So I Have This Idea . . .

Theology Thursday

This is my idea in generalisations:

Conservative (by which I mean fundamentalist and/or evangelical) seminaries should require their students to take at least six month internships at liberal (by which I mean mainline and/or progressive) churches, and liberal seminaries should require their students to take at least six month internships at conservative churches.

Once upon a time, I used to be afraid.

Okay, heck. I’m still afraid of lots of stuff, probably, but in this case I mean I was afraid of Bad Theology.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I study theology. I love theology, and I think it’s super important. (Thus, you know, Theology Thursday.) So naturally I believe there is both bad and good theology. But if church-people across the spectrum of Christian thought are honest with themselves, I think they might admit that the Church in general is struggling, at least in the United States of America. And I think Fear of Bad Theology just might be one of the sticking points.

Either way, it appears to be the Mad Hatter

Either way, we appear to be heading toward the Mad Hatter

Now I’m a theological mostly-conservative working at a theologically mostly-liberal church and I think the experience has been good for me–and hopefully for Now Church, too. I feel like I believe my own beliefs better and with more certainty than I used to, and that maybe because of that I’m either more willing to let other people believe theirs they way they do, or more assured of the Process through which God brings individual people as we each get to know Him. I feel fortunate. I didn’t ask for this, but not everybody gets this kind of experience and perspective, and I’m glad to have it.

But I get the Fear. I do. I used to be afraid of some sort of theological contamination, in an almost superstitious fashion, as if hearing the Wrong Thing would automatically make me think the Wrong Thing and somehow impinge on my salvation or something. And I guess something like that can happen, though not superstitiously–I mean I guess people can be gradually persuaded into a different point of view if they’re exposed to it enough, and I do think some things are truer than others and it matters–but I also guess I think we’re all heretics on some level, and God loves us more than we sometimes think, and will “guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus” though I suspect it helps if we want Him to.

Anyway, I just think there’s a lot of fear between different branches of the Church, and it mostly comes from a skepticism that the people in the other branch aren’t “real Christians,” and that maybe that somehow Not-Real Christianity is contagious like ebola.

ebola1

And ebola is scary, guys. It is.

But I suspect that if we stopped worrying about whether or not other people were Real Christians (or however our tradition talks about it), and just worked on where we ourselves are in relation to God, and then tried to love each other in light of that, we might discover more commonality in Christ than we thought, or if we didn’t, at least more freedom in Him to interact with each other and serve Him anyway.

As for seminaries and internships . . . well, from my experience, I hear all kinds of liberal theology from my conservative classes, but no matter how open-minded my truly exceptional professors may be, I wouldn’t understand that theology in the way that I can when I encounter it from real people who actually believe it at Now Church. And I don’t think that RevCD, for example, can understand the conservative theology she’s heard about in her liberal seminary training until she encounters it in people like me.

It’s possible to know something about what “the other side” believes, but I think it’s tough to know how they believe it until we’re immersed in it, at least for a little while, and that immersion, I think, gives us a better capacity to decide what we really believe about, say, the Trinity, or the gender of God, or the Bible, or sin and salvation and atonement, for example, than if we only get trained up in what we already think we believe and know. And . . . maybe more importantly . . . we might get a better glimpse of Jesus’ love for the Church, His Bride, and be better equipped to love Him and serve her in many different contexts, without needing to fear losing Him, or faith, or even necessarily our own distinctives.

What do you think?

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All Wrapped Up

Memory Monday

Last week I messed up my iPhoto (I mean, I guess it was me) and had to rebuild it, which returned a whole bunch of extra photos I had once supposedly deleted, so you would think I would have a whole lot of memories to write about this Monday, but for some reason nothing was really grabbing me. Until I tried to open the package of brie that my Paul had kindly purchased.

Favourite. It's the rind. Don't ask me.

Favourite. It’s the rind. Don’t ask me.

