Unknown God A JOURNAL OF CHRISTIAN THOUGHT AT BERKELEY
COMMUNITY VOLUME 5 || ISSUE 1 || SPRING 2012
Unknown God Spring 2012
3 4 6 8
What is Community?
A search for belonging and the goodness of God
A Way to Find Rest
How does God feel when we've screwed up?
To all who are weary and burdened
God's Justice through Ezekiel
Fair play and just action are truths of life
Can I Tell You Something?
How Christians can correct others in love
Andrew Kuo Poetry
Thomas Hong Poetry
What is it in a name?
Forgiveness is easy when we look to the cross
• Authority • He is a Rose Stephen Haw
Does Feeling God's Presence Come From Being a Good Person? Jonathan Kuo
Where is the Religious Left?
Why Christian progressives lack political power
The Carpenter's World A story about reality
An Interview with Professor Jan de Vries On community, maturity, and Christian living
Cover Andrew Kuo (front) Diana Zheng (back)
Artwork and Photographs Melanie Chan (5, 9, 11, 17-21) Christine Han (1)
Visit us at unknowngodjournal.com
Andrew Kuo (7, 13) Joice Lee (opposite, 2, 18-19 center)
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you. â€” Acts 17:23
To An Unknown God is not affiliated with any church or other religious group, and opinions expressed in articles do not necessarily represent those of the editors. We are student-run and funded partly by the ASUC as a sponsored student publication. Funding is also provided through individual donations. Distribution is free while supplies last.
To An Unknown God Spring • 2012 Dear Reader, In our perpetually connected society, it is trivial to find others who share our pastimes and opinions, or to communicate frictionlessly via the internet with nearly anyone else on the planet, and the world itself (a so-called “global village”) has been defined by the limits—or rather, the lack thereof—of its own interconnectedness. I can think of no better place where this is exemplified than Cal itself; merely step onto Sproul on a sunny day to be bombarded with invitations to join every sort of community, from professional development organizations to political activism groups to musical ensembles, and yes, to Christian fellowships as well. Whatever the nature of community, it would seem that community cannot help but be present, and the sheer overwhelming plurality of communities present hinders any attempt to privilege any one in particular. In light of this, is “Community” already obsolete as the theme of this semester’s issue of To An Unknown God? We are faced with a world where to consider community as essential in its own right would seem to be superfluous: who can say that we are lacking in knowledge of community? In quantity? In value? But, readers, the most important community is that which is often hardest to see. We know, abstractly, that we comprise a community far greater than our midweek small groups or Sunday services, that each of us is a member of the universal Church, linked intimately to one another through Jesus Christ our Head (Eph 4:1-16). We know that when Christ established His Church on earth, He built it out of people, the Twelve Disciples and others, from wildly varying walks of life, from lowly fishers to wealthy tax collectors, from religious leaders to the worst of sinners. And we know that He did not stop there, but rather commanded His followers to spread His kingdom to the Jews, the Samaritans, the Gentiles, and to all nations to the ends of the earth, that they might encourage, instruct, and build one another up in the name of the Lord (Ac 1:8-9; 14:22). We know this, and yet what we call our churches, our communities, are monolithic— one style of worship, one style of service, one race, one identity; and that identity not even in the Lord. We settle for the communities of our friends, with whom we have interests in common, instead of reaching out to those with whom our only connection is our faith in Christ. As you explore this issue of our journal, consider the foundations and the boundaries of your communities. Let them not be built of passions, except our passion for Christ; let them not be built of commonalities, except our common inheritance as children of God; and let our communities be limited by nothing but these things. And to those of you who have not yet found that community in Christ, we invite you to join us, that you may know Him with us as Friend, as Savior, as Lord. Together we might fulfill the community Christ called us to create, bound by our need for a Savior, who holds us together and perfectly unites us in Him.
editor-in-chief Wesleigh Anderson Publisher Chris Han Advisory Board Steven Fish Department of Political Science
Tsu Jae King Liu Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
Jeffrey Reimer Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Jan de Vries Department of History
photographer Christine Han Assistant Editors Natalie Cha, Stephen Haw, Geraldine Jorge, Solomon Kim, Joice Lee, Jonathan Lim, Kelsi Macklin contributors Lila Carpenter, Melanie Chan, Keith Fong, Laura Greenwood, Philip Hong, Thomas Hong, Daniel Kim, Andrew Kuo, Jonathan Kuo, Cindy Lin, Diana Zheng
Editors Emeriti Chris Han, Sarah Cho, Stephanie Chiao, Laura Ferris, Cliff Mak, John Montague, Whitney Moret
Wesleigh Anderson, Editor-in-Chief
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:3-4
Spring 2012 | To An Unknown Godâ€ƒ 1
Joice Lee 2â€ƒ To An Unknown God | Spring 2012
oming In as a transfer student to Cal, community was a top priority. I knew that as a junior transfer, I would have a harder time finding a community since most students in my class had already been building a community since their freshmen year and through their time spent in the dorms. As a result of this thinking, I may have overcompensated a bit my first semester. Immediately, from my first day on campus, I was astounded to discover the vast amount of Christian fellowships as well as churches here in Berkeley. The first few weeks I found myself on a “fellowship high,” meaning that I was so excited to see the different Christian communities expressed in these different fellowships that I was eager and anxious to go to as many Christian events as I could fit into my schedule and meet as many people as possible. However, I soon came to realize that meeting people was completely different from having a relationship with them, and that it required a lot more work and energy than I had assumed. Many people gave me advice to pick one fellowship and commit to being consistent and serving there. I wish I had listened to them. Rather, I believed that I could somehow be a part of three fellowships at the same time and make three times the friends and have thus three times the community! Oh how naïve I was. By the middle of the semester, I found myself burnt out and exhausted both emotionally and spiritually. I was done with this community thing. I had yet to find a place where I felt that I could belong and be accepted for who I was. I was tired of conversations that solely consisted of: “Hi, nice to meet you, what’s your major? What year are you? What fellowship are you with? Where do you go to church?” And while people tried to encourage me by relating to me their stories of how they found community, I
found it all the more disheartening because I felt that I had already been doing everything right, but somehow I still felt so alone. Somewhere along the lines, I realized that I had been acting on this desire for community as if it were a formula. Maybe if I put in enough hours, met a certain quota of people per event, attended all the large groups and small groups that I could, maybe that would produce for me a community. I was essentially trying to boil down my relationships into a neat formula through which I could plug people in and that would produce a sense of belonging. However, I began to realize that building a community doesn’t work that way. Before the spring semester began, I was apprehensive about starting school again and the fear of being isolated loomed over me. But God is so faithful and in ways that I can’t even explain, I found myself a part of a community. I began to realize that it’s okay to be alone sometimes; I don’t need to constantly be surrounded by people. I began to realize that having a community does not define who I am. I realized that I had been judging my success at Cal on the basis of the community I was a part of and the number of people that I knew. Over the course of this semester, I slowly began to see the ways that God expresses His love to me through the relationships I had made and the people He has put into my life. I discovered that community is more than a feeling of belonging; it consists of relationships that you invest time and energy into. Rather than making community my priority at Cal, I discovered that I needed to shift my perspective and make my relationship with Jesus my priority. When my relationship with Jesus was right, everything else fell into place and it was then that I could see the community that God had placed around me. •
s ta f f w r i t e r
• • •
Kelsi Macklin is a 3rd year transfer student majoring in Asian Studies. As an Asian-American adoptee, she desires to use her experiences to change the lives of other orphans around the world.
