Monthly Archives: April 2013

Will new teacher evaluations help or hurt Chicago’s schools? | Hechinger Report

Will new teacher evaluations help or hurt Chicago’s schools? | Hechinger Report.

I challenge anyone who thinks teachers are lazy to read this article.

Comments Off on Will new teacher evaluations help or hurt Chicago’s schools? | Hechinger Report

Filed under Christian Education

Racial Segregation and its Impact on Theological Education

Racial segregation continues to impact quality of education in Mississippi—and nationwide | Hechinger Report.

I thought this an interesting article by Alan Richard of the Hechinger Report, but it prompted some thoughts for me regarding our President and his religious views. Many of my religiously conservative (and incidentally, politically conservative) often decry more liberal theological views such as Black Liberation Theology. Consequently, they also tend to look down on those who hold to such views.

Let me point this out as a classic example of chickens coming home to roost. According to his wikipedia page, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright Jr. earned a Master of Arts in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago. Considering he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968 and his master’s in English in 1969, one might surmise that he earned the Religion master’s around that time.

Consider that my current school of choice, Dallas Theological Seminary (and a bastion of conservative theological views), did not open its doors to blacks until 1965 ; as I understand it, DTS was one of the first to desegregate. The University of Chicago must have desegregated soon considering that Wright’s mother also graduated from the University of Chicago. Wright likely followed in her footsteps and toward an place familiar to him through his studies at Howard University. In any case, Wright landed in Chicago at one of the only schools which would have accepted him—a seminary with theologically liberal leanings.

Wright’s story is not unique: the black students who had the academic credibility and the financial wherewithal to pursue graduate-level theological education often had to choose the Chicago Divinity Schools of the world. Conservative schools simply would not educate them. In fact, I’ve heard one story (unconfirmed) of a major conservative seminary’s registrar who would discard the applications of qualified black applicants so there was no record of discrimination. Still, these gifted future pastors attended liberal schools and went on to pastor churches. Wright accepted his pastorate around 1972.

For more than 30 years, Wright pastored, taught, and led his congregation based on the theology he learned at the University of Chicago and later from Union Theological Seminary under James Cone. Among his flock? One Barack Obama, a community organizer who worked in and around the south side of Chicago, Illinois, and who would have worked with many pastors (with similar educations as Wright) in the area in order to bring much-needed resources to bear on the problems of the African-American community.

In short (and to use another metaphor), the seeds of segregation—planted and watered by conservative seminaries—blossomed into pastors who chose liberal institutions for their training. Those pastors then sowed the seeds of their new-found theology into their congregants who now hold significant political, social, and economic positions. Those congregants are the Beyoncé’s, President Obama’s, Oprah Winfrey’s, and Tyra Banks’ of the world. So, theological conservative: when you wonder why some people hold the views they hold, consider your history, and know that when the opportunity to influence minds came, theological conservatives built a chicken roost.

Now the chickens are home, and hungry.

3 Comments

Filed under Christian Education, Theology

A Christian Educator’s Thoughts on Revelation and Integration

I have a lot of interest in faith-learning integration. A constant question as student in the sciences was, “What does this teach me about God?” It was a natural question and practice for me, as it never occurred to me that the studying creation to understand God was a bad thing. After all, the glory of God is revealed in the heavens seemed to mean that if I looked at the heavens (which was clearly a metonymy for all of creation) then I would understand a bit more about God and His thoughts about me, Himself, and the rest of Creation. It wasn’t until I ran into some of the Bible-only psychologists who completely discarded any source of knowledge about ministering to others that originated from outside of scripture that it occurred to me that other people think differently about the issue.

Until recently, I couldn’t resolve the problem of why some would reject faith/learning integration. Why is it that well-meaning Christians have such difficulty contemplating the conclusions of other fields? Many (most of them non-Christian) would argue that we’re a bunch of ignorant fools chasing after ancient myths and fairy tales in order to retain a sense of superiority and personal well-being. I don’t quite buy that notion.

My friend recently graduated with her PhD in Theological Studies, where she studied the topic of general revelation, and introduced me to one Herman Bavink, a Dutch Reformed theologian. A quote from Herman Bavinck’s The philosophy of revelation; the Stone lectures for 1908-1909, Princeton Theological Seminary. Stone lectures; 1908-09. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953.

Although God is immanent in every part and sphere of creation with all his perfections and all his being, nevertheless, even in that most intimate union he remains transcendent. His being is of a different and higher kind than that of the world (23).

And a second quote from the same source.

One of the results of the trend of present-day science is that theology is just now largely occupied with…how revelation has come about, than in the question what the content of revelation is (23).

Can you see the issue? We forget that God is the source of all revelation and instead focus on what people are doing with it, rather than what it says. In the process, we’re robbing ourselves of precious perspectives and resources for understanding God. Simply put, if God reveals, then it bears his essential character (see Ash’s unpublished dissertation A Critical Examination of the Doctrine of Revelation in Evangelical Theology, p 152 for more details on this).

We need to study creation. We need to look at ants to learn about laziness and industriousness (Proverbs 6:6). We need to look at  plants to learn about God’s character (Luke 12:27). We need to study the origins of the earth to learn about God’s power (Job 38). We need to study the law to learn about God’s love (Psalm 119).

Why study creation? Because the Bible tells me so.

Bavinck, Herman. The philosophy of revelation; the Stone lectures for 1908-1909, Princeton Theological Seminary. Stone lectures ; 1908-09. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953.

Comments Off on A Christian Educator’s Thoughts on Revelation and Integration

April 23, 2013 · 11:46 pm

Voyerism and Tragedy

Go back to the worst day in your life.

