Tuesday, April 29, 2008

writing papers

So you probably don't believe me, since I write essays on here all the time, but writing papers is kinda' hard. I would much rather just blog. Because on a blog I don't have to be responsible. I don't have to cite things! I can say, "Walk cheerfully over the earth and answer that of God in everyone," and I don't even have to tell you it's George Fox who said it, or look up which random letter to someone in the West Indies or something he wrote it in. =)

Today I turned in two papers, one 21 pages and one 28 pages (plus title pages and bibliographies). I seriously spent 3 hours last night formatting my citations, even though I had already put the footnotes in with the proper author and page number. I'm not even sure how that's possible! The good news is, I handed two papers in today, and they're not even due until Saturday. The names of these two papers: "Thekla: Equal to the Apostles," and "The Role of Women in Early Anabaptism: Equal Opportunity Martyrdom." They were both fun to research, and once I got into them, fun enough to write. I'll post stuff about what I learned after I'm done with finals.

Now there are just two more to go.

One of the other ones shouldn't be too bad--it's 12-15 pages and if I turn it in by Friday (it's due Monday) I get an extra credit half grade. Hopefully I won't need it, but you never know. So we'll see if that happens. I have all the research done, but...I think I have 25-30 pages of single spaced notes for 12-15 pages, so I have a lot of sorting to do. This one is about the Gospel of Mary and how it relates to the biblical canon. It doesn't have a title yet but it's going to be about the issue of who has authority to speak, interpret and decide on the word of God in the world, and continuing revelation, and the role of women in all of this.

The last one is due on Saturday morning. It's 15 pages for my War & Christian Conscience class. It's the one I'm struggling with the most because I have too much to say and I'm having a really hard time knowing how to focus it. I was going to use the movie "The Mission" to talk about different Christian responses to war and conflict, showing how people see the pacifist and just war people as noble but not practical enough, so American Christians end up looking more like America than Christ. But to do that I'd have to go into the whole thing about Christendom, Manifest Destiny, then do all the stuff about how violence in the media affects Christians' way of thinking, not to mention to show how pacifists are more like Christ than realists (which is no small task no matter how much Quakers like to think it's easy to prove). So I decided that was way too much for a 15 page paper that has to have sources (so I can't just say what I think I have to actually do research!).

So now my title is "American Christendom: On Christianity in a Position of Power." So I have 25 pages written for my 15 page paper so far...And I haven't even really said what I want to say yet. It's like that quote, "I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn't have time." (See, I don't have to cite that!) I'm having a hard time saying my own stuff and figuring out how to fit other people's theologies in there (except Barclay--that's pretty easy to do, and Yoder, and dissing on Barth & Augustine & Niebuhr...)

But I think I'm having a hard time on this because I don't know for sure what I think. Here's the problem: we need government, right? We need something to keep us all in order because we're all messed up and don't really relate well to each other without some form of structure. But this structure is problematic because we end up institutionalizing the structure so we have to follow the structure even if it no longer works (or never did) for what it was designed to do. So the structure ends up being oppressive.

But Christian thinkers since Augustine have said we should obey our governments in everything because God is a God of order, and governments are put there by God (according to Romans 13) to keep order, so obeying our governments is the same thing as obeying God. This is really scary, of course, in the obvious example of Nazi Germany, but even in the United States. Here there's the whole issue of Manifest Destiny, believing God has called us to spread Christianity over all the earth, but we don't know how to separate Christianity from our culture. So we end up spreading Americanism over all the earth, destroying cultures as we go. We do this in the name of "freedom" and "order," because (don't you know?) democracy is God's form of government, so everyone else should follow it to, if we have to force them!

So we have this civil religion of shining the light of democracy into the world, redeeming the world, when as Christians we're supposed to believe that the world has already been redeemed. But apparently we have the mandate to get everyone out of all the injustice they're facing...so we say. This might be fine (or at least better) if we actually did stand up against injustice, instead of only doing so (nominally) when we have a vested interest in ridding the country of that injustice. (For example, Iraq, where we said we were ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein in order to free the people from an evil dictator, and they just happen to have a lot of oil that we'd like to get our hands on; whereas in Darfur where people are actually being slaughtered we won't intervene because there's nothing in it for us.)

So what does all this say about Christians in a position of power? It basically says that when Christians are in power they become like everyone else--greedy, feeling it necessary to protect ourselves and our wealth, using rhetoric of justice to get people on board but actually furthering injustice.

Should Christians give up on governments altogether? This sounds tempting, but it doesn't work. Should we vote but not actually get involved in politics so we don't get our hands dirty? This sounds duplicitous.