Spring 2012 | To An Unknown God 3
A Way to Find Rest contributing writer
1 Galations 4:3-7 (NIV).
his semester, I’m taking on a few harder classes and a few more extracurricular activities, and it has taught me that there’s always something productive you could be doing with your time. Being busy, you make a mental list where you prioritize all of your different activities, and I found myself prioritizing academics and other activities, especially those that have deadlines. As all of you already know, things can get overwhelming. Talking to some friends, I felt that I could sympathize with them when they said, “Oh yeah, I’m a Christian, but I’m not a really good one. I don’t really go to church.” I also got a chance to talk to my brother recently about how busy things are nowadays and about his experiences during college, and he gave me this advice. He told me that I should be asking myself, “Am I a college student who goes to church, or a Christian who goes to college?” When I ask myself that, and stop to think about what I am doing here in college, I find that I must often identify myself with the former. What results is an increasingly apathetic heart towards things that should be of the utmost importance, such as time set aside to talk with God. I know there are a lot of people who have already found a church family they can imagine belonging to for years, and even for the rest of their life. I thank God for that, but this is for those of you, like me, who have been trying a lot of different things, such as visiting local churches or going to club meetings, getting tired from it all, and have, as a result, become detached from everything. With the multitudes of people I meet, it’s hard to get to know any of them closely. Furthermore, not being entirely sure of major or extracurricular activity makes you not
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want to think about long term commitments to any one group of friends or specific club. Feeling so simultaneously detached and overwhelmed, it’s easy to fall into the idea of becoming a “bad Christian.” However, I hope and pray that none of you reach the point where you consider yourself a “bad” Christian. I personally believe there’s no such thing, that it’s just a matter of reexamining where your heart is. The world will often tell you to put your heart into the game or into your studies. Sure, these things will benefit you one way or another, but they also drain you in other ways. It may not be immediate, but we all get tired at some point. That’s why you should be putting your heart in the only thing that will last you longer than any worldly thing and will keep replenishing you as a result: God. Being a Christian means you’re in an intimate relationship with God, that you’ve dedicated your life to furthering His glory and executing His will. Thus, you are no longer your own, but God’s: So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir. ¹ You’re no longer a student, but a Christian student. You are no longer a dancer, but a Christian dancer. You’re no longer a business
major, but a Christian business major. A friend put it this way; you shouldn’t make a priority list with God on top. Instead, you should make a list with God in everything that you do, so that you won’t be tempted to cross Him off the list like everything else. You are a representative of God in all these different territories. What I’ve realized is being in a new place, as many of you have felt coming to Berkeley, with so many different opportunities, the option of being a Christian seems to wane in comparison to building up a résumé with clubs, sports, and such. I’m not saying that participating in these instead of attending Friday night meetings or prayer groups is a bad thing; I’m sure God would appreciate you taking advantage of all of the opportunities available to you. Just remember who gave you those opportunities and be aware that in the end, God’s not going to look at your résumé to determine if you get into Heaven. Once you have the right heart, what do you do? Another cliché moment; take a chance. During my church search, I visited a lot of different churches on campus and a few far away. Always be open to different churches. Though they may seem over-enthusiastic or stone-cold sober, as long as they preach properly the Word of God (a subject which could take countless pages to write upon), then try it out. It’s definitely an emotionally draining experience going to so many different churches, but finding the right one is vital to your health and growth as a Christian. Being in a church provides a Christian with many things that could be covered by whole books, but, to give an example, it can provide a community. In addition, don't be afraid of making friends with people in different fellowships, despite any negative first impressions. I know for myself, I made a lot of prior judgments, very skeptical judgments about people from local churches who invited me out to different church events during those first few weeks of school. In actuality though, they are not trying to reel you in with friendliness, but rather trying to make you interested with the kind of love God shows them. Jesus broke all kinds of barriers by talking to Gentiles, taxcollectors, and sinners. Don’t be afraid to break some barriers of your own.
And as a note to those who I mentioned before have found a church they have dedicated themselves to, continue helping. Some of you may have grown up in the church and have never had to handle the difficulty of feeling a bit lost. A lot of people haven’t been so fortunate though. So be an ambassador of God, and spread his love and glory, help those who have strayed from God by not building up barriers. My own youth group back home had this particular problem. We were so tight as a family that we became exclusive, making it difficult for newcomers to feel welcome. Just remember, the easier you make it for people to feel a part of the family, the more likely they will want to become a part of it. But going back to those of you still feeling a bit lost. Although a cliché, the best way to find a solid group of friends is to find similarities. Of course you could find others who love to play soccer, or have a common appreciation for anthropology, but the great thing about devoting yourself to a fellowship is that you have a connection, a common love for God, which will never change or falter. Even if as an individual, you may falter, belonging to a community with a strong purpose can help you stay afloat. In this common bond, you find brothers and sisters who care for you and love you through prayer and fellowship; there is not much stronger or longer lasting than that. That is why this my advice to all of you who are uncertain of where they belong, or uncertain of what they should be doing: ask yourself, are you a college student going to church or a Christian in college? Once you understand what your answer is and understand where your heart lies, then you’ll find a community. •
Philip Hong is a freshman from the Bay Area majoring in molecular environmental biology.
Spring 2012 | To An Unknown God 5
God’s Justice through Ezekiel:
s ta f f w r i t e r
1 Ezekiel 18:26 (USCCB).
2 Ezekiel 18:27 (USCCB).
Geraldine Jorge is an undeclared first year student from the Bay Area. She enjoys writing essays as a creative outlet of sorts.
