Could it be?

This morning I read in “The Well,” a blog on the NY Times, about Obama’s new White House chef, Sam Kass.  You can find the article here.  I was excited to hear of the selection, mostly because I had been thinking along the lines of Alice Waters, who had recently contributed her thoughts and opinions on the Well regarding this important choice… and you guessed it, she was lobbying for a local/seasonal chef who could “change the culture of food” from the top down.

Hopefully Alice Waters will be pleased, and I know I am, to learn that Sam Kass is quite passionate about healthy, wholesome food.  Only time will tell how it actually plays out, but so far, his lambasting of the school lunch program and advocacy of eating wholesome food like locally produced beef with barley soup is a step in the right direction.  And people seem so bedazzled by Obama, perhaps this selection might actually make a difference to some….

Beside Still Waters

It is January and I am back in Cambridge, which means that my experience of snow has increased by, say, 20-fold over the span of the week.  Snow lies piled on the streets and strewn on yards, in many places half a person high (as in the case of the snow by my home).  My friend D claims that this is only the case because the city failed to designate a snow emergency last week, but it doesn’t really matter why; nature has determined that it be white and fluffy in Cambridge, and so it is.

There is something quiet, sometimes savagely so, about the snow.  Of course I might be saying this merely because my life has become ever more quiet over the course of the last few days.  Since leaving Philadelphia, I have returned to an apartment devoid of  both internet and television, which means that I spend most of my days, when I am home, in relative silence.  The experience has been an interesting one, especially given that I am not accustomed to this degree of silence.  And while I haven’t spent much time in front of television or internet in the last few months, things had been crazy enough with proposals and holidays and travel that my life had become quite noisy, to be honest.  The sharp departure that solitude has become from this last month has therefore been a bittersweet pill–bittersweet because, on one level, I feel I need the silence, and on the other I am not particularly certain whether I can stand it for that long.

Despite my doubts in regards to silence, I have decided to persist. There is something that makes me feel that I ought to stick it out, let myself feel uncomfortable so that perhaps I might begin to feel at home in solitude.  And given the trajectory of my life, I may come to relish these opportunities. Furthermore, I have a real choice I can make in this regard; I don’t have roommates (other than Izzy the Purr-able), so this silence can continue until I change my mind.  

So I will sit in my home, and hopefully read, and pray, and think, and study, and find a way to be at home in my head and my thoughts.  It is my hope, at least in this regard, that I might find out something new about myself by trying to do it.  The decision, as Kierkegaard writes, is mine to make, and mine to keep.

Did I mention?

So in all the wildness of the last few weeks (holidays and all) i forgot to mention a slightly big deal thingamagig on here…. i got engaged?!  so yea, I am pretty excited about it, and A and I are in the midst of planning our future together, which is both scary and exciting.  It’s gonna be a trip, fo sho.  In other news, CPM recommended that I be allowed to circulate my PIF, so I might be applying for jobs soon as well, and that is also exciting and a big step.  All these big steps at once!  It’s enough to make my head spin.

So yea, if I haven’t been on here as much as previously, you can assume I am likely frantically working on my PIF or planning a wedding. 



What does your Calvin Look Like?

The NYTimes posted an article this week about Mark Driscoll and his church, Mar’s Hill, which they conveniently entitled, “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?”  Actually, the article is just as much about Calvinism as it is about Driscoll, in particular what the author calls “New Calvinism.”  She writes of Driscoll:

What is new about Driscoll is that he has resurrected a particular strain of fire and brimstone, one that most Americans assume died out with the Puritans: Calvinism, a theology that makes Pat Robertson seem warm and fuzzy.

Now, maybe it is just me and I am misreading, but I was surprised to find this author writing of the “resurrection” of Calvinism.  As a Presbyterian, I was pretty sure Calvin was alive and well in my own reformed tradition, which traces its roots back to Calvin and the church in Geneva.  

Turns out there is this movement that folks are calling “New Calvinism,” which is described in the article as a fight against a “limp-wristed Jesus” that has been coopted by the feminists.  Driscoll apparently rails against the mainstream church, which he says

has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that . . . would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”

Hmm.  Interesting.  But he goes further than this, decrying the “feminization” of Jesus (Apparently there are just too many pictures of Jesus cuddling babies and lambs).  Jesus is supposed to be manly, a warrior, blah blah blah.

Nevermind that Calvin himself devoted a great deal of his Institutes to admonishing Christians against forming an image of God, or Christ for that matter.  Any image, he warned, becomes an idol that stands between you and the true God.  It becomes a crutch, a thing to worship in lieu of the God who is a mystery beyond the reach of our minds.  As another theologian, I believe Barth, said, the minute you think you have fully conceived of God, it is in that moment that you have truly lost sight of God.

But I digress.  The article goes on to make assumptions about Calvin, everything from painting this “new Calvinism” as the only Calvinism to re-asserting the mostly false myth of Calvin that he was directly responsible for the deaths of his detractors.  The author writes,  “John Calvin had heretics burned at the stake and made a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness.”  Now I can’t speak with certainty as to the dinner party incident, but if I had to guess, the heretic she is referring to Michael Servetus, whom Calvin likely wanted to see dead.  However, he never ordered the death of this theologian–Calvin was not a political authority in Geneva, and did not have the power to make such decisions.  Maybe I am parsing hairs, but I hate to see Calvin’s history distorted.


Furthermore, the author makes the jump to claiming that questioning authority is equal to sinning.  Describing Driscoll’s leadership style, she goes to lengths to show that Driscoll is a power-hungry religious authority.  She describes incidents in Mars Hill’s past in which Driscoll dealt severely with those who disagreed with him.  In reference to such incidents, she writes of Driscoll:

“They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached. John Calvin couldn’t have said it better himself.

Again…. Calvin himself questioned authory.  That is what the reformation was all about.  I don’t understand therefore how these sorts of claims can be thrown out in a NYTimes article as though they were commonly held fact.  

So I guess we get the picture by now that I take issue with this reading of Calvin.  Ultimately it seems more like a rush job on Driscoll’s church and theology more than anything else, but it is the case that Calvin seems to get caught in the crossfire.  Just because us Presbyterians aren’t constantly screaching about spiders on the edge of a precipice or eternal damnation, doesn’t mean that providence and Calvinism are passe.  Just because we don’t ascribe to a manly Jesus doesn’t make us wimpy.  False dichotomy, duh!

So yea, I am a bit peeved.  A bit discouraged.  A bit frustrated that my own Calvinist heritage can be so easily distorted.  Ultimately, however, I give it to God, trusting that God is working through and in all this, helping push us (gently or otherwise) past our assumptions about who God is and is not and towards a more holistic and healthy understanding of the mysterium tremendum.

Peace be with you