Saturday, December 29, 2012

Caturday: New Year Edition

May you be as relentless as this kitten when you are pursuing your goals in this new year.

Happy Caturday!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you peace and joy this Christmas!

Ebenezer, Curtis, and I are enjoying time with family. And Ebenezer may or may not be sporting a Christmas bow tie.

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Theologian Thursday: Athanasius (296-373)

As Christmas inches ever closer (less than a week away, now!), I find myself constantly swept up in the miracle and mystery of the incarnation. It is, in my opinion, the defining aspect of our faith and the key part of the salvific narrative.

So as I was reading Athanasius's On the Incarnation, I realized he had not had his own Theologian Thursday post yet! So here we are.

Athanasius was the bishop of Alexandria, and is most well known for his opposition to the Arian heresy and his role at the councils of Nicaea (325) and Alexandria (326).

The gist of the story is that Arius was teaching a subordinationist christology (i.e. that the second Person of the Trinity was created in time, rather than begotten eternally), which had actually taken off and become quite popular. In fact, this may be the only historical heresy with an accompanying jingle--people were going around singing, "There was a time when the Son was not." Athanasius challenged Arius, asserting that the Son could not have been created, because then it would be creature and not divine.

Then he got Arius anathemized.

Athanasius was not without his own problems though. He was sent into exile a couple times, mostly because emperors were mad about the Arius thing. This was right after Constantine adopted Christianity and the Church began to be entangled with the Empire, so clergy had become more political. Athanasius did most of his writing while in exile.

What you should read:
Ratings:(To read more about my rating system, click HERE.)
Gender Equality: I don't think I would call Athanasius a total misogynist, but he does pen some questionable lines about women and sin, and the necessity of the virginity of Mary. Plus, there's not much to say that he actually appreciated women. 
Environmental Sensibility: The fourth century was certainly not a time of much interest in the environment. And yet, these early fathers were not destroying the earth as humanity came to do later either, so I suppose there was less to worry about.
Heretical Tendencies: 
Athanasius's fight was for orthodoxy, and his christology and view of the Trinity is still considered orthodox today. Interesting how a "winner" in a doctrinal debate automatically becomes 100% orthodox, while the other is 100% heretical and has his work burned.

General Badassery: 
I was actually surprised to find Athanasius to be a lot less badass than I was expecting. Besides the anathemizing and exiles and writing, his life was not really a big deal. He died peacefully in his home at a very old age. Oh, and his nickname was the "Black Dwarf," which is not so much badass as it is politically incorrect.

Finally, a classic quote:

"The Son of God became man so that we might become God."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Caturday: Cat Agility Edition

OK, so you've certainly seen and/or heard of dog agility courses. Even pugs can do it!

But this is the first I had ever seen cat agility.

I mean, cats are pretty agile to begin with. But seeing them trained like this is pretty awesome.

Happy Caturday!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Hymns

Christmas music has been on heavy rotation around these parts, pretty much since Thanksgiving was over. Records spinning at home, Sufjan Stevens at work, 24/7 Christmas radio in the car. So I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite Advent/Christmas hymns.

I love hymns in general, but I really like Christmas hymns. I think that's because there's so much crappy/cheesy/awful Christmas music. So when you find the good ones it's like treasure.

My #1 favorite is "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." It was written by Charles Wesley and is theologically so spot-on. Like, there are some hymns and church songs that I like, but have to kind of cringe through because of their eschatology or christology or gendered pronouns, but NOT THIS ONE. This hymn has like fist-pumping in the pews theology. Love it.

"Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" is another good one. Also by Charles Wesley.

What are your favorite Christmas songs or hymns? And what makes a good one, anyway? Please share in the comments!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fall Quarter Wrap-Up

I've been done with all my coursework for this quarter for a couple of weeks. So now that I've had some time to reflect, here's a bit of a wrap-up.

Strategic Management of Social Media
I enjoyed this class, for the most part. I'm pretty adept at social media, simply because I've been using it for so long. But this class taught me how to think of it more strategically and business-mindedly. It wasn't totally library-related, but there were certainly ideas that translate, and I think it gave me a good, solid perspective on how to use social media professionally. I learned how to use social media well, how to set and achieve social media goals, and how to get a good ROI.

