Saturday, February 28, 2004

Report on Phyllis Trible's "God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality"

So, I ended up not only learning a lot from her book, but I actually enjoyed it. "Enjoyed" in that academic sense of the word that means I wouldn't pick it up for summer beach reading. Below is my report on what I learned and how it affected me. Read only if you're really interested because it's kinda long...


When presented with the list of books from which to select for the reading week assignment, Phyllis Trible’s God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality was last on my list, I assure you. Feminist criticism is, by and large, not my favorite methodology and Trible is well known as being a leader in Feminist theology. Given the title of her book, I was already predisposed not to like it. Despite all that, I decided to challenge myself; I decided I would read her book with as much of an open mind as was possible for me and to try and really hear her arguments. The ‘surprise’ ending, of course, is that it turned out to not be all that bad. In fact, not only did I hear her arguments, but eventually agreed with many of them in the face of her superior scholarship and rhetorical study.
Trible divides her book into three main sections, focusing each argument, respectively, on the Genesis creation narrative, the Song of Songs, and the Book of Ruth. Using the Genesis creation narrative, Trible seeks to review popular understanding of the role of “woman” (‘iššâ) in relation to “man” (‘îš). Her discussion centers around the idea that before there was gender differentiation (that is, before ‘iššâ was created) there was only the earth creature, hā-‘ādām. It was not until after ‘iššâ was created (whom we popularly call Eve) that hā-‘ādām took on a male identification, and became ‘îš. Trible furthers her argument by discussing the fact that ‘iššâ was cited by hā-‘ādām as being “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” and was unique in all creation. God gave hā-‘ādām dominion over the animals by giving hā-‘ādām the power to name them. God gave also dominion over the plants by his directive that hā-‘ādām was “to till and to keep” them. This was done, according to Trible, because both the zoological and botanical worlds were created from hā-‘dāmâ (the earth) but Eve (‘iššâ) was created from hā-‘ādām, unique in all creation. Refuting popular understanding that woman was created from man, Trible explains that there was no gender differentiation in the language until woman was created. Only after the creation of ‘iššâ from hā-‘ādām do the terms ‘îš and ‘iššâ arise. Neither does God does not give hā-‘ādām the power to name this new creation, nor dominion over her. Indeed, hā-‘ādām does not claim either of these potential authorities, but instead praises the new creation. Given all of these facts, dug from deep within the language, there is no basis for the subjugation of woman by man based upon this text. Both male and female, created in the image of God, are unique creations and of equal standing with one another.
Even though the above described love story “went awry”, in Trible’s words, it is redeemed in her chapter on the Song of Songs. Creation found its fullest expression in the origin of sexuality, which the Song of Songs celebrates. Trible divides the song into five movements, which are differentiated by the ending verse of each of the first four movements: “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem”. Seeing in this a cyclic pattern of ebb and flow, Trible spends time with each movement. Careful attention to structure leads a close reader deep into the text, revealing a poem rich in pattern and parallelism. She spends significant time identifying themes of searching for the lover and finding the lover, longing and fulfillment. Concluding her study of the structure, Trible states that just as we, the readers, were invited at the beginning to join in the search for intimacy, we also are excluded from love’s consummation at the end. That, thankfully, is for the lovers alone.
Not only does Trible find in the Song of Songs redemption of Eros, but also a redemption of other themes befouled in Genesis. Chief among them is the garden; in Genesis the humans disobeyed the commandment from God and were kicked out of the garden permanently. Yet, in the Song of Songs, there is much garden imagery and in it is taken much delight. In the original Garden of Eden the lovers first united in intercourse, and now in the garden of delight, intercourse seems to be the end of all means. Another theme redeemed by the Song of Songs, according to Trible, is botanical in nature. In the Garden of Eden, there were restrictions placed on which fruits could be eaten and which were to be left untouched. Not only are there no such prohibitions in the Garden of Song, but every aspect of flora are praised as being “pleasant to the sight and good for food”. Tension between the animal kingdom and humanity established is Genesis is also not present in this utopist garden. Identifying the Genesis creation narrative as tragedy and the Song of Songs as ecstasy, Trible turns in her final chapter to the trials of everyday life by looking at the Book of Ruth.
Ruth is an unusual story told about an unusual woman. Trible is quick to point out that it is a male world which is forced to be the setting for a female story. Paying close attention to rhetorical detail, Trible’s trademark for this book, she identifies many chiastic structures that focus the attention of the reader on the women. In the opening sequences wherein Ruth makes her decision to remain with Naomi, the chiastic structure is designed at once to highlight the similarities of all three women involved and separate Ruth out from the other two, marking her as unique. Trible remarks that this will become Ruth’s calling card, choosing the unexpected path. The language of sexuality is strong in the book of Ruth and is immediately apparent when Boaz first encounters the foreign Ruth in the field. His question, “Whose maiden is this,” according to Trible, draws attention to the strongly patriarchal setting of the story. In response, the servant is unable to answer with an answer Boaz would expect, but instead identifies Ruth, not by name or husband, but by her own foreignness. The next time Boaz questions Ruth’s identity is under quite different circumstances: when he discovers Ruth in his bed, with his lower body uncovered. Then, his question is for her name and real identity. As Trible states, in both occasions a woman has taken a man by surprise by taking initiative on her own. It is this quality that sets Ruth apart as a true heroine in the patriarchal world.
When I first approached this book, I was under the impression Trible’s work would seriously challenge me in my way of thinking. It turned out this was not the case. The way Trible structures her book and her arguments fits my mold of learning perfectly, so the book ended up enhancing my understanding of these texts significantly. Whenever I have something new to learn, particularly if it is difficult, I have to be led through it in logical steps of progression, not giant or even small leaps of logic. My mind works in a very logical way when I engage this mode of learning and have to know each step of the way both where it was from which I came and where it is I am going. Trible’s style in this work is exactly that; she took me by the hand and carefully articulated each step of her analysis of sexuality.
Even though the assignment called for me to focus on chapters five and six (Song of Songs and Ruth) in the book, the argument I found most fascinating was in chapter four (Genesis creation narrative). I was very intrigued by the way the Hebrew language and rhetoric worked - how it was structured to imply, mean, or allude to certain things. I was particularly interested in her assertion that before woman was created there was no sexual differentiation; there was just the “earth creature”. Not only had I never heard this idea before, but it, at first, sounded outlandish to me. However, through her careful arguments and authoritative command over both the Hebrew and English languages, she persuaded me to continue reading and eventually reach the same conclusions with her. Now, I have never been one for using this biblical (or any biblical) text for the purpose of oppressing women, but I think that deep down, that was how I read the text. Armed with this new understanding, I recognize I was not reading the text to it fullest extent. At the same time though, I am irritated that this meaning does not come through in English translations. How can we expect people (the general populace) to understand these concepts when they are unavailable in the vernacular? Perhaps that is part of my job as a future priest.
The Song of Songs has never really interested me that much, but I found Trible’s understanding of it to be engaging. Again, the context in which I think I learned the most was how the Song of Songs “redeemed” the damage done in the Genesis account. I’ve never really looked at the Genesis account as damage done which could be redeemed through the human act of love. My understanding has always been that only through Jesus Christ could the the damage done in the Garden of Eden be redeemed. The Letter to the Hebrews explains that just as by one person all people were born into sin, so to by one person will all people be saved from sin. Even after reading Trible, I still cling to this understanding. I believe that the human act of love is in and of itself a good thing, but cannot go so far as to say it can redeem the sin of the Garden of Eden.
Trible’s reading of the Book of Ruth did not alter my understanding of it at all. Rather, I believe it bolstered it. I have always read Ruth as a story about a great heroine who not only challenged her times but also, likely, her own way of thinking in order to overcome what could have been a hopeless situation. The story has always been an enjoyable one for me, because the lessons of Ruth can be applied to all of our lives, men and women. Challenge the system. Do not roll over under the pressure. Strive for what you really want and never be totally hopeless. These lessons are universal and the real power of the Book of Ruth, for me, is that they were applied by a woman (perceived as a weak person in a patriarchal) society in what was considered to be a near hopeless situation (husbandless and childless in a foreign land). If she could do it, then anyone can do it. Trible’s explanations and carefule readings of the text enhanced my understanding of this remarkable woman and only furthered my respect for her.
Overall then, despite how I thought it would turn out, I think it is safe to say I enjoyed this book. Now, it certainly was not an easy book to read. I had to trust that Trible was being faithful to the Hebrew language as my knowledge of it is minimal to none. She could have said anything and I would have no choice bu to believe it, but as she is a respected scholar and a Demon Deacon, I found trusting her easy. The style of the book does not make for light reading and I often found myself lost and having to retrace some important steps. Certainly not eveyone who picks up her book off the shelf will make it all the way through, but I am glad I did and feel I have really learned a lot.

