Who Should We Think With?

I enjoy history so was intrigued to read an article titled “Reimagining a History PhD-Doing Academia outside of Academia”.  In it Dr. Paul Gutacker of Baylor refers to Brazos Fellows, which he directs and enjoys:

I serve as director of Brazos Fellows, a nine-month fellowship for college graduates. Brazos Fellows helps young adults explore their vocation in a community that studies, works, and prays together—while aiming to bring together the life of the mind and the life of worship by situating serious theological and historical study in the local church. As you can imagine, this is immensely rewarding work for a religious historian such as myself. If you’d like to read more about the intellectual community Brazos Fellows seeks to cultivate, you can check out my recent post at the Baylor Graduate School blog.

I did check out the referenced post, which refers to a book by Alan Jacobs that already sounded interesting to me, but more so now:

In his brilliant little book, How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds, Baylor professor Alan Jacobs takes on a commonly-held myth—the idea that our best thinking happens when we “think for ourselves.” This axiom just doesn’t match up with how thinking works. “To think independently of other human beings is impossible, and if it were possible it would be undesirable,” Jacobs concludes, “Thinking is necessarily, thoroughly, and wonderfully social.”(p. 37) Rather than trying to think for ourselves, Jacobs argues that we should consider who we should think with. We should ask: what makes a good thinking partner? What makes a community trustworthy to think with?

……our work at Brazos Fellows presumes that Jacobs is essentially correct: we aren’t meant to ask the big questions on our own. This is true when it comes to questions of discernment—what was I made for? What am I good at, and how does that relate to my vocation?—and more fundamental questions about what it means to be human, to be embodied, to live in society. At Brazos Fellows, we ask these questions with the church—both the church throughout time and the church globally. Put in Jacobs’ terms, we aim for our team of instructors and tutors to be a trustworthy community to think with.

After one year of directing the Brazos Fellows, it’s been immensely rewarding to see the results. Our fellows, such as Jess Schurz (B.A., Baylor ’18), are asking questions like “What is the spiritual value of loneliness?” and “How does beauty invite us deeper into reality?”  Now, in our second year, a new cohort of fellows is exploring big questions like “what can the early church teach us about our cultural assumptions about death?” I can’t wait to see what questions they ask next.

Read it all here.  How wonderful it must be to be a part of that community.

Worship: About God and For Us

Written by  “an amateur musician who spent decades in the Contemporary Worship movement before abandoning it completely to search for a life of sacramental worship”:

I have argued, via my guest articles and comments on Jonathan’s blog over the last few years, that worship is formative, not expressive. That worship is about God and for us. It is about God in that God and God alone is the subject and object of our worship. It is for us in that worship is intended to be formative, not expressive and is meant to transform us into the likeness and character of Jesus Christ.

The Contemporary Worship movement claims that worship is all about emotion and enlists passages such as the story of David’s dance to reinforce their faulty presuppositions about the goal and purpose of worship. I do not intend to diminish the role of emotion in the Christian life. God created us as rational, volitional, and emotional beings and all these components should help propel worship forward its intended telos. However, a worship philosophy that makes an emotional response the primary metric of successful worship is flawed. So long as emotion remains the goal and metric of worship, the church deprives itself of a God-given means of grace through which we are transformed, individually and corporately, into the Bride of Christ.

Read it all here.

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words

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A new Michael Pack documentary on Justice Thomas is being shown in select theaters.

……[T]he film connects Justice Thomas’s roots in a time and place when black Americans were denied the dignity of equal treatment under the law with his eventual embrace of a natural rights and natural law philosophy that he adopted in part through the influence of John Marini and Ken Masugi. Both worked for Justice Thomas in the eighties and are now senior fellows at the Claremont Institute. During most cuts in the film, an image of the Declaration’s lines about all men being created equal runs across the screen.

To Mr. Pack’s credit, however, the movie never descends into a con law lecture. It’s an opportunity to hear the story of an amazing but winding journey from the standpoint of Justice Thomas and, to a lesser extent, his wife Virginia. Mr. Pack recorded thirty hours of interviews, including some recordings of Justice Thomas reading the most beautiful passages from his memoir. Laced through the movie are scenes of a small boat seen from above navigating the maze-like wetlands around Pin Point, Georgia, the site of the Justice’s earliest memories. The movie’s original score by Charlie Barnett is beautiful and often plaintive.

