The Feast of St. Cecelia

I know.

We’re a mostly Baptist seminary, but this is a special situation. You see, Foo Fighters has released a surprise EP entitled Saint Cecelia on the feast of the saint herself. Some of you may know that Cecelia was a martyr and virgin noted for her musical ability.

An open heart may sing for God.

Well, Foo Fighters recorded this EP at Hotel Saint Cecelia in Austin. It is available to stream on Spotify if you aren’t sure you want to shell out the cash. But they are asking for listeners to donate to the victims of the bombings in Paris.

You can read more on Rolling Stones’ website.

Now, there is a new, hopeful intention that, even in the smallest way, perhaps these songs can bring a little light into this sometimes dark world. To remind us that music is life, and that hope and healing go hand in hand with song. That much can never be taken away.

To all who were affected by the atrocities in Paris, loved ones and friends, our hearts go out to you and your families. We will return and celebrate life and love with you once again someday with our music. As it should be done.

St Cecilia
“St. Cecilia and the Angel,” Carlo Saraceni

Rev. Tripp Hudgins is Director of Admissions at ABSW and a PhD student in ethnomusicology and liturgy at Graduate Theological Union.

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I will do better. #SyrianRefugees

Fear mongers abound. We are afraid of Syrians. We are afraid of angry young white men. We throw around statistics like they were meaningful data points. We prooftext holy writ as if that was ever a convincing argument to someone who disagreed with us. Words like “always” and “forever” litter my social media streams. – Tripp Hudgins

I was thinking about the reasons for my withdrawal from social media over the last couple of months when I came across a friend and colleague’s post (Thanks Tripp Hudgins.) I’ve mostly been thinking about one ethicist’s analysis of our predicament. In essence he argues that we have no shared basis for providing rational justifications for our assertions and therefore we are left with a clash of wills. (To my grad school friends – don’t worry I remain no fan of McIntyre) So we may spout off statistics and facts or pseudo-facts like we are in some rational debate but because we share no common premise of the good and the right all we are really doing in our discourse is trying to over power each other. And here of late all I see in my social media feed (Nextdoor, Twitter, Facebook, SeeClickFix) is a power struggle and it hurts. It hurts because I believe that at some fundamental level the point of communication is to work toward empathy and seeing the world from the perspective of the other. As a communal practice it should lead us toward the construction of the common good, in the parlance of the secular, or the Beloved Community in that of the sacred. Perhaps I am just too impatient as we struggle to come to grips with life’s complexities and tragedies and need to be reminded of the fuller nature of human struggle for “we struggle not against flesh and blood….”

Leslie Bowling-DyerIn addition to being loved by Jesus, Leslie Bowling-Dyer is a mother, wife, daughter, neighbor, preacher, teacher, PhD student, bicycle commuter and wishes she was a good hip hop dancer. She is also an alumna of ABSW.

Raising My Voice and Praying Expansively

Whenever there is a major event happening in the world, in the United States, or locally, I get a text from my colleague and dear friend, Tripp Hudgins, at ABSW: “Blog?” he asks. Since he came aboard at ABSW almost two years ago, Tripp has been encouraging, nay, urging, nagging, and prodding the faculty and administration at the seminary to get our light out from under its bushel. He wants us to contribute our voices and our unique perspectives to the ongoing conversations that happen via social media, in the twitterverse, through blogs, on the interwebs everywhere and all the time—but especially when major things happen. Protests, mass shootings, bombings, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, racist attacks, police brutality, and non-indictments: all of these generate massive dialogue on the internet.

Public theology means that our faith traditions can make meaningful, even radically transformative contributions to civic discourse and public policy at times of crisis as well as calm. The Jesus we seek to follow did not shy away from making his faith publicly significant. He weighed in on taxes, imprisonment, just pay, forgiveness of debt, ethnocentrism (which would be the equivalent of racism today), and the deep value of women and girls. Jesus allowed his life to be ended in a most public and political way when he was crucified by the Roman Empire. His earliest followers stayed true to this public living out of faith through their formation of radical communities with shared property, meals that crossed the boundaries of social status, and offerings distributed to the poor. Other early followers also gave their bodies over to be destroyed by the empire in order to point to a reality of Love and Resistance that will forever be greater than any empire—then and now.

