a publication for the McAfee community
from the dean TABLEAUX: plural [ta-bloh]: A picturesque group of persons around a common table Welcome to the third edition of Tableaux: A Publication for the McAfee Community. This tri-annual publication celebrates what McAfee is knowing, being and doing as a theological institution. You will find within its pages news about past and upcoming events, articles on key theological issues, feature stories on alumni and current students, and an array of information to keep you connected with McAfee. Tableaux means “a picturesque grouping of persons around a common table,” and among the McAfee faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends there are many noteworthy—not to say “picturesque”— people. So feel free to join in on our conversations and contribute to that which makes McAfee so great. Follow along as we continue the journey of knowing, being and doing.
Join us at the table.
R. Alan Culpepper
contents 4 Looking Back: Mercer On Mission 6 Community Engagement Fellows 8 “Who’s the Boss?” by Thomas Slater 10 “Sharing hope” by Karen Massey 12 “Leadership as Gift” by Daniel Vestal 13 “More than a place to sit” by Matt DuVall 14 Focus on current student Chuck Peek 16 “Comics as a gateway to biblical literacy” by David Garber
18 Center for Theology and Public Life 20 Focus on alumna Angela Yarber 23 Book review by Loyd Allen 24 Coming Events 25 Class Notes and End Notes
On the cover: Current student Chuck Peek outside FBC West Point
McAfee participates in
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. The words of the hymn are almost comically inaccurate today. The group of six McAfee students and six undergraduate students Dr. Bryan Whitfield and I led to Israel this summer was struck by the constant movement and noise in Bethlehem, day and night. The muezzin in each of the local mosques calls the Muslim faithful to prayer every few hours, including 4:00 a.m.! The bread merchant announces that he is passing by. Dogs bark, mufflers growl, and life thrives.
We were struck by the friendliness and warmth of the Palestinian Christians. They were eager to introduce us to their food and their language and share their stories with us. They took us to “the wall” that now divides the west bank from Israel, with its poignant graffiti: “Free Palestine!” Water is rationed, so we took “navy showers”— and for two days we had to go without showers altogether. The summer heat was oppressive, but everyone pitched in eagerly, repairing pealing plaster, removing mold and mildew, and painting at the House of Peace Ministries and in the homes of Palestinian Christians. They welcomed us with tea, soft drinks, and cookies. Hugs, broken English (“Tank you, Lord!”), and our few Arabic greetings overcame the language barrier. After ten days, we moved on, grateful for a new appreciation for the plight of the Palestinians, and ready to see more of Israel. For four packed
days in Jerusalem, we explored the old city, studied at the Shalom Hartman Institute, participated in a Shabbat service and a Shabbat meal, and worshiped at the Church of the Redeemer. Visits to Masada and Qumran (where it was 110 degrees), a “swim” in the Dead Sea, and visits to the Israel Museum and the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial capped off this second phase of the journey. The third phase took us to Galilee, where we stayed on the Mount of Beatitudes with its spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee. A visit to the Cliffs of Arbel gave us a new perspective on the land of Jesus’ ministry. Our exploration of Galilee took us to Hazor, Dan, and Banias (Caesarea P h i l i p p i ) , Capernaum, Tabga, and Beth Shean before we had to make our way back to the airport at Tel Aviv.
cer On was Miss io a of n expe n trip a li feti rience me.
Dr. Culpepper’s expertise and knowledge of the Middle East made each ruin come to life. His wisdom gave us the advantage of bypassing some sites in order to spend more time in ancient areas which gave us the best learning experience. Never could I have learned as much as I did about the Jewish culture in one semester sitting in a classroom. Dr. Culpepper’s guidance, by far, was the most valuable resource of the trip.
The experience was overwhelming. Images and memories still flood our minds. Global issues now have human faces. We follow the news from Israel, but know that it is filtered by the media. The bond with Israelis, Jews and Palestinians, is so strong that we say hopefully and wistfully, “Next year in Jerusalem!” _R. Alan Culpepper
When I initally heard about this trip, I automatically assumed it would be an opportunity for God to use me in ministry (since my life’s calling is offering healing and restoration to people in need). In some ways this trip offered that experience. We cleaned and painted homes as well as built relationships with the local Palestinian Christians. But as much as I thought I was there to help others, I quickly realized I was there to work through questions in my own theological journey, too. For instance, one day during a Shabbat service we were asked to reflect on wherther or not we had contributed to the wellbeing of another person during that day. Automatically I thought of mentioning the physical energy of painting another person’s home, but I shied away from making that comment. I believed our contribution did make a remarkable difference in one person’s life, but was it enough to actually bring about healing and restoration? Questions like these caused me to remain quiet. The following day I thought about the course of conversation during Shabbat and my silence. I began to experience a period of uncertainty and questions began to surface. Why am I in seminary? Am I doing enough in this life to truly help others? _Shirley Gaskin To read Shirley’s full reflection: http://bit.ly/S5hpzy
Community Engagement Fellows focus on current students
Chris Chris Coleman Coleman
Greta Greta Fowler Fowler
Tavonda Tavonda Hudson Hudson
Lyonel Lyonel LaGrone LaGrone
Curtis Landrum Landrum Curtis
Age: 22 Undergrad: CarsonNewman College
Age: 38 Undergrad/Grad school: University of Kentucky and Alabama A&M
Age: 31 Undergrad: Georgia State University
Age: 40 Undergrad/graduate school: Aquinas College and Strayer University
Age: 22 Undergrad: University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
“I believe this program is an invaluable avenue for seminarians to show their holistic and unique understanding of what it means to be ministers of the gospel in a lost and hurting world. Because of the CEF, I’m excited to combat policies that produce and prolong homelessness.”
