Winter Issue 3
Why You're NOT My Friend
by Little Divot
ironic gift of grace that we ARE community in Christ in the rough and the less rough regardless of how we feel - and I’ll do likewise. The challenge is the choice to act charitably and continue in trust.
Phileo, on the other hand, is a state of love when two people find that they share a passion, a treasure, or a truth in common and dedicate their relationship to the pursuit of that thing. You don’t have to agree on every part of the pursuit, but you do need to see a fellow pilgrim in each other. The focus is not on each other but on the pursuit itself. A friend of mine has been telling me for years that I “just need to find [my] people!” He means phileo in a nutshell. It’s so rare that I still haven’t. Sure, I have friends here (just a few) but nobody who really “gets” what makes me tick. That stings. We are all wired to seek out “our people” and the rarity of “our people” is difficult and painful. But that should not diminish the value of sharing storge with one another. More significantly, if storge is the basis for phileo, then our continuing struggle to put sufficient value in our simple community and to risk loving and trusting each other is preventing us from knowing whether any of us even have anything to share. If you want a friend, you’ll be forever alone, but if you want to share your life with “your people” you need to start by simply seeking to know your neighbor. “Your people” could be right under your nose.
Bonhoeffer wrote, “The person who loves their dream of community [phileo] will destroy community, but the person who loves [storge] those around them will create community.” (Interpretation mine). I know we’re all dreamers about community, and I know change overnight isn’t going to happen. I think there’s far more pain buried among us than anyone is aware, and we’d know that if we were bold enough to trust one another. That said, I’m afraid I’ll be hated for loving you and for being different at the same time which corrodes my ability to trust you with my treasures and pains. Too often my effort to reach you results in... nothing... or outright rejection because I'm "not your people." As a result, my curiosity to know you is vastly outweighed by my fear of you; such a situation is unsustainable. If Bonhoeffer was right, we need to practice storge better because storge is a lifestyle. Phileo is a gift.
Don't let the title bother you. It's not an insult. Very few people have ever been counted as my friend, and I don’t hand out that title lightly anymore. Sometimes I wonder though if we really understand that to be excluded from a circle of friends isn’t an insult?
It’s no secret that the way we love one another is completely out of whack, considering high divorce rates, low marriage rates, and communities (like ours) that just seem... cold somehow. I’ve never found it easy to get to know new people, but the older I get, the harder I find it to meet new people. It’s become such an oddity that when I visited a branch of the Bruderhof community over break (to sing Handel’s Messiah), and one of their teens just plopped himself down beside me and started chatting away I was shocked! It seemed just so... wrong. And at the same time just so... right. I miss the days when I could do that (and when people were comfortable reciprocating) more than I can say, but whether it’s the result of mounting social anxieties in our culture, my own experience with abusive relationships, or something else I can’t say, the art of building community seems to be dead or dying. I’d like to see if we can’t revive it.
Lewis identifies four kinds of love: storge, phileo, eros, and agape (affection, friendship, romance, and charity). For our purposes here I’d like to focus on the divide between storge (the basis of all the other loves and community) and phileo (which is rare and a treasure).
Storge is based on our mutual need for one another and our ability to simply appreciate our various strengths and weaknesses. All it really requires is familiarity and time. If I can’t talk to you, you won’t become familiar. If you don’t become familiar, then no amount of time will allow me to extend to you storge.
Bonhoeffer is helpful on this point. He exhorts his readers (in Life Together) to really put their backs into the effort of community building with a twofold reminder: we are a community in Christ not because we are ideally paired together but because God has ordained that we are to live together in community, and we are bound to each other in Christ not because of some super-spiritual-psychic-spark of “I get you!” So… the next time I piss you off remember that it’s God’s
THE END OF EVERYTHING:
AMERICAN HOPE, FEAR
AND THE CITY OF GOD
by Matthew Nelson
recent political choices (and their aftermath) are evidence that people on all sides ofthe political spectrum are desperate for real freedom and real flourishing, and vehemently reject that which seems opposed to such freedom and flourishing—whether from the right or the left.
