Fall Issue 7
The 9.5 Thesis Polemic
by :Marcus Moreira
On the 500 year anniversary of Luther’s infamous 95 theses a very particular text was published on this same vehicle of communication. Reactions to it were varied and wild. But truthfully, at least for promoting conversation, the 9.5 article was a success and the author should be proud.
My concern, however, is less about the article per se, or the author, whomever he or she may be. My concern is with the variety of reactions I had the opportunity to observe that day.
I definitely could see in some people gladly welcoming the text, recognizing in its voice a kindred spirit that was bringing forward some long-desired conversation. A large majority of the people whom I could observe, however, had an opposite reaction. This opposite reaction ranged from mere disagreement with specific points, to strong statements of “absurdity” and “unfounded allegations.” Or even words directed to the author’s weakness of character and lack of awareness of the reality.
I confess that the reactions I observed made me think of the few lessons I had about psychology and human behavior, where I learned that the first human reaction to any accusation is denial and aggressive accusation in return..
Leaving the Reformation Day celebrations behind and walking into November, more voices were raised in response to the text. These new voices brought me both hope and fear. On one hand Regent staff, in more than one opportunity, presented themselves as open and listening, a beautiful and commendable response. On the other hand, following the mischievous example of Saul in the OT, some student raised poor Martin Luther from the dead, and a second colleague stood up to criticize the 9.5 author’s preference for anonymity (let those who read understand).
I recognize the validity of both students who entered into the dialogue. And I think they offered a good contribution to the discussion. What scared me, however, was the way both students treated the text. They used words like “left wing” and “Buzzfeed hot topics” or “opinion of one student,” which are great propositions to build up the straw man argument they propose and only make sense if one presupposes things about the 9.5 theses that are not there, and are not necessarily true. Such statements do not represent sound exegesis or hermeneutics but rather represent, in the best case, the prejudice of these responding authors and in the worst case the prejudice of the vocal majority of the students at Regent college. For example, to my horror, “Martin Luther” picks on two or three of the more polemic topics of the 9.5 theses and, in his biased criticism, used them to invalidate the whole text (clearly Purgatory is not serving him well).
What both authors, and it seems many students I talked with, seem to have ignored is that the text of the 9.5 theses does not present or imply any previous context or background beyond the common knowledge and experience of the school. The text presents itself as an invitation to reflection. Any other motivations, sources, and goals behind the text are not clear. We may suppose that the text is politically motivated, biased, or just a random opinion but until someone can present evidence of the sitz im leben (context) from which the author was writing, any supposition is mere speculation.
The story is more complicated when we consider the anonymity of the text. Whoever wrote the Theses may have chosen anonymity for fear of reprimand. But the text could also be the composition of a group, who chose to remain anonymous for the sake of simplicity. It could also be an intentional statement of the author through which he or she implies that what he or she proposes is not a single voice with a face but a longing of many voices that are not being heard. Or the text could be an editorial composition from someone who collected questions from a diversity of people and summarized it, and the anonymity is the form of the editor not to claim these ideas for himself.
Before I am accused of not being biblically sound, or extremist, or before someone summons Calvin from heavenly bliss to come and put me in my better senses, I would like present my plea.
Whatever position you may have regarding the 9.5 theses, I beg you to consider that if questions are being asked it is because someone is asking them. And if questions are raised, I beg again, let us treat the situation with love, temperance, and wisdom. The kind of answer I saw, both in the atrium and in the paper, were neither loving and merciful, nor wise and prudent.
Brothers and sisters please let us be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19, 20 NIV). For the law of our Lord teaches us that “To answer before listening — that is folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:3) It could be that all the problems presented by our anonymous writer are minor. It could be that some of them are mistaken and based on political bias. But unless we stop and in loving care, listen to the voices around us, and carefully ponder before answering, we are part of the problem and not of the solution.
The Bunyan: Imaginavigation
by: David O. Schlednetzki
Regent Audio has announced the anticipated release of its new GPS navigation system called Imaginavigation. Just in time for Christmas, disoriented students can now find their way in life. The system is a robust direction-finding service, with vocal directions narrated by the various accents of world-renowned Regent faculty.