Why It Pays to Play by the Rules
he Lord’s way is not fair!” Chapter 18, verse 25 of Ezekiel begins with a lamentation that—let’s face it—may not be altogether unfamiliar to us, especially during times in our lives when we believe that injustices have been inflicted upon us for someone else’s gain. Why do we have to play fair all the time, when so many people don’t? What happened to justice? Some will answer that God works in ways beyond our comprehension. But when the basis for our beliefs stands in jeopardy, it would be an injustice to ourselves and to our faith if we took to such easy answers as this. If these conceptions of existence are to serve as the blueprints for our goals and for the courses of our lives, they had better be well-founded and we had better have full confidence in them—confidence which only comes with knowledge. God and His methods need not be wholly unfathomable—if incomprehensibility were really the intent, what would be the point of parables, and psalms, and the Bible itself? Rather, the Scriptures exist in order to demystify these misconceptions of God and His way. And what’s more, we need not wait for final judgment for the morals of Scripture to apply. In this article, I will offer an interpretation of Ezekiel’s chapter 18 which illustrates how playing by the rules can be beneficial when applied to everyday life. I will also show how this scriptural message does not only ring true from a religious point of view—I will further illustrate how this lesson posed by Ezekiel is a general fact of life backed by secular sources as well, for example the works of sociologist Emile Durkheim. Taken at first glance, the following lines of Ezekiel offer a paradoxical view of justice. “When the just turn away from justice to do
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evil and die,” the scripture reads, “on account of the evil they did they must die.” ¹ However, when “the wicked turn from the wickedness they did and do what is right and just, they save their lives.” ² Surely, this sort of logic does not apply to the real world! Criminals who sincerely repent after confessing to their sins still suffer prosecution—and often death— while philanthropists with superficially noble intentions indulge in gross transgressions with impunity, tucked safely away from the public radar by their facades and their fame. In these cases, just the opposite is true: those who seem unjust but act justly fail to escape prosecution and death, while those who seem just but act unjustly escape death. This real-world version of justice, then, stands in stark contradiction to God’s j ustice as put forth in Ezekiel’s chapter 18. Fortunately, however, there does exist a solution to this paradox. There are, indeed, benefits to playing by the rules and to being just as opposed to merely seeming just. After all, rules weren’t all made with our misery in mind! In board games, playing by the rules tends to pay positive dividends, such as the continued respect of peers and a greater sense of satisfaction should one actually win. The same applies to playing by the rules in life. Evil, i.e. refusing to play by the rules, rarely passes unaccounted for. On account of the evil a person commits by disobeying the rules, that person must suffer some kind of death. That death may not be (and in most cases will probably not be) as serious as the literal loss of one’s life. That death may not necessarily be public and others besides the person who committed the transgression may never be aware of it. However, the death does result each time, all the same. A person’s cheating
and lying will result in the death of one’s ability for open confidence in others, and also perhaps the death of the trust that others harbor toward a person. Rude and selfish behavior of a person towards others creates enemies, resulting in the death of possible friendships, or even simply the death of others’ good opinion and amiability. What do these scenarios have in common? Both these scenarios serve to isolate those who refuse to play by the rules, thus limiting their life experiences by limiting the experiences they share with others. Of course, we must all pay, somehow, for the actions we choose not to commit. But if we choose to play by the rules, we avoid having to pay with our lives. In his work Suicide, Durkheim treats the same issue of choosing community over isolation, and the life-preserving effects thereof. In Suicide, Durkheim explains the inverse relationship between the amount of suicides in a community and the degree to which individuals are integrated into their communities. Egoistic people who refuse to play by the rules—people who put their own goals above the needs of their communities and whom Ezekiel would label as unjust—depend less upon their community and much more upon themselves. Without a community to which they must contribute, Durkheim argues, egoistic individuals become “the admitted masters of their destinies [and] it is their privilege to end their lives.” ³ Thus, we are presented with the egoist, who by refusal to adhere to a set of moral rules becomes isolated
and self-dependent, and the altruist, who by choosing to adhere to a set of moral rules gains membership and gains support from a nourishing community. Egoists, despite having solely their own interests in mind, fall victim to isolation as they voluntarily sever the bonds that tie them to their communities and community obligations. When alone without a societal raison d’être—and a community to contribute to and be appreciated by—Durkheim warns that egoists run the risk of “feeling personal troubles [too] deeply” and feeling that their “efforts will finally end in nothingness, since [they] themselves disappear” ⁴ and are finite as singular beings. His data, furthermore, suggest that societies in which members are generally more detached from their communities also feature greater rates of suicide. Durkheim’s theories and data thus coincide with Ezekiel’s advice to play fair to preserve life, and therefore support the Scripture message albeit from a secular viewpoint. That Durkheim’s secular work supports the advice about justice posed in Ezekiel’s Chapter 18 implies the possibility that the importance of playing by the rules is a general fact of life, not just a lesson gleaned from Scripture. In order to save our lives, we must not be like the just ones who ultimately turn away from justice to do evil. Rather, we should be like the once-wicked, who ultimately learn the value of justice and learn to play by the rules to integrate themselves into their community. •
3 Émile Durkheim, Suicide, 209.
4 Émile Durkheim, Suicide, 210.
Spring 2012 | To An Unknown God 7
“Can I contributing writer
Lila Carpenter is a PACS senior who loves clouds, superheroes, and fresh air.
Tell You Something?” I
n high school theater, actors did not correct actors. Corrections were left to the director. Even well intentioned peer correction could have resulted in animosity or confusion. Our director, on the other hand, saw the larger picture; she knew which corrections were necessary and what would work itself out, and she knew what each actor was working on. She wouldn’t correct someone’s vocal inflection while they were working on movement. The “actors do not correct actors” rule can be paralleled in Christian community. I have experienced communities that permit anything, and others that correct everything. I believe Christian correction lies in the middle ground. 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV 1984) says, “‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial.” We know this innately; though we are free through Jesus Christ, we know that some things of this world are not good or helpful. When we see our friends and loved ones doing these things, we often want to help them by correcting them. But I would like to call your attention to Matthew 7:3 (ESV), where Jesus says, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Even Jesus, who had no logs in His eyes, was conservative with His correction, so what right do we have to point the finger? Jesus kept company with prostitutes. Did we ever see Him say, “Hey, prostitute. I’m telling you this out of love, but if you’re going to follow Me, you need to cut that out. It’s destructive to yourself and not honoring to God”? No. He had every right to, but Jesus led by example, and I believe His example was not one of finger pointing. He did not want His actors correcting each other. Even despite our loving intentions, many times those most in need of correction are not
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in a place to accept it. When I had my eating disorder, for example, if anyone said, “Hey, I’ve noticed that you’re manipulating your food intake. God says our bodies are our temples, and to hurt it, is to hurt Him,” I thought, “Oh really? Well, I notice you judging others. Is that godly?” What I said out loud, though, was, “I’m fine, thanks.” And then I would have avoided that person like the plague. I have avoided those people like the plague. I was offended because, despite knowing in my head that they were (hopefully) speaking out of love, I hadn’t asked them for their opinion or advice, and by offering it, I felt like they placed me in a position of inferiority. The area of my life they were pointing at was one I had already recognized. Most people know when they’re doing something wrong. But for me with my eating disorder, the eating wasn’t my real problem. The problem was depression and a low self-esteem, and the manipulated eating just was a symptom. I was working on my physical health with a nutritionist and a doctor, I was seeing a therapist for whatever therapists do, and my spiritual side was being mended through conversations with my pastor and Bible study. Despite coming from a place of love, the unsolicited corrections were not only unnecessary, but also were received as condescending and hurtful. The correcting person was an actor correcting me on my vocal inflection when I was still struggling to memorize my lines. The director would never have made that mistake. I want to make one thing very clear: in this analogy, God is not the director. Yes, God is the director of our lives, but to leave all course correction up to Him permits us to continue down destructive paths, thinking that, if they were really wrong, God would have stopped
