Monday, January 21, 2019

Covington Catholic Kids, Native American Elders and an opportunity for growth

So, if you were like me, at some point this weekend you may have seen a couple of viral videos documenting an encounter between teenagers from Kentucky and a Native American man who resides in Michigan. Many of us were rightly concerned as we observed the video of this conflict. As the conflict played out in the media, longer videos were released which demonstrated that there was more context that needed to be considered that helped observers understand the predicament that these young people were in.

Apparently, the teenagers were harassed by a group called the "Black Israelites". These folks, as best as I can understand, are people of African heritage who also claim heritage to the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Although there were many more of the teenagers than there were Black Israelites, some of the Black Israelites said things that were interpreted as threatening. As the Native American elder and his entourage approached, in part to make peace, the teens interpreted their approach as a threat. At least one of the teens reportedly responded directly through impeding the path of the elder. The teens then surrounded the Native American, which he interpreted as a threat. Especially when some teens began to chant and laugh.

Slowly, the viral video, and competing viral videos prompted outrage, conflict, blaming, and all sorts of responses through media, social media, and in conversations in communities small and large. What I find intriguing, however, is not the dumpster fire of labeling, blaming, and shaming that social media has advanced about this event, but the lessons that can be learned from this complicated encounter.

Here we go, like it or not:

  • We need to realize, before making sweeping judgments, that all events have context. Whether it the mainstream or partisan/propagandist arms of media, or social media, people who report problems often neglect context.
  • Secondarily, the complications of a specific context may explain poor behavior, and may even be a prompt to offer people a little grace, but it does not excuse the poor behavior. In other words, the viral video that of the teens at the Lincoln Memorial still demonstrates behavior on those teens part that needs to be corrected and disciplined, though perhaps with a little openness to forgiveness and grace considering the context. 
  • Third, we need to understand that symbols that we may understand as harmless or positive in our context may be considered a threat in other contexts. Like it or not,  MAGA hats, especially when paired with chanting, are considered as much of a threat in a some environments as waving confederate flags.
  • Fourth, our blatant disrespect for elders was on full display, and this is a problem across all elements of our culture
  • Fifth, just because you have an excuse and an explanation, does not mean that your non verbals don't betray your true need for growth. The kid that confronted that Native American elder, and the kids around him, even though there were extenuating circumstances, did demonstrate latent insensitivity to other cultures at best, and prejudice at worst, even given the broader context. To not acknoweldge that is to not offer the opportunity for them to grow and be changed. 
  • Finally the true lesson of this event is not for those teens or our children. It is for us! These teens were simply mirroring attitudes and behaviors than had seen elsewhere.

Book Review of The First Testament by John Goldingay

The First Testament: A New Translation  -     By: John Goldingay

The First Testament: A New Translation
John Goldingay
IVP Academic
ISBN 978-0-830805199-7
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I was sent this book to review by IVP Academic to review for them a few months back. Stated simply The First Testament is a new translation of what is commonly referred to as the "Old Testament". It comes to us from John Goldingay, who is an Old Testament scholar who has written a number of books. Although I am confident that many of his books are phenomenal, he is best known for writting the "For Everyone" commentaries on the Old Testament for which N.T. Wright penned the New Testament portion of the series previously.

For my purposes, The First Testament offers the kind of reading experience I had hoped for. What I hope to get out of a translation like this, or The Message or The Kingdom New Testament, is to read over texts in Scripture that I have heard and read several times, and to be awakened to new insight or understanding. In this translation, Goldingay does just that. For example, as I study Proverbs I become curious  how the word "dimwit" is translated by more traditional versions, and wonder whether Goldingay takes to much liberty translating the "fear of the Lord" as "awe" (Proverbs 15:16). Also, I am challenged to pay attention in different ways in Genesis when the names of the patriarchs and some of the Biblical lands are translated with words that may be more accurate, but are also less familiar.

Like many newer translations, versions, and different study Bibles, intoductions are provided for each book. The introductions are helpful in and of themselves as well. A glossary is provided in the back of the book as well.

As I read through the text, however, I wonder the following:

  • Is this translation "accessible" to the average folks in the pews? (I have my doubts, especially with the more accurate yet unfamiliar translations of names and places).
  • Would this translation be helpful for sermon preparation? (I actually think it would be.)
  • Will this translation find a broad audience (no clue)
Thus, to summarize, I enjoy reading this translation. It teaches me a lot. However, it may not be for everyone, especially the laypersons of your congregation.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Book Review of The Gift of Hard Things by Mark Yaconelli

The Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places
by Mark Yaconelli
ISBN 978-0-8308-4608-5
IVP Formatio
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Since my years in youth ministry, Mark Yaconelli has been one of my favorite writers and thinkers. Earlier in his career, he led a ministry at San Francisco Theological Seminary teaching about and promoting Contemplative Youth Ministry.

