Winter Issue 4
TO BE CONTINUED:
A Mixed Bag of Reflections on the Women's March
by Sophia McClean
take. This raises the questions: How do we engage social issues with our bodies and our brains? If we choose not to or are not able to engage in a physical way, how do we respond thoughtfully?
What stood out from my corporeal experience was witnessing the powerful impact the march had for people. Despite the spectrum of opinions, the majority of what I encountered pointed to the healing power of the event. The general message I heard and read afterward was that it mattered deeply because people felt like they were not alone in their suffering. It gave people, including myself, hope, and I am grateful to have contributed to that. However, I also know the march was hurtful for people, and I feel concerned about inadvertently contributing to that. I also empathize, as I was disappointed to see angry and uncensored anti-Trump rhetoric at a march that had an overarching primary goal of standing for—not just against—something. I was troubled at the potential for female genitalia—represented in the pink “p****yhats”, words and images on signs, and even costumes—to become mascots of sorts. I was surprised that pro-life groups were not permitted to sponsor the event. These observations and others were enough for some to denounce the march. For me, I can’t shake the feeling of how healing it was for the majority of people I encountered personally and on social media. It actually felt more meaningful to participate in the march despite the challenging aspects of my experience, rather than to participate because I agree with everything represented. Thus, I am currently pondering: What does it look like to stand (literally and figuratively) beside a suffering neighbor who doesn’t share all of my views?
This week, these questions and others related to the Women’s March have filled my vacant thoughts, which are usually reserved for my Instagram feed of flowers, DIY projects, and food I will never make. Overall, my experience gives me a taste of what Jacques Ellul meant in The Presence of the Kingdom when he wrote, “The Christian life is always an ‘agony’…that constant and actual presence in our hearts of the two elements of judgment and grace.” Ellul also states, “We must not accept this tension of the Christian, or of the Christian life, as an abstract truth. It must be lived.” With this, I invite you into my process of figuring out how to “live it” in regards to our engagement with social issues that affect our world so deeply. Let us consider how meaningful our physical presence or absence can be, and how we can engage in ways that reflect our nature as embodied beings.
By now you have likely encountered a plethora of pictures, posts, and positions related to the Women’s March on January 21st, which took place in Washington, DC and globally via sister marches. In Vancouver, an estimated 15,000 people gathered near Canada Place to participate, and I was one of them. My decision to attend, my arrival, my departure, and my reflections this week were marked by mixed feelings. When asked to write about my experience, I hoped doing so would help me reach a position that I could articulate intelligibly, thoughtfully, and convincingly. HA! Joke’s on me. In my attempt to find answers, I have encountered more questions, or as my physiotherapy mentor puts it, I have found myself “confused at a higher level.” Sound familiar? Regent has taught me this can be a valuable predicament. So, instead of ending my reflection with a period, metaphorically speaking, I will do so with question marks and ellipses – accepting this as an ongoing process.
Part of this process involves building on what I have encountered on an individual level. One reason I am grateful to have attended the march, despite my mixed feelings, is that I was able to experience it with my own eyes and ears. I participated in the flesh, albeit quietly and without a sign or specific outerwear. Depending on which news outlets and social media platforms I looked at afterward, very different marches were described at both a local and global level. This is not surprising, as estimates suggest at least 2.5 million people attended marches around the world in support of a variety of politically charged principles. The basic tenet for the Women’s March was “Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights,” which was posed in the face of the new U.S. government leadership that many perceive as threatening to these rights. The mission statement included eight unifying principles: ending violence against women, supporting environmental justice, and standing for reproductive, LGBTQIA, worker’s, civil, disability, and immigrant rights. Clearly, the breadth of this mission lent itself to a variety of responses concerning the march.
The experience of physically being there has significantly affected the way I have engaged the relevant issues intellectually and theoretically. In a raging sea of diverse opinions and information that relentlessly pours in, this is significant to me. However, I also acknowledge the active choice not to be physically present. The key is that, regardless of the position one takes, both point to the fact that our body plays an important role in the stances we
and A Weakness of Faith
by Jon Berends
with people you’re not that close with dissecting the film and formulating opinions with which you likely don’t even agree for the sake of good Christian conversation!”
Instead, I walked out of the theatre and headed for my car.
And I wept.
Aimee called and told me about Rhea’s bedtime. Not too bad, only a bit of fussing. She asked how the movie was and I said, “I don’t know.”
I got in the car and wept again.
Completely irrational at this point, I just sat and wept.
