May 14, 2013
One final bit of news: our next show will be on June 7 and is nearing a sell out. We have a special guest coming, one we cannot yet name; however, we can say it is NOT Garth Brooks, but it IS a 14 time Grammy-winner, and a CMA Entertainer of the Year. Click here for information about tickets. Presented by the Christian Scholars’ Conference.
May 13, 2013
by Drew Denton
April may be the cruelest month for rain-soaked expat poets and sluggers still a bit long in the swing and procrastinating students of any stripe, but May is the month of deepest ambivalence for those attuned to the mysteries of liturgical time. The exuberance of Easter gives way this week to the sudden bewilderment of Ascension, and what on earth are we to make of it? Christ is risen, it seems, only to vanish into thin air. For nearly two millennia now we Christians have found ourselves in the uncomfortable position of proclaiming a resurrected Lord who lives in our midst yet to all appearances has taken an indefinite leave of absence. Forgive the outsiders, this Ascension Day, who take our Christ for an imaginary friend or a rather feckless messiah.
Forgive those within our own ranks who give in to the perennial temptation of publishing timetables for his return. Perhaps it is only un-requited love that compels such fantastic, ardent escapism. Forgive those among us—the majority of us living in the fatal ennui of that post-industrial province once known as “Christendom”—who have simply given up, resigned to make ourselves the heroes of our own fragmentary narratives, one diversion at a time. Perhaps it is only un-requited love that leads to such unimaginative, despondent escapism.
Jesus knew this was going to be a problem. He spent the night before his passion preparing his friends not only for the imminent trauma but also for his final departure, as if to give fair warning about how hard it would be for them to accept— “I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe” (John 14:29). Despite these parting reassurances, we’ve had a hard time coming to terms with the ascension. The antiquated three-tiered cosmology of its scriptural depiction may have sent Bultmann scrambling but is in fact the least of our worries. Scientific objections to this event—this doctrine—may still present a stumbling block to some already inclined to disbelieve, but on the whole they seem rather passé and immaterial to me. The larger problems that it poses, are—as Douglas Farrow, the lonely virtuoso of ascension theology, has recently argued—Christological and therefore ecclesiological in nature. Christ’s disappearance from our sight engenders temptations to deny his humanity, “spiritualize” his fleshly mission, and abandon ourselves to an escapism that would too easily relieve the tension of living in this time between the times.
How do we avoid such theological shortcuts (that is to say, heresies)? How do we live at once in the presence of Christ and in the absence of Christ? How can we allow grace to lift us upward, in imitation of his ascension, while also remaining content to keep our feet on the ground?
These and similar conundrums inspire the prayers that Terrence Malick weaves together in his latest cinematic doxology, To the Wonder, released last month for an Easter showing much briefer than Christ’s forty days. More modest than his previous efforts, the film does not turn tabloid-worthy crimes into allegories for the Fall—as did his pre-exilic works, Badlands and Days of Heaven—or exploit historical vehicles set in exotic locations to carry us from Paradise Lost to Paradise Redeemed-if-not-quite-Regained—as did his first two post-exilic films, The Thin Red Line and The New World—much less offer the Creation-to-Eschaton scope of The Tree of Life, with its interplanetary camerawork and surrealistic styling of the afterlife. Here Malick chooses to dwell strictly “between the times,” depicting the drama of salvation as it plays out on a humbler scale and in more mundane venues: supermarkets and Sonic franchises, tract-house bedrooms and well-worn churches, marriages strained and vocations questioned, acedia the constant sandbag weighing down souls that long to ascend. His characters struggle to live within the tension between absence and presence, gravity and grace. We follow two lovers—eventually to become legal spouses and finally, ambivalently, sacramental spouses—as they try and fail to maintain in suburban Oklahoma the passion that first bonded them in France, where together they had climbed “to the wonder” at the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. “Why do we come back down?” the woman finds herself asking from the unbroken plains, the question directed both to her husband and to the larger “Love that loves us.” Paralleling her prayers are the lament psalms a local priest who keenly feels God’s seeming absence and longs to rekindle the divine love that once animated his ministry.
