. Now after grad school, I continue to be a minister in the church. This is a lifelong vocation. There has been a ministerial intent underlying my theological writing here, but now the framework of graduate studies is falling away, and whatever framework is coming next is still somewhat opaque, and unshaped.

So what will I do with this blog now that I can place "MDiv, MA" after my signature, in my CV, and in my online profiles?