28 September 2005

"Blindly Taking-On and Using Labels Without Qualifiers"
For a quite a while now I've wanted to write a blog concerning the often blind labels of conservative and liberal, the assumption in many circles that there are only two political perspectives -- on CNN Headline News last week I heard the phrase "members of both parties were there" without a qualifier as to which two parties they were referring -- , and the idea that any of those labels would actually mesh with the teachings of Christ and the interests of the Kingdom of God. This response letter to the weekly email newsletter from Ron Sider's organization that I receive will have to do for now.
PRISM ePistle - Wednesday September 28, 2005
Dear ePistle,
I beg to differ with Ron Schott's categories in his letter on "conservative" and "liberal" thought in last week's ePistle. There are many things wrong with reducing political thought to two simple categories of "conservative" and "liberal."

First, the words themselves can cause dangerous confusion to Christians when we fail to make the distinction between political conservatism/liberalism and THEOLOGICAL conservatism/liberalism - the desired distinction being between thought that takes God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible seriously and does not consider that they need to "adapt" to the modern day, and thought that subordinates these realities to human reason and sometimes is simply a religious cloak for practical atheism. Perhaps this is what Mr. Schott means when he says "conservative thought" leads one to submission to Jesus Christ.

But to equate this sort of faithfulness to our timeless faith to plain political conservatism is a mistake on many levels. The word "conservative", spoken in a political context in the U.S., means a number of things that ought to be considered SEPARATELY. For instance, if it is true that doctors who object to abortion should not be forced to refer patients for abortions, does this necessarily entail that taxes should or should not be lowered, that U.S. farmers should or should not be subsidized, or that federal regulations should or should not limit the activities of large corporations? These matters are not inherently related to each other, nor do they, as a group, have such an obvious & clear connection to Christ that we can know He takes the same line on all of them.

The use of the words "conservative" and "liberal" as though they represented grand unifying worldviews or even states of mind (eg. conservatism as hard-heartedness, liberalism as the idea that nothing is anybody's fault, etc) is a fallacy that does nothing but worsen the polarization we're experiencing now. And to tie these "positions" to faith or faithlessness makes it even worse. We now think we know everything about a person, including their relationship to the unseen & utterly free Maker of us all, as soon as we hear their opinion on one Current Issue.

We desperately need to come out of our boxes and listen directly to the words of Jesus Christ. It may be true that subservience to the government is incompatible with subservience to Christ, but if so, might that not also mean (not a "conservative" thought) that if Christ commands us to love our enemies the government has no right to command us to kill them?
- Heather Munn (Champaign, IL)

22 September 2005

"A short update. "

On the 10th Paul Roby and Megan Corigan were married at the beautiful Peace Church in Camp Hill accompanied by a reading of I Corinthians 13, a harp player, a Springsteen song, a reading of The Gift of Love, and about 140 people. They are off on a cruise at present and I look forward to seeing them upon return. This weekend, tomorrow, I leave for Cincinnati to attend and play in Kim Nixon and Matthias Beyer's wedding at Old St George church which I have heard so much about. I am so looking forward to seeing dear friends and sites there who I have missed. I wish Megan (Kaufman) could go with me but it just won't work with me leaving Friday morning and she having students to teach. Tonight I do get to see her though. :)

I played keyboard for Nathan Horst's worship team last night at Life Center. Mostly did organ, wurlitzer, and string sounds and was generally ok with how it went taking into account the lack of practice and knowledge of this particular keyboard - Yamaha MOTIF 8. It certainly didn't hurt that I had a stellar group of musicians to work with.

Last weekend Megan and I ate some amazing food at Cedars, a Lebanese resteraunt, in the midtown district of Harrisburg. Afterward we watched PEACE, PROPAGANDA AND THE PROMISED LAND: THE U.S. MEDIA AND THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT at the Midtown Cinema which had a Palestinian film festival running (three films). Good film though could have used more background on the conflict instead of the last twenty minutes of mostly harping on the same stuff over and over again. Certainly the film has encouraged me to use the BBC more as a news source at least on this subject.

06 September 2005

"Berry on Fidelity (or What It is Not)"

To me, this is completely revelatory. It fills in a gap with so much where-as I only knew my understanding was lacking and had no idea where to start.


... The idea of fidelity is perverted beyond redemption by understanding it as a grim, literal duty enforced only by willpower. This is the 'religious' insanity of making a victim of the body as a victory of the soul. Self-restraint that is so purely negative is self-hatred. And one cannot be good, anyhow, just by not being bad. To be faithful merely out of duty is to be blinded to the possibility of a better faithfulness for better reasons.

