conjectural navel gazing; jesus in lint form

Don't lose any opportunity, however small, of being gentle toward everyone. Don't rely on your own efforts to succeed in your various undertakings, but only on God's help. Then rest in his care of you, confident that he will do what is best for you, provided that you will, for your part, work diligently but gently. I say "gently" because a tense diligence is harmful both to our heart and to our task and is not really diligence, but rather over eagerness and anxiety...I recommend you to God's mercy. I beg him, through that same mercy, to fill you with his love. - Francis de Sales

 

Sermon: Transfiguration Sunday

Posted February 6, 2016 @ 11:04pm | by Tripp

A sermon given on the last Sunday of Epiphanytide, often called Transfiguration Sunday, at All Souls Episcopal Parish in Berkeley, CA.

Do you hear voices?
Can you tell fiction from reality?
Do you hear voices?
Have you seen the visions?
What drives you from the mountaintop into Jerusalem?
What are you going to do along the way?
Heal someone.
Care for a stranger’s child.
Reconcile with your neighbor.
Love your enemy.

I think we’re going to need more scripture if this is going to happen. So, let’s back up a little in our Gospel reading and pose a question: What sayings? “After these sayings,” it reads. So, what sayings?

Luke writes:

The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If any of you want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of [God] and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God." Now about eight days after these sayings, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up to the mountain to pray.

Oh. Those sayings.

I see.

No wonder Peter, John, and James go to the mountain to pray with Jesus. “Where does he get this stuff?!” They must have been concerned for their friend and teacher.

So up the mountain they go. And, in a bit of literary foreshadowing, they fall asleep while Jesus is praying. The Passion of Christ is being lifted up before us in this story and in Jesus’ sayings.

I invite us to use our imaginations to listen for what Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were talking about up there.

I imagine Jesus filling the other two in somehow.

“Yeah. I told them what I have to do. All of it. The whole thing. I’m not sure they get it yet. Everyone is still talking about when I turned water into wine. I went back home and my old neighbors tried throwing me off a cliff. This is going to be much harder than I imagined.” Looking to Elijah, Jesus asks, “How did you do it?”

“I didn't. Not at first. First, I went into hiding, remember? I hid in a cave.” Moses nods. He offers a stuttering response to Jesus' question, “I did it barefoot. And it took forever.”

We cannot kid ourselves. This is the glory of the Lord and it isn’t easy. There is light, and there are clouds, and from the clouds emerge a voice. “Listen to him,” it demands. Encourages. Insists.

The magical realism of the Gospel comes alive for us today. And it’s just what we need for what comes next in our story. We need the magic of the Gospel to give us courage to do the work of the Gospel. Otherwise we’re likely to try to freeze time in order not to move forward in response to an encounter with God.

Instead, we build something.

Memorials.

Monuments.

Honors and who knows what. These are examples of the very temptations Jesus faced in the desert.

His friends tempt him.

This isn’t an example of the problem of building churches (unless you are also tempting Jesus to stay here and not go to Jerusalem). It is an example of the all to frequent human habit of trying to capture a moment.

This is coming from the guy with several thousand pictures of his son. Every moment gets its own digital tabernacle. Every time the glory of God is revealed, I post something on Instagram. So, I say this with some authority. I’m trying to freeze time.

But Jesus wants us to see it through instead. He doesn’t want us to build something. Not yet. We’re not ready yet. Not yet.

We won’t be ready until after Easter,
until after the whole thing is revealed and we have come to believe
that the story of God,
of the exodus,
of the prophetic witness,
of the Messiah
is the story of Jubilee,
of healing,
of peace making,
of reconciliation.

The first thing Jesus does when he comes down off the mountain is heal someone. A child. So let’s let’s follow that moment.

According to The National Center for Children in Poverty, “More than 16 million children in the United States - 22% of all children - live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level - $23,550 a year for a family of four."

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to guess where the effective poverty line is in a place like the Bay Area.

There’s a Jubilee to be had. There’s no doubting that.

