Wednesday, May 30, 2007
To which Caitrin replied:
"Come on Mom....
It's easy to sing along to,
Akon does those "woo-hoos" that make everyone join in,
it has a fast part where if you learn the lyrics you feel really proud of yourself for being able to sing along without goofing up,
it uses bad grammar,
and, hello.... GWEN STEFANI!!!"
Uh, I knew that....
Monday, May 28, 2007
Sunday, May 27, 2007
What am I in for? Steve, come to my aid!
Calling all Bruins - come to my aid! What should I do to protect myself from noise-pollution over the next three years?
Saturday, May 26, 2007
I've scrubbed the counters in all the nooks and crannies that have been ignored for a semester.
I went back to the gym to work out. Here's my routine: weigh self, curse, plug in headphones, run on treadmill while watching ESPN highlight reels, sweat, strain thigh muscle, walk, run, walk, adjust volume on iPod, watch iPod go flying off ledge to the madly careening conveyer belt below, bend to retrieve, only to be thrown from the Karate trained black belt, face and knees first onto the indoor-outdoor carpet, jump to feet quickly, pretend it didn't happen, plug back in, turn up volume, put on "I'm a serious worker-outer" face, finish 30 minute taste of hell, return to locker room where I strangle self with bathing suit, swim six laps (I'm so proud), soak in jacuzzi with the senior diabetics club (which makes me feel slim again), return to lockeroom, step on scale (why?) to see if I've lost a micro pound, shower and go home. Repeat when necessary (like every day, if I ever want to see those size two jeans come out of moth balls).
I shopped. You know, filled the cart, paid a lot of money, unloaded oodles of groceries and heard children exclaim: "Wow, there's food in the house." I highly recommend not having food in the house for long periods of time followed by reasonable amounts if you need to elicit praise from children.
I worked at my computer (writing about writing, reading about writing, laughing at bad writing on websites that claim to teach writing, snorted at ideas about what constitutes good writing by bad writers, reread some of my old writing and gaffawed at my own bloated ideas of what good writing is...).
I thought about theology. Yeah, so that's not new. I mostly thought about how weird it is to get a degree in something you not only can't prove (the existence of God) but that you could literally read and write thousands of pages about the topic and have to argue from conviction about the unseen, unfelt, immaterial. Some God somewhere is laughing.
I watched all the cool TV shows this week.
Favorite new cool show: On the Lot! Film directors make movies every week and the audience will vote on the best ones. Very cool.
Favorite finale of a show I don't follow: Lost. O.M.G.!!! Is that a crazy story or what? I have seen like five episodes in three years. But this one really got to me... I dreamt about it, went to online communities to read about it, went to fan sites, talked to friends.... all about a series I know next to nothing about... and determined that I have no life.
Favorite Idol: Was kicked off a week early (Melinda). However, Blake is my favorite performer and I expect great things from his fashionable little tukus.
Today I take Caitrin to the open outdoor swimming pools at the YMCA and I hardly slept I am so looking forward to it. Lounge chairs, no Internet access, sunshine, water and drumstick ice cream cones. Does it get any better?
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Second, we've all heard of Christian martyrs. This text sees Judas dying as a martyr—because here the other disciples hate him so much that they kill him! But the Gospel of Judas challenges the idea that God wants people to die as martyrs—just as it challenges the idea that God wanted Jesus to die. Whoever wrote this gospel—and the author is anonymous—is challenging church leaders who teach that. It's as if an imam were to challenge the radical imams who encourage "martyrdom operations" and accuse them of complicity in murder—the Gospel of Judas shows "the twelve disciples"—stand-ins for church leaders—offering human sacrifice on the altar—and doing this in the name of Jesus! Conservative Christians hate gospels like this—usually call them fakes and the people who publish them (like us) anti Christian. There was a great deal of censorship in the early Christian movement—especially after the emperor became a Christian, and made it the religion of the empire—and voices like those of this author were silenced and denounced as "heretics" and "liars." The story of Jesus was simplified and cleaned up—made "orthodox."