The book we focused on was The Dragonfly Effect by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith, and it laid the process out and made successful use of social media seem really simple and doable.

Research Methods
This class was kind of a wreck. I got an A in it, but between the FIVE different professors and lecturers who did not communicate with each other and gave us conflicting instructions and information, frustrating group projects which didn't seem to line up with the course material, and boring-as-dirt readings, any redeeming qualities were entirely lost.

Not to mention I am not interested in social scientific research at all to begin with. I tried to have a good attitude about this class, but it really didn't do itself any favors.

I'm about halfway through the program now, and honestly I can't wait for it to be over.

Yes, I'm learning things. Yes, I still want to be a librarian.

But why didn't I just go to seminary?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Caturday: Death Metal Drummer Edition

Yesterday was my little brother's birthday.

This video features the ridiculous genre of music he listens to.

Also, it is something he would do.

Happy Caturday.

And happy birthday, Brendan.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Radical on the Bookshelf--My Piece in Geez Magazine

The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!

Not really, but I am in print!

I may have mentioned that I was putting together a bibliography of sorts for Geez Magazine's "Worship and Anarchy" issue. My piece isn't available online, so I'll post it here. But if you want a hard copy--and you really should, it's a great issue!--you can order one HERE.

These are books I'd recommend if you are interested in learning more about Christian anarchism. Any of them would be a great starting place if you're just looking into it, or a place to dig a bit deeper.

Let me know what you think. Have you read these? What would you add to the list?

The Kingdom of God is Within You (1894)
by Leo Tolstoy

This classic has influenced anarchists and nonviolent resisters from Ammon Hennacy to Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and is an enduring cornerstone of the anarchist canon.

*Available for free online – Google Books, Kindle

Anarchy and Christianity (1988)
by Jacques Ellul

A short, accessible argument for Christian anarchism, directed at both anarchist and Christian skeptics. Ellul challenges the involvement of the church in the politics of the nation-state and encourages the reader to imagine a more Christ-like alternative.

Also recommended: Violence and The Subversion of Christianity
Anarchism and Other Essays (1910)by Emma Goldman

Reading Goldman, a committed atheist who sometimes supported violence, is important for giving shape to an anarchistic worldview. Plus, she’s a formidable early anarcha-feminist you want to know about.

*Available for free online – Google Books, Kindle

The Long Loneliness (1952)by Dorothy Day

This autobiography gives us a glimpse into what a life shaped by Christian anarchism looks like. Day, who created the Catholic Worker anarchist newspaper and founded Hospitality Houses that fed and clothed the poor, had a passion for “making the world a place where people can be better human beings.”

The Politics of Jesus (1972)by John Howard Yoder

Yoder, an anabaptist theologian who has been influential for Christian anarchists, takes Jesus as a “model of radical political action.” He shows how the Jesus of Christendom hardly resembles the Jesus of the gospels. Truly following Jesus should change our social ethic to the countercultural ethic of the Beatitudes and Jubilee.

Living on Hope While Living in Babylon (2009)by Tripp York

In York’s analysis, the Christian anarchist politic is apocalyptic rather than apolitical. He shows how it has been lived out by well-known anarchists like Dorothy Day and Clarence Jordan. The tone is hopeful: York presents a Christian anarchist way of life as not only viable but even fruitful.

The Myth of a Christian Nation (2007)
by Gregory Boyd

Boyd tackles the creeping problem of Christian patriotism in the United States and challenges believers to rethink the way they engage in politics instead of buying into the evangelical myth of the religious right.

Resident Aliens (1989)
 by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon

This book isn’t explicitly anarchist, but it challenges Christians to think critically about our cultural contexts and how to live as a colony of believers – in the world and yet not of the world.

Waging Nonviolent Struggle (2005) by Gene Sharp

Sharp is neither overtly anarchist nor Christian, but he offers a “social view of power” – that power comes from the people and is dependent on their cooperation. He advocates for nonviolence as an effective means for oppressed people to create change and lists 198 different methods of nonviolent action.