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Friday, February 27, 2004

Response to "The Passion of the Christ"

Before I begin I need to make a humorous note. (The film) The Passion of the Christ is Restricted. Even though I understand the rating after seeing it, I still find that sentence funny.

To summarize: the good parts were good and the bad parts were bad. I will go into detail in this posting so if you don't want any "spoilers" read no further until you have seen the movie. Though I imagine most of you know the basic storyline. There is not a surprise ending.

I found the movie to be highly emotional, engaging, and challenging. There is no doubt that everyone who sees this film will be affected in some way. Gibson, however, took many liberties with the story. Before I get to those, I want to talk about what I thought was good. The crucifixion scene most closely approximates what I imagine an actual crucifixion to have looked like, with all the violence and all the gore. Other films have not shown the violence to such an extent and I think have missed the power that this film captures. It is painful to watch, to hear, and to try to understand. But, it is well done. The use of the original languages I found to be very effective. As someone else said, it heightens the sense that you are really looking in on the Passion of Jesus and not just watching a rendering of it. The initial Devil scene (in the Garden of Gethsemane) I thought was superbly well done. Even though it was not Biblical, I can easily imagine how that might have happened. Maybe it even did and was not recorded, but I doubt it. The Devil itself was entirely creepy - not to many silversceen Satan's actually freak me out. This one accomplished her (the role was played by a female) acting goal. The scenes of Judas' inner turmoil were very well done, though the demon children that seemed to torture him were odd and out of place. Peter's three denials of Jesus were most excellently portrayed; I can imagine the fear, the sense of unknowing that he must have felt, making his denials believable and not just something that they have to show because its in the text. I thought the acting, on the whole was very well done, even though several characters went over the top on occasion.

Now, for the criticisms: First - the Scourging scene - I can well imagine that the scourging of Christ was awful. However the extent to which they showed him being scourged was over the top. The instruments first used to beat him shown were wooden reeds. Lashes from these alone raise large welts and can even cut the skin. A beating from these is enough to drive anyone to their knees. When Jesus stood after receiving these beatings, the torturers turned to cat-'o-nine tails, which are whips with nine tails on them, often with knotted leather at the end. These certainly cut through skin and cause immense pain. Up to this point, the scourging is believable, but after this the torturers turn to actual scourges. Scourges are like cat-'o-nine tails, but with metal barbs at the ends which are ferociously hooked. The purpose of these is to drive the barbs deep into muscle tissue and then rip it out when the whip is jerked back. Deep gashes and horrible injuries are the result, ending in permanent crippling and likely death. The number of times they beat Jesus with these scourges is very high. His body is literally flayed after it. Skin and tissue hang off him in shreds. There is no way, absolutely no way, anyone could endure such a beating and live longer than ten minutes. The blood loss alone would kill him, let alone the trauma. This is not to mention the fact that he was able to walk to Golgotha carrying a cross (albeit with some aid) after this. Impossible. With the scourging they showed in the film, he would have died at the end of a whip. So, I thought that was over the top. Second - as mentioned, the inclusion of the Devil was very strange in most instances. Judge for yourself on this one. I thought it was weird. Third - I understand why there is the controversy now. Several lines were certainly made with a potentiall anti-semitical bent to them. In particular the line Jesus delivers to Pilate after Pilate asks Jesus why he is making him do this to him. Jesus responds, "Do what you have to do. Those who have delivered me to you have the greatest sin." Immediately it is followed by a cut scene to Caiaphas. Not only is that extrabiblical, but it is just uncalled for. There is no doubt that the Sanhedrin Council played a large role in delivering Jesus to his eventual crucifixion. That's just history, not anti-semitical. But to further that point as Gibson chose to do borders on dangerous ground. (Moreover, why all this argument over assigning blame for Jesus' death? It's pointless. That was the whole reason Jesus came to earth, to die. For you and for me. If he didn't, or if he was spared in some way, we would not be saved!) Fourth - as a friend of mine phrased it, "assigning the moral high ground to the Romans" was a poor choice. By and large, Roman soldiers would simply have been following orders with no more care for a prisoner than anything. Pilate was doing what he had to do in order to stop a rebellion. There was a mob at his gates and he needed to keep Rome/Caesar happy. He was not thinking beyond that.

