Archive for October, 2006

Henry Nouwen

October 30, 2006

If you don’t know, you need to. If you haven’t read Nouwen, you need to.

His book, The Inner Voice of Love got me through a hard re-entry phase back into the US. It’s a small one, packed with intense doses of grace, love and healing through the dark night of the soul. My roommate tells me his book on prayer is life changing as well, and I believe her. I’ve got Wounded Healer on my night-stand, and am going through the Way of the Heart as he uses the dessert fathers to teach solitude, silence and prayer.

I subscribe to the daily meditation from the Henry Nouwen society, and am refreshed with little nuggets like this below that are not just great insights anymore. They are reenforcing what I’m leaning in seminary – this very important fact that solidarity with the poor and downtrodden is core to the church.

The Weakest in the Center

The most honored parts of the body are not the head or the hands, which lead and control. The most important parts are the least presentable parts. That’s the mystery of the Church. As a people called out of oppression to freedom, we must recognize that it is the weakest among us – the elderly, the small children, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the hungry and sick – who form the real center. Paul says, “It is the parts of the body which we consider least dignified, that we surround with the greatest dignity” (1 Corinthians 12:23).

The Church as the people of God can truly embody of the living Christ among us only when the poor remain its most treasured part. Care for the poor, therefore, is much more than Christian charity. It is the essence of being the body of Christ.

Links to the Henry Nouwen society here, and the daily emails here taken from Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey.


Book Review > Lasn, Culture Jam, 1999, Quill

October 30, 2006

Culture JamI’ve had my eye on this week’s book for years, Kalle Lasn’s Culture Jam. In addition to writing Culture Jam, Lasn’s founded Adbusters and the Media Foundation behind “culture jamming” evangelical efforts.

Culture Jam is a harsh poke and a rude whisper that something is very wrong in our society. Mass media and consumer driven lifestyle has unapologetically snatched our individual spark and creative nature, our very freedom. Instead, we are tricked to buying a collective conscious, sold at a high price no less, to obtain acceptance and approval from others around us who have fallen into the same trap.

Spoof ad

I was struck with creativity of the organization of the books contents, which fit into the four seasons of the year. Not only an interesting way to label four chapters, but a telling diagnosis about where each essay fits into the larger movement’s timeline:

Fall: taking stock of American “mental environment.
Winter: going deeper into the roots of the problem.
Spring: hope in launching revolution for a new America.
Summer: painting a picture of what could be.

The freshness of the message is disturbing and contagious. They point to something that’s really happening. We need to sit up and pay attention.

I’ve been following Adbusters since I first noticed its ominous and prophetic presence on newsstands. While in undergrad with a design sensitive eye, I eventually subscribed, intrigued by the creativity and Carson-esque design.

Get your own anti-label: Black Spot Shoes

I was amazed at the stories of people literally throwing their TV’s out their windows, and cutting labels off their clothes. I proudly promoted Buy Nothing Day and TV Turn Off Week, eagerly read the informative articles, showed off the pictures of the Nike swooshed carved into someone’s skin, and shook my head at the droves that headed to the mall instead of out for a day hike.

While Culture Jam and Adbusters are on the cutting edge of critiquing and satirizing our existence to show us the water we’re swimming in, that’s where they stop for me.

I eventually let the subscription drop because, well … I got tired. I didn’t want to be even more depressed about my world when I was done reading than when I started. I lost hope when my roommates ripped off the “TV turn off week” flier I’d taped over the TV, even after we’d talked about trying to not watch that week.

I felt these feelings come rushing back with Culture Jam. While we desperately need the mirror Lasn holds up to see ourselves for what we are, I put the book down defeated. Are there any other viable options besides defacing someone else’s property and reaching out and rudely poking those around me? I’d like to think more frustration for sake of agitation isn’t the answer – we’re already frustrated enough … right?

Reflection > Thurs Week 5

October 27, 2006

There were many good nuggets from class:

• there is no secular
Talking about God’s presence is all realms of society – that there is no part that’s separate from faith or God, hence secular. Pretty mind blowing with the way our culture is so segregated “christian” and “non” or “at church” and “not at church”.

• silence means support
Bolger mentioned a personal struggle of his silence being taken as support when he listens to others, and doesn’t voice his view points when they differ. Oh man, I totally related. It was encouraging to hear someone else struggles with this as well.


