The Claremont Ekklesia A Journal of Christian Thought
ISSUE 2 WINTER 2013
TABLE OF CONTENTS ACADEMIC REFLECTION
More than Mere Kindness by Daniel Jin
13 Proverbs 28:1 by Bethany Ho
The Apostle Paul: Sexist or Pragmatist? by Colin Eckstein
14 I Surrender by Maxine Tu
11 On Christian Culture by Megan Pritchett
16 In Your Image by Darby Barton
17 The Physicist by Janice Choi
19 When Shiny Plastic Jesus Ainâ€™t Enough by Caitlyn Hynes 22 Only by the Grace of God by Diana Ortiz 25 Mourning into Dancing by Laura Mallison
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Dear reader,
f you have any Christian friends, they might seem a bit odd. Occasionally they go off to their strange “spiritual activities,” whether church, or bible study, or a quiet place to pray. Some may announce these comings-and-goings, and perhaps encourage you to come along, while others may subtly slip out at the same time each week. They might also assent to a few odd propositions about the existence of God and the resurrection of an ancient Jewish prophet. Perhaps they speak with a different language, peppered with words like “discipleship” and “Jesus” and “fellowship.” Maybe your Christian friends even seem just a bit nicer—whatever that means—than the next person. Or, on the other hand, you may discern a certain self-righteousness, an occasionally hypocritical condemnation of the world buried underneath this veneer of kindness. But when all is said and done, Christians probably seem fairly normal, not really any different than the next friend. Most people here are generally pretty nice, have their own activities, and try to do good things, right?
So what is it that defines a Christian? Or better yet, what should define a Christian? What really is the purpose of this mysterious thing called Christian faith? After all, the things that often distinguish Christians can appear arbitrary, largely meaningless distinctions, falling short of the goodness and power Christians claim belong to their faith. For that reason, we, the staff of the Ekklesia, offer you these works of art as a small window into what Christian faith can be in Claremont. We hope you’ll find that our faith offers not only a distinct “spiritual” piety, but also a particular way of thinking and being that is valuable for the life of the university and, ultimately, for the life of the world. But of course, the publication you hold in your hands is not the essence of the Christian faith. Rather, it is but one drop that spills out of the lived experience of the historic and global ekklesia. Love,
Ryan Stewart, Editor-in-Chief
Editor-in-Chief Ryan Stewart (PO)
Art Director Caroline Hu (SC)
Managing Editor Howard Chang (PO)
Design Team Janice Choi (PO) Lily Spang (SC) Jessica Tan (PO) Vivian Zhang (SC)
Editorial Board Laura Mallison (SC) Chelsea McMahan (PZ) Danny Nasry (PO)
Staff/Contributors Darby Barton (PZ) Janice Choi (PO) Colin Eckstein (PO) Bethany Ho (SC) Caitlyn Hynes (PO) Daniel Jin (PO) Laura Mallison (SC) Diana Ortiz (PO) Megan Pritchett (SC) Maxine Tu (SC)
Faculty Advisory Board Stephen Davis (CMC) Mary Poplin (CGU) David Vosburg (HMC)
The Claremont Ekklesia is not affiliated with any church or other religious group, and each article reflects the opinion of its author and does not represent the publication as a whole. All photos credited to students on the Design Team. Our publication is a member of the Augustine Collective, a national network of undergraduate Christian journals. More information at AugustineCollective.Org.
by Daniel Jin
hen we are asked what it looks like to love others, our natural inclination is to say, “Being kind to others.” We are to treat people with kindness, for there is kindness in love. However, kindness is not tantamount to love. When kindness is disconnected from love’s other elements, it involves an undercurrent of indifference. According to C.S Lewis in The Problem of Pain, “Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.” It does not entail any long-term commitment to the wellbeing of its object; rather it satisfies itself with a “niceness” that does no harm. How do we see this isolated kindness in the environment around us? When I read this excerpt from The Problem of Pain, I immediately related it to quotidian interactions with people on campus—namely because I found myself perpetuating this very strain of kindness.
state comes to define our interactions, the moment we’ve exhausted our arsenal of pleasantries and the conversation grows stale, an awkward silence prevails as we try to extricate ourselves in the least offensive way possible. All we’ve done is ensure that the other person has escaped the interaction unscathed, and, spurred by feelings of obligation to unfinished tasks and places to be, we gradually come to perceive the other person as someone, even something, to get through. This is the kindness C.S Lewis is wary of: a façade of cold philanthropy harboring veiled feelings of indifference to the wellbeing of its object—keeping one another at arm’s length so that we don’t step on other people’s toes.
love is inefficient in its very nature.