Maybe it was the day you found out your dad died, or the day you discovered your mom had a car accident, or the time you found a lump. Remember the emotion, the pain, the grief, the fear that came with the news. Sit there for a moment.

Now imagine , in the midst of that pain, someone stuck a camera in your face.

When we hear about tragedies like Boston we typically rush to the television or internet and see the pictures of bloodstained concrete, tearful families hugging one another, and frantic rescue workers doing their duties. You don’t see the (wo)man with the camera, standing in the midst of the fray snapping photographs with all the subtlety of a rat scampering through the walls. Next time you’re on the internet looking at one of these tragedies, find a photo (well available at the time of this writing on any news site)  of someone holding a crying friend and loved one. Notice that, typically, one person has their back to the camera. They’re doing that because they’re putting their back to the camera.

In my experience, photographers on site usually employ pushing and intrusive methods to get those spectacular photographs that they then sell to newspapers. While the blood still stains the scene, they transmit their photographs, usually with dreams of winning a prestigious award for the inevitable photo essay that will go on to publication in a coffee table book, portfolio, or other medium that documents the strength of their work. Worst of all, we unknowingly participate and sanction this kind of work as we stare and devour any and all visual information available.

Admittedly, when I put fingers to keyboard to write this post, I intended to create a scathing indictment of the kind of person who stands with a camera and takes pictures while others around them suffer. I then intended to decry the voyeuristic nature of our consumer society which seems to feed on this kind of information like a tick on a deer. Three sentences in, I recognized both the futility and hypocrisy of those approaches.

I instead appeal to your humanity. The next time you see one of those photos, I urge you to do the following:

  1. Pray for the salvation, safety, and healing of the survivors; for justice; for the salvation of the perpetrators; for the wisdom and insight of the investigators.
  2. Talk to your family, and remind them that you love them.
  3. Reconcile any relationships that have gone astray, insofar as you can.
  4. Live your life as if this might happen to you (which means that you should consider your real priorities).

Let the pictures of these tragedies lead you—not into the distanced observation and curiosity of others’ pain—but into hope and a reminder of the things to come, in light of the things as they are. Let tragedy lead you into a response of faith.

Comments Off on Voyerism and Tragedy

April 16, 2013 · 9:01 am

Symbols and Accidental Racism

Someone recently pointed me to the song Accidental Racist, by Brad Paisley (feat. LL Cool J). The lyrics:

“Accidental Racist”

(Brad Paisley, feat. Ll Cool J)

To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main, I hope you understand

When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I’m a Skynyrd fan

The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south

And I just walked him right in the room

Just a proud rebel son with an ‘ol can of worms

Lookin’ like I got a lot to learn but from my point of view

 

I’m just a white man comin’ to you from the southland

Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be

I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done

And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history

Our generation didn’t start this nation

We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday

And caught between southern pride and southern blame

 

They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears

We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years

I try to put myself in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin

But it ain’t like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin

 

‘Cause I’m a white man livin’ in the southland

Just like you I’m more than what you see

I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done

And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history

Our generation didn’t start this nation

And we’re still paying for mistakes

That a bunch of folks made long before we came

And caught between southern pride and southern blame

 

Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood

What the world is really like when you’re livin’ in the hood

Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good

You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would

Now my chains are gold but I’m still misunderstood

I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood

I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could

Feel like a new fangled Django, dodgin’ invisible white hoods

So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinkin’ it’s not all good

I guess we’re both guilty of judgin’ the cover not the book

I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air

But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here

 

I’m just a white man

(If you don’t judge my do-rag)

Comin’ to you from the southland

(I won’t judge your red flag)

Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be

I’m proud of where I’m from

(If you don’t judge my gold chains)

But not everything we’ve done

(I’ll forget the iron chains)

it ain’t like you and me can re-write history

(Can’t re-write history baby)

 

Oh, Dixieland

(The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin’)

I hope you understand what this is all about

(Quite frankly I’m a black Yankee but I’ve been thinkin’ about this lately)

I’m a son of the new south

(The past is the past, you feel me)

And I just want to make things right

(Let bygones be bygones)

Where all that’s left is southern pride

(RIP Robert E. Lee but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean)

It’s real, it’s real

It’s truth

A friend asked my my reaction, so here are my initial thoughts.

Brad Paisley + LL Cool J = Awesome. I’m so glad to see such diverse genres and personalities in collaboration. This gives me hope.

The POWER of symbols is that they communicate on multiple levels. The PROBLEM with symbols is that they communicate on multiple levels. The rebel flag (much like the “Church You Can Believe In” billboards or the soda fountain picture from the WSF brochure may have one intended message, but unfortunately communicate the exclusion of certain individuals.

As a side note, we tend to blame the recipients of the miscommunication and accuse them of being overly sensitive rather than revising our message. However, let me point out the Chevy Nova debacle from the 80’s. Chevy attempted to sell the Nova in Mexico and couldn’t figure out why people wouldn’t buy it, until someone pointed out that No Va = no go in Spanish. Rather than blame the people for misunderstanding the message, they changed their branding.

Fashion, whether intentionally or unintentionally, communicates a message. I’m not saying that you SHOULD judge someone who wears a rebel flag or saggy pants (or God-forbid, both at the same time), but I will acknowledge that you communicate something when you choose to do those things. Anticipate that people will respond to your message.

Lastly, the reason we as a nation can’t let bygones be bygones is because we continue to experience no only the results and effects of racism, but also because it’s built into our system and therefore there is a current and ongoing culture of racism (and also because there are racists in our country).

Those are my initial, off the cuff, thoughts.

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Education