For when Jesus' followers tried to make sense of how their messiah died, some suggested that Jesus died as a sacrifice—"he died for our sins." The idea that Jesus' death is an atonement for the sins of the world becomes the heart of the Christian message, for many. It's certainly the heart of the New Testament gospels. There Jesus, before he dies, tells his disciples, when you eat this bread you're eating my body, which I'm giving for you; you're drinking my blood when you drink this wine. Because I'm giving my body and my blood as a voluntary sacrifice for you. So the worship of Jesus' followers became a sacred meal in which people drank wine and ate bread, ceremonially reenacting the death of Jesus.
We call it the Eucharist, the Mass. We're so used to it we hardly see that it's a cannibalistic feast. But whoever wrote the Gospel of Judas has Jesus laughing at the disciples, to say, what you're doing is ludicrous. Turning the death of Jesus into something like an animal sacrifice. Eating flesh and drinking blood ritually, even, is a kind of obscene gesture. This author, this follower of Jesus, sees the idea of Jesus dying for our sins as a complete misunderstanding of the whole message of Jesus.
Pagels contends that while the Gospel of Judas doesn't belong in the canon, it doesn't belong in the trash either. She concludes her article saying: "...it belongs in the history of Christianity—a history that now, in light of all these recent discoveries, we now have to rewrite completely."
I started to write a blog entry this morning about the danger of religious creeds. As I read this article, I saw that one reason creeds are dangerous is that they don't allow for discovery and modification when new information comes to us. We are called on to defend or criticize or overthrow those new revelations to protect the old formulations of faith. Worse, we may be protecting wrong formulations of faith, in fact...
Monday, May 21, 2007
Sunday, May 20, 2007
For those who are diehard Julie Unplugged voyeurs, my entire graduation set can be viewed here. Warning: there are 42 pictures and I'm in every one. Ack! :)
What an extraordinary day! My aunt and uncle flew in from California on Friday night. My aunt was in the car for five minutes and immediately we were deeply involved in conversation about the nature of the testimonial genre in theology, particularly as it relates to torture (Diana Ortiz was the focus of this conversation). June (my aunt) is a tireless thinker, a deeply affirming person and thoroughly enjoyable company. We never stopped talking the whole weekend.
One of the things I keep thinking about at the end of this journey is not what I believe but rather how I think theologically. On the way to the airport today, June and I discussed the fact that part of the postmodern condition is that once we've deconstructed faith, truth, reality, we are faced with a table of puzzle pieces that won't neatly fit back together. Somehow extra pieces get into the box and refuse to torque themselves into the right shape to complete the picture.
So must we account for every piece when we put our theology back together? In other words, when we are thinking theologically, just how many experiences, ideas, doctrines, traditions must we account for, include, reconcile?
There is no definitive answer to this question obviously, but I did find myself automatically seeking principles for that process. I do consider it vitally important not to ignore the misfits in our theological puzzles. We want to. We hate that some of those ideas and experiences mess up our neat, tight, well-structured theologies. We want to have an organized system of beliefs that is one size fits all.
Yet if we leave out (deliberately or naively) the schools of thought, experiences, and worldviews that clash with the one we want to protect, we will arrive at a theology that doesn't ring true. It will feel protective and rigid, rather than expansive and enveloping. It's not enough to toss the misfit pieces into the mystery box and ignore them. For instance, when someone claims that God abandoned her during torture and did not experience comfort, companionship, succor or hope, we can't simply throw blame back on the victim for not appropriating God's presence, nor can we ignore that important testimony about the direct subjective experience that negates the belief that "God is there for us when we suffer."
Both the ones who find God "there" for them in suffering and the ones who do not must be accounted for in some meaningful way or our theology is a fantasy - it's the gratification of our dearest hopes, not the expression of an attempt to make sense or meaning out of life and faith.
How do you account for the complexities of experience when describing or narrating the faith? I'd be interested.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
What do you think of this idea?
I couldn't help but wonder if he had accounted for white privilege (kids who get into colleges on the strength of a parent's income or alumni status or get jobs because of family connections)?
President Bush, apparently, popularized (coined?) the phrase "the soft bigotry of low expectations."