College president and project lead, Jeff Greenman, commented to the Bunyan saying, “This is what Regent is all about: imagination and navigation — Imaginavigation. Guiding wayward travellers on a journey, a long and winding road. This is just one more avenue, no pun intended, in which we are able to do this.”
The project has been underway for many years. Many diligent student employees have pored over countless hours of audio files of online classes, evening public lectures, chapel talks, and podcasts — all in search of the perfect sound bites to fill the commands required by the GPS system. Production insiders said the hardest part of the multi-year project was the timely exorcism to cast out the demons from the sound equipment.
Beta-testing reports were highly positive. When asked about his experience, an anonymous first-year student said, “I took a one-way street in the wrong direction — I felt so compelled to changed direction when I heard Rikk Watts say ‘You just can’t do that!’”
Other highlights include Diane Stinton talking about contextual theology on the way to your destination and Iain Provan continually reminding motorists to take notice of the surrounding context. When a turn is missed, Imaginavigation will play the screeching sound from the faucet in the student kitchen as it recalculates a new route.
Imaginavigation will also be available in Koine Greek and Biblical Hebrew. The bookstore has announced an ongoing 50% sale on these versions to current students in the Biblical Languages concentration.
Because We're Friends
by: Amy Wen
Because we're friends, I'll let you in
welcome to my world of weird.
Strange humour, no doubt,
the oddest of odds,
quirky, but not to be feared.
Because we're friends, I'll share with you
my culture, my life, my food.
Dumplings and congee,
hot pot and beef stew,
invites to my home I'll include.
Because we're friends, I'll translate for you
the tones of my family tongue.
It's tricky--friends laugh,
why does my dignity, somehow, feel stung?
Because we're friends, I'll let you jest
about how to pronounce my name.
My culture, my sex,
"Who let girls in the church?"
I slowly tire of this game.
Because we're friends, I'll filter my thoughts
a bitter minority, me?
"A dream deferred!"
"Righteous anger!"; some say,
unloving, I hope not to be.
Because we're friends, I'll confess to you
It's hard to maintain this facade.
I'm worn out by filters,
convincing you--my friends,
how the 'other' is loved too by God.
Whatever the opinions about the last two editions of the Et Cetera may be, I am personally grateful that it has led to an openness in having conversations about topics I haven't had much chance to discuss at Regent. This was not written out of a place of angst, but was sparked by the sentiments of minority fatigue as expressed in Lecrae's recent interview about distancing himself from "white evangelicalism." In what ways are we enabling racial and gendered microaggressions within the church by not acknowledging their insidious nature? Whether we intentionally contribute to “othering” or not, how do our actions communicate (or miscommunicate) the message and character of our loving God?
A Day in the Life
by: Calvin Chen
“Hey, I can be Asian American, right?” an undergraduate who is white exclaims to me during a regional Christian conference I am staffing of about 800 students from throughout Wisconsin. “Ni Hao! Ahn Young Ha Saeyo! [followed by more Korean phrases]. How does my Korean sound? So am I Asian American now?”
I politely ask him to stop and clarify that I understand Mandarin (Ni Hao) but not Korean; that he isn’t Asian American. He continues uttering Korean phrases nonetheless and asking for affirmation or response from me. I tell him that if he doesn’t stop soon I will be offended and repeat my request several more times, each more firmly: that he shouldn’t mimic a racial group or mock a language spoken by some of its members, and that what he’s doing isn’t too different from a “ching chong ling long” taunt that many Asian Americans have experienced. After several more rounds I finally make as firm a request as I can without yelling. He realizes he should perhaps stop but is genuinely confused as to why I might be offended. I spend several minutes trying to explain but realize I’m getting nowhere. If I try any longer my anger may get the best of me.
I head toward the room where students from the Asian American college fellowship I advise are hanging out and preparing for a time of debriefing and prayer. As I walk, I remember how our newly affiliated Asian American-focused fellowship attended this exact conference for the first time 7 years ago with just 11 of us and over 700 other students. Only 4 other students at the conference were racial minorities (yes, I counted). Our group certainly stuck out but through the years the experience had always been positive. We’d come a long way as a chapter and a regional ministry: this year in addition to 50 Asian Americans from our chapter there were at least 70 other racial minority students at the conference.
