Volume 1, Issue 1
An Undergraduate Journal of Christian Thought at Duke
The Westminster Fellowship at Duke
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April 2007 Volume 1, Issue 1
“We are the Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song!” Pope John Paul II
FE ATURES: E a s t e r an d t h e R e s u r r e c t i o n: A D i s c u s s i o n w i t h D e a n We lls Dea n Wells of the Duke Chapel sits down wit h Na te Jones to discuss the significance of Easter and t he Resu r rection today. p. 4 We Are th e Ea s t e r P e o ple Ma rk Stoltenberg discusses the failings of Gnostic interpret a tions of the resur rection as a mea ns of escaping from this world. He a rgues th a t to be t he Eas ter people we m us t resist t hese temp t a tions a nd live in relationship with this world. p. 16
ALSO INSIDE: Editor’s Note
A Reflection on John 20:1-18:
“Why Are You Weeping? Who are You Looking For?” Andy Crewson Announcing the Faith: Ashes and Hallelujahs
Meg Bourdillon Who Celebrates on Easter?
Joe Fore Arts and Literature:
Poetry and Lyrics Reflecting on the Resurrection “Where I See Christ at Duke”
Personal Accounts From Members of the Duke Community What I, as a Jew, Think Christians Should Know About Judaism
Rabbi Michael Goldman Film and Literature in Review:
The Language of God and The Pursuit of Happyness
Editors Nate Jones and Andy Crewson Publication Editor Katie Daniel Copy Editor Sarah Howell Business Manager John Maletis Circulation Manager Christian Pikaart Staff Sponsor Craig Kocher We would like to thank Duke Chapel and the Kenan Institute for Ethics for their generous support in helping to fund this first issue of our journal. Religio is an Independent Publication recognized by the Duke University Undergraduate Publications Board.
Material in this journal is either original, published with permission or used pursuant to the fair use doctrine. The use of any copyrighted material pursuant to the fair use doctrine or otherwise is not intended to represent the views or opinions of the original producer of the work. Additionally, no work or image published herein may be copied or reproduced without the express written consent of the journal.
Note from the Editors The mission of Religio is to articulate the Christian faith on Duke’s campus. Central to the lives and beliefs of our university’s founders was the affirmation of the relationship between education and religion, reason and faith, and learning and praying. We believe strongly in these relationships and hope that through this publication we might bear witness to “the love of learning and desire for God” here at Duke. The diversity of Christian traditions and practices at Duke make this university a wonderful place to engage in ecumenical conversation. The staff of Religio is a group of undergraduate students involved with a wide variety of Christian groups on campus. We have worked hard to have representatives from various Christian traditions work together to bring this publication to fruition. We hope this journal will resonate with all traditions within the Christian Faith and speak intelligently to our non-Christian readers as well. Thus, part of our mission is to see what it might be like to be the one body of Christ at Duke University. This journal is part of a larger project called “The Augustine Project.”1 The mission of this project is to create and sustain undergraduate journals of Christian thought at college and university campuses. We would like to extend our gratitude to Jordan Hylden, creator of The Harvard Ichthus,2 for helping us begin Duke’s first ever undergraduate Christian journal. Other such publications have been started at Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Notre Dame and Georgetown. It is our hope that many more colleges and universities will become involved with The Augustine Project in the future. This issue discusses the phenomenal celebration of Easter. The claim that Jesus Christ was crucified and raised from the dead is the central pillar on which Christianity stands. Pope John Paul II once proclaimed, “We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song!” Christians are instilled forever with the hope given in Christ’s triumph over the grave. This issue features an interview with Dean Samuel Wells. Dean Wells has recently published a book on the passion of Christ, shares a different cultural upbringing, and is one of the foremost Christian leaders on campus. The cover photo is of the Pentecost stained-glass window in the Divinity school. We believe it illustrates aptly the theme of resurrection as the light shines through the darkness, symbolizing bringing life out of death. We invite you to join us in our conversation as we seek to learn more about the scandal of the cross and the glory of the resurrection. Grace and Peace, Nate Jones and Andy Crewson Co-Editors Trinity ‘09
Easter and the Resurrection: A Discussion with Dean Samuel Wells Nate Jones sat down with Dean Wells to discuss the significance of Christ’s Resurrection and Easter in today’s society: You once said that the most important event in human history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why is that? Well, the resurrection brings together everything that we believe about the beginning of the world and everything we believe about the end of the world. What I mean by that is that when Jesus is raised from the dead, and then raised not straight to Heaven but back to the same old world he was in before, what he’s showing is that God not only believes in the world, and loves the world and values the world…but also that he is capable of re-creating, he re-creates Jesus in bringing Jesus from death. That shows that the God who has the power to re-create was the God who had the power to create in the first place. That shows us the creating God, but it also anticipates the destiny of God’s people and of the world. It shows us that God gives us back everything that we’ve taken away. The resurrected Jesus is God giving us back everything we’ve taken away. So, the resurrected Jesus is like an anticipation of everything God has in store for the world despite the mess we’ve made of things. So it’s hard to ask for much more than the wonder of creation and then the even greater wonder of creation transformed into all of its possibilities. And we see all of that in the resurrection of Jesus. I think that’s a pretty high candidate for the most important event in the world’s history. Why is it important that the resurrection be understood as a physical event, and not just either a spiritual or metaphorical one? Well, in blunt terms, Jesus’ resurrection anticipates ours, and I don’t want to be a metaphor. It seems to me that everything that I value about those I love, everything I value about myself is, to a large extent, physically expressed. I wouldn’t recognize those I love if they weren’t physical beings and I can’t imagine recognizing Jesus if he wasn’t a physical being. I mean, the word spiritual, I have problems with that word when it’s used in an almost negative sense, of non-material. There is nothing non-material about Jesus. Jesus is the word made flesh, and Jesus rose again as the word remade flesh. I’m not sure about the idea of a resurrection as some sort of spiritual, nonmaterial, metaphorical thing - I’m not sure where that gets us really. Unfortunately, where it usually gets us is us being confirmed in a bunch of ideas we had already without Jesus. What does it matter in 21st century America that a Palestinian Jew was crucified and resurrected two thousand years ago? What happens to Jesus has both a particular significance in the life of Israel and God and a general significance in the life of the world. The particular significance is that, just as Jesus seems to have anticipated and predicted, Israel sends Jesus into exile—rejects Jesus, very much as Israel had experienced rejection herself – and sends Jesus to the cross. It’s important to remember we’re only talking about a handful of people who are responsible for this, many of them Romans—it’s a terrible mistake to regard all Jews as being responsible. But Jesus is nonetheless killed. It has a universal significance, because, as many people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. have observed, the story of Jesus is what happens when goodness comes into the world—it’s rejected. We may say that it was just a tragic story. Thus, the resurrection is so crucial because it shows that it isn’t just a tragic story of what happens when goodness comes into the world. God transforms even this worst possible thing imaginable into glory. That’s why it’s a story that matters now, because we can see that it was the trans-