us. Books have been written about why God permits us to sin, but here that would be tangential and beside the point. What matters is that here, the metaphorical director here is not God but someone outside the situation, who has your best interest in mind, and has the authority to speak into your life. This may be a pastor, a mentor, or a parent or family member. Jesus was that director to His apostles, especially Peter, whom we see Him correcting time and time again. In Matthew 16:23, when Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan! […] You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men,” Jesus did not focus specifically on correcting the action, but spoke into the root cause behind it. In my situation, my director was my pastor. He would have never corrected me on my eating, because he knew we were dealing with something deeper. In theater, we also often asked friends to watch specific parts and give feedback. Asking people to watch you translates into giving someone authority to speak into your life. I would recommend giving this authority to a small group of friends that know you—really know you—and that have your best interest at heart. Ask them, “I want to give you permission to speak into my life. I know you love me, and I trust that anything you say to me will be out of love. Will you let me know if I’m off track?” We need to have those conversations, because here’s what changes: when those people let you know you’re off track, they’re responding to your request, not being invasive. You’re hopefully close enough that they will know the real issue, or if they comment on a symptom, you will feel comfortable telling them the root cause or searching for it together. Even if they mess up the delivery, you already know they’re speaking from a place of love. As I write this, I can see some of you squirming in your seats, thinking, “But what if I don’t have permission to speak into their lives, but they’re really screwing up, and I really, really, really want to tell them?” In that situation, I would give two options. Either 1) don’t, or 2) ask. The simple question of, “If I thought you were off track in something, would you want me to tell you?” goes a long way. However, this
only works if you respect their answer. If they say no, let it go. They know you care, and if you continue to love them, they’ll come to you when they’re ready. If you push it, you’ll push them away. An alternative is to speak in generalities, like how Jesus taught in parables, or to talk about yourself. A friend of mine did this for me. He knew I was struggling with a particular sin, and one day he casually brought it up in conversation, mentioning what tensions he was struggling with around it in his own life, how it applied to his faith, and the conclusion he had drawn. Never once did he say, “Lila, I know you’re doing this. Cut it out.” By the end of the conversation, though, I decided to change. His thought process made sense, it was biblically sound, and he presented it without making me defensive. There are ways to get your point across without making the other person cling defensively to theirs. In theater, this is like saying “I think it looks better when I make big movements on stage. The audience will probably be able to see it a lot better.” This comment might galvanize the other person to think, “Huh, maybe I should make big movements, too.” And finally, a note to the recipient of correction: if someone corrects you, they are not trying to hurt you. It may be human nature to become defensive, but I implore you to be compassionate and patient. Even if you do not agree with the correction or do not think that they are in the position to give it, at least appreciate that they care about you enough to speak up. People will say things in love that you might take offensively. Choose not to. Our role as Christians is not to correct each other, but to love each other and give space for people to either correct themselves or work in close-knit communities. I encourage you stand on that middle ground between permitting anything and correcting everything. Don’t point fingers, but instead invite a couple close people to speak into your life, and if you really, really, really can’t stop the urge to correct someone, please ask permission or use yourself as an example. Finally, above all else, whether the corrector or the corrected, strive to make grace and compassion your impulsive reaction. •
t was a night back in Berkeley, and I must say, I was enjoying the familiarity of it all. Walking the worn path back home from studying late, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of fondness for school, maybe even enough to wish class would come just a tad faster. The night was clear, the weather crisp, the streets empty, the walking company pleasant, and the conversation joyful—exactly as I like it. All too soon we were at her apartment and ready to go our separate ways. It was a familiar routine: hand over her laptop, open the door, and say good night. And oh, maybe something a little out of the ordinary—but not what you’d expect. Hello robbers. Fists struck my head and back. Hands grabbed her and swung her away. No words, no threats, no sounds, no chance. Too fast to react. With three of them versus two of us, and the element of surprise on their side, we could only put up a pitiful struggle at best. Ten seconds later we found ourselves stunned, the laptop gone, and the three robbers scattered. Robbers: one. Us: zero. Out of instinct I bolted out after them, failing to grasp what had happened, and devoid of a plan. The trio of robbers had split. The one with the laptop ran straight and the other two vanished right. I followed the one with the laptop, and caught him two blocks up. He was alone and out of breath—an easy target. I considered it. A tackle from behind would stun, a blow to the head would immobilize, and the only thing stopping me from retrieving the laptop would be a foot race down the hill. Given that his fellow robbers were nowhere in sight, it would have been simple. “Love your enemies” materialized in my mind (Luke 6:27, NASB). Yes, I knew the context of the passage; this command from Jesus is specifically for Christians who are being persecuted “for the sake of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22). If I were being stolen from because I professed the name of Christ, the commanded response would be clear: But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold
10 To An Unknown God | Spring 2012
A summer night's walk on the streets of Berkeley takes an unexpected turn. contributing writer
Keith Fong your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:27-30) Or, to apply it to my situation: “But I say to you who hear, love the robbers, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who take advantage of you. Whoever hits you on the head, offer him your face also; and whoever takes away your laptop, do not withhold your camera and phone and wallet from him either. Give to everyone who demands anything from you, and do not demand it back.” Yet that night we were not being persecuted nor stolen from because we professed the name of Christ. I knew I was not commanded to offer them to hit my face as well. I knew that Jesus had not commanded me to show them my own laptop, camera, wallet, keys to my car and my apartment. I knew that Jesus did not forbid me from taking back my friend's property. It was a matter of wisdom. I considered taking the laptop back. My mind started churning: Is justice mine to seek? No. Could I stand before my friends and the court and be blameless? Probably. But could I stand before God, who sees perfectly and judges the thoughts and intentions of my heart? (Hebrews 4:12). I asked myself if my anger was justified. Of course it was! They ambushed us from behind like cowards, hit my friend, and stole her laptop! Then a verse came to mind: “…the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” ( James 1:1920). I might be justifiably angry, but my angry violence would not accomplish justice. God will render to each what is right, not me. Okay, Lord, I prayed. And by the grace of God, my anger, hatred, and rage melted to pity, compassion, and sorrow. “Is it really worth it?” I yelled. “Just give the laptop back. I don't want to fight.” I walked toward him. He was scared, about the age of 17 or 18, I guessed. “Come on, give the laptop back and we can be over this. Is it really worth it?” Silence. An eternity passed. Then his friends came, and he retreated back toward them. A different robber walked up towards me. “Back up. Empty your pockets.” His fists bared, eyes glaring, teeth clenched. “Back up. Back up. Empty your pockets.” Now I
retreated. I thought, Uppercut to the jaw, knee to the groin, blow to the back—neutralized. But what if he has a knife? No, he would have flashed it already. Besides, he's smaller and younger than me, maybe about 18 or 19. Is it worth it? Another verse popped into my head: “‘vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). And Keith, I thought to myself, vengeance is not yours. It is not your job to extract it, nor exact it. “I don't want to fight. I don't want to fight,” I repeated. We kept up the dialogue for a few more steps, until, by the providence of God, laughter and voices from the house pierced the ice. He froze, and looked left. “It's very easy,” I said. “One call. That's all I need.” Tension shot up his body and terror filled his eyes. I yelled, “Robbery! Robbery!” All three robbers bolted to the car, and I flipped out my camera to try to record the license plate. The driver hit the gas, missed me by a couple inches, screeched left, and roared around the corner. I checked my camera. Nothing. The next hours were spent making a couple of 911 calls, finding dropped keys to the apartment, giving witness statements to the two policemen, making small talk, cleaning up the wounds, and finally going to bed around 2:30 AM. At the end of it, the damage was: a stolen laptop, scratches on the hand, arm, leg, and back, a dropped and broken food container, and the naïvety of two college kids shattered—the end of the summer semester punctuated with the exclamation mark of a reality check. Was I bitter? Resentful? Did I feel victimized? Indignant? I don't think those would be accurate words. Perhaps there was some regret. Maybe there was still a little anger. But underneath the confusion of my muddled thoughts, I found a thankfulness for God’s deliverance and protection, and an overwhelming pity for the robbers. I prayed for God to exact justice through the government (Romans 13:1-4) and for Him to mercifully bring them to faith. The ethereal, familiar refrain carried me to sleep—
I force my flesh to pray and submit to His plans. It’s definitely a struggle; the robbers’ faces still come to mind when it's dark, and I find myself on the edge of the cliff of paranoia whenever I’m walking on the street or stopping at stop signs in my car, half expecting them to jump out of the bushes behind me to do another lawless deed. Often I drift back to when I first caught the robber with the laptop. After a lot of thought, I know what I should have said: “You are sinning against the perfect God. Is it really worth it? To trade your soul for a joy trip, for a toy, for some cash? Think about your life. You are a thief, condemned and worthy of eternal hell. I am too. Jesus saves from this worthless kind of life. He saves you from wasting your life worshipping things and people and temporary highs. You were made to worship God, not steal. You were made to worship Jesus, not assault. You were made to worship and submit to the King, not rebel against Him and His people. Repent and believe in the gospel, for it's your only hope!” Prepare me for the next time Father, to be bold with my mouth for the sake of the gospel. Amen. • 1 William Cowper, There is a Fountain Filled With Blood. Public Domain.
