Thursday, June 10, 2010

Matthew's Geneaology: A Vindication of Mary

I recently started reading the Book of Matthew in order to prepare for teaching the middle schoolers come September. However, in my own reading I came to a rather interesting conclusion that I hope to turn into a legitimate article but for now am just sketching out.

In Matthew’s genealogy he lists forty fathers, one named brother who lineage is not described (Zerah, 1:3) and more than eleven unnamed brothers (Judah’s and Jechoniah’s). In the sea of all these men Matthew mentions one unnamed woman, the wife of Uriah, and only four named women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Mary. Without a doubt in my mind these four other women were intentionally choices, women whose stories would resonate with the Jewish-Christian part of the Matthean community. Interestingly enough, in my limited personal collection of books on the Gospel of Matthew only one makes reference to the four women is Douglas R.A. Hare’s Matthew. He explains their inclusion as necessary to remind “the Jewish and Gentile readers of the Gospel that G-d’s great plan of salvation included Gentiles, even unrighteous Gentiles.” (6) Like Hare’s other conclusions, my additional volumes are concerned with what the genealogy says about Jesus and who he is. Instead, I would like to consider what the reference to these four women tells the audience about Mary.

Who are these women? A pretend-harlot, a for real harlot, a foreign woman, and a woman who commits adultery (though whether or not she had a choice is debatable since David was the king) and then ascends to power through her role as wife of David and son of King Solomon

Tamar turns to the custom of her people as laid out by G-d and is redeemed. Rahab acknowledges the power and existence of G-d and in doing so saves her family. Ruth takes on the yolk of G-d and saves herself and her mother-in-law from suffering and starvation. Bathsheba becomes mother to King Solomon, one of the most prosperous kings to ever rule the land of Israel and makes him King by relying on a promise made to her in front of G-d. No matter how questionable each woman’s background or choices seem (depending on the modern or ancient reader) each woman is ultimately vindicated by her faith in G-d. And thus so will be Mary.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Seth Godin + Horror Movies

For the past few days I have been reading Seth Godin's book, Tribes (We Need You to Lead Us). It is a quick 150 page read with no chapters and innumerable subheadings. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and the only thing I wished is that it had been online with tons of hyperlinks so I could look up all the people he was noting in his anecdotes as I was reading as opposed to getting sucked into the next section and intending to come back to them later. Godin gives you just enough information about these people to be tantalizing.

So what is a tribe? "A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea." (1) Godin goes on to note that people enjoy being part of tribes and participate in many of them. Reflect on your own tribes and you will realize this is true. However, I realized that many of the tribes that I would say I participate in do not have a leader so are they therefore not tribes?

For example, I love Horror Movies. When I meet another horror movie fan we enter into our own realm of name dropping and jargon but there is not one horror movie critic or afficiando whose opinion I look to in order to be inspired or motivated to watch more Horror movies. But there is a definitive difference between people who watch horror movies and people who don't.

Seth Godin would call the Horror Movie tribe stuck because it lacks a movement. And this is entirely true. Where have the Wes Cravens and John Carpenters of the world gone? What about the Tom Savinis or the Jamie Lee Curtises? No one has stepped in to fill their shoes. No one is currently leading in the horror movies tribe. For a genre that is incredibly popular there are no names from today's generation or directors or actors/actresses that make you automatically want to go see the horror movie they are in.  It's sad. Horror Movies are stuck.

What would the ideal leader look like? Godin says "Leaders make a ruckus." (19) The guy who directed the Saw movies made a ruckus with the first one. The latter ones...not so much. Maybe he's stuck too. The last movie to make a ruckus was Paranormal Activity and what before that? I'm not sure; which is surprising since the word is almost synonymous with the genre.

What can we as tribe members do? We must transform "our shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change." (25) What is our goal? To see horror movies that leave us unnerved to leave the shower curtain closed and make us scream. To be fascinated by the dark parts of the mind, lulled into sympathy and then shocked back into the terror of what is happening before our very eyes. (Zombie movies may be the leader?)

In order for an idea to spread it has to be a good idea. And the person with the idea must believe in it. Perhaps we no longer believe there are unique ideas; most everything feels like a play on something else or is an adaptation of something else. What do horror movie fans believe, now?

I think Seth Godin would tell me to get off my soap box and make something happen. New Blog time.

I realize this post has nothing to do with Christianity, but it's where my mind is right now. I am also pretty sure that the goal of Seth Godin's book was so that it could be applied to any and all tribes. And it did give me a lot to think about in terms of my goals for religious education. The story that stood out most to me was about a woman who wanted to get into the furniture business. Instead of presenting investors with sketches she went out and had her furniture built with the company's signature fabric on it. Similarly, I think if I want middle school RE at my church to go the way I want it to I have to take Godin's advice:

"Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow."

Since the semester is almost over I believe I will use this blog for the summer as  away to catalogue both my secular exploits and my creation of a curriculum that does what I believe it should for middle schoolers. Excited doesn't even begin to cover it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Doctor Says, "The Christmas Tree Needs to Come Down"

What does that even mean? Well, essentially, our Christmas Tree is still up. We started taking it down Saturday night and yet it is still here with most of its decorations. I think it may be a symbol for the need for things to happen in a timely manner or they will never get done. The tree may no come down until we move out of this apartment and it has to be packed with everything else.