That Holy Anarchist (2012)
Mark Van Steenwyk

A quick read that covers the basics of Christian anarchism as well as its most common challenges. Van Steenwyk provides a very accessible and informative primer on the anarchistic leanings of Jesus.

Jesus For President (2008)
Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

Designed in full colour with a DIY aesthetic, this book uses the stories of ancient Israel and the early church to frame the way Christians may think about government and rulers today.

Oppression and Liberty (1955)
by Simone Weil

Simone Weil was an anarchist-turned-Catholic mystic. A well-educated early-twentieth-century woman, she offers a unique, thorough and philosophical perspective on power and politics, and a particularly apt criticism of Marx.

Christian Anarchy (1987)
by Vernard Eller

In a scholarly yet informal style, Eller provides many “whys” of Christian anarchy, explaining how kingdom of God “arky” is so different from wordly “arkys” and therefore how Christians should think and live differently.

*Available for free online HERE
Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel (2010) byAlexandre Christoyannopoulos

With accessible academic style, Christoyannopoulos presents an extensively researched and thorough study of Christian anarchism that includes its origins and history, prominent leaders and influencers, and biblical and theological supporting theories.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Theologian Thursday: St. Nicholas of Myra (270-343)

Since today is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, and his name is often invoked this time of year, I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate today's post to him.

As you might imagine, the larger-than-life legendary quality of Saint Nicholas far exceeds his actual story.

I mean, he was certainly a generous man, a pious bishop, and holy enough to become a saint. But honestly, how a modest and charitable person can become the well-known (yet not really known at all), commercialized caricature that we think of Saint Nicholas astounds me.

Anyway, the best known story of Saint Nicholas is that he caught wind of a man who had three daughters whom he could not marry off because he had not enough money for a dowry, so he was going to send them off to be prostitutes. Saint Nicholas, being well-off due to the inheritance of his parents, wanted to help. And so, under cover of darkness (for he was a humble man), he tossed bags of money through the windows of the man's home, resulting in the oldest daughter's marriage. He did the same for the other two daughters in subsequent years.

That's it, people. That's why Santa Claus delivers presents at night. And it's completely possible that this story is made up.

The funnier thing about this story is that it's the reason that, in paintings, Saint Nicholas is often portrayed with three moneybags, which somewhere along the line someone thought were the heads of three children. Thus leading to a legend about his resurrection and healing of three children who had been beheaded AND PICKLED by an evil innkeeper. For real. Who comes up with this stuff?

Saint Nicholas's main miracle was that he appeared in a dream to the emperor Constantine and his aide, telling them to release three innocent prisoners, who had prayed in Nicholas's name to be saved. The next morning, Constantine let them go free, instructing them to go to Bishop Nicholas and tell him to stay out of his dreams.

Nicholas may or may not have been present at the Council of Nicaea in 325, but one account that says he was indeed there includes that he slapped Arius across the face. Which I'm sure most people there wish they could have done.

A 2005 forensic investigation of Saint Nicholas's bones, which were quite well-preserved in his crypt in Bari, Italy, revealed that he was only about five feet tall. Which gives new meaning to the song "Little Saint Nick."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Today is the first day of Advent, which means it is the first day of the Christian calendar.

Happy New Year!

I am looking forward to this season of anticipation and meditation on the incarnation, and I hope you are too!

This evening I'll be participating in an advent dinner at my church, so I hope to write a bit more about that and how it goes this week. I think it will be a very special time. There is so much about this season that is contrary to the busy-ness and harried-ness of this time of year, and it's fascinating to try and hold the patience and waiting in tension with the go-go, gimme-gimme tendencies we all experience.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

November Highlights

As much as I'm glad that November, and therefore the the election, is over, I am thankful for the fact that it served as impetus to post some of my thoughts about voting and Christian anarchism.

