Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Things I Feel I Feel (aka Putting CPE to Good Use)

I told my mom today that sometimes I feel like I belong to a civic organization like the Kiwanis Club, more than I belong to a church.  She didn't quite know what to do with that, I think.  I'm not sure I do, either. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Movie Review: Juno

This column over at First Thoughts, the apparent First Things staff blog, got my dander up last week, and it's not even about the main point of the column.  I pretty much think the author is right, in general, about the point he's making, but that's not what I'm talking about.  I found it interesting that "those people who think children are a choice" are the same people who "thought Juno was a pro-life film."


I'm one of those apparently crazy people who did in fact think Juno was a pro-life film. I worked at a crisis pregnancy center for a few years in college (before the movie came out), and aside from the weird emotional-adultery thing with the adoptive father, the movie is one I think I would generally recommend to many of the girls who came into our office.

The main plot of the story is that Juno is a high school girl who has a one-night-stand with her best guy friend, and thereby becomes pregnant.  After telling one of her girlfriends, and contemplating an abortion (she changes her mind when the one lone protester outside the abortion clinic, a classmate of Juno's, informs Juno that the baby already has fingernails), she decides to continue the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption.  Throughout the movie, we see Juno gain self-confidence in her role as mother (even just for the time while she is pregnant).  We see her family being shocked, and then generally supportive, and even a little challenging and confrontational when is appropriate.  We see her friends try to be supportive, but we also see the situation at school change a lot, and Juno not quite knowing where her place is anymore.  We see Paulie (the dad) trying to be helpful and supportive, but not quite knowing how.  And for Juno's part, she seems to not really be able to communicate what kind of help and support she wants or needs from him.  And we see the Juno-Paulie relationship grow and evolve. 

The reason I liked the movie so much is that I found it to be pretty realistic. Life is hard, especially when you make bad decisions, and the movie has no qualms about making that clear. But what was most needed by a lot of the girls I saw at the pregnancy center was hope, the idea of a "future story." Many of them couldn't see beyond the next 5 minutes, let alone imagine a scenario 9-12 months down the road where things would be "not perfect, but ok." That's what I liked about the film - for girls who are already pregnant, I think it sends the message, "You can do this. It's going to be hard, and it's not going to be perfect, but you can do this."

Granted, not every pregnant teenager has a great family or supportive friends or a boyfriend who tries to be helpful.  Some are all-but-forced into abortions, or carry the pregnancy to term and then are given little to no support from a family who either disowns them, or considers the situation to be so common that no one bats an eye.  Life is messy.  But Juno shows one plausible scenario of a way that this situation can work out to being "okay."  Because the reality is that having an abortion is no less emotionally messy than keeping a baby or placing it for adoption.  And by highlighting to its viewers the reality of the baby (it has fingernails) and then setting up a reasonable way life can play out over the next several months, this movie gives hope to teenagers who might not be able to imagine it otherwise. 

That's why it's a pro-life movie.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Help! I Started Blogging and I Can't Stop!

I must be a writer at heart, because now that I've gotten into this whole blogging thing, I really flippin' love it. 

It occurred to me today, though, that it might be good if I said something nice about the ELCA.  After all, I'm still here, so it must be for a reason, right?  Despite its current trajectory of sacrificing the faith once delivered, I will have to say that being here has edified me in certain areas.  First of all, I used to be a big, conservative jerk.  I was totally sold on ridiculously far-right political positions, and really was one of those people who equated the Republican Party with God.  (I know, leave me alone, ok?)  It's really pretty embarrassing to talk about some of the organizations I was involved in, and things I used to believe, not to mention the things I thought and said about other people.  But I'm also one of those people who has a strong sense of loyalty, and at some point I figured out that I was going to be part of the ELCA for the forseeable future, and so maybe I should be less judgy about them.  This dovetailed with what was going on in my life on another front, when I jumped on board the Straight Talk Express.  About 3 or 4 years ago, God got a hold of me and rather violently (it seemed at the time) got me on my knees about some positions I had on issues and the way I treated people who disagreed with me. 

The ELCA tends to focus a lot on what we are supposed to "do" - support this, write letters for that, get involved here, give money there, etc...I don't always agree with the specifics - the object or the method of our "doing", but I will admit that thinking through the things the national church body supports has made me get serious about being aware of others around me.  Too often, one of the critiques of conservatism is that it is not very compassionate.  For most politically conservative individuals, if you probed deeply, I don't think you'd find a lack of compassion, I think you'd just find it expressed differently.  But, because of how we think about the role of government, we can come across as kind of cold-hearted, particularly given how the mainstream media tends to frame the debate.  (Of course, there are the occasional complete jerks who don't care about anything except themselves... they're on the left, too, though.)  And the thing is, the Bible tells us that we're supposed to be compassionate.  It's easy for Lutherans to talk a good game about "justification by grace through faith," which is totally true.  But we still have to deal with, for example, Matthew 25 or Matthew 19.  Or even the fact that Romans, Martin Luther's favorite book, seems to have as its theme that "faith is a way of life."  Indeed, "the just shall live by faith" but then again, "faith without works is dead."  So, you know, there we are.  However, because I tend to disagree with the object and method of our "doing" in the ELCA, we've now bumped up against another problem. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Things I Think I Think