And naturally, in these tears and in my despair, this was an opportunity to demonstrate my faith. According to what I have learned in Christian worship, I was to lament appropriately for approximately two and a half minutes before proceeding naturally to the place where I knew God’s presence in my life and in this world, where I knew the hope of the gospel, and where I saw His Kingdom coming with glory and splendor.
But that didn’t happen. My sense of despair -- no matter how superficial -- deserved more respect than this.
Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour, deserves more respect than this.
My unbelief is strong and my faith is weak, but it is for all of this mess and tension and failing that Christ was crucified. It is the one on whom we forever will trample that I am called to hope. And it is at His feet that I am to grieve and weep and fail in the frailty of my faith.
Lord, have mercy.
I still haven’t spoken much about the film. About its final scenes, where Scorsese offers challenging glimpses of hope and raises necessary questions for a faith built on the crucified Christ. About the brokenness and beauty of the Jesuit priests’ mission and leadership.
And I haven’t spoken of my embarrassment around the poverty of my own faith that weakened over the course of three hours in a cinema, watching a film tell a story of villages of Christians dying for their Lord.
I haven’t decided yet if I want to speak about it.
Last week, I was invited by a few others to watch the film, Silence, in theatres. Being a mostly-out-of-touch thirty year old dad who spends his days parsing Hebrew verbs and improving upon his fort-building techniques, I had not even heard of the film. But I was told it was provocative and would lead to good discussion. The plan, therefore, was to watch the film with a few others and discuss it afterwards over a drink. This is generally considered to be a good Christian thing to do.
And so, for three hours, I sat and gave myself to Scorsese’s intentive hopes as he had us, his viewers, sit through the painfully slow and torturous end of the Christian church in Japan -- a story of which I knew nothing but have since learned was possibly the worst persecution ever experienced by the Christian Church. I was entirely unprepared.
I sat as a witness to and in communion with the Japanese villages who gathered privately in their homes, desperate for a Jesuit priest to lead them in the sacraments, that they might partake in the body, the blood, and the life of Christ. I grasped for hope with these communities as they longed with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength for their Saviour. I watched this hope fail as Christians were bled, hung and crucified for their faith with no end to persecution in sight. I sat in the pressing tension of the Japanese believers and Jesuit priests as they were faced with the choice to apostatize by stepping on the face of their rejected Lord, thus ending their suffering.
And this scene played out over and over until I began to feel their despair as my own.
With the priests, I wanted to cry out for the Lord to break His silence. As they begged to know what purpose this held for God’s kingdom, I wondered and doubted the same. My grasping for hope seemed foolish. My unbelief grew strong.
Lord, where are you?!
Lord, how can you possibly remain silent?!
Upon the film’s completion, I walked out of the theatre unable to formulate a coherent thought. I stood with my Christian peers -- the ones with whom I was to have a semblance of fruitful and hopeful conversation -- and said I was going home. Another in the group did the same, while another responded to my lack of desire to dialogue with something along the lines of, “Why can’t you talk about it? This is too important to not talk about! If you had any depth of character or faith, you would certainly want to spend the next hour in a pub drinking beer that you can’t afford
SEVEN WEEKS OF BIBLICAL GREEK:
How a Dead Language is Saving Me from Hell
by Carson Leith
And I’m sure you have, too. We all have. (For help on this, see Essentialism by Greg McKeown.) We see it in pastors all the time. Hurry, hurry, hurry, downfall. And we see it in ourselves: hustle, hustle, hustle, burnout. It was C.S. Lewis who once wrote that “the safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts” (The Screwtape Letters). We need to recover a sustainable pace, or else we’re just going to run faster and faster into hell, because when we hurry, we miss the signposts in life. We lose touch with reality, unable to make judgments or to heed warnings.
3. I’ve got more confidence in God’s Word. Never did I think grammar would lead me to worship. But it’s true. God’s Word is so beautifully and masterfully constructed. I’ve been with the English text all my life. But reading the Greek text for the first time showed me that every tense, every case ending, every emphatic placement of a word—I could go on for pages—it all was written masterfully. It is tightly constructed: everything is in its right place.
What I mean is that when I started to discover the different uses of the different tenses in the Greek, it all lined up and supported the message—even illuminated the message to be more crystal clear than it sometimes is in English. There are many grammatical functions that a Greek writer can employ to make his sentence clear that an English writer just cannot do. Can we try? Of course we can. But we would butcher the beauty of the English language by doing so. We would all be reading an awkward set of writings if we tried to translate the text “word-for-word” or “literally.” It just doesn’t work that way. Language is not math. It is not one-to-one.