Overall then, I have to say that I liked the movie, but parts of it are to be taken with a grain of salt. It is not the sensational phenomena that many make it out to be. That was the actual event folks, 2000 years ago or so, not some film about it made in 2004. Go see it - know that its rough and emotional. I wept - I'll raise my hand with that crowd. But don't, by any means, let it be the basis of your faith. Trust in Christ alone for that.


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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Passion

Tonight I'm off to see The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's much talked about new movie. I'm pretty excited to see it - every year during Lent, usually closer to Holy Week, I try to watch a "Jesus Movie", so this year I am getting a new one and one that has caused much hype. CNN was running a poll today on their website asking if the controversy surrounding the film increased, decreased, or had no effect upon your desire to see it. I answered "no effect" - I'd see the movie anyway, with or without the controversy. It certainly has not decreased my interest, but it hasn't really increased it either. I guess after I watch it, I'll give a fuller response to the controversy itself. On March 2, I am participating in an interfaith dialogue on the issue, sponsored by several student groups at Northwestern, so I suppose I need to have some ideas formulated.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

And the winner is...

Well, it was a hard fought contest, but the winner has been decided. The criteria for full points were as follows:

Knowing all three popular names for today: 10
(They are: Shrove Tuesday (from the verb "to shrive" meaning to absolve, as of sin), Fat Tuesday, and Mardi Gras)
A bonus point was assigned to those who knew the name "Carnival", which was not one I thought of or even knew, but is apparently correct.

Describing the significance of Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Carnival: 5

Knowing that Ash Wednesday is the name for tomorrow: 10

Describing the significance (theological) of Ash Wednesday: 10

For a total possible 35 points.

The winner is: Lacy, with 33/35 points! Congratulations!

Her answer follows:
Fat Tuesday
Mardi Gras
I would guess some go with Carnivale.

Today, you're supposed to go all out before the solemnness of Lent. Eat, drink, and be merry, if you will.

Ash Wednesday.
Well, from dust you came and to dust you will return. So I would wager that the significance is to remind you that hm. I could go a few ways here. That you're here by the grace of God. That you should be grateful you have a divine spark. That you should make the most of your transient existence. That you should turn to God before it's too late.

I'm sure I got a few points in there somewhere.

The other answers and their respective scores are as follows:

Beal: shrove tuesday aka mardi gras; the feast before lent; tomorrow is ash wednesday where ashes are imposed upon Christians to signify the beginning of Lent
Score: 24/35

Sherriff: Today is Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras. This is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Good Christians are supposed to get out the butter, milk, cream, etc. (signs of self indulgence). The tradition has become to make pancakes.... which is what I'm doing at church tonight :-) I believe I've already said what tomorrow is.
Score: 25/35

Sarah K: EASY. Mardi Gras, baby....Fat Tuesday
: It's the day before Lent begins get out all your sinnin' now, because tomorrow we gots to be good because it's....... ASH WEDNESDAY!!!! Tell her about her prizes, Ed. Significance, beginning of lent, symbolizes the 40 days of fasting and prayer that Jesus spent on the mountain? Time for self-reflection, etc? So do I win? :-) The third name is Carnival! I knew it would come to me. pertains to the custom of consuming all the fats in the home before Lent
Score: 25/35 + 1 Bonus Point for “Carnival” – 26/35

Taylor: eh, well, let's see. Fat tuesday, mardi gras, and probably saint something or othersday. What you are supposed to do today depends on your geographic and religious orientation, but can involve various combinations of beer, nudity, and deciding what you will be giving up for the next 40 days even as the local drug stores fill with copious amounts of bad candy. Tomorrow is ash wednesday, which is the first day of lent and for the devout is observed as a day of walking around having people tell you you've got dirt on your forehead. 1971 years ago, this was the beginning of things going to shit and then miraculously turning out quite well
Score: 24/35 +1 Bonus Point Humor – 25/35

Bingham: A rather easy quiz if you ask me: Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and Fat Tuesday. It is the last day before Lent. It's set apart as a day of penitence. Shrove comes from the Old English I believe, remaining penitence or absolution or something. it's a great day to go see a priest for the sacrament of reconciliation. basically it's a pre-Lent prep day, which also therefore involves getting rid of all meat (fully inclusive of that term, which would include dairy and eggs) b/c you're supposed to do a full meat fast during Lent (AKA Vegan)
Score: 19/35 - + 1 Bonus Point for knowing what “Shrove” meant – 20/35

Melanie: well silly, today is FAT TUESDAY. which just means that the nice church women get together and feed us all pancakes and doughnuts. in some parts of the country (ie: Louisiana) girls show their boobies to win beads. it's quite amazing actually, doughnuts, pancakes AND nudity all in one holiday. HOLLA! Fat Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday. And Mardi Gras you're supposed to PARTAY Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and it’s the beginning of Lent! Haha I win!
Score: 25/35

Thanks to everyone who participated!!