I went to the doctor yesterday and was told that I needed to get on top of my stress in order to stop feeling so tired. My response is to eat some delicious challah and followed by some Irish soda bread.

I am debating what to do about my final project. It's something I need to figure out this week. I have put my feelers out to people at GTU about the film project but haven't heard anything back. So I have to figure out my back up project. I'll have to see Professor Clayton. Perhaps I will do an anthropological study on active virtual churches and what we in "first life" churches can learn from them. And combine it with cyber ethics.

I'll figure it out.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Muslim Catechesis in Catholic Schools

I hope that post title made you quirk your eyebrow. Today was the first day of LA RE Congress 2010 and I came out of it with two ideas.

My third workshop of the day, hosted by Thomas Groome, was on the new framework for Catholic high school curriculum. There is nothing more affirming as an oft-frustrated Catholic than listening to a bunch of frustrated, pissed off Catholic educators. There were innumerable valid complaints about the new system but Professor Groome left me feeling empowered. The new cirricula are still being written and it is still up to the teachers to decide how to teach it and there are certainly enough of them to voice any problems they have with the system. There is a reason textbooks have editions.

Professor Groome shared an anecdote about how he had seen many Catholic schools in Pakistan, where the student population is 90-95% Muslim teaching Muslim catechesis. This anecdote came out of one woman's outburst and tons of grumbling voices attesting to the fact that this new curriculum assumes an entirely Catholic religious student body. What I took from hearing this frustration and this story is my proposal for Catholic schools:

Offer catechesis for people within their own religious traditions and require everyone to attend dialogue sessions with one another to share what they are learning.*
(If atheists want a catechesis for atheism then awesome, if not, study hall but still must attend dialogue sessions)

2. My first afternoon workshop was about human sexuality and the theology of the body. What I heard made sense within the Catholic understanding of natural law and was logical within the system. I heard some good things and some problematic things.

The good thing: as an educator you have a responsibility to know the why behind the things you say. Students have a right to ask why and you have to have an answer more so than "because I said so."

The bad thing: any artificial form of insemination is a sin. Sterile couples = meant to be sterile. The priest meant well but it irked me.

However, the whole abstinence/chastity talk made me think about writing an article on the subject. "Sex with the Imago Dei." It would be an abstinence talk not based on the "sex is bad/dirty/hell-worthy/only for marriage" idea but on the basis of:
1. Mutual respect
2. Empowerment through Knowledge
3. Why it's worth waiting not just on sex but also oral sex, etc. Everyone remembers their first sex experience; everyone also remembers their first experience giving and receiving mouth-pleasure (yes, i did just call it mouth-pleasure).

I think sex is an important, sacred experience and needs to be taken seriously. But if people want to teach abstinence and chastity then it needs to be done without disparaging the sex act or placing intercourse as more important/meaningful than any other. Down with the cult of the hymen!

Would love to hear feed back on these thoughts.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Buddy Christ & Weak Links

One of the surprising discoveries of complexity theory came from Mark Granovetter of John Hopkins University. He proved that a strong network is made up of many weak links. In fact, a network comprised of many weak links is stronger and more enduring than a network made up of fewer but stronger links
                                                                 - Dwight Friesen, Thy Kingdom Connected (138)

I know very few people in my church. I know the middle schoolers; the middle-school youth group catechists/volunteers and the religious education leadership. But when I go to church on Sunday I have no idea who I am sitting next to. If I stopped going to church or if the church was sucked into a black hole I would never see these people again and I wouldn’t think twice about it. I am connected to them only because we all chose to go to the 9:30am service that particularly Sunday.

When I was in college I remember bumping into someone who told me she was culturally Catholic. This is a concept I hadn’t considered prior to that moment. Catholic jokes, movies about or that feature Catholicism, memories or opinions on Catholic school, feelings/opinions on the Pope, etc. When I tried to bring up Catholic jokes/humor as a thing that unites Catholics together I felt the other volunteers go quiet, go cold. I’m sure some of you reading this have had this experience where you think you have a great idea but you are regarded with suspicion. And it got me thinking; I can’t be the only one in my whole congregation who has a Buddy Christ sitting next to my icons. So how do I meet these like-minded people? Because, I’ll be honest, these are the people I would love to meet and the people I would still want to hang out with if the church building disappeared.

So how do I make these weak links? Whose responsibility it is to make these relationships? Who says I can’t get to know people in my church on an intimate friend basis through watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer as opposed to through a weekly Bible study? But the church doesn't offer a weekly B-Horror movie night. I think that it should. I would love to see this in my church bulletin “Holy Family will be offering a night of laughter – sharing Catholic jokes over dinner” or “Who wants to go get coffee after the 11am service? I’ll be waiting by the holy water font” or “Holy Family will be offering a screening of Dogma/Homicidal” or “Who wants to go watch the Hurt Locker? Here’s my phone number/email.”

Individual and church offerings that are not directly related to religion would be great. If you’re both going to church and reading the bulletin you’re probably going to get on the subject of your faith organically – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a starting point. And if it is, it can have a sense of humor. People's identity is built on their beliefs but not only on those beliefs. Building weak links through social contact is a multi-pronged process that involves partnership between the individual and the church. Furthermore, those weak links should be BOLD. 

So let’s get on it.