night

I’m probably the only worship song leaders who, during a Christmas day worship service, introduced the song “O Holy Night” by way of a reference to the book “Night” by Elie Wiesel, which recounts his experiences in the death camps Auschwitz (which I’ve visited and will never forget) and Buchenwald.

The juxtaposition is too profound to ignore.  On the one hand, one of the best (if not the best) Christmas carols, singing about that great night when the Light of the World entered our world through the womb of a young woman.  On the other, one of the most hideously horrific glimpses into one of the worst (if not the worst) seasons in human history, when darkness in its blackest hue was manifest through human indifference, racism and genocidal hatred.  Two very different nights indeed.

For me, this serves as a necessary and unnerving reminder of yet another aspect of the doctrine (and more so the Event!) of the Incarnation.  Divinity did not only ‘come near’ to our world, it entered and united to it.  God did not unite to the best and most beautiful bits of creation, but to all of it, warts and all.  The Light of the World descended into the darkest pitch.  For the Early Church Fathers who debated vigorously how to understand the dual nature of Christ, he must be fully divine in order to save us, and fully human in order to effect the salvation.  The slogan they developed was, “What is not assumed cannot be saved.”  Thus, Christ fully descended into humanity.

It occurs to me that there is no place on earth, no hospice, no church, no home, no garden, that is so pure and righteous that evil does not touch it with its corrupting finger at least in part.  And conversely, there is no place on earth, no brothel, no wall street, no hard drive, and yes, no death camp, that is so stained and putrid that good does not scatter at least some small dots of light within it.

Reading “Night” was hard going, to be sure.  One cannot have a beating heart and not grimace at times.  But I was struck by the faint glimmers of light within such darkness.  The SS soldier who was kinder than the rest.  The fellow prisoners who sacrificed their own food, safety and lives for the sake of others.  The boy who played his violin for all he was worth in a room full of frozen, dying bodies.

There are few more faith-challenging realities than suffering on this scale.  For Elie Wiesel, this Night murdered his God and his faith forever.  One must not glibly respond with easy theological justifications, however sound they may be.  But suffice to say, for me, among other things, these little dots of light are whispers of hope, audible for those who listen for them among the cacophony of white (and yet black) noise which can be so loud at times.  In Christ, God is with us, crying with us, praying with us, shivering with us, sweating, bleeding, and yes, dying with us.

finished

Well, it’s been a good little while since I’ve posted, because I’ve been finishing my undergrad degree :)  I’ve turned in my last essay just this Sunday, which was one of two larger (6,000 word) research projects.  I attach links to the PDFs below.

Upon graduation in March, I will officially have three qualifications, one related to building houses, and two related to ‘building up’ people :)

AAS (Associate of Applied Science: Building Materials Merchandising)
DipPL (Diploma of Pastoral Leadership)
BappTheol (Bachelor of Applied Theology)

I’m not sure what my posting regularity or content will be like.  Time will tell.  But anyway, here are those PDFs.

  • orientation –disorientation –reorientation(PDF) a thematic integrative research project on homosexuality –Myk Habets, supervisor
  • alternative currency: An Economic Contrast of the Harlot & Bride in John’s Apocalypse & Implications for Alternative Ecclesiology in Consumptive Culture(PDF) theological research paper –Andrew Picard, supervisor

prophecy & politics

…funny how most (not all!) American Christians are happy to ‘get political’ when it comes to abortion and gay marriage (‘Oh yes, let’s fight for godly legislation!’), but scream ‘socialism’ when it comes to issues like benefits for poor, out of work, or infirm people – or (shock, horror) free health care…

Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims—
Laws that make misery for the poor,
that rob my destitute people of dignity,
exploiting defenseless widows,
taking advantage of homeless children.

What will you have to say on Judgment Day,
when Doomsday arrives out of the blue?
Who will you get to help you?
What good will your money do you?

Isaiah 10:1-3 (The Message)

eros-anthropos?

Admittedly a bit dated, but a 1998 paper by the Joint Methodist-Presbyterian Public Questions Committee suggested that for those “whose emotional or physical make-up means that it is unlikely they would ever be able to enter a mutually acceptable and honest physical relationship with another person’, prostitutes should be provided, and that “to deny such people any opportunity to express their sexuality physically seems almost inhuman.”

I’m particularly interested in the last bit.  It’s not hard to see that the statement locates physical sexual expression at or near the core of what it means to be human.  In the sexualised West, it’s perhaps not surprising to see such an assumption.  Transpose this specific statement (“It’s [almost] inhuman to deny people the opportunity to express their sexuality physically.”), into general key: “It’s [almost] inhuman to deny people the opportunity to express any/all forms and expressions of all desires & identities.”

mother nature as killer

The notion is reflected commonly in popular discourse.  Humans wreck the planet and the earth, the universe, or nature ‘fights back’.  Noah’s flood, local or global is nothing compared to what our angry step-mother-nature will do if we don’t change our ways and look after the planet better… Makes an entertaining novel, movie, etc.

Because in our culture, we are quite OK with the idea of nature (which has no personality, intentions or consciousness!) being the judge of humanity; but as for God (who is personal, intentional and omniscient), that is simply not acceptable…

suzanne

second verse by Cohen:

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

more for less?

I just saw an ad for ‘the Warehouse’, which used the by-line: “Get more Christmas for less.”

This reminded me of the observation (or should I say gross-but-still-relatively-accurate-generalisation?) I’ve made about the USA since moving to New Zealand.  We (yes, I said ‘we’) looooooooooove to get a lot of stuff for not very much money.  Examples – ‘all you can eat’ Buffets for like $7.99.  Sam’s Club & Walmart (stop what you’re doing and watch ‘Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price’ right now).

There’s a name for this kind of desire – it’s called the desire to not pay what something’s worth – or stealing?

Just sayin’.

tween fashion

TVNZ’s programme ‘Sunday’ included a segment related to concerns over tween (8-12 yrs) fashion, particularly the issue of girls dressing “too sexy too soon” (which was the title).

In addition to this being evidence that modesty is not just the concern of conservative Christians, I was also interested in the introductory comment about the struggle of parents “to keep them children for as long as possible”.  I’ve often wondered about the tension between biological adulthood and ‘adulthood’ as defined by mod-western culture.

Perhaps rather than trying to ‘keep them children’, we should be helping them to both ‘be’ and ‘behave’ as adults.  Que the ‘archaic’, ‘religious’ – and perhaps more relevant than we dare admit – practice of most ancient cultures, namely rites of passage which welcomed new adults into adult life and responsibilities.