Jesus lived in his system and managed to be "without sin," right? He was very political, as Yoder showed us. But he also worked to break down injustices in the system simply by not allowing them to control his actions. This sounds great...but how do we do this today?

I don't know. That's the problem.

And what do we do when people are being attacked? Would we really send a bunch of unarmed people in to a conflict situation? Wouldn't that be unfair to them? How can it be loving to send someone in with no power to control the situation???

That's what it really comes down to: control. People are afraid, so they try to control. But God's power is made perfect in weakness: when we put down our weapons and see one another as humans, when we're vulnerable, when we're willing to open ourselves up to love and suffer the consequences.

What kind of foreign policy is this?

I heard on the NPR podcast I told you about in my last post that Shane Claiborne's book "Jesus for President" includes a chapter called "Amish for Homeland Security." After that incident a couple years ago when a guy went in and shot some Amish kids, the Amish forgave him. They acknowledged their pain and said his action was not right, but they still loved him. Solidarity with that Amish community flowed in. Imagine if the USA had done something similar after 9/11! We had all these people in solidarity with us, but then we started talking about revenge, about a war on terror that would not end until the last terrorist was dead, and who's with us???

Monday, April 28, 2008

hopefully biking isn't too much of a metaphor...

I thought it was kind of ironic, after writing that post a couple of weeks ago, that last Thursday I had a wee bike accident. I can't blame it on anyone else...just my own absentmindedness and clutziness. I'm OK, though.

I was listening to an NPR podcast of a weekly show called "Speaking of Faith," (from 4.18.2008) which was really quite interesting--there were three Evangelical guys on there talking about generational differences in the Evangelical movement. One was Chuck Colson, the middle one I don't remember his name and don't feel like looking it up, and the other was Shane Claiborne (author of "Irresistible Revolution" and "Jesus for President"). I'm going to use some stuff they said for a paper I'm writing, like Chuck Colson saying when he's in the voting booth he's going to vote for the candidate who protects life (meaning the pro-life person regarding abortion), and then in response to a subsequent question he was gung-ho for supporting the military! I guess people only have a right to life before they're born...but to be fair, I found myself agreeing with a lot more of Chuck Colson's stuff than I expected, like his prison ministry and advocacy. Shane Claiborne seems really cool--a bunch of people I know have recommended his books but I haven't gotten around to reading anything by him. But he seems like he's standing for Evagelicalism in its ideal form, similar to how it was in the beginning of the Evangelical movement (Second Awakening), when the point was social action based on the fact that Jesus advocated for the poor.

Anyway, all that to say that when one of the headphones was falling out of my ear while I was biking I didn't want to miss anything so I tried to adjust it, lost my balance, hit a little bump and down I went. I'm sure it was pretty entertaining to watch because I just biffed it completely, landed on my hands, and my legs kept going for a little while and then crashed down on top of my bike.

I scraped up my hands, and got little scrapes on my chin, shoulder and hip, and bruises on my knees. I got right up and started walking my bike up the huge hill I was at the base of, pretending nothing had happened and trying not to get blood all over my bike. Then I got back on and rode the bike a little way until I decided I was probably going to injure myself further if I did that.

The worst injury was a sprained elbow, which is annoying and a little painful, but I'm really grateful it wasn't any worse. I didn't break anything, I can still type (which is incredibly necessary this week!), and I didn't hit my head.

That's another amazing thing--I always wear a helmet, but that day I forgot, because I stole my husband's hat so I wouldn't have to do my hair. (It's finals time, so give me a break!) The hat felt like a helmet so I forgot that minor detail...then when I fell over I thought, "Good thing I'm wearing a helmet!" and didn't remember I wasn't for several more blocks.

So the moral of the story is, wear your helmet so you won't get in a biking accident!

Hopefully this is not a metaphor for my finals week...or if it's part of the metaphor of my bike ride as my semester, the wipe-out is the mid-semester bout of sickness that inevitably hits the school. So far it's looking like finals will go fine--I have four papers, one of which is done, one is almost done, and the other two are in relatively good shape to get done on time. A week from now I'll be putting the finishing touches on a paper and turning it in in an hour...or hopefully I'll be sleeping and will have handed it in early. (One can always dream!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

black robe

I just watched the movie "Black Robe," which is about a Jesuit priest named Father Laforgue who travels to "New France" (Quebec) to convert the Native Americans. The movie paints a fairly bleak picture of everyone--well, it shows the good and the bad sides of everyone, but basically it's a tragedy.