I do see how there can be a point at which the affirmative action has an opposite effect to the one intended. When you know that an advantage is being given to you due to race or gender or income, perhaps there is less incentive to strive against the tendency to rest in that expectation. I saw this happen in my world growing up with regard to income expectations. Kids who had wealthy parents had little to no incentive to get jobs or take care of their possessions because they knew that more money stood behind them.
So how do you see affirmative action? Has it outlived its usefulness or is there some other kind of bigotry going on here that leads the far right to want to end it?
Monday, May 14, 2007
Can I do more than send money to build a well for Bono's birthday? Please.
Is writing enough? Sometimes it seems to be and others it seems the height of absurdity and insular living.
We talked about all the things that this professor is doing through Xavier to prepare the undergraduates at X for a future of engaged service that extends beyond education and career, into vocation or self-giving. And he's full of bright, exciting, practical ideas to make that happen. Yet here I sat in front of him and he agreed - that my complaint is repeated over and over again by other graduate students. Where to now, St. Peter?
As I drove away, it occured to me that this malaise and inability to find a way to make a difference is part of the condition of mid-life and suburban living and few seem to have figured out a way to solve it. Then I thought: what if? What if you and I (you and me and who ever else) thought about it a bit and really gave ourselves to thinking about practical ways we can give/serve in the midst of afterprom and soccer games, music lessons and birthday parties?
I'm tired of waiting for something to emerge on my behalf. I want to use my skill set (not try to become some super human who takes glorified vacations and calls them mission trips) to do something that matters beyond myself. So for the next little while, as I go about my daily business, I'm going to look for what might be done by people like you and me that would matter and make a real difference. If you get any ideas, send them my way. Let's compile some kind of meaningful "to do" list for ourselves. Who's with me?
Sunday, May 13, 2007
We had brunch at our favorite French buffet. Of course, we weren't the only ones who thought breakfast at The Grande Finale was a good idea and so we had over an hour wait. We trucked through the little village where the restaurant is located and took photographs. Reminded me of Italy where we'd meander through unknown streets, holding hands, laughing and taking pictures.
I've been emotional all day and yesterday and all last week and the week before. The ending of grad school, Johannah leaving for college imminently, Noah spending the summer in California building houses (he'll be staying and working with family), Jacob starting full time high school in the fall... all of this is ahead of me or happening to me or them or us right now. Life is flying by, these small hours.
I'm restless. I find myself wandering through websites long neglected during this last push for the MA. I'm interested and agitated both. Who will I talk to now? What will we talk about? Can I put together three words that mean anything to anyone else? I suddenly feel out of sorts.
I want to return to the old life - the one that plans dinner and shops for it, that keeps my office floor clear of stacked books and Xeroxed e-reserve articles, the life that plans parties for the kids or shops for summer bathing suits or lays around at the pool while Liam and Caitrin slide down the slides. So much has been on hold.
I can see why women with careers have a hard time juggling it all. My mind is already screaming, "Don't forget about me!" Well, yeah, how could I? You're so danged insistent. On the other hand, it's time to tell my brain to take a chill pill and live a little. One friend (John) suggested I get out a magazine, flip it open to the middle and then work left and right until I find two recipes. Make them both.
You know what? That's about the best advice I've received so far. I think my mind needs to be deliberately shut up. Time to be a mommy again, full hearted. Then we'll see what comes next. Most of my friends and Jon seem certain something will... I can't see around that corner yet. And it makes me a little panicky.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Jon and I went out to dinner to celebrate. And then I remembered all the things I had discussed at the defense that I forgot to include in today's post. I hope to catch up with some other thoughts over the weekend and in the UPI column for Monday.
Thanks to everyone for such warm, congratulatory comments. Today felt like one of those rare days where the light was brighter and life looked more important. You were a part of that, so thanks.
I couldn't shake my nerves yesterday. I got up early and re-read (in skimming fashion) the entire book Letters and Papers from Prison making notes, listing page numbers with quotes, reminding myself of things I had forgotten or hadn't thought about recently. (Bonhoeffer's view of women sure needed some reformation! More on that another time...) I walked around the house agitated, like a pacing cat. I bought nail polish and then didn't put it on my nails. I showered and dressed in my nice outfit, and then emptied and loaded the dishwasher. I ate nothing and didn't even make food for the kids.