Whenever I encounter people with whom I am only vaguely acquainted, I instinctively feel inclined to adopt a congenial demeanor to make sure they feel comfortable. I plaster on a cheerful smile, alter the tenor of my voice, and ready my habitual greeting, “Hey, how’s it going?” to express a degree of concern. I hope that they will respond with a brief “I’m good; how are you?”, smile, and continue on their way. It’s painless, easy, and efficient. But even when I am in a particularly gregarious mood, I can’t seem to get past the threshold of feeling truly connected, despite my best intentions. I find it extremely easy to fall into my default state of being: relying on scripts and social cues to navigate my way through conversations to avoid the risk of displeasing others. When this default
With this strain of shallow, impoverished kindness so far removed from the love in which it ought to be subsumed, how are we to know what kindness grounded in love looks like? We must remember kindness is not tantamount to love, for love is multifaceted and kindness is just one of its elements. Hence, preceding that question is this one: What does it mean to truly love others? In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Paul tells us, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” If considered individually and applied collectively in our daily interactions, these qualities will radically change how we understand the true nature of love. To begin seeing love in this rich light, we must notice a clear thread in Paul’s description: love is inefficient. The fact that love is patient, does not insist on its own
way, rejoices with the truth, and endures all things suggests that love is inefficient in its very nature—it calls us away from making productivity primary. As unwelcome and subversive as this facet of love may sound, acknowledging it can prove to be one of the most liberating exercises in our practice of love. If we are willing to embrace this presently inconvenient truth, we can expect an alleviation of the anxieties and inhibitions suppressing our willingness to love. This may be the first step we need to take in our quest for nurturing a love that transcends mere kindness; accepting love’s inefficiency leads to patience, and patience opens us up to love’s many rich manifestations—including, but not limited to, the qualities listed in 1 Corinthians. As we divest incrementally from the internal monologue that binds us to our exacting agendas and invest ourselves in the spirit of loving, I believe we enter an authentic dialogue with not only the people around us but also with God. For if God is love, we are engaging in communion with Him when we seek to love others. As our love for others develops and supplants our self-centeredness, we will begin to see people the way He does, the way the people around us fit within His sovereign plan, and how we were created to run on God’s love as the nonpareil source of fuel, with every other source of purpose or meaning rendered superficial and insufficient in comparison. As we are internalizing love’s disposition, we must be mindful that love requires application for it to be sustained. C.S Lewis exhorts, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” Loving others takes discipline and attention, especially at the beginning, because we are adjusting what has long been our default frame of mind in how we perceive and interact with the world. It will require continually praying for God to be the source of our love, for love engendered by ourselves is unsustainable in the long-run and susceptible to our own imperfections. The great news is that we are promised to get back what we put in, and more. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.” The amount of genuine, willing effort we put into loving people will determine how much love we have for others as a result. The way we love others can take a myriad of forms: It can be the conscious decision to treat every person we encounter as the most important person in the world; it can
For if God is love, we are engaging in communion with Him when we seek to love others. be intentionally putting others’ needs far above our own until we begin to see their needs as inseparable from ours; it can be choosing to set a tone of vulnerability in as many conversations as possible; it can be writing little notes to affirm the people who we especially appreciate; etc. All these manifestations are inefficient because they go beyond mere kindness to effect kindness grounded in love.
It will be easier for us to accept this inefficiency if we remember that we are on this journey of life together. For while it is radically profound that God has chosen to love each of us in spite of our faults, it is even more unbelievably radical that he has chosen to love every person around us in the same way. If we can remember that God’s love for the people around us is eternal and infinite, and cultivate a deep longing to love those around us more and more in that boundless way, we will become more like the sort of people God created us to be—a people inextricably united through love. Daniel is a Freshman from San Jose, CA looking to study Economics and Computer Science at Pomona College. He deeply admires the works of CS Lewis and misses his chickens back at home.
The Apostle Paul:
Sexist or Pragmatist?
by Colin Eckstein
ew Christians (particularly in the 5C community) would champion a return to Pauline ideals regarding gender roles. The apostle Paul is often the poster boy for good old-fashioned religious chauvinism. Unfortunately, it would seem, Paul was able to slip a few questionable passages past the Divine Editor and now modern Christians must simply closet these antiquated verses with embarrassment. The following article is by no means a final judgment in regard to Paul. It does not satisfactorily address every question of Biblical egalitarianism and it is not intended to. Rather, it offers a critical and authentic method for approaching difficult texts and demonstrates, perhaps, that the jury’s still out on Paul. If Paul is to be defended with any legitimacy, two principally incriminating passages need be addressed: (1) Paul’s perplexing discourse on head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 and (2) the smoking gun of Biblical sexism, 1 Timothy 2:12, in which Paul bars women from Church leadership. By supplementing these passages with appropriate historical context, I hope to demonstrate that while egalitarianism was a struggle for the early Church, Christianity’s roots are by no means inherently chauvinistic.
And so we come to our first problematic text, 1 Corinthians 11:5-6: “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off. . .” It is precisely verses like this one that modern Christians would love to Sharpie over; its applications seem not only antiquated, but outright sexist. Must women
conceal themselves before God while men lift their heads unbridled? Or were head coverings some patriarchal fancy of Paul’s, who used Christ’s authority to subject women? And if so, what use is this outdated, bias-laden Bible of ours? My answers came at the hand of a mentor of mine, an Episcopal priest and ardent feminist, who reintroduced me to Paul’s rebuke on head coverings in its proper cultural setting.
Let us begin unpacking the relevant background of this passage by establishing this: the Corinthian church was not well-liked. Corinth, as a commercial hub, entertained much religious diversity and brought pilgrims from throughout the empire.1 Christians, however, discouraged idol worship, putting them at odds with artisans who fashioned idols for local temples. Mystics and brothel owners felt similarly targeted and united to discredit the Christian Church and its practices.2 The Eucharist, in which Christian adherents “partook of Christ’s body and blood,” was denounced as cannibalism. Baptisms, performed at night to avoid persecution, were dubbed cultic orgies because the individual being baptized wore no clothing. At the time of Paul’s letter, the Corinthian church was an epicenter of cultural controversy and its reputation within the community desperately in need of repair.
