“Oh Yoder, Where Art Thou”

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am an aspiring pacifist. I am vocal about my thoughts on war, but I am also more vocal on my ignorance toward how to fix these problems. When I came to Mount Olive College my freshman year, I was hit with strong pacifist views that opened my eyes to the world in which I had neglected to accept. I read the likes of John Howard Yoder, Shane Claiborne, Martin Luther King jr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Stanley Hauerwas, and, of course, Jesus. Reading these books messed up my safe, little world in which I could justify violence and ignore its consequences. This experience is one that I am still recovering from.

I remember after reading Claiborne’s Jesus for President, I sat down with my closest friends to work through what I had been dealing with in my studies. My group of friends who we called the “The Crew,” all went to the same southern Baptist church, and in some sense, agreed on most theological ideas. We basically lived together and spent a lot of time talking about church and what it should look like. But after being exposed to the theologians above, I am not sure they were at all ready for what I had to say that night in our meeting at my house. Looking back, I should have been a little more cautious in my words, but I am still much the same today in my views.

I recall after the meeting we went our separate ways. Camille and I stopped going to the church we all attended for various reasons, and our group slowly fell apart. On leaving the church, I don’t know if it was the airplane drop of easter eggs, or the 900 people clapping in favor of something that disgusted me, but I realized it was time for a change. I am still convinced to this day that the talk our group of friends had that night changed everything, and ultimately contributed to the group dissipating. That was a turning point in my life. That was when I actually started to take the words of Jesus seriously and when I started to believe that the Sermon on the Mount was not just a suggestion.

On pacifism, I cannot say I am completely confident in my choice. I struggle with it everyday. I am an advocate, as most of you know and have read, of reading both sides of the story. I would like to say that I would sacrifice myself, and that I would lay down my arms in the name of Jesus. But sometimes it’s not that easy. I can only hope to aspire to be a pacifist. What I will not do though, is try to justify that killing or war is right, even though at times it may be necessary. I may be forced to punch you in the face to protect my fiancée, but that does not mean that it was the right thing to do. Necessary violence just proves the brokeness of our world, a brokeness which many people would classify as sin.  When we do accept war and violence as the only option, we have lost all hope in the slaughtered lamb and the power behind love. It is times like this when I wish I could sit down with John Howard Yoder and ask the difficult questions. I will never say that pacifism is the easy way to fix all problems. But I will say that if we do engage in war, we must be repentant, and never celebrate it.

Here, Here, and Here are a few links to some thoughts on war from Stanley Hauerwas, which I believe gives a realistic approach to war with Christian ideals in mind. Thanks to Dr. Hollis Phelps for the links.

The Great Paradox

Shane Claiborne once said:

The great paradox and humor of God’s audacious power:

A stuttering prophet will become the voice of God,

A barren old lady will become the mother of a nation,

A shepard boy will become their king,

And a Homeless baby will lead them home. . .

Kumbaya my Lord. . .or Not?

Yesterday at Mount Olive College, a forum was held entitled “How to reconcile Christianity and Religion.” What a hot topic. How do we Christians answer questions of evolution and scientific theory? How do scientist explain phenomena and such that is unmeasurable? Is there a mediation between the two disciplines? All good questions that need to be dealt with, but not necessarily answered. What I mean by that is in Christianity and Science, things often  go unanswered. Honestly, there is no way to prove most things in either discipline, but asking the questions with humility, and discussing them in a civilized manner turns out to be the best resource for beginning to think about answers. I could go on about what we discussed and how the arguments got heated and such (which at one point they did), but most of the time it was not heated at all. To be up front, it was a “kumbaya” atmosphere were we all got along to a certain extent.

During this forum though, Dr. Hollis Phelps, professor of Theology here at MOC, gave and interesting quote which I believe need to be shared. As we were discussing the idea of scientifically describing religion and Christianity, Dr. Phelps said ” that we cannot scientifically analyze religion in its essence, without destroying it. In the same way, we cannot scientifically break down a piece of art without destroying the piece itself.” What that means is that if we break down the different colors, textures, materials and brushes used to create a piece of art, you still do not understand what the piece of art means. Art is to be experienced in the sense that you look at it and experience it as a whole. Likewise, if we break down Christianity to its nuances and tiny details, we lose its essence. If we scientifically choose to prove that resurrection is impossible and miracles do not happen, then we separate Christianity from what it was intended to be.

Speaking of my post last week about Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith, I do not believe we can separate the two. Of course, we can separate all the “mythological” happening of Jesus from his story to get a more “accurate” view of who this mysterious man was, but then in turn, we lose what the writers of the gospels found necessary to tell us who Jesus was and more importantly, who he is for us today.

Again, more coming on these ideas in the future, but these types of discussions are important if we are to begin to answer these questions.

Bird Feeder

I went to see my Granny Saturday, something that I have neglected to do as often as I should. Camille and I went to Rolling Ridge Retirement Center to visit her, and as we walked in her room, we found her snoozing in her recliner as usual. We began talking about this and that, asking each other how things have been. Granny began reminiscing about her past and speaking about her funeral. She told Camille and I what songs she wanted to sung at her funeral, how my Pa died in her arms in his old green truck, and about how tired she was. She said that she knew her time was coming soon, and her only wish was that she could feel like herself again just one more time.I asked her if she had any regrets, and she told me “that she wished she would have been a better woman.” This concept is foreign to me. My Granny has never been short of a hero for me and the other grandchildren of the family. She also told me that she wish she hadn’t worked so hard when she was younger. She said with a smile, “working so hard kindly’ hurt my feelings. I reckon it never hurt me, but it sure did hurt my feelings.” 89 years old and still joking around.Sitting back in her chair, she turned her head and looked out her window to her bird feeder. It hung there, empty, with no bird in sight. She commented “I got this new bird feed the other day, but I havent seen one bird yet. I am getting kind of mad.” As we sat there talking, I looked around her room and saw all the pictures of our family and the people closest to Granny; I saw the do not resuscitate sign hanging over her bed; and I saw one of the most loving women sitting in a chair waiting for gone.

I am not sure the significance of our conversation yet, but I cannot get that bird feeder out of my mind. I don’t what it was about it, but granny staring out the window at the empty bird feeder broke my heart. Thinking about Granny and how I hope she can be herself just one more time reminds me of a classic poem by Dylan Thomas. I hope you find it as intriguing as I do.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
 

 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
 

 

 

Almost Over. . .

Today the religion department at MOC had its advising meeting where the classes for the fall semester are presented and questions by the majors answered. I realized during this meeting, that every class offered in the religion department, I have already taken. Wow. Just three years ago I came in here wondering how I was going to accomplish everything on the degree sheet, now I am almost finished with it entirely.

My semester next fall is still pretty interesting. I have Advanced Greek, French, Latin, and an internship credit with Public Relations here at MOC. On top of that, I have my Senior Research Project which entails much research and the writing of an average of 100 pages. Oddly enough, this semester seems easy compared to the 18 hours I have pulled for the last three semesters. Nonetheless, I have worked my butt off the last three years so I could use my senior year for my Senior Research Project, getting into Graduate School with applications and such, and good fun with friends.

Sounds like a good year. I am looking forward to it.