Recently in Nigeria, Boko Haram burned 86 school children to death. We must find justice. Are there not enemies to pray for? Is there not peace to be made?

Do you hear voices?
Can you tell fiction from reality?
Do you hear voices?
Have you seen the visions?
What drives you from the mountaintop into Jerusalem?
What are you going to do along the way?
Heal someone.
Care for a stranger’s child.
Reconcile with your neighbor.
Love your enemy.

We carry the memory of a sound with us. “Be not afraid.”

“Listen to him.”

Play it again and again in your memory. Make it part of your spiritual soundtrack. Embrace the magic of the mountain top and the healing of the child. Don’t split them apart. Hold them together. See that it is the same God in Christ Jesus who reveals the Glory of the Holy Spirit in this way.

Of course, this is hard. It’s so difficult that Jesus’ own disciples cannot do it. Jesus calls them faithless. We have a frustrated Messiah, to be certain. But his frustration shows us again why we need to get our acts together before we raise a memorial.

Do you hear voices?
Can you tell fiction from reality?
Do you hear voices?
Have you seen the visions?
What drives you from the mountaintop into Jerusalem?
What are you going to do along the way?
Heal someone.
Care for a stranger’s child.
Reconcile with your neighbor.
Love your enemy.

Then we can ask...

What happens next? What happens after the work of healing and reconciliation? Where do we go?

We go to the cross.

Having picked up our own crosses in the form of healing and blessing and reconciling with one another, praying for our enemies and making peace, we go to another hill top. We go to Golgotha.

And the tomb.

Only then will we go to Resurrection.

Only then can we make our song “Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

Lent is upon us, Friends of God.

Tuesday we will dutifully (one hopes joyfully) eat our fill of pancakes or gumbo. Fasting doesn’t make sense until there’s a feast, you know. But then Ash Wednesday will be upon us and we will remember the dust. We will remember over the course of weeks the journey that is Jesus’ walk to Jerusalem for we too are on that same journey. We too are caught up in a passion.

But first, let us come down from the mountain top. There is healing to give and receive. There is peace to make. There are enemies to pray for, to love. This is the Jubilee of the Lord. 

 
Filed Under: liturgy |   | Permalink

Top Five Posts of 2015

Posted February 6, 2016 @ 2:32pm | by Tripp

At the end of every year or sometimes in January, I try to share the top five posts from the year that has come to an end. The top five posts are decided by the number of visitors. There's no other stat at work, no preferences played on my part. These are the five posts that had the most traction. 

Here we go. 

5. I will do better.

So, here is my promise. I will refrain from fear mongering in my social media threads and in my conversations with other people (Yes, even in the library; I know, crazy, right?). I will refrain from dropping statistics like they were somehow convincing arguments. I will refrain from prooftexting holy writ as if that were a convincing argument. I will listen to you as you share your fears. I will try to offer such solace as I can. 

4. To Be Seen

They see us on television and on-line. They see us in the bookstores. There is a global spiritual marketplace and it’s enormous and they see us everywhere. We’re right there next to Ram Das and Scientology. They see all of us: Pope Francis, Shelby Spong, Rob Bell, Diana Butler Bass, Mother Teresa, Joel Osteen...we’re right there to be seen all the time...Our problem is not one of visibility.

3. And so it continues

This is a strange thing to share, especially on a blog. Confirmation is one of the most personally transformative things I have done. It is public and deeply private. After attending and studying All Souls Episcopal Parish in Berkeley, CA, for these past couple of years, I have decided to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church.

A friend said, "Why not? All the cool kids are doing it."

Shit.

2. "...a fragile sense of self."

To say I have "a fragile sense of self" is to define addiction. For me the alcohol was a way to mediate a perceived deficit of character. My sense of self is oft precarious. Thus, therapy. Lots of therapy. And professional mentors. Through out my ministry I had mentors and a therapist. I was candid, perhaps overly so for some, with leadership in the churches I served. It simply became part of what I navigated as a pastor. Everyone has to manage something in their lives as pastors. I am no exception...nor is addiction an exceptional challenge. 