INTERVIEW forming moment in history, when God finally entered the story himself. Now, of course, we’d like our own generation to be the crucial time in history, just as we’d like our own people to be the crucial people in history. The Christian faith is that we aren’t the crucial people and that this isn’t the crucial time. The crucial time was two thousand years ago. Which, actually, will turn out to have been relatively recently in eternal dimensions, but now we feel hard done by because we weren’t part of the real action. I regard it as a mercy we weren’t part of the real action because we probably would have been pretty much like Peter or even Judas if we had been there at the time. Why is it so important that the resurrection shapes communities? In essence, why is it important to be the Easter people? Well, there’s a kind of pastoral dimension to resurrection, rather than just the physical nuts and bolts of how a person comes back from the dead and how we might come back from the dead. Killing the Son of God is really the worst thing anybody could do. And if you take Peter as an example, what was Peter going to do with the rest of his life after running away from the cross? He was going to spend the rest of his life either trying desperately hard to forget what he’d done, or making up a story about what he’d done that convinced at least others and possibly even himself. In other words, he was going to do what many of us do much of the time. But what the resurrection of Jesus – and Jesus meeting him by the lakeshore and giving him another chance to be the one on whom the church is founded – what that means is that Peter was given back his past. Most of us really can’t imagine that we might ever be given back our past in that kind of a way. We are terrified of others discovering a terrible truth about who we really are and what we’ve really done. And we, in many cases, either geographically distance ourselves from the places we grew up, or we manage to create a story for ourselves, which we often call a C.V., which shows to others only the kind of parts of ourselves we really want them to know. But imagine we were given back our past and didn’t have to be afraid of who we really are and who we’ve really been. That’s what the resurrection does. So communities of resurrection are people who have been communally, mutually, given back their past, given the ability to forgive one another. Once you’ve experienced some of that, you can’t quite imagine what life used to be without it. What does it mean for the head of the Catholic Church to claim that the church is really about offering new life? I think what it means in simple terms is that there can be no church without Jesus and there can be no Jesus without the church. What that means is that the only Jesus we have is the Jesus that was given to us by the Early Church. The New Testament was written by the Early Church, from records of people who first met Jesus and followed him. But likewise, we can’t have a church without Jesus. The Catholic Church has millions of adherents, it’s got a huge infrastructure, and you could say it’s kind of self-perpetuating. It might appear it doesn’t need Jesus of Galilee – it has image consultants instead. So what the Pope seems to be saying, by saying that we’re the Easter people, is that there is no church without Jesus. You love to talk about friendship. How is the resurrection God’s way of inviting us into friendship with him? There’s more to it than that. The resurrection anticipates the final end of the story, if you like, which is, as people at the Chapel have heard me say many times, about worshipping God, being his friends and eating with him. And, our friendship with God is one in which we are always worshipping within that friendship. So, it’s not a friendship of equals, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a friendship. That’s the astonishing thing about the resurrection. After the cross, we think, “Well, we can never be God’s friends again because we killed the Son of God!” How can you be friends with someone whose son you’d killed? The resurrection says, “Yes, we can.” It takes a bit of believing, not only yes we can, but yes, we will be. And that friendship is expressed both eternally and week-by-week in the sharing of
food. So the Eucharist is a resurrection meal because it goes back to many meals Jesus shared with his disciples. Augustine once said that a Christian should be “an Alleluia from head-to-toe.” It’s a beautiful thought, but is it really possible? With so much chaos in our daily lives, how can people really be “Alleluias from head-to-toe?” It’s a wonderful idea, “alleluia from head-to-toe.” I suppose my model for this is Mary. At the moment of the annunciation, where she opens her arms, I think of Mary in a big “Y” shape. She’s glorifying God, and so she has her hands out, a bit like she’s celebrating a touchdown, a shape of glory, if you like. And it’s not only a shape of glory at the wonder of God, but it’s the first letter of the word “yes.” It’s in that “Y” of Alleluia that we have fear and great joy. You’d think they were opposites, but it seems to me that this is a perfect picture of what it means to be in the presence of God—to have fear and great joy. So I guess those are “Alleluia from head to toe.” But I think the way I’d slightly gloss Augustine there would be to say that we must never think we can embody everything that God has in store for us. That’s one of many reasons why we need the church. We don’t try to embody everything in our own lives; we try to be a part of a community in which everything is embodied. What are some of the most intriguing differences between the way Easter is celebrated in Durham, England and in Durham, North Carolina? Well, I’ll tell you one of the nicest similarities. That is getting up early in the morning and breaking bread together. I have to say the early morning Sunrise Service in the [Duke] Gardens is a real delight. Being in the Gardens early in the morning, I think, is the way to celebrate Easter. In Cambridge, we used to have a service in the Vicarage Garden, in the garden of the house that I lived in, which was next to the church. And we, about twelve of us, found some chopped down wood and sat there together and broke bread and read Scripture together. So that’s a similarity. The main difference is that it’s a lot warmer in Durham, North Carolina. Weather-wise? Weather-wise, yes! It’s a lot warmer so it’s a much pleasanter experience. I think that would be the main difference. And also, instead of there being 12 people there were 1,200 people. Describe Easter at Duke Chapel. If you come on Good Friday, you get a sense of the darkness of the crucifixion. The lights go out—much longer than I expected, I might add – and the bell tolls our sadness and grief. Then if you come on Easter Sunday, the Chapel is covered with lilies, it’s bursting with people and the sounds of brass are everywhere and you simply sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” At Duke Chapel, you can truly experience the contrast of cross and resurrection.
Samuel Wells is the Dean of the Chapel at Duke University and Research Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School. He is an ordained priest in the Church of England and is author of many scholarly works on Christian ethics. Among his most recent publications are Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics and Power and Passion: Six Characters in Search of Resurrection, which was selected by the Archbishop of Canterbury as his Lenten book for 2007.
“Why Are You Weeping? Who Are you Looking For?” A Reflection on John 20:1-18 Andy Crewson Trinity ‘09 I’ll admit it. I’ve cried before. Sitting by my grandmother’s bedside as she took her last breath. Sprawled under the tree in our front yard moments after my parents told me we were moving again. Leaving my girlfriend, knowing it would be months until we saw each other again. Losing to UNC twice in one season…. It was morning of the first day of the week, and Mary Magdalene had come to visit Jesus’ tomb. Jesus, the one they thought was going to redeem Israel, instead had died a humiliating and shameful death on a cross. And now, as if to add insult to injury, someone had taken his dead body from the tomb. Their hope that Jesus was the messiah had been crushed three days earlier, and now someone denied them the respect of leaving his body in peace. It was too overwhelming—so she wept. My parents must think that I am an absolute nutcase. I came to Duke planning to study biomedical engineering and possibly religion. After one semester passed, I told them that I had changed my mind. BME was out—I wanted to study religion. I threw around a variety of possibilities for a second major: psychology, math, philosophy and, finally, economics. In fact, I have changed my career intentions three times since coming to Duke and my academic plans after every single semester. My parents must want to ask me, “What are you looking for?”
