Wednesday, July 30, 2008

summer moltmann blogging: sabbath and autonomous zones

I've talked before about Hakim Bey's book Temporary Autonomous Zones. The idea is that it's important to create small, even temporary places where domination-free life can be experienced. This is more effective as a revolutionary tactic than overthrowing a dominating state or system, as such a system will immediately crush you the moment you get enough power to threaten it. With the T.A.Z. thing, folks can experience what this other life is like, and get excited about starting their own autonomous zones. Bey stresses that these can be the size of a city or a bed. I see good churches at such zones, and Moltmann has turned me on to the temporal power of such an idea via sabbath. (This time I've made the God language gender neutral, but it's otherwise unchanged...)

This is from God in Creation, p.282.

"In [God's]rest all created beings find their won rest. In the presence of God's existence is the blessing of their existence. Everything that is made has been called by the Creator from non-being into being. Everything that exists is menaced by non-being, for it can again be made a nothingness. That is why everything that is, is restless and on the search for a place where this menace cannot reach it- for a 'resting place'. It is not merely the human heart which is 'restless until it finds rest in Thee', as Augustine said. The whole creation is filled with this same unrest, and transcends itself in the search for the rest in which it can abide."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I got a job!

Beginning on August 26, I will be an assistant teacher in a pre-primary/kindergarten classroom at a local Montessori school. Since I moved to Chicago in October, I have been working through a temp agency, doing office work that I turn out not to be very suited for. In addition to being an assistant teacher during the mornings, I will teach a few short sessions of Spanish language to kindergarteners each week as a head teacher. Since this still leaves me with an 80% time job, I'm hoping to fill out the rest of my annual income teaching voice lessons and getting jazz gigs with my piano-playing friend from college who's moved here to go to CTS with David.

Needless to say, I am very, very excited about this wonderful new development in my life here in Chicago. No longer will I commute 2 hours a day back and forth from office jobs which range from "just fine" to "depressing". I will bike 10-15 minutes to work, interact with children, speak Spanish, and develop my skills teaching and performing music. I feel very grateful and look forward to the coming year.

Here are some edited-down highlights from the Wikipedia article on the Montessori method:

"In the elementary, middle, and upper school years, Montessori schools ideally adhere to the three-year age range of pupils to encourage an interactive social and learning environment. This system allows flexibility in learning pace and allowing older children to become teachers by sharing what they have learned."

"The premises of a Montessori approach to teaching and learning include the following:
* That children are capable of self-directed learning.
* That it is critically important for the teacher to be an "observer" of the child instead of a lecturer.
* That there are numerous "sensitive periods" of development (periods of a few months or even weeks), during which skills are learned effortlessly and joyfully.
* That the school room environment is prepared to encourage independence by giving students the tools and responsibility to manage its upkeep.
* That children learn through discovery... Through the use of specifically designed toys, blocks, sets of letters, science experiments, etc., children learn to instinctually correct their own mistakes instead of rely on a teacher to give them the correct answer.
* That children most often learn alone during periods of intense concentration. During these self-chosen and spontaneous periods, the child is not to be interrupted by the teacher.
* That children must actually touch the shapes, letters, temperatures, etc. that they are learning about."

In Nicaragua, children were often yelled at or smacked. I am really looking forward to working in an environment where children are treated with respect and spoken to calmly.

Friday, July 25, 2008

summer moltmann blogging: resurrection hope

from "God in Creation", pp. 92-3. Sexist language included so as not to paint too rosy a picture of Jurgen.

"Does this [resurrection hope] have practical consequences? It does not lead to the kind of optimism that overlooks the negative. But it does offer the strength to hold fast to what is dead, and to remain mindful of those who have died. The hope of resurrection brings the living and the dead into a single fellowship of hope. In this fellowship death is not suppressed, nor are the dead given over to oblivion. The messianic community of the church of the risen Chrsit has always been understood as a community of the living and of the dead.... The protest against the annihilating Nothingness must not lead to the suppression and forgetfulness of the annihilated; and equally, hope for the annihilated must not permit us to come to terms with their annihilation. The first is obviously the danger for revolutionaries; the second is the danger of the religious.
...What accords with this faith is the expectation of the transformatio mundi. The expectation of 'the end of the world' is a vulgar error. Like the expectation of the annhilatio mundi it is gnostic in origin, not biblical. It is the means by which many people would like God to win acceptance at the world's expense. But eschatology is nothing other than faith in the Creator with its eyes turned towards the future. Anyone who believes in the God who created being out of nothing, also believes in the God who gives life to the dead. This means that he hopes for the new creation of heaven and earth. His faith makes him prepared to withstand annihilation, even when there is nothing left to hope for, humanly speaking. His hope in God commits him to faithfulness to the earth.

Monday, July 21, 2008

baptist polity: form leads to content?

Here's most of my weekly response paper for my Baptist Polity class... It's about whether Baptist Polity lead to any necessary content, or whether it's just a very flexible form...

