Graduation. It’s on friday. And I don’t wanna!
Today was the last academic outpost of my seminary career. I’ve turned in all my papers, written my thesis, and today, i took my last final. Damn it. I’ve been bitchy all day since… but probably the scant two hours of sleep i got last night didn’t help, either.
So I turned to the music of my fellow seminarian Jenn Lindsay, a folk musician with wry, honest lyrics. Her song ‘no foul, no harm’ (what she called her ‘systematic theology in seven verses’) reminded me why I’m so sad: I am terrified of leaving the first community that has encouraged me to be a creative theologian, and also a creative person in general. New York is where I’ve overcome a fear of so many ‘scary’ foods, understood pieces of art without self-consciousness, grown into my talents and my brain, and listened to the voices of people from places in life I’d never previously imagined. All of these experiences, they have shaped not only me, but also the way that I seek out and interact with the divine — the way that I think about individuality, language, my body, history — the epistemology of it all.
Jenn’s song isn’t about what I’m going through right now. But it is about searching for something I’ve searched for. And ultimately, I think it is that thirst for searching that I fear losing.
Listen for my favorite lyrics (they come later in the song):
I don’t like how you are different from Brooklyn to midtown
I don’t like it when people capitalize your male pronoun
I don’t like televangelists that yell from the screen
I don’t like folks with dogs or kids who use you to be mean
But then again I don’t like it when people say you’re dead
The Dawkins/Hitchens/Dennet crowd and their whole line of dread
Cuz in quiet moments, darker days, and confusion
I know there’s something bigger than me and it’s no delusion
I’ve been reading a book for class, American Jesus by Stephen Prothero. Each chapter covers a different interpretation of Jesus in American history, from Thomas Jefferson’s literally taking a razor to the Bible to Jesus the Hindu Yogi. One of the Christian interpretations, focused mostly on the early part of the 20th century, is “Manly Redeemer.”
For example, check out this prayer by”Baseball Evangelist” Billy Sunday: “Lord, save us from offhanded, flabby-cheeked, brittle-boned, weak-kneed, think-skinned, pliable, plastic, spineless, effeminate, sissified, three-caret Christianity.”
It all seems like a quirky anecdote, but Stephen Prothero misses the boat when he forgets to mention some contemporary examples of this kind of (incredibly damaging) Christology. Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll in Seattle (remember this story from Times Magazine?) is on of the leaders in the movement, also out to redefine and manipulate Calvinist theology. Driscoll insists that Christianity is decidedly ‘chickified’ and that we need more innovative manly men permeating our churches. (You know, those dudes watching football on Sundays instead of going to church.)
Someday I’m going to write more about my conflicted thoughts on masculinity. Until then, I’ll leave you with this stupifying vision that is the reincarnation of Billy Sunday, and apparently also of our most manly Jesus himself:
A few months ago, I found a sewing machine on the free table in our laundry room.
Me: OMG a sewing machine I want it!
B: Take it.
Me: No, it’s probably broken, or missing pieces…
B: What the worst that can happen? Just take it.
Me: I feel selfish.
B: Take the dern thing.
So I did.
Now that I have a final on Monday and graduation in less than a week, what better time to make new napkins?
Poor Church History. So low on everyone’s priority list.
This week, my heart is in a state of delicate preparation: I will graduate from seminary. The past three years at Union have been those of a constant prodding: a loosening of scripture from bonds of intolerance and injustice, a massaging of my heart to understand (if not to forgive), and an unfolding of my mind to questions, to uncertainty, and to flexibility.
Some years ago, before coming to Union, I went to the Boundary Waters (on the Minnesota-Canada border) with a group of friends from bible camp. A seemingly endless chain of cold, clear lakes linking upon lakes, the Boundary Waters provides peaceful respite from motor-boats, pontoons, and other forms of civilization. There, one’s heart can wander amongst the stars even as the body submerges the mind, relentlessly sweeping away useless thoughts as a paddle cuts through water.
This trip, however, my heart could not wander freely with the stars. Instead, it is the moment in my particular history to which I pinpoint the death of my ‘faith’, at least as it existed at that time. Read the rest of this entry »