Malick offers no easy answers to the dilemma of “coming back down” and living out faithfully a transcendent love that sometimes seems detached, absent, unrequited. The movie ends with the woman returning to France, an act of escapist infidelity having estranged her from her increasingly detached husband, and the priest transferring to a different diocese (or perhaps a rehabilitation center), with hints that a comparable sin, undertaken in response to a comparable feeling of detachment, has prompted the move. Gravity seems to have exerted the stronger force.
But the film does leave us with some purchase against the downward tug—or rather, points us toward what Christ left us before vanishing from our sight. Malick has ever eschewed the temptation to “spiritualize” his prayerful cinematic style, anchoring it in both a sacramental sensibility and in an actual depiction of the sacraments: the morning mass in the wheat fields in Days of Heaven, the baptism in The New World, the confirmation scene in The Tree of Life. In To the Wonder he shows us, quietly and prosaically (if he can be said to show anything prosaically), nearly the full spectrum of sacramental life, flowing from an early shot of the baptismal font in Mont Saint-Michel—water, and the buoyancy attained therein, will reappear as signifiers of grace throughout the film—into scenes of confession and eucharist and ongoing attempts to manifest the divine love promised in marriage and ordained ministry. Though many Christians do not understand all of these actions to be “sacraments” per se—and there is no telling whether Malick himself takes them as such—most would agree that they are among the avenues through which Christ often works to keep his people both grounded and elevated during our indefinite meantime. And despite the separations that take place near the film’s end, the sacraments do prove effective. The final shots show the priest reaffirming Christ’s presence in the sick and simple folk around him—and in his wounded self as an alter christus in their midst. The estranged wife, meanwhile, vows to keep her husband’s name, and the last we see of her, she is thanking the Love That Loves Us while moving lightly through wetted landscapes that may or may not be in Oklahoma and may or may not be in France.
We come back down because we must—we cannot yet follow where that Love has led. But for those with eyes to see, the world about will ever bear the imprint of his presence. The defining image of Terrence Malick’s Eastertide offering occurs on the bay of Mont Saint-Michel, where receding tides have left enough plasticity in the sand that the lovers can bounce upon the shore as if it were a trampoline, suspended in a perfect equilibrium between gravity and grace. The reverberations of Christ’s steps have imparted a similar buoyancy to the soil trod by those who, sustained by the sacraments, continue to walk in his path. Wonder not that he has taken flight, but that heavenly feet have left such lasting footprints.
 See Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (T&T Clark, 2011), a concise follow-up to his earlier Ascension and Ecclesia (Eerdmans, 1999).
 Malick’s religious commitments, like almost everything else about his life, are a matter of conjecture. Apparently of Syriac Christian ancestry, he was raised Episcopalian, and has featured the Catholic Church prominently in his last two, seemingly most autobiographical, films. Martin Sheen has credited Malick with inspiring his own re-commitment to Catholicism.
Drew Denton is a Ph.D. candidate in church history at Emory University and a catechist at his local parish.
[This post was updated on May 14, 2013.]
May 11, 2013
This coming Thursday, May 16, 2013: Tokens is pleased to present “The Buckle: Nashville, Jesus, and the Good Ol’ Boys,” featuring a Tokens-esque spin on a slice of Nashville history including some tribute-nods to some of the Nashville music greats. Little did I (Lee C.) know that our Most Outstanding Music director Jeff Taylor played piano for legendary Nashville saxophonist Boots Randolph years ago until Boots’ name came up in brainstorming. As a teetotaling college student in a teetotaling Christian college, I had to sneak into Boots’ place on Printers Alley to hear him play years ago, and little did I know until today that our man Jeff Taylor was old buddies with Boots.