Though there were plenty of times Jesus stepped away from the crowds so that he could rest and pray, once his faith became public at around age 30, it was definitely not in the form of quietism. Jesus was active, engaged, and not afraid of conflict with the politically and religiously powerful people of his time. Quietism, whether or not it ever actually existed as such, is a sort of deeply unflattering caricature of contemplatives who sought unity with God’s Sprit above all else, even to the eradication of their own in-tact selves for the sake of the world. Such self-annihilation is considered heretical inasmuch as it leads to, well, it leads to nothing. As the great Evelyn Underhill wrote: “The self must be surrendered: but it must not be annihilated, as some Quietists have supposed. It only dies that it may live again” (Underhill, Mysticism, 68).

So please don’t get me wrong when I say: It is at times like this that I long with all my heart for quiet. Even though the request comes in for me to say something in the form of a blog, and even though I believe that my Christian faith tradition has much to contribute at times like this—despite this, I know that the last thing I want to do right now is contribute to the cacophony of voices that are clamoring to be heard right now. Some of those voices are prophetic, some are strident; some are beautiful and grace-filled, some are challenging and hard-to-swallow; some are gospel-filled, some are hate-filled; some are war-mongering, some are peacemaking; some are creative, some are cliché; some we desperately need to hear, some not so much. But when I think about being one more voice (a voice perhaps more likely to be cliché or strident than prophetic or grace-filled), I honestly just want to be quiet instead.

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I’m Sorry, Christian, But You Don’t Get to Make That Move

“Even if all of this is (unimaginably) true, as Christians—as followers of Jesus—we live by a different script when it comes to what we’re supposed to do with the threat of bad people doing bad things. Jesus said a lot of weird things that are sometimes hard to make heads or tails of. But one thing Jesus wasn’t at all ambiguous about was how those who followed him were supposed to think about and treat their enemies. On this matter, he was painfully, uncomfortably, crystal clear.”

Rumblings

I have a bone to pick with Christians this morning. Not all Christians.  Not even the majority of Christians in my (limited) circles.  Not by a long shot.  No, my concern is with a smaller subset of Christians that tend to make a disproportionate amount of noise.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of conversations with Christian people about the Syrian refugee crisis. I’ve observed a lot of reaction and response from Christian people online. And I’ve noticed some of these Christian brothers and sisters buying into the fear and the hysteria that attempts to convince us that we need to keep our nation’s doors resolutely closed to refugees from this part of the world.

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DT Podcast Episode 16 – Natalia Imperatori-Lee

This is a fun podcast. Take a listen.

Daily Theology

Natalia Imperatori-Lee (photo courtesy of Manhattan College) Natalia Imperatori-Lee (photo courtesy of Manhattan College) Welcome to the finale of season 1 of the podcast! As we go into hiatus until the new year, feast your ears on this insightful and funny conversation between Steve Okey and Natalia Imperatori-Lee! In this episode, they talk about the necessity of friendship in theology, how she became interested in Ecclesiology (the study of the Church), and her efforts to help Hispanic and first-generation college students cultivate a wider imagination about the professional opportunities they can have in life.

Dr. Natalia Imperatori-Lee is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College in Riverdale, NY. She earned her BA from Fordham University, her MA from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and her PhD from the University of Notre Dame. Her research interests focus on Ecclesiology, with a particular interest in feminist theology, Mariology, and the Church. Her current book project (which…

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TONIGHT! The Nones Are Alright: A New Generation of Seekers, Believers, and Those In Between by Kaya Oakes

As part of our #ExploreABSW week for prospective students, Cal scholar Kaya Oakes is joining us to discuss her recent work on the religious “Nones.” See you at 7:00pm on campus or on Periscope.

cover_nonesThe ascent of the “Nones”, those with no religious affiliation, has puzzled religious leaders from every denomination. But the increasing number of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who have walked away from, or have never belonged to any religion, means that up to 40% of not one but two entire generations of Americans have chosen to live life without a traditional religious practice.

And yet, some members of Gen X and Gen Y have chosen to embrace religion, but they’ve done so in a DIY fashion, recreating religion for a new generation of skeptics, in a time when past ideas of career, home ownership, and the nuclear family model are all changing. Through profiles of dozens of individuals, this book investigates how and why the exodus from organized religion is occurring, and contrasts the stories of Nones, atheists and agnostics with the stories of those who took different tracks: those who defied the trend and found religion as adults, or experienced a conversion from the religion of their childhood to a completely new set of beliefs, and those who’ve remained in the religion of their childhood, but have reimagined and redefined what religion means.

Reading Week!

As I was leaving my office around 6 pm on Tuesday I discovered this crew in the conference room preparing to dissect one of Allan Boesak’s recent books entitled, Kairos, Crisis, and Global Apartheid: The Challenge to Prophetic Resistance (Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice). I hope everyone is having a glorious reading week!

See you soon!
LeAnn Snow Flesher, PhD
Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament

Theologians