Furthermore, in line with Paul’s initial encouragement, women in the Corinthian church had come to view themselves as free in Christ and no longer slaves to societal conventions. What’s more, they were no longer slaves to their husbands. Paul introduced the revolutionary concept of marital partnership when, in 1 Corinthians 7:4, he usurped the traditional interpretation of women as mere property. Instead he asserted that, though a husband has authority over his wife’s body, a wife likewise has authority over her husband’s, rendering conjugal relations subject to the radical notion of “mutual consent” (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Rather than wear a symbol of their former subjugation, some women in the church, it would seem, rid themselves of their head coverings. Critics of the Corinthian church immediately censured those individuals as loose women who, in the practice of prostitutes, left their heads uncovered as to denote their belonging to no man. Paul was understandably upset that in the midst of a barrage of public reproach the Corinthian church was exposing its image to further damage. Thus, while Paul
Paul is the one clear and strong voice in the New Testament speaking for the freedom and equality of women
The intellectual pursuit of God, though frustrating at times, is an incredibly fulfilling way to experience Christ...
did not abandon his position on improved gender equality, he pragmatically recommended Corinthian women readopt their head coverings.
Whether salvaging the church’s standing within the Corinthian community was worth sacrificing a consistent stance on gender equality is perhaps the most important question for us as modern Christians. Where should the Church compromise? How do we maintain our relevance without sacrificing our principles? What do we sacrifice for the purpose of unity, and when is unity not worth sacrificing people? I do not believe that 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 is principally concerned with the headgear of Christian women. If we are looking to take the Scripture seriously, I think we are called to look at a much bigger and more relevant picture. Thus far, we have constructed a plausible alibi for Paul in terms of 1 Corinthians 11:5-6. We are left, however, with the difficult task of rationalizing 1 Timothy 2:12. In this infamous passage, Paul asserts that, “[he does] not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.” As far as subjugation goes, Paul’s discourse on Church leadership appears to be a textbook example. Moreover, when pumped up with the authority of God, it is often the last word. But while the dogmatic interpretation of a misguided minister seems compatible with the text at face value, proper perspective is again in order.
Paul emphatically endorses the ministry of “sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae” (Romans 16:1). Deacons, early Church equivalents of bishops or pastors, are described in 1 Timothy 3 as “overseers” who exercised leadership over the members of their house churches. Paul writes to the Romans advocating Phoebe in this role, commanding them to, “give [Phoebe] any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me” (Romans 16:2). Paul grants this woman his authority in Rome, acknowledges that
he has learned from her. And while some cling to the possibility that Phoebe simply needed help baking cookies for after the service, contextual evidence bars such an interpretation of the deaconship.
So we are left with a Janus-faced Paul, sometimes asserting gender equality and other times surrendering to cultural prejudice. And while the former is all well and good, these points of compromise require explanation. Some point to the ambiguity of 1 Timothy 2:12 as an instance of dialogue within Scripture, in which the boundary between moral “prescription” (the what-to-do’s) and “proscription” (the what-not-to-do’s) becomes thin. While Scripture explicitly encourages us to emulate Jesus and avoid the pitfalls of Jezebel, some Biblical figures are not so black-and-white. It is not apparent, for example, which of Elisha’s bold acts are examples of faithful zeal and which are warnings of blind passion. The same is potentially true for Paul, whose devotion we should imitate but whose cultural conformity we should avoid. Others emphasize the importance of Paul’s clause “I do not permit …” as opposed to “God does not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.” Both theories have their merits. The first introduces an appealing way not only to approach Paul and Elisha, but many Old Testament figures. The second seems consistent with the character of God throughout the Bible, in which women such as Deborah (Judges 4-5) and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14) were divinely appointed to serve as spiritual leaders for God’s chosen people Israel.
My conclusions in light of these difficulties are twofold. Firstly, while Paul might not be considered feminist in the context of our modern culture, he did much to establish himself as a catalyst for the reexamining of gender roles in the first century C.E.. Pronouncing that there is “neither male nor female” in Christ (Galatians 3:28), Paul recognizes
a woman’s right to participate in public prayer alongside Christian men (1 Corinthians 11:5, 13).3 In a display of cultural radicalism, Paul entreats the church in Rome to “greet Priscilla and Aquila, [his] co-workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3), not only recognizing Priscilla as a fellow apostle, but naming her before Aquilla, a man and her own husband, as a gesture of respect.4 “Far from being repressive and chauvinistic,” Biblical scholar Robin Scroggs asserts, “Paul is the one clear and strong voice in the New Testament speaking for the freedom and equality of women.”5
Secondly, Scriptures such as this one require a good deal of wrestling with. Regardless of which interpretation we choose, there is no easy out. We can, however, find comfort in God’s willingness to be confronted. We can trust that He will always be with us—sometimes to answer our questions, and other times to simply acknowledge our frustrations. Yet, there are also times when the faithful pursuit of truth does bring answers. The intellectual pursuit of God, though frustrating at times, is an incredibly fulfilling way to experience Christ and a refreshing change of pace from the all-too-commonplace hunt for an emotional high. While secular culture often dismisses Christianity as self-deceivingly “gettin’ psyched up for Jesus,” we have an opportunity “to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15a). “But do this with gentleness and respect,” Peter continues; be a certain kind of intellectual who offers answers in humility and love to the ultimate questions of peace, hope, forgiveness, and purpose. 1
The New Interpreter’s Bible. Volume X. Abingdon Press. Nashville 2002. 2 Ibid. 775 3 Ibid. 926-932 4 Marie Noel Keller, Priscilla and Aquila: Paul’s Coworkers in Christ Jesus (Paul’s Social Network: Brothers and Sisters in Faith; Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2010). Pp. xviii + 106. Catholic Biblical Quarterly. April 1, 2012. (William O. Walker, Jr., Trinity University, San Antonio, TX 78212) 5 “Paul: Chauvinist or Liberationist?” Robin Scroggs. Christian Century. March 15, 1972. Colin is a freshman at Pomona College and is interested in pursuing an eclectic mix of pre-dent., neuroscience, and religious studies. This is his first, proud contribution to the Ekklesia.