Keith Fong is a member of Evangel Bible Church of Berkeley, where the Word is preached and the fellowship is sweet. He is a third year engineering physics major at Cal with no clear goals for the future except to love the Lord and His Church all his days. melanie chan
The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day; And there have I, though vile as he, Washed all my sins away, Washed all my sins away, Washed all my sins away; And there have I, though vile as he, Washed all my sins away. ¹ Forgiveness is easy when we look to the cross of Jesus Christ. Two days later, the scene often manages to invade my mind. What if I had done this? Or that? I should have done this. I could have done that. What if…? My thoughts pull me away from trusting that my God is sovereign and that He is my good Father in heaven, and Spring 2012 | To An Unknown God 11
Where is the s ta f f w r i t e r
ay marriage. Abortion. Prayer in schools. When religion and politics show up together on the news, it is generally the Religious Right that is being talked about. The Religious Right is made up of people who come at politics from a religious and conservative perspective, and it has proven to be a powerful political movement.¹ In this article, however, I turn to the puzzling question of why religious and political liberals do not have a similarly influential movement. In other words, where is the Religious Left? Religious and political liberals do in fact have influential spokespeople and an interest group presence in Washington DC.¹ However, in order to have real political power, this must be matched by a widespread, ground level movement. This broad-based support is what the religious and liberal movement lacks.² Religious progressive leaders, such as Rabbi Lerner, have been working hard to mobilize a Religious Left,³ but have discovered that they must overcome formidable barriers if they are to succeed. The first difficulty, according to the Pew Forum, is that the Religious Left is extremely diverse. Most of the Religious Left identifies itself as progressive Christian, and “progressive Christians come from different religious traditions and disagree almost as often as they agree on a number of key political and social issues.” In contrast, the Religious Right has formed around a nucleus of white evangelical Christians, who compose the majority of the movement and are homogeneous in their religious and political beliefs.⁴ This diversity leads to what is arguably the Religious Left’s greatest weakness: it has no clear objective around which to rally.² Political causes include socioeconomic justice, affirmative action, open immigration, environmentalism, LGBTQ rights, and corporate responsibility.¹ Efforts to choose from among these goals have been hampered by the Left’s “regard for pluralism: for letting people say what they want, how they want to, and for trying to include everyone's priorities, rather than choosing two or three issues that could inspire a movement.” ⁵ Meanwhile, the Religious Right’s goals are clear-cut (stop gay marriage, end abortion) and have great emotional resonance with people. The second difficulty Religious Left faces is that religious 12 To An Unknown God | Spring 2012
leaders on the Left have greater difficulty directing their congregants’ political beliefs and actions. Liberal congregations do not give their religious leaders the same degree of authority as do conservative congregations to their leaders. Rabbi Lerner, one of the most well-known leaders and writers of the Religious Left, offers these observations: A religious leader telling people how to vote is absolutely out of question in the liberal world. It just wouldn’t happen … the authority level is much less … On the Right there’s much more of a willingness of people to listen to their leaders and say “What do I know, I guess this person might know a lot better than I.” ² Among other things, the idea of “scriptural relativism” ascribed to by many liberals means that no one, including clergy, has the final word on what a religious text means. Thus, it is difficult for liberal clergy and other liberal religious elites to motivate and organize people to take action.¹ Making things even more confusing, many on the Religious Left believe strongly in separation of church and state. Even if ministers are at ease with taking political action, they are hampered by the fact that their congregations are frequently uncomfortable with their denomination or clergy members engaging in political activity.¹ One practical manifestation of this weaker authority may be decentralized political activism in churches and local communities. Maha Ibrahim, Senior Field Representative for Representative Nancy Skinner, said that the liberal religious churches (synagogues, mosques, etc.) in her district engage in a lot of activity. Yet these efforts are generally split among many causes and are run by members rather than the religious leaders.⁶ It seems to me that this method of activism is much less efficient than the more topdown approach of conservative churches—yet another reason the Religious Right may have an advantage in organizing politically. There is a third difficulty that the Religious Left faces: the secular Left is a huge obstacle to the rise of a politically active Religious Left. Secular voters on the Left usually dislike or dismiss religion’s role in politics;² Democratic politicians are reluctant to use religious language.⁷ The Right, meanwhile, welcomes the
Religious Right with open arms.² Similarly, the media on the Left, generally secular, is either “indifferent” or downright “hostile” towards the Religious Left. This is in complete contrast to the conservative media’s attitude towards the Religious Right.² There are important consequences to being shut out in this way. Many on the Religious Left, even among those who are politically active, have imbibed the idea that they should be supporters rather than leaders. Rabbi Lerner argues that the secular Left has so consistently and so comprehensively marginalized the Religious Left that the Religious Left has “internalized” the idea that it should not challenge “the way that the Left thinks or the way that the Left operates” in any way, at least not from a religious perspective.² Reverend Oliveto, the head pastor of Glide Church and its representative in the Interfaith Alliance, spoke about the Interfaith Alliance’s role in the Occupy Movement: “we aren’t trying to direct the Occupy Movement but as Interfaith leaders provide this circle of support.” ⁸ The Interfaith Alliance has a clear sense of itself as a facilitator and supporter rather than a leader. This attitude may offer a hint as to why a state with what is considered a relatively powerful liberal religious presence in Sacramento⁹ has been largely unsuccessful in translating their institutional strength into a broad-based movement. I conclude with a disclaimer. The purpose of this article has been to explain why the Religious Left has been slow to organize, but by no means does this mean that it can not become a formidable power. Historically the Religious Left has been a influential political force, playing a large role in the battle against poverty, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War protests.¹ More recently, the Religious Left has been making real progress in linking up its members. Although they have faced difficulties, groups like the Network of Spiritual Progressives and “We Believe Ohio” mark a distinct step forward in mobilization.³ Democratic politicians, meanwhile, seem to have been paying more attention
to religious progressives while on the campaign trail. Obama’s 2008 campaign in particular was marked by far greater attention to the religious, including religious progressives,¹⁰ though actual concessions have been quite limited.² The 2012 elections will be a litmus test for seeing whether they have continued to make progress in the years since. •
1 Olson, Laura R. “Whither the Religious Left? Religiopolitical Progressivism in TwentyFirst-Century America.” From Pews to Polling Places: Faith and Politics in the American Religious Mosaic. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown UP, 2007. Print. 2 Lerner, Michael. Personal interview. 18 Nov. 2011. 3 Formicola, Jo Renee. The Politics of Values: Games Political Strategists Play. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. Print. 4 Pew Research Center. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. 69% Say Liberals Too Secular, 49% Say Conservatives Too Assertive. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. PewResearchCenter, 24 Aug. 2006. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. 5 Banerjee, Neela. “Religious Left Struggles to Find Unifying Message.” New York Times 19 May 2006. New York Times. The New York Times Company. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11 Nov. 2011. 6 Ibrahim, Maha. Telephone interview. 15 Nov. 2011. 7 Wilcox, Clyde, and Carin Robinson. "Prayers, Parties, and Preachers: The Evolving Nature of Political and Religious Mobilization." From Pews to Polling Places: Faith and Politics in the American Religious Mosaic. Ed. J. Matthew Wilson. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown UP, 2007. 1-28. Print. 8 Oliveto, Karen. Personal interview. 17 Nov. 2011. 9 Cleary, Edward L. “The Lively World of California’s Religion and Politics.” Representing God in the Statehouse: Religion and Politics in the American States. USA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006. Print. 10 Crabtree, James. "Closing the God Gap." Prospect [United Kingdom] 23 Sept. 2008. Sojourners in the News. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.
