Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Let the Huntington Healing Begin...

The John Sanders saga continues at Huntington. Because of my distance from campus, the actual things happening on campus come to me through reports from people closer to the situation. There has been some open dialogue, with a forum on academic freedom and meetings between administration and student groups. What lies ahead on the horizon, however, appears to depend heavily on one's personal point of view and position in the situation.

President Dowden sent out an e-mail to students that is consistent to the statements coming from the administration throughout. It includes a brief overview of what has gone on, a statement of appreciation for Sanders, defense of the board's history, a warning against making Academic Freedom an idol, and finally calling everyone to a state of submission to the authority of the board and taking the Christian road of healing and reconciliation. To quote, briefly:

"Many believe that Open Theism represents a significant challenge to traditional theological understandings. It is an idea that has, sadly, generated much controversy and division among evangelicals generally, within scholarly societies, in the United Brethren Church (our sponsoring denomination), and here on our own campus. The question now before us is: What next? Should there be further division? Or should the healing begin?

Over the next weeks and months, I will engage with students, faculty, trustees, alumni, and other constituents to try to promote mutual understanding and healing. I would appreciate your continued prayers and thoughts as together we work to represent the Body of Christ at Huntington College."

I have written a letter to President Dowden in response. I will post here, for the sake of open conversation, part of that letter.


President Dowden-

In regards to your call for healing as opposed to further division, you must understand why many would find this a difficult pill to swallow. In brief, you applauded the way the conversation has gone on, with the scriptural principles of "love, unity, compassion, patience, deference to fellow believers, and forbearance" as part of the process.

It is difficult to see how unity can be called forth in a community where division has been taken as an acceptable step in the process. To remove Dr. Sanders from his position is an act of disunity and appears to have been done with a lack of patience. Because a member of the community has been cut off, the body suffers, and 'unity' in light of this takes on a different meaning. It is difficult for those who have been wronged or believe they have been wronged to allow those who they believe to have done the misdeed to set the time table and agenda for healing and reconciliation. I am hopefully, however, that the leadership of Huntington College can lead toward this healing. To this end, I have a few suggestions that I believe characterize the Christian principles laid out in your letter and would lead to a renewed trust at Huntington.

1. Send Dr. Sanders out in a loving departure. While the two years salary is a step in this direction, love in the body of Christ always goes beyond what is necessary. As such, Huntington should give Dr. Sanders insurance coverage during this time of transition as well or give him more money to cover these expenses. In addition, a convocation service of prayer and celebration of Dr. Sanders' time at Huntington would be helpful. Show Dr. Sanders the love of Christ by celebrating him and giving him more money.

2. Institute an open door policy. I suggest that all future board meetings be held in an open forum, allowing any interested parties to observe the processes and interact with the board. The meetings could still progress as normal with a limited time for public response, but if the board is operating on the behalf of the campus community, that community must be invited into the process. For too long the board has been a remote institution distant from the students and faculty of Huntington.

3. Provide equal voice to faculty and students on the board. While some representation has been present historically, I recommend appointing students and faculty to the board itself, allowing them to be represented as an equal voice at the table instead of a minor presence. Again, the board is the vision setters and decision makers for Huntington; they must be an accurate representation of Huntington.

4. Clarify the vision and future of Huntington. It is important that the people of Huntington understand where the institution is going. A service of covenant and articulation between the administration, board, students, and faculty is a necessity. Making promises in public to uphold the trust of the community could go a long way to keeping this in mind. At that point the community can hold each other accountable for the actions taken. It seems abundantly clear that presently Huntington is a divided community. Those who have written and accepted the philosophy of education have a very different understanding of where things are going than does the Board. This situation will only be resolved through public confession, conversation, and covenant making.

I understand that several, if not all, of these suggestions could be categorized as 'idealistic' or 'unrealistic'. If this were an institution grounded on the pursuit of the secular aims of financial capital and individual exaltation then that would be the case, but since Huntington is founded ultimately on the truth of Jesus Christ and the abundant love of God, action as suggested here is not only possible but may be necessary.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

A Week and a Couple More Lackluster Days Later

Chris Martin of Coldplay and Gweneth Paltrow have a son whose name is Apple. My friend Heather wants to name her baby Jesse James if it's a boy, Cheyenne if it's a girl. I named my car on old lady's name one night last year before I fell asleep, forgot it by the time I woke up, and haven't been able to remember it since.

Point being: catchy names are easy to remember (unless you come up with them under the influence of alpha-waves). They're also easy to digest.

So goes most of the post election coverage. It's been catchy as hell and has gone down fairly easily. Cases? Look to Jake's post. Gary Wills' piece is catchy to the tune of 10,000 screaming Times readers. And it makes perfect sense! The Enlightenment is over! Why didn't we think of this before!?! You may or may not know my beliefs on the state of PM is America, so here they are: most of the United States, from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains (minus a few academic institutions) have a distrust of both modernism (in general) and postmodernism (in particular). For the most part, we are still a pre-modern nation, clinging to our medieval Christian ideals. Wills is correct to a point, but he fails to understand that most red states never gave a phuey about the Enlightenment, and skipped from Augustine to Wesley to Dobson in a few easy-bake steps. Kant who?