1. Love is the Alpha and the Omega

What is the appropriate Christian witness in a time such as this? Extremists are doubling down. They are putting money where they think they can generate the most power. They are desperate for influence because overall, some argue, their influence is waning.

And that's the top five posts from 2015. It was a good year. My blog didn't get the attention it deserves from its author, but things seem to be turning around of late. We'll see how the year really shapes up.

Thanks again for being one of the readers. It seems that people still come here for something to spend time thinking about. I am all astonishment. 

Be excellent to one another. 

 
Filed Under: conjecture |   | Permalink

Popping Collars? You betcha!

Posted February 6, 2016 @ 2:13pm | by Tripp

It was an honor to get to hang out with the podcastery nerds from Popping Collars. We talked about Rickman and Bowie, grief and virtuality, and Ben Hur. These things happen on Teh Intertubz. Enjoy. 

 
Filed Under: current events |   | Permalink

Hombrewed at GTU

Posted February 4, 2016 @ 12:02pm | by Tripp

Well, it finally happened. Someone convinced Tripp Fuller to make a stop in Berkeley to host the Homebrewed Christianity Podcast. Church Divinity School of the Pacific, The Pacific School of Religion, and American Baptist Seminary of the West have joined forces with the Graduate Theological Union proper for this event. I'm looking forward to it.

You can catch it on Livestream if you can't get up to Holy Hill.

Yes, I've read Fuller's book. His signature humor is all over it as are some good theological insights. I'm going to interview him tonight about the book as well as the entire series he's editing for Fortress Press.

 

 

Hello, Homebrewed Christianity! Tune in and turn it up! #theology

A video posted by Tripp Hudgins (@anglobaptist) on

Hope to see you all there!

 
Filed Under: theology |   | Permalink

And yet.

Posted February 3, 2016 @ 8:05am | by Tripp

There are countless articles written about the process of completing a PhD. From the economic viability of such a pursuit to the emotional and spiritual toll it can take, the articles outline warning after warning. “Don’t do it if you can imagine yourself doing anything else at all,” is a constant refrain. What I have discovered is that all the warnings are precisely true but pale in comparison to the joy of rigorous intellectual pursuit with colleagues who share your passion for learning itself. 
 
You see, the PhD isn’t about knowing something or being qualified to teach at the university level. The PhD is about the passion for learning. To get a PhD is to avow oneself as a perennial learner. It is to be an academic. 
 
To be an academic is to avow oneself to the act of learning with the deepest of intentions. It is to embrace the complexities of what it means to know anything at all and then live into that complexity with the purpose of offering your own passion to the world. 
 
It is to hold a mirror up to humanity and say, “This is who we are. This is where we are.” 
 
To be an academic is not to escape into some cloister. It is to dive into the complexities of human knowing itself and share what one gleans from that project with everyone else. 
 
This is what I am finding as I wrestle with all the warnings and the truths they represent. There is no time. There is never enough time. There are not enough resources. It’s incredibly expensive. The Academe is in a state of flux just like every other institutionalized expression of human flourishing. These things and others are true.  
 
And yet. And yet. 
 
Thanks to you, O God, that I have risen today.
To the rising of this life itself;
May it be to your glory, O God of every gift,
And to the glory of my soul likewise. 
 
O Great God, aid my soul
With the aiding of your own mercy;
Even as I clothe my body with wool,
Cover my soul with the shadow of your wing. 
 
Help me to avoid every sin,
And the source of every sin to forsake;
And as the mist scatters on the crest of the hills,
May eash ill haze clear from my soul, O God. 
 
 
Filed Under: conjecture |   | Permalink

On Sausage, Rain, and Banjos

Posted February 2, 2016 @ 11:47am | by Tripp

Have you ever noticed just how delicious the crispy edges of breakfast sausage can be? Truly marvelous. 

The rain falls yet again in Berkeley. This has been our first actual rainy season since we arrived in 2011. Unlike the heavy Chicago skies of late winter and early spring, there is something comforting about the rains that fall here. The clouds sit low across the water and enshroud the hills in their chill. The rain is gentle. The emerging green is lush. It’s such a contrast to the golden browns we’ve experienced thus far. Flowering bushes are in bloom. 