“Civic engagement matters because people have a Godgiven ability to affect real change in the world for themselves and for others. Christians have a divine responsibility to not only engage in civic matters but also to be an agent of change. CEF is helping me do just that!”
“Civic engagement matters because we come from a history that divides us, and it is our Christian responsibility to bridge this gap in our faith community. Because of the CEF, I now have the necessary tools to start helping others build that bridge towards social justice and racial reconciliation.”
“Meeting regularly with a group of fellow seminary students who are also engaged in social justice allows me to live out my belief that ministers of the gospel must boldly address social injustices – not just in word, but also in deed.”
“Civic engagement matters because it is what the Bible is asking all of us to do. I’m excited that the CEF will, therefore, help me engage with likeminded individuals from diverse backgrounds in an unfamiliar city. My biggest hope is that doors open in the areas that I am passionate about.”
McAfee has partnered with Leadership Renewal Ministries to establish the Community Engagement Fellowship. The funds for this program will support ten fellows at McAfee this year. Six students will build community among McAfee’s very diverse student body, concentrating on the topic of racial healing within the church and society. The other four students will volunteer with community service partners. Through these partnerships, the fellows will provide no-cost labor to the service organization, which, in turn, will allow the fellows to glimpse the rewards and trials of non-profit work while gaining vital leadership skills that will enhance their future ministries. _David Garber
Isaac Isaac Sharp Sharp
Wesley Thompson Thompson Wesley
Karen Karen Zimmerman Zimmerman
Age: 24 Undergrad: CarsonNewman College
Age: 23 Undergrad: CarsonNewman College
Age 24 Undergrad: Belmont University
Age: 24 Undergrad: University of North Alabama
Age: 25 Undergrad: Salem College
“I believe we as Christians have a religious mandate to practice civic engagement. Because of the CEF, I believe I can help fulfill this mandate by bringing a new, intentional culture of civic engagement to the McAfee community through either social justice or racial reconciliation initiatives.”
“Civic engagement matters because, to paraphrase a wise hobbit from Lord of the Rings, ‘I’m part of this world!’ Because of the CEF, I’m excited to catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God – the same Kingdom that sees community as an intentional reflection of the diversity within God’s creation.”
“The design of this program, to engage both the ‘inside’ community of McAfee and the ‘outside’ civic community, coalesces beautifully with McAfee’s emphasis on local ministry. I’m excited that we as Fellows will develop the skills needed to re-focus our congregations’ ministries on their immediate neighbors.”
“As a seminary student, it is easy to lose sight of the reality going on around us because we’re so caught up in our own world. This CEF program helps us regain sight of reality by aiding us to rediscover the joy of being present with other people.”
“Civic engagement matters because God cares about the daily realities of people. We testify to God’s love through the relationships we build and the work we do. I’m excited to start working in the community, talking to people, and getting some practical experience in church ministry.”
Whoâ€™s the boss? a biblical look at household codes in Ephesians
Few sections of Ephesians have attracted as much study as the household codes. Feminists and non-feminists alike have appealed to Ephesians 5:21-33 to support their mutually exclusive positions. Ephesians 5:21-33 is not about mutual subordination but mutual responsibilities: both sides are responsible to the other to some degree. Mutual responsibility connotes that both parties have responsibilities to each other without implying that the relationship is on equal terms.
Ephesians does not destroy the contributed to the welfare of the 6:4, 5-6), not only in 5:21-33. Greco-Roman hierarchy. Ephesians nation. Moreover, the codes move from would have been viewed as a liberal, It is within this social the more significant social strata to progressive position for its day; framework that one should read the less significant (husband-wives, however, it would not have been Eph 5:21-6:9. As the Emperor is parents-children, etc). A distinctive viewed as distinctive but one of the head of the empire, Christ is the Christian feature is that one behaves many such statements for that day. Head of the Christian community thus out of reverence for Christ. One finds similar statements from (5:23). As nation-state binds One purpose of the codes Greco-Roman and Jewish writers citizens together, so too Christ binds in Ephesians 5:21-6:9 might have alike. What is new (and different) together all Christians and brings been to show commonality with the in Ephesians is the motivation: communal harmony and peace (see wider culture while still maintaining Christians are taught to adhere 2:11-22). Obedience to Christ is Christian distinctiveness. The to these cultural norms out of required of all Christians in order codes might have also served as a reverence for Christ. Ephesians to sustain communal harmony. means of communicating to nonweds power with responsibility Christians the true reason for Christ did not create the Church as an expression of Christian household codes, or to show piety within the confines of through an exercise of power but how similar Christians were to Greco-Roman culture, albeit in their neighbors. This would through self-giving love. the liberal wing. have made Christians less Household codes were Order is established in the Christian threatening to non-Christians. In common in the first Christian community when the more either event, Christian would have century. We find here an ethical powerful person relinquishes power been perceived by progressive nonframework made popular by the for the well-being of those who are Christians as having something in Stoics, but its roots are Aristotelian. less powerful. This was simply common. For example, Aristotle wrote of three unthinkable and revolutionary in The teaching on marriage types of relationships with reciprocal Roman society. brings a Christian perspective to relations. Like our household codes, Epictetus, a Roman Stoic, the original readers and echoes the 1 the relationships were one-sided. wrote that humans should follow the exhortation in 5:21 to be submissive. Cicero and Epictetus example of the gods. “If the deity is The instruction is not aimed at provide examples of how two first- faithful, he (i.e., humanity) also must women in general but only to wives. century CE Roman Stoics expressed be faithful. If free, he must be free. This is true, and it presents a problem standard ethical norms of the day. If beneficent, he must be beneficent.” for literalistic fundamentalists, a Cicero provides a helpful example He concludes, “Therefore, he must problem that they will ignore. First of a household code set on a larger act as an imitator of God in all he century Roman society, however, scale. In