If you can get past the fact that Omri Elisha refers to the book of Esther (about as foreign to most evangelicals as Kant is), his piece is about as pre-packaged tasty and rumble-tumble digest-free. His most glaring error is simply his failure to note the significance of the Dobsons and Bauers and Falwells on our electorate. Maybe a few old Calvinists view Bush as an Esther figure, but the majority of evangelicals voted for Bush because he was able to speak their language. Kerry didn't, or couldn't. It doesn't matter which. He didn't connect with voters. Bush, for all his faults, did. He spoke about biblical definitions of marriage, the un-nuanced war on terror and abortion-free judicial appointments. This was his holy trinity. And it worked. Now he has his 3 percent margin of victory mandate, and is spending political capital and the lives of U.S. Marines in the streets of Fallujah.

Okay, so now that we're past the ugly part, I can get to the main point. Jake, you're right. Christians on either side of the political cattle-fence fall prey to the same error -- putting our hopes for the future in the hands of corporate puppets. Powerful people tend to look after their powerful friends (and interests) first. They attain power by wooing the current power structure, then keep power by playing happy-happy with said power structures.

My only point to add is that the church, or rather the present political church (not the universal, eschatalogical one), is just another one of those power structures, and has been since Constantine had his freaking, stupid vision (my general thoughts on church history, rolled into a single sentence). Jake, you're right in saying that the church needs to develop and grow, not into a more liberal or conservative one (or even a centrist one for that matter), but into a more biblical and pre-"freaking, stupid vision" one.

A while back, we caught ourselves discussing how a perfect church would start -- no advertising, no consumer-friendly Sunday-morning services -- just plain word of mouth and a hunger for the Word. What we forgot to add was, "and a severe detestation of our dear brother-in-Christ, Constantine the Whore." Yeah, I'm proud to be an American. And I'm also proud to be a member of a universal group of believers that see Democrats and Republicans as cantankerous little bastards who are mere infants compared to the hope that is the Christian Church.

Forever and ever amen.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

A Week Later

I thought that since a week had passed it would be fair to look at the election situation in brief. To start, two articles are worth reading, representing two different perspectives on the results, specifically the evangelical factor. The first, which is garnering all sorts of buzz, is by Gary Wills, from here in Evanston. This article in the New York Times, sees the re-election of G.W. Bush and the impact of the evangelical vote, as the official end of the enlightenment in the US. The other article, presenting a more nuanced view, is by Omri Elisha and is found on therevealer.org, explaining that evangelicals see G.W. Bush as an Esther figure more than a Messiah.

For my own perspective, I would simply like to point out for those still in conservative evangelical settings what is going on here, a liberal christian setting. If you could imagine how the people of NE Indiana would have felt if G.W. Bush had lost the election, this is fairly descriptive of the mood here. (even better, if you can remember how Christians in the Bible Belt felt when Bush the first lost to Clinton in 92, you have a general idea of what the feelings are here.) I have heard people say things like "I can't believe we did it again", people questioning the sovereignty of God (normally not a problem around here), and wondering who in the world are these people who are voting for Bush. Where do they come from anyway? The mood of lament and mourning has been thick since election night, now being transferred to the heightened battles in Iraq but having their immediate source in Bush's victory. Some, who are really looking at the information, are being forced to accept the fact that this is not some backroads group of crazies voting for Bush, nor is it simply the economically benefited, but rather is the majority of the voting public. (For an interesting look at the issue, including trying to pinpoint how divided or republican the country actually is, check out these sweet maps) In an election where most people could have gone either way, for whatever reason, people opted for Bush. (Again, the article by Elisha provides a possible explanation for this.)

In general, and what is my temporary conclusion on the issue, the Christian left has fallen into the same mistake of the Christian right, placing their hope, energies, and focus in a particular political party, in a particular person, and ultimately in the U.S. government. "If only Kerry would have won..." peace would be increased on the earth, the poor would be cared for, the world would better experience freedom. What is lacking in the conservative Christian celebration and the liberal Christian lament is a total commitment to Christ and an understanding that only through Christ can we have salvation. As I have said before, neither political party is going to save America, Americans, or the world because that is simply not the function of the United States of America. In the end, government will continue to service those who are in positions of power and influence at the expense of those who are not. To believe that either party is working toward peace, justice, and equality is a false hope that will continue to be disappointed for all of time. Instead, they are working for a type of peace, justice, and equality that ultimately benefits themselves. In the end, only Jesus Christ can provide true peace, justice, and equality this. Our hope, then, is in the eschatological reign of God that is promised to come, and we work towards that hope through the Body of Christ, the church, putting our energies into caring for the poor and bringing peace in the world, not the US government, yet knowing that "only God can save". What America (and the world) needs is not for a Christian left to develop, organize, and take over the public understanding of Christianity but rather for the church to develop, organize, and work against the US Government (when necessary) for the sake of the world, regardless of who is at the helm.

Monday, November 08, 2004

revolt...in style

check out...

