June 25th, 2009


[Wednesday] "Why do you always talk about church?"

[FirstChurch Mailing List] I can see clearly now, the rain is gone! Come and praise God for Sun!

Dear Beloved,

I saw the sun, I saw the sun! Come to Rest and Bread tonight to praise the Maker of sun (and rain)!

Our service is at 6:15 tonight. Music for meditation is at 6.

Our biography is about the builder who build a house on sand and the rain washed it away. It is about the builder who built a house on stone, and even floods couldn't wash it away.

Keith is away this week. Please say a prayer for him while he works. We will also pray for Molly, of course, who is away, and for our four who are off to Synod this week: Jason, Ian, Joe, and Brandon.

I hope to see your shining faces at 6.

Laura Ruth
It was actually cloudy out for Rest and Bread.  Oh well.  (I do wish folks would stop complaining that it needs to stop raining.  It has barely been raining.  Yes, it has been grey and cool and misting/spitting/sprinkling, but this is not "Dear God let it stop raining" weather.  [Edit: Friday(?)'s metro said it's been the cloudiest June since 1903 though only one day this month have we gotten more than a half an inch of rain.] )

Laura Ruth had picked a yellow flower and placed it on the altar.  She invited us to find and meditate on beauty and justice in these grey days.  (She also invited us to cultivate a practice of prayer.  I continue to be thrown by the idea that some people are uncomfortable trying to pray, because I feel like talking to God is just just what I do -- I mean, I'm not great at intentionally praying for other people for very long before my mind wanders, and I have mixed feelings about the idea of prayer changing anyone other than the person praying, but prayer isn't inherently something that I worry I'm doing wrong or anything.)

Psalm 19 [yes, again]
Matthew 7:24ff [inclusive language version]

Laura Ruth and I were the only people present who knew the "The wise man built his house upon the rock..." song.
She talked about how when she was younger she understood this passage to be about obedience but that that's not really what it's about.  (Though, um, I forget what her takeaway was that it was about.  Addendum: The above-mentioned cultivation of spiritual practice/s was definitely part if not all of it.)

Before service, Laura Ruth had talked about the emails I'd sent recently, and she told me about how when she was in the Episcopal church there was always a verger -- a lay person who doesn't actually do the actions of any of the service but who makes sure that everything runs smoothly, that all the candles get lit and get lit at the right time and all that sort of stuff.  I said I could see why that made her think of me :) though I would have to become an Episcopalian.  She said I already do that role at Rest and Bread (obviously) and maybe I already do it at my other churches and I agreed (though on reflection it's not actually true ... but it's definitely the sort of thing I could do at my other churches, is not dependent on my becoming an Episcopalian).

I'm clearly getting more and more into worship planning, too, though, 'cause I'm increasingly annoyed that I don't know what the purpose of the Psalm is (I feel like in the past it often got tied in with the Reflection, but especially now that we're on this biography series it hasn't seemed at all connected, but it's usually a different one each week so there must have been some thought going in to the selection), and I really don't like the compartmentalized nature of Prayers of the People (in part because I'm used to CWM style, but even adjusting for style and atmosphere, we break up the Prayers of Petition but I'm often not clear how many segments we're breaking it into and where I should slot certain prayers) and then I was co-celebrating Communion and the liturgy feels so bland and I actually changed a few bits on the fly -- retelling the part of Jesus taking the cup and giving thanks, I did what Tiffany does and said, "and gave thanks to you, O God," and looked up to the ceiling; and when I communed Laura Ruth I said, "The Cup of Blessing, poured out for you" (we usually just say "The Cup of the New Covenant").

When I was leaving service, Laura Ruth handed me the leftover bread and the flower.  (I had bought a yogurt parfait for in-class dinner, so I was happy to take the bread.)  I ate the half of the loaf we had torn up for Communion but that still left a whole half a loaf.  So I walked into Intellectual Property class holding a half a loaf of bread and a yellow flower.  \o/  At the break, I asked Cate if she wanted any bread and she said sure.  She asked, "Is this Host or just bread?"  I said it was Host, but that we're pretty low church, so she was welcome to have Jesus and didn't need to be communed -- but then of course I said, "This is the Bread of Life, given for you."

Class was fairly good.  I'll post notes after I watch the video of the first hour that I missed.

While we were waiting for Cate's bus, I talked about my problems with my World Religions prof (which I'll post more about tomorrow).

Then I called Ari around 10pm after I got off the subway -- figuring if I called before I actually got home I might actually get to bed tonight.  1:20:41 later...  But I got to tell her all about how Ian is still made of awkward and about Rest and Bread and church: ur doin it wrong and how