Back with my chapter, we decide to take a few group pictures as we transition from games to smaller group prayer and debriefing. After the pictures, I overhear an exchange between two students that has problematic racial implications. I make a mental note to maybe speak with the students later if I have a private moment and I think they’re in a good place to listen. This may never happen, but I resolve to have the conversation should the opportunity arise. In case other students may overhear the exchange if it continues, I quickly shout, “All right! Everyone transition to your process groups!” to keep everyone moving. I attempt to briefly check in on another student whom I know is dealing with a difficult situation back home.
As we move into our process groups for sharing and prayer after the picture, I hear a group of giggling students gathered outside of our room.
“Oh my gosh there are so many Asians in there! Hey, come look at this!”
“There are so many Asians in that room! ”
“You’re right, wow! There are so many Asians in there! Have you ever seen that many Asians together before?!”
I take a deep breath, assuming that group of white students doesn’t know we can hear them even though the door is open and they’d poked their heads in to peek multiple times during their exchange; that they know no better than to view a gathering of racial minorities like an exotic exhibit. I turn to the group of students I am sitting with to ask them about how the conference is going for them and how they are meeting Jesus. Later that night, I have trouble sleeping. I am worried about these incidents while also thinking through the talks on the Historical Jesus and the Problem of Evil I am giving tomorrow. The audience will be a group of 50 mostly non-believing students from throughout Wisconsin seeking to learn more about Christianity.
Though rarely in such quick succession, my job as staff worker for an ethnic-focused ministry in a predominantly white region frequently involves incidents like these. I hate the stereotypes of the angry minority or political-correctness police, yet I feel myself becoming them.
I’m regularly asked to be an expert on all things ethnic-minority because most of my 94 white colleagues in the region want to grow in welcoming more students like the 3 of us staff who are minorities. I’m glad to help in any way I can because my region’s leadership and the vast majority of my colleagues want to be hospitable and grow in our ability to share Christ’s love with all students on college campuses throughout our region. But incidents like these wear on me, as does feeling like I could be the only person to speak up when something is done insensitively or in a way that is less welcoming to minority students. I tell an older staff member from another region that he probably shouldn’t refer to a conference speaker as “that Oriental woman.” I ask myself whether I’m informed and vocal enough about Ferguson and Eric Garner then try to muster emotional energy on behalf of a Hmong American hunter who was shot in a possible hate crime around the same time. Then I learn he’s from the same church as one of my students and the empathy comes involuntarily. I remind white staff not to describe me and the other two minority staff as “ethnic,” “multiethnic,” or “diverse.” I make a comment here or there about worship music or an introduction. I worry about whether staff or other students at conferences with our chapter may make ignorant remarks OR be terrified and walk on eggshells. I hear about a staff member who was skeptical about the whole “diversity thing” but has decided he can give me a chance. I do everything I can to place my students around staff more experienced with diversity and at conferences with more racially diverse campuses for the sake of my students’ exposure and growth opportunities; but also to protect them from such situations that could turn them off from Christianity or perhaps even traumatize them.
At the same time, I worry about offending staff by doing so. When I do speak up, I worry I come across as nit-picky, whiny, angry, unloving, or “not Christ-like.” I also worry my words and actions are still insufficiently confrontational on behalf of minorities. When I don’t speak up, I worry I’m letting down minorities or my students by not confronting. Or perhaps I’m hindering Christian mission for my organization because I could be improving our ability to reach minorities and our standing with secular liberal academia. Regardless of whether or not I speak up, I feel a Christian burden and a minority burden.
Christian decorum suggests I now say something about how it’s all worth it for Jesus or it’s all about the Gospel. For the most part it has been, or else I would’ve quit a long time ago; I do love our movement, my colleagues, and the students we serve. It’s been amazing to see Christ’s work but that doesn’t make this all any less tiring or frustrating.
Over the course of the next four weeks, I have two research papers due and two midterm exams. Do you have any advice on how to maximize my time management so that I can do well on my papers and tests?
Indeed it is better to postpone, lest either we complete too little by hurrying, or wander too long in completing it.