Father Laforgue genuinely wants to convert these "savages" because he wants them to be able to live in Paradise when they die. But he's shown as over-the-top religious and with no cultural understanding.

The Native Americans of various tribes are shown in positive and negative lights--joking around and having fun, making fun of "Blackrobe" (the priest), and knowing how to survive in the harsh natural environment when Father Laforgue would surely die without them. They are also shown fighting against other tribes, and doing humiliating and torturous things to people from other tribes. They are shown having spiritual insights and thinking of "Blackrobe" as a demon.

Eventually the Huron tribe accept Christianity--mostly because many of them caught scarlet fever and are dying, and the priest there before Father Laforgue told them if they were baptized they would not get sick. Father Laforgue tells them this isn't true, but that all they can do is ask for Jesus' mercy. They ask to be baptized and they live as Christians, even though, as one of them said, "The Blackrobes want us to give up the dream. To have only one wife. To stop killing our enemies. If we obey them, we will no longer be Hurons. And soon our enemies will know our weakness and wipe us from the earth." This proved true: first their enemies the Iroquois killed them off, and then their enemies the Europeans finished off the Iroquois (pretty much) and most of the other native people.

It's so hard to know what to do about stuff like this. It seems like in many ways the Native Americans would have been better off if Christians had never come to their continent. At least they could have existed, and at least this land would have still been beautiful and natural, in the harmony God created it to be in. George Fox apparently said he could sense that the Native Americans he met were connected to Christ through their Great Spirit and their conscience.

But too often Christianity is not a faith or a recognition of the truth of a Spirit who gives our life meaning through overwhelming love, but Christianity is a culture, a culture of Christendom that has to be followed in the "Western" way. Yes, it is good for others to hear about the salvific love of God, the incarnation that shows us God's love, the call to love others and live in harmony with all creation--but how do we do this without destroying the beautiful cultures and traditions that have formed around the world? It's a little late to be asking this question now because we've pretty much destroyed them all already, but could we have done anything differently? Can we still learn to respect other ways of life and see God in others without losing our own understanding of truth? Can we still seek and find the meaning of life together without creating false dualisms of who's "in" and who's "out"? Can we have the humility and the grace to leave that choice up to God, and just share truth as we know it and let God speak the rest?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

biking as metaphor

For the last week or two it's been nice enough to bike the 3-4 miles to school. (Otherwise I usually ride the shuttle bus that takes us from our "campus housing" to campus.) This bike ride is fairly nice, because I usually take the tow-path that runs by the canal behind our place. This canal is about as "outdoorsy" as we can get in Jersey! (OK, that's not exactly true, there are nice outdoor places in New Jersey, like the Delaware Water Gap, and I hear south Jersey is pretty nice, too, but haven't been there much.) Anyway, so I ride along the canal for a while, and then comes the challenging part: riding uphill for the last mile or more.

So as I've been biking this most school days, at the end of the hill I usually find myself wondering, "Why am I doing this?! Why don't I just get off my bike and walk the last block or two?"

I realized the other day that the reason I won't let myself get off the bike and walk is because this is a metaphor for how my semesters generally go. There's a nice, flat-ish part at the beginning, where I get to watch some nice scenery go by (in the form of learning some cool stuff). There are little ups and downs, and I definitely have to pedal the whole time to keep going, but it's enjoyable and refreshing.

Then comes the last third of the semester or so: at this point, I've worked up a bit of a sweat and now comes the hard part. No matter how fast I'm pedaling on the flat part it doesn't make the hill any smaller. It's still a hill, and it still makes me feel like I'm going to die. For the last bit, the whole venture seems pointless and I wonder why I'm doing this to myself and feel like giving up, and have to rehearse my reasons and my nonsensical, stubborn determination until I make it up the hill on sheer willpower.

Of course, this all happens more effectively if I'm in shape, which is where this metaphor kind of breaks down, because as I do this hill every day I get better at it, and obviously this doesn't work well for the semester metaphor. But I think the part about doing a little bit every day does say something about how the semester goes: if I keep working at it instead of saving everything for the end, then it's still a major hill, and it still is difficult, but it's not as bad. (Hopefully this will be a semester like that!)

Guess what part of the semester I'm in now? 2 1/2 weeks left until I'll be completely done for the year, and I'm rehearsing in my head the reasons I do this to myself. Just like, "It's good exercise...pant, pant...it's good for the environment...pant, pant...because I can...pant, pant..." I have to keep telling myself, "This is a good discipline, because otherwise I don't do all this research and learning. I really do enjoy learning this stuff, just not the stress that goes along with it. It's only 2 1/2 more weeks--I can make it."