On the Duties 1.17.53-58, says and does.” On other occasions, would not have made such a Cicero discusses social duties on a he includes good citizenship, distinction. On the positive side, cosmic scale. One must note two positive family relations, honorable Ephesians sees a marriage as a elements. First of all, his codes move transactions, and religious piety. religious bond. Within the society, from the larger to the smaller social Epictetus usually moved from the women were routinely treated like group, from the more general to more general to the particular. property. Wives were essentially the more nuclear. Secondly, Cicero We find strong similarities servants who bore children for the understands these relationships in Ephesians 5:21-6:9. Similar to master of the household. to be parallel and interconnected. Epictetus’ teaching on following The book of Ephesians The country is an inclusive national the example of the gods, Ephesians argues for another type of marital family that binds together all the exhorts its readers to be subject relationship. It advocates a deep biological families. Biological units to one another as an expression love by the husband for the wife, should reflect the orderliness present of their devotion to Christ (5:21). a devoted relationship where the in the Empire, the pax Romana. For Throughout the household codes, spouse is not a “trophy wife” but a Cicero, these two social phenomena Christ provides the example for cherished wife, the most beloved were mutually inclusive and moral propriety (5:23-27, 29, 32; suitable companion. _Thomas Slater
What saying goodbye to my mother taught me about ministry I have been an ordained Baptist minister for over 20 years. During that time I have had the honor and privilege of visiting with terminally ill parishioners during their final days of life, standing beside families who were burying a loved one, and officiating at the funerals of church members and strangers. All of those experiences were holy moments for me. And I tried hard to be a good pastoral presence during those times of grief by following what my seminary textbooks taught me. Sadly, my mother died several weeks ago, and I suddenly found myself in a new role. I was no longer the consoling, compassionate pastor; I was the grieving, heartbroken daughter. My mother had suffered for eight years with a severe form of Alzheimer’s called Lewy Body Syndrome. Some of the symptoms included dementia, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing, and stiffening of the joints. While my family members and I knew that one day mom would die from complications caused by her disease, her death came quite unexpectedly this summer. Mom had fallen, and she was in the hospital for what was supposed to be routine hip replacement surgery. The actual surgery did go well, but complications arose that my mother’s feeble body just couldn’t overcome. Shocked and grieving, my family and I found ourselves having to make end-of-life decisions that involved the removal of feeding tubes and hospice care. Then there were the long days of waiting and sitting by my mother’s bedside as she readied to leave this life. My mother’s death was the first time in my life that I had experienced true, gut-wrenching grief. It was also the first time in my life that I had been the recipient of extended pastoral care from ministers. While my mother’s death was difficult to bear, there were several lessons I learned, through my personal sadness, about grief and pastoral care. It is one thing to know about grief and another to experience it. And, it is one thing to offer compassionate and sensitive pastoral care and another to follow the textbook. Sometimes grief does not follow the textbook. When I once again find myself in the role of pastor, there are some things I will do differently as a result of my own experience with grief.
Be honest and name the present reality Once the feeding tube was removed, my mom struggled and labored between this life and the next for six days. The doctors regularly gave her morphine, but we didn’t always know if she was in pain or if she needed something. Neither did we know what she was thinking or experiencing. There would be moments when she would cry out or fight with some invisible, imaginary monster. Her breathing was loud and labored. And her body shook from bouts with fever. Most of the time, I felt helpless, and my mom’s last dying days weren’t very pretty. Ministers would come by to visit, and they would offer the following words: “Your mom is going to a better place,” or “Your mom will soon be free of her suffering.” While those words were true for my mother and her future, those words didn’t offer me comfort in the present moment. I would have welcomed someone naming the present reality as hard, difficult and sad. I longed to hear someone say, “This really stinks.” To hear such words would have helped me realize that someone understood my pain, and that it is necessary to go through grief in order to realize hope and healing.
Permit the person to grieve in her own way As one who was grieving, I found that often what I needed was not what everyone else wanted for me. Ministers would come to the hospice facility to visit mom, and then they would spend an hour or so visiting with me. They would talk about various topics, from the weather to my job to the Georgia Bulldogs, in the hopes of cheering me up. While I appreciated their intentions, what I wanted and needed more was to use the time to talk to my mother. I was constantly aware of the brevity of time during my mom’s stay in hospice, and I wanted to spend as much time at her bedside as possible. I realized that in whatever time was left, I had a lifetime of gratitude to express, memories to name, and blessings to share. I wanted to honor my mother in her dying, and time with her was precious to me. Ministers would also push me to go home at the end of each day, encouraging me to get some rest. While resting
was important, what I needed more was to be with my mother when she died. I didn’t want her to die alone. I wanted to be there at the end to bless my mom as she took her last breath. Just as she held me in her arms when she brought me into this world, I wanted to hold her in my arms as she left this world. These were things I needed to do in order to cope with the grief of losing her.
Ask the person what she needs
Every time a minister or deacon came to visit my mom in hospice, he would grab me by the hand and say,” I know that some good praying is what you need, so I would like to pray for you and with you right now.” To be perfectly honest, there were many times I didn’t want to pray with those ministers; I had already been praying! At other times, I didn’t feel like praying; I needed something else instead. I would have liked to have spent time talking about my mom and some of the good memories I had of her. Or, I would have liked to go for a walk outside to have a change of scenery. Or, I would have liked a good cup of coffee. Or, I would simply have liked to be left alone. Depending on the circumstances of the day, my mother’s condition, or my mood, my needs changed. I would have welcomed the ministers asking me what I needed and then allowing me the space to have it.