This book is a gift. It comes to us from the next phase of his career, now living in Southern Oregon. I would say the book is more of an experience than a guide, leading its readers to see from his personal experience and the experience of others how God can work in challenging circumstances and difficult places in life.

From the start, Yaconelli acknowledges that the insights of this book will not be helpful to all, and it not intended to take the place of skilled counseling from major trauma. Having clearly stated this disclaimer, The Gift of Hard Things is a tour de force on finding hope in difficult seasons, and discerning the presence of God in the "Dark Night of the Soul"

Each chapter addresses a different experience, a different issue, and through the use of narrative helps the reader see glimers of grace in the middle of harsh landscapes of life. I loved the opening chapter as Mark discussed his own journey with burnout. And, I enjoyed the discussion of a failure of a ministry, and how God was uniquely present in that situation as well.

This is a book not only to be read, but to be savored, and then read again.

Book Review of Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life  -     By: Tish Harrison Warren

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life
by Tish Harrison Warren
IVP Formatio
ISBN 978-0-8308-4628-8
Reviewed by Clint Walker

For those of you who are readers of this blog, I apologize! I have received this book quite a while back for review. However, as is the case with many of the books that I review that I want to really dig into, this review is coming to you a little later than it should. It is a well-loved book by this point in many circles, having won Christianity Today's book of the year. Since the publication of this book I have also had the opportunity to see miss Warren speak, and she communicates as authentically and powerfully in person as she does in this book. I recommend getting yourself a copy as soon as you can.

Tish Harrison Warren is an Anglican priest (Church of England but not Episcopal). This is important for the reader to understand. As I understand, she came to this tradition as an adult, and it really informs her book in powerful ways. You see, the premise of the book is that the liturgy of our everyday lives, if we let it, can mirror the liturgy of the church, and vice versa. Both the rhythms of our workday life and the liturgy of the church can work together to form us into the kind of people that God wants us to be. There has to be some intentional openness to being grown through this each liturgy, and the symbiosis between the two, but the growth is indeed possible, and has some beauty to it.

I remember when I was first teaching some of the practices I had learned regarding spiritual formation with young adults, there was quite a lot of resistance from some young mothers who struggled to understand how to implement spiritual disciplines into their everyday life while their kids were young. Of course, they were correct. It is hard to take time for one's self when you live your life is a hamster wheel of diaper changes, feedings, baths, and playing on the floor with one's kids. However, Tish Harrison Warren opens up the possibility of reflecting on the ordinary routines of the day in order to discover new movements of the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God.

The book is both winsome and beautiful. I highly recommend it to all.

Book Review of the Advent of the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey

Image result for the advent of the lamb of god

The Advent of the Lamb of God
by Russ Ramsey
IVP Books
ISBN 978-0-8308-4388-5
Reviewed by Clint Walker

The Advent of the Lamb of God is a great book for beginning to understand the Story of Jesus. It is the first book in a three part Retelling the Story Series published by IVP Books. It would be a wonderful family devotion for couples or people with children well into grade school or older.

Advent of the Lamb tells about the coming of Christ in two parts. After a brief two chapters setting the scene of God's intention through the Messiah, Russ Ramsey summarizes the biblical story through sharing a number of excepts from Scripture. He does this both by referencing the Scripture, and also putting it the narrative of Scripture in his own words.

The second half of the book gets into the traditional narrative of the Advent and Christmas stories, ending with an except from the book of Galatians to summarize what God was doing in Christ at his birth.

There are several benefits of reading this book:

  • It is an easy way to understand Scriptures story in a way that the reader can easy sense and feel the flow of the Biblical narrative. This is more user friendly than simply picking up a Bible if you are trying to get a general flow of God's redemption story. I would recommend reading the Scripture narrative as a part of reading Ramsey's retelling of the story.
  • This book draws its readers into celebrating the Christian year, which I think is very important.
  •  It is very readable in its style, which makes the study of this book not only spiritually beneficial, but also pleasurable.
  • The narrative teaches as it tells.
Even in January, this would be a great read in helping the reader understanding the story of Jesus.


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