In fact, I have changed my career intentions three times since coming to Duke and my academic plans after every single semester. My parents must want to ask me, “What are you looking for?”
Mary stood weeping outside of the tomb. A gardener approached her and asked, “Who are you looking for?” She loved Jesus so much that she was one of the few who stayed with him until the very end. Being friends with Jesus had ignited her soul. Jesus, the simple carpenter from Nazareth, had an uncanny ability to inspire people. “Follow me”, he said to his disciples, and they left everything they had to follow him. Jesus gave Mary and the others energy and they rallied around his cause. Then suddenly he was gone. Who was she looking for? She was looking for the man who had enabled her to encounter God in a way she had never had before. She was looking for Jesus. As Duke undergraduates we look for many things, too. Most of us seek to earn good grades, our parents’ approval, solid friendships, admittance to professional school, selfapproval and true love. These yearnings indicate an inherent search for identity and purpose. The great lengths we travel in order to succeed signify our desire to be fulfilled. Yet, at some point, many of us find ourselves in Mary’s shoes. We are confused and bewildered. After years of arduous labor we sense that something is still missing. We weep. What are we searching for? This question facing Mary as she stands at the tomb of Jesus is not an unfamiliar one in John’s Gospel. In the beginning of the narrative, Jesus notices two of John’s disciples walking behind him. “What are you looking for?” he asks them. He invites them to “come and see” what he is doing. Verses later Philip invites Nathaniel to “come and see”
what Jesus is all about. Later in the story, the Samaritan woman invites her people to “come and see” this miraculous Jesus. Finally it is the weeping friends of the deceased Lazarus who invite Jesus to “come and see” the tomb of their friend. What happens next is unbelievable: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Mary Magdalene pleaded with the gardener, begging him to tell her the location of Jesus’ body. Then the man reached out and in a gentle, simple voice, said, “Mary.” In this moment Mary Magdalene found what she sought. For the second time in John’s Gospel we find ourselves reading about a dead friend. For the second time we have a weeping Mary. As Jesus spoke her name, her eyes were opened and she realized that this was not the gardener after all—it was Jesus himself! For the second time we encounter resurrection.
To find Jesus is to find that “missing something” we have long sensed—and to no longer be captive to our tears.
What are we looking for? This is the question that challenges us all the way through the fourth gospel. Those in the story who accept the invitation to know Jesus become his friends, his students and his disciples. They love him. Yet although he dies a horrific death, this is not the end of the story. The story culminates in an astonishing resurrection. Mary is asked one more question: why are you weeping? Upon realizing that Jesus is there, her crying ceases and she tightly embraces her friend. To find Jesus is to find that “missing something” we have long sensed—and no longer to be captive to our tears.
Andy Crewson is a Trinity Sophomore double-majoring in Economics and Religion. He attends Duke Chapel regularly, is a part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and enjoys playing basketball and golf in his spare time.
ANNOUNCING THE FAITH:
Ashes and Hallelujahs Meg Bourdillon Trinity ‘07 Meg Bourdillon is a Trinity Senior double-majoring in Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Economics. She is actively involved in the Newman Catholic Student Center and is President of Duke Students for Life and a senior editor for the Duke Chronicle. Next year she will be working in Los Angeles for The Boston Consulting Group. Catholics know how to party. We are, after all, the original celebrators of Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day. Largely Catholic countries have given the world pleasures as diverse as Guinness, polkas and frescoes. On a more spiritual level, our liturgical calendar offers more days of feasting than of fasting, and our churches reflect the changing ecclesiastical and natural seasons with a constant rotation of colors, flowers and music. We sing out, “Hallelujah!” at nearly every celebration of the joyous and miraculous mystery of Mass, sharing together our happiness in the glories of our world and its Creator. Yet these pleasures, unfortunately, do not define the Church’s public image, nor are the exultations of worshippers in the many other Christian communities across the globe usually known to those who do not participate in them. I know all too well the ideas with which many non-Catholics associate my faith: guilt and punishment, persecution and repression, sexism and sexual offense. As a member of the Church, I recognize that I am, in part, responsible for these misperceptions. I have often been guilty of avoiding the challenging and often intimate conversations necessary to share the true nature of my religion with others. Many of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are unaware that I am Catholic, let alone that I am a convert to Christianity. I adopted my beliefs and my religious practices with a sense of profound joy, but I proclaim my faith truly openly and publicly only on one of the most solemn and subdued days of the liturgical year. That day is Ash Wednesday. For non-Christians, that is the day in February or early March when a surprising number of the people around you seem, inexplicably, to have forgotten to look in a mirror or wash their faces. The I want to let my friends black smudge on their foreheads is the ash from which “Ash Wednesday” draws its name, and when they left church at know that Catholicism is around eight in the morning to begin the normal duties of their about more than sinning daily lives, the smudge was in the form of a cross. Not every Christian, of course, attends religious services on Ash Wednesand saints, but it is hard day, and Catholics generally make up a large fraction of those who walk about with this temporary but highly noticeable symto convey the richness bol on their visages. As a result, Ash Wednesday is, without and vitality of the Church compare, the day on which I receive the most inquiries about my religion. when my only chance I can still remember the mix of emotions I experienced comes on a day of the first time I attended Ash Wednesday services prior to arrivreflection and mourning. ing at my high school. I recall only secondarily the joy I felt at this opportunity to proclaim my faith and my then-recent conversion, my excitement at the chance to share the power of Christianity and Catholic practices with my classmates. The most forceful and inescapable memory is of embarrassment. The feeling stemmed both from my typically adolescent anguish at bearing a distinguishing mark—which I felt was attracting stares from everyone—and from my shame at the intellectual and theological inadequacy of my responses to fellow students’ questions. They asked me about the ashes and the nature of my faith, seemingly simple questions, but I could not communicate to them the fullness of the ashes’ meaning. I suddenly had a lot more empathy for anyone who wears a burka or turban among people who all sport typically Western dress.