It is reasonable to suppose, if fidelity is a virtue, that it is a virtue with a purpose. A purposeless virtue is a contradiction in terms. Virtue, like harmony, cannot exist alone; a virtue must lead to harmony between one creature and another. To be good for nothing is just that. If a virtue has been thought a virtue long enough, it must be assumed to have practical justification - though the very longevity that proves its practicality may obscure it. That seems to be what happened with the idea of fidelity. We heard the words 'forsaking all others' repeated over and over again for so long that we lost the sense of their practical justification. They assumed the force of superstition: people came to be faithful in marriage not out of any understanding of the meaning of faith or of marriage, but out of the same fear of obscure retribution that made one careful not to break a mirror or spill the salt. Like other superstitions, this one was weakened by the scientific, positivist intellectuality of modern times and by the popular 'sophistication' that came with it. Our age could be characterized as a manifold experiment in faithlessness, and if it as yet produced no effective understanding of the practicalities of faith, it has certainly produced massive evidence of the damage and disorder of absence. ..."

- from the essay The Body and the Earth collected in THE UNSETTLING OF AMERICA and THE ART OF THE COMMONPLACE (p115-116)

And, of course, there is much more of value after that.

05 September 2005

"The Berry That I Promised"

A now underlined section from a dense and overflowing essay in the Wendell Berry collection that I have been reading of late:


By dividing body and soul, we divide both from all else. We thus condemn ourselves to a loneliness for which the only compensation is violence - against other creatures, against the earth, against ourselves. For no matter the distinctions we draw between body and soul, body and earth, ourselves and others - the connections, the dependences, the indentities remain. And so we fail to contain or control our violence. It gets loose. Though there are categories of violence, or so we think, there are no categories of victims. Violence against one is ultimately violence against all. The willingness to abuse other bodies is the willingness to abuse one's own. To damage the earth is to damage your children. To despise the ground is to despise its fruit; to despise the fruit is to despise its eaters. The wholeness of health is broken by despite. ..."

- from the essay The Body and the Earth collected in THE UNSETTLING OF AMERICA and THE ART OF THE COMMONPLACE (p102).

01 September 2005

"A Recluttering"

Tuesday night I stopped over my old place in Shiremanstown, which my mom was just about moved out of, intending to be there only the thirty minutes or so that it would take to pack boxes into my car and head home. All told it took about three hours. I was in the attic for quite a while sweating-through every area of my skin and into my work clothes as I went through boxes of old magazines, paper, comic books, school papers, and family stuff. This is mostly stuff that I hadn't been missing and won't once I choose what I do want to keep and discard/donate the rest. Nice found surprises: issues of PRIZM from the late 90s that I must have picked up at some of the more edgy Christian music concerts I attended, a few drawings that remind me that once upon a time I had a small amount of talent in that area, and A RAISIN IN THE SUN which I don't even remember reading. My mom and I then drove all of these things to my place and quickly carried them up my stairs and into the end of the hall outside my room where they call out to me "You are going to trip over us until you sort us out and you deserve it for what you did (store us away for so long) and will do (get rid of us) to us!"

Megan started teaching on Monday and she does like it so far. We spent Monday night together eating burritos and then at her place. She looked amazing in what she wore for her first day of school but I won't even try to do it justice in description here. I am pleased to say that the drive from Lancaster (there) to Harrisburg (here) really doesn't seem that long and, of course, is totally worth it even with the climbing petroleum prices. Saturday afternoon I will really feel the force of the fuel crisis with my traveling to see Coldplay in New Jersey. Thankfully my mind will be otherwise occupied with the excitement of actually going to the show for free, getting to talk to so many people about fair trade, and riding the wave of glee home anxious to sleep before I must awake early to lead the worship service Sunday morning.

This last week and those to come this month are so full: weddings and their related activities, a record to mix, time with Megan, work at Sears, house church, my Mom's move, and things I haven't found adequate time for. I read a little bit of Wendell Berry last week which I will post soon. He really gets me excited about what is just outside my door, under my feet, and all around sprouting from the ground. It is good to realize and appreciate the wonders of creation.

I am trying write here more often. Your responses and comments do encourage me... whether you like it or not. Haha.

P.S. I should say that Pat Robertson did apologize for his rash statement concerning Chavez but not after claiming that he didn't say it and then that his words were taken out of context. Those last two details are what concern me. So now we need an apology for lying too. Though aren't we all guilty of this kind of cover up? I am.
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