  • I should really be engaging a Romans marathon like none other right now, but instead I'm doing this.
  • I really love my hair.  It's cute and fun, and I pretty much can't get over it.
  • Sometimes I brush my teeth while I'm in the shower.  I noticed something today, though.  When I brush my teeth not in the shower, I'm insistent on super-cold water.  But in the shower, I just use the normal hot water, and it's totally fine.  I wonder why that is.  Does it have something to do with the ambient temp?
  • I wonder if there are going to be horses tied up outside the General Store when I get to my new town.  (No, for real, there is a General Store.)
  • I very much dislike that it is hot again this week.  Thank God I'm moving northward. 
  • It needs to snow on my birthday. 
  • I'm fairly certain that Facebook has taken over the world.
  • I only have 4 more days of working at Starbucks.  I'm uncertain how I feel about this.
  • Is anyone else as charmed by Bruce Campbell on Burn Notice as I am? 
  • The 90% off shelf at http://www.christianbook.com/ is ridiculously awesome.

Sound of Silence, Part Deux - My Experiences

I say all this because a few weeks ago during CPE, I went with a Roman Catholic friend to what is called Eucharistic Adoration. (Note to the Protestants reading this: take a deep breath.) I wanted to see what it was all about, and so I asked if I could tag along. As we walked to the chapel, my friend explained that the "host" would be in a "monstrance" on the altar, and that this was really just an opportunity to be in the presence of Christ and to pray. I know I kept asking him, "That's it?", and I'm sure I was looking at him like he was crazy. That is because what I was really thinking was, "So you sit in a room and pray. In front of a communion wafer. In a gold box/holder thingy on the altar. What is the point of this?" (As I said here, my Protestant heart still beats within.) But I went, and I'm really glad I did. We were there about 15 minutes or so, and the time just flew by. Afterwards, my friend asked if I felt like it was "idol worship", and I immediately responded that no, I didn't. (Probably with kind of an attitude, like, why would I think that?)

As I pondered it more over the next few days, I realized that the reason he had asked me that, and why I might potentially feel that way, is because I was supposed to recognize that the "communion wafer in a gold box" was the body of Christ (transsubstantiation and all that). Hmm...As I said, my Protestant heart....but it goes beyond that. I realized that, had I thought about it from that perspective and allowed myself to just focus solely on that aspect of the experience, I might very well have felt like I was engaging in idol worship. But I never got that far. Because inside the chapel was complete and total silence. I had been told that I was just supposed to pray, and so pray I did. Believe me, I had plenty to pray about that day. And the longer I sat and kneeled there, the more I found to pray about. And nothing, nobody, interrupted me.

It's been so long since I've done the silence thing that I forgot how important it was, and I've been "pondering this in my heart" ever since.

The Sound of Silence

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God." Psalm 62:5-7 

It's shockingly quiet around here today, in a way that it hasn't been for much of the week.  There have been lots of extra people that I don't know filling up the dorm rooms, shouting across campus, running up and down the halls, and being obnoxiously loud for the last few days, so it's a blessing to have a little peace and quiet.  (Wow, I sound old.  Next it's going to be "Get offa my lawn!")

Even during the school year when there's just the "normal" amount of people around, it is never quiet.  This building I live in is possibly older than Martin Luther himself, and sound carries extremely well.  The classroom underneath my bedroom has a piano in it, and I can hear every note played.  I'm right next door to the bathroom, so there's that noise. The guys that live on the floor above me are, I don't know, elephants, or something.  Huge, heavy steps, all the time.  Plus, when their girlfriends are over (and I am not the only person to register this complaint), well, let's just say it's the sound of Visions and Expectations being torn to bits...  That and there are always the friendly campus sounds of professors and students talking to one another on the sidewalks between buildings, cars coming and going in the parking lot, little kids running around the grassy areas and playing with their dogs, etc...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Faith Once Delivered, Part II

So, what exactly is the "faith once delivered?"

That's probably a bigger question for another post - it gets into questions like, "What, precisely, is the Gospel?" It probably involves questions surrounding development of doctrine and the canon, ecclesiological questions around the Reformation and Protestantism, and so on. But the point is, there is one. There is a "faith once delivered."

