Joining an Ongoing Story

Joining an Ongoing Story

Alice was a lost soul wandering through a strange land trying to find her way back home. Along the way she stumbled upon a cat sitting on a tree branch. Initially frighten, she overcomes her fear and asks the Cat which way she ought to go. The Cat, being a bit mad, responded with perhaps the most powerful statement ever recorded, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”[1] George Harrison would later paraphrased Alice’s conversation with the Cheshire Cat in the equally profound lyric, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”[2] This advice, while originally given in the context of spatial dimensions, is equally valid in a temporal and spiritual sense. If we, the followers of Jesus, really want to find our Beloved in the darkness of the unknown, we need to first know where we are going. It may sounds strange to think about knowing where you going while embracing the mystery of the unknown. Yet, it is exactly in this paradox that we find the truth of life. Years ago when the people of Israel were on the edge of the unknown with Jerusalem and the Temple about to be destroyed, the Creator sent the prophet Jeremiah to tell them not to worry. Rather they were to “stand at the crossroads” between the known and unknown and “ask for the ancient paths” (Jeremiah 6:16, NIV). It would be in walking down the ancient paths of those who followed the call of the Creator King that they would find rest for their souls. The same is true...
Cultural Change Agents: Erasmus, Martin Luther, and Michelangelo (Part 2 of 2)

Cultural Change Agents: Erasmus, Martin Luther, and Michelangelo (Part 2 of 2)

The first part of this series can be found here. Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466-1536 C.E.) is the first change agent under review. Born in the Netherlands towards the latter half of the fifteenth century, Erasmus was a Roman Catholic priest and Augustinian monk who was not content to live life inside the monastery walls.[1] Rather, his desire to ask questions and learn about the broader world pushed him to travel all over Europe, meeting new people and encountering new ideas. Early on in his career Erasmus collected and subsequently published a book of sayings and phrases “culled from antiquity”[2] which not only broadened his perspective of life but helped broaden the perspective of those around him. As he processed the information and knowledge gained through his questions and travels, Erasmus began to challenge the status quo of his time. His personal moral character did not allow him to sit idly by while narrow-minded, though intelligent, people took advantage of the average person through a devotion to prescribed answers. Writing with humor and tact Erasmus tackled the abuses of the Roman Church while insisting “that righteousness was more important than orthodoxy.”[3] The wisdom of using humor and satire rather than straightforward logical arguments can be seen in that fact that it “enabled Erasmus to satirize everything and everyone in the world of his time while escaping the condemnation that would have been hurled at him had he tackled his subjects straight on.”[4] In summary, Erasmus was a change agent who placed a high value on asking questions rather than being content with prescribed answers. In helping others navigate the changing...
Cultural Change Agents: Erasmus, Martin Luther, and Michelangelo (Part 1 of 2)

Cultural Change Agents: Erasmus, Martin Luther, and Michelangelo (Part 1 of 2)

The world is changing. Or, at least, more people are noticing the change as the world has always been changing. Humanity, in general, prefers to experience change in small doses with time enough to process the ramifications before the next wave of change sweeps over them. Although much of human history has progressed in small steady steps, the global events of the last few decades have rendered this luxury elusive. The rapid pace of change has escalated uncertainty with people “crying for justice, honesty, and solutions” [1] while being scared and angry. This response is not new as people throughout history tend to respond to rapid change with fear and anger. Standing strong against this tidal wave are leaders who embrace the change and help lead others through the darkness of the unknown. These leaders, or change agents, are people who are able to maintain a broad perspective on life while valuing questions, wisdom, and personal character over intelligence, knowledge, and presumed answers. While history is brimming with amazing examples of such leaders, this paper will focus on three change agents within the pandemonium of sixteenth-century Europe who embraced the values previously mentioned. This time frame was chosen due to the parallel between it and the furor of modern culture within the United States. Both periods experienced change at a rapid pace as new concepts and ideas poured into their culture through globalization  (i.e. European colonies in the Americas and Asia vs. airplanes, global tourism, and mass immigration), increased knowledge (i.e. Gutenberg’s printing press vs. the internet), religious discord (i.e. the Protestant Reformation vs. religious pluralism), and political mayhem...
Heretics and Heroes