Have a blessed Lent.


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A Quiz

15 Points (5 each) to anyone who can tell me all three popular names for today and why this day is set apart, and what you are suppossed to do on this day. An additional 20 points to anyone who can tell me the name (10 pts) and significance (10 pts) of tomorrow.

Answers may be submitted here or via IM. Top scorers will be posted at the end of the day.


P.S. Brennan - I'm making cinnamon rolls this morning, and by golly, I'll be having the middle one!!!

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Got a mirror handy? Good.

I wish the bitch and moan factor over on the Gospel Mission Blog Site would calm down a bit. Good Lord! I wish everyone would just go get a mirror and take a good long look. Are you White? Black? Asian? American Indian? Hispanic? Any other ethnicity? A mix of ethnicities? A man? A Woman? Young? Old? Middle-Aged? In denial over what age group you fall into, no matter which one? Gay? Straight? Outspoken? Shy? Conservative? Liberal? Got all that? Savor it for a moment. Mull it all over. Now.....GET OVER IT!!!! Good Lord! You can't change those things, so might as well come to grips with it. Why don't we all just calm down a bit and talk about something that really matters, if thats possible.

And, for the record, the White House is so named because the color of the building's paint is white, not because only White men have been President. If a Black man or an Asian-American woman gets elected president, they'll still call it the White House. Good Lord!


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Sunday, February 22, 2004

Films, Literature, and Taxis

Well, this weekend has kicked off Seabury's "Reading Week" - a week long period with no classes to facilitate the close reading of extra books, usually selected from a list, that support or in another way compliment what we have been learning in each class. As mentioned in my previous blog, I have selected my books for the two classes requiring them and have made serious headway into them. Both are good and very interesting, though Trible's tends to be a bit more dense than Hanh's, which is fitting as hers is academic writing and his is devotional literature.

As it is "reading week", I have not neglected to do my own novel reading, which, as you no doubt have guessed, is an important aspect of my life. In that vein, I have finished Haruki Murakami's Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. It was quite fantastic, though I have not a clue what it was about. The language and imagery were superb: oddly simplistic yet amazingly complex. Best as I can describe it, the book was about a person who worked with advanced (slightly futuristic) cryptographic methods for secreting away data. The methods employed heavily involved the use of the subconscious, so that even the 'encrypter' wasn't fully aware of his own work. In so doing, this insanely intelligent protagonist managed to create in his mind an alternate reality for himself, followed by an alternate version of himself to be placed in that reality and then accomplished it so smoothly that neither version of the individual was aware of the other. Both lived in separate realities, one the "real world", the other the "subconscious reality", separate but intimately connected. It was madness. The book is defined as "post-modern" and I have read several books with this tagline lately, but still am not real sure what it means. Best guess: Postmodern literature searches for the meaning of life in a world viewed as relatively meaningless. Yet instead of riding the apathetic wave out to the sea of un-meaning, remains on the shore of 'reality' to pose the question, 'Why does it matter, one way or the other?' In other, less eloquent words, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

But, my search is not done. I picked up another novel with the post-modern label. This one is Kelley Eskridge's Solitaire: A Novel. I have not but barely cracked it open, so I don't really know more about it than what is written on the back cover. Seems to be about a young woman who was suppossed to be some sort of savior figure, but just when she was to fulfill that destiny, was told it was all a farce. Somehow she commits or is framed for a crime and has to spend time in prison (which is fascinating: she spends 8 months in a drug induced coma while electrodes connected to her brain convinve her mind that she is really spending 10 years in solitary confinement) where she ponders existential questions I imagine. I'll say more about it when I finish.

As it was the weekend, I saw a full compliment of films: Out of Time, starring Denzel Washington, Taxi Driver, starring Robert De Niro, and The Red Violin, starring Carlo Cecchi and Samuel L. Jackson. Denzel's film was only so-so - a cop drama, basic framing, whodunit type. Probably worth a look if you run across it on TBS someday, but definitely not worth spending cash for it. Taxi Driver was a bit of a disappointment for me. I had heard all sorts of marvelous things about it and it was really built up in my mind. Seeing it though, I thought it was slow paced with a boring story that could have been so much more. The action was confined to the very end and so, just when things began to get interesting, it was over. Still though, solid performances by De Niro and a very young Jodie Foster. The Red Violin was the crown jewel this weekend. It was really fantastic. A little slow paced for some folks likely (i.e. Dad would be irritated with me if I rented it at home), but with a highly intriguing story, slight airs of mystery yet still realistic, enough love aspects to satisfy your romantic interests, with a fulfilling yet somewhat cliffhanging conclusion. Great acting, great writing, and most telling, I liked it despite having to put up with subtitles. Ususally I can't abide subtitles - but I recognize that there are really great movies out there from other countries that I want to/need to see and so I have to be in just the right mood to pull it off. And the movie has to be good. For The Red Violin, it seems the stars were aligned.

In addition to all that, I still managed to go out last night with Kate, Julia, and Ives to a cool little 'Irish' bar off Diversey. I hesitate to say Irish because, while that was their theme, the first song I heard upon walking in was "Sweet Home Alabama" (a marvelous song in and of itself) when I expected to hear "Danny Boy" or "The Rocky Road to Dublin". Anyway, it was fun. I missed the last train home to Evanston and so had to take a cab. My cabbie was the most polite, pleasant, and engaging cabbie I've ever had! We had a great conversation about life and love and what it's like to be lonely in the big city. He was originally from Karachi, Pakistan, where his family still lives. He came to America seeking the 'dream', and instead found the reality. In Pakistan he was a stock broker, but due to some poor investing on his own, he went belly up. He came to America as a way to start over, but his stock broker's license apparently doesn't transfer. He said he had no girlfriend and only a few friends otherwise. What must that be like? As I departed I asked him to teach me how to say "goodbye" in Farsi, and, though I'm not even going to come close to spelling it correctly here, it sounded like: "Qoda ha fez". Ok, so I just looked it up and I wasn't all that far off. With that I bid you, spelled correctly:

Khoda Hafez.