At 1:15, I left for school--paid too much for gas, got the car washed and drove. Do you remember my post two entries ago? It was titled "The end of the world as I know it..." Would you believe that the first song on the radio yesterday afternoon on the way to Xavier was "The End of the World as We Know It." I haven't heard that song on the radio for years. It was followed by Rob Thomas's "Little Wonders." Very appropriate...
our lives are madeI can't put the time back in the bottle. It keeps spilling out no matter how present and conscious I am in each moment.
in these small hours
these little wonders,
these twists & turns of fate
time falls away,
but these small hours,
these small hours still remain
I arrived at school to see moms and dads emptying dormitories of computers, book shelves and oscillating fans. Undergrads, in sweats and smiles, hauled bags of dirty clothes to their parents' cars--the end of a school year and finals.
I clicked in my heels up the brick walkway. I purchased three thank you cards for my advising team and a bottle of water. Once I'd written pithy notes (my writing is horrible when I'm nervous - nothing original or fresh or specific.... just gushes of gratitude), I made my way to the conference room in Hinkle Hall. I was the first to enter that room.
Two minutes later, my chief advisor (Dr. Walker Gollar) arrived with a big smile and a handshake. My stomach rolled. Then Dr. Adam Clark (my black theology professor) joined us, followed a few minutes later by Dr. Art Dewey (Pauline Writings - very first class, Foundations of Biblical Studies and New Testament Greek). We all sat at this long conference table with the floor to ceiling windows for all passers-by right across from me.
They began by each one affirming how much they enjoyed my paper and how provocative it was. That felt good.
Then it was up to me to begin with context so I did. I shared what they mostly already knew, but I filled in a few blanks. I gave fuller expression to what drove me to grad school, why Bonhoeffer has been a consistently useful theologian in my studies and how grad school had helped me to make comparisons and to analyze Bonhoeffer's content in a way I hadn't achieved on my own. (It is amazing to me how every time I open the letters and papers, I discover that something I had not noticed or understood before becomes immediately apparent and clear now that I've read so many more of the writers that influenced him or understand the references he makes.)
Once I concluded my little intro (less than five minutes), Dr. Dewey went first. I knew to brace myself for the hardest questions from him. He's creative and insightful. He challenged right out of the gate the use of performance theory to describe Bonhoeffer's appeal. So we spent several minutes discussing the nuances I meant to emphasize versus the insight he brought to the table: doesn't performance also indicate the use of masks or roles? Is it possible that in writing letters (even if they were not intended to be published) that Bonhoeffer was constructing a role, constructing a fiction just as much as if he had written a book (Dewey was critiquing what he thought was my attempt to call this kind of writing more authentic than another form)? (For those confused by this language, let me explain it like this - all of us are constructing roles and fictions all the time... that's how we create and form our identities and relationships.) So his challenge to me was to ask me whether or not I was simply expressing a preference or if I was rating one way of constructing self as more genuine than another.
My response to this was that I wasn't judging authenticity as much as I was crediting Bonhoeffer's legacy as being more compelling because of his letter writing and the way his performance (life) matched his rhetoric so openly. We discussed for several minutes. It went well.
Then Dr. Dewey asked me to examine and critique Bonhoeffer's christology. He put it like this: "How would you tutor Bonhoeffer today, based on the developments in christology since he wrote his letters and papers?" We looked at a passage in his letters where Bonhoeffer asks Eberhard Bethge (his primary dialog partner) how the Gospel writers could have known what Jesus prayed in the garden before his crucifixion. Bonhoeffer remarks that it just doesn't make sense that he told it to the disciples at some later date after the resurrection. So I explained that Bonhoeffer hadn't yet delved into the study of the historical Jesus and was more interested in reinterpreting orthodoxy than he was in re-examining its core doctrines. For instance, he clearly grasps that the creeds can be used to demand beliefs that people don't actually believe and he finds that to be a wrong use of the creeds. Yet he never goes so far as to explore what might be the alternative. He is more willing to leave it to mystery. He does state that while he has been influenced for the good by liberal theology, he is attempting to retain orthodoxy in some relevant way. But he suspects that men (sic) after him may have more success than he has had in addressing this difficulty.