People want a great —and good—America. Not just America the nation, but America the idea. They want the America that promises and delivers “liberty and justice for all.” Simply stated: the America we want is, in truth, the City of God. We want a City ruled by Love and Truth himself— the Lord Jesus Christ, the One whom Christians proclaim.
This is nothing new. America is a child of the Enlightenment, in which autonomous reason was used to derive versions of the free self, free society, and human equality—ideals which arguably formed first in the soil of biblical revelation. One crucial difference: Enlightenment freedom enthrones humanity alone, while in the City of God humans rule alongside their King, Jesus.
America is the nation founded upon an ideal of freedom which it has not and cannot ever fully deliver, despite our highest hopes. Praise God that America has and can still approximate the City of God though. That said, no politician or political movement or institution can deliver such a City, for it cannot be made with human hands. Instead, this great City is constructed of redeemed and transformed people, human beings in right relationship with God, one another, and creation—and only Jesus Christ can accomplish such a work.
How then shall we live? Sociologist and theologian Jacques Ellul argues that we should live in light of our great hope by working for the well being of our present City, the peoples and nations we live in and among. That means we work to preserve our cities, but not to save them, for such salvation is the work of God alone.
The danger is that our attempts at world salvation always inevitably involve destruction. Human utopia is always built on bloodshed and oppression, for we are all sinful power-wielding wolves apart from God’s work on us. And despite some sad history of wolfishness in Christ's name, Jesus calls and enables his people to truly be sheep in midst of wolves, that we would not wield power selfishly (including political power in all its forms) but rather selflessly lay down our lives for others.
Apart from the Lord’s cleansing of our hearts, we are all wolves. Apart from his destroying of sin and evil on the cross and when he returns, we are doomed. Remove our comforts and securities, all that prop up our illusory sense of self-sufficient goodness, and we discover “what is in man” (John 2:25).
So in light of hope in the judgment and grace of Christ, we must participate in what God is doing! We must do the hard work: listening to our neighbors—especially the "idiots", the nutters of all stripes, however you define them. In these polarized times, engaging with such folk is getting less respectable and glorious by the day. Remember there is a cross involved here.
This week, it’s time to talk about the end. News of THE END. Eschatology, of course, but also the end of two words which have caused much worry: rump and wrecks it.
Americans elected Trump. The Brits elected to Brexit, to leave the European Union. Both choices involved rejection of seemingly sensible unity in favor of “populist nationalism.” Both are worrisome and questionable for good reasons. Since most of us in this context are pretty familiar with those good reasons, I figured I’d try to shed some light on this rise in nationalism, with reference to your favorite political-power-desacralizing theologian, Jacques Ellul.
So: Why exactly is nationalism so popular right now? Is it primarily about racism, xenophobia, or nostalgia? Or perhaps something more?
I can’t speak for the Brits. As an American, however, some things worrying us include: a broken insurance system, job-destroying automation and outsourcing, illegal immigration, gun violence, drone warfare, technocratic government, corporate-owned news media, radical Islamic terrorism, and the threat of human-caused environmental disaster. I’d now like to suggest that these various concerns are connected: they are linked by the pervasive sense that we are progressively losing control and freedom to determine our own lives.
To explain: a helpful term to describe this phenomenon is what Timothy Melley terms “agency panic.” Roughly speaking, this is the anxiety resulting from ever-diminishing confidence in our own individual free agency, the sense that we are losing precious freedom. In this situation, interwoven governmental, economic, and technological structures seem especially powerful and, in turn, threatening to our freedom. Fears of potential tyrannies follow—some fearing a fascism of one strong leader (rhymes with chump), others fearing a “benevolent” totalitarian global State. So, just as many desperately desire to maintain self-sovereignty as individuals, others likewise seek to hold onto national sovereignty. Thus is born “populist nationalism.”
In midst of this situation, is it any wonder we’re looking for a savior? Especially for a savior who promises “hope” and “change” (Obama’s campaign marketing), or a savior who promises to “make America great again” (Trump)—i.e., to change it back to a place of hope?