It was a wedge of brie and it came from the supermarket so not only did it have a rind, but it was wrapped in cling-film. This particular cling-film was very difficult to open. It withstood attempts to unwrap, to tear and almost a pair of kitchen scissors–though the latter prevailed eventually.

“Who wrapped this?” I exclaimed. “My dad?”

This question is legitimate, because my dad is a cling-film wrapping ninja. (I’m pretty sure the term ninja doesn’t actually apply in this case, but I like the way it sounds.) When TheBro and I were kids, our small Christian school didn’t have a cafeteria, and therefore school lunches were a weird sort of special occasion thing which maybe happened once a quarter and which we ate in our classrooms.

Of the many mundane "traumas" a child can experience in school, this one was not among mine.

Of the many mundane “traumas” a child can experience in school, this one was not among mine.

This meant that all the rest of the time, all of us kids brought our own lunches to school.

We lived in the days before insulated lunch bags. We went through a lot of these.

We lived in the days before insulated lunch bags. We went through a lot of these.

My parents were kind enough to make our lunches for the duration of our pre-college school-lives, but my dad had this System for employing the cling-film which made it really difficult to eat lunch. I would take my sandwich out of my bag and turn it over and over and over, searching for that elusive fourth corner that I knew was somewhere, but which it usually took me half of lunchtime to find. There was always a side of the sandwich where the film converged, thickly and wrinkly, and then a side that was clear as a window. It took me years to figure out that even though it looked like the lose end would be mixed up where the majority of the cling-film was, in reality it was nearly perfectly camouflaged against the clear, smooth side, and once I found it, I could unwrap the sandwich with ease. It was a thing of beauty, really, once I could just get beyond the frustration of not being able to eat my lunch.

So when I approached that brie this evening, I thought I could find the sneaky hidden loose end, no problem. I never did, though. Thus the scissors. So I guess it couldn’t have been my dad who wrapped it after all.

 

Dontcha Think?

Whatever Wednesday – Words

So the other day The Oatmeal (which siteI have heard of but don’t frequent–a fact I am now thinking I should probably rectify) posted an article about Irony. Then TheBro shared it with me on Facebook, which was obviously an invitation for me to think about it ever since.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m kind of relieved that The Oatmeal thinks irony is more ambiguous than pretty much anyone else I’ve ever heard pontificate about it since The Alanis Morissette Song About (or Not About) It.

The Song About (or Not About) Irony

A Song About How Alanis Morissette’s Song is Not About Irony


That song came out just before I moved to London, and circumstances later subjected me to a rant by a young Brit who spent at least half an hour denying the ability of Americans truly to understand irony. I had previously formed an opinion of this young man as self-important and obnoxious, but his comments stung nonetheless, and ever since, I have felt very insecure about whether or not I, even I, who received a B.A. in English literature and lived in England itself for over five years, really knew what irony was. I wrote a few Insecure Posts demonstrating my insecurity on my Old Blog.

Guess what? I still feel insecure about it. But, after TheBro shared that article on my wall, I suddenly had A Thought. Guess what else? I’m going to tell it to you:

Imagine if Alanis Morissette was employing the first form of irony (sarcasm) as delineated by The Oatmeal? Imagine if, for 20 years, people have been scorning her for not knowing what irony was, when really this whole time she was being sarcastic and all of the things she singingly claimed were ironic, she really knew weren’t ironic, and she was just being sarcastic and laughing at us the whole time. That’d be pretty ironic, dontcha think?

Wait. But . . . it would, though, right?

Metamorphosis

The Tuesday Reblog

Here’s a post I resonate with, by an esteemed fellow student from The Seminary.

missistine

Today, in one of my classes, I was asked about whether going to Seminary could cause a person to lose their faith……….Interesting question……

When I first sensed what I now know as a “call to ministry”……I had no idea what was happening to me or why. All that I knew was that a job that I had been blissfully happy in for 22 years was no longer making me happy anymore. I was restless, frustrated and felt trapped. I was turning 40 and was looking at the next 30 years of my life wondering- Can I really sit on the floor singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round’ with gusto and enthusiasm for another 30 years????? Did I want to be a 60 year old preschool teacher? What did I REALLY want to do with the next 30 years of my life?

