Wednesday, 27 September 2006

evil veils lives

Writing a paper on Augustine, this verse snuck into my notebook:

Evil veils lives
from a good God.

We are made whole
by the Wholly Other
who makes us holy.
Read it as a poem, as a confession, or as purely word-play. I prefer the first stanza. The second one's a bit awkward, but accompanies the first very well, I think, as an antidote to lives veiled from God. Any suggestions for another play on whole/wholly/holy/hole?

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Bob Dylan: Poet or Songwriter?

I'll read this some other time, when I'm not supposed to be reading the final 30 pages of Augustine:

Bob Dylan: "I'm a poet, and I know it"

(Impact) Living is easy...

All this talk about impact shopping got me thinking in lists, and it's surprisingly easy...(some of them I'm already doing):

  • co-op (I get a wicked good employees discount!)

  • farmer's market

  • Goodwill

  • patronize local businesses

  • patronize businesses in my neighborhood/end of town

  • drive less

  • water, no soda, less coffee (fair trade & organic)

  • pillage friends' gardens/grow my own

  • bike to church

  • short showers ("Keep 400 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere annually by shortening your shower." from NCP)

  • no smoking (don't give them your money! plus all the energy to grow, manufacture, distribute to the market, cover up unethically for something so clearly unhealthy)

  • reuse paper

  • compost

  • no lot-fed beef (only local or organic or free-range; none from the Amazon)

  • print duplex (and talk profs into accepting papers in this's a should seem obvious)

  • no Haye's stores

  • open source software

  • d.i.y. (do it yourself)

  • don't make a bigger impact (drive farther, etc...) just to accomplish these

  • I'm sure I'll think of more...

Impact Shopping: a 'new' (spiritual?) practice

I really hate to say it, but this world is based on consumption. Even for Anabaptists who want out of it, claiming to be "in, not of" the world, there are choices to be made every day. 

As I posted earlier, the last time I went shoe shoppping, I chose New Balance because of their relatively responsible business practices. The last time I bought a dress shirt, I didn't do as well. How can we do better? 

As they say, "knowing is half the battle." When I heard David Radcliff speak last week, he quoted some astronomical number, 50 or 500 miilion, as the total head of beef cattle in the Amazon, it stuck with me. My wife and I dediced last night to not purchase beef unless it is local, organic or free-range. Even staying away from Amazon beef poses a problem. I still have memories of driving out west with my family and passing huge industrial beef farms, where cows stood in small concrete and metal pens. I was vegetarian then, but eventually gave that up. I eat meat regularly now, but realizing that beef is the animal that places the largest impact on the planet of all the animals you can eat, I decided to start to cut that out of my diet. I'm not going vegetarian (not yet anyway), but no more mass produced beef from here on out, as far as I can prevent it.

Next on the chopping block (for reduction of use, not erradication necissarily), the car

In that spirit, I've been surfing, and linking, pages that help you as a consumer make better choices on the impact you make in and on this world. Here's a good example. I call it impact shopping: the practice (dare we call it a spitirual practice?) of purchasing goods and services based on reducing the impact of such choices on social and environmental realms.

Here is the feed for the topic:

And since three is the magic number of all magic numbers (everything comes in threes!), here is a great 3 Step Plan for getting off on the right foot as far as consumption goes.

Shopping your conscience

To continue the conversation on clothing, plainness & simplicity, I found a good website that gives rundowns of manufacturers and their social responsibility or lack thereof, Co-Op America's Responsible Shopper. Here's part of what they say about New Balance, my current brand of sneakers:

Of the major shoe manufacturers New Balance is typically considered more responsible than the rest. The company vows strict labor standards for its factories in the US as well as internationally, however watchdog groups have expressed concerns over New Balance contractors in China. Despite the company's best efforts, the situation in China is such that conclusive monitoring of labor standards is virtually impossible. New Balance is unique insofar as it still makes over a one-fourth of its products in the US but the use of Chinese factories has opened New Balance up to a whole host of criticism on labor practices.

Thanks to David Radcliff of New Community Project for the tip.

This is only a test...of my patience

For some bizarro reason, the Encyclopedia of Religion decided to email entries to the blog at 4am! I have no idea what to do except delete them all by hand. (On the upsdie, I actually was emailing myself articles from the Encyclopedia of Religion, but long before 4am). 

So you don't have to wade through fifty long posts, here is the last post I actually wrote myself. From there, you can navigate via the Previous Posts menu to the left, or scroll through the archives a little further down the page.

UPDATE 6:06 PM, September 26, 2006: All accidental posts have been purged...finally! Now back to busy-ness as usual...

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Worshiping to an image of President Bush

"We're kind of being trained to be warriors, only in a much funner way," the ten year old girl reflects, pondering the lessons of church camp. 

This is no ordinary church camp. Here, kids worship to an image of President Bush, shout the pledge of allegiance, and dramatize soldiering, all while quaking in the spirit and speaking in tongues. This is no ordinary church camp. Watch the video on youtube.