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Saturday, February 21, 2004


I have decided to go to Lutheran General for my summer CPE program.

Taylor and I have decided it would be better for him to come up here than for me to go to Kentucky this weekend. We decided there was more to do in Chicago.

I have decided to go home to Florida for Spring Break.

I have decided, of the three selections of books for the OT II Reading Week assignment, that I would read the one in which I was the least interested, so that I can at least hear this type of argument. Thus, I have decided to read Phyllis Trible's God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality.

I have decided to read Thich Nhat Hanh's Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers for my Spirituality for Ministry Reading Week Assignment.


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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

We Did It!!!!!

TWO YEARS IN A ROW - WAKE BEATS DUKE AT HOME!!!!! GO DEACS!!!!! 90-84!!! It was an incredible game - hard fought by both teams. Little rough around the edges the first half, but they all calmed down a bit. Chris Paul is my new hero! GO WAKE!!!


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While driving home this afternoon, I crossed paths with a campaign sign reading: "Timothy Nimrod: Democrat for Judge".

Now I don't know about you, but I'd vote against this guy just on account of his name.

Secondly, in OT II class today we began our discussion of Wisdom Literature, quite possibly my favorite portion of the Hebrew Bible (though its a toss up with Genesis and Exodus). To enliven discussion and make the topic more culturally relevant, Frank used two songs: In the End, by Linkin Park and Hurt by Trent Reznor, but as performed by Johnny Cash. I always love it when media, such as song or film, is used to further an academic point. It just makes it more fun. Anyway, we talked about how these songs represent to their performers a looking back, a reflection on what has meant or has not meant, and how that has shaped them. There is obviously a generation difference between the two. It got me thinking though, what songs shaped me in my growing up years, which, contrary to what Shana would have me believe, are far from done. I enjoy my youth, thank you very much. Anyway, the following are a list of the songs I think had something to do with shaping me at different stages along in my journey. It is roughly chronological and likely reflects my past and current eclectic tastes in music:

Early Middle School Years
If Tomorrow Never Comes: Garth Brooks

Late Middle School Years
Smells Like Teen Spirit: Nirvana
Better Man: Pearl Jam
Unforgiven: Metallica

Early High School Years
Freshman Year
Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts: Less Than Jake
Killing in the Name: Rage Against the Machine
Sophomore Year
Jesus Freak: dc Talk
Kentucky Rose: Michael W. Smith

Late High School Years
Wish You Were Here: Pink Floyd
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps: Cake
Santeria: Sublime
Hero of the Day: Metallica
If You Let Me Love You: Smalltown Poets
As the Deer: Martin Nystrom
Faith Like a Child: Jars of Clay

Early College Years
Everything You Want: Vertical Horizon
Deep Enough to Dream: Chris Rice
Fire and Rain: James Taylor
Worlds Apart: Jars of Clay
Journey to the End: Rancid
The song about moving microwaves and TVs, simply because it was played in my room at least twice a day
Hurricane: Bob Dylan (for same reason as above)
Magic Carpet Ride: Steppenwolf

Late College Years
Simple Man: Lynard Skynard
Wish You Were Here: Pink Floyd (for a different reason than above)
Things I Prayed For: Eli
Corazon de Oro: Rancid
See the Glory: Steven Curtis Chapman

Well, thats probably enough for now...what are some of the songs that formed you - not your favorites necessarily, though these two categories may intertwine.


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Sunday, February 15, 2004

Excellent Weekend

I had an excellent weekend, despite the fact that is was, as my friend Alyssa calls it, "Singles Awareness Day". My high school bud Damien and his new girlfriend flew to Chicago for the weekend and we got to hang out yesterday. We all went ice skating (outside!!) and I managed not to fall down too many times! It was such a novelty though to not be in an indoor rink, which has been my only experience heretofore. Melanie came and skated with us as did Ives, and his weekend visitor - surprise! - it was Sarah Leer! Sarah is a college friend of ours too and she now lives and works in Kentucky for the national office of the Presbyterian Church (USA). As it turns out, we'll be going on the same trip in April. It should be a great time. Church tonight at Canterbury Northwestern was excellent as well, with an above par meal to follow. Jambalaya and a salad, with delicious chocolate cake for dessert. We got into a wonderfully intriguing discussion about how to tell fact from fiction in such popular novels as the one that shall not be named, and about the value of historical speculation when pro or con evidence is unavailable. My argument was that when there is no evidence available either way, it is unhelpful and a general waste of time to speculate. But, that doesn't jive with or say much for the value I place on the imagination and creativity. I suppose the dividing line is when someone is creative and tries to pass it off as either factual or evidence leading to fact. Anyway, some smart folks at dinner tonight.

Haven't talked to Caroline all weekend as her best friend from high school was in town visiting this weekend. However, it does seem as if Operation: Flowers Delivered to Her Office was a large success. :)


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Saturday, February 14, 2004

Saturday Mornings

There is something about Saturday mornings, maybe its in the atmosphere, that makes me want to have a large breakfast and relax. If I get up early enough, as I did this morning, I will generally fix some eggs or bake some muffins. As it happens, this morning I was feeling particularly energized and particularly hungry, so I baked muffins and scrambled some eggs. Mmm...cinnamon swirl muffins...mmm. Coffee, of course, goes without saying. After breakfast, I love sitting down for a good hour or so in the Great Orange Throne of Victory and reading my novel. After which, I will read a chapter or two out of some intellectual or academic work that was not assigned by the seminary and usually has nothing to do with seminary type learning. Generally, it is some type of history, political or religious, that feeds my curiosity. I read these types of books slowly, only getting in a chapter or two a week, simply because of the amount of reading I do for school. By way of clarification: When I say "read", I mean I pick up the book, and read it chapter by chapter, line by line, word by word, until I come to the end. Then I put it down and get another one. If it is a novel, I read the Prologue. If it is an academic work, I read the Preface and the Author's Introduction. Start to finish. That is what I mean when I say "read", in the context of "having read X". To conclude this posting, I would like to leave you with a short poem, not composed by me (I actually have no idea who wrote it) that I found on my friend John Brewington's AIM "away message". I've liked it since I saw it, and now it seems pertinent.