We are pleased to announce a guest list including Andrew Peterson, Peter Mayer, Odessa Settles, Buddy Greene, the Boulevard String Quartet, Brother Preacher, Janet Wolfe, and more. The show is sold out, and featured in conjunction with our Presenting Sponsor The Festival of Homiletics.
Our next show, presented by the Christian Scholars’ Conference, is soon—Friday June 7 featuring another of Nashville’s greats, whom we cannot name, etc., etc., but we are glad he is coming to be with us. Tickets now available at www.TokensShow.com/tickets. Come join.[Read More]
May 7, 2013
We here at Tokens would like to thank our most outstanding backers from our recent Kickstarter campaign for our upcoming album, “The Best So Far: Odessa Settles.”
Charles Anthony DeMatteo Jr
Connie F. Valentine
Douglas G Hynd
Gabriel Lynn Tincher
Hillbilly Haiku House Concerts
Ira Wayne Settles
James F. Camp
Jim and Linda Arnett
John Mark Hicks
Kenneth L. Harvey
Linda G. Jones
Linwood Scott Beoadway
Louis C. Huesmann
Mark C Stewart
Nancy A. Hutchinson
Sarah McCorkle Moody
S Douglas Smith
April 22, 2013
We’re delighted this week to feature the foreword to Michael McRay’s new book, Letters from “Apartheid Street,” written by our own Lee C. Camp.
When I began my teaching vocation here in the buckle of the Bible Belt thirteen years ago, I realized quickly that teaching theology and “Christian ethics” is a daunting task, a task freighted with possibilities for despair. So I spoke to my new colleague Richard Goode about my already developing sense of frustration.
He pointed me to two sources of encouragement: one, the agricultural metaphors scattered throughout the New Testament, in which the Apostle Paul clearly specifies our task, a simple and humble one. We are called to plow the ground, sow seed, water seed in our ministry of reconciliation. Sometimes we are but preparing ground upon which others, we trust, will sow seed. Sometimes we are privileged to water seed, seed that others have previously sown, upon ground that was previously plowed by yet others.
Two, he pointed me again to Oscar Romero, that faithful witness to the Gospel who was murdered because he insistently spoke truth to oppressors. Romero, too, said on various occasions that liberation comes in knowing that we cannot do everything ourselves. Romero reminds us that we are only workers in God’s great plans.
As one of Michael’s teachers, I am grateful to say I got to water some of the seed that had already been sown by others, and I am grateful to our friends at Cascade and Wipf & Stock for bringing Michael’s recounting of his experiences in Israel and Palestine to publication.
But more than that, I am grateful to see herein his own struggle to embody a life of sowing the seed of God’s Kingdom. I am grateful that this journal—one which I encouraged him to seek to have published—allows us to see his own struggles. It is worth noting that even though Michael often speaks and acts boldly, he is as riddled with questions as the rest of us. So I am grateful he refuses to come to too easy conclusions. And I am grateful for his willingness to acknowledge forthrightly that even his own peace-making work carries with it an inescapable air of white, male privilege, especially significant when carrying a U.S. passport through Palestinian checkpoints.
Embodying the Gospel is not, of course, an exercise in self-righteousness. Thus these pages, perhaps because of the ambiguity and questions herein, bear witness to a faithful attempt to practice the Good News of a Kingdom described on the Galilean hills also described herein.
I have seen many of the streets, shops, and walls Michael describes here. I have also seen the tension between oppressor and oppressed. Those of us at ease in the American Zion must needs hear the stories: a family whose home was destroyed by heavy machinery while the family was still inside, killing children and a pregnant mother and a grandparent; olive groves, cultivated for generations, uprooted to build a wall of separation; domesticity and labor and child-rearing constantly threatened by arbitrary-but-all-too-well-imposed systems of check-points and confiscation and arrest, maddening to even the casual observer; heartless mechanisms of colonialism and occupation. I walked, some years ago, only a half-day the streets of Hebron, and only a half-day the markets of Ramallah, and only brief stints in other locales in the West Bank, and I found my anger to be boiling and accompanied with cursing. You will see the same frustration herein, and for good reason.