Additionally, we looked at his use of language and beliefs that rely on assumptions that have been challenged since the 1940s, such as Christ as the center of reality (how does that fit with other world religions?), death and resurrection (what do they accomplish - personal salvation or kingdom of God justice or both or something else?). Dr. Clark picked up on this theme later when he asked where the phrase "Jesus, the Man for Others" came from. None of us know. But what I do know is that Jesus as the man for others is about the crucifixion, not about the kingdom of God (in Bonhoeffer's construction). So we discussed these issues several times over the course of the hour+.)
From here, we moved to Dr. Clark. He challenged my use of postmodernism as a lens through which to view Bonhoeffer. (So do you get what's happening here? The two primary planks of my paper were gutted in the first 17 minutes of discussion! And it was okay - in fact, it was amazing.) We discussed postmodernism at length. I gave my point of view that while I would never categorize Bonhoeffer as a postmodernist, I would say that Bonhoeffer was having a postmodern-style crisis of faith. The war pushed him to go places theologically he would never have gone without it. As a result, this aristocratic, huge brained, intellectual, German faced the conditions of oppression, abuse of power, the clash of out of date cosmology against modern cosmology, and spent most of his time in prison deconstructing his faith and country.
In fact, one of the fresh insights that I don't think I drove home in my paper yet came to me as we dialogued is that Bonhoeffer's view of the human person was radically altered through his prison tenure. He moved away from a strictly Lutheran perspective (as Dr. Clark quoted Luther or Calvin: humans as "snow-covered dung") and instead, saw human beings in all their fallenness as strong, valuable, capable of making a real difference, even good. He sees human life as of the utmost signficance (more than the afterlife). What grounds his view of the human person, though, is that he is utterly confident in God's forgiveness for when he fails (which retains that Lutheran view of the atonement). In this sense, he has created the ideal conditions of risk. It's not that we are free to sin, it's that we are free to risk sinning on behalf of others. That's the insight.
Therefore as we explored further, it became apparent that Bonhoeffer's primary message in his religionless Christianity is that risk is an essential quality of Christian practice and faith. Without risk, one has ceased to be a genuine Christian.
I know you're ahead of me: what is risk for a middle class, suburban mom of five? Yep. That's just where they went! I blinked twice. "I have no idea." They all chuckled appreciatively. So we discussed then this dichotomy of the call to risk and the lack of correspondence between our ideals and our lives. I did express that for my current years as a student of theology, risk has looked like consistently putting out my ideas for exposure and dissection to people who don't approve of them. It's cost me business and friendships. It is the primary way I have risked, though it is certainly nothing compared to risking one's life on behalf of others.
I was asked whether or not I thought Bonhoeffer should have participated in the plot to kill Hitler. I honestly don't know. I answered that I'm more interested in the theological gymnastics that that commitment prompted, yet I also feel without being in a similar condition, my judgments would not be worth much. We discussed MLK Jr. (who was also assassinated at 39) and wondered if he would have remained strictly pacifist. I compared Bonhoeffer's journey to MLK Jr. in the early years and then radicalized into a Malcolm X by the time of his death. Then Dr. Dewey asked: "Do you think Jesus would have killed Hitler?" That really put it to me!
I said, "No." Then we discussed all the ways that Jesus was subversive in his time, but that he didn't organize for the purpose of overthrow. Dr. Gollar interrupted with Just War theory and asked why that didn't apply to Bonhoeffer. I suggested that the allied forces were already engaged in the war at that point and that Bonhoeffer was a part of an internal resistance which I wasn't sure worked in JW theory. I gave a lot of "But I don't want to say definitively..." kinds of answers. Then Clark came back with Ghandi saying that Ghandi believed in non-violence, but he believed more in courage. He suggested that Ghandi would rather see someone throw a punch to resist evil than to stand back while evil is done in the name of the "principle" of non-violence.