Be a supportive presence long after the funeral and burial are over
During the time of the funeral home visitation and the day of the funeral service, I felt so much care and support from friends and ministers. Their presence was a gift. But in the days and weeks after the burial, most people had moved on; they had gone back to work, daily routines, and family life. I was still grieving. My world was changed forever with the death of my mother, and I was still trying to adjust to life without her. And I realized that grief would continue to rear its head during the next year as my family experienced the first holidays without my mom, her birthday, family reunions, and family vacation. I have heard someone say that the days and months after the funeral are often some of the most difficult and most lonely. Remembrances from ministers during those days will be comforting, and it will be a gift to know that I am not walking the road of grief alone. During my years in elementary school and high school, my mom had two questions that she always asked me at the end of the day: What did you learn in school today? And, what did you learn in life today? My mom was a firm believer that some of the best lessons we learn come from life experiences. She was right. The experiences of my mother’s death and dealing with my personal grief taught me many things that a textbook could not have taught me. One important lesson is that I should not make assumptions about what people need during times of grief; I should listen for what they need and allow space for it. As a minister who often cares for people who grieve, I will listen more and assume less. _Karen Massey
as I come to this time and place in life with an incredible sense of privilege. To explore the contemporary challenges of church and society with colleagues and friends, to foster research as to what Baptist leaders might actually look like, to engage in the educational enterprise in a major research University – all of this is a privilege.
Now, more than ever, I am aware of how much of what I value and hold dear is a sheer gift. Leadership itself is gift, though it may not feel or seem that way at certain times. We speak of “the burden of leadership” or the “toll leadership takes on a person,” which is true. But whether one is a leader because of circumstances or compulsion, one ought to begin by simply saying thanks for the privilege. A gift is to be received with gratitude and then stewarded with care and creativity. I’m reminded of the parable Jesus told of the talents distributed by a master to servants. It’s a fact that some of us are “five talented” while others of us are “”two talented” or “one talented.” But what is most important is to make the most of what God gives us, to be dedicated and diligent, and to act in faith and courage. This is what one does when life and leadership are received as gift. The Eula Mae and John Baugh Center for Baptist Leadership is a gift, literally. Created by the vision of Mercer President, Bill Underwood, and endowed by the generosity of the Baugh Foundation, this Center is a gift to the Baptist family. It was preceded by the vision of R. Kirby Godsey who created The Center for Baptist Studies and appointed the esteemed historian Buddy Shurden as its Director. Through the years Dr. Shurden has offered multiple opportunities to Baptists for education and enrichment. I honestly don’t know all that will unfold for the Baugh Center. We have some ambitious projects and plans. We have some grand dreams and hopes. And I do believe, with all my heart, that just as the past and present have been gifts, so will be the future. Scripture says it this way, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” _Daniel Vestal
More than a place to sit Founderâ€™s Day 2012
During our 2012 Founderâ€™s Day convocation at the McAfee School of Theology, we celebrated the contributions of three of our faculty by literally giving them wooden chairs, which might seem like an odd practice. For academic institutions, the establishment of chairs and professorships, and the installation of faculty in them, is a sign of health and growth. Chairs are a sign of financial health. The five chairs and one professorship at McAfee represent nearly $3 Million in endowment gifts to the school, and those gifts generate significant earnings that help support professors and program areas. These gifts are also a sign of trust in the faculty and direction of McAfee. That we have chairs and professorships in the areas of Baptist History, Christian Ministry, and Missions says something about the trajectory of where the school is going. We have a chair named for a well-loved Pastor of one of our founding congregations that was given as a gift to honor him, and two other chairs given from the estates of individuals who believed in the importance of supporting Baptist higher education. Sometimes, the desire to remember and give thanks is the driving reason for giving this kind of gift. For a family, individual, or foundation who is wondering how to leave a lasting legacy at McAfee, endowing a chair or professorship is a powerful way to honor and celebrate the life of a loved one and also elevate the resources available in a certain discipline by making an impact that echoes in perpetuity. _Matt DuVall Director of Development
an interview with a current student
What is your ministry position and what are you asked to do in a given week? I am currently in my seventh year as youth minister at First Baptist Church, West Point. My primary responsibilities are teaching middle and high school students and accompanying them in their spiritual development. I also teach Sunday school, lead weekly youth worship services, and schedule regular events and programs. The congregation and leadership at the church have offered me a place to explore my call and grow in ministry with a rare measure of grace and support. On top of congregational ministry, my wife Noelle and I participate in an intentional community called Hillside. This ministry allows us minister to the needs of a local community by participating in activities such as a community garden, weekly dinners, bible studies, child-care initiatives, open forums, etc. These events are held in an outdoor space called The Gathering Place. We believe building intentional relationships in a place as ethnically, economically, and culturally diverse as Hillside is a wonderful way to share our gifts while experiencing the abundant gifts of others.