In reflecting on whether historical Baptist principles point to any content beyond a form, any policies beyond polity, I’ve actually become gradually convinced that they do, especially when functioning as designed and proclaimed.
Consider the right of the individual to join a church, and to act as his or her own Biblical interpreter, his or her own priest. This is a pretty strongly anti-authoritarian polity, and the autonomy of the local church and the seperation of church and state act to reinforce its anti-authoritarian tendencies.
If Baptists have an anti-authoritarian polity, then I would certainly argue that it will (at least usually) lead to other anti-authoritarian policies, practices, and tactics. Hakim Bey, in Temporary Autonomous Zones, argues that once individuals have experienced life beyond the bounds of domination by some ruling authority, even in a small and/or temporary context, they learn about the possibility and desirability of such domination-free living.
This raises an obvious question: if Baptist polity leads to anti-authoritarian policies, why are so many Baptist churches so grotesquely hierarchical and authoritarian? Why do authoritarian governments thrive in the US, under the hearty support of so many so-called Baptists?
I think this contemporary failure of Baptist polity to be actualized in anti-authoritarian policy is partially the victim of the lack of concern for historic Baptist principles in most Baptist churches. Many of these churches have also used a single interpretation of the Bible as an authoritative break on the individual freedoms of their members.
However, I would point out that this polity is very strong, when it functions. It is not necessarily efficient, and it is often not simple. However, it is very difficult to take over, partially as a result of that lack of simplicity and efficiency. As such, once more and more Baptist churches (and others!) start practicing the freedoms that their forebears taught, it will in theory inspire additional Baptists to start similar churches, or to transform existing churches into places that are more averse to authoritarianism. That is to say, the second answer to the “Why are Baptist churches not actually like this?” question is simply, “Give us some time.”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

netroots nation


Today I'm at the Netroots Nations conference in Austin. I'm here through the weekend on behalf of CTS, tabling for the seminary.

The Conference hasn't really started yet. It's a conference of progressive internet activists. Me, I always thought that the revolution would not be led by white people with computers, but I suppose they have a valuable role to play. We'll see how it goes, and I brought my mandolin so that I can use folk songs to lure people to the Chicago Theological Seminary booth.

In other news, most of the folks here have cool blogger names on their nametags. "Progressive Grandma," "Common Sense in CT", that kind of thing. I'm trying to think of a fake internet name that I can use on the back of my nametag. It should be both nerdy and Jesus-related.

So far, my best ideas are "Just Another Anarcho-Baptist", "John the Whaptist", "M/Human/Cleric 3/Bard 1", and "Optimus Christ." Your suggestions are obviously appreciated.

The best part of my trip to Austin so far has been going to ice cream with my long lost friend. I warned him of the dangers of gnosticism.

I'm a progressive blogger at a conference of progressive bloggers! Clearly I'm a little delirious about it. I swear, I'll post some Jurgen Moltmann quotes soon to make up for it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thinking back to Nicaragua

I've been answering questions for a prospective Chacocente volunteer by email. She sent me a list of questions that were easy enough to answer. But the last question, "what was your favorite part?" was really bittersweet and really took me back into my memories of my time there. Life there was just so MUCH. Everything was intense: the sun, the loudness of peoples' voices, the strength of their opinions, the poverty, the separation from family and friends, the pace of teaching school, the commute, the religion of one of my host families. I resisted remembering if there WAS a favorite part, but when I did I got a big feeling in my gut, you know? Tears in my eyes. There's a lot from this experience I have yet to work through.

Here's what I wrote to the prospective volunteer in response to her emailed question "What was your favorite part?". I'm really glad I was asked. Since sending my response to her, which I've posted below, I've begun seeing a counselor in part to talk through my experience of living in Nicaragua, and of coming back to this country.


My favorite part:

This was hard to think of because it was such an intense experience and so colored by loneliness and frustration and being overwhelmed. I did not have an adequate support system to help me confront the poverty I lived in, to help me do my job in the school, to ask me how I was and just sit with me and listen and encourage me. There weren't enough people saying, "how are you? you're doing a great job. thank you! keep up the good work!"

Anyway, the best parts were in the Project. I loved being outside so often. It's just beautiful. Sunsets, the stars, the sounds of animals and the lush greenery (I liked the rainy season best, Marchish to Octoberish), the crops sloping up and down soft hills, the kids running through the corn, cuddling in hammocks with kids, having my students fall asleep in my lap as I chatted with their parents in the cool evenings. I liked going home with Yamileth and watching soap operas with her mom, both of us with our tired, washed feet propped up on chairs, sipping sweet coffee together. I liked rinsing the shampoo out of my hair at the end of a long hot dusty day under a luke-warm tap with good water pressure in an outside shower made from concrete with a view of the sky and plaintain trees and of the haphazard corrugated steel roof of Yamileth's house. I liked biking through fields stretching far to either side with the mountains distant beyond and a volcano smoking to the west, I liked walking to the post office alone to mail long letters to my now-fiancee and then stopping by my favorite vendor on the way to the second bus to pick up my favorite cosa de horno, cornbread. I'm really getting choked up writing this. These were the moments I felt alive. Also hiding in the tall grass to get alone time, or chatting in a dark room with Yamileth and her son in the next bed after lights out but before falling asleep.

How long are you planning to go for? I was there for 9 months. If I had had a friend with me, someone like those 2 volunteers who came for 2 months in the middle of my time there and became my friends, I could have stayed for the whole 12 months I had committed to. Other volunteers in the past who have stayed the whole 10 or 12 months spent a whole month in the middle visiting home to rest. Everyone's different so you should just search yourself and make your own decision. I look forward to your next set of questions.