But it is that temptation to self-righteousness which is so dangerous: we begin to tell, as Michael so well puts it, a “single narrative,” in which all the wickedness is on one side, and all the righteousness on the other. And—this is something I learned herein—we have a felt-need for a “perfect victim,” the victim in whom there is no guile, before we will commit ourselves in empathy for oppressed.
Michael’s own questions and inner arguments about narrative and victim show the seed of the Gospel at work in his life. In his epilogue, you will hear Michael call to mind the word of Will D. Campbell, himself angry over the death of a good young man, murdered in the height of the Civil Rights movement, in which we Americans struggled with our own systems of apartheid. Campbell realized that he was demonizing the white-man, the murderer. A friend, an agnostic Jew, sensing the inconsistency in Campbell’s demonization of the white racist, pushed Campbell to summarize the gospel in ten words or less. Campbell insisted that that was a useless exercise. The agnostic insisted. Campbell blurted out, “we’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.”
Surely Campbell’s eight word aphorism is an insufficient summary of the Gospel, but it points, nonetheless, at an indispensable truth which we must carry with us in our work of sowing and watering the seed of the Gospel: we are all broken, sharing together in the woundedness of the world and the fundamental alienation that marks human history. And so you will hear herein not only tales you must be sure to hear, of the oppression of Palestinians, but the humanity of Israeli Defense Forces, nineteen and twenty year olds many of whom hate, too, the drama of hostility into which they have been caught up, wanting to go home and return to their own visions of domesticity and olive trees and child-rearing. So I am very glad Michael sought to carry on conversations about tennis and celebrities and life-goals with young men carrying M16’s who were doing the work of the occupying forces.
As he reflects—both upon one moving account of a particular protest, complete with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets and tanks and jeeps, and also in his own epilogue—it’s not always clear why we do such things: why we protest injustice; why we seek to make peace; why we bear witness to a Galilean who was also murdered in Palestine. That is, it’s not clear why we do such things when we can see no clear fruit.
I suspect that there are at least two good reasons, and probably many more: one, our continuing to sow seed, which we cannot ensure will yield a harvest, is one way of keeping our own souls tender enough to receive in our own lives the ongoing work of God’s Spirit of reconciliation and peace-making. “The life you save may be your own.” And two, what else is there to do? We have heard the call of Jesus, to follow in the way of truth-telling and suffering-love and doing-justice, and to listen not to the siren song of power and might and imposition. If we are not to fall prey to the various manifestations of oppression ourselves, then all there is to do is to continue such good work, together, one day at a time, trusting that the Lord of all creation will do what is right.
Lee C. Camp, Professor of Theology & Ethics at Lipscomb University, in Nashville, Tennessee, is the host of WWW.TOKENSSHOW.COM and the Dispatches from the Buckle Podcast, and the author of WHO IS MY ENEMY?[Read More]
April 15, 2013
by Lauren Smelser White
Some of my favorite moments during the Tokens Shows I’ve attended have happened during the “Class and Grass” music segment—a portion of the show that captures the whole Tokens venture, which is about breaking down false dichotomies if it’s about anything.
Besides “Class and Grass” being plain old entertaining (…I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear a playful duel between the dulcet tones of a classical orchestra and the yip-skipping liveliness of a bluegrass string band??), it strikes me that there’s also something deeply important about this weaving together of things not typically introduced. I guess I find that interweaving appealing because I believe that that real things tend to spill over the labeled boxes we make to contain them anyway.
Like everyone else, I’ve been fitted with labels of my own. Currently, a few come to mind:
For starters, I’m an Alabama girl, born and raised in the Bible Belt; I’ve never had a long-standing address beyond the Mason-Dixon line. So, it’s understandable that my friends—particularly those who don’t share my upbringing—call me Southern.