When it's all over it feels worth it. I get off my bike and I have more energy for the day, and I've gotten to spend time outside, and I can get around in town faster...

After the semester is over I can look back and say, "Yes, those were important things to learn." But in the midst of it, right now, it's really hard to see over the next rise, to see my goal, to believe I'll actually make it there.

And so I have to convince myself every day, by continuing to pump up the hill, reminding myself that nothing good comes without having to work for it. (OK, so that's totally theologically inaccurate, but you know what I mean.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

why i like my sister:

1. It's her birthday!
2. She gives amazing hugs.
3. She's always trying something new and interesting.
4. We've been through a lot together.
5. She's honest--maybe because she's so expressive she can't hide stuff.
6. A-mazing singing voice!
7. One of the friendliest people I know.
8. Empathetic.
9. Makes me smile.
10. I can make her hysterical. =)
11. She's really encouraging.
12. She has great taste in food, coffee, clothes and music.
13. She tries really hard to communicate, to make sure she understands and is understood.
14. She's a perfectionist in the cutest way.
15. I can talk to her about family dynamics because she's the only person who truly understands.
16. Playful.
17. Cares about people.
18. Independent and dependent all at once.
19. I have so much fun when I'm with her!
20. She gives amazing back rubs.
21. She listens well.
22. Creative.
23. She's hot!
24. Her love for her nephew.
25. Her smile--and her tears--warm my heart.

Thanks for 25 great years, sis! I love you, and am so grateful that you're my sister.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

what i've learned in a little over a year of parenting

We'd be here all day if I told you EVERYTHING I've learned in the last 14 1/2 months of being a parent, but I realized the other day that I've learned a lot about myself, about my husband, about my parents (they weren't crazy! At least not for the reasons I might've thought as a kid...), and about all sorts of things (like that tongue wounds heal fairly quickly!).

One of the major things I've learned is to not be afraid of babies. I can now feel confident holding them and playing with them, I know how to calm them down, what to feed them, what they can handle, how to hold and not hold them, etc. I know how to clean diapers!

I've learned how to survive on very interrupted sleep. This is not so much the case anymore, because he sleeps very well now (for about 12 hours straight at night and two naps). But I survived the horrible nights, and these, too, passed. I just had to keep that going through my head as a mantra some nights..."This too shall pass...this too shall pass...this will not last forever..."

I've learned to treasure moments when I get to hold him and cuddle with him. I know this won't last forever and it already makes my heart hurt to think about him getting too big to want to cuddle with Mom. I never wanted to cuddle with my parents as long as I can remember, so if he's anything like me I'd better enjoy it while it lasts. The last couple weeks I started giving him a bottle at night before bed and we cuddle up with a blanket on the couch and he drinks his bottle and we read a book or two. He's getting too big to carry around much, and besides--he'd rather walk! So this is about as much cuddle time as we get.

Especially for the last few months I've noticed myself being really emotionally affected by movies and stories where a little boy dies or almost dies. For my Faith Film class we watched a short Russian movie called "Most" (which I can't find online at all, but it apparently won some awards and is excellent), and a little boy dies a horrible death and we watched it in class and then had to turn to people around us and talk about it...yeah, a little embarrassing...I held it together for about 2 minutes while we were talking and then just lost it, tears streaming down my face--luckily the people I was talking to knew me and that I had a little son and understood.

I've learned a lot about my fears and have reflected almost unconsciously about what I went through at various stages in life as I've thought about what I don't want him to have to experience. I wish I could bring him up in a world that was a better place. I wish he'd never have to learn about things like violence and poverty and betrayal. I wish he never had to go through the horrible parts of middle school and high school. I hope his sweet little spirit can stay intact through it all and that he'll learn to love and hope in the midst of all the not-so-good stuff of life. I hope learning about all that stuff, and facing into the injustice of it, will make him a more loving and caring person.

I've learned to accept the title of "Mama," although he hasn't said it yet to refer to me... I don't know that I'm really comfortable with it yet because of all the baggage our culture (and perhaps all cultures) put on that role, but I feel like my husband and I have done fairly well at not having to fall into prescribed roles (except, of course, the physically necessary ones), and we've learned to communicate about how we're feeling about parenting stuff.

Our little guy has such a personality all his own. He is so friendly and cheerful. I've learned a lot watching the way he accepts and loves everyone. He genuinely wants to make a connection with everyone he sees--even if they're 500 feet away and not looking in our direction, he inevitably waves at them. He even waves at animals and inanimate objects sometimes. But he especially loves people. He's required me to be more outgoing because he goes right up and interacts with everyone.