October 25, 2006

Ironic this shows up as my desk calendar’s daily quote on the day of my American Church History Midterm…

“For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.” -William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania


October 25, 2006

Logo by Milton Glaser

Logo by Milton Glaser to identify an emerging movement with in the design world: designism. Using design to bring about social change. This was the subject of a recent Art Director’s Club panel in New York, and AIGA Voice article by Tony Hendra, quoted here:

“Design can do many things in many forums. If you have the ability to render your beliefs and passions visually, you have a powerful weapon in your hands. If you don’t use it, you are wasting your life.”
-Tony Hendra

Philly pics are up!

October 24, 2006

Here are a few highlights – the rest are on my flickr page.

Quack quack!

Are you brave enough?

Assembly Room

Nude Descending a Staircase - Duchamp

I didn’t write about the Philadelphia Art Museum, but they had a great selection of Duchamp paintings, including this one, Nude Decending a Staircase. I freaked out when I saw it – this painting was scoffed by the art community in 1912 and cemented his path to question what art was and create “ready-made” art pieces (including the urinal…yes…the urinal). My avant-garde Art history came rushing back at me, and I realized I’d seen slides of the very gallery I was standing in during a lecture. Pretty darn cool.

Reflection > Tues week 5

October 24, 2006

Today’s class content was pretty radical, and I’m surprised there wasn’t more of a lively debate. At least the bit about Jesus preaching a “repent” of what you understood it meant to be in the kingdom of God, and “believe” in what he says it is, and how he lives it out..

In today’s lens, this is a salvation based “repent” and “believe”. But Bolger pointed to the 1st century point of view, which was a much more political. The Jews were within Roman rule, and were waiting for a savior to restore them from exile (and for good reason, it’d been the pattern throughout Isarel’s history). Instead their savor comes and tells stories, casts out demons, eats with the leapers, prostitutes and poor. This is shocking – definitely against social structures and hardly the political coup they were dreaming of.

Bolger, using N.T. Wright’s theology as a foundation, held up this background as an approach to Christianity today.

I think I agree, but geez guys … that’s a big shift! It’s radical! Just walking through Indpendence hall in Philly this past weekend, the fight for American Independence is fresh in my mind. Here Jesus advocates for NOT fighting, but transforming oppressive powers from everyday actions like story telling and symbolic acts like healing on the Sabbath. What does that mean for revolutions past? For the way our nation was formed – especially a nation who’s conservative politics are so connected to a supposed christian morals?

Even more, how could we have missed such a fundamental scope of Jesus to apply into our present ministries and faiths – and dare I say, politics – until recently? Isn’t this a bit disconcerting we’ve ignored the histrical content of Jesus’ ministry and even more, the applications that would have for us?

And one more thing, I can’t help but think engaging these views after we’ve passed through the past few centuries (18th and 19th) of revolutions and independence battles in the west is convenient and safe. Now that our battles our fought and won, is NT Wright’s historical case of Jesus reading what we want into scripture today?

Book Review > Klien, Fences and Windows, 2002, Picador

October 23, 2006

Fences and Windows by Naomi Klien (an international journalist and media commentator, also author of No Logo) is a time capsule into an emerging activist revolution against corporate globalism from late 1999 to 2002.

The text is made up of several articles with a unifying theme of boundaries (fences) and opportunities (windows). Klien brings intelligent insight, factual numbers and blunt views about a very mis-understood and loosely organized group of activists who keep showing up at major trade summits and gatherings around the world.

The first of such gatherings was the December 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle. The media, or rest of the world, didn’t know how to identify or what to do with them, and even Klien doesn’t pin a single name, cause or leader to the masses. (Sound familiar? Something like the loose networks of Emerging Churches?).

What she does clarify is this group is NOT anti-globalization. “All the activists I know are fierce internationalists. Rather, we are challenging the internationalization of a single economic model: neo-liberalism(78).”

Her April 2000 article, The NAFTA Track Record , gives a good glimpse into this economic core of her globalisim debate through reporting on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Whilw former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney sing the praises of the agreement, she gives voice to the opposition: “…private wealth has soared without translating into anything that can be clearly identified as the public good (65).”