"Wake up early
Making coffee
Making plans to change the world
While the world
Slowly changes us..."


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Friday, February 13, 2004

In the Name of Tradition...

I will now post my poem on Valentine's Day, which I generally find to be the worst of the holidays. Your options on this day are usually loneliness or bankruptcy. Please note that this poem was written from the perspective of someone residing on a college campus. Without further ado, I give you -

Valentine's Day

Looking out my window on this contrived day
I see the dawn peeking over the edges of reality.
Dreams of short skirts and beer are broken away
As sleep encrusted eyes open to face their malady.

Everyone’s vision is clouded over pink and red
With hearts and armed angels piercing chocolate balls.
The happy pairs speak lies and think only of the night’s bed
While they flaunt their plastic smiles painted on like dolls.

This is what I see through that glass up above
And I tell you from where I sit to look below.
Stare behind the pretty picked fences of love
That portray all happiness and hide all woe.

There you will see the lady and gentleman
As they dine upon his first prepared meal.
He goes for more wine so she’ll surely be a ten
And she vomits so she won’t lose her sex appeal.

So they all fall into bed after this dedicated day
To lovers everywhere, with an empty billfold
But fulfilled, because they did it the right way
And conformity is all that matters; fitting the mold.

So this is what I see from that glass above.
To single men and women everywhere –strive for this
Picturesque model, this way of the world called love.
So, go on, shoot for the stars, you can’t miss!


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Thursday, February 12, 2004

You Vote

Read this first.

Kid Smart?


Adults Dumb?


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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Two Short Thoughts, One Long Thought

(1) Score a point for the Methodists, score a point for God: A friend of mine from college, Katie Rouse, has answered God's call to her to enter ordained ministry in the Methodist Church. Praise God! She will make a fine minister and preacher. In her words to me, "We can be preacher buddies." And my response, "I intend to be." She has a choice of Divinity schools: Emory, her first choice, and Duke, her second choice. Both of them are fine institutions, but I am glad she is leaning towards Emory. Duke is, well, Duke is a four letter word. In all fairness though, the only preacher I actually know that graduated from Duke is a good one, so that speaks well of the institution. Good for you Katie - I am happy for you and proud of you. God bless you!

(2) For my Spirituality for Ministry project I have decided to keep a dream journal. Unlike Lacy, I will not be putting it in my blog - that's just a bit too personal for my tastes. Hopefully I'll be able to work with Fr. Dan Prechtel on this project some; his guidance would be invaluable. God speaks to us in dreams. God probably even speaks to me in dreams. I hope that by the mindful practice of paying closer attention to my subconscious in this way I can better hear the word of God present in me.

(3) In the same article that I mentioned yesterday, which I read for class today, there is another quote that I want to talk about briefly. And by briefly, I mean at length. The quote is thus:

"Particular places contain secrets to our history and identity. We desperately need holy places where accumulated experience carries the power to reorient us to what is essential to our humanity."
~Don E. Saliers

For me, that place is DaySpring, the Conference and Retreat Center of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida. You would be hard pressed to find a space at DaySpring where I had not had an experience significant or memorable to me in some way. It is the place where I stopped paying lip service to Christianity and began to follow God in a serious way. It does contain secrets of my history and identity. Some so close to my heart that I would never consider sharing them here. It is a holy place I desperately need. 'Holy place' is better defined to me as the Celtic experience of a thin place. At a Thin Place, the veil between Heaven and Earth is so thin you can almost reach across the divide and touch the holy, and the holy always reaches across to touch you. They are the places goosebumps are made of. DaySpring, for me, is such a Thin Place. The river. The chapel. The Pavilion. The Stations. The dining hall. Bishop Haynes' Lounge. The dorms. The youth cabins. The "observation post". The Upper Room. The roof. The ice cream freezer. The Dome Home. The pool. All of it. A Thin Place is sitting solitary in a darkened St. Thomas' Chapel reading a letter from a best friend, and looking up through tear-stained eyes, caused by such love, to see a beam of sunlight breaking through the clouds, the canopy of trees, the glass of the window to shine in a concentrated beam, illuminating solely the cross. A Thin Place is sitting and talking in the rocking chairs out on the deck way past lights out, because friendship, only fulfilled in person twice a year is far more important than any rule. A Thin Place is watching your brother experience, in his own way, the same presence of Christ that you have experienced, and knowing his life will never be the same. A Thin Place is arm wrestling elementary school boys on the first day of summer camp to be interrupted by one whose only concern is, "Mr. Ryan, are we going to be getting dinner tonight?" A Thin Place is returning youths to their parents after a weekend of worship and silently wondering, how will their lives change now? A Thin Place is sneaking out late at night with comrades to snatch an extra ice cream bar when you think the adults aren't watching, only to discover they are not only watching but enjoying their own ice cream bars as well. A Thin Place is having cake smashed on your face because these friends, of such rare quality, only seen twice a year, remembered your birthday after all. A Thin Place is watching children walk a labyrinth and discovering they want to slow down a bit after all. A Thin Place is high in the trees, your friend on belay down below and thinking how blessed you are. A Thin Place is arriving for a meeting with the Bishop to find him sitting on the back porch of his office, overlooking the river and smoking a pipe with no intention of holding the meeting anywhere else, totally putting you at ease. A Thin Place is sitting in the Pavilion having your feet washed by a person practically a stranger and hearing them whisper to you, "You are cleansed." A Thin Place is feeling the blood of Jesus wash over your soul, clothing you in white again. My "accumulated experience" at DaySpring is plenteous, but I hope far from complete. Just by walking onto the grounds, heck, by driving up to it, by turning off the interstate at exit 43, I can feel my soul preparing to be touched. Preparing to be changed. Preparing for an encounter with the divine. It is truly an amazing place. Thank you Lord God, for DaySpring, and everything that means to all whose lives you have touched there.