Somewhere along the way I learned a bit about buying hostess gifts and sending thank you notes, about the time-table for getting hair highlights re-done, about making sure there are good towels in the bathroom for house guests. Stir that together, slap some make-up on it, and people might call it a lady.
For those who know T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” you’ll remember the anti-hero who measures out his life with coffee spoons. These days I often think of him as I measure out my life in coffee pots, alarm reminders, and the rhythms of school semesters. My current goal is to finish a doctorate in Theological Studies before I keel over dead. Why torture myself this way, you ask? Suffice it to say that I care a whole lot about the church.
So, you could easily drop me in a box, scribble on it “Southern Church Lady,” snap the lid, and move on. Something like that happens pretty often. I know that something like that happens to you pretty often too. And it’s a painful fact of our sinful condition that the labels you’re given might be a lot more far-fetched and hurtful. I’m lucky, after all, that my problem is that I’m written off as odd (…a theologically conservative woman who cares so much about church doctrine?), perhaps boring (…blonde hair and no tattoos? snooze) or simple (…oh, she’s just “Suh-thern”).
One thing’s for sure: like me, you’ve known the eyes that Eliot’s Prufrock has known, the eyes “that fix you in a formulated phrase,” pinning you like a bug on a science fair spreading board. You know how little room this pinning gives you for fumbling toward the truths of who you are. You understand Prufrock when he asks: “And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,/ When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,/ Then how should I begin/ To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?”
What I find most tragic about our habit of labeling each other is how easily those labels become distortions of who we are. One aspect of our identity is captured, deliberately blown up to obscene proportions, and then shoved around our ears like a dunce cap.
It would be better if the label had nothing to do with who we are…but to take the things that we can’t help, or that we love, or simply enjoy, and make a mockery of them? To try to make each other ashamed of, or apologetic for, the basic aspects of what makes us us? Now, that’s something that’d bring a hell-fiery glint to an Old Testament prophet’s eye.
The way I see it, we can all take a hint from Token’s “Class and Grass”—we all need to break down some false dichotomies. And, if you’ll bear with this “Southern Church Lady,” I’ll get started on three right now. (I’ve given them some thought, because they have to do with aspects of who I am and what I hold dear.)
1. Southern and sophisticated aren’t opposites; not if what you mean by “sophisticated” is sharp-witted, creative, and complex.
I think people assuming that Southerners are “simple” is a lot like the U.S. English-speaker’s general misconception that Spanish is an easy language to learn, when it’s actually one of the more difficult to master. Why would we assume that Spanish is simple, other than because we assume that Spanish-speakers are simple? If we take time to learn anything at all about our Spanish-speaking neighbors we find out how embarrassingly stupid that assumption is.
I’d likewise challenge anyone who thanks their stars that they aren’t “simple Southerners” to take time to learn about us, starting by recognizing just how diverse we are. Then I’d ask them to figure out how to make our food and play our instruments, to live close to our land and navigate our social systems, to tell our stories and riddles and bear our tragic secrets, all without feeling the weighty complexity of being a Southerner.
I’d challenge them to wait a minute before trying to con us into shedding, or peddling, our Southernness…just so we end up looking, talking, working, and worshipping like everyone else? I’m still trying to figure out what we’d gain from that.
2. “Church” and “world” are not set apart from one another. Not by a long shot.
For starters, good luck finding a church that isn’t full of people characterized by larger cultural communities. And good luck finding any implication in the Gospels that God’s Logos—the Word through whom all that is was made—came to dwell among us to establish neat little communities walled off from the secular world so we can just get to heaven.
To my mind, “church” is far more like a spontaneous event that occurs in the world than anything else…certainly than it is like a government or a business. For all of their warts, Stone-Campbellites long understood this. It’s why my Grandma still refuses to call a church building anything other than a “meetin’ house.”