It is spring in Berkeley. 

I’m finally making that turn to the internal work of comprehensive exams. This is the bandwidth issue I speak of from time to time. When my brain is preoccupied with other things such as work or an infant or even the poor showing of the Dallas Cowboys over the last several seasons, I find myself unable to let the ideas I have about my work roll around in my head. I’m unable to compose thoughts, sentences, paragraphs as I might otherwise. But I seem to be making a turn. 

Yes, of course, staying away from social media is helpful. And I’m doing a modicum of that. It’ll take some doing to disentangle myself from those deep habits. I’m focusing my attention on Instagram and Buffer right now. That seems to be helping.

There are some things I’d like to share if I survive this comprehensive exam process. I want to write about mental health and the unimaginable stress of working toward a PhD. I want to write more about the struggle of seminaries to maintain themselves specifically as that struggle relates to congregational decline in the mainline traditions. There’s been too much press about the struggle as if it were a stand alone issue. 

Higher education of every kind is integrally related to every facet of our shared social lives. You cannot talk about NAFTA without talking about community college and liberal arts education any longer. It’s unconscionable. 

Then I want to write some about banjos. I know. You’re thrilled. 

God's will would I do,
my own will bridle;

God's due would I give,
my own due yield;

God's path would I travel,
my own path refuse;

Christ's death would I ponder,
my own death remember;

Christ's agony would I meditate,
My love to God make warmer;

Christ's cross would I carry,
my own cross forget;

Repentance of sin would I make,
Every repentance choose;

A bridle to my tongue I would put,
A bridle on my thoughts I would keep;

God's judgement would I judge,
My own judgements guard;

Christ's redemption would I seize,
My own ransom work;

The love of Christ would I feel,
My own love know. 

 
Filed Under: conjecture |   | Permalink

The Power of Failure

Posted February 1, 2016 @ 12:55pm | by Tripp

And so we begin again. I have such a positive attitude about these things, you know. Ha! Please bear with me as I share my muddled anxieties here amidst various musings about authenticity, music, liturgy, and semiotics. You're going to see both over the next few weeks. I'll be less directly present on the usual social media outlets and more present here on the old long-form blog. I am in the final throes of my comprehensive exams. They come at an incredibly busy time of year at work and at home. So, yeah. I'm freaking out again. Much of my work now is really simply getting out of my own way so that I can write the sixty pages I need to write between now and February 14. 

Right. Write. I'm gone. I'll be here from time to time. Thanks for the love and support. 

Thanks to you ever, O gentle Christ,
That you have raised me freely from the black
And from the darkness of last night
To the kindly light of this day. 

Praise to you, O God of all creatures,
According to each life you have poured on me
My desire, my word, my sense, my repute,
My thought, my deed, my way, my fame. 

 
Filed Under: random foolishness |   | Permalink

GROUNDED: A Book Review

Posted January 21, 2016 @ 1:23pm | by Tripp

This is a most belated review of a fine book by Dr. Diana Butler Bass. Grounded: Finding God in the World A Spiritual Revolution is a loving theological treatise on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the ground upon which we stand figuratively and literally. In it Bass offers an ecothologically founded expansion of the sociological work that she has done for more than a decade. It is a spiritual memoir, an autoethnographic exploration of her experience of our shared moment in the history of human faithfulness. 

My copy is dogeared and scrawled in. "Yes. This." or "Of course. Right." It makes it hard to write a review brief enough for a blog. But I'm going to give it a shot by talking about one chapter in the book. 