I've learned how much it's possible to love a little person! It's incredibly amazing. You always hear how there's no love like that of a parent for a child, but of course I could never imagine what it would be like. It's hard being away from him all day and I get really excited when I get to come home and be with him. I get to take care of him on the weekends, and for the next few weeks while I'm working on finals I won't get to spend as much time with him and it makes me really sad. I never really enjoyed hanging out with kids much before, or at least not for too-extended periods of time, but this is totally different. Yes, it's tiring at times, but it's also energizing to see him learn new things and get so excited about the littlest parts of his day.

OK, that's enough for now. I'm truly grateful for this little person I've been privileged to journey through the rest of life with.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

and even if you don't donate for me...

I just heard about this urgent call for more peacemakers and donations so that CPT can continue and expand its work. The article can be found here.

It sounds like they have more communities asking for assistance in setting up nonviolent direct action than they have volunteers to facilitate this assistance.

Do you feel a drawing, deep in your spirit, to help create workable solutions that don't require violence? Do you resonate with William Penn's hope-filled remark, "Let us then see what love will do"? Do you long for a true peace that is not only an absence of violent conflict, but a continual building of reconciliation and love between former enemies?

What if we had even 1% of the number of people involved in the American armed forces, working for reconciliation through nonviolent methods around the world? Can you imagine what kind of impact this would have?

Right now I would imagine there are at most a couple hundred people working for CPT as full time and reserve members, some doing on-site work and some doing administrative work. (I don't know the exact number, that's totally a guess, based on their 6 areas. I have no idea how many reservists there are.) What if there were a couple thousand people willing to do this kind of work?

You can get involved, too!

The way CPT works is that you first join a delegation, which is a 1-2 week trip to a CPT site, where you learn about the conflict there and CPT's work, and meet some local people who are working for peace. Then you do a month-long training in nonviolent direct action methods.

After that you can choose to become a reservist or a full time member of CPT. If you are full time you get some sort of salary. You don't have to raise your own support, but you are expected to share about your experiences with those in your area while at home for breaks. If you're a reservist you spend a couple weeks or a month a year on a CPT site, however much you are able. You do raise your own support, but this provides a way for more people to be involved and to hear about what you're doing, even if they are not in the position to commit to actually joining CPT.

So think about it, pray about, ruminate on it, and see how you are called to help the world work toward nonviolent resolution of conflict.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

cpt letter

What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war?

Greetings, Friends!

I have already let you all know about an exciting opportunity I have coming up (in an older post), but I finally sent out my support letter yesterday, so I'm posting it here for anyone I may not have email addresses for.

May 27-June 9 I will be going to Israel/Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an organization that sends peacemakers to conflict areas to work with local groups and individuals to nonviolently resist oppression and injustice. I will be going on a preliminary event called a “Delegation,” where I go with a group of others who are interested in becoming involved in CPT, and we learn about the situation in Israel/Palestine and what CPT is doing to try to help. Hopefully the summer of 2009 I will take the next step and do CPT’s month-long training in nonviolent active resistance, and then I plan to be a reserve member of CPT, spending a couple weeks each year at one of CPT’s sites around the world.

I would greatly appreciate your support, through both prayers and financial assistance. You can make tax deductible donations through North Valley Friends Church by sending checks to:

4020 N College St
Newberg, OR 97132

Write “CPT – Cherice” in the memo line. Or you can donate online at www.cpt.org/participate/donate and put my name as the recipient. This Delegation costs about $2400 for airfare as well as food and accommodations.

To me, CPT is a direct response to the criticism that pacifists refuse to go to war but don’t do anything to prevent war. I have felt called to get involved in CPT for several years, but the timing wasn't right. Now it feels right. I'm excited to be involved in direct action to help empower communities to see options other than violence for resolving conflicts. Let’s work on stopping the causes of war together through showing Christ’s love in difficult situations.

If you would like to hear about my experiences with CPT, please join my e-group by going to http://groups.google.com/group/chericecpt and clicking on “Apply for group membership,” or send me an email and I can add you directly. I would love to have you on this e-group so I can let you know how the trip goes!

To learn more about CPT, look around their website, www.cpt.org, or you can contact me for more information. You can also learn more about CPT’s work in Israel/Palestine by visiting my friend Joy’s blog, http://inpalestine.blogspot.com (she's a Friend from Oregon).

Peace be with you,


Photos are from CPT's work in Israel/Palestine and are courtesy of the CPT website