What exactly is the Gathering How do you balance being a responsibilities important to my Place? And in what ways do you husband, student, minister, and various roles. Another challenge is finding get involved? community organizer? The Gathering Place is so unique. It was formerly a furniture store but has since been reclaimed by nature and repurposed as a true open-air community space. The Gathering Place hosts community festivals, meetings, events, and even a free yoga night facilitated by an instructor who lives down the street. The lot houses the Hillside community garden and also serves as the location for a free children’s day camp created by a group of neighbors. Noelle and I try to invest in the community through our relationships with other families and by being active in community events. We enjoy working with children and youth and have helped lead children’s activities at the summer day camp and various festivals and events. A lot of the neighborhood kids really like our dog Einstein, so we enjoy walking and meeting new people or interacting with old friends when we can. Working in the community gardens is a personal hobby. I’ve also
Each of these roles is important to me. Some days my priorities might have to change given the circumstances, but I’ve learned to be flexible as I try to balance the demands of each. Practicing good self-care has been extremely important (yet difficult) over the past couple of years. Whether it’s spending an afternoon in the garden or playing tennis with McAfee students, being outside helps me maintain my sanity! I’ve also benefited from good coaching and counseling as well as from being part of a fantastic peer group for young ministers.
What are the biggest challenges you currently face?
During my third semester at McAfee I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder after struggling with depression for some time. Two of my professors were actually quite instrumental in helping me begin to cope with enjoyed helping coach this challenge. I have since sought a softball team in the help in managing my depression, neighborhood summer but it can still present challenges to excelling in my various contexts. league. I think that the main challenge, though, is something that any minister or seminary student can relate to—just trying not to fall behind. I’ve gotten pretty good (maybe even a little obsessive) about managing a calendar, and that has helped me keep up with most of the
time to rest, meditate, and maintain my own spiritual health amongst the busyness that characterizes my life right now.
Despite the challenges, how do you experience the divine in the midst of all of these roles? Many days I experience God most keenly in the grace and support offered by the communities in which I’m immersed. My wife and family, neighbors, friends at McAfee, and fellow church members are all as much benefactors of divine love and fellowship as they are beneficiaries of my ministry. Initially I found myself surprised at how much I rely on the care offered by those to whom I minister, but this kind of mutual edification is, I think, what Jesus envisioned when he talked of the kingdom. Being part of the body of Christ at McAfee has also been a really special experience. The depth and diversity of giftedness among the students, faculty and staff are truly profound. I have experienced God by being part of the McAfee community through countless conversations and holy encounters. This has been a wonderful compliment to my theological education, although perhaps the education has been the true compliment. I suppose that this quandary demonstrates as well as anything, what exactly makes McAfee so unique.
“Did I tell you on Monday she’s Mormo, Formless Chaos? ... On Tuesday it’s all Tiamat this and Tiamat that, Tohu va Bohu and Boo-hoo-hoo. Wednesdays, the Gorgon queen comes in on tiptoes with a million forked tongues for hair.”1 Grant Morrison’s Professor Pyg recites this litany of chaos monsters—complete with the original Hebrew terms for “formless and void” from Gen 1:2—as he perfects his own grotesque creation. Batman’s only begotten son, Damian, sits as his captive audience. Using this page as an introduction to the graphic novel section of my “Bible and Popular Culture” course prompted one student to exclaim, roughly paraphrased, “Wow, you need a Ph.D. just to read comics!” Student exaggeration aside, comic book allusions to ancient literature compel Neil Gaiman, celebrated novelist and writer of The Sandman, to consistently claim that comics are a gateway drug to literacy. As a teacher of biblical literature and a reader of comics, I have found the same to be the case in terms of biblical literacy.
Comics as a Gateway to Biblical Literacy
Timothy K. Beal suggests two major components of biblical literacy: the “what,” or content of the Bible, and the “how,” or method for reading the biblical text. Beal adds, “to many readers the Bible seems inaccessible. They feel unauthorized to read and interpret biblical literature for themselves.”2 Familiarizing readers with the content and methods for reading the biblical text provides a framework for producing meaningful encounters with our tradition’s most sacred literature.
Comics as a Gateway to Content: Biblical Allusion in Recent Comic Books A sampling of recent comics and comic-inspired media sufficiently illustrate comic creators’ penchant for appealing to biblical content. In Artifacts, Sarah Pezzini, the Witchblade, finds her daughter kidnapped. At a crossroads moment that transpires in an abandoned cathedral, Pezzini must decide whether to save the world or find her
daughter. She proclaims, “I’m not sacrificing my daughter!” while standing beneath a stained glass window that depicts Abraham’s dagger uplifted over a bound, kneeling Isaac.3 The first issue of Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing series carries the title “Raise Dem Bones.” While the issue describes the resurrection of Swamp Thing, a depiction of the resurrection of bones by wind reminiscent of Ezek 37 occurs in an anticreation scene portraying the formation of the Swamp Thing’s monstrous antagonist. Instead of the familiar “it is good” proclamation from Gen 1, only one thought, repeated thrice, appears on the page: “no good,” “no good,” “no good.”4 The Superman mythos consistently alludes to both Jewish and Christian readings of the Bible. The plot of the 2006 movie Superman Returns reflects the suffering and resurrection of Christ. At least three death scenes occur, one in which Lex Luthor thrusts a Kryptonite shard into Superman’s side, another with Superman in a cruciform pose as he falls to earth, and a third as Superman descends into the fiery center of the earth. Afterwards, Superman lies in a coma at the Metropolis hospital. The scene cuts to Perry White as he contemplates the Friday edition of the Daily Planet with the headline: “Superman is Dead: World in a State of Mourning.” Two days later, a nurse enters Superman’s empty hospital room. As the movie concludes, the resurrected Superman declares to his beloved disciple, Lois Lane, “I’ll always be around” before ascending into the heavens to watch over the earth.5 In a recent comic book retelling of the Superman myth, writer Grant Morrison and artist Rags Morales recount returning to the Jewish roots of Superman, whose Kryptonian name is KalEl. When describing the spacecraft that carries Superman to Earth, Morales says: “As I was drawing it, I started seeing things that reminded
me of Moses’ basket. Then I’m thinking, ‘Kal-El – ‘El’ is a Hebrew word for God. The world’s being destroyed, so he’s being put into the basket and sent down the Nile.’ So I made it a little more basket-y.”6 The first two pages of Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch #2 depict the creation of Adam One, a character in the Stormwatch crew created at the big bang, who ages backwards from the beginning of time until its end. We read the internal existential musings of Adam One at the moment of his creation: “What?!” “What is this?! Where am I? Who am I?! What do “what” and “where” and “who” mean?!”7 More recently, in the Vertigo series, Saucer Country, Cornell alludes to the now infamous UFO interpretation of Ezek 1 before continuing his tale of alien invasion.8 _David Garber
Dave, stop talking about comics! We’re going to be late for Dragon*Con! But what about how to read the text? For the complete story, jump to the McAfee Tableaux Blog: http://bit.ly/QmPy1y
B.J. Parker M.Div. ‘10, artist
In one of your recent ABP articles, you said you wanted to help students transition from being deconstructed to reconstructed in their faith journey. As you are training young ministers, how does the Center help you in the effort to reconstruct ministers’ faith systems?
