Welcome to a round-up of some of the things I've been thinking about this week related to church, culture, politics, and sangin'. Somehow all of these things overlap and inform one another in my mind. The language for that overlap, however, still eludes me.
Right. So, read on! Enjoy. Click on a link.
“I want participatory church,” she said. “An open source theology,” is my take away from this article from Sojourners. Serving in Palo Alto the last few years has helped me focus some of my own thinking about how ministry in the Silicon Valley can work, how people are actually making their faith work for them, and how the inventors or innovators of digital media and its related technologies are reinventing the church. This is a conversation we had in Chicago, too, but it is more obvious here. And, of course, what's geography got to do with anything in such a time? Nada.
Also, here's a related article on teaching in the age of Google glass. "In showing college students the value of studying history in this future-forward culture, Campbell said history and other humanistic disciplines can offer students a kind of Google Glass, enabling them to see and understand their worlds in powerful and often unexpected ways."
There is so much being relegated to the relic bin, for example, little plastic communion cups. This beautiful reflection is also telling. Perhaps Zwinglianism will thrive in the digital age. "Parts of our character and temperament are also clear in these cups. They are so practical as to become invisible, wholly absorbed into the activity of communion. Cheap and disposable, they end up ribbing the outsides of full trash bags the Monday after communion Sunday. They are humble, unconcerned with appearances, hardworking, and keen on facilitating purely spiritual transactions without any hint of superstition, which hints are allegedly made aplenty in the metaphysics by which believers believe themselves to be eating the true body and blood of God. Ultimately, they are concerned with the state of your individual soul—of every individual’s soul."
There has been international outcry at the sentencing to death of a Christian woman in the Sudan for apostacy. There's much I could say here that has already been said about keeping our American debates about religious freedom in perspective. But signally that direction cushions us from the horrific absurdity of this woman's apparent fate. God save us from evil men and women in every land, in every religion. God save us from ourselves. We, of course, have our own challenges.
W. Anne Joh writes here about whiteness and its embeddedness in church institutions specifically theological schools. "Well-meaning institutions tell students from communities of color that they are inclusive and have a commitment to diversity, but they neither cultivate institutional will for justice-oriented diversity nor forge new institutional habits. As a result, students and faculty of color are often left to work as individuals within institutions whose wills and habits are in opposition to, or in direct conflict with, the lived worlds of these scholars."
I am spending yet more time thinking through these issues as I prepare for my new position at American Baptist Seminary of The West. I will be the only white male on staff (or faculty) other than the maintenance coordinator. Multi-culturalism is the language we use to describe the lived experience of the seminary. That said, we have not shed the legacy of institutional whiteness. And of particular kinds of whiteness. More on that later. I need to share something with you about music.
Lastly, there is this article about how communal singing has disappeared from American life. I tend to disagree. I think, as the author alluded in the end, that it is simply looking for a new home. That said, the so-called fragmentation of the "bowling alone" culture means that we rarely come together to sing except in specialized groups like choirs and the like. "We are insecure about our voices. We don't know the words. We resent being forced into an activity together. We feel uncool. And since we're out of practice as a society, the person who dares to begin a song risks having no one join her."