Heretics and Heroes

A look back over history shows that there are certain periods in time during which innovation and cultural change dramatically increases. The book Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World is the sixth volume of Thomas Cahill’s The Hinges of History series in which the events of these critical periods of western history are documented and retold. Heretics and Heroes focuses on the cultural and religious upheaval in Europe during the sixteenth century. Divided into seven sections with a prelude, introduction, intermission, and postlude, the book highlights various innovative ideas and concepts that arose during the Italian Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation.  Woven throughout the text is a nod towards the “centuries-long game of philosophical tennis”[1] being played out behind the events themselves. This game, as Cahill outlines in his prelude, is between the Platonic-Augustinian and Aristotelian-Thomistic schools of thought on how reality is perceived. During the time period covered by Heretics and Heroes the Platonic-Augustinian view of reality (i.e. that the “phenomena of our world…leads us to the absolute realities…[of] Beauty, Truth, Justice, Unity…and…Goodness” [2]) becomes the dominate view over and against the Aristotelian-Thomistic view (i.e. that “there is no world of Forms beyond the world we know and see” [3]). Though it may seem unlikely, the motivation for both the master artists of the Renaissance and the leaders of the Germany Reformation can be found in the newly rediscovered drive to know and understand the absolute realities behind what we see and hear. The artists followed a blend of Platonic philosophy and Medieval Christianity that saw the “human flesh [as] a fine...
“Chasing Francis: A Pilgrims’ Tale” by Ian Morgan Cron

“Chasing Francis: A Pilgrims’ Tale” by Ian Morgan Cron

Written in the style of wisdom literature with a “delicate balance of fiction and nonfiction,”[1] Chasing Francis takes the reader on a journey with Chase Falson as he embarks on a pilgrimage to St. Francis’ hometown of Assisi, Italy, in search of a deeper, more robust faith. The story begins with Falson, an American evangelical megachurch pastor, having a crisis of faith after years of having an “unshakable confidence in [the] conservative evangelical theology”[2] he learned in seminary. Despite his attempts to prop himself up through visits with a psychiatrist, Falson falls apart on stage during a Sunday morning sermon a few days after burring a nine-year old children who died in a freak accident. During this sermon he finally admits to himself and the congregation that his “faith is gone”[3] and he no longer has all the answers for everything in life. The days after this breakdown Falson, who has been asked by the church elders to take some time off, decides to visit Assisi, Italy, on the advice of his uncle who is a Franciscan priest. Once in Italy, his uncle introduces him to St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226 C.E.) and the radical nature of his faith in Jesus. Falson initially tries to deflect his uncle’s comments about St. Francis because of his suspicious of Roman Catholic theology. However he soon embraces the pilgrimage as he realizes that he really wants to find “a new way of following Jesus.”[4] Using the pilgrimage of Chase Falson as a guide, Ian Cron masterfully guides the reader through a deconstruction of a faith of certainty as commonly held by the American...
The Forgotten Story of Palestinian Christians

The Forgotten Story of Palestinian Christians

There are times when things that we should know about are lost in the avalanche of information that surrounds us each day. The stories of what happened to – and what is happening to – the Palestinian Christians is something that we should know more about. Sadly most of American Protestant Christianity has bought into a theological system that rejects these followers of Jesus while embracing the secular state of Israel. Though it may not be a popular stance, I firmly believe that followers of Jesus MUST stand up for each other no matter what our ethnicity or race. As such while I don’t have a problem with existences of the nation of Israel, I do have a problem with the way they treat the Palestinian Christians – not to mention Palestinians in general. And, yes, I understand that there are Palestinian groups who are actively fighting against Israel. And yes, I know this causes security issue. So why I’m not smart enough to know how to solve the political situation, I do know that Jesus of Nazareth said to love and bless EVERYONE – even those who are trying to kill you. As such I feel that American followers of Jesus must learn how to shift through the noise to hear the voices of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are following Jesus. The book Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in Israel by Archbishop Emeritus Dr. Elias Chacour of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church is a good starting point in learning about the history of Palestinian Christians. Published in 1984, the...