Now, I feel no embarrassment about bearing a symbol of the faith I love so much. Still, I reflect ruefully on the irony that practitioners of a faith so filled with joy should only be able to educate others about our Church on an occasion customarily full of sadness and solemnity. On Ash Wednesday, we are not marking a day of celebration; rather, we are observing the beginning of the penitential Lenten season. The priest who marks our foreheads with a cross of ashes whispers to us not, “Hallelujah!” but a dark and thoughtprovoking reminder of our own mortality. I want to let my friends know that Catholicism is about more than sinning and saints, but it is hard to convey the richness and vitality of the Church when my only chance comes on a day of reflection and mourning. To give up in the face of such difficulties, however, is a surrender unworthy of the Savior and the glorious promise of redemption we remember during the Easter celebration, the wonder for which Lent prepares us. With each passing year, I feel an ever-increasing call and commitment to proclaim my Christian faith in words and actions. On Ash Wednesday, this commitment requires better preparation for others’ questions, a deeper understanding of my own religion, and a genuine effort to emphasize and communicate its abiding strengths. The ashes on my forehead are not just the start of my Lenten penance; they are also the beginning of my preparation for Easter’s joy. In wearing them, I remember not only man’s mortality but also the wonderful, eternal life Jesus won for mankind. Thus, I aim to share not my frustration with an earlymorning alarm but my abiding thrill at God’s having invited me to share in His services. Being Christian is not always easy, and I certainly do not come close to answering the fullness of God’s call. Being Christian, however, is much easier than struggling to reject the spiritual graces I have received. Proclaiming my beliefs occasionally costs me the trust or respect of an acquaintance, but my gains from knowing I am true to myself and my God far exceed any negative side-effects of sharing my beliefs with others. On Ash Wednesday this year and next—and on all the other days to come—I want others to know me as a member of the Easter people. Even more than that, I want them to recognize the markers of my faith as an invitation to join me in a heartfelt “Hallelujah!”
Who Really Celebrates on Easter? Joe Fore Trinity ‘07
As members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, my grandparents followed many worship customs that might seem odd to those in more mainstream denominations. Abstinence from alcohol and meat, rules enforcing modest dress at church (women were not permitted to wear any jewelry), and holding weekly worship services on Saturday, not Sunday, were regular parts of their religious experience. However, one of the most unique traditions found in their sect is the exclusive reliance on adult, or adolescent, baptism. While confirmation in Protestant and Catholic churches typically culminates in the first receiving of Holy Communion, the confirmation process in the Seventh Day Adventist tradition ends with the young person being baptized, not by a sprinkling of water, but by full immersion in a small pool, located behind the altar. Watching these baptisms week in and week out, my grandmother instilled in me one of the most beautiful religious visions I have ever known. As the newly minted child of God was raised up from the water, their soggy, white robe drooping off the body, she would lean over and whisper, “Don’t you know that Jesus and the angels are looking down and singing right now?” It was a beautiful image. The Son of God, the Savior of the world, climbing down off of His throne to lead the choirs of angels in hymns of rejoicing for the new member that had joined the flock. And not singing in some generic, “Happy Baptism to [fill in the name here]” sense. The picture she painted was that of a personal exultation, the God who had numbered the very hairs of our head was taking personal As the newly minted child gratification at thought of God was raised up from the that His child the water, his soggy, white was coming home.
robe drooping off his body, she would lean over and whisper, “Don’t you know that Jesus and the angels are looking down and singing right now?” It was a beautiful image.
It is this image, perhaps, more than any other that I carry with me throughout the Easter season. While we traditionally associate this holiday with Christ’s victory over sin and death, we are usually caught up in the celebration of His works, His goodness, His love and sacrifice. I am certainly not arguing that Jesus is not due credit at this time of the year. However, we must not forget that the real victory on Easter morning comes from the fact that our fate is bound up in His. His victory is
our victory. His resurrection is ours. Through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we are reminded that just as we died with Christ when He took on our iniquity, so, too, were we raised with Him through His rebirth. As Paul points out in his letter to the Colossians, we have been “buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (1 Colossians 2:12).
His victory is our victory. His resurrection is ours. Through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we are reminded that just as we died with Christ as He took on our iniquity, so, too, were we raised with Him through His rebirth.
I can’t help but think that as we are sitting around, celebrating the victory which Christ won on that Sunday morning, He is celebrating with us. Not reveling in His own glory (though certainly something we would be happy to indulge Him), but rejoicing that through His work, he has been able to bring all of us into His kingdom. For me, this mental image is essential for helping to put the unconditional love, which is at the heart of the resurrection, back into the Easter story.
After the weeks of Lent, with somber themes of pain and agonized doubt, it’s easy for me to view Christ’s decision to take on our sin as an inevitability, a regretful decision made out of a sense of responsibility, not necessarily because of some personal connection He felt toward us. However, with the image of Jesus sharing in our rebirth, I’m able to remind myself that Christ’s final decision was a conscious sacrifice made out of His undying love and compassion to each one of us, individually. So, this Easter season, perhaps we can all consider the possibility that as we are celebrating the miracle of the resurrection and Christ’s victory over sin, He may be doing the very same thing: rejoicing in the fact that His work was not an end unto itself, but the means by which He could save the ones for whom He cares most and wishes to welcome home.
Joe Fore is a Trinity Senior double majoring in Biology and Public Policy Studies.