I knew I wanted to…

View original post 502 more words

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

Family Friday – Back Yard, Part 3

Not only does our back yard have an abundance of flora and fauna, but also? Besides the obligatory New England substrata of boulders and slate shelf, we have a hill made out of glass.

Also rusty metal.

The Cottage was built around the Turn of the Century, by which I don’t mean the latest Turn of the Century which was also the Turn of the Millennium, but the previous Turn of the Century which still seems to me to merit the title more legitimately for some reason. Maybe because I wasn’t alive for that previous one. Anyway. The Cottage was a summer cottage, which is why it is so small, and its size (and earlier generations’ lesser regard for environmental issues) might be why some of the previous inhabitants refrained from keeping extraneous objects inside the house and instead apparently invested in a DIY, At-Home, Landfill.

Pretty sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

Pretty sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

When my Paul and I were dating, I quickly discovered that he had a bottle collection–all of the pieces of which he had pulled out of the section of hill down by the water. They were pretty bottles, which apparently tended to surface in the rain like worms. I thought they were maybe Really Old, but my Paul didn’t seem to think most of them were all that antique or really anything special, though we have found one or two unique ones.

It seemed like he had a lot of them already, and I don’t know what he thought, but for some reason I thought they were all “done.” I guess I didn’t realise how many bottles you could possibly dispose of in your own back yard, because a bunch more surfaced during the first year of marriage, and then last year, and this year we have decided that there wouldn’t even be a hill in that part of our back yard, if it weren’t for all the trash that was dumped there.

I feel kind of conflicted about this, because I have been opposed to littering since I was a small child. In case fancy glass bottles don’t seem to count as littering, I should probably tell you that apart from the thousands of glass and crockery shards we have to keep clearing from the pathway down to the boat, we have also found bed springs and metals screws and cans made entirely out of rust.

But on the other hand, I used to want to be an archeologist starting at about the same time, and it is really archeologically interesting back there, even if some of the stuff in the hill isn’t any older than, say, the 1960’s. 

The other week, before the 4th of July rains, the ground was so powder-dry, I could just stick my fingers underneath the first layer of dust and pull out handfuls of glass shards . . . and a couple of whole bottles.

At the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket . . . all of this in an hour and a half.

At the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket . . . all of this in an hour and a half.

For a while, my Paul was discovering old costume jewelry, which we brought out on our visit to the BroFam and gave to the kids. We made up a story about how they came to visit us and discovered buried treasure, and then we told them we really had discovered it in the ground in our back yard, but that if they ever came to visit us, they couldn’t go digging themselves because there is too much glass back there. Fortunately, maybe, the “treasure” was tarnished enough and the children young enough that it didn’t appear sufficiently tantalising for them even to want to go digging, because when we issued the prohibition, they didn’t seem particularly bothered.

So I guess the rest of the treasure is ours.

Some kind of landfill filing system? All the lids were together.

Some kind of landfill filing system? All the lids were together.

There's something steampunky about this collection, it seems to me.

There’s something steampunky about this collection, it seems to me.

Unless, of course, you were interested in my posting it in the Jenn Store. It could be arranged . . . Any takers?

July

The Tuesday Reblog

Tomorrow’s my birthday so I guess I can reblog myself today, right? Here’s a little tongue-in-cheek grumble I wrote back on the Old Blog:

galadriel_cate_blanchett_hobbit

Enjoy.

July

Possibly, if you were not born in July, you have never noticed this phenomenon. But calendar-makers quite typically save all their worst photos or illustrations for that month. Perhaps they think everyone will be on vacation, will not give their wall-calendars so much as a glance, and will therefore not even notice their laziness.