What is the purpose of the CTPL? It is to create meaningful conversations about issues that emerge where religious conviction and public life come together. Whether it is religiously or morally laden public policy issues like abortion, environment, poverty, or the proper role of religion in the public square or how Christians bear witness to their faith in public, these are the issues that we try to identify with this Center. How do you think its going? Really well, actually. I want people to know at Mercer we are attempting to have a thoughtful conversation about issues around faith and public life.
I think that when we as ministers engage the public square we have to have something to say, but there has to be a fine balance between humility and clarity. I’m looking at the wall of moral heroes here in my office, one reason they were all moral heroes was because they knew some things . . . they believed in some things clearly . . . they were willing to stake their lives on those things and even be willing to suffer and to sometimes die for those things. I want to graduate people who share those same convictions. Deconstruction is about taking apart beliefs that are immature, unsophisticated, un-nuanced, uncritical, etc. It is an important step within theological education, but in the end, if all you have is deconstruction, then all you have is what you don’t know anymore (i.e. I don’t know that about the Bible, theology, the church). I believe in order to have a clear word to say in public, you have to know some things. For instance, I know Jews are not to be persecuted and murdered; I know that slavery is wrong; I know no one should have to sit on the back of the bus; I know that apartheid, global poverty, and colonialism are all wrong; I know little, sick children need to be cared for and totalitarianism should be resisted. I know sick people need good health care and I am going to lay my life down for the things that I believe. So my hope is that by participating in CTPL events, students will have yet another avenue to help
an interview with David Gushee
reconstruct theological and social convictions in order guide the future of the church.
“Election 2012: Why Should I Care?” Oct 2: Mercer Atlanta, TDR & Mercer Macon, PDR Judge Wendell Griffen Nov 27: Chapel speaker
What can we look forward to this year? This year we are going to do a few different things. We just finalized “Election 2012: Why Should I Care?” This event will be on October 2 in the Trustees Dining Room in Atlanta from 12-1pm as well as in Macon that evening. What we are going to do is have three or four faculty speakers from different disciplines (health, business, theology, etc.) and to talk about what issues are at stake in this election according to what they do. Our sub goal is to penetrate the cynicism of the students and to help them think critically about what is at stake with the election because elections matter, votes matter, so let’s be informed about what we are voting on.
50th Anniversary: Letter from Birmingham Jail April with Morehouse College
Also, in November Wendell Griffen will come and speak. He’s a judge and ordained clergy from Little Rock, Arkansas. He’s going to speak about race, theology, and sexuality. In April we are doing a joint venture with Morehouse. We’re focusing on a theme around the Letter from Birmingham Jail since it’s the fiftieth anniversary.
c t p l . m e r c e r. e d u
ministry with Preacher
Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber entered McAfee clinging to these four aspects of her calling. Upon graduation in 2006, she began a Ph.D. in Art and Religion at the Graduate Theological Union at UC Berkeley knowing that McAfee had affirmed these four distinct parts of her calling. Today she serves as Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Wake Forest Baptist Church at Wake Forest University where she also teaches as an adjunct professor at WFU School of Divinity. Between her first class until now, Angela has lived into these creative callings due in large part to her time at McAfee.
It’s no secret that McAfee celebrates calling women to ministry, affirming their talents in preaching. Such was the case for Angela.
She brought with her to the pulpit a lifetime in the performing arts, combining her deep love for research, translation, and feminist theology with the “stage presence” that makes her thrive while speaking in front of others. Prior to her time at McAfee, Angela was always told that she was a good preacher, but she felt as though it would be arrogant to claim such a title. Taking advantage of preaching classes at McAfee and throughout the consortium of Emory and ITC, Angela learned that her gifts in the performing arts were not mutually exclusive from her calling to preach. So, when faced with the decision to choose between teaching full-time as a professor or remaining in the pulpit upon the completion of her Ph.D., Angela decided to continue preaching. Recognizing that entire communities of women and LGBT people have remained voiceless in countless churches, Angela knew that she had a responsibility to preach on behalf of those who have been marginalized and oppressed. It is the charge of the ancient prophets, the history of her Baptist tradition, the feminist-theological-imperative, and the calling of Jesus to radical inclusivity that she learned about at McAfee that empowered her to lift her voice and speak in bold exclamations. While McAfee has had quite a few preachers graduate, Angela may be one of the few artists and dancers to receive an M.Div. Acknowledging that the proclamation of the Word—the preaching event—isn’t limited to speech alone, Angela embodies the Word and paints the Word in her worshiping life. Since graduating from McAfee, Angela has danced professionally in Omega West
Yarber Company in California, while also serving as an Artist or Dancer in Residence with the Alliance of Baptists, Baptist Peace Fellowship, Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, and the Sacred Dance Guild. She has also had an array of exhibitions of her paintings in California, Georgia, and North Carolina. In fact, her most popular show, “Holy Women Icons” is currently up at Woven Soul Gallery in Winston-Salem, NC.