SAVE SANDERS PROPAGANDA

http://www.cafepress.com/savesanders

Begin propaganda.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Stats on Poverty and Abortion

Ruben, the pastor from the church I have been going to sent me these thoughts and asked me to post them. Maybe we can get him to post some more stuff, because he likes to think and talk about issues that matter!

A response to Dusty's thoughts on the link between opportunity and abortion:

From Knight Ridder Newspapers: A decade long decline in abortions during the 1990s appears to have reversed. The abortion rate, which fell to a twenty-four year low in 2000 rose after that. Is it just coincidence that the abortion rate rose when the economy declined? Two-thirds of women who have abortions cite "inability to afford a child" as the primary reason. Since 2001, the economy has lost jobs, average real incomes have decreased, the minimum wage has not been raised to match inflation, and health care and health insurance have skyrocketed.

Economy policy and abortion are not separate issues; they form one moral imperative. Anti-abortion rhetoric is hollow without health care, health insurance, jobs, child care and a living wage.

The above information was gleaned from the most recent Mennonite Weekly Review.

The Sociology of Abortion

Hey guys, I like where this is going. I thought I would throw in my two cents from a specific theory in sociology that actually relates most closely with deviance, but I think it connects to poverty and abortion as well. Hirschi's Control Theory is the idea that people will do more "acceptable" behaviors as they have reason to. In regard to deviance, it states that if a person has attachments to society, has a commitment to real opportunity, has involvement, and has a belief in morality they are more likely to stay on the straight and narrow. However, if these are missing, they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors for the sake of sustaining life or even just attention. In regard to abortion, I think it seems that people that don't feel loved are more likely to be people that look for it in the wrong places, which could obviously lead to unwanted pregnancies.

I think the opportunity idea is crucial in regard to poverty and the link it has with abortion. If people believe they have something to live for, they are more likely to not engage in behaviors that put that at risk. Students that have the chance to go to college and the means to afford it, are much more likely to avoid risky behaviors from all kinds of deviance to sex (at least "safe sex") . If a person has no opportunity, they are more willing to engage these behaviors, because of a sort or "what the H" kind of attitude.

Christians that want to act as if abortion is a sin in a vacuum may look at the fourth point in control theory and say that it is simply a moral breakdown. I agree at some level, but I think there is plenty of evidence to indicate that there is more at stake. I think it could be interesting to explore the statistics closer, but I am afraid we will find that Jake and Jonny are pretty dead on.

On election day, I think Jake's thoughts about what the church should be accomplishing is important. I think far too many Christians are putting their stake in a political victory by Bush as a moral victory for the country. I am not sure I agree, for all the reasons indicated in this discussion, but also because it seems that Christians than can become lazy. Well, we voted in Bush, so now he will do what Christians need to do. I think it is quite obvious politics do not have at their heart what Jesus did...Unfortunately they never will. Christians need to look at these issues deeper than we seem to in the political realm and realize that we are called to live a life that Jesus showed us. This is not the life of political allegiances.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Re: The Economics of Abortion

Good post Jonny. I think, to Wright's defense, he would agree with most of your disdain for identifying the greatest moral issue of our times. He was writing in response to someone who was saying, directly, that abortion was the moral issue of our times, much like some are claiming homosexuality is now. His point was that the starting point for any of these issues was the economic disparity displayed on a global scale, focusing primarily on the disparity within the church universal.

To the article you are referring, I like what you said about overcoming abortion being more than simply overturning Roe v. Wade. The fact of the matter is that there have always been abortions and there always will be. Making them illegal again in this country will only drive people underground to do it, or resort to age old homemade methods of exposure and abandonment. The article identifies three main reasons given for abortion, all of which should be the focused response of the church. They are: 1. too poor to have a child 2. lack of a partner in the process and 3. inadequate funding for expensive healthcare. I see the proper response of the church to be in these areas, mostly economical (however not entirely) as a better starting point then petitioning for judges that will overturn R v. W. A church that supports the community, provides support and male leadership for single moms, and finally offers its own health care services is the best answer to these issues.

The answer has to be the church because no facet of American politics on the horizon will address and redeem these situations. This is a general fact of the matter that must be accepted by Christians on both sides of the issues. Neither Bush nor Kerry are going to eradicate the economic distress that most Americans are in. Neither party is focused on relieving the burden on the poor. Kerry's health care reforms provide a step in that direction but will still leave a remarkable number of Americans uninsured. Raising the minimum wage 2 dollars will not make it more affordable to raise a child when the expense of living raises with it.

To your point, then, I agree that within the very nature of the free market system there is no scriptural basis and (I think) no hope for relief for the poor and oppressed. This, then, will require not just the religious right, as you suggest, but the church as a whole in western culture to accept that the answer is not the free market system. At this point, and only here, will the church take seriously the need to offer a third way to the two versions of free market American politics and offer financial relief, family support, and finally a health care of its own. This, to me, brings the whole issue back to the church, what it is doing, and where its priorities lie. The paradigm shift, within the church, must be away from the goals of a market system (acquisition of power and wealth) and to the goals of the cross (identification with the dead and dying) before the global issues of abortion and poverty will be relieved. This is beyond a government offering more token financial support or education for the oppressed. All this will do is reframe and off set the oppression somewhere else.