But I notice. Am I the only person who opens a calendar directly to her birth-month page to see what is represented there? Quite often I am tempted to make my calendar-purchase decisions based on the picture staring at me out of July. Often, but not always. If it were always, I would never buy any calendars at all, because July calendar art is usually ugly, or boring, or tritely patriotic, or a bad guy. This year I bought a Beatrix Potter calendar on sale in mid-January, partly because it was on-sale in mid-January, and partly because even though the character respresented on the July page is a fox (one of the bad guys, though I do not recall from which story), it’s an engaging illustration. Sometimes you have to settle.

Roommate-Rachel, however, has saved the day. (Or the month.) She has a Lord of the Rings character-portrait calendar on which we write our weekly work-schedules, hanging in the kitchen. Staring mysteriously out at us from behind her glistening white hood is Galadriel in all her elvish glory. I have always like Galadriel. I’ve pretty much always liked elves, too. I fully endorse this calendar.

Except when I googled "lord of the rings calendar 2011," some of the calendar pictures came up, but not the Galadriel one. So here's the worst picture for THAT month. It was October. Sorry, October.

Except that when I googled “lord of the rings calendar 2011,” some of the calendar pictures came up, but not the Galadriel one. So here’s the worst picture for THAT calendar. It was October. Sorry, October.

Thanks, Deviantart.

Thanks, Deviantart.

Living Circle

Memory Monday

The summer after college, I worked one last time at the 8-week day camp in Rhode Island which I had come to know and love, and then I went to work as a Nanny. I was used to living and studying at a small college where I had made a lot of really good friends, and suddenly I was thrust into a world that consisted of

  1. a baby with the worst reflux ever
  2. a jealously, vindictively, pooping golden retriever, and
  3. a new town where I knew nobody.

The baby’s parents were the best part of the deal, but they commuted to New York City at 5 a.m. or so, and got home about 13 hours later, by which point they were ready to spend a little time with their son and I was ready to not. And it wasn’t like we usually hung out.

So I joined a Christian young adults’ group in the area, called “Living Circle.”

I’m not exactly sure what the name means, and it took me a while to really feel like I had community there, but that group ended up being my main social outlet for the nearly-two-years that I lived in Southern Connecticut. We met in a school on Monday nights, and would sing and pray together, and then break up into smaller groups and study the Bible, and after that, sometimes some of us would go out to a diner just to talk about whatever.

But it wasn’t just Monday nights. A bunch of us were nannies, so we could never host the parties, but plenty of the other members of the group had their own places, so there were shindigs most weekends. I made a couple of really close friends and we would go shopping or hiking or “restauranting” together.

The group folded/reconfigured the year I left for London, because other people besides me were moving and the needs of the group were changing, but I still look back on those days fondly and I still think there were a couple of exceptional things about that group, besides the individual people. The most exceptional thing, maybe, was the fact that although most of the people in the group identified as Christians, there were a multitude of churches represented, with different traditions and varying theologies all worshiping God and learning–and socialising–together. The group didn’t “belong” to any one church, and meeting in a school and in diners ensured that it remained pretty neutral of denominational or congregational affiliation.

I’m still in touch with some of those friends, and I’m very grateful for all of them during those first two years of launching out of the nest into adulthood. They made that period of time fun, even before the baby grew up enough to stop throwing up all over me and be fun, too. Maybe I’ll write about him soon, too. In the meantime, these were my friends in the mid-90’s.

I'll bet you a copy of Trees in the Pavement you can't find me in here.

I’ll bet you a copy of Trees in the Pavement you can’t find me in here.

Addendum

I wrote yesterday’s post over a week ago because I knew I was going to be spending all last week at WorkCampNE with the Youth Group. I returned home after midnight last night and this afternoon, when I finally made it into the back yard, I discovered that now the garden actually looks like this:

Did I mention jungle?

Did I mention jungle?

It’s a Jungle Out There

Family Friday – Back Yard, Part 2 – Plants

It turns out that turtles aren’t the only ones who like hugelkulturs.

These baby cucumbers are much bigger now . . .

These baby cucumbers are much bigger now . . . even though the snapping turtle dug them up after she couldn’t access her original spot, and before this one got fenced off, too.

