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."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Good News!

I found out yesterday that I'm going to be presenting a paper at the Wesleyan Theological Society meeting in March!

I'm excited and nervous, but mostly happy to be able to share my thoughts with a group of like-minded scholars. Library school has been a little soul-crushing this quarter; I just don't feel into it as much, and I'm honestly just trying to make it through (I can't believe I'm only halfway done). So this has been a little encouragement and reminder that there's other stuff out there that I'm free and capable to pursue. The stuff that really gets me excited, the stuff that I feel more intellectually called to.

Anyway, my paper is titled "Between Uzzah and the Hemorrhaging Woman: The Effect of the Incarnation on the Meaning of Holiness," and I actually wrote it nearly four years ago for a class in undergrad. The professor I wrote it for loved it, and encouraged me to work on getting it published, but it's taken this long to really get anything done with it. Kind of funny, but sometimes I need a lot of encouragement and prodding. Especially when it means putting myself out there for a professional conference!

Luckily the paper is already written, so I have four months to do whatever tweaking I need to in order to get it ready to present. Not too much pressure.

AND, another cool thing, Curtis is presenting too! It will be fun to have this experience together.

I'm excited!

P.S. UW Peeps--This means I'll be in Seattle! The conference is taking place at Seattle Pacific University, so we will have to get together!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Caturday: Epic Bath Edition

Every week I wonder how I'm going to beat the previous week's caturday video.

But this week... this week it was no problem.

I laughed, I cried--both openly in my office as students walked by.
It was kind of awkward, actually.

But behold: Reginald gets a bath.

Happy Caturday, y'all.

Friday, November 9, 2012

More Christian Anarchism!

It's been a little quiet over here this week. Sorry about that. I've just been feeling lazy and unmotivated, while at the same time being rather busy--a pretty terrible combo when you have papers and projects due, and, you know, work and stuff.


I've loved all the feedback from my Christian Anarchism post. There seems to be a lot of interest in it and what it's about, so I'd really like to talk some more about it.

And I really want to know what you're interested in hearing about.

What questions do you have about christian anarchism? What challenges would you like to see addressed? There are certainly a lot. Would you like to see some book reviews? Recommendations?  Do you want more personal stories about what it means for me to be a Christian anarchist? Or do you want to share your story?

Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Theologian Thursday: St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

Catherine of Siena was (surprise, surprise) a Christian mystic. I think it's important to note here that most important women in the church of the middle ages--like Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, and Julian of Norwich--were all mystics. My opinion on this is that, because they were women and therefore basically not taken seriously as thinkers or leaders in the church (or anywhere), they had to rely on personal and mystical interactions with God to gain credibility. No one would listen to them if they just said the things they said. But if they framed their words as messages directly from God, well, who would argue with that? That's not to say that they faked their experiences, but it's interesting that there are very few (if any) women who had an impact on the church at this time who did not practice mysticism, while their are plenty of men who did not.


Catherine was born in Siena, Italy, and was very religious from a young age. She actually took a vow of celibacy at age 7 (I know, right?). Later in life, she would say that she had entered into a "mystical marriage" with Jesus. She became a Dominican at 16 and lived as an anchorite for several years before a vision of the Divine mysteries which resulted in her receiving a mandate from God that she not separate herself from the world, but go be among the needy. It is said that on the fourth Sunday of Lent in 1375 she received the stigmata.

She worked for the reunification of the church, and bring the Holy See back to Rome from France. She also worked with the poor and the sick, and taught both men and women in the holy order.

Catherine is also known for her extreme fasting, which many scholars conclude was closer to anorexia than anything.

What you should read:

  • You can read many of her writings HERE.

Ratings:(To read more about my rating system, click HERE.)
Gender Equality: 
Catherine was committed to her life of service to God, regardless of her gender. She taught both men and women, cared for the needy, and blatantly refused marriage. In fact, she was supposed to marry her sister's widower, but starved herself until her family relented. A little dramatic, maybe, but certainly dedicated.
Environmental Sensibility: 
I sincerely believe in the correlation between gender equality and environmental sensibility--that if a person treats women as equal and good creations, that they will view the rest of creation as good and important as well. So while Catherine still lived in a time when the environment was not so important, her believe in the goodness of all people and nature leads me to believe she was on the right track.
Heretical Tendencies: 
Although she had some difficulties during the schism in the church, I think for the most part she was pretty orthodox, even though that always seems a little weird when it comes to mysticism.
General Badassery: 
Catherine was a cool lady. Some of her spiritual practices were a little out there (not sure if I can call an eating disorder badass) but she was all-in and feisty. I like that in a saint.

And a quote:
"You are rewarded not according to your work or your time but according to the measure of your love."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Caturday: RIP Nyan Cat Edition

Marty, the real cat muse behind the now-ubiquitous Nyan Cat video, has died this week.

So this week, I present nyan cat, in memoriam.

Happy/sad caturday.

Rest in peace, Marty.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints' Day

Being that today is the Feast Day of All Saints, I felt it would be unfair to do my usual Theologian Thursday thing and spotlight an individual when the Church is celebrating all the saints.

Depending on tradition--Western, Eastern, Protestant, Catholic--as well as geography and culture, there are so many ways we are celebrating and remembering today. We rejoice in the hope of heaven--that there are beatified saints enjoying the divine presence of God as we speak. We give thanks and revere those martyrs who died for their faith, and ours. And we encourage each other, for we are all saints and members in the Kingdom of God, and remember our brothers and sisters who are no longer with us.

And while my own understanding of heaven is perhaps not orthodox--and certainly not concrete or solidified--I can participate in this feast day, remembering the saints in love and hope and celebrating those saints by whom I am surrounded.

So I offer this prayer of Teresa of Avila on this special day:

“O holy souls that now rejoice without fear of losing your joy and are forever absorbed in the praises of my God! Happy indeed your lot! How right that you should employ yourselves ceaselessly in these praises! and how my soul envies you, free as you now are from the affliction caused by the grievous offenses which are in these unhappy days are committed against my God! No longer do you behold all the ingratitude of men and their blindness nor the multitude of souls being carried away by satan.

O blessed heavenly souls! Help us in our misery and intercede for us with the divine Mercy, so that we may be granted some part of your joy and you may share with us some of that clear knowledge which is now yours.
And You, O my God, make us understand what it is that You give to those who fight manfully through the dream of this miserable life. Help us, O loving souls, to understand what joy it gives you to behold the eternity of your bliss and what delight to possess the certain knowledge that it will never end.

O blessed souls, who knew so well how to profit by the gifts of God, and to purchase with this precious ransom so delectable and enduring a heritage, tell us how you won through Him such an eternal blessing! Assist us, since you are so near the Fountainhead. Draw water for those of us on earth who are perishing with thirst.”


Wishing all you saints a blessed day!