Here are the highlights, in case you missed them:

In Defense of Christian Anarchism
No matter who is elected, I will continue to live my life in the way of Jesus. I will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and love my enemies, regardless of who is in office, and were they to make doing such things illegal, I would continue to do them. The authority to which I submit is not the state, but the Church--the people to whom I am inexorably linked in the body and blood of Eucharist. And I'd rather spend my time and energy participating in the Table than in the voting booth. 
Christian Anarchism and Denominational Identity 
I was, in some ways, accidentally born here. Accidentally embraced by and wrapped up in these people whom I just happened to have class with, be taught by, and live down the street from. And although there are many parts of the Church of the Nazarene that I don't necessarily agree with (and sometimes downright refuse to live by), these people are my family, and I just don't feel like I am able to choose a different one. Even one that might better fit my theological and political beliefs.
Book Review: Electing Not to Vote 
We often are told that voting is how we make our voice heard and "have our say" in government, but this is just not true. My voice and my opinion are far more nuanced than checking "Yes" or "No," and my beliefs never, ever line up exactly with any candidate. And there's no reason for me to restrict it to these methods simply because that is what is offered me by the state.

I'm excited to welcome December and see what the season of Advent has to offer!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Theologian Thursday: Saint John of Damascus

It's no secret that I love the Greek Fathers. I think it has to do with some kind of rebellion against my thoroughly western upbringing. Anyway, John Damascene is one of my favorites.

Not much is known about his life, mostly because of the existence of only a single biographical source and an abundance of legends.

John studied music, mathematics, and geometry, as well as theology--both Christian and Muslim. He was well-versed in the Qur'an (due to his submersion in an Arab culture), mostly so he could criticize it. He also wrote many hymns that are still in use today.

John of Damascus is most well-known for his defense of the icon. His life coincided with the rise of iconoclasm--the destruction of icons and images in the church because of the fear of idolatry. Leo the Isaurian of the Eastern Church first issued a decree against the veneration of images, and then one against their display entirely. Because of the Church's long tradition of venerating icons, John fought back, defending the importance of the icon in worship. He explained that it's not the icon itself that is worshiped, but that God can be more fully worshiped through the viewing of the icon:
"I do not worship matter, I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honoring that matter which works for my salvation. I venerate it, though not as God."
John's theology of the icon has many implications for incarnational theology. God created matter; God became matter in Jesus Christ, therefore matter is not itself evil, and can actually be used to reveal God.

What you should read:

(To read more about my rating system, click HERE.)
Gender Equality: 
While I certainly wouldn't call John of Damascus egalitarian, he did hold Mary in high regard and important in the salvation story. So that's something.
Environmental Sensibility: 
I think that Damascene's appreciation for matter, that is--the physical world, as a result of God's creation is worth noting here. His veneration for icons I think could be carried over to a love for general revelation in nature, and therefore a certain care for the environment.
Heretical Tendencies: 

It's hard to say on this one. While John was often accused of being a worshiper of images and an idolater, he also fought against the Nestorian heresy and other unorthodoxy. But his trinitarian understanding was lacking.  Also his eucharistic doctrine is a little wonky. He toes that heresy line pretty well.
General Badassery: 
Polymaths always get stars for badassery! Plus, the Byzantine emperor forged a letter in his name, saying that he was part of a plot against Damascus, and so the caliph cut off his hand! AND THEN BY A MIRACLE OF THE VIRGIN MARY IT GREW BACK! OK, that's probably just a legend but still.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Giving Thanks

Took a bit of an accidental hiatus last week, but it was nice to have a break. I did all my school work for the week on Monday and Tuesday, and so I had Wednesday-Sunday to enjoy family and have an actual vacation!

I'll be getting back to regular programming this week.

And I'm looking forward to writing some about Advent, which starts on Sunday!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Curtis, Ebenezer, and I sure did!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Caturday: Cat Bounce Edition

I know I normally post videos on Caturday, but this week, I'm going to have to send you to this website.


It's a complete waste of time and totally hilarious and awesome.


Happy Caturday.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Christian Anarchism and Denominational Identity

My friend and classmate, Kaitlyn, asked a great question on my last Christian anarchism post. She said, "I am curious if being a Christian Anarchist has led you to belong to a specific congregation or denomination?