by Megan Pritchett
ON CHRISTIAN Culture by Megan Pritchett
udgmental, hypocritical, anti-LGBTQ, and insensitive; these are the top adjectives used to describe Christians in the U.S.. Collectively, Christians have managed to hurt and anger a lot of people by claiming total moral and spiritual authority. Who would want to be a part of a religion like that? Many days, I am hesitant to call myself a Christian because I fear that I will be immediately labeled with the aforementioned adjectives, so instead I choose to opt for the more neutral “follower of Jesus.” Something about Christian culture is turning the loving and truthful words of Jesus into a toxic mess that people don’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. When I first became introduced to Christian culture early in high school, I was fairly open to learning about the faith and I hadn’t had any experiences that would make me cautious. As I spent more time going to Sunday services and youth group, I acquired cultural capital that allowed me to fit in, think deeply about important issues, and develop meaningful relationships that became my lifeblood. Christian culture made me feel accepted and welcome, and I still feel at home when someone mentions “discipleship” or I hear a song that I learned during Vacation Bible School.
However, what happens when people can’t easily fit into Christian culture, like I was able to? The Christian culture that makes me feel included can simultaneously make Christian spaces unwelcoming to people who aren’t familiar with the routine of a Sunday morning service. Church is supposed to be a sanctuary for all; instead, we often seclude ourselves on Sunday morning, thanking God that we are not like the people who are not in attendance .1
When the Church constantly expects
"secular" culture to conform to our image, we create
a culture of
faith is not enough that
When the Church constantly expects “secular” culture to conform to our image, we create a culture of judgment that communicates that faith is not enough; you must also wear our clothes, listen to
What happens when people can't easily fit into Christian culture, like I was able to?
our music, read our books, and worship how we do. Church culture is not an inherently bad thing, but when we don’t talk about it, unnamed and silent expectations filter out individuals who don’t fit the “standard” Christian mold (white, upper-middle class, heterosexual). If we never take the time to realize who is missing from our community, we’ll never realize how we might be alienating them. I believe that it is the responsibility of the church to engage culture and approach difference with humility and discernment, instead of fearfully condemning others for being different.
Judgment, however, is not a one-way street; the hypercritical eye that chastises non-Christians also demands perfection from those already on the inside. I picked up on this expectation pretty early, and my devotion to my academics soon expanded to include being an awesome Christian. Church became something to be good at, and dammit, I wanted to be the best. Reading the Bible and daily “quiet time” was initially so exciting for me - I got to talk with God and study beautiful poetry, stories, and letters that were relevant to my life. But eventually this attitude became more of a checklist, and I experienced severe guilt when I didn’t make the grade. Striving to meet all of these expectations was exhausting, and I frequently burned out. Although many of these expectations required nothing more than my time, I loved buying Christian stuff. I remember the first time I walked into a neatly organized Christian bookstore; every shelf vied for my attention with glossy, colorful Bibles, serious looking devotionals, and cross-shaped bookmarks that all promised to help me reach my spiritual best. If you calculated the amount of money I have spent over the last seven years on Christian books, conferences, and other related goods, I would probably be ashamed to tell you the answer. This commercialization is damaging because it cheapens the complex, messy Gospel into a simple, marketable message. Christianity wasn’t designed to spread through programs and pamphlets; it was designed to spread through people. In the New Testament, Jesus talked more about money than he talked about heaven and hell combined. A capitalistic understanding of the Gospel assigns a socioeconomic class to faith. This isn’t just bad theology, it’s failing to love others like Jesus did. Despite the judgment, perfectionism, and commercialization that have come to define the church, I am encouraged to hear growing numbers of stories detailing how people are finding new ways to follow Jesus that directly combat these stereotypes. Opening up our doors and minds to new ways of loving God and others are the first steps, and these actions need to be soaked in humility and prayer. In The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne writes that, “Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived,” and I agree. Let’s talk about exclusive language, racial reconciliation, and learning how to welcome people of all socioeconomic statuses. Let’s start the conversation. I’m all ears. 1 Luke 18:9-14
Megan Pritchett is a senior sociology major at Scripps College from Sacramento, CA. When she’s not working on her senior thesis, she likes to crochet in the company of friends with a cup of tea by her side (tea can also be substituted for a hazelnut latte).
Proverbs 28:1 by Bethany Ho Bethany Ho is a Biochemistry major and Music minor at Scripps College. When sheâ€™s not running from class to practice, youâ€™ll find her sketching, taking photos, singing or mastering the art of power-napping.
I Surrender by Maxine Tu Maxine was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. She is currently a first-year at Scripps College, and it is her passion to share about the supernatural freedom that comes from completely surrendering oneâ€™s life to the God of love.
In Your Image
A Modern Psalm by Darby Barton
hen I look into the mirror, I donâ€™t want to see my broken reflection staring back at me. Fill my vanity with erasers instead of concealers. Uncover my imperfections, my selfishness, my narcissistic routine.
Reveal to the world my flaws so that it can watch you permanently powder them with grace. May your brush strokes not cover up, but mend the shards of broken bits of a work in progress. Finely dust them into resilient, beautiful scars; reminders of wounds you healed and battles weâ€™ve won. Strip the varnish from my fingertips and tint them with an everlasting reminder of the nails that you stained crimson for me.