ARTS AND LITERATURE
Keys to Eternity The easiest way to kill a man Is to strip him of His passion. Because he, who lives for nothing, Dies in the same fashion
Now tension of rusty strings (Which the elements have sprung) Remove what we would hope for From that which ‘surely comes’
He’s fearfully and wonderfully made, Sought-after, loved, and kept So Death’s severance is worth mourning And even Jesus wept
To strike a key in earnest Expecting the soul to rise One meets only disappointment – a painfully ‘off-key’ disguise
“Every man must die” – they say so of peasants and kings. Such separation is eternal, Yet reminiscent of lesser things
“That’s music?” One remarks In fear and hot displeasure Disharmony breeds distrust At the end of every measure
The feeling is reflected In the break of dawn from day. In the inconsistent battle of What we mean and what we say
As the sound of offending notes Striking the staff and bass Are offered up as freely As my Father’s saving grace
In the inevitable parting of Lovers, foes and friends. In the distance between dreams; In the eyes of every ‘end’
Then the greater loss is settling – acquiescing to untruth Using earthly remedies on wounds Only God can soothe
Often these reflections grasp Hold of our insides, Echo in eternity, And lead to where Truth lies
Conforming to the world should be Our greatest fear So continuously un-tuned pianos Greatly harm musicians’ ears
But no earthly blueprint Mirrors such discord quite like this: When should-be tuned pianos sing At uncorrected pitch
For “to live is Christ And to die is gain” A life that trusts in less Is one that’s lived in vain
When discontented chords Collide in ancient air. (They are intimately acquainted And just as surely paired
But God tightens, and adjusts us Alters, tunes, and molds Like the Potter with His clay, The Composer with what He’s composed
I know why God put me here He put me in a place where no one really knew me; He stripped me of my friends This forced me to rely on something other than shared experiences; He forced me to look in a new mirror created by the new set of people I chose to surround myself with He stripped me of my history, a chance to start anew I could hide the worst times of my life and reveal them when I was ready; He took away the constant reminders of what I had lost But the most important reason is because He could strip away my pride; Here I could not hold onto it, where I am not the best or brightest
Certain notes belong together Espoused in rhythm and time Thus a ‘couple’ is now one By some far greater design
All part of His grand symphony Because “He first loved us” Differing in gifts and dynamics Equal through His grace and touch
And what right has man to loose What God has bound? Even when we try We fall among broken sounds
Then Christ’s sacrifice and power Ring from an empty tomb. The second death of man, Like a piano out of tune
Where broken hearts aren’t mended And passions are betrayed Eternal vows forgotten And committed chords are frayed
Shannon Nelson, Trinity ‘09
at anything at all Everyday a constant reminder of how miniscule I really am God put me here so that I would rely on Him He took away everything else to show me how to rely on Him Jonathan Odom, Pratt ‘09
Come Back to Me I hate being separate from you Where I am is dark and formless without you There is darkness over the depths of my spirit My soul is void I have lost my sense of wonder I search for those things which make me think of you In which I delight in you The mountain
The sea The stars But they do not satisfy me
You are wherever I may go You love me more than I could know You carry me when I grow weak
If you are my sun, I am in shadow If you are the light of the world, I am blind
You bless my mouth so I can speak your word Let it be heard
If you are my Rock, my Savior, my Redeemer, and my Lord, And you have turned your face from me I am nothing
I cannot run, I cannot hide Believe me now, you know I’ve tried These helpless, grasping hands can't hold
I have been bought with a price I am not my own
All that you have forever told me to I'll be what you want me to
Do not abandon me, for I am yours And I need you There are no words for how much I need you
I’ve lived in doubt and cursed my faith This wine and bread don’t always taste Like your fragile body broken so for me
I love you
That in your knowing eyes spotless and forgiven I might be
Come back to me
I can’t say how, I can’t say why
Or bring me home to you
But one thing that I can't deny Is you are always at my feet
Ashley Dunfee, Trinity ‘09
To wash them and to make me meet your eyes. My Jesus Christ I try to close my eyes to pray But words can never really say That I’m sorry that I always turn and run From you, my Lord, the rising sun, the chosen one So let me look and see your face Bestow on me that endless grace That finds its way into the psalms Let my heart overflow with calm and peace My prince of peace Sarah S. Howell, Trinity ‘09 Download the mp3 at purevolume.com/sarahhowell.
We Are the Ea An Essay Every year for as long as I can remember, on Easter morning my dad’s first words of the day have always been the same. “He is risen,” he will say with a smile. After briefly rolling my eyes (as my dad is quite infamous for sticking to routine for nearly everything) I respond the same way each year: “He is risen indeed.” I have always enjoyed this custom, but in reflecting upon it over the past few years, I have begun to wonder what it means to make such a hefty statement—he is risen. So often we are told that the resurrection of Christ should be at the center of our faith…but what exactly would that look like, or maybe even more importantly, what should that look like? For I believe, though we are indeed the Easter people, we may sometimes forget what sort of people such a claim calls us to be. I wonder what comes to mind when most of us think of Lent and the Easter celebration. For some it may be images of the resurrection: of a new life that is created through the final act of Christ on earth. For others, theologically-loaded words such as atonement, incarnation or even eschatology may come to mind. However, despite our differing visions of Easter, many of us seem to understand the significance of Christ’s resur-
aster People on Easter by Mark Stoltenberg Trinity 07 rection in a very similar wayâ€”through rising from the dead, Jesus opened up the path to heaven for all that believe in him. And even though some might explain and describe this action differently, the belief is generally the same. Before the first Easter, the gates of heaven were closed; after that miraculous Sunday they were opened to all that would believe. As important as this portrayal may be, I hope to challenge this singular assumption. For though I hold the afterlife as integrally related to the final actions of Jesus, I believe we are ultimately led astray if we focus exclusively on the connection between Christâ€™s resurrection and our own. Or, to put it more bluntly, our mistake is not in believing that Jesus offers the path to eternal life; it is the conclusion that this is therefore all that he accomplished! He may have come to save, but I worry we may be missing the point if we think that personal salvation was therefore his only objective. Through such a unilateral emphasis, we not only lose a significant portion of Jesusâ€™ message, but I believe we also distort and confuse the very heart of what it means to be a Christian and live faithfully as the Easter people. Interestingly, this way of understanding Jesus has been fairly common throughout the history of the church. It
has historically been referred to as Gnosticism. As some may know, the Gnostics were a group of early Christians whose beliefs were declared heretical by the ancient church during the 2nd century. However, as we must always remember, systems of religious thought are rarely confined to a single group, but rather often permeate a vast array of ideologies to varying degrees. Our mistake is not in Thus, though Gnosticism as a singular and unified tradition may have disappeared over 1,800 years ago, many argue that the influence of its beliefs is still extremely prevalent today. However, like believing that Jesus any ancient theological debate, it is never enough for us to accept a offers the path to belief is wrong simply because the church says so. Rather, we must examine and discern why the church decided as it did.
eternal life; it is the conclusion that this is therefore all that he accomplished!