After learning about the diversity of women in religions life around the world, Angela began painting icons with a folk feminist twist. These icons hang throughout the country and one is featured each month in an article Angela writes for Feminism and Religion. Writings such as these are an important part of the fourth aspect of Angela’s calling: scholarship. She has vivid memories of honing the craft of academic writing in research classes with Beth Perry. By the time Angela began her Ph.D. program she could write Turabian footnotes in her sleep! Under the guidance of Nancy deClaisse-Walford, Angela wrote a thesis that laid the groundwork for her forthcoming book, Dance in Scripture, which is scheduled to be on shelves in 2013. Similarly, the combination of taking an independent study with Graham Walker and traveling throughout the Middle East with METS solidified Angela’s deep interest in dance as a form of interfaith dialogue. Who knew that a beginning research paper would evolve into Angela’s first book, Embodying the Feminine in the Dances of the World’s Religions, which was published in 2011?
focus on alumni Angela also has a third book that is under contract and scheduled to be published in 2013, The Gendered Pulpit: Sex, Body, and Desire in Preaching and Worship. While the intersections among dance, the arts, and religion are at the heart of Angela’s research and writing, this third book really encapsulates much of her lived experience as a clergywoman. The foundation for much of this occurred in the holy space that is the classroom. Whether it was knowing that there was another feminist in the room with Karen Massey as a professor, or as an ally in the admissions office with Libby Allen, or in the many women who became her closest friends along the way, Angela knows that she stands on the shoulders of spiritual giants as she steps into the pulpit each Sunday. At McAfee her voice was affirmed and as she moved across the country to continue her education, she learned how to use her voice to speak on behalf of those broken and bound. Now she refuses to be silent! All four of these seemingly disparate callings—preaching, painting, dancing, scholarship— accompany her into the pulpit, as well. Not only this, but her time at McAfee
Acknowledging that the proclamation of the Word—the preaching event—isn’t limited to speech alone, Angela embodies the Word and paints the Word in her worshiping life.
joins her in the classroom when she teaches seminary students how to live into their callings. To this day, Angela’s most meaningful academic experience is the theological pedagogy internship Graham Walker arranged with Tina Pippin at Agnes Scott College. What she learned about libertory pedagogy and trusting her gifts and personality has not only aided her as a professor, but also as preacher. On a weekly basis Angela finds herself preaching from the pulpit, teaching in the seminary classroom, painting or showing her work in galleries, and dancing in the grips of God’s liberating joy. In each of these places she knows she is not alone, but that a community of colleagues, professors, mentors, and friends stand alongside of her. In each of these places, the people that make up McAfee School of Theology are there, too. For this, she could not be more grateful.
Portraits of Courage: Stories of Baptist Heroes By Julie Whidden Long (‘05) Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2008. The Baptist name is not universally acclaimed. Many Baptists are embarrassed by the frequent association of that term with narrow-minded bigotry, shallow theology, and downright irrelevance to the larger issues of our day. What is worse, many more Baptists are indifferent to or ignorant of their true heritage. Julie Whidden Long, a minister of children who holds two degrees from Mercer University, a BA in Christianity and History and a McAfee MDiv, wrote Portraits in Courage as a partial remedy for this situation. Designed especially to educate and inspire younger youth and older children, this slim volume records fourteen stories of individual Baptist heroism in service to others. The message is attractively and accurately packaged with numerous pictures, helpful timelines, and explanatory sidebars. Long introduces individuals whose actions, rooted in the Baptist expression of Christian freedom, changed the world around them. Some of the standard profiles are here: Baptist founder John Smith, Southern Baptist missionary to China Lottie Moon, Social Gospeler Walter Rauschenbusch, civil rights champion Martin Luther King Jr., and human rights advocate Jimmy Carter. But Long also introduces a wider Baptist worldview by including, among others, the British abolitionist William Knibb; the nineteenth century African American medical missionary to the Congo Louise “Lulu” Fleming; Theo Angelov, a Bulgarian pastor who led Baptists through and beyond Soviet persecution; Liberian educator Olu Menjay; and friend of outcasts in India, Leena Lavanya. Here is a global family of the Baptist faithful worth emulating. Adults as well as children would benefit from knowing these stories. Sermon illustrations abound here. I dare any Baptist of any generation to read this text without feeling pride in being Baptist and sensing a challenge to be a better one. _Wm. Loyd Allen
events Preview Conferences Explore your sense of call by
engaging with faculty and students
experiencing classes learning about academic programs & financial aid
interviewing for merit-based scholarship
worshiping in community
Oct 28 & 29, Feb 24 & 25 http://bit.ly/A33aaJ
a e h R r e Pet Ellen Jones &
Lectures Featuring Dale Allison,
Fa l l - 2 0 1 2
Fruits of the Spirit September 25 -- Peace Service of Prayer and Communion October 2 -- Patience Portia Lee, Trinity Tabernacle Baptist Church, Mableton, GA October 9 -- Kindness Chanequa Walker-Barnes, McAfee School of Theology October 16 -- Center for Teaching Churches Erica Hartman Cooper, First Baptist Church, Jefferson, GA October 23 -- Goodness Jennifer Lyon, Student, McAfee School of Theology October 30 -- Faithfulness Tom Slater, McAfee School of Theology
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
November 6 -- Gentleness David Gushee, McAfee School of Theology
January 28-29, 2013
November 13 -- Self-Control Dock Hollingsworth, McAfee School of Theology November 27 â€“ Center for Theology and Public Life Wendell Griffen, Circuit Judge and Pastor of New Millennium Church, Little Rock, AR
R E G I S T E R O N L I N E To register for McAfee events, visit our website: http://bit.ly/Kj0o6Y
December 4 â€“ Advent Service *All services take place at 10:45am in Cecil B. Day Hall on the Atlanta Campus of Mercer University. You are welcome to worship with us.