Lacquer my heart with a relentless layer of love for others. Make it so thick with tender desire that I cannot help but let it pour out of me, collecting into a refreshing pool that reflects not my own heart, but yours. May I glow with the joy of the Son and not the temporary offerings of a bronzer. Contour my spirit with lines of gentleness and courage. Pluck from me the shadowed pieces of a fragmented life so that when I look into the mirror, I am gazing at a brilliant likeness of You. Darby is a senior at Pitzer, double majoring in Organizational Studies and Music. She finds God in everything from harmonizing to hiking and has a great affinity for goat cheese.
by Janice Choi
y high school physics teacher was a great storyteller. Just tall enough to peer at us over the pile of labrubble on his desk, he would smile with a knowing glow, which, though but an effect of the projector’s lamp, held a significance greater than that of its physical cause and effect. The rest of the room was always dim and dusty—lukewarm—perfect for dozing off. Given my near-narcoleptic tendencies, I struggled in each class to keep my mind present, scared of missing a story or lesson. Of course there were days when my eyelids gave into the force of gravity—I still find myself wishing I could go back to fill those gaps in narrative. But there were other days when the room transformed into a theatre of thrill, filling with vivid details recounted in his creased voice. Sitting in that room was always—or at least as often as my internal clock permitted—a sensory pleasure, as his lessons were veined with life advice and tangential musings.
CREATIVE EXPRESSION I have no doubts that the man was a genius. Given that, his patience had to be of admirable breadth. He waived gaps in attendance (mental and physical), and carefully re-explained concepts until we could grip more tightly onto the subject matter with our dull teeth. Still, there were moments when he struggled to maintain composure as the ever-patient mentor. Perhaps a student asked a question that demonstrated an absolute neglect of critical thought, or an inexcusable failure to consider the givens. In such cases, as well as in the face of flagrant disrespect (particularly of the strain that interferes with others’ productivity), his gentle manner would recede, giving way to a didactic, cerebral disposition. However, these were the times that his impeccably logical nature was revealed most apparently. The ticking of his brain, his way of approaching our surroundings—they were functions of logic, buffered from our world of supposition only by a carefully cultivated ability to empathize deeply.
But why, then, did he waste class time playing a song for us every day? “Listen to the lyrics to this one,” he would say. We strained to listen past the sounds coming from the speakers, and his most ardent fans gathered after class to deconstruct the meaning of each verse. Even as the rigor of our curriculum pushed short the time we had left, he never failed to set class time aside for abstract video clips, inspirational speeches, and excerpts from movies that were only tangentially related to the material at hand. I couldn’t help but notice his accompanying gestural nudges, designed to push us towards a place where we could try a little harder to pay attention to the details of our world. As the year drew to a close, he announced his third retirement, and before our final exam, we gathered to surprise him with a farewell party. After a slideshow of photos from over the year and bittersweet goodbyes, a friend asked a question aloud, dousing the conversational bustle about the small room. “If you were to give us one last, most important piece of advice, what would it be?” Now, keep in mind that over the course of one year, our beloved teacher had taught us many things. How to swan-dive into a shallow pool from a cliff safely, which precautionary steps to take if caught in a lighting-storm atop a dry plateau or peak, how to address stressful family situations, just to name a few. I cannot begin to describe the palpability of our collective anticipation that was growing denser as he smiled, eyes crinkling with a gentle, familiar concern: “Love.”
And that was that. His final word of advice to us was not about survival, success, or braving the throes of socially constructed expectations that threaten our very
livelihood as humans.1 His greatest lesson was but one word—albeit a loaded, slippery word—and it left our logic-seeking, rote-accustomed brains demanding more of an empirically-verifiable solution.
...a fascination with logic and our physical world is simply inseparable from a sense of gratitude and reverence for the kind of beauty we find in pleasing compositions and emotional pulls.
There were several things that struck me about his answer. One was the contradictory nature of the situation: a physicist who had spent nearly an entire lifetime wiring his brain to work logically and efficiently—one that would agree with Rutherford that, “Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting”—could muster the patience and empathy to offer high school students not only the tools with which to explore basic physics, but those with which to approach a meaningful life, and to elevate these lessons about compassion and reverence above the quantifiable truths we would’ve expected such a hardcore physicist to prioritize. The second was that in that moment, everything I knew about my teacher, my perception of life, our physical world, aesthetic value, and love, clicked together in a way that was utterly harmonious and impossible to describe. Perhaps it was the literal twinkle visible in my teacher’s eye, which illustrated more lucidly than any other medium could have, a deeply-rooted and constant acknowledgement of the great universe, and our place in it. It was a momentary and momentous revelation2 to see that a fascination with logic and our physical world is simply inseparable from a sense of gratitude and reverence for the kind of beauty we find in pleasing compositions and emotional pulls, regardless of how it’s often considered counterintuitive and unproductive. 1 Or rather, it was not explicitly about these things. In hindsight, it’s clear that his literal word of advice encompassed all three, and beyond. 2 In the least dramatic sense of the word, yet the most profound: a simple uncovering of truth so basic and accessible that it shatters the basis upon which we’ve built our perceptions of life.
Janice is an aesthetic sentimentalist from suburban New York currently studying Studio Art and Computer Science. She loves driving alone, gutwrites, acrylic gouache, and recovering from existential meltdowns.