Wow! That one really struck a nerve for me. This is just what Bonhoeffer did. He threw off his principles for the sake of courageously throwing a punch at evil when he was supposed to be cowed into submission by the Third Reich. (There's a whole section at the front of the book where Bonhoeffer's correspondence with the interrogators shows him defending himself against accusations, stating emphatically that he is telling the truth, followed by letters to his friend where he discusses a theology of lying, secrecy and truth-telling.)
Dr. Dewey then wondered aloud how significant a role DBH even played in the attempt on Hitler's life since he was in prison when it occurred. Very many overlapping issues.
We also addressed the conventionality of Bonhoeffer's basic outlook on gender roles, the role of the government and his relationship to his nationality. I asserted that in most ways, he was conventional. Yet his creative mind and his deep commitment to living a practical life of action (harnessed to sound theological thinking) made it possible for him to resist the temptation to defend the status quo. If you think about it, that is the more radical of the two anyway. Unconventional people are often moved to risky action. It is the conventional who are usually not.
Dr. Gollar's turn came and he addressed Bonhoeffer's relationship with his fiance. He asked me how the tenor of the letters changed when he wrote to Maria. It was a surprising, yet terrific question. I had just that morning reread in one letter to his friend Eberhard where Bonhoeffer openly criticizes Maria's taste in books. He goes on and on about how the books she reads are beneath her and how he can't stand when husband and wife don't agree on everything. He is set to reform her and then wonders "Or is this just my tyrannical nature coming out?". We all chuckled over that. Maria was more fantasy than real relationship. They had spent a total of one hour together alone before his prison tenure began. They barely knew each other. She was just 18 and not an intellectual. She served, in the end, as a catalyst for his reflections on the meaningfulness of human emotion, physical needs and the value of life. So his letters to her had more to do with his longings (physical especially) than with his theological process.
By the end of his letters (where he began with such appreciation for his books, a parcel of laundry, his cigarettes, his connections to the outside world), Bonhoeffer was reduced to one thing: human relationships. He instructs his mother to give everything he owns away and tells her that all that remains for him are his relationships. It is a poignant end to his two years in prison.
At this point, I was asked to leave the room. They spent about eight minutes discussing the session. When Dr. Gollar came to get me, he beamed, "They loved it. They loved the whole conversation."
I returned and they immediately were on their feet shaking my hand, congratulating me, smiling, telling me what a great job I had done and how much they enjoyed the whole discussion and paper. I handed out the thank you cards. Then they gave feedback. Dr. Dewey suggested that the paper could be stronger without the performance analysis and Dr. Clark suggested I take out the postmodern language and gave me instead, some other ways to frame that part of the paper. Dr. Gollar then brought up how I had revitalized Bonhoeffer for all of them. Drs. Clark and Dewey talked about ways they might incorporate Bonhoeffer into fall courses! (I gave my schpiel on how they ought to do that since I've thought lots about it. [g]). Not one course in my years at X has included anything by Bonhoeffer so that made me really happy.
Then we got up to leave and left the room, but stood in the hallway discussing cults, sex, conservative and liberal theology, feminism, and parenting. After 30 minutes, we split up (I left with Dr. Clark in the elevator). He and I talked for twenty more minutes about the youth retreat he is leading at his church this summer and how to address teen sexuality. Then Dr. Dewey came downstairs and joined us for ten more minutes. Then Dr. Gollar came downstairs and we all laughed that we couldn't stop talking.
Finally, FINALLY it was over. I hugged everyone, fought back tears, and walked into the sunshine with my heels click, click, clicking over the bricks to my car, reliving the experience and already missing grad school.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Tomorrow at 2:30, I'll defend my thesis. I'm wrung out from writing, thinking, shopping (have to have the right chic defense blouse to wear... after all, my committee is three men!). I need to write a few crib notes to be sure I don't forget the chronology of Bonhoeffer's books. It's weird how much anxiety I feel even though I'm also really looking forward to it.
So no more energy to write here, but promise a full report of tomorrow's outing once I have finished.