3. Finally: To be a “lady” is NOT to be the best kind of woman, as compared with someone deemed “un-lady-like.”
Sure, I may know how to host a bridal tea…I may even admit to enjoying it somewhat…but I also know that “lady-like-ness” is nothing but a cultural game. And it can be a highly restrictive one. Which women get to be “ladies,” first of all? Go ahead; picture them. What does their hair, their skin, their build look like? Now, think about it: What types of women are excluded from that picture, generally deemed unworthy of that group’s honors and privileges? How do you think that ends up affecting them?
Secondly, when it comes to the women who have made the cut, how do you think it affects their self-worth when they find out that they’ll be objects of scorn if they step out of line—that their hearts are as pure as gold, glorifying God most fully, when they are angels seen but not heard? As one of my favorite theologians points out, “it is hardly reassuring to be told…that women are ‘closer’ to the ideal human than men, when it turns out that any kind of active self-assertion or manifest talent is frowned upon in their case as ‘unfeminine’.”
I have sisters, mothers, and grandmothers all over this city, continent, and world, each of us living out our womanhood in innumerably similar-yet-different ways. In the very panoply of our manners of being women, we are a phenomenal testament to our Maker’s creativity. Be careful when putting us in restrictive boxes, lest ye incite the Maker’s wrath.
* In my effort to clear up my “Southern Church Lady” name here, I don’t mean to imply that there’s something wrong with highbrow, high-church, high-heeled debutantes from high Northeastern stock.
I just believe that it’s of utmost importance that we work to encounter one another without going straight for pins and labels…and, in the meantime, let’s figure out which boxes we tend to place on the top shelf, and shake them up a bit too.
I guess you could say that I think there’s only so much “class” the world can handle before it’s desperate for a little “grass.”
 Lines 56-60
 Sarah Coakley, Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender. Blackwell: Oxford, UK (2002), 96.
Lauren Smelser White is a Tokens Blog contributer and a Ph.D. student in Theological Studies at Vanderbilt University. Lauren’s work at Vanderbilt focuses on the transfiguration of desire in the event of Christian revelation and the self-offering activities that sustain cruciform faith. She is also a fellow in the Program for Theology and Practice, which seeks to form groundbreaking scholars who connect their academic work to the practice of ministry and will be outstanding teachers of people preparing for ministry.
April 10, 2013
We’ll be streaming a special edition of Tokens from Allen Arena at Lipscomb University tonight, April 9. You can listen in, starting at 6:50 pm CST. Click here for more details.[Read More]
April 1, 2013
by Andy Gullahorn
When I was in Las Vegas almost a decade ago with some of my family, someone gave us tickets to see George Carlin. I didn’t know much about his stand-up comedy except that he was known for trying to shock people with some of the most vile language known to man. Thinking back on that night, I don’t remember anything specifically shocking about it, but I do remember walking out of there with advice for anyone else interested in going: You can avoid some really awkward moments by not attending with—and sitting next to—your mother. Trust me, it was awkward. But that wasn’t the only thing I remembered about that performance.
I remember George talking about how he thinks we care way too much about being “germ free” these days. He thought it was absurd the way we cook the taste out of a hamburger in fear of food poisoning. We would even go so far as to swab prisoner’s arms with alcohol before giving a lethal injection, because we wouldn’t want them to die and be sick. He contended that this fear of germs only makes our immune systems weaker and in turn leaves us more vulnerable to illness and disease. Then he told his own, personal immunization story.
“When I was a little boy in New York City in the nineteen-forties, we swam in the Hudson river. And it was filled with raw sewage! OK? We swam in raw sewage, you know, to cool off. And at that time the big fear was polio. Thousands of kids died from polio every year. But you know something? In my neighborhood no one ever got polio. No one! EVER! You know why? Because WE SWAM IN RAW SEWAGE! It strengthened our immune system, the polio never had a prayer.
