Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lighting the way

I'll admit it: there are times when Samford can seem a little too much culturally Christian and not enough faith-having, love-sharing Christian [admittedly, it's true that a few bad apples can seem to spoil the whole bunch -- and I humbly apologize for implying that everyone at Samford takes their faith culturally or lightly -- edited Dec. 6, 2006].

But tonight I got a swift kick in the pants to remind me why this sometimes-cheesy, medium-sized, Southern Baptist university is, all kidding aside, a very special place, indeed.

Tonight Samford kicked off Advent and the Christmas Season with the annual lighting of the way: the campus was decked out with lights, greenery, and ribbon; a choir sang Christmas carols, and the president of the University read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke.

Then, a student sang O Holy Night and campus-wide, the Christmas lights were lighted.

It was simple, it was elegant, and it was moving.

FEELING: Christmas cheer
LISTENING TO: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Dangerous, subversive, blessed: Mary

After I began using the Daily Office as a regular part of prayer time, I was astounded to discover the Magnificat.

At first, I thought it was one of the ancient songs of the Church, similar to the Te Deum. It's beauty appealed to me, but more than that, it's radical words led me to believe that it might have even been recent in origin.

But I soon learned that besides its Latin name, which comes from the first line of the song in that language: "Magnificat anima mea Dominum." And that those words are simply the Latin translations of Luke 1:46-55:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.
What an amazingly powerful song! And who knew that it had been hiding out in the open all those years that I had been reading the Christmas story in Luke.

It turns out that this song isn't the only dangerous, subversive thing Mary did during her life. Her revolutionary character is discussed in a great article on Christianity Today that got me thinking about this in the first place.

Read the whole article.

FEELING: A little stressed, thanks to exams
LISTENING TO: O Come All Ye Faithful

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Should Christians be Republicans (or Democrats)?

So I've been digging around alot on a website I found through Wikipedia. It's the official website of the nascent political party, the Christian Democrats.

Before you sign me up for political heresy, go take a look at their website and the values that Christian communitarianism seems to espouse. And let's take a bit of an informal poll. I'm aware that quite a few folks read the ol' blog, and I'd be interested to know who thinks that the CDU might more accurately represent their values and faith (as compared with the GOP or the Dems). Leave comments with your impressions, please.

If you're skeptical, look at this excerpt from their definition of Christian democracy, as the ideology is sometimes known:
Christian Democracy is a largely centrist political-social philosophy that is usually characterized by a communitarian leaning on the political spectrum. Broadly speaking, Christian Democracy is conservative in regard to moral or cultural issues, but with a strong social conscience that often affects economic policy.
Very interesting stuff, I think. Very interesting, indeed.

FEELING: Curious

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Obvious: Lonely people need friends

There are many people I've met along the way who seem to find it difficult to make friends. Or, if they do find a way to make deep and lasting relationships with others, there are only a few who manage to make it past all the walls in their lives to really get into their sanctum sanctorum. It turns out, I'm not the only person to notice just how isolated people seem these days.

A recent article I read talked about the isolation and loneliness that people feel today, and how that sense of emptiness has grown in our society over the past 25-30 years.

At the same time the article also points out, to its Christian audience, that as believers (and therefore friends of Jesus), they are called to reach out to people in a real, meaningful way -- by sacrificing the time and making the commitment that truly deep friendships require.

I know in my own life, this has become something of a challenge to put into practice, and it has been something that I sorely miss from college.

At Vanderbilt, I had a close circle of brothers and sister in Christ who supported me and held me accountable to a daily walk with Him; this deep drinking of relationship, this communion, is exactly what the first Followers of the Way found upon their acceptance into the Body of Christ, the new community of God's people, the Church.

And it is that communion, that koinonia, that we must first demonstrate to, and then share with, the lonely and hurting people around us.

FEELING: Challenged
LISTENING TO: Sounds of the Lucille Beeson Library

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Buffalo, here I come

After watching the election returns with a jubilant Kat last night, I finally got to sleep so I could get up this morning, go to my Business Organizations class, and then go to the airport to fly to Buffalo for our Mock Trial Tournament.

I'm a little nervous about the trip, but it should be fun. If you get a chance, throw up a prayer or two for our team, safe travels, and success. While I'm up there, I'll see if I can't blog a little about the experience.

FEELING: Nervous
LISTENING TO: Election after-action review

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pro-life, pro-poor?

A recent cover story in Newsweek discussed the "politics of Jesus" and how the so-called "religious right" has been maturing into a more broad-based evangelical movement. One of the hallmarks of this new movement is supposed to be the group's philosophy that moves outside "sins of the flesh" politics, i.e., focusing on gay marriage, pornography, etc., to include other important issues like Darfur, global AIDS, and poverty.

In many ways, I think Newsweek's story is catching up, several years late, to something that has been happening among evangelicals in my generation for many years, now. On one hand, we grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when evangelicals were, in many ways, still seen as a lunatic fringe of religious fanatics.

Of course, in the rural enclave of the hills of East Tennessee, that didn't matter much. I grew up being taught to memorize Bible verses, to pledge allegiance to the Christian and American flags -- and to the Bible.

Everyone I knew either attended church or made excuses for why they didn't. Mine was a world not far removed from a sense of Christendom that Christians in Europe must have felt a thousand years ago.

But a lot has changed between then and now. Ten years ago, my home denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, was not far from a boycott against the Walt Disney Corporation because of its addition, to its corporate benefits package, of insurance and vacation time for domestic partners. Ten years ago, our nation had yet to endure two years of a blue dress and "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

Now, an evangelical has been in the White House for six years. Today, the Southern Baptists have elected a President who says, "I believe the Bible, I'm just not mad about it."

What does all this mean for people in my generation? We have sought to deepen evangelical worship and doctrine, with adaptations of liturgy and delving into weighty theological matters that have seldom been trod by our doctrinal forebears. But in all of this, we have yet to make a political commitment.

Many young evangelicals seem tempted to return to our days of political non-participation. Instead of being involved in the highest levels of power, they say, we should return to our Bibles, to our churches, and to our accountability groups. Power corrupts, and besides, politics will never change someone's heart.

At the same time, however, there are some who cannot read the Sermon on the Mount without feeling a holy call to change hearts and then change the world.

Is there room, then, for genuine, life-changing Christian outreach in the cut-throat world of politics? Can we follow the trail of angry, often bitter fellow-believers who blazed the trail into politics, without becoming tainted with their rhetoric and vitriol?

And how can we ally ourselves with libertarians and business-people who's real politick seems to threaten the koinonia that we seek and the agape love that we strive to live?

Can we be pro-life and pro-poor?

FEELING: Contemplative
LISTENING TO: Election results coverage

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election despair

Even though some top Democrats are sounding worried about their prospects for winning tomorrow's mid-term Congressional elections, I am beginning to come to terms with what it means for this woman to be the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and third-in-line to the Presidency.

Maybe now we should consider putting someone who's a little less likely to die only a heartbeat from the Presidency.

FEELING: Depressed
LISTENING TO: The sounds of the last day of Republican control of the Executive and Legislative branches