Wednesday, January 24, 2007

book club

the book club met this morning. and so my mind is swimming with thought. i'll try to get all i'm thinking out on this blog as coherently as possible ...

newbigin's last chapter, speaking the truth to caesar, is completely marked up in my book. there are underlines, exclamation points, stars, and notes in the margins (let me pause here to give thanks to mrs. sinkler for encouraging notations in our senior year reading materials). the third chapter is full of such powerful rhetoric, that i not once, but many times, audibly encouraged newbigin to "preach it!" for example ...

"the free market is a good servant but a bad master. it is not necessary to argue the point that, if we take the human family as a whole, what is experienced as freedom by a minority is experienced as bondage by a majority. adam smith himself recognized that free markets would only work for the common good if certain moral principles permeated society."

"i have the impression that the local congregation has too often been regarded in the best ecumenical circles as something which needs to be dragged along rather than as the primal engine of change in society."

it's exciting stuff. it makes me long for change and growth and truth. but there's a passage that weighs even more heavily on me, and as i left the room, i kicked myself for not mentioning it before we parted ...

Both objectivism and subjectivism are ways of evading personal responsibility for knowing the truth. And if this is so, then the call to the Church is to enter vigorously into the struggle for truth in the public domain. We cannot look for [security in a restored Christendom]. Nor can we continue to accept the security which is offered in an agnostic pluralism where are free to have our own opinions provided we agree that they are only personal opinions. We are called, I think, to bring our faith into the public arena, to publish it, to put it at risk in the encounter with other faiths and ideologies in open debate and argument, and in the risky business of discovering what Christian obedience means in radically new circumstances and in radically different human cultures ...

In a society where agnostic pluralism reigns, freedom is understood to be the liberty to do whAt you want provided it does not interfere with the freedom of other people. Freedom is the absence of limits ... A society in which any kind of nonsense is acceptable is not a free society. An agnostic pluralism has no defense against nonsense. So while a committed pluralism values freedom as the necessary (though not sufficient) condition for grasping the truth about the real world, the fundamental relation between truth and freedom is that enunciated by Jesus, when he said, 'The truth shall make you free.' That saying, we remember, provoked the furious anger of the hearers, who affirmed that they were free already and did not need anyone to set them free. Jesus tells them that they are not free until the truth makes them free, and they respond by threatening to stone him. When we affirm, as the Church must do, that freedom is not the natural endowment of every human being but is something to be won by acknowledgement of the truth, and that in the end the truth is something given in the sheer grace of God to be received in faith, there is bound to be anger. There is bound to be the feeling that the free society is once again threatened by dogma. I think the Church cannot evade the sharpness of this encounter.

I have re-read this passage at least a dozen times. What is it that stands out so much to me, that shouts to me like a warning, an admonishment that I hang my head about my faith, afraid to mention it in the public square for fear that I'll be viewed as a Crusader bent on power and domination? Newbigin is right - the Church cannot evade the sharpness of this encounter (his following discussion assesses the New Age movement's understandable popularity in questioning the whole foundation of our culture as well - a discussion which I'd very much like to address, but have neither the time nor the typing prowess to do).

I am overwhelmed with thought, and know I need more time and dialogue on the subject if I take seriously the implications of his thesis.

But I am hanging my hat on words from Newbigin's book, words said many different ways by many different authors, singers, scholars, etc, words that resonate with my core so deeply that I feel my very being was born to acknowledge them:

It is the very heart of the gospel that it both gives everything and requires everything.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 22, 2007

maybe steve jobs stole my shoe, too.

i am easily irritated. it's not my best quality, i admit. i don't just let things get under my skin, i let them gnaw on my bones.

this morning, my day started off well enough until i found that someone (an apartment neighbor? a guest at someone else's home?) had stolen one of my favorite pair of brown leather boots. not two, so i could understand that they were so full of lust that they had to covet the pair for themselves, but just one, so that i am left with one, a reminder of what i once had, but have no more.

a little chomp on my bones.

then i tried going to the mac store in town to ask them to explain to me why in the heavens above my battery on my 8-month-old macbook has died and is refusing to be even recognized by the operating system.

the store, a simple 8.5"x11" white piece of paper in the window of the door noted, had to close for the morning due to unforeseen circumstances. of course. when i finally find some time to get to the store, it was closed. of course.

i try not to talk to jon in moments like this. i know his strength isn't empathy, and his good fix-it nature wouldn't find a solution for this little dilemma, but i was already out on the west side and intending to go over to his house anyway ...

so i did what any angst-ridden, peace-desiring, twenty-something ought to do. i listened to kirk franklin.

a remake of al green's "lovely day," kirk has the ability to talk to me, calm me down, and encourage me to throw away the threat-filled letter addressed to steve jobs.

i listened to it on repeat in the car about 4 times over until i felt ready to be presentable and nice enough to ring jon's doorbell.

so the afternoon was relaxing. i finished a book which finally showed it had heart (it took two very long, mind-boggling, philosophically-oriented chapters to reach a place where i felt the author at last considered the soul of humankind) and ate lunch at a little tacqueria near jon's house. relaxing.

i dropped him off this afternoon so he could go work out and i could try the mac store again.

it's now 2 hours later. the mac store guy told me i really ought to call my apple care people first. i prayed that the sinking of these new teeth into my bones wouldn't hurt too much. so i sucked it up and went home to call apple.

the long story short? 70 minutes later, there is no resolution to my battery problem, but there are a couple of new issues: 1) my itunes problem i've had since day one is part of a larger keychain access issue 2) i can't download other online features because of this issue, too 3) my phone bill is officially over its monthly limit. steve jobs is stealing my patience.