Chapter five of the book is entitled "Home." In the middle of the monograph, it is the central theological notion that ties the entire book together. From her ecolotheology to her notions of righteous justice, Bass is actually speaking of what we colloquially call "home." Beginning at the ending, she writes: 

"Home, a holy habitation, a sacred space. We do not often stop to consider where we dwell, much less how it shapes us to move about in the world, for either good or ill. But somehow we keep searching for home, looking for a safe haven to reside." (192)

However we frame the question ourselves in terms of purpose, meaning, or "home," the personal and collective sense of belonging is (still?) the cornerstone of faithfulness. Our religious lives are still about our core identity and how, if possible, we recognize that identity where we find ourselves on the planet and in relationship with one another. And, as sacred space, this sense of home is also our sense of God. My house is your house, says the LORD. "Home is the geography of our souls. The 'where' questions of home naturally open to the spiritual question: Where is God?" (166)

Most of humanity is transient. Immigrants, refugees, migrant workers, or the upwardly mobile, human beings are a mobile lot. As such, our spiritual quest involves some sense of beloging. Where and to whom do we belog? "People are out of place. Transient moderns make their homes in new places." (167) If this sociological trend is worth our attention, so too are the theologies that emerge from such a people. Thus, this is a revolution. No longer do we look for people in fixed places to tell us Who or Where God is. We find out for ourselves. 

We are all on a pilgrimage of some kind looking for healing, renewal, and an encounter with God who is...where? Bass points to the research of Richard Florida: 

At the Q gathering in 2010, urbanologist Richard Florida observed that young adults meeting one another no longer ask, “What do you do?” They ask, “Where do you live?” More and more people will change careers in order to stay in a place—connected to family, friends, and local culture—than will change place to stay in a career. The 20th-century American dream was to move out and move up; the 21st-century dream seems to be to put down deeper roots. This quest for local, embodied, physical presence may well be driven by the omnipresence of the virtual and a dawning awareness of the thinness of disembodied life.

God is wherever we are, where we put down roots and open our eyes to the world around us. No longer longing for Some Other Place to go either here on earth or on some cosmological Elsewhere, we are finding God and ourselves right where we are. In this sense, the local church that points elsewhere is actually pointing nowhere. More and more people want home, not a ticket out. 

Sadly, home is not always safe. It is not always clean. Sometimes it's polluted and dangerous. God is no less present in these places and this is where a need for justice and reconciliation are most needed, where God speaks a word of lament and hope rather than "let's get out of here." Quoting Mother Teresa, Bass writes "We must make our homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly." Forgiveness births compassionate action. It births social change. Home is worth caring for. 

We develop spiritual habits (habitat) that help us all create home. Hospitality, forgiveness, gratitude, sharing a table, and festival are just the beginning of these habits, these practices. This is the stuff of what I call "religion." Bass frames them as revolutionary or counter cultural practices. 

This is what makes the book challenging for me. How is the quotidian revolutionary? How is the commonplace or obvious The Big New Thing? Perhaps because the quotidian is changing.

Bass shares her own life of moving from place to place, finding the sacred in all the places where she has lived in her life, in the communities there, the neighborhoods, and the congregations. This is where the book opens up for me. Whenever Diana shares her own journey and finds herself in the data generated by Galup or Pew and names the encounter of God the prose comes alive.

What good is social science data unless you can show the people whom it represents and the God they worship? 

Thus, for Diana, the revolution is domestic, commpnplace, quotidian. It's habituated. It is rooted deep in the ground and flows through like a river. It is the air we breathe. The revolution is about being where you are (cue "Stand" by REM) and naming the God who is already present and involved in the lives we have. 

It's a good book. Grab yourself a copy. Read it with a friend. Share a meal. 

If you want to hear Diana talk about the book and some of her ideas, take a listen to this interview with Rob Bell. Their musing on the "minor chord" is good fun. 

 
Filed Under: theology |   | Permalink

#occupycomps

Posted January 18, 2016 @ 11:45pm | by Tripp

And so it begins. Today, in the winter cool of Berkeley's January, I am back at it. #occupycomps

Last year at this time, I started writing in earnest. I took three timed exams over the course of the season. Cramming. Ploughing. Streaming. I'm not at all certain what to call it when you put all that information in your head and then try to fashion a coherent thesis or six. In this case it was six.

Coherence is the new distracted.

Right?