This is a great question, and there definitely are some Christian denominations that are more anarchist-friendly, and even make anarchist principles part of their doctrine.

I grew up going to evangelical, nondenominational churches, and only in the last few years have I been involved with and attending Nazarene churches. Neither of these traditions are very sympathetic toward anarchism. You  might think a nondenominational, non-hierarchical church could be, but the conservative and sometimes fundamentalist theology in such churches is not generally conducive to an anarchist agenda. And as far as the Church of the Nazarene, theology and political sentiments can vary widely from congregation to congregation--so much so that I bet that two Nazarenes from different areas and churches could switch places on a Sunday morning and not realize that they were still in a Nazarene church (but this is probably a topic for another time).

Now, as I mentioned, there are certain denominations in which an anarchist would feel quite at home--the Mennonite and Anabaptist churches come immediately to mind, as well as Society of Friends (or Quakers). I think the biggest draw is that these are peace churches--denominations committed to pacifism and related Christlike ethics. You could also find Catholic Worker communities, which aren't exactly a denomination, but  more a radical movement within Catholicism. I admire people from each of these traditions, and much of their beliefs resonate with me deeply.

However, I'm of the opinion that your church is kind of like your family--you don't get to choose your family; you become part of it through the accident of your birth. And while there are certainly times when you  might consciously search out and "choose" a church, that has not been my experience.

I don't feel that I chose the Church of the Nazarene. I was, in some ways, accidentally born here. Accidentally embraced by and wrapped up in these people whom I just happened to have class with, be taught by, and live down the street from. And although there are many parts of the Church of the Nazarene that I don't necessarily agree with (and sometimes downright refuse to live by), these people are my family, and I just don't feel like I am able to choose a different one. Even one that might better fit my theological and political beliefs.

So to answer your question, Kaitlyn, no. Not really. Perhaps if my anarchist beliefs had developed in a vacuum, free from pre-existing denominational affiliations, my answer would be different. But as it stands, I remain in the Nazarene denomination more in spite of my anarchism than because of it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Theologian Thursday: Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Hildegard of Bingen is awesome, because not only was she a learned theologian and abbess, but she was also a musician and a scientist--a true polymath.

She was her parents' tenth child, and experienced visions from a very young age. She entered the Benedictine monastery at eight years old and was enclosed in the convent with the anchoress Jutta, who taught her to read and write. She continued work at the convent, becoming a nun and then eventually the head of the community. Hildegard was well-respected by emperors, bishops and popes, and had extensive correspondence with all of them regarding matters of religion.

She wrote 72 pieces of music, 70 poems, and 9 books, including ones on medicine and botany.

Here's an example of one of her compositions, O Pastor Animarum

Even though Hildegard has been venerated for centuries, she just was beatified as a saint in May of this year, and Pope Benedict XVI declared her a Doctor of the Church (the 4th female one) just last month.

What you should read:

Ratings:(To read more about my rating system, click HERE.)
Gender Equality: 
Hildegard was unfazed by the fact that she was a woman in the man's world of religion. She was unafraid of correcting and criticizing bishops and popes when they were screwing up. And she was unapologetic for doing what she thought was right, even if her male superiors warned against it (like when she granted Christian burial to a man who had been excommunicated). She also didn't let her femininity keep her from becoming educated and successful in many areas.
Environmental Sensibility: 
Hildegard had a huge respect for nature. Much of her writing is natural history and botanical guides, and she understood how important creation was in the spiritual life of people. She felt very strongly about caring for the earth, and even said, "The earth which sustains humanity must not be injured, it must not be destroyed."
Heretical Tendencies: 
As far as I can tell, nothing heretical ever came from Hildegard's pen or mouth. She was strongly orthodox and respected highly because of that.
General Badassery: 
I have a soft spot for polymaths--especially female ones! I can barely lay claim to expertise in one area, so the fact that someone can be so knowledgeable about so many things seems super badass to me.

And a quote:
"There is the Music of Heaven in all things and we have forgotten how to hear it until we sing."