and so, the first conclusion is: i hate things. everything that has cost me money has brought me more trouble than i think it's worth. maybe i will sell all my possessions. when jon and i get married, i think we may actually have to live in a tent, an old, used and donated tent. maybe we'll just register for used stuff, if we have to register at all.

the second conclusion? what does it matter if i'm bothered? i've been given crazy resources! i've been given a home and a family and a phone to call long distance if i need help and clean water and so many good things. i hate that it takes broken things to remind me that i've been given so much.

i think i feel pretty dang grateful that God's more patient with me than i am with Apple.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

hi nerds

i'm glad you're smart. because i have a favor to ask.

i just joined a book club of people way ridiculously smarter than me. people who are interviewed on npr and people who speak to thousands of others on a weekly basis. i am neither interviewed on npr nor asked to speak to large audiences. but i did get an A in Non-Verbal Communication at the UW. maybe that's why i get to come.

regardless, we're reading this book, truth to tell, by lesslie newbigin. i have to read it in the presence of my fiance, who is also ridiculously smarter than me, so that i can ask him to explain what the issue fought out between Arius and Athanasius was and why it was so important to the formulation of the Trinitarian formula (say what?).

it's a tough book. it forces me to examine some of my own bad theology (see actual conversation between me and jon below):

discussing descartes's philosophy:
me: okay, so on the basis of knowing nothing, descartes begins with his own existence ... and comes up with, "i think, therefore i am."
jon: right.
me: so his critics then question whether descartes exists, which leads them to wonder whether god exists.
jon: mmhmm.
me: "i think, therefore i am." i don't like it. but "i feel, therefore i am, " THAT philosophy i could get on board with ...
jon: wow, you really are ....
me: totally illogical, i know.
jon: i didn't say it.

so i like it. i like being challenged to really ponder, consider, evaluate. and here's where my favor comes in. i need you to ponder, consider, and evaluate, too. i need your feedback. i picked a few of the most interesting (to me) lines from the book. would you just pick one or two or all and tell me what questions it makes you ask, or what kind of response you have to it? it would help me out A LOT.

1. to abandon hope of speaking truthfully about reality is to abandon the adventure of life.

2. History is always being rewritten - not only because new evidence turns up, but also because old evidence is seen in the light of new experience. The historian E.H. Carr defined history as a continuous conversation between the present and the past. It is only in this way that history becomes part of an intelligible and purposeful life.

3. Einstein says, "what you call a fact depends on the theory you bring to it."

4. In Gibson's tart words, all religions were to the people equally true, to the philosophers equally false, and to the government equally useful.

5. the past 300 years have been the most brilliant in human history, but their brilliance was created by the combustion of a thousand years' deposit of the Christian tradition in the oxygen of Greek rationalism. Now, says Polanyi, the fuel is burned up. We shall not get fresh light by pumping in more oxygen.

6. Revelation is not allowed as a subject for classroom teaching. It is barred from public doctrine. Human origins are a subject for classroom teaching. They are part of public truth. Human destiny is not. It is a matter of private opinion. And if there is no public doctrine about human destiny, there can be no basis for rational discussion in the public forum about what are and what are not proper ends of human endeavor. And when there are no rational grounds for these decisions, the way is open for the sort of mindless fanaticism about single moral issues which is such a feature of our time. Bacon's vision of unlimited power, and the marvelous achievements of technology which have seemed to authenticate that vision, combined with a purely this-worldly scenario for the human story, and in the absence of any public doctrine about human destiny, creates a situation in which there are no checks on the ruthless pursuit of particular ends, moral or otherwise.

Thanks for your feedback.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

the after-party.

i've delayed blogging because the first sentence out of my head to introduce my topic includes the word "hate" - and this makes me feel uncomfortable because a) it's a brand new year and i don't want "hate" to be the second blog word of 2007 and b) because the word hate is so strong i want to make sure i really need to use it. that said ...

i hate the after-party.

for new year's eve this year, some of jon's best college friends (who also happen to be people i love as well) chanced to be in town and landed at my place for the evening. from lunch on sunday with jon and jared to late night cards with jon, jared, and paul yesterday, i felt full for a good 36 hours.

i love people. i love them. i love watching them interact, i love them sitting in my home and talking or watching the rose bowl or questioning career paths or debating abby's feelings about north korea. i love being with people.

and when they leave? oh ... when they go away and my house is quiet again, i feel like my home left me. and i hate it. i just crash. it's the closest i can imagine to what it's like to be an empty nesting parent.

i don't care if i have to spend money to have a party, or if i have to clean my house only to have it get dirty again within minutes. i would clean up after them forever if it meant they could stay longer. besides, my friends don't even make me clean up after them!

red wine was spilled on the floor. did i even clean up a drop? not one! they did it. and did i have to make the chocolate for the fountain? no! jon did it!

my friends are generous. they came with bottles of wine! champagne! apple pie! cakes and pettifours, veggies and cheeses, crackers and hummus! they sit down with people they've never met and strike up a conversation. they learn how to love.

i'm proud of them. i'm proud to know them. i'm proud to be a witness to their lives.

when they leave, i cry for awhile. because it's like getting a taste of heaven and then being told you have to go back to earth for some time yet.

but since this is a new year, and since i don't want to leave on a note of just hating what happens after the party, i'll tell you that i love my friends. i'm lucky. i'm thankful. and that's really all that needs to be said.

Labels: ,