I don’t really have much else to say about that, but the Blue Hubbard Squashes definitely do:

I guess it was feeling a little squashed . . .

I guess it was feeling a little squashed . . .

Or there’s always this Rainy Independence Day angle:

What's that? You don't see the big deal?

What’s that? You don’t see the big deal?

This, I feel, makes my point a little more clearly . . . regardless of the raindrops.

This, I feel, makes my point a little more clearly . . . regardless of the raindrops.

And God Said

Theology Thursday

It’s possible I don’t have much else to say about the gender of God. But I noticed in that post I wrote that I reblogged last week, that I said that GOD chose the masculine pronoun for Himself in the Bible, and I guess I might still have something to say about that.

I further guess that not all of the people in the circles I currently frequent would see the masculine pronoun for God in the Bible as something that God inspired…and would also argue that the so-called divine wars in the Old Testament were simply erroneous human attempts to please God. And similar contentions. So maybe I want to talk a little more about why, even though so many people I love and respect hold those views, I still can’t seem to.

I might be able to write a book about this, but I’ll try to restrain myself tonight if for no other reason than that I’m at a Work Camp with the Youth and am writing this on my phone. (But I can do this, because I have a new one.)

Essentially, I just have to say I really do believe that the Bible is inspired by God such that the words that are in there are there for a reason. This includes words like Him and His in relation to God. I don’t believe that God engaged in automatic writing or anything like that. I do believe that the human authors of each of the books were fully conscious of and engaged in the writing process, and that their individual writing styles are evident in the books. I have to think, though, that those writers were intentional in their own choice of words, and that if God really wanted to use a book as one of His main methods of communication (which I realise is also a debated issue, but one thing at a time, friends. One thing at a time), then He would be at least as intentional about His choice of words and stories that went into it. (That’s a pretty underachieving God who would want to communicate with us enough to have a book written but not pay attention until after publication to see whether or not He got misrepresented in it.)

Given that the God in question is said to have created the world, and also to have imbued human beings with their individual gifts and abilities, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to me that that God could therefore also enable someone (or multiple someones) to write precisely what He wanted without actually dictating it to them. (There might be something of the predestination/free will debate in this, now that I think of it. As with that issue, I frankly believe that both divine and human agency are in play, and if you tell me I’m copping out by calling paradox, well, I’m still calling it, because I believe in those, too.)

I guess I don’t expect to “like” everything I read in the Bible, because while I might sometimes imagine God to have the same values I do in the same way that I do, if I get real about it, I can acknowledge that it makes sense that my values and ideas might not always line up with God’s, given the whole me-not-being-God and me-not-having-the-whole-picture thing. I hope and believe that the closer I get to Jesus by virtue of the Holy Spirit’s progressive work in my life, the more I’ll think like Him (God), and act like Him and have the same values as Him, but I don’t believe that beautiful goal is my default–or anyone else’s, frankly.

I also don’t believe, even though God want to communicate with us, and in spite of the Holy Spirit’s work, that I automatically fully understand everything that’s written in that there book of His.

20140710-064213-24133642.jpg

It’s tempting to say “The God I know/have experienced would never say/do something like that,” and I do believe that when the Holy Spirit enters our reality, we begin to get to know the nature of God. However, I do believe it’s only a beginning, that this conversion of our natures to Christ’s nature is a lifelong process, and that we never “arrive” at full assimilation (for lack of a better, less creepy word) in this lifetime. And so I guess it just makes more sense to me to trust that the good God who the Bible tells me about actually gave us the Bible as a more objective revelation of His work and character than my own impressions, and that if there are things in there that don’t seem to me to line up with my understanding of His goodness, it just means I don’t understand it all yet. I’m going to keep trying, and I’m going to try to live as best I can according to what I do understand, but it’s not God, or the Bible, that’s still in progress, but me. I’m also pretty sure God’s not opposed to using shock value to get our attention.

All that (I guess) to say that I think applying “He” to God in the Bible is intentional–by which I mean God’s own intention.