To put our hopes in context, one might observe that Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace prize after just a few months in office—before a presidency in which he led military intervention in 7 different countries, approved 10 times the drone strikes of Bush, failed to close Guantanamo Bay prison, continued Bush-era spying on citizens, and led an administration even less transparent than his predecessor’s. Many wanted salvation from Obama and were sorely disappointed. My point here is to say that I hope and pray that, just as extreme hopes about Obama were unfounded, so too will extreme fears about Trump be unfounded.
Why such incredible hope and fear? I believe
BONO: ROCK STAR PROPHET
by Dave Siverns
to sneak into everyone’s house and put their new album under every pillow—which they basically did with the controversial iTunes release of their 2014 album, Songs of Innocence), their voice has become an important one to me despite these challenges.
Many of you have probably seen Bono’s conversation with our good friend Eugene Peterson about the Psalms and the need to allow lament to linger more in our lives and corporate worship. He’s right, and there’s some irony that it’s taken an international rock star, who could be described as exactly the wrong kind of idol, to not only remind but show the church what a prophetic voice looks like.
Recently while watching through their many concert DVD’s, I was struck by the powerful moment that wraps up their Under A Blood Red Sky recording at Red Rocks in ’83. After a rousing second encore, the band reappears on stage and begins “40,” the song based on that Psalm. An oddly melancholy choice to end an epic evening that would define their rise to fame and give them their MTV release of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” backlit by glowing pyres in the dusk of a very rainy evening. They play through the song and end by getting the crowd to sing with them, “How long to sing this song,” a line also found in “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and lifted from the pages of the Psalter. At this point they disappear off the stage, one by one, leaving the crowd not worshipping Bono, with an amazing hairdo and leather pants, but expressing a longing that may be best expressed through singing in unison. We could explore and explain the neuroscience behind it all and analyze and critique the manipulative ways in which modern production techniques play on people’s emotions to create these “religious” experiences, but there’s no denying that being drawn into something as a crowd, specifically singing together, is a moving experience.
Despite my misgivings and critiques, I welcome the voice of U2 in my life and accept Bono’s challenge to dig more deeply into a prophetic voice for our church today; answering both the joyful reality of the incarnation and the resurrection of Christ and the brokenness of the world we live in with the sung cry of “How long to sing this song.”
When I heard that U2 was coming to Vancouver, I was excited. I was less excited last Tuesday morning as I sat on my phone, realizing that Ticketmaster’s best options for me were resale tickets at $400 each, two minutes after they went on sale. Needless to say, I’m currently ticket-less, but I’ve been reflecting on why I include myself in the throngs of people who want to see U2 perform The Joshua Tree—an album that was released 20 years ago.
As someone who grew up in the evangelical church and has been involved with leading worship since the age of 13, U2 was an influence on me whether I knew it or not. As I played more electric guitar, I quickly learned that it was easy to sound good playing simple patterns with lots of dotted eight delay, just like U2's guitarist The Edge (forgive the technical music speak, or if you’re really interested we can grab coffee and debate the merits of AC30’s and which pedals defined which eras of the U2 sound). Much popular music has stood in the wake of U2 and borrows their sounds and ideas, especially modern worship music. What is it about U2 that has resonated deeply with millions of people around the world, and why has some of the church followed in their musical styling?
Although I’m vaguely concerned when someone tells me the most worshipful experience they’ve ever had was at a U2 concert, I also understand where they’re coming from. The songs that these four Irish guys come up with speak to people’s deepest longings, hurts and hopes. These songs often manage to speak with a cutting and, dare I say, prophetic voice to the realities we see ourselves in. Their songs are full of poetic critique of the injustices and inequalities around the world, visions of future glory and wrestling with God, not to mention their theatrics that capture the imagination of millions of people. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, search YouTube for “U2 Bullet The Blue Sky Elevation Boston” and watch it until the end. One of the reasons they’ve chosen to tour Joshua Tree again is the way in which those songs are finding a new resonance in the Trump/Brexit world we find ourselves in. Though there are things I question in some of the ways that they present themselves and push the limits of over the top presentation and technology (The Edge recently joked to Rolling Stone that he and Bono would like
USED BOOK SALE GOES VIRAL
by David Schermers
Sources suggest the hoarding mentality of the public is fuelled by people attempting to establish their own personal libraries amidst global political uncertainties. Trump-fuelled fear has led people to buy books they will never read before he starts burning them.
