Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Scripture, women in ministry, and correcting problems

From Toledo, IA, USA
New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington III, has two short videos that very quickly address some scriptural interpretation issues around women in ministry, and how those "problem texts" in the New Testament have been appropriated by subsequent Christian traditions to, for instance, rule out women from ministry. Check 'em out...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Postscript to media catastrophism: Nationalism

Playing in my thinking about the media but not making it into my last post is this thesis: The U.S. media is inherently nationalistic. As such, the bounds of "we" and "they" split along the borders of this nation-state. When tragedies within these social-imaginary borders occur, it is "us" that are collectively shocked, angered, and grieved. But what of tragedies outside these borders?

Amongst American journalists, I find Glenn Greenwald to be the most fearlessly critical of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the drone warfare program that has been greatly expanded by the Obama administration. His latest piece in The Guardian is powerful...

Newtown kids v Yemenis and Pakistanis: what explains the disparate reactions?

It is powerful in not only its critique, but also its sensitivity. He rightly names the real differences between the tragedies of Newtown and the drone war. These are qualitatively different phenomenon, but our national responses (or non-responses) to them are illustrative. He particularly calls out the dehumanization of predominantly Muslim people throughout the global war on terror of the past decade, and how the dehumanization that war necessarily calls for has sedimented into the public psyche. We can now call children killed in foreign countries by U.S. ordinance "bug splat" and no one bats an eye.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Newtown and Draco: Catastrophism in the media

For the media, it's called "profit."
(Image by Dooitasheimashte via deviantART)
Last Friday when I discovered the news via Facebook status updates from friends that 20 children had been murdered in Connecticut, my blood turned to ice. I made the atypical trip to Yahoo! News and read a few AP stories about the tragedy, and checked back a few times throughout the day. That was it, and I haven't watched, listened, or read the news since.

Why? Because I knew what the news media was going to do with it: Make it into a week-long fiasco. And that's exactly what happened and indeed is still happening.

Let me reiterate: I was devastated by the news. It's truly horrible and incomprehensibly sad. All around. Full stop. But I want to suggest that "catastrophism" in the media - that is, making horrible events into massive media events - is not good for us. Like, personally and societally not good for us.

At Trojan Inn this morning in Toledo, I listened to the nice lady who gets me coffee whenever I come in (and even heats up the cold coffee mug that I carry in with me) - talk to her co-workers about  listening to the radio yesterday while preparing dinner. Whatever station she was listening to had prepared audio snippets of media interviews with the children at Sandy Hook while "Silent Night" played in the background. She confessed to breaking down in tears. I confess here that I'm sickened by such behavior in the media.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: "Migrations of the Holy" by William Cavanaugh

From Toledo, IA, USA
[Note: The following review appears in the The Conrad Grebel Review 30, No. 3 (Fall 2012): 319-21. Reprinted here w/ permission.]

William T. Cavanaugh. Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011.

The animating thesis of Cavanaugh’s book is succinctly encapsulated in its title, “Migrations of the Holy.” The argument goes that the categories of “religious” and “secular” are recent constructs which hide the fact that “the holy” – far from having been removed from the public, political sphere and interiorized in the hearts of individual believers of various religions – is rather still fully public, having migrated from ecclesiastical orders to the halls of the modern nation-state. Cavanaugh makes use of Michael Novak’s helpful analogy of the “empty shrine,” the nation-state’s claim that disestablishment of religion has swept the shrine clean, allowing any religious tradition to provide the content for what constitutes “holy.” It has been one of the hallmarks of Cavanaugh’s work to show this is a lie, and, at least for the United States, at the heart of the nation-state’s holiest of holies lies its shekinah: consumer capitalism.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reading and politics in the new nearby

From Toledo, IA, USA
At last!
I've been waiting a long time to have enough bookshelf space to stick all my books from grad school. For the past four years, they had to live scattered across a number of bookshelves at home, some in my study carrel, and some even had to get packed into boxes. I longed to see them all together and in a place where I could easily get to them when needed.

And this week, that's finally happened. Thanks to a generous donation from my brother and his wife and transportation services from my parents, big beautiful bookshelves showed up at our new house. One went into the office and appears to the right. Aaaaah...

But something strange is going on. Despite having a number of those books on my "to-read" list, including one I'm reading for an academic journal review gig, I'm having trouble finding time and motivation to get after it. Gone are the rhythms of the academic calendar that drove me ever into more and more and MORE books, and absent now are the syllabi telling me to write papers from all those important books.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Settling in, finding a new voice

From Toledo, IA, USA
Christ United Methodist in Toledo; east out my home-office window
It's been quiet for a few weeks here at this little blog. This has mostly to do with being exceedingly busy with moving back to Iowa, moving into an old house in Toledo that needs some tender loving care, and trying to figure out what it's like working remotely for EMU. Things have been busy, we've been tired, but we're settling in and with each passing day it feels like more and more like home.

Another factor contributing to the quiet blog has to do with me trying to find a new voice. No longer am I part of a university community; I'm a small town boy once more. So I'm trying to figure out what the heck I'm going to write about here now that my daily rhythms aren't being shaped by an academic community, which is where this blog was born and raised over the past three years. It's the "organic intellectual" and "missional minister" gig that I've been thinking and writing about but now have to figure out in concrete terms.

NuDunkers, NuMedia

From Toledo, IA 52342, USA
A few days ago, the first NuDunkers public video discussion came together on G+ Hangouts. Here's the hour-long video of the conversation, which basically covers how NuDunkers came together and what our hopes and prayers are for this project...

Andy, Dana, and Josh have all posted their reflections of the first meeting, so make sure to go check those out. The only bit I'll add to what they've already said has to do with our use of G+ Hangouts, our blogs, and the Twitter hashtag: #NuDunker.