Thanks for all the support along the way.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Friday, May 04, 2007
Today, I have to write my final for Wednesday because tomorrow is my daughter's prom, in the evening we go to a Kentucky Derby party at Brian's (waves to Brian - wish you all could come), then I am manning the big balloony bounce house in the gym at after prom from 11:15 until 5:00 a.m. (I am crazy), then I will sleep through Mother's Day. On Monday, I have to finish grades for my co-op writing class, Tuesday I have a run through as a coach for a friend's home birth (I hope I remember how birth works!) and Wednesday the doctrine 1 final is due. Thursday is my oral defense.
So, for now, I'm drinking tea and typing. (I'm also avoiding getting sick. My daughter has a bad cold, wouldn't you know? The hand-sanitizer and I are getting awfully snuggly...) Thanks for all your supportive comments in my previous post. I really appreciate them.
Oh! And btw... The Brokeback Mountain book is coming out this month. I may be interviewed on the radio so if I am, I'll let you know details.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
That affective aspect of Christ's "being with us" is expressed in tenderness. Tenderness is a word my professor repeatedly uses throughout her paper. I keep coming back to it.
Today I was not tender. I hit a low. Sometimes when I'm pressed all the way to the wall, after I feel I've gone out of my way to extend myself (or as my professor might put it - after I've lived in a self-stretching mode on behalf of others), I snap back as a rubber band when there is misinterpretation, maltreatment or rumors that are just not true. It takes a long time for me to get to the "snap back" place. In fact, in this instance, it's taken years.
Yet this morning, I snapped. Tenderness gone. Turning the other cheek, beyond me. The need to be direct and clear without sweetness overcame my usual desire to see all sides, to give the benefit of the doubt. I lost the thread of kindness.
It occurred to me as I reread what I wrote this morning that people who are under long periods of duress (particularly racial or gender based discrimination) must snap-back periodically too. They must get to their limits and we on the other side, the side that doesn't feel the duress, call them back to gentler attitudes or criticize them for stridency, missing the point - they've been pushed to the brink.
I'm sure I've been the pusher in a few of my relationships of late and I'm trying to imagine what I might have done/could do differently. I'm trying to see their "snap-backs" as the result of their own pain and duress. Harder to do when I'm blinded by my own.
I got a taste of the "snap-back" feeling this morning - the "fed-up feeling" that motivates an abandonment of goodwill and charitable spirits. I don't like myself that way. I'm still trying to piece together how to get to the other side, where when wronged you really do turn the other cheek and can go on. I'm trying to balance that against futility, healthy boundaries and holding people accountable.
Right now I admit I don't know what the right mix is. I do know that today, I added another layer of hurt. I don't like that. I don't like to cause pain. This morning, I didn't like to receive it.
I think a theology of psychology is needed -- how do we live our theology in the midst of a pyschologically driven culture? What is a health boundary if we are using Jesus's admonitions to guide us into other-centered living? What does it look like to be gentle, tender, loving when also balancing unhealthy group dynamics and relationships?
Today I don't know...
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
For those who don't know, my aunt is a professor of religion at University of California, Riverside. She began her adult life as a nun, then earned her Ph.D. in religious ethics, and then fell in love with a priest [big grin]. They came out of their orders and got married. There's a much longer, very admirable story to go with all this. They didn't just abandon their vocations. Much thought, love, and prayer went into all of their decisions. The result, of course, has been that the two of them are among the most active, community-contributing people I've ever met. And my aunt's theological mind is brilliant.
My Aunt June (my mother's sister) has been a huge source of inspiration all these years as a Christian, but particularly as I've deconstructed faith and entered graduate school. She is one of the most clear-headed thinkers I know and has even had the generosity of spirit to read my lengthy papers and engage me when I needed help in thinking through a theological conundrum. I discovered early on: Nothing I could ask or question would shock her. What a nice thing that is to have someone in your life who can hear what you say, and then, can also intelligently engage it with insight, charity and provocative rejoinders.
Basically, she's awesome. :) I'm thrilled that she will be here to celebrate with me. Feels so fitting.
And last thing. I know you've all already congratulated me on the various stages of the thesis. No need to add any more comments of that nature, but I thought you should know: The thesis has been accepted and received an outstanding review from my advisor. I am scheduled for the defense in two weeks. All I have left now is a final paper for Doctrine 1, due a week from tomorrow.
May 19 (graduation day) is right around the corner.