“So personally I never take any precautions against germs. I don’t shy away from people who sneeze and cough. I don’t wipe off the telephone. I don’t cover the toilet seat, and if I drop food on the floor I pick it up and eat it! . . . And you know something? In spite of all the so-called “risky behavior,” I never get infections. I don’t get colds; I don’t get flu; I don’t get headaches; I don’t get upset stomach. And do you know why? Because I got a good strong immune system! And it gets a lot of practice!” *
I thought about this story the other day because I am the father of a five, eight, and eleven year old. Any parent with at least a couple of kids in that age range knows that in addition to the frequent permission slips, graded papers, finger paintings, and heads full of lice, the kids also bring home a Russell Stover assortment of viruses. Usually these things quickly make their way through the entire family because, for some reason, a parental figure is expected to care for a child even when it is a sick, snotty one. But I made it through this last stomach bug barrage unaffected. In fact, I haven’t been sick in over three years (knock on wood). This is great news for a couple of reasons. First, it is always just nice to not be vomiting. Secondly, I can use this information to justify one of my favorite hobbies.
Four years ago, I took advantage of a new “Bowling Stimulus Package” at my local bowling alley that offered two free games and shoes with the purchase of a lunch combo from the “super-healthy” grill there. What started out as a kind of joke has turned into a weekly commitment. I started inviting other guys after that first visit and started keeping score after the first few months. The Wednesday Bowling Lunch group has been bowling every Wednesday since that first one in February of 2009, and, while we normally have about twenty guys there each week, over 180 guys have joined us throughout those four years. And now, as if to prove that it is no longer a joke to me, I have my own bowling shoes, three bowling balls, and a rolling piece of luggage to carry it all in.
I am not ashamed of becoming the very bowling fanatic I used to internally mock four years ago because I realize that bowling is my Hudson River. Although it probably isn’t true, I like to think that years of eating a burger, then bowling, then eating fries, then bowling again—all with the same hand—have just served to strengthen my immune system. If I can withstand bowling alley germs and expose myself to them on a regular basis like an immunization shot, then surely I can take whatever the kids bring home from elementary school. My immune system gets a lot of practice.
Still, I have found that avoiding stomach viruses is not the greatest health benefit I get from my bowling habit. I don’t know if it is just this stage of life as a self-employed singer-songwriter married to a self-employed singer-songwriter, trying to raise three young, active, hungry, whiny, perfect kids, but it sure is easy to get caught in the isolating whirlwind of activities and obligations. Left to my own devices, I could be floating from one event to the next like a piece of space debris, essentially alone with no tether to the real world. When I made a commitment to show up every Wednesday at 11:30am to bowl, I had no idea that seeing the same faces every week over a long period of time in a context completely disassociated from work, responsibility, or obligations could be that tether for me. But it is.
I often wonder how eating junk food and bowling can feel as healthy and life-giving as it does to me now. I am at the age where I have to make a number of intentional decisions to maintain my health with things like diet and exercise. The decision to bowl was obviously not made with that in mind. It was a selfish decision, made purely for fun and enjoyment. It was a choice to avail myself to a community of guys and build history one week at a time. It is a way to practice showing up regardless of how I feel that day, and then being rewarded by the conversations, encouragements, and trash-talk from dear friends. It reminds me that a spiritual life isn’t about accomplishing a list of tasks out of obligation. No, it is like walking to the banks of the muddy Hudson River and jumping in just to play in it—never knowing that there might be hidden, long-term “health” benefits in the undercurrents.
*Although George did not get “infections, colds, the flu, headaches or an upset stomach,” he apparently did get heart attacks. But that is beside the point.
Andy Gullahorn is a Tokens Blog contributor. He spends his time playing concerts and house shows across the country, accompanying other artists on the road, and providing his three kids with plenty of stories to tell their counselors in 20 years. Andy was a Kerrville New Folk Winner in 2010 and was a runner-up at the 2009 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. He has recorded several CDs, including Reinventing The Wheel (2007), The Law of Gravity (2009) and Christmas (2010).[Read More]
March 26, 2013
Our Social Media Editor has started a series of Lenten posts about Watership Down on his blog. We share this one about strangers and neighbors with you here.