While free trade has done very well, Klien broadens the picture: promised outcomes of boosted trade, “trickle down” money flow, are absent in the rest of society, most severely in Mexico. Poverty is up to 75 percent (up from 49 percent in 1981), and pollution has doubled in Mexico since the start of NAFTA (p.65).

Klien points out the irony in the dependence on this trade flow has not lead to streamlined lower costs (which were promised), but “hundreds of millions of new dollars to keep trade flowing (71).” Social needs like clean water, better schools, affordable housing, are still waiting for their trickle to come down the pipe.

It’s a bit eye opening to take a look at these statistics. This past weekend on an airplane flight, I sat next to a clean cut Electical Engineer from New Jersey who believed NAFTA was doing great things for Mexico. When I shared this argument, he said it must be because their government is corrupt.

It’s these stereotypes and excuses about the impact of free trade that Klien and her fellow protesters fight against in their own vision for globalization. They are not naïve to leave trade out in the equation or negate its value. Instead they advocate holding the powers that be accountable. “Globalization was supposed to be about global openness and integration…[and]… a new system of equality among nations(81).” She asks, “…why not build an international architecture founded on principles of transparency, accountability and self determination, one that frees people instead of liberating capital (79)?”

And I ask too, why not? Klien’s statement that “…human needs must take precedence over corporate profits from AIDS treatment to homelessness (243),” is one that the church should be asking ask well – if not leading the discussion.

Sidenote: I do have to admit, with a print date of 2002, I want to catch up on what Klien’s been writing recently – and what this movement has been up to the past few years.

History you can walk around in

October 22, 2006

There’s something about visiting a town like Philadelphia that makes American History come alive. Sights like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are easy on the camera and fun to see first hand. (Pictures up early next week – I promise!)

Yet, I’m a student and have stuff to read/study. I split off from my parents this afternoon to go back the hotel and get into my American Church History material for next Wednesday’s midterm. Before I made it back, I took time to stop by the Free Quaker meeting house to see some of Church history first hand. After all, this State and City owe much to William Penn who acquired the land from Charles II and, a Quaker himself, allowed for religious tolerance (Quakers were horribly mistreated in Puritan areas like Boston). Pennsylvania and Philadelphia area flourished because of this tolerance and even inspired latter attitudes of religious freedom that showed up in the new American government. (from Mark Noll, History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, pgs. 66-67)

The meeting house was small and modest, somehow fitting for the Quakers. Sadly it was empty, the crowds were all at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. I was warmly greeted by an actor role playing a Quaker. I felt sheepish, and whatever knowledge I did have quickly became a lack thereof when he started talking to me in old English. I couldn’t remember many facts to engage this real colonial Quaker! So … I guess vacation’s winding down, and it’s time to hit those books!

East Cost protocal

October 21, 2006

So, I’m here for my cousin’s wedding at the Union League in Philadelphia – a hotel and social club of sorts. This “Union” league was founded in 1862 … get it? Union, 1862…? There are photos, statues and inscribed speeches of Lincoln everywhere, and it’s pretty darn cool. (He’s a bit of a hero to me, but that’s another story).

What’s not cool here is the dress code. Business attire on the first and second floors at all times. I showed up for breakfast in jeans (granted my nice jeans with no rips or worn seams, a nice turtle neck and make-up for goodness sake!), but was asked to go change. No sneakers, jeans or sports wear allowed.

I bristled and asked my parents if we could eat elsewhere. I was embarrassed and mad. My mom (who’s always dressed well) picked up food to bring back to the room, where the heathen (me) sat in my nice but unworthy jeans awaiting food along with my sympathetic father.

We went to the Barnes Foundation, where again I came up against more rules. No coats, purses or cameras – pretty normal for an art museum. But I asked if I could use pen or needed to use pencil in my notebook, and a Harry Potter-equse voiced boomed from behind the information counter, “NO SKETCHING. ONLY BARNES STUDENTS CAN SKETCH.”

You’ve got to be kidding me, no sketching?

I didn’t flinch when they turned down my debit card for a $4 purchase at the gift store. I needed to use cash for “that small of an amount.” Ugh.

I won’t give in and say their snobby out here – not yet. Maybe I’m just having a bad day.