Fall Issue 11
Lead photo: Pictured (L-R): Lucia Frangione, Anita Wittenberg, Jess Amy Shead from Pacific Theatre's Holy Mo! A Christmas Show! Photo by Emily Cooper
Reflections on Ed Ng's Presentation:
“A Psychology of Singleness”
By Matthew Nelson
A couple weeks ago, Regent alumnus Ed Ng delivered a talk entitled, “A Psychology of Singleness.” Though an obviously dry and abstract academic topic, about which I, like you, almost certainly have no opinions or intensely felt and examined experiences— nevertheless, I thought I’d recap some of Ed’s insights and share a couple thoughts in response.
He began by first acknowledging the limitations of his particular vantage point (e.g., male, married), and then addressed expectations for the talk, making sure not to suggest he could do more than skirt the surface of this complicated subject. Such complexities include the fact that the experience of singleness is highly variable, dependent upon factors like gender, age, culture, and whether one’s single status means never married, divorced, or widowed. Likewise, the variety of experiences within each of these broad categories is incredibly diverse, and everyone has their own unique story.
On that note, Ed explained that understanding your story is more important than your status itself. This means that, instead of obsessing over the facts of what has happened— facts that do not in themselves provide meaning— instead we should focus upon what we think has happened, and why. Thus for listening friends or counsellors desiring to be helpful to singles, he recommends trying to help people attain narrative coherence, rather than trying to solve problems. Importantly, part of the difficulty here is that our individual narrative is shaped by and exists within larger cultural narratives which we have often internalized, without conscious awareness.
Following up from some general comparison of singles and married people in terms of their advantages and disadvantages in society (e.g., married people have a wider spectrum for both happiness and unhappiness, while single people tend to have deeper friendships and closer relationships with family), Ed offered 3 suggestions for singles:
1) Strive to develop deep relationships with everyone you can, using the freedom unique to singleness.
2) Lean into generativity. Be creative and giving, and perhaps find volunteer work or giving occupations.
3) Cultivate practices that will be sustainable throughout life. Furnish your inner life, prepare for being with someone, and become comfortable with who you are.
Next, Ed proposed a few ideas for how churches might better respond to singles: He argued that churches should stop exalting marriage as having “made it”; reframe singleness as normal, though acknowledging the normalcy may be the “not good”-ness of Genesis 2:18; don’t assume happiness or unhappiness, or that the solution is a partner; listen to individual stories instead of generalizing; and provide theological space that honours both single and married states at once. Above all, Ed urged us to remember that God is present in all our places and states, no matter how painful or joyful our singleness or marriage.
My overall response to his presentation is to be grateful for the knowledge and insight he shared, as well as his heart to help us navigate this difficult subject well. I most appreciated his emphasis on the importance of narrative, and agree in particular with his exhortation not to obsess over facts of what happened and when—not because we should pretend that the actual happenings of our lives are unimportant or inessential, but rather that we should remember the partial, selective, and thus inherently storied nature of our factual knowledge. The fact is that we cannot see the whole story. For us who are hard-edged “realists,” we must remember to be humble and open to seeing rightly our personal story as God sees it, and how we play a part in Jesus’s cosmic gospel story. As Ed puts it, we should be tolerant of the ambiguities inherent in our life experiences; indeed, studies have even shown that this attitude correlates with good mental health.
Personally, despite Ed’s wise qualifications about the limited scope of his talk, I must confess to difficulty with these inevitable limitations. As one generic human having strictly universal scientific interest here (obviously), I think I may have thought this was entitled, “The Psychology of Twenty and Thirty Something Singles Seeking to Date at Regent College in 2016.” Alas, that was not the case! Nevertheless, to consider the elephant in the Atrium, I wonder how Ed’s talk could be relevant in the context of certain, um, dating frustrations here?
Ed’s point about internalized cultural narratives could be helpful to answering that question, or at least to stimulating a good dialogue. I wonder how many cultural narratives are at play in the mix of Regent students? To what extent does such a mosaic yield a uniquely polymorphic Regent culture that is exceptionally difficult to discern? I wonder how many varieties of miscommunication (or non-communication) between single guys and girls here are attributable to this internalized stew of cultures, in combination with the transience of the community and the rigours of balancing academic success with the rest of life? Hopefully this can be a continuing conversation, and one that will demonstrate the wisdom and sensitivity exemplified by Ed Ng.
Review: Pacific Theatre's "Holy Mo! A Christmas Show!"