According to Lee Philip in his book Against the Protestant Gnostics, the primary ingredient for the birth of Gnosticism is a mood of despair.1 Throughout the history of Christianity, when times have been tough and outlooks have seemed bleak, there has been a tendency to turn away from this world and towards the next. As Lee goes on to argue, the fundamental problem is that through such an emphasis, one must deny any direct link between Creation and God.2 If Christ’s primary act was to pave our way into heaven, how then are we to make sense of this life? Creation is left as a “ruined project” which we hope to escape someday. The second trouble with this approach is its unremitting focus on humanity—striving for personal salvation becomes the only worthwhile endeavor. Loving one’s neighbor, caring for the earth and living in harmonious relationship with all creation becomes ancillary to the overriding hope to pass through the gates of heaven. Hence, through the belief that personal salvation is the solitary gift of the cross, we are left severed from our world, waiting in eager anticipation to make our escape. The church’s response (and eventual decision to declare Gnosticism as heresy) was made across multiple platforms. However, we will focus on that which is most central for our question of living as the Easter people, namely the eschatological hope of the Christian faith. Eschatology can most easily be defined It is with this hope firmly in as the study of how the world is expected to end. Hence apocalyptic prophecies (such as the Book of Revelation), place that we can now begin and other general discussions on “the end of things” would all be included within eschatology. Though most to see what it means to live questions regarding this topic are destined to remain a mystery (as we will not really know until the end actuas the Easter people of God. ally comes) there is one theme that demands our attention. Rather then seeking to
“On earth as it is in heaven.” We all say it, some escape from this world, we of us maybe even a few times a day. And though this phrase is at the center of the most common and univerare called to enter into a sal Christian prayer, it seems many have not considered its meaning. “On earth as it is in heaven.” Though I was dedicated and faithful unaware for my first 19 years as a Christian, heaven is not expected to be the ultimate resting place for all of relationship with this world. God’s faithful. The eschatological hope of the Christian faith is that earth and all creation will one day be purified and renewed by heaven. Our hope in the afterlife is not for our ethereal souls to ascend, but for our corporal bodies to rise. Creation is not expected to disappear, but to be transformed. “On earth as it is in heaven.” It is with this hope firmly in place that we can now begin to see what it means to live as the Easter people of God. Rather then seeking to escape from this world, we are called to enter into a dedicated and faithful relationship with this world. Jesus’ offering is a not a one-way ticket out of creation,
but an invitation to join him into solidarity with it. Just as God entered into relationship with us (Immanuel is Hebrew for “God-with-us”) so we are to enter into relationship with the rest of creation. But what does this sort of movement entail? Or, to return to our original question, what would it look like to be the Easter people? One of the most quoted phrases of scripture is John 8:32. It may be one of Hollywood’s favorites— “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Joel Shuman and Brian Volck take this statement and make a humorous yet invaluable revision: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” They then go on to say that “one of the least appreciated phenomena in Christianity since the Reformation [is] the growing amnesia that Christians can and should think, speak, and act differently then the rest of the world.”3 Hence, to be the Easter people, we are called to be different—to live radically as members of the New Kingdom made through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For “as long as we are only doing well what others are doing better and more efficiently, we can hardly expect to be considered the salt of the earth or Learning to see the world as light of the world.”4 Thus, we celebrate Easter to remind ourselves that the seeds of heaven have already been God does, living in planted among us. And that we are not to live in complacent anticipation of, but in active discipleship with the compassionate relationship Kingdom already started by God. We are the Easter people. Learning to see the with all creation, and bearing world as God does, living in compassionate relationship witness to the Kingdom— with all creation, and bearing witness to the Kingdom— this is our way. This is what defines us as a people. This is this is our way. This is what what makes us odd. For what binds us most is not our shared salvation, but our unceasing commitment to live defines us as a people. This is faithfully as humbled servants of God. Or, as Henri Nouwen eloquently states, to live as the Easter people means what makes us odd. “to share in the compassion of the one who keeps going to the most forgotten corners of the world, who cannot rest as long as there are still human beings with tears in their eyes.”5 Therefore, to be the Easter people means to be a people on the move—a people eternally committed to the outpouring of God’s love wherever darkness still reigns. So this Easter, let us joyfully celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. But I also challenge us to not forget what it means to live in response to this gift. And, as the Easter people, may we not only have the faith to see the Kingdom that beckons, but also have the strength to follow its call.
Mark Stoltenberg is a Trinity Senior majoring in Religion. Next year he plans on attending medical school.
References 1. Lee, Philip J. Against the Protestant Gnostics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. p. 7 2. Lee, p. 16 3. Shuman, Joel and Brian Volck. Reclaiming the Body: Christians and the Faithful Use of Modern Medicine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2006. p. 17, 31. 4. Nouwen, Henri J.M., Donald P. McNeill and Douglas A. Morrison. Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life. New York: Image Books, 1989. p. 68. 5. Nouwen, p. 25.
Where I See Chri Personal accounts from members of the Duke community of "It was a few days after Halloween. I was still in the chapel after a meeting let out around 11 pm, when I heard in the distance the familiar sounds of the rumbling Flentrop under the hands and feet of David Arcus. I wandered in to the pitch-black sanctuary; it was empty apart from David, David’s music, and myself. I told him he had company, and humbly, he opted to take a break from his practicing (for his recital that coming weekend) in order to play me a piece ‘in the spirit of Halloween.’ His haunting melodies reverberated in my heart: I see Christ in the humility of Duke’s church servants like David Arcus and, subsequently, in the music that feeds my soul whether it’s in an empty, black cathedral at 11 pm on a Monday night, or in a packed, sunlight chapel at 11 am on Sunday morning."
Jayne Swank Trinity ‘08
“Before coming to Duke, I was not sure how I, as a Catholic, would be received in the South. Soon after my arrival, I became the first and only Catholic on a Christian scholarship committee. We poured over applications for many hours. While I was briefly out of the room, the others had a change of heart about one previously rejected applicant named Mary. ‘So,’ I said when I came back in, ‘we are now going with the resurrected Mary?’ The room fell silent. Suddenly, someone exclaimed in obvious jest: ‘I warned you about those Catholics!’ The room roared with welcoming laughter, and I knew we were indeed part of one Body, even at Duke.” Thomas Nechyba Chair, Department of Economics
“Last year, I remember walking through the quad and being bombarded by the joyful shouts of three ecstatic friends. Their faces beamed while they explained to me the news that one of my teammates had accepted Christ the previous night. The three girls were reduced to downright giddiness and struggled to contain their joy and rejoicing. Right there, amidst the wide-eyed enthusiasm and childish giggling, I saw Christ. He was profoundly present that afternoon, spreading new life in complete Steve Schoeffel abundance. Jesus Christ—the source of all life, hope, and joy.” Trinity ‘09
ist at Duke...
their experience with Christ on Campus
“I remember when God first told me, ‘Iris, meet me in the gardens.’ I loved the gardens and simply thought ‘how wonderful!’ But really I had no idea the wonder of it. I began in the second half of my sophomore year at Duke; every morning, early before anyone was awake, I met Him. Sometimes I would pray, sometimes I would read, but many times I simply slept. But no matter what I did, I always knew He would be there in the gardens waiting to meet me. Summer came and went, and junior year I came back to school, and in my first moment alone, I ran to the gardens, so excited to meet Him again. I sat down and placed my hands on the bench and looked down to see the biggest most beautiful red rose, and I knew itIris wasAfonso for me. I smiled Trinity ‘07 and I knew that it was love.”