Thursday, 14 September 2006

Playing war for real

A JCPenney catalog came to our house last week. I was apalled to see a section entitled "military toys." They weren't pretend G.I. Joes, with much of the reality fantisized out of them. These look like real soldiers. You can see some examples herehere, and here. And now, the Army has released
a new version of its "America's Army" video game, incorporating digital likenesses of eight actual soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here's what the Army says about it:
"We're trying to put a face on soldiers so that kids can relate to them," said Col. Casey Wardynski, director of the America's Army project. "It's hard to relate to a big green machine. This is a chance to get to know some of them who have done really outstanding things."
Why does the Army want kids to relate to soldiers? Not to help them cope with the struggles of being a citizen of a nation at war, but sadly, crassly, to recruit them:
Wardynski said the idea is to provide an educational experience in which gamers can meet the soldiers in a virtual recruiting office, ask questions about their various experiences and awards and get a better sense of Army life.
Could this also be a sign of the increase in popularity of nonfiction over fiction? Is it better to show kids what it's like in battle? It is still sugar coated, though:
[No soliders] will be fighting or dying on these virtual battlefields, however..."The real heroes are in there wandering around, you can talk to them, get a little hint of the story," [Wardynski] said. "We didn't want to go down the road of reenactment but we wanted to give you that touchpoint, there'd be somebody there who could tell you about it."

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

The simplicity of not going wireless

Mike, the Semi-Nomadic Engineer proclaims the virtues of his laptop:

I love working remotely, whether for work, blogging or preparing a talk, nothing beats sitting at a coffee shop sipping a freshly made coffee. With wireless technology I can do pretty much everything I would in the office or at home while I'm out and about.

I completely get it. If I had a laptop with wireless I probably would write the same thing as Mike did. But I don't, and didn't. If I could go wireless, I think I would become too reclusive, or anti-social. I would either be out in public and ignoring everyone because I couldn't leave my work behind, or I would be at home and find little excuse to actually come in to school some days.

This is nothing against Graham, but If I had a laptop, I don't know if I'd want it to be wireless, or even have online capabilities. All I would need would be word processing. I've started daydreaming about it, even looking online for refurbished laptops for under $300. It's tempting to get a brand new laptop, but I don't know if I want all the abilities at my fingertips all of the time. Just let me stick to writing sometimes on a machine that won't distract me with a bunch of little extras, like surfing the net. If I want to blog or email, I can write it ahead of time, then find a public terminal to shoot it into cyberspace. They still have public terminals, right?

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

When seminary isn't pretty, blog it!

There seems to be quite a bit of seminaian bloggers out there writing about how unsure they are of it all. Does this mean people are less prepared for seminary when they show up? Does it say something about seminary that either does or does not allow for sorting out of feelings? Does it say something about the ministry, that it may be changing, and everyone in seminary is feeling this anxiety that has to take place during any big shift in paradigm? I sure as heck don't know, because I find myself in the middle of whatever-it-is too. I ran across one blog, and felt like commenting, and had to stop myself from writing an actual post, though it comes pretty close. Check it out.

An American Pieta

Yes, I know that faith and state are a dangerous mixture. But I'm undecided about an American Pieta. It almost seems, dare I say, appropriate, given the reference to September 11. On second thought, I'm not at all comfortable with associating America with the Messiah; Christ made himself vulnerable, gave up his power for our salvation. The mourning of Mary, though, I get that. I bet you she mourns every day when she sees how merciful we are not. This is tough to think about, even after five years. I still have mixed feelings about it all. Perhaps that's why I'm not totally convinced that this version of the Pieta is completely inappropriate. What say you, cyberspace folk?

Seminary blogging

I've recently been approached by someone at Bethany to look into starting up a community blog for the seminary, so I started googling and here's some examples I've run across:

I like the idea, so I'm going to look into it, and I'll update you when there's something worth reporting. All you closet readers of this blog at Bethany, or others not at Bethany but part of the community, or anyone whose initerested in following the life at Bethany: would this be something you'd want to read? 

Content could range from confessionals of struggling through seminary to reflections of what ministry may mean or celebrations of the fruits of study.

Sunday, 10 September 2006

Brethren Blogosphere

Click on over to the 
Anabaptist News, Blogs & Podcasts post to see the latest change: a split of blogs into Mennonite & Brethren, since there were a bunch of Brethren ones I just found.

Thursday, 7 September 2006

My own 'Vocational Angst'

Scott McKinght at Jesus Creed blogged today about what he correctly labelsVocational Angst:

I routinely have students in my office who are puzzled — or lots more than that — about “what they should do” when they graduate. They wonder about vocation, about God’s will, about “the plan,” and about what they are good at. However you want to describe it, at some point students cross the threshold from school into the work world, and that threshold causes plenty of Angst.
I am very much in the place right now of identifying strongly with this sentiment. As a beginning seminarian, I feel what maight be called "institutional pressure" in the air, a certain culture of seminary that you should know what you're being called toward. I have my ideas, but they scare me, and I want to back away from them. Biblically, this makes it seem even more likely that God's yelling my name. But I'm starting to settle into ife here, and keep in mind McKnight's stock answer to this angst & anxiety:
Start by pursuing what you like to do the most. By doing that you often find your gift and your calling.
What I love to do most of all is write. And write I will do, but I'm not feeling called to a mundane secular day job (which I will need to support my writing), but to something closer to the church. This is not to say that what I end up doing will take a back seat to my writing; it won't, but hopefully will include writing as part of the regular tasks. I don't know what my ministry will look like, but I think I want it to be some sort of community-building/ group-formation on the local, even congregational, level. I have time to work it out, and in the mean time, sit with the anxiety and the hope of being open to hearing the guiding voice.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