By Brittany McComb
Pacific Theatre describes Lucia Frangione’s Holy Mo! A Christmas Show! as “reverently irreverent,” an apt description—though reverence is for a particular version of the Nativity Story (one that champions contemporary liberal sensibilities), and irreverence is reserved for this version’s nemeses (e.g., political power in toto). To be sure, the colorful retelling garners plenty of laughs; yet, regretfully, it is little more than cute, and, ultimately, the very specific political alignment is in poor taste for such a medium in light of the volumes the event of the birth of this child has generated and will continue to generate. Most painfully, the channeling of the person of US President-elect Donald Trump and all he has been, at times, forcefully created to represent within the liberal media franchise, for the character of Herod the Great, the slaughterer of the innocents, disappointed, to say the least.
The play retells the Nativity Story from the perspective of three 1950s –era nomadic circus performers; the personality and proclivities of the performers, especially that and those of one Buffoona, anachronistically and with charming comic effect infiltrates Christian tradition: she gravitates to Santa Claus and his straight-forward naughty-nice list and giving of Christmas gifts over and against a ‘Yama’ (something like ‘Mama’ in the Shack) whose gift of a weak child does not effect any clear rescue from Roman oppression; after the annunciation, Buffoona suddenly appears as the heroic Puss in Boots pops up in order to act as Mary’s personal bodyguard—her ‘Magnificat’—as she makes the long journey to her cousin Elisabeth’s home through the dangerous lands of Galilee and Judea.
The play sets up the story of Jesus’s birth against ancient culture’s championing of the concept of the hero; the version of the hero that is relayed, however, is itself anachronistic. While the glory an ancient hero achieves was directly connected to the glory and prosperity of the broader polis, the play’s version of the ancient hero is a modern individualist. Set against a weak, helpless baby, this context provides for the championing of the poor over and against power structures (heroes), without great nuance, and with no little sentimentality. The hope Jesus’s birth generates is, simply, ‘God with us’, Immanuel, the favored name of the Christ child through out the play. The take-away (there is one) is that God is with us in simple, mundane love. He is with us in the stuffing of stockings.
While this is, indeed, true, while there is a ‘great reversal’, and God is certainly concerned with our mundane conduct, our simple efforts and gestures of love, Jesus’s birth signaled the coming of a King—not the destruction, but the fulfillment, the crowning, so to speak, of the concept of monarchy, itself, of power structures, in general; this ‘great reversal’ was not a weak preference for the poor, without pay out. It’s a promise to elevate the poor out of her tragic condition; ideally, through power structures, redeemed and imitating the conduct of Christ, the servant king.
Beyond this fall into sentimentality, the comedy this production dishes out will appeal to certain audiences: if you cannot help but chuckle at a good pun, and laugh outright at a bad one, if you enjoy a delirious sort of frivolity, you will not be wholly disappointed (e.g., Magnificat—I apologize for giving that one away). However, part of the joy of a good pun, of generally stupid joking, is the improvisation. The necessary scripting creates somewhat of a stilted tone. Overacting is required in this sort of slapstick comedy, but too often in this production it just feels like, well, overacting. While there are moments when the songs that accompany these comedic dances are pleasing, all together these, too, are forgettable.
On the whole, by pitting political power against the poor “Holy Mo! A Christmas Show!” is unable to capture the nuances of the Nativity Story, to retell with the poignancy this story in its width and breadth delivers. Instead, this pitting creates a certain sentimentality, which ultimately undermines the comedic efforts. At one point in the play one of the clowns questions whether Christ is the fulfillment of their revolutionary hopes, the throwing off of Roman oppression, to which another replies, with gravitas, that his revolution is a spiritual one. It is a disappointing reply for the questioner, and was a disappointing one for this reviewer. It falls flat. In our contemporary context, such talk is a dime a dozen. The Nativity Story, on the other hand, will continue to be retold, traditionally, farcically, every which way, and it will continue to prove one of a kind.
TALKING WITH OUR MOUTHS FULL: POSADA EDITION
By Ed Smith
Despite all evidence to the contrary, I have to assume the Regent faculty members aren't sitting around in their offices hoping that I'll invite them out to lunch with me and Troy. Because of that and the fact that I can never send an email to a professor without feeling a slight twinge of guilt, no matter how justifiable the circumstances, I never got around to inviting anyone else out for Talking With Our Mouths Full. What we have today is something similiar and yet different.