Chris Han is a third-year political science major at Cal. He is originally from Albany, CA, and currently lives in Castro Valley, CA. andrew kuo
Spring 2012 | To An Unknown God 13
An Interview with
Professor Jan de Vries P conduc ted by
rofessor Jan de Vries is a Professor of History and Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. As a professor and a Christian, he is also one of the faculty members of the Advisory Board of To An Unknown God. He shares his views on topics including community, maturity, and Christian living. Due to space constraints, this interview has been condensed and edited from its original form. TO AN UNKNOWN GOD (TAUG): What is your background as a Christian? PROFESSOR JAN De VRIES: Well, I was raised in a Christian home. My parents were Christians, and I was raised in the church in a traditional way, and I lived in communities where most people were Christians, so [Christianity] was in a way just like normal life. And so that’s the context; I’ve felt like I’ve been a Christian since I was baptized. And when people speak of “born-again Christians,” I think, well, I’m not quite sure what that means, because there wasn’t a moment as an adult where my faith was suddenly transformed. It’s more developed over time. TAUG: I see. So for you it’s been a more slow, gradual process? De Vries: You might say it’s been exploring and learning as one grows up and matures what it means to be, what the Christian life is, what it means to be a Christian. In every phase of life, that takes on new aspects. It’s a process of discovery. TAUG: Now that interests me. How do you think being a Christian changes in different phases of life? Especially for college students, how do you feel faith becomes different as you enter into college, as opposed to high school or
14 To An Unknown God | Spring 2012
before? De Vries: Well, one of my colleagues wrote an interesting essay on that subject: Professor William Bouwsma. He wrote an essay called “Christian Maturity.” TAUG: What was his take on it? De Vries: It’s been a while since I read it, but he was provoked at a conference led by psychologists about the meaning of maturity and adulthood. As I recall, as he was discussing this with me years ago, many of the participants who were there viewed Christianity, and probably most religions, as designed to infantilize, to keep people in a kind of childlike credulity. That kept them away from the understanding of the reality and the tragedy of life, because to them, religion was an opiate, as Marx said, an opiate of the people. As you think about the parables of Jesus, he talks about and appreciates childlike qualities, so there’s a sense in which [Bouwsma] thought people misunderstood Christianity as not allowing you to develop, keeping you from seeing the seeing the world as it is, from developing and maturing, from being open to new experiences. [They thought] Christianity was a protective cocoon. And so he was trying to explain that embedded in Christian theology and teachings is an understanding of maturity and of growth. It is not all or nothing; there are childlike things you put away as you become an adult [spiritually], but life is a process. This has a historical dimension too. All of history unfolds and reveals what God’s plan is for the world; Christianity is a historical religion. By analogy, he was arguing that, properly understood, the Christian life as one matures is one in which you are asked to be exposed to
challenges and respond to them on the basis of your Christian faith. So the challenges that people face in different states of life are different, hence, it’s a kind of never-ending process. You’re never fully mature. I guess I’d put it this way: it’s generally understood that as you leave your home and journey out into the world, particularly as you leave your home in high school in an American society, you live independently and you’re exposed to new learning and a great mix of people, and that all of these are great challenges to your faith and you ought to be protected from them. So as I understand it, a lot of Christian groups are kind of protective cocoons. My view is, that’s not the way it should be. The Christian faith demands that you be a part of the world, that you face it. So then the question is, how does your Christian faith allow you to understand and interpret what you see and make it part of you, but part of you in a Christian understanding, rather than being corrupted by it? And that’s a good question. But the point is that you have to face it. A proper understanding of the Christian life is that as one is handling university and entering the world of learning, nothing is out of bounds. Yes, there are things you should do and shouldn’t do, but these are decisions that you have to make and face, rather than be protected from or avoid them. And that seems to be consistent with the notion of what Bouwsma calls “Christian Maturity.” TAUG: How does your understanding of the Christian life affect the work you do as a historian? De Vries: In my view, Christianity affects your work whether you’re an academic or a construction worker. My father was one: he was a Christian construction worker. Well, he didn’t hammer nails any differently because he was a Christian. So what was the difference? I don’t think it has to do with the specific work you do, or the research you perform, or the answers you come to. It has to do with your approach to the subject. Some historical Protestant Christian [denominations] refer to it as a “Calling.” Everyone has a calling. It’s not necessarily the
priesthood; rather, we have a Christian duty to act in the secular world. Our acting in the world is not in a separate compartment of our religious activity. It’s doing your duty to your fellow man, of making society a better place. Whatever that may be, that’s your calling, whether it’s a humble one or a more exalted one. Now, teaching has a certain more exalted character, as it’s referred to in the Bible. [Editor's note: e.g., James 3:1.] There are preachers and there are teachers, and I think you could say that it’s not only teachers of religious principles, but [any] seekers of truth. My title is “Professor,” and I profess things because I believe them to be true. Well, that has a potential social impact with ramifications far beyond, say, hammering nails. Of course you want to be a good builder, make an honest product, and provide your employer with an honest day’s labor. These are all Christian virtues. And I have to do the same thing as a professor in my dealings with students, my colleagues, the institution [of the university], and the mission of the institution. I want to do my duty there. There are some people who aren’t Christians who feel the same, probably. They might do it a little differently, assessing and understanding their obligations a little differently. I don’t want to claim that Christians are better teachers because of their religion. But I have to decide what I am going to teach, what my research interests are, what I think makes a contribution to society, and I can’t help but believe that my [Christian] worldview plays some role in that. Of course, it’s not easy to articulate what role that is. I’m a historian, but I’m an economic historian. Some might say I should have become a historian of Christianity, but I don’t think that the necessary consequence of my religious faith is that I would have to devote all my time to it as a particular historical topic. The influence of my religious understandings, or the extent to which it affects me as a historian—it’s further back, in terms of how I make basic choices and how I understand my calling. And again, that’s not easy to articulate. TAUG: Thank you very much for your time. •
• • • •
This interview was conducted by Wesleigh Anderson, a 3rd year student of History and English from the beautiful Puget Sound.