And I think the ELCA has lost this. Why do I say this? Well, let's start with the seminaries, since that's where I'm at. In our classes, (possibly with the exception of Lutheran Confessions class, depending on who is teaching it) nobody teaches us "the faith once delivered." We read a little of this and a little of that. A chapter of Luther and a chapter of Barth. A chapter of somebody from the Patristic era and a chapter of Sallie McFague. A chapter of Hauerwas and a chapter of Aristotle. And at the end, nobody says, "This is true, and the others are wrong for the following reasons." Or even, "This one is best, and while the others can be helpful, they ultimately break down at such-and-such a place." And if that's what's going on at my seminary, I'm sure it's not really different at any of the others.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Faith Once Delivered

"Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."  Jude 1:3

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why Elizabeth of Hungary?

Confession time: My name is not Elizabeth, and I'm not from Hungary. 

So, why am I blogging under this name?  Well, in recent years I've been learning more and more to "get along with" the saints, so to speak.  When I started looking for a name to blog with, it seemed natural to turn toward the saints.  I probably went about this sort of the wrong way, but basically I googled a whole ridiculously long list of saints, and scrolled through the list, picking out names I like the way you pick them out of a baby name book. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010


What a blessing it is to have girlfriends!  Of recent years, I have been intrigued by Luke 1:56.  This verse comes after the annunciation to Zechariah and Elizabeth, after the Annunciation to Mary, just after the Magnificat.  Mary has gone to visit Elizabeth, where we learn the power of the presence of Christ.  Even as pregnant-with-Jesus Mary enters the room, unborn-John-the-Baptist senses the presence of his Lord and "leaps with joy" in Elizabeth's womb.  And then, in verse 56, "Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home." (NIV) 

I start wondering...what was Mary doing there?  Why did she go to visit Elizabeth in the first place?  Why travel from Nazareth to Galilee - who needs to be taking a journey like that in the midst of so much stress?  And why stay three months? 

The State of the ELCA

It is a weird, weird time to be in the ELCA, and even stranger to be in seminary. It's not something that is very popular to say, but the whole denomination is in a lot of flux right now. Money is extremely tight, individuals and congregations are leaving for any number of other smaller, alphabet soup Lutheran "denominations", others are staying and waiting for better options. There's not a lot of leadership within the denomination - for those inside or outside the seminaries. This adaptation of Luther's "my conscience is bound to the Word of God" to "my conscience is bound to me and my personal opinion" has, in my personal opinion, left a lot of people scrambling.

Everybody has to say that what everybody else thinks or says is okay, even though no one actually thinks that anything other than their own opinion is, in fact, okay. There is miscommunication, distrust, suspicion, and rudeness on all sides. Seminary students and professors have to guess at each other's opinions from classroom vibes or campus rumors. Seminarians and candidacy committees play footsie with each other, trying not to talk about the thing that everyone is talking about and no one is talking about, all at once.

As a new friend of mine has been prone to say, "It all comes down to authority." Who is in charge, who is leading this bandwagon of crazy ELCA-ers, and where is that person (people?) leading us?  I wish I knew...


I always find it a little strange when people who have blogs that no one actually reads write like the whole world is reading, but I think I'm about to do it. Also, you know how on the first day of class when the professors go through the syllabus and various other organizational and administrative junk and they refer to it as "housekeeping"? Why do they do that? Is anyone vacuuming? Cleaning out the refrigerator? Doing a load of laundry?

Well, regardless, I feel compelled to set the stage for this here blog, now that I've had it for three months and have done virtually nothing with it.  I've been re-inspired, I suppose.

I need to write; I love writing; I reflect best through writing.  When I'm thinking, when I'm really putting my best effort into it, I write very "tightly" - I pack a lot into concise sentences and turns of phrase.  When I'm just sort of meanderingly (?) reflecting, I can be very long-winded.  Sometimes I'll even go back and edit these later, because they end up annoying me when I'm not so emotional.

Nonetheless...my goal here is to try to make sure I write for at least 10 minutes a day about...something.  (I use lots of ellipses, which I think is actually reflective of how I talk, and how I think.)

I'm writing because I need a place to write down the things I think I think (stealing from, at minimum that NFL column in Sports Illustrated, but probably somewhere older than that...)  I'm going to try to stay relatively anonymous here, mostly because of what's called the "candidacy process" in the ELCA. 

I'm going to be writing about whatever I feel like writing about: the wrap-up to CPE, internship, stuff I'm reading or thinking, the strange parts of my life, whatever.  I'm a writer, and I want to write, and so I can, should, and will write.

I haven't really told too many people about this blog, just because, well, I don't know...But I'll probably tell others about it as I get more comfortable with the idea of blogging, and possibly also less paranoid.   And I'll be linking to people much cooler and worth reading than I. 

If you're here and want to comment, please be charitable.  Ascribe the best motives to me and others, and I'll do the same for you.  Heed the admonition in the comments form.  The internet does a lot of good, but it is also a really mean and nasty place, and I don't want my little corner of it to be that way.

So, enough cleaning the windows for now.  Onward and upward!