I want to begin near the end of Watership Down. After Hazel and his gang get settled on Watership, they realize they need does in order to sustain their new warren. Kehaar, a friendly bird, locates a large—overcrowded, in fact—warren some distance from Watership, and Hazel decides to send an envoy to request that that warren, Efrafa, send some does back with the rabbits from Watership. A few days later the envoy returns, severely beaten, with an unbelievable report: the rabbits of Efrafa live in what we humans would call a police-state.
The Efrafans’ leader, General Woundwort, created a system of “Marks”—literally deep cuts on different parts of the rabbit’s body that identify which part of the warren the rabbit belongs—and these Marks determine how each rabbit can act. For example, each Mark goes out in turn to eat. On the surface, the reason for this is so that the large warren doesn’t give itself away; the number of rabbits outside the warren at a given time needs to be controlled. But more it’s so that Woundwort and the Council know where certain rabbits will be at a given time. The Efrafan rabbits find themselves underground for extended periods of time, and the overcrowding has terrible effects on the rabbits. One example given is that many of the does are unable to bear children.
Thus, when the envoy from Watership Down arrived and saw these conditions, they naturally assumed that Woundwort would be all-too-happy to send some of the does away. However, they were gravely mistaken as it turned out. The police-state’s policy was to arrest all unknown rabbits; so the rabbits from Watership Down find themselves in front of the Council and ordered to stay in Efrafa . . . for the sake of national security, as it were. Through a series of events that I won’t here give away, the rabbits are able to get back to Watership and report the strange world of Efrafa to Hazel and the others, who all realize that getting does from Efrafa will be harder than they anticipated.
Hauerwas’ treatment of Efrafa in his essay “A Story Formed Community” is extremely helpful. He notes that the Efrafans are living in a state of self-deception. Woundwort thinks he is providing safety and security, but, in fact, what he provides is the complete removal of community. Hauerwas notes that this self-deception turns Efrafan neighbors into strangers.
I find this helpful for thinking about the way we Americans live. Often, for the sake of alleged safety and security, we know none of our neighbors. We live in apartment complexes where we don’t know the family whose door is less than a yard away from our door. We live as strangers to our should-be neighbors. What might it look like if we made our stranger-neighbors into neighbor-neighbors? Perhaps we—myself included—should resolve to get to know the other next door as a late Lenten practice this year.
One more item the rabbits learn is that Efrafans have a short memory. Blackavar, an Efrafan rabbit that makes it to Watership, tells Bigwig information that Bigwig does not act on, and when Blackavar’s warning turns out to have been accurate, Bigwig tries to apologize to Blackavar, but Blackavar is not able to remember that Bigwig had ignored his warning. In Efrafa, readers are told, if a rabbit’s advice went unheeded, it was forgotten; so, in Blackavar’s mind, Bigwig had never wronged him. Short memory.
I wonder if we Christians in America also often suffer from short memory. We serve a King whose kingdom comes through his own execution. As Yoder wrote in The Politics of Jesus, “The cross is not a detour or a hurdle on the way to the kingdom, nor is it even the way to the kingdom; it is the kingdom come” (51). As we speed toward Good Friday, let us remember that Jesus takes up the cross for the love of neighbor. May we all learn to love our neighbors as Jesus loved his.
Craig D. Katzenmiller is Tokens’ Social Media Editor. Currently, he is pursuing a DPhil in Humanities, focusing on Liturgical Theology and Ethics, at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg.[Read More]
March 20, 2013
Many thanks, friends! What an outstanding response thus far to our “The Best So Far: Odessa Settles” Kickstarter campaign.
One week in, and we are—at the time of posting this—43% toward our campaign goal.
Remember that Kickstarter funding is “all-or-nothing,” which means that we must reach a full 100% of our goal, or the project does not proceed. So please consider sharing the link below with friends whom you think would be excited with you to see this project come to fruition.
We are most hopeful that we will reach our goal, and are grateful for your partnering with us.[Read More]