When Shiny Plastic Jesus Ain't Enough: The Scary Parts of the Bible That My Church Forgot to Mention (Or I Chose to Ignore)
by Caitlyn Hynes
love blogs.1 You get to read some random person’s musing about life, God, relationships, school, etc. and never have to respond. You can take in their edited streams of consciousness, bookmark what you find striking, comforting or challenging and toss away the rest. It’s like a oneway friendship with no strings attached!
we had to, and thus they remained separate from my awareness. I knew people whose families struggled financially, but I didn’t understand. In 2012, my LAUP team and I lived in South Los Angeles for six weeks while teaching at a summer enrichment program for neighborhood kids, and living in South LA was a shock. I met families struggling with money, immigration, and violence I started following blogs in earnest after my in their communities. I couldn’t turn away or experience at the Los Angeles Urban Project in retreat to my own world, because I was there too. One eight year old the summer of 2012. boy told me candidly LAUP gives students the opportunity to Though I'd called myself a of his family’s mmigration spend six weeks Christian for the majority istruggles, and I in the inner city in was startled by the order to learn about of my life, I'd been operating stark realities of the Bible’s call with a skewed or incomplete the problems I had for social justice. tuned out. Prior to To an outsider, it picture of who Jesus is. this experience, it admittedly sounds was so easy for me like a cult because they ask interns give up their cell phones, Internet to turn away and ignore these issues because and all modern forms of communication with they didn’t necessarily affect me, but here I the outside world to go live in the inner city and was forced to engage more intentionally with learn about Jesus, poverty, and how we should, the issues around me. I know that many people as Christians, engage with the poor and promote struggle to understand the realities of those in social justice.2 That summer I was introduced to different economic situations than their own, principles of Christianity that I’d rarely heard but living in the midst of it gave me a radically before. After all, who goes to live in the inner city different understanding of poverty because I willingly? Don’t missionaries just go build houses could put faces and real people to previously vague problems. I also saw Jesus at work in in other countries for a week? that community. I saw people, including myself, I grew up in Upland, California, which is receive physical healing through prayer.3 I saw approximately one hour and several worlds away how God was using his followers to bring justice from the South Los Angeles neighborhood that I and peace to their neighborhoods. would spend the summer in. I was equipped to do well in school, played lots of sports, took some I began to realize that the Christianity I knew piano lessons, lived in a nice house with a pool, was perhaps not the whole picture. Maybe my and spent time with my friends in their equally knowledge had gaps that glossed over some of privileged worlds. the more challenging tenets of this faith. At LAUP, I studied passages to which I had previously I was set up to succeed. Although there were spared only a passing thought, including Jesus’ certainly disadvantaged areas in my community, “inaugural address” to the Nazarenes: I did not live there. We didn’t visit them unless
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has appointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion” (Isaiah 61: 1-3 NIV)
Preaching good news to the poor? Talking with criminals? I ain’t Jesus!
But that was only the beginning of my struggles. It was one thing to be in the middle of this experience, trying to take everything in and live day to day, waiting for the end of the program. But what are you supposed to do after an experience like that? How do you respond, how do your daily patterns shift in favor of justice for the oppressed? How does God’s call to love the poor and to trust in Him affect my day-to-day life, my dreams, my choices?
This is the struggle that I now face. I have been prepared for success. I have worked hard, attended a great college and learned a lot. And yet perhaps, though I’d called myself a Christian for the majority of my life, I’d been operating with a skewed or incomplete picture of who Jesus is.4 The Jesus that I knew was loving, but a little too shiny and clean. This Jesus—the one I met in South Los Angeles—saw those on the streets whom I had overlooked because they made me uncomfortable. He didn’t call people to show up to church once a week and pray before dinner. He called people to leave everything behind, literally, in order to love those whom society had forgotten: homeless people, immigrants, prisoners, and everyone else who wasn’t deemed good enough. I realized that I had read Jesus’ teachings thinking, “This is for me!” And over the course of that summer, and in the time since, I began to realize that it was also about other people. Christianity wasn’t about the rules and words that made me feel better, but about a call to love, trust, serve, seek justice, and follow the call of Jesus with reckless faith.
Upon returning to the “real world”,5 I had several options. 6 1. Give away all my money. 2. Drop out of college and start living in the city. 3. Realize that maybe I could think and pray about this more before doing anything drastic. As a senior in college about to graduate, I am forced to consider how I want to shape my life around the ideals and calls of this Man. I cannot simply go forward ignoring the principles that he has set forth and continuing to live in isolation from those whom he calls us to love. But what does that entail?
Christianity wasn't about the rules and words that made me feel better, but about a call to love, trust, serve, seek justice, and follow the call of Jesus with reckless faith. From some perspectives, it seems irresponsible to give up the privilege that my family has worked hard for. But Jesus doesn’t call us to live responsibly. However, if I want to take this call seriously, does that mean that I have to take a low paying job and live in the inner city? I don’t know. But He calls us to trust and follow him, saying,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes…Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:22-24)
I desperately want to trust. I want to be that person who goes where God calls them with no resources and then has an awesome testimony about strangers offering them food and shelter.7 I want my heart to want what God wants, but I find that I am often distracted by what other people tell me I want, like a nice house, a nice car and lots of money. Although this article has focused on my experience, there are many other people out there who are trying to find their own answers as well. The body of Christ is groaning with the aches that come from disciples trying to follow their own unique paths while pursuing faith, hope, love, and justice. Now is the time where the road splits. Do I (we?) seek a life of comfort, and choose to ignore the problems facing those at the bottom of society, or do I intentionally join in and fight for justice alongside them? How can I follow Jesus’ example, and how do my career and life choices play into that? There are many blogs out there filled with people trying to figure out those same questions, and reading about their way of addressing injustices while trying to follow the crazy, irresponsible love of Jesus gives
me hope. Each person has their own problems that they wrestle with, and each story is unique. But threaded throughout each ongoing, unfinished life whose fingers type those blogs, are the testimonies of God’s faithfulness, his transforming power and love, and faith that he will provide despite their questions and trials. I wish there was a happy ending to this article detailing how someone called me up one day with an offer for a dream job that both fulfilled me and allowed me to seek justice for the poor and brokenhearted. Or some kind of flashing sign indicating where I should live next year. But there isn’t. Yet. I don’t yet know what part I will play in engaging with those forgotten and neglected but I am certain that Jesus’ upside-down kingdom will continue to open my blind eyes and hard heart and question all the “truths” I thought knew. Now that I’ve seen the things I tried to ignore, there’s no turning back now. 1 I also love footnotes and proper citations. Dear editor, please
let me leave them in. 2 My parents definitely thought it was a cult. Just to be clear, it is not. 3 Just to clarify, I do indeed mean physical healing. 4 IS. Not was. The Bible is not a boring history book, people. Ahem. Not that history books are boring. 5 Hooray for the Internet and instant communication! 6 I’m not saying that they were all carried out. I ain’t that crazy. But they did cross my mind. 7 I’d also be cool with being the stranger to offer such things. I’m not picky, just a little blind and unaware of other’s needs. Caitlyn Hynes is history major at Pomona College from Upland, California. She enjoys interestingly patterned socks, cool accents and YouTube.