I took a formal leave of absence after the baby was born. He is nine months old now and I have a date set for the defense of my comprehensive exams. If you are the praying sort, keep February 26 on your calendar. Wish me well. Send positive vibes.

I have restructured my employment situation so I can work from home and be more present to EP. I'm so deeply grateful for ABSW's flexibility in all this. It would not be possible for me to complete this stage of the process without their kind support.

I sent this to some friends yesterday:

"I want to write a dissertation that melds Ferdia J Stone-Davis (music and beauty) with Ciaran Carson (poetics), Naomi Cumming (musicology, semiotics), and The Goat Rodeo Sessions into a sonic theology that can handle such complex human behaviors like the spiritual market place and the global music industry. It's a little optimistic an approach right now, but the idea of taking just a few folk and having them converse with one another in this way is the right approach. I need to stay away from my usual All The Things approach to this. I just need to frame the problem clearly enough that it is obvious to my readers that these three scholar-practitioners (and one band) are offering some ideas that can help liturgical theologians begin to frame what is actually happening in worship."

There is much to do.

 
Filed Under: random foolishness |   | Permalink

Wheaton and Christian Education

Posted January 15, 2016 @ 7:32am | by Tripp

It isn’t easy being in Christian education these days. The case of Dr. Hawkins and Wheaton College is showing us why. 

You’ve read it in multiple places and from various sources. Things aren’t what they once were. From Barna to Butler Bass we have been told time and time again that the American religious landscape has changed and that our communities and institutions will likely struggle to navigate those changes. 

For the last few weeks we have been given a great example of how difficult this is through the story of Professor Hawkins and Wheaton College.

The times have changed. The people have changed. Christian concerns have changed. Are our institutions, specifically our institutions of higher learning, ready to change? 

Just like we see congregations struggle, we are witnessing a school struggle. Injustices abound. 

I started paying close attention to Wheaton recently when some students released a statement condemning Jerry Falwell Jr.’s statement on carrying concealed weapons on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. I wondered what the other conservative evangelical colleges might say in response. The students from Wheaton responded, but the institution itself remained silent. A politic move. 

As the case of Professor Hawkins came into the light of public scrutiny Wheaton’s commitments became more and more clear. It is a conservative, even Fundamentalist, institution. Its commitments both theologically and politically reflect those commitments even if members of the student body and tenured professors protest. 

The Washington Post recently published article that reminds us of the history of the institution (Thanks to Rev. Dr. Andy Guffey for sending it my way.). Progressive and socially active at the start, by the turn of the twentieth century, the school would shift focus and become part of the vanguard of the Fundamentalist movement of the day. 

Written in 1924, the present “Statement of Faith and Educational Purpose” reflects the sensibilities of the Fundamentalist movement of the early twentieth century. No more. No less. It shows. And the pressure the institution is receiving from within and without challenges the present statement.

Wheaton’s “Statement of Faith and Educational Purpose” is woefully inadequate to the task of addressing the complexities of the social, political, and religious pluralism of the United States in the twenty-first century. Their faith statement is a tract of a certain kind of Christian orthodoxy contra other orthodoxies. It only makes sense from within Christendom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The era from which this document emerges experienced pluralism differently. Pluralism was essentially Intra-Christian. No one was wondering how one would treat ones Muslim neighbors. We wondered how Modernists and Fundamentalists would get along. Those days are long gone

Wheaton is out of step and must find a new articulation of its educational vision. Others have said as much.

Dr. Hawkins has released her own statement

Others have recently highlighted the question of political allegiances

Some have pointed to a larger social context

These are certainly part of the issue. Perhaps even more important are the facts of Dr. Hawkins’ gender and race. Wheaton’s administrative leadership is in a very tight bind with multiple and even contradicting commitments in play. 

At the center of it all is the question of Christian education. Is Wheaton a walled fortress for the pure and devout hiding from an increasingly pluralistic society? Or is it part of that plurality, teaching students how to best love their neighbors even when their neighbors are not like them? 