A Modern Anabaptist Philosophy of Clothing

As late as 1996, Annual Conference was debating
simplicity in a statement
 that opens with the acknowledgement
there is a need to revive and remember the Brethren
heritage of nonconformity, plainness, and simple lifestyles as an
alternative to the hurried excesses of modern life, and to educate
ourselves, our children, and our new congregation in this basic
tradition of our faith and stewardship.
A positive part of attending Bethany seminary is the exposure to
Quakers at the Earlham School of Religion next door. As I've said
before, I consider myself one of many Friendly
. I've noticed a few people walking around ESR in what I'm
pretty sire is traditional Quaker dress, which in some respects, is
similar to plain Anabaptist garb. This has caused me to reflect on the
Brethren stance on 'nonconformity, plainness, and simple lifestyles'.
"A Short History
of Conservative Friends"
 explains their attitude toward dress this
Friends have long been distinguished by the
simplicity of their dress and manners... We believe that as our hearts
are filled with the Divine love, and our lives brought under the
government of Christ, our dress and behavior will come to conform to
the simplicity of the gospel.
post at QuakerRanter
 reflects more personally on the
When I was a kid, I yearned for plain dress like the
kids in Obadiah's family wore. I loved the idea of a Quaker uniform
and couldn't imagine why we didn't still have one. Whenever I asked my
mom about it, she would patiently explain that an outward conformity
in plain dress called attention to itself as much as any worldly
outfit did, and that Quakers should dress as plainly as was suitable
and possible to their work in the world. It made sense, but I was
still sorry.
As one male member of the Church of the Brethren with a mustachless
"Brethren beard", I like to be reminded of our philosophy of plainness
and simplicity that we still seek to hold on to, even if we no longer
wear distinctive garb. But I've been thinking more about what I wear
lately, having just shopped for a new shirt over the holiday weekend.
I like what the blogger at QuakerRanter says about what a contemporary
Quaker garb would be like:
It seems to me that
contemporary plain dress ought to be distinctive without being
theatrical; it should be practical and self-effacing. It should be
produced under non-exploitive conditions. It should be the same every
day, without variation introduced for the sake of variation, and
suitable for every occasion It should be tidy and well-kept—Quakers
were once known for the scrupulous neatness of their attire and their
homes. And it should communicate clearly that we are called and set
Could it be that my blue jeans and white t-shirts that I tirelessly
wore throughout high school and college be some manifestation of a
yearning of my own for this simple and plain way of dressing? I had a
pIain suit tailored for my wedding, and I still wear it on occassion,
but it is too formal to wear all the time. I don't necesarily like
being formal all the time, either. I'm more comfortable wearing
informal clothing. Is donning simple, nonextravegant clothing, like
blue jeans and white t-shirt, enough? There are some in the Church of
the Brethren who follow the plain, distincitve patterns of dress.
For further reflection, read articles at Plainness
and Simplicity

Saturday, 2 September 2006

A new C.O.B., this time with community!

As I step into my first semester of seminary, I have been thinking lately of a different paradigm of ministry, a way of ministering and of doing church that focuses less on dogma and more on community: community among the congregants, and between the church and the wider world. My vision is still very amorphus at the moment, but part of it would include some of the concepts behind a COB other than the Church of the Brethren, the Church of Brunch, which I first heard about this afternoon on the radio program Weekend America. Here's a teaser from the program's site:
There was a time decades ago when nearly everyone spent Sunday mornings at church. Sunday services were so pervasive that the event became a place of community for the whole neighborhood. Now that religion is less prominent in some folks' lives, they are looking for that same type of community, but minus the God.

Of course my thoughts include God (I'm in seminary), but I, and others I've spoken with, share their desire for a strong community that gathers regularly in a sacred way. Even though their brunches don't worship God, it seemed to me that they are still spiritual, in the sense that we Anabaptists gound a large part of our spirituality on gathering in community.

One thing that caught my attention was that one of the members said on the radio that she tried the Mennonite church, but found it inadequate along with other churches she tried. Her largest complaint was that eventually there would come a point where someone would say that if one acts in such and such a way, they'll go to hell, and she couldn't live with that. What she sought was an inclusive community, and couldn't find it in any Christian community. I'm taking this as a challenge, and I hpe others do as well. I don't see this Church of the Brunch as a threat, but as people looking for the same thing as I am. I'm just not in the place to walk away from my church and the faith. It's too much of my family and my own identity to leave, and I think there are others who think the same way. There are positive things about Christianity, and I want those to be the ones that win out.