4. I’ve been captivated by Christ. Jesus shocked his contemporaries, but many Christians are somehow lulled by the very same words that turned others away in the first century. How does this happen?
For example, how is it that the Beatitudes start to sound normal, as if the very structures of the world and how we understand life weren’t being turned upside down and shaken violently?
Happy are the sad?
The meek ones will get the keys to the whole earth?
If we hunger for righteousness, we’ll be “stuffed” as if we just ate a giant supper?
Do we really believe that? And if so, what are the implications? This takes me back to my first point, in which I discussed how learning Greek has defamiliarized the text. One effect this has had is helping me re-encounter the Jesus I thought I knew so well. The words he preaches in the Sermon on the Mount are not normal. But we’re all falling asleep.
I find myself challenged by Christ. Do I really believe what he is saying? I find myself confronted by Christ, offended by Christ, seen by Christ—as in, pierced to the marrow with his gaze. In all of this, I have experienced the love of Christ to such a deep level that it makes me wonder with Paul if we could ever know the depth, the height, the breadth, of God’s great love for us. We are known by Christ, every part of us that is seen and every part that we hide.
I am not trying to tell you that if you don’t learn Greek, you’re going to hell. But please, for your sake, do whatever you can to stay awake and not drift off to sleep. Any amount of pain we go through is nothing compared to the joy we’ll experience in paradise with Him. Putting yourself through the pain is worth it if it means salvation. Matthew tells us that if we endure to the end we will be saved. Peter tells us to grow up into salvation and that our faith must be tested by fire to be proven genuine. Salvation, then, seems to be much more a process than an event: more of a walk than a leap.
So for myself, I praise God for Greek. It is saving me (in a continuous sense of the word). Praise God the Father for His love for us in Jesus Christ our Savior, and for sending His Spirit to live in us, comfort us, encourage us, and call out to us, all that we may follow in the narrow path that leads to life everlasting. Amen and Amen.
Are Biblical Languages worth it?
Last summer, a long awaited adventure began: Summer Greek. A year of Biblical Greek crammed into your system in just seven weeks. Many told me not to do it. Half my summer would be taken up. And there was always the fear of losing everything I learned after I emerged from the other side.
The hundreds of hours that I’ve poured into learning a dead language…The time spent learning paradigms instead of being with my wife…The mental exhaustion from defamiliarizing myself with the very book that governs my life…
Is it worth it?
Laboring at something that is quite tempting to view as irrelevant and impractical…Getting bags under my eyes from all the studying, day and night and night and day for 7 weeks…Spending five, ten, even twenty times as long with a single verse as I would in English, moving so…very…slowly, just panting for a copy of the English Standard Version…
Is it worth it?
Will I be able to keep the languages as a pastor? Will this be valuable for my future ministry, or is this something we all just “have to get through”? With tools like Logos and other online language programs, is it really necessary to go through all the pain to learn it?
Is it worth it?
I think it is. And here’s why.
1. I’ve rediscovered the Gospel. When I totally defamiliarized myself from the text that I have based my life upon, it disoriented me. I was no longer in the position of a master who lords over the Bible I “know so well,” but a servant who kneels in submission under the text. I’m still getting my bearings on finding my way around the Greek New Testament, which has been unsettling, frustrating and humbling. All of this turmoil, however, has set the stage for my rediscovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This process, I found, was similar to how it is in marriage. Sometimes, you have to defamiliarize yourself with your spouse in order to discover them again.
Slowly, as I have translated verses, I have been uncovering the message of the Gospel for what feels like the first time. It feels like I’ve begun all over again. It’s thrilling to discover worn texts in their original form and then let them wash over you and speak to you in fresh ways. It’s hard work to preach the Gospel to yourself and keep the Gospel fresh in our hearts. Learning Greek has been one way to do that. Difficult—yes. Excruciating, and makes you cry because it’s so hard on the mind, spirit, and body—yes. But the reward is savoring the fresh bread of Jesus. It is tasting his new wine on my tongue. It’s finding the treasure of the Kingdom in a field and celebrating my discovery.
2. I’ve quit hurrying. I’ll never forget when I came across something Eugene Peterson wrote: “Pastors need to quit being in such a damn big hurry.” His words caught me in a snare. Not only was I trying to read gobs and gobs of the Bible in one sitting, but I was also in the same “damn big hurry” to read his article. I knew I needed to slow down. To slow way down. To slow down so much it would be painful. And that’s exactly what Greek has been doing for me.