What does it mean to be a Christian institution of higher learning in the twenty-first century? If Wheaton is within the tradition of Christian Liberal Arts (not a stretch if you have read Erasmus), how can it move forward? Or is it doomed by the deep pockets and political pressures of current politics to remain stuck articulating a vision set in the 1920’s?

Wheaton matters to all Christians for the same reason that Pope Francis matters to all Christians. We are all looking to find ways of articulating our identity within a world that is more aware of its plurality than ever. We no longer have the luxury of assuming some homogenous culture. There is no “Christian culture” that doesn’t share in the great Venn diagram of American religious life that also includes Muslims, Jews, pagans, and the “Nones.” And within each of those groups are various sub-groups. 

These concerns are not new. Arthur Holder, Dean of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA (Disclosure: I’m working on a PhD at GTU.) wrote an essay on the issue of Christian education in the pluralistic society of Basil the Great. Toward the end of the essay, Holder proposes some steps in how we might address the plurality of our own time gleaned from the ancient teacher’s own pedagogy. 

  1. Know your culture before you critique it. You are part of the culture, not separate from it.
  2. Affirm the good in the culture. No culture is completely cut off from God’s grace. 
  3. Immerse yourself in the tradition of the Church. Yes, this too is plural, but it’s there as a resource for us. Christian formation is communal. 
  4. Empathize with the students and their situations. Know them. Respect the differences.
  5. Don’t skip over the hard stuff, the things you don’t like in your culture. Don’t ignore what offends you. Instead, cultivate Christian virtue within your own life. 
  6. Be an example of Christian graciousness in the midst of a plural society for your students to follow. 

Christian education needs to assume a plural society. We not fear that plurality. We are part of it. We can embrace it and find our way into a gracious relationship as part of humanity in all its complexity. This is what Pope Francis has offered. This is what present leadership at Wheaton fears. 

An edited version of this post was also posted on Sojourners.

 
Filed Under: current events |   | Permalink

All My Favorite Theologians Are Dying

Posted January 14, 2016 @ 3:46pm | by Tripp

All of my favorite theologians are dying. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. A couple of years ago it was Pete Seeger. It is as if all my favorite theologians are moving on.

Please take me seriously as I say this. It has been a grief-striking week. Just like when Robin Williams passed, there is this void in my life, in my way of knowing God.

There are other theologians of course. Brueggeman. King. Heyward. Berger. But each in their own way remind me to look to our artists and musicians for embodied theology. I listened for theology on the radio. I watch for it on television and the movie screen.

It doesn't matter what Brian McLaren writes in his books if no one is actually doing it someplace else. Diana Butler Bass is a genius, but I need Bobby McFerrin, Yara Allen, or all of the Punch Brothers with Aiofe O'Donovan for it to get real for me.

This is not to pit one kind of theology over another, but just to highlight that what we're losing are not just popular icons but theologians.

These people are not saints. Their lives are not perfect. Good grief, David Bowie leaves a moral legacy that is as terrifying as it is glorious. But Moses was a murderer as was Paul. Augustine was a philandering jerk. John Calvin had someone burned at the stake. Bonhoffer was involved in a plot to commit high treason and wrote long sentences about how complicated doing good or being good actually is. American Christianity still struggles with its own racism. None of us is clean.

Sometimes the most beautiful theology is written by people who have student in the darkness and done evil things.

This does not excuse the action. But it does remind us that Christianity is not a purity cult. It is an impurity cult.

Sometimes theologians sing songs about the ambiguity of ethics in our life together. They portray villains on stage or on the screen because the villainous is real. And sometimes the person you think is your arch nemesis is the very person who has already laid down everything on your behalf.

I'm not interested in a clean and tidy theology. Save your systematics for someone else. They have their value, but not for me right now. Give me your Jean Genie. Give me your Snape. Give me a banjo wielding communist. I want real theology about a real God.

All my favorite theologians are dying.

This also ran on Sojourners' blog. 

 
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Hanging With Homebrewed Christianity

Posted January 8, 2016 @ 5:03pm | by Tripp

 
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