What is/are your thin place(s)?


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Monday, February 09, 2004

Thoughts on Liturgy

On Sunday I traveled with my Gospel Mission small group to St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Austin, IL (a suburb west of Chicago). It was an excellent service and I really felt the Holy Spirit moving through that place. The music, in particular, touched me because it was so alive. Afterwards, our group got into a discussion about what the difference was in praying and saying the liturgy. I said Fr. Reed (the vicar of St. Martin's) definitely prayed the liturgy. They asked me how I could tell. I said, "His congregation was interacting with him, saying 'Amen!' and 'Yes, Lord' and 'Thank you, Jesus' at parts particularly touching to them. Plus the keyboardist was playing softly in the background, incorporating music into the worship. You could definitely tell he was praying and not just saying." My colleague challenged me, "So, do you mean to say that the only time the liturgy is prayed is when there is musical accompaniment and the congregation affirms it with a shouted 'Amen!'?" I said not at all, but that was just the example from this parish's context. Without the medium of example, it became harder to define with the difference between praying and saying the liturgy was. I decided finally that the real difference is in the mindset of the priest celebrating, and that the difference can then be discerned by the worshipper. If the mindset of the priest is holy, but with the edge of complacency, an attitude of "just another day on the job", or mediocrity, then they are likely saying the liturgy. But if the priest is totally present in the moment, thereby totally present with God, in communion with God, having a conversation with God and the people, then they are likely praying the liturgy. I won't use examples of particular priests here because not only is that judgmental of me, but it is unfair - I may not have seen them on their best of days or years.

In reading for my Spirituality class tomorrow I came across a quote that I thought completely resonated with the above thoughts: Don E. Saliers has this to say, "The hunger for holiness coexists uneasily with the practical atheism of our way of life." We go to church out of the hunger for holiness, but end up looking at our watches because our practical atheism says its high time to be at the beach (applicable in Florida). Clergy, out of their hunger for holiness come to the table to celebrate the liturgy, but because of their practical atheism, they sometimes end up simply saying it, like so many black and white words on a ruffled page of a well-read novel. We, those of us who will be clergy one day, must strive to fight against the practical atheism of our lives. Yet, not on our own accord, but by the grace of God alone can we so do.


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Sunday, February 08, 2004


You will not believe what I just found...


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Saturday, February 07, 2004

It's in my mind man!

Ok, now I know, I've been watching too much of Six Feet Under, but its such a great show! Anyway, I know I've been watching too much of it cause its gotten into my head now. Just take a look at what came out of my right brain last night:

My life was never the same
after the day I saw
that man get up out of
his coffin and walk away.

They tell me I'm crazy,
but I know
what I saw.

I saw that man get out of his
coffin and walk away.

I followed him.
We had coffee.

He said it was dark in there
and he preferred the light.

Plus the coffee was better
on the outside.


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Friday, February 06, 2004

Second CPE Interview

I had my second CPE interview this afternoon - it was at Evanston Hospital. I really enjoyed it there and like the supervisor with whom I interviewed. It doesn't seem as hectic as Lutheran General, but then again, maybe it was just a slow day. The two programs are comparable and if it came down to a decision between the two, it would be a hard one. Evanston is closer, but Lutherean seems to offer slightly more opportunity. At Evanston you are assigned to one unit for all eleven weeks and at Lutherean it seems like there is more mobility. To complicate the matter, but not without relief, I returned home from the interview today to find my acceptance letter from Lutherean. U of C still has not contacted me at all, so I guess it is between these two, provided I get accepted at Evanston. I think I interviewed well, but you can never tell with these things. At least I'm in somewhere and don't have that pressure!


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Thursday, February 05, 2004

Almost there!

My letter writing is paying off, slowly but surely. I almost have enough to go on my trip to the Sabeel Conference and am getting excited!

Spoke with Pierre today and he seems to be doing ok, as ok as can be expected. It is good to hear his voice and it is good to know he is surrounded by loved ones and family members. I wish I could be there brother.

On top of that, there are several things going on right now that I don't really feel like writing about, but are adding up to increase my frustration level. Beal and Hudd are right - I do need to have some fun. And luckily for me, I have been and will continue to do so. Last night I went out with Caroline at her request to see a documentary film called The Fog of War. It was an excellent documentary (and the venue was gorgeous!) about Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense through the Cuban Missile Crisis and part of the Vietnam War. While my love is history, my knowledge of American History is woefully inadequate, so it was a very good experience for me. I knew a little bit about "Mac the Knife", but it was good to hear his side of the story and how he feels about things so many years afterwards. And it was lots of fun hanging out with Caroline, which we intend to do again over the weekend for another movie night. This time though, it will be Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, one of my favorite movies and one which she has not yet seen but has been anxious to see. I am excited! Hooray for fun! Boo for the suckiness that has been this week, except for last night's diversion...


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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Depart in peace, O beloved child of God...

I ask you prayers for the repose of the soul of Mr. LeHors, the father of one of my best friends, Pierre. Mr. LeHors was tragically killed in an automobile accident early this week. I would also ask your prayers for the comfort of the Holy Spirit on Pierre and his Mom, and all who mourn the loss of this good man, as they pass through this trial. Thank you.