This year my community house had the privilege of taking part in the Regent Posada. A Mexican tradition, the Posada involves a sort of Advent countdown, recalling the trip Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem. Figurines of the couple are taken to a new house each night as they "journey" to the holy city. People taking part invest two evenings, the first as a host and the second as a guest. On Saturday night I had the pleasure of taking Mary and Joseph to the house of Brian and Lydia Gant. Each Saturday they have people over for dinner and so on this Saturday they opted to also have Posada guests.
There was a decent sized group of people, all connected to Regent either as students, employees, and spouse and children of Regent students, or some combination thereof. It made for a merry group. In keeping with the Mexican theme we had tacos. There's something comforting about spending time with Regent folks who you haven't connected with much before and coming to the realization that they're wonderful people. If you can get over the fact that you're often going to feel inadequate by comparison, Regent has the wonderful blessing of being a place chock full of fantastic people. No matter who you're friends with at Regent, it's doubtless the case that there are other people attending who you should go introduce yourself to because doing so would enrich your life. I'm not just talking about that attractive someone in CTC that you've spent the whole semester thinking about.
Good food and margaritas, combined with good company meant that it was impossible to not be in good spirits, even for a certain someone who had arrived soaking wet from waiting for a delayed bus while stewing over academic frustrations only to drop and break the bottle of wine that was purchased as a gift for the hosts. (Tragedy and comedy are closely related. We laughed and laughed at the misfortune).
Food: Delicious and plentiful but somewhat messy. Tacos fell apart. I would not recommend for a date but otherwise excellent. A
Ambiance: Their suite is spacious and inviting. Regent students will feel right at home due to the bookshelves loaded full of familiar books, both textbooks and other books that belong on every good list of "books to read". A+
Service: It was a buffet style but the welcome was warm and and the hospitality sincere and so anything less than an A+ would be criminal.
Price: It's safe to say that grad students, as a demographic, are extremely grateful for a free meal. I am no exception. A++
Poet of the Week: Josh Lock
I am air.
As you enfold me
I become breath.
I am breath.
After you utter me
I scatter to the poles,
ready for new freight—
not even I can keep your words,
run wild from your lips
beyond your reach and rule,
that do you violence
or do not.
I return your warmth
to your landscapes,
poised for another
within your unknown sister.
Comment: Our every spoken word is an act of global connection and consequence. We cannot speak without receiving and returning air. For only a moment is air our breath. To breathe speech is to enact community. Today, when fences of differentiation between us abound, and when our technologies of convenience are dissolving personal presence, an insistence on sharing air seems a revolutionary act.
But spoken words are feeble, impermanent, dissipative, depletive, risky. To speak is to relinquish heat, to offer self out beyond oneself. Speech is invitation—even the most caustic, vulgar, or shrill words are dismissible, and demands may be rejected. Speech is obdurately vulnerable and open. Yet speech undeniably carries power. And words bear the most power when uttered by those before whom we have unpeeled ourselves, before whom we are open. That words do sting and scar testifies to an openness still in the world.
How unpeeled are we before the Logos? Do we insulate ourselves from divine injury? That God speaks reveals his openness to us. His invitation is to our openness in return.
Ocean Baptism Goes Awry
Pastor Clint Lowry and a few dozen fellow congregants had gathered at 7 am on Sunday morning for an ocean baptism when they were interrupted by a band of skinny-dipping enthusiasts. The flock quickly scattered, parents covering their children’s eyes.
A particularly flummoxed young mother fretted, “This beach is definitely not rated G!”
Hudson Elliott, a 30-year veteran of Wreck Beach, was reached for comment.
“Y’know, I think there’s a place for everythin,’ Elliott said while scratching himself, “And just like a church is the place to give a sermon, so’s Wreck Beach the place to be naked and not be condemned. When I got to the beach in the morning, all I heard was that preacher sayin’, ‘Clothe yourselves with Jesus.’ Well just where the hell does he think he is!?”
Lowry, a recent graduate from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who moved to Vancouver to plant a church, sighed, “I guess I need to do better cultural exegesis. I guess next time we’ll just have our baptisms in the baptismal tank. That seems a lot safer.”
Surprisingly, one noted theologian praised the awkward encounter. Jürgen Verschwitztbacke, professor of church history at Vancouver School of Theology, gushed in a heavy German accent, “There is no need for controversy! The early Christians often were baptized naked and then received a white robe to symbolize their new identity. It is very shrewd of Pastor Clint to Recontextualize this ancient practice for Vancouver. Many more churches should baptize their congregantsatWreckBeach!