“When I was younger, growing up in Florida, my mother would take us, her seven children, to church every Sunday. The first thing I learned was the Creation of Heaven and Earth. Next, the Creator – God almighty and his Son Jesus Christ who died because of man’s sins. So the question—Where do I see Christ at Duke?—is easy for me to answer because from reading the Bible, He’s the Head of the Church, The Word, The Way, The Truth, and The Light. So anywhere at Duke where the people keep the faith and believe in the Son, He is there. (Christ is ALL, and in all. Col. 3:11)”
Oscar Danztler Chapel Staff
RABBI MICHAEL GO “What I, as a Jew, think Christians should know about Judaism…”
In an effort to promote interfaith dialogue and foster greater understanding between Christians and people of other traditions, each of our issues will include an article written by a member of a different religion. This first piece is written by Rabbi Michael Goldman, who is responding to the question: “What do Christians need to know about Jews and Judaism?” By no means is this all Christians need to know about Judaism, but we hope that this article will highlight some major elements of the Jewish faith.”
OLDMAN It is an honor to have been asked to write an article, for the first issue of your publication, on the subject of what Jews feel Christians should know about them. To want to be known is one of the most fundamental needs, and to be asked to make oneself known is one of the most fundamental expressions of kindness. Time is brief, and the task seems urgent, so I’ll cut to the chase.
We are not your ancestors; we are your siblings.
Well-meaning Christians have occasionally said to me: “I feel especially close to your people. After all, we are your descendants.” Not quite. We both have a common parent, ancient Israelite religion, which neither Jews nor Christians practice. Israelite religion was organized around the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, we had to rethink their relationship to God, to our central texts, and to our community. That rethinking was undertaken primarily by rabbis. Spiritual descendants of the Pharaisees, rabbis were a group of religious educators who comprehended that in the absence of the Temple Israelite religion would not survive by mere replication. Under the rabbis’ care, our tradition was radically democratized. The power of the priestly caste system was replaced with an academic clergy, which was open to any Jewish man of sharp mind and good character. Prayer definitively replaced sacrifice, providing everyone direct access to God without having to use a priest as a middleman. Home, synagogue, and study hall replaced the Temple as the place where God and Israel would meet.
We are the People of the Book, but it’s not just one Book.
On my bookshelf I have several editions of the Hebrew Bible, occupying about six inches of shelf surface. My bookshelf also contains classical rabbinic commentaries on the Bible, written between, roughly, 200 and 500 CE. This section takes up about 2 feet. Then there’s Mishnah, the first post-biblical code of Jewish law (2 feet), two editions of the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmud, which are commentaries on the Mishnah (8 feet). Rabbinic text outweighs biblical text in my library by a factor of at least 50. And that’s only the first 300 years of the Jewish post-biblical literary legacy. It is rabbinic discourse, more than Bible as such, which defined the concerns and modes of expression for modern Judaism.
Jews do theology differently than Christians.
The literary tradition that the rabbis began, and that continues even today, is written in an idiom that often sounds very foreign to Christian ears. Compare, for example, the opening sentence of church father Tertullian’s 3rd century treatise, On Idolatry to a contemporaneous Jewish source on the same subject, the tractate of the Mishnah called Avodah zarah (“Foreign Worship”). Tertullian begins the way you’d expect, with a broad thesis “Idolatry is the chief crime of mankind.” The Mishnah, by contrast, begins as if in medias res, with what seem to be—and are—minutiae: “For three days before the idolatrous festivals of the idolators it is prohibited to have business dealings with them.” You might expect the text to move from the particular to the general, but it doesn’t. Greek names for books tell you about their general content: “Genesis” is about origins, “Exodus” is about going out, “Leviticus” about Levitical priests, and so on; Hebrew books are referred to by the first significant word. Thus the names of our first three books of the Bible translate like this: “In the beginning of,” “Names,” and “[God] Called.” Again, context matters more than concept.
Jewish theology is implicit, rather than explicit. When I ask an educated Christian: “Do you believe in divine reward and punishment?” he or she always has a coherent answer. Ask a Jew, and you get equivocation. This is because a narrative way of looking at the world is always fraught with ambiguity, because stories may be told from multiple points of view. What’s more, time is important in Jewish theology. Do Jews believe in divine reward and punishment? Well, if it’s Yom Kippur, our day of atonement, we certainly do. We read in our prayer book:
“On Rosh Hashanah the decree is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed: who shall live and who shall die?...But repentance, prayer and good deeds can lessen the severity of the decree.” Five days later, on Sukkot, we read from the book of Ecclesiastes: “A wise man has his eyes in his head, a fool walks in darkness. But I also realized that the same fate awaits them both,” a line that implies exactly the opposite. So which is it? It’s both. On Yom Kippur you had better believe in divine reward and punishment because you need to realize that your actions have real and dire consequences; five days later, on Sukkot, you’re tired from all your soul searching, and you just want God to leave you alone. The rhythm of Jewish time gives rise to diverse, often contradictory theological positions. For Jews, theology changes with context, and one is allowed to believe in mutually contradictory assertions because, as it says in Ecclesiastes, “There is a time and a purpose for everything under Heaven.”
In fact, Judaism usually prefers to stake its theological claim not with one position, but in the interstices between a given assertion and its opposite. The example above concerning divine reward illustrates this principle. This is true for almost all major questions. Is God a God of mercy or justice? Does God ordain free will, or predetermination? Is God immanent or transcendent? In each case: yes, and yes. A beautiful passage in the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, begins with the assertion that “One who does not believe in the sanctity of the Torah has no place in the World to Come.” The text proceeds by trying to define Torah, and concludes with the proposition that even plant taxonomies and other scientific data can be considered “Torah”! It’s not that Judaism deconstructs theology. Rather, Judaism constructs theology in the same way one makes an arch, by building from opposite sides.
Jewish theology is rooted in Jewish culture. In its effort for broad appeal, Christianity consciously adopted Greek modes of discourse, which favor abstraction and generalization. The Church Fathers had to reach across cultural barriers in order to explain themselves to a diverse audience, and the Greek way of thinking lent itself to that task. Judaism deliberately remained rooted in its own context. Particulars mattered. As you might expect, the rabbis chose to write in genres that paid attention to the particular: lists, narratives, records of conversations. Meaning is made not through generalized assertion, but through juxtapositions. From the outside, Jewish text seems disorganized and inscrutable, and its theology inchoate. From the inside, Jewish text is sophisticated, multivalent, and allows for diverse theologies. Rereading what I have written above, I cannot help but notice that what I have attempted to do is to explain Judaism’s apparent muteness in the face of Christianity. I leave this project not knowing whether others, either Jews or Christians, share my sense of anxious sorrow that in our age, the first in which authentic interfaith dialogue is possible, Jews have become unskilled at reading our own tradition. It would be a cruel irony if, in the very century when it finally has become acceptable for Jews to think as Jews, that Jews have begun to think like Greeks. I hope that this is not the case. In either case, not all is lost; your beneficent curiosity about who we are will inspire many of us to return to our texts in search of answers.
Michael Goldman is the Rabbi at The Freeman Center for Jewish Life. He received his Rabbinical Ordination from Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City and has served as the Jewish Chaplain at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center in New York City and as a congregational rabbi in Beacon, New York .