Only by the Grace of God
by Diana Ortiz
y admission into Pomona College is a blessing that constantly gives me gratitude. But years ago, I remember feeling hopeless and worried about going to college. My worries were not about grades or activities, but about a deeper fear of being rejected as an undocumented immigrant. I constantly felt the pain of exclusion whenever colleges and scholarships required me to be a citizen or permanent resident before applying for financial assistance. With all of my heart, I wanted to achieve my dream of attaining a higher education; but, as a Christian, I felt the real heaviness of my status weighing down my trust in God. During the first few years of college I did not look forward to going home for the breaks. I did not want to return to my family’s financial problems or hear about my stepfather’s alcoholism. Being away from home had suddenly given me the privilege to not deal with these problems. But deep inside, even as I was sheltered by the “good life” at Pomona College, I was still hurting for my mom’s inability to buy groceries. I was hurting for my brother’s need to commute three hours by bus to UCLA without access to financial aid, a meal plan, or a place to sleep during the nights he missed the bus.
My family’s situation prevented me from rejoicing in God’s provision for me. For a long time I felt more guilty than grateful for living in a comfortable dorm with access to a dining hall, while my family worried about paying the rent without much money left for food. At times, I was consumed by sadness and could not focus on my academics. Though I did not blame God for my family’s problems, I did feel like it was unfair that I had to help my family financially while some of my peers never really had to think twice about going to Yogurtland. These burdens prevented me from rejoicing in other people’s blessings. At that time, I did not yet see my life as an instrument of God’s love for others.
Fortunately, this fragmented view of my life as a helpless victim of poverty took a significant shift when I decided to put all my burdens in God’s hands. The verse “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) had never felt as real as the summer of my sophomore year during that day at LAUP1 when I cried about everything that could possibly make me cry. In the midst of all my worries and harrowing doubts about my future, I felt God’s gentle presence fill my heart and mind with a comforting, incomparable sense of peace and love. Although today my family still struggles with financial instability, I now see my struggles more as experiences that have enabled me to reflect the love that God has repeatedly shown me. Although I couldn’t see it years ago, I now realize that these experiences have enabled me to share in the struggles of others and to comfort those who deal with rejection, doubt, and fear. I am reminded of this word from Scripture: “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
packing newspapers, and tutoring. Working motivated me to do well in school, and it relieved my mom’s stress as it allowed her to be proud of me. Memories about my mom working day and night while my brother and I struggled to learn English in school still shape my value for education and my support for labor rights. My life’s struggles have also inspired me to make a tangible difference in the lives of others while I am here in college. I co-founded a club called Improving Dreams, Equality, Access, and Success (IDEAS) for undocumented students and allies to support and collaborate with each other. I co-organized two alternative Spring Break service trips to Los Angeles where students were exposed to homelessness and hunger, gang violence, and educational and environmental inequity. Additionally, some of the most meaningful educational experiences I have had did not come from writing papers or reading books. Rather, they came from conducting oral history projects with an undocumented high school student and from my conversations with workers fighting for labor justice.
...I felt the real heaviness of my status weighing down my trust in God.
For instance, my experiences growing up poor have given me compassion for the poor and the oppressed. As a faith-rooted activist, I have concluded that there is a real and tangible purpose behind all the painful experiences I had growing up. Because my mom was working so hard to make a living, I had to take responsibilities around the household, such as cleaning, cooking, translating, and budgeting. I started working since I was twelve years old cleaning houses,
In light of all of my family’s struggles, I thank God because these experiences have made me a more sympathetic and justice-oriented person. I have grown to love the poor and oppressed, including the exploited worker, the recent immigrant, the single parent, the homeless, the struggling student, and the broken-spirited, because I see my family in all of these people.
Although people can accomplish great things without God in their lives, I believe that only God’s infinite grace—and nothing in this world—can sustain me during my struggle for justice. While the world tells me to target oppressors and be angry at the system, God clarifies the need to show compassion to everyone. God gives me an alternative not only to love the poor, but also to pray for Him to change the hearts of oppressors. In Matthew 5:44-47, God says, “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?” I believe it is only through this sort of love that I can make a difference in this heart-breaking world. And though it is not easy to pursue justice out of love, I thank God for my spiritual community that encourages me to persevere and not grow weary.