class notes ‘04 ‘12 ‘06 ‘09 Donna Smithart Goddard (M.Div.) recently retired after serving as a chaplain at Northside Hospital in Atlanta for the past seven years.
Lee Ritchie (M.Div.) and Jason Ritchie (2nd year M.Div.) celebrated the birth of their son, Warren Chester, in July and his adoption into their family.
Naomi Brown (M.Div.) and husband Jeff welcome their second son, Micah Alan Brown, into the family. He weighed 6lbs and 2oz and was 19 inches long. He is the younger brother to Elijah.
Aaron Brown (M.Div.) is pastoring at Unity Missionary Baptist Church in Eutawville, SC.
Ben Curry (M.Div.) and Cody Sanders (M.Div./M.S.) have moved Michael Strickland (M.Div.) just to Sacramento, CA, where Ben moved and started a new church has entered training as a CPE position: Pastor of the First Baptist Supervisory Education Student at Church of Atchison, KS. Sutter Roseville Medical Center. Cody continues Ph.D. work in Jennifer McClung (M.Div.) will marry pastoral theology at Brite Divinity School. Travis Rygg of Greenville, SC on November 3, 2012. Sarah Holik (M.Div.) was selected Katye Parker Snipes (M.Div.) and in the inaugural cohort of the Mark Snipes (M.Div.) welcomed Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s their second son, Jackson Philip, on Fellows Program. It is a three year July 25, 2012. program.
George Windley, Jr. (M.Div.) married Rochelle Gaymon on May 12, 2012.
Nick Almand (M.A.C.M.) serves at Newnan First United Methodist Church as the Contemporary Worship Leader and Director of IT/ Media. Tanell Vashawn Allen (M.Div.) is serving in Beijing, China, as an English teacher at Peking University through Mercer’s Service First: Total Immersion Program. Jillian Farmer (M.Div.) serves as Minister to Youth at Kirkwood Baptist Church in St. Louis, MO. Mike Glover (M.Div.) accepted a call from Ocilla Baptist Church in Ocilla, GA as the Minister to Youth. Courtney [Gibson] Hester (M.Div.) just married Britt Hester (3rd year M.Div. student) this past month.
Natalie Vinson (M.Div.) is marrying Alex King in October as well as settling in to her new position Rachel B. Huston (M.Div.) welcomed as College Minister at First baby boy, Reece Lamar Huston, into Presbyterian in Milledgeville, GA. the world on July 6, 2012.
Bailey Nelson (M.Div.) celebrated her one year anniversary as Pastor of Flat Rock Baptist Church in Mount Airy, NC in July.
B.J. Parker (M.Div.) is in his first year at Baylor University studying for his Ph.D. in Old Testament.
Libby Grammer (M.Div.) is marrying William Underwood on November 10, 2012, at FBC Chattanooga.
From “Comics as a Gateway to Biblical Literacy” by Dr. Garber:
1. Morrison, Grant (w), Quietly, Frank (p,i). “Batman Reborn, Part Three: Mummy Made of Nails.” Batman and Robin Oct 2009), DC Entertainment [DC Comics]. 2. Beal, Timothy. Biblical Literacy: The Essential Bible Stories Everyone Needs to Know. (New York: HarperOne, 2009), xix. 3. Marz, Ron (w), Portacio, Whilce (p), Weems, Joe and Marco Galli (i). “Artifacts Part 5.” Artifacts (Jan 2011), Image Comics [Top Cow Productions, Inc.]. 4. Snyder, Scott (w), Paquette, Yanick (p,i). “Raise Dem Bones.” Swamp Thing (Nov 2011), DC Entertainment [DC Comics]. 5. Superman Returns. DVD. Directed by Bryan Singer. Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Pictures, 2006. 6. Morrison, Grant (w), Anderson, Brent and Rags Morales (p), Anderson, Brent and Rick Bryant (i). “Superman in Chains.” Action Comics #2 (Dec 2011), DC Entertainment [DC Comics]. 7. Cornell, Paul (w), Barrionuevo, Al and Miguel A. Sepulveda (p), Barrionuevo, Al and Miguel a. Sepulveda (i). “The Dark Side, Part Two.” Stormwatch #2 (Oct 2011), DC Entertainment [DC Comics], . 8. Cornell, Paul (w), Broxton, Jimmy (p, i). “A Field Guide to Flying Saucers.” Saucer Country #2 (Oct 2012), DC Entertainment [DC Comics].
From “Who’s the Boss? A biblical look at household codes in Ephesians” by Dr. Slater: 1. Aristotle, Politics I, 1253b, 1-4. See also Mitzi Smith’s helpful discussion in True to Our Native Land, 358-60.
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