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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Burned out

Today I am feeling completely burned out. I've got homework to do, but I can't do it. I can't even look at it. I'm tired of talking about religion and gender, and race, and sexuality, and everything that goes on at the seminary for today. I've been in a weird mood all day. In Spirituality class today I got into a little bit of a disagreement with a woman I am having a real hard time respecting (even before the argument) and that just compunded my weird mood. It's strange - lots of things seem to be going my way too. I don't really have a reason to be in this burned out state, but I am. I think I'm going to call a friend of mine and then play "Call of Duty" - shooting Nazi scum usually makes me feel better.


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Monday, February 02, 2004

Geek Factor

Thanks to Frank for sharing this bit of silliness. Give it a whirl yourself...

You are 20% geek
OK, so maybe you ain't a geek. You do, at least, show a bit of interest in the world around you. Either that, or you have enough of a sense of humor to pick some of the sillier answers on the test. Regardless, you're probably a pretty nifty, well-rounded person who gets along fine with people and can chat with just about anyone without fear of looking stupid or foolish or overly concerned with minutiae. God, I hate you.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at Thudfactor.com


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Six Feet Under and the Church

I have been, at my friend Griffin's recommendation, watching the first season of the HBO original drama, Six Feet Under. Overall, I have been very impressed with the show. It tackles a subject that we Americans don't necessarily like to talk about - death - and it does so in a very real and very human way. The characters are intriguing and the storyline keeps me engaged. Recently (and by recently I mean episode five of the first season - all I've watched up to this point) they've been slowly introducing religion and the church angle. Several of the characters are devout church goers, one an agnostic, and one an athiest. One of the church going characters is David, a 31 year old man who inherited half his father's undertaking ("Death Services") business after his father's own demise and a principle character in the program. Though the viewing audience knows this, it has not been made known to other characters until now that David is gay, with a partner named Keith, who represents one of the other church goers. David was called out by his home parish to become a Deacon and much to my surprise, the church turned out to be an Episcopal one. David accepts the nomination and is pleased to be considered for the position. Needless to say, this is really not how this works in our church, but, we'll go with it for now. (His discernment process was also a whopping two weeks.) David ends up having an interview with his parish priest and the diocese's bishop. The parish priest knows David is gay but the bishop does not. The viewing audience is led to believe the Bishop suspects it however. (It should be noted that David is very nervous about coming out of the closet and generally shys away from any type of conflict surrounding his sexuality.) Anyway, the Bishop asks him if he is married and David says no, but that once he was engaged for a brief time. The Bishop gets an odd look on his face and asks if David has anything else about himself that he thought "I should know". David says, "No," and in a contest of wills and a surprising show of strength of character adds, "Unless there is something specific about myself you would like to know." The Bishop replies, "No. But this is an old church. A conservative church. We wouldn't want to have anything that would rock the boat. I'll let you know of my decision in a few days."

Now, I did not care for this scene at all and want to make my reasons known, because I think they are important in the broader public realm. This show is from 2001 and so pre-empted the whole Robinson controversy by a couple years, but it by no means pre-empterd the issue of homosexual clergy. The way the bishop was portrayed in this scene does not show the conservative side of the homosexual clergy argument well at all. No, in fact, it makes him look like an ass, who wants nothing to do with anything that might "rock the boat". Granted, this was the shows intent in tackling this issue, no doubt. Now, while you may think that those of us who are not willing to accept the ordination of homosexuals are asses anyway, this scene does not give any credence to the sound theological arguments made by conservative persons. I loathe having to bring up this issue over and over and over again, but it seems like a necessary on-going dialogue. I understand the shows desire to tackle this issue, but in my opinion, it ought to have done so fairly to both sides of the argument, especially if it was intent on pointing out the particular denomination. As it turns out, David was accepted as a Deacon, and so, from the shows perspective, the point is mute. I just don't relish the idea of people who view this show, and not knowing about the Episcopal church, coming away with the notion that those who argue against the ordination of homosexuals persons are just a bunch of goons who really have no sound theological basis to what they say.

Am I going to stop watching the show now? Absolutely not - it's a wonderful show and I would encourage you to check it out as well. If you are not familiar with the Episcopal Church, I would admonish you to do two things: don't take everything the show says or shows about our church for granted and two, if you're not attending a church right now, investigate your local Episcopal congregation. We have much to offer, and seemingly contrary to what I've been arguing here, all are welcome in our pews.


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Sunday, February 01, 2004

What a weekend...

Well, my mother has left now and we had an excellent time during her visit. I am woefully behind on some of my readings, but I'll catch up no doubt. I really don't much feel like blogging right now, so this'll probably be short. The blog is a wonderful procrastination tool though.

I have finished reading Snow Crash, and wow, was it awesome. The story was engaging and fun while not being overly serious and the satirical elements were downright hysterical at times. Stephenson's take on Christianity is interesting, but about what one might expect from a Science Fiction/Cyberpunk author. If you get the chance, I highly recommend indulging yourself into the Metaverse world of Hiro Protagonist in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. After that, I read and re-visited a few short stories out of Collected Fictions, the compendium of Jorge Luis Borges' work. An excellent writer whose themes include infinity, the human condition, knowledge, salvation, and various and sundry other things. I read: "Death and the Compass", "The Cult of the Phoenix", "The Garden of Forking Paths", "The End", "The Library of Babel", and "The Lottery of Babylon". All very different and all quite excellent for a brief literary diversion. I put it down after those because Borges takes a while to digest and I really like to mull over the things he suggests - especially about the infinite library. Awe-inspiring! And now, I am on Haruki Murakami's Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel, which was a gift from Griffin. After only reading the first chapter, I know this book will be good and it fits perfectly with my literary mood right now. Even as I read it, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is starring at me from the shelf, saying, "Come on - don't be a pansy!" So, I know my time of reckoning with that tome is almost upon me. I'm going to try and hold off until the summer, but we'll see what happens. I need to read that book. I want to read that book. It wants to be read by me. I don't want to read that book. But I do. See what I go through? Argghh...I want to read that book. Soon enough, soon enough. Well, that turned out longer than I thought, but I guess that just validates Siobhan's theory that I can't be brief. Oh well...


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