Anyone can be grateful for life and people we love. But I have personally come to realize that my gratefulness only ultimately has meaning when I direct it towards my creator and provider. I owe all that I am, and all that I will be, to God’s immense grace. God took me out of my darkness and brought me into a marvelous light of hope. God changed me from the inside out and called me beloved daughter. With all the temptations to pursue a secure financial career, God’s work in my life is a daily and conscious reminder that I must remain humble and full of the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
I hold on to a poem that reminds me of this commitment of faith:
“Walking in the Spirit means living every day, Looking up to Jesus and following His way. And when I give Him all of me, just like a mighty tree, My actions will become sweet fruit for all the world to see.”
Eventually, though it took a lot of patience and love, God managed to conquer my mind and broke my heart for what breaks his: injustice and suffering. For all this, I am eternally grateful. And I pray, just like the Apostle Paul prayed, “that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, you may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19). 1 The Los Angeles Urban Project (LAUP) is a six-week summer mission sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. This program allows college students of faith to develop a heart for the poor by living in community with inner city lowincome residents. LAUP also encourages participants to pursue transformative justice via a foundation of faith that promotes hope, peace, and love.
Diana Ortiz is a History major and Chicana/o Latina/o Studies minor at Pomona College. She was born in Tijuana, Mexico and raised in the San Gabriel Valley, but she currently lives in Los Angeles.
Mourning into Dancing An exposé on grace beyond normalcy by Laura Mallison
remember when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it was presented to me as good news. It was not autoimmune, it would not kill me, it did not have a cure, but if I exercised I should be fine. It was a roller coaster getting there, but I was relieved. In that moment, there was no way I could have anticipated just how much it would come to dominate my life.
The trickiest part for me is that fibromyalgia has no obviously visible symptoms. I try to pretend I don’t have it both as a coping mechanism and out of sheer pride, and my friends tend to follow my lead. As strange as this may sound, I’ve become so accustomed to it that I don’t remember what life without fibro is like.
However, as it has been getting worse over the years, I’ve started noticing that I really am different. Excessive air conditioning doesn’t bring chills but pain, running is out of the question, short-term memory is never a given, carb intake matters, and then the constant, never-ceasing rationing of daily energy...going for a morning walk affects the rest of the day, and even something as careless as staying up too late can lead to weeks of consequences. I stay in more nights than I used to, continually ask for extensions, and sometimes just cancel everything for the sake of a nap. In an achievement-driven society, there is less and less room for mere survival and being. We do, but
being is not among what we do. It’s not something concrete enough to pencil in our calendars, and it’s certainly too abstract to list on our resumes. As much as I want to be able to do more and meet this standard, that has not been an option these last few years. I still can’t honestly say I don’t envy more abled people, but I can say I am grateful for what my disability has enabled me to learn. As my health began to worsen, I had to re-prioritize and give up my high school activity-driven mentality. I was sad to see dance go with it, but I could not imagine devoting even a couple hours a week and knew my body would never cooperate with me to move as gracefully as it should. Three years later, though, I find myself dancing more than I ever had before, enough to hope that my professors never find out the ratio between hours dancing and hours working on thesis per week. For this, I blame my much beloved roommate. She saw me hit a mental wall one night sophomore year: I was overwhelmed by all I had to do but discouraged by how little energy I had to do it. I didn’t want to keep dwelling on why this was fibro’s fault and talk about how life was unfair; I just wanted to feel able and useful again and find something bigger than my limitations, which is why I agreed when she mentioned salsa night. As graceful and friendly as dancing is, that night it became my weapon of choice in this war I knew I could not yet surrender. Exercise was my
"You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy." - Psalm 30:11
only treatment option, but unlike most exercise, dancing did not leave me sore for weeks.
More than that, though, dance has become a tangible analogy for my intangible faith. The effort it takes to keep going some days is more than I want to deal with, and at twenty-two I often feel forty years too young for the way my body is acting. Through the lens of consumerism and ambition, my body does not work well, and I find myself often joking that I want a refund. With dancing, though, this thing that seems like junk can suddenly make something beautiful. Just as God makes something miraculous out of my messes, dancing turns what was broken into something glorious.
After working so hard throughout the day to figure out what I can and cannot do, it is always a relief to take off my street shoes weighed down with the worries of the day and put on my dancing shoes. Stepping out onto the dance floor, I feel a rush and new sense of self. The brokenness of my body is still evident, but I shift my focus part by part: the power of my muscles to move, the strength of my bones to support me, and my mind’s ability to make them work. For a few hours, I take a break from trying to fight my body into doing things, and I simply am.
It was good and healthy to have time to mourn over the uses of my body that I’ve lost, and it’s a process that comes in waves. I do need to recognize my hurts both physical and emotional, but I refuse to let them define me by dwelling on them. Dancing has consistently been my escape from self-pity, and through it God has fulfilled His promise in Psalm 30:11: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” Each time I dance, I thank God for the miracle of its freedom and beauty. I am still mobile, but I fight for mobility and no longer take it for granted. It’s easy to feel entitled to activities like walking and complain when they get difficult, but being able to experience the thrills of dancing reminds me that it is all a gift. What sets dancing apart for me is that it is not just another task or activity, but rather a sacred time of day when I can go, be, and remember that I am so much more than this illness I am conquering. Laura is a senior Legal Studies and Spanish major at Scripps striving to balance grand life goals and living life moment by moment. Until a greater solution appears, she is a firm believer that the answer to many of these problems can be found in a good cup of tea.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21
The Claremont Ekklesia exists to bring Christianity into dialogue with the academic community at the Claremont Colleges. Derived from the Greek word “assembly” or “church,” Ekklesia denotes the assembly of Christian believers called out for purposes in this world. Interested in getting involved or continuing the conversation? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at ClaremontEkklesia@Gmail.com. Or, visit our website at www.ClaremontEkklesia.WordPress.com.