Some people need to read more of the Bible at a time, not less. And some people need to read less, not more. Know yourself. I am an achiever by nature, and so I like to read large chunks of Scripture. It’s hard for me to slow down and only read a little bit. Learning Greek has forced me to smash my idols of productivity, speed and achievement and exchange it for the slow, toilsome work of dealing with God’s weighty and holy words, one by one.
I don’t think the answer is to just read the Greek text slowly. And I don’t think the answer is to just read large portions so that you can get the big picture. Like most theological conundrums, your best bet is to say that it’s “both.” And in the case of how to engage with God’s word, I believe we need a magnifying glass and binoculars in our backpack. It’s not one or the other.
Hurry is our demise. I’ve certainly proven it to myself by the way I live.
by Jenna Headley
He still wanted to discuss deep theological truths with me. This is the point in our relationship when I suggested that he apply to Regent.
Since that first month of parenthood, he has applied, been accepted, and now has completed his first course. So, here I am again, standing on the edge of the Regent pool, but this time I’m not in any type of shape for swimming lengths with Augustine and Luther. If I continue with this pool metaphor, I am more the woman squeezed into her pre-baby bathing suit holding her daughter’s hands away so that she doesn’t flash the other swimmers. But either way, comfortable or not, I find myself lounging poolside with the Etc. and battling an inner voice many of you must battle as well.
How should I spend these precious minutes of free time? Is reading for leisure really what I should do? Will I regret this decision when my baby wakes up/when I’m pressed to finish my ‘more important’ reading for class?
My interior selves rarely allow me the peace of one hundred percent self-assurance when answering these questions. At times the more tyrannical voice wins, quieting the part of me that needs to read/sew/paint/watch a movie/etc to feel soul-full. But, if that happens too often, I am blessed to have my husband’s voice remind me to sit, relax and read the paper.
Whether reading the paper or writing for it, these exercises in prioritization have an end. Perhaps like Michael Scott after leaving Dunder-Mifflin Paper Co., we should put seemingly simple, short tasks on our to-do list to feel the pure rush of accomplishment. Shower. Check. Go for a walk. Check. Write an article. Check. Pretend that it’ll never be read by other people. Check. Read an article in which the writer is more likely to say gynecology than epistemology. Check. And last, but not least: Remember that life is more than a to-do list. Check.
Wash dishes. Check. Pay overdue bill. Check. I may be a compulsive list maker.
Yesterday, after finishing the chores on my list, I sat down to read the Etc. and my inner-reader was at once accosted by another voice. This voice belongs to the part of me that panics at my lazy perusal of a small college’s newspaper (I mean no disrespect, but compared to the metropolitan campus Regent is located on, it is the Vatican to Rome, treasured but tiny).
What are you doing? the voice screams, Put down that paper and do something on your list!
You see, this voice may have more ammunition than most inner critics as I don’t even attend Regent and never have. Why would you need to be reading their paper then?
In my early twenties, I lived with my sister and her husband while they attended Regent, which afforded me a pleasant toe-dipping into the periphery of the Regent pool. Given that I was a UBC student, I was happy to discuss Rikk Watt’s lecture that week with them over lasagna. Upon my graduation, I left my sister’s home in the city and, accordingly, my peephole into Regent life. It didn’t take long before this season of seemingly normal conversations containing words like hermeneutics was relegated to yesteryear – until, that is, I made the one-month mark of being a new mom.
Let me explain. It is true what they say. You lose brain cells while pregnant and lots more after you’ve had the baby. I don’t need a scientific study to tell me this. I can feel it daily in my molasses-like thoughts and post-partum forgetfulness. I used to be smart! I want to shout. But, for now, my brain has reoriented itself on caring for my daughter and all other conversations are secondary to her coos. My husband’s brain did not do this.
POEM OF THE WEEK:
"Universe Has 2 Trillion Galaxies, Astronomers Say"
by Kelsey May
First the dark, then
one match struck,
one candle on the sill,
two lanterns flank the door,
three campfires glare across the lake,
five fireflies bumble between the oaks,
eight votive prayers flicker beneath Theotokos,
thirteen torches in a musty cellar hall,
twenty-one will’o’the’wisps laugh through the bog,
thirty-four gaslights along an empty street,
fifty-five crystal jellyfish balloon from the deep,
eighty-nine Edison bulbs come on with an audible zap,
one-hundred-forty-four Chinese lanterns ascend on a mist,
two-hundred-thirty-three redwood trees splinter in a blaze.
when the lava cracks up from the rocks?
six-hundred-ten ruptures of a storm’s electric light?
tell me again,
just what did the Astronomer say?