With his brother and their somewhat erratic mother, Justice Thomas spent his first few years in Pin Point, where the poverty experienced by his Gullah family and neighbors was livable and off-set by the tight-knit community. His father abandoned the family when he was two, and his mother was able to survive for a while on hard work. When she moved Clarence and his brother to Savannah after a fire destroyed their home, they found the urban poverty much more unbearable. Justice Thomas recalls the sewage from tenement toilets being flushed out into the yards. Archival photos of the city show the boards that denizens would position from the street to their porches to avoid walking through the waste.

When young Clarence was seven, his mother asked her own parents, Myers and Christine Anderson, to take in her two young boys. While Christine was a comforting figure, Myers was nearly illiterate, but a fiercely independent thinker whose memorization of swaths of the Bible had led him to be a Republican and also convert to Catholicism in the late 1940s. This unbending disciplinarian believed that the curse of the fall relating to working by the sweat of one’s brow was best embraced as a reality. He greeted the boys with a warning: “The damn vacation is over.” It was not an act… more.

From the Pin Point Heritage Museum, Savannah, Georgia:

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Pin Point from Moon River Bridge 2005

An Education

From the Opinion pages of today’s Wall Street Journal:

    When most people think of Oxford, what comes to mind are images of bright minds debating quantum physics or the existence of God.  But even the brainiest sometimes need a lesson in common sense.

    That’s exactly what the bursar at St. John’s College–the most richly endowed college at Oxford–delivered when he responded to students occupying his 15th-century quadrangle and refusing to leave until the college divested its oil-company shares.  The students want the college to sell the more than $10 million of its endowment now invested in Shell and BP, and they want it now.

    The Times of London reports that bursar Andrew Parker made them a counteroffer. “I am not able to arrange any divestment at short notice,” he wrote.  “But I can arrange for the gas central heating in college to be switched off with immediate effect.  Please let me know if you support this proposal.”

    The idea that the students themselves make a fossil-fuel sacrifice did not go over well…..

Is Abortion the Leading Cause of Death?

I recently read “Abortion is the leading cause of death.”  I checked with Snopes.  They challenge that:

If WHO’s estimate of 56 million abortions annually held steady through 2016, when they released their survey on the top ten leading causes of death globally, it would be true that the number of abortions worldwide outnumbered overall deaths from heart disease and stroke, the top two causes of death that year.

And then this:

……Stating that abortion is the “leading cause of death” worldwide (as opposed to a medical procedure) is a problematic pronouncement, because that stance takes a political position, one which is at odds with the scientific/medical world. The medical community does not confer personhood upon fetuses that are not viable outside the womb, so counting abortion as a “cause of death” does not align with the practices of health organizations such as WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

That is pathetic and gutless.

Reading a Book

Over the years I have acquired a small library of books that interest me.  Some I’ve read, many I have re-read,  but there are too many I have not read at all.  So I am going to try to not buy [too many] any books for a while and read some that I already have.

I thought about finishing up all the books I have started and not finished first, especially Ron Chernow’s Grant, and Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend by Robertson.  But then I spied a book I gave Dad a couple of years ago.  I doubt he was able to read it, but I think I will read it now.  Compared to the books I just mentioned it is a short story, so I should be able to get one book read in no time.  I hope it is as interesting as I think it will be.  The book:

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Christians Awake!

From Faith McDonnell at Juicy Ecumenism:

For many years it was the tradition for Salvation Army band members to get up at the crack of dawn on Christmas Day and wake the town with the Christmas song “Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn.”

Here is Salvation Army officer Major Alan Young playing it on his cornet for the village of Pill in North Somerset, England…

Christians, awake, salute the happy morn,
whereon the Savior of the world was born;
rise to adore the mystery of love,
which hosts of angels chanted from above;
with them the joyful tidings were begun
of God incarnate and the Virgin’s son. . . .

Oh, may we keep and ponder in our mind
God’s wondrous love in saving lost mankind!
Trace we the babe, who hath retrieved our loss,
from his poor manger to his bitter cross.
Tread in his steps, assisted by his grace,
Till man’s first heavenly state again takes place.

Then may we hope, th’angelic throngs among,
to sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song;
he that was born upon this joyful day
around us all his glory shall display;
saved by his love, incessant we shall sing
eternal praise to heav’n’s almighty King.”