January 20th, 2017 will be forever known as Black Friday to the library staff. A commemorative plaque has already been commissioned, and will be unveiled at next year’s used book sale.
Advertising for the sale claimed that the sale would go on “until they are gone”. However, after flickering the lights Friday afternoon at 5:50 pm, Miller stated that everyone packed up and left quietly, and he closed up just as he had been instructed to.
Until they can repurchase the titles, Library staff recommend students only research from the remaining titles in the library. “Just use what we have left, you don’t actually need 8-10 sources for that Theo paper. Unless it is Calvin or Barth. We still have their complete works, as all the blitzing shoppers deemed them as “too heavy” to carry in a mad dash shopping spree.”
Librarian Kenton Miller explained that teaching people how to use the online resources simply isn’t worth his time, and nobody can seem to find their way over to VST to use their library without getting lost for 3 hours. “Let’s just use what we have left. I’m sure there won’t be many holes in your arguments.”At press time, the official used book sale total was not known, but thought to be over $350,000. However, this will only cover a fraction of the repurchasing costs. With fewer books to re-shelve, expect library staff to be more vigilant with noise complaints and food and drink violations in coming weeks.
On a related note, despite their ongoing 20% off sale, the Regent Bookstore saw little change in sales over the weekend.
Staff at the John Richard Allison Library were horrified Saturday morning when they discovered over one third of the books in the Library were missing. It is unconfirmed, but it appears the used book sale at the library went viral, with thousands of thrifty shoppers hoping to score a deal. Bargain hunters ignored the used book area, and started clearing out all the shelves.
Bob Gellerman, a UBC Medicine student, was stopped crossing Westbrook Mall pushing a shopping cart full of reference works and old testament commentaries. He stated, “I came down to the library to study. I didn’t even want all these books, but I just simply can't pass up these great deals.”
$1 for hardcover titles and 50¢ for softcover is the standard pricing at the annual library sale.
The Library director explained to the Bunyan what went wrong: “We have many new people working the circulation desk this term. There was a misunderstanding and they thought all the books were for sale. They simply started selling all the books to students, rather than checking them out.”
Once word was out that these blowout sales were happening people kept coming. Social media fuelled the pandemonium. #notmylibrary and #yvrbookdeals were trending Friday during the ordeal. Estimates say that over thirty thousand people came through the library Friday afternoon.
Kenton Miller was working his second shift at the library Friday afternoon when the line ups began.
“I hope I never hear that little bell again! It was an overwhelming scene. People fighting over the last copies of Confessions. I saw punches thrown. I was just trying to take people’s money fast enough, but the books and people just kept coming.”
POEM OF THE WEEK:
NORTH COVE ROAD, 1997
by Blythe Hutchcroft
There was a chapel but I don’t remember what we said in it.
Instead, I remember the pancake coloured carpet,
the crack-slap of pellet rain on the hall’s tin roof,
how my limbs moved dew-drunk in the field,
the way I heard my name pronounced,
a cracker on my tongue.
While collecting spools of copper bark,
a long laugh untangled from within.
It was a belly laugh—the kind that made
my swimsuit-stomach flower like a Jiffy Pop in June.
That summer, something reached a fathom
for which we have no sign, crawled inside
my ribs to build its home. No clunky
signifier to contain that which it signified.
Just easy breath, a whisper’s bloom.
I don’t know what draws us in to the things we end up loving.
I do know that I buried treasure in those wide branches.
I was obliged, a tide stitched onto the warm rocks of her shore.
by Joel Strecker
Ingredients for 6-8 servings:
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 1T dry oregano
- 1t fennel seed
- 2L chicken stock
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 large carrots, chopped
- 1 small turnip, diced
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1lb shredded chicken meat
- 1 28oz can crushed tomato
- 1 large bunch kale/swiss chard, shredded
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil with oregano and 1/2t fennel seed. Deglaze with chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Add celery, carrot, turnip, potato; simmer for 45 min. Add chicken and crushed tomato; simmer for 15 min. Stir in kale, fresh garlic, and remaining 1/2t of fennel. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, while the kale still has texture.