Both photos on this spread were taken at The Freeman Center for Jewish Life
FILM AND LITERATURE IN REVIEW The Language of God by Francis S. Collins One of the country’s leading geneticists and longtime head of the Human Genome Project has a firm belief in the power of humans to understand the complexity of the world through scientific inquiry and in the physical laws that such inquiry has critically proven. How then can he also believe in the suspension of these laws – in the resurrection of the man called Jesus Christ? Francis S. Collins offers his answer to this question in his latest book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, by outlining the evolution of his worldview as a scientist and Christian, and detailing the questions that have challenged and shaped that worldview over several decades. His conclusion (which he terms BioLogos but is more commonly know as theistic evolution) describes a world which, created out of nothingness approximately 14 billion years ago, despite staggering improbabilities, contained the necessary conditions for life. The position further espouses the processes of natural evolution, but acknowledges qualities of humans that “defy evolutionary explanation and point to [their] spiritual nature,” such as the existence of Moral Law and their timeless search for God.1 Dr. Collins’ reply to our initial question is heartening – especially for the average Christian who is constantly defeated by an ignorance of science. Nonetheless, gleeful submission to this protective argument neglects his greater purpose of the book: instilling a motivation to pursue Truth both scientifically and religiously. Though God is always reaching out to humans, desiring deep relationship with them, hearing that call and answering with an undivided devotion to God is a lifetime endeavor. Collins’ story is a testament to the commitment which the answer to that call requires. Unfortunately, Christians and scientists all too often fall short of the commitment that is required in any pursuit of Truth. Christians – to the neglect of revelation through scientific inquiry – rest in faith that God gracefully and appropriately imparts understanding from his infinite abundance. Likewise, natural humanists – to the neglect of that which cannot be bound by argument – seek wisdom concerning themselves and the world solely through the scientific method. Dr. Collins emphasizes the moral culpability of all who sustain these deficiencies of narrowness and ignorance in the debate between theology and science. Written centuries before religion and science were ever at odds with each other, Psalm 19 offers grounds of reconciliation for these divided parties, proclaiming, “The heavens are telling the Glory of God; / and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” Its message – the Truth of God is in all things [since all things He created] – invites Christians out into the world to search for God in even what might seem the most unlikely sources; therein is the Glory of God. What all parties must realize is that every side is united in a single purpose in the pursuit of Truth. A true seeker is willing to engage everyone and everything with the expectation of discovering a new shred of Truth. Such engagement requires a thorough understanding of the source of one’s own beliefs, that he or she might vulnerably enter state of conversation that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls “active listening.”2 Thus, with an integrity to one’s own beliefs that cannot be trumped by mere rhetoric, but only by Truth, one willingly enters into a formative experience with the assurance that the Truth of God will be revealed. —Christian Pikaart Trinity ‘09 1Francis
S. Collins. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. New York: Free Press, 2006. p. 200.
2From a recent lecture delivered at Duke by Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth. To read more, see his book The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations (Continuum, 2002).
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS Will Smith’s latest movie The Pursuit of Happyness is a far cry from many of the Will Smith movies that to which we are accustomed. Although the movie is “inspired by a true story,” just exactly what that means is up for argument. The role of faith in the life of Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith, is downplayed from actual events to the movie. Nonetheless, The Pursuit of Happyness contains elements of redemption and resurrection of a man living on the brink of homelessness living in 1981 San Francisco, CA. After his wife (Thandie Newton) leaves Chris and their only son Christopher (played by Smith’s actual son Jaden Smith) a series of unfortunate events leaves the two homeless in downtown San Francisco. Chris becomes determined to be a stock broker for Dean Witter but later finds out that the internship position is without pay. After the plot leads the audience through a series of small successes and grave bad luck, Chris manages to keep what means most to him, his son Christopher, by his side while he fights everything from homelessness, shelter lines, his image, to even ex-hippies who attempt to steal from him. It is at the lowest part of Gardner’s life that resurrection comes into play as a way of redeeming him and his son from a life of uncertainty and poverty to one of comfort and success. As the true story goes, Gardner is forced to rely on a faith-based homeless shelter for food and a place to stay. However, mere material sustenance is not all that Gardner finds – he finds faith as well. Slowly things start to come back under his control as he finds fellowship and solidarity with fellow homeless families around him and faith in Christ. Gardener’s own life slowly becomes resurrected as he works his way through the long hours at Dean Witter and long lines at the homeless shelter, all for the love of his son. Finally, with a much tested and stronger faith, Chris is able to break out of the cycle of poverty and reap the benefits of his labors: a secure job as a stock broker. In a way, Gardner achieves a kind of resurrection by breaking loose from the bonds of the cycle of poverty and transforms his life to a newer, successful life. Gardner gains faith in himself, his son, and God as he breaks free and enters into a new life as a stock broker. Although the actual plot of the movie has been disputed by the real Chris Gardner due to a typical Hollywood downplay of the role of faith on Chris Gardner’s life, The Pursuit of Happyness nonetheless tells the story of the American Dream—if you work hard enough, you can make it happen—with all reality. However, what the movie does fail to show is that the American Dream is not enough, that we can do nothing without God, and it is He that gives us this gift of life. The movie gives a good slice of life view into one of the millions of honest American families who are on, or just over, the brink of poverty. Without too much sentimentality, The Pursuit of Happyness does a great job of highlighting the struggle between family and income by portraying the good and ugly side of familial homelessness; the good being the value of family while the ugly being the uncertainty of making ends meet. In the end, Smith fits the role perfectly as a real life person fighting real life issues in this moving film. Without a doubt, Smith has reached a new level of his career in The Pursuit of Happyness by leaving behind aliens and robots and fighting for what is so dear to Americans: our own pursuit of happiness. —John Maletis Trinity ‘09
Benedicti SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING Power and Passion Samuel Wells ISBN: 978-0310270171 Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel Rowan Williams ISBN: 978-0829815412 The Resurrection of the Son of God N.T. Wright ISBN: 978-0800626792 The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue Robert Stewart, John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright ISBN: 9780800637859
Questions? Comments? Interested in cont 28
Contact Nate Jones at NJJ2@duke.edu
on QUOTES TO PONDER â€œChrist is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs He is bestowing life.â€? Eastern Orthodox Easter Hymn "Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (KJV) "Only the power of Christ's crucifixion on the cross and the glory of his resurrection can heal the deep racial wounds in both black and white people in America." John M. Perkins in Let Justice Roll Down "The goal of human life is not death, but resurrection."
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Published on May 15, 2010
An Undergraduate Journal of Christian Thought at Duke Volume 1, Issue 1 April 2007 We are a community of friends who seek to follow Je- sus...