Spring 2012 | To An Unknown God 15
Does Feeling God's Presence
Come From Being a Good Person
1 John 19:30.
2 Mathew 27:51.
3 Hebrews 4:16.
4 Hebrews 13:5.
5 Romans 5:8.
6 John 15:5.
7 Hebrews 12:2.
8 Matthew 11:28.
Jonathan Kuo is a first-year Rhetoric major at Berkeley. He has a brother who is two years older than him who attends Cal as well, and he hails from Pleasanton, CA.
he spiritual inadequacy complex. That’s what I’ve come to call the condition that seems to ail so many Christians I’ve encountered my freshman year. These Christians feel distant from God, envisioning Him drawing near to more prayerful and obedient Christians, while, metaphorically speaking, they’re stuck outside the door of intimacy. Feeling disqualified by their inadequacies and disobedience, they wait, hoping one day to enter. So what’s the problem? This is a total distortion of the gospel of grace! One of the greatest lies believers can buy into is that outward obedience is the means and method to greater intimacy with God. If you’re one of these Christians, hear me out. First, I’m not denying that you suck. I suck too. I’m not here to patronize you and fluff our theology, so that we’ll abuse grace and sin without remorse. But the Bible is clear: once we’re saved, our inadequacy, or sin, which previously kept us from God, doesn’t factor into our privilege of approaching our heavenly Father. Jesus says that through the cross, His work of reconciliation is finished ¹ and that the veil separating man from approaching the holiest of places, where God himself dwells, has been torn. ² Now, all believers have equal access to God at His throne of grace. ³ Consequently, God never removes His presence from us because of our sin. Sometimes, God feels far away. Most believers can testify of going through periods of spiritual dryness. But don’t mistake your emotions for our Father’s rejection: His actual presence never departs. ⁴ Why would God fickly reject those He already reconciled through Jesus? Because of your sin? God already wanted to be near you while you were condemned and filthy. ⁵ He already loved you enough to send His Son to die for you. And now, if you’ve placed your faith in Jesus, you’re cleansed by Jesus’ blood—clean and
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white as snow. God’s desire to be close to you isn’t conditional upon your deeds. Don’t flip the Gospel around—God doesn’t pursue you because you’re worthy. He pursues you because that’s who He is—love. God looks at people who should just be stamped “unworthy” and cast away, and says, “because of who I am, they’re worth it to Me.” In a world where we don’t have adequate analogies for this kind of love, it’s hard to grasp. Yet at the cross, it begins to make sense: it was never about our adequacy—only His. Let me end with something immediately practical: sanctification (becoming more holy and Christ-like) is the fruit of intimacy with God. ⁶ You become more like Jesus by spending time with Him and doing what pleases Him who loves you, not from trying to imitate His external behavior. The former leads towards loving obedience, but the latter leads to legalism. Do we get it now? There’s no need to stand outside the door of intimacy anymore! Jesus bore the wrath and anger you deserved so you wouldn’t have to. That’s grace, and it’s the only thing that brings us near to God. Not obedience, not following rules—only grace. But what about your sin? What about just yesterday when you stumbled? Doesn’t God hate sin? Yes, He does—sin is so bad that Jesus had to die for it, but He loves us so much He wanted to die! ⁷ God’s plan to break sin's chains is not to keep you at arm's distance or to reject you if you don't clean up your mess. It’s this: stop striving, and just come. ⁸ God will clean you up in His presence. True repentance is not just turning away from sin but also running towards Him. Run to God when you sin, not away from Him. You shouldn't make light of your disobedience, but repent and obey Jesus because you love Him, not because you’re trying to earn His love. God might be displeased with your behavior, but He will always want to be with you. So come. •
Poiesis, n. creative production, especially of a work of art
by definition i wish i was passionate for Christ the person that i would love Him not for some self-serving causes i lay down my life because i want to be great i refrain from sin because it ill fates but love what is love is it not directed towards an external being instead of hidden motives internally feeding when i think of Jesus’ thorns dug into His head not a tear fell not one shed then do i love God and is my faith true please let it be genuine or else i be a damned fool i pray God God let me feel let me feel a passion for You a fiery zeal as to prove somehow my faith were real wait did i forget yes perhaps ive missed it is not for this reason that Christ came to visit because i have no love and my heart is deceitful it is not about my but His passion for His people my lack in turn my greatest advantage through the cross Your visage clear Your Love burns for me i respond with tears — Andrew Kuo Spring 2012 | To An Unknown God 17 melanie chan
Four years Eighteen years to wake up and step into the light Two years to learn how to walk Another two to fall and see the truth Was I really walking? I took my slippers off where I stood, but the ground was tainted. I still went on, only looking forward. I began building. I used my best materials; my choicest stones. I struggled and made progress.
The structure was complete. All it needed was a cornerstone to hold it up, to hold it steady, So the center would hold... A lick of holy fire set aflame my masterpiece. A single match strike spark was all it took. Ashes sift through my fingers My hard labor, reduced to dust The ground on which I stood pulls away, and I am left to fall... I hit a rock.
18â€ƒ To An Unknown God | Spring 2012 melanie chan
I realize I did everything backwards The beginning was wrong. It was damned to fail before I could even start. I feel discipline, rebuke, but the love is faint I do not want to face Him but after a time, it is impossible.. Four years of my life... four whole years... Laughter floods my body; Bitterness fogs my sight; Sadness flows down; drowns me; Pain hardens my heart. My core shakes with dread. What was left of my trust is shattered yet again, and I must make a choice… I gaze at the fire; the flames burning away, but not a speck of ash; not one leaf wilted. I crawl into the light, And feel a new vision. To start from the first line instead of the second. I was killed. I am reborn. — Thomas Hong
Spring 2012 | To An Unknown God 19
What is it in a name?
To be nominally a Christian. Does that even make sense?
That’s like calling God praiseworthy, Worthy for all to raise But a calling that is worthless For our actions do not praise. It’s like saying “Father, Father, you are almighty” “To none other I look for aid” Yet our eyes will always follow Wherever the greenbacks are paid. What is it in a name? To be known a Christian. Is that all there is to it? To have study Bibles and a cross necklace? And I ask how many times does That Bible get opened?
To listen to David Crowder and Charles Stanley Only to listen the next song or sermon Because the last one was forgotten. And it all just seems like a trap Be a true follower of Jesus And be called crazy. Or be almost a Christian And be called not crazy enough. Scared yet? Not all hope is lost. But it’s too easy to say that Jesus paid the cost. You breathe, you eat, and you sleep And do you wonder if you will wake up? I pray and pray for that day I do not awake, when God picks me up. And when He picks me up, I don’t want to be nominal. I want to be the son He loves. I want to call Him Father. — Daniel Kim
20 To An Unknown God | Spring 2012
Authority Authority is not what you hold But still, submission is not what you do. I am no Master, brutal and so cold Instead a Father, waiting here for you. My Son descended to Earth then to Hell To take away your sin and rise again. Created in My Image, you will dwell In what I have provided to all men. I fought for you, achieving victory And wait to be with you forevermore. Embrace Me, let Me take your misery And you can rise on eagles’ wings and soar. So, come to me you thirsty, drink your fill Your broken bodies can now rest here still.
He Is A Rose He is a rose With a heart so beautiful and pure. In Him others grow His roots grow steadfast and sure. He is a rose Cut and withered, He blooms red. They pinned Him to a board And placed His thorns on His head. He is a rose As he blossoms towards above. His pollen rests in our hearts An everlasting gift of love. — Stephen Haw
Spring 2012 | To An Unknown God 21
the • • • contributing writer
llie grew up in a world of linear thought and logical deduction. She knew nothing else; nothing but the proven bare lines of what she was told was reality. She never questioned its hard edges or simplified structure. She had been told that there was nothing more than what could be explained by observation and experimentation; that anything beyond that was just wishful thinking, or even worse, a crutch. There was no higher beauty than what was readily seen. When she asked if there was ever more to reality beyond the bleak landscape of science she was told not to ask foolish questions. Then one day out of the corner of her eye, she saw It. She couldn’t describe It, because she had never seen anything of the sort before, but she thought that It was calm, fluid, and deep. It was gone before she could tell what exactly It was. She asked her school teacher about It and he told her no sane person seriously believed that something beyond the proven lines existed. That night she asked her parents about It. They replied that they had seen something of the sort a long time ago and for a while It had transformed their lives. When she asked why they no longer saw It they replied that that over the years It had faded, only to be recalled every so often on a Sunday. So from then on Ellie decided to search persistently for a glimpse of It: this grace and form that was not readily apparent in everyday life. She found that the more that she looked for It the more that she saw glimpses of It. However, every time, It had different facets. One day
22 To An Unknown God | Spring 2012
It was loud, warm, and beating, and the next It was peaceful, rustling, and yet unshakable. However, It always had a certain sense about It that she couldn’t quite grasp—but that revealed Its preeminent authenticity. She searched harder and harder until she began to neglect her schoolwork to search for glimpses of this otherness. Then one day, she turned a corner and It was there, all around her. The world that she had seen up to this point was barren and blank, but now she saw that the world was full of It. It was bright and vibrant with many original shapes and figures, for It was a greater reality that had existed since time had begun, but that had been veiled from sight. As Ellie walked down the road that had been so familiar a second ago she gasped in awe and wonder at the color and form that had appeared before her eyes. For this greater reality had whooshed in between the empty shapes and filled them with Its glory. As she walked, she saw the familiar awaken into strange and wondrous figures. In this fuller vision she was able to see what had given It its greater authenticity; for everything there bore the seal of the One. As she walked in this world she realized that it was indeed her own, for there, unaware, was her school teacher, walking towards her with unseeing eyes. He passed her by and continued on his way, frowning along in this beauty. She puzzled at this and realized that he was blind to this deeper reality that existed within. Filled with sorrow at his inability to see, she wondered how she had stumbled upon this herself.
When Ellie turned to go on her way she realized that she was not alone in this place. For she saw Him: the One. While He had an air of complete authority, He appeared in absolute humility—much like a Carpenter. It was He who had created and shaped this place to be filled with His glory and love. He was Its maker and owner, and He had made a life for Ellie within It. “You are now presented with a choice,” He said. “You can go onward in this fullness, or you can remain in the shadow world the rest of your days—slowly forgetting this one.” Incredulous, she asked, “Why would anyone choose empty shadows over the fullness of light?” He replied, “While the other world is but a shadow of this one, it is able to be fully known, comprehended, and to a degree, manipulated by those who live in it. To choose this fuller world is to reject your own ability to comprehend and control the world you exist in. To live in this complete world, you must refuse the promises that the other world seeks to offer you, and trust in the promises of love and truth that I have made you. Many do not trust in My love enough to let go of their own control. Think carefully of your decision, for choosing this greater world may lead to everything from simple ridicule to outright persecution. And yet I promise you that these hardships, though painful, will enable you to not only see this deeper world, but to actually live within it.” Ellie thought for what seemed an eternity, but soon replied resolutely, “Though it may offer more hardship, this world is too beautiful and too full to reject knowingly. I choose the narrow road.” The Carpenter smiled with delight and said, “I’m glad that you choose the greater path, and that you take joy in My creation. Now remember, if you are to live in this truer world and to not forget it until the last day, you must abide in My life. I have given it for you, so that you may walk in the way that I have prepared for you. It will be hard, and there may be days when it ceases to be clear and fades, but simply call out to Me and I will lead you back into the world that I have for you. You will know My call because I will always address you as My beloved, and will ask you to "arise and come away" with me. If you ignore Me, it will be harder to see the
She would cry out to the Carpenter, and He would come to her rescue . . . He was faithful. He still came. truer world that I have made. For I have loved you. Abide in My love and you will see this world.” He parted with an embrace and walked on through the trees and out of sight. Ellie stood in awe at the conversation that had just changed her very existence. She felt like she had been remade: whole and new without the scars of her former self. Though she wasn’t sure how to proceed, she made her way home, and out of her heart poured a song of joy in rhythm with this new world of color and form. Weeks passed and then years. Ellie walked in the way that had been made for her. Every day presented itself as a different mix of the two worlds. Some days it seemed as if she was walking in fields full of majesty. Others seemed to fill with trivial matters like tests and mere tasks; the beautiful world fading into the lines and shapes of the blank and naked one. Then, when she realized the darkness draped over her eyes and the bitter pain numbing her heart, she would cry out for the Carpenter, and He would come to her rescue. Sometimes she wouldn’t even be able to cry out, but He was faithful. He still came. He would come, singing over her throbbing heart: Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. ¹
1 Song of Solomon 2:10b (ESV).
Sometimes she would heed His call; dropping her books, she would run to Him. Other times, she would hesitate a moment too long and the opportunity would close, and she would be left in the bleak and dreary world. However, the Carpenter was always one for second chances. He would come when she was ready to walk with him, when she was ready to lay her shadow dreams at His feet. He led her in His way everlasting. Never was she without the ability to grasp His hand and walk by His side in the world of majesty and wonder. And she abided in the life the Carpenter had prepared for her, all her days. •
Laura Greenwood is a third-year Public Health major, and is a member of Livingwater Church and Alpha Delta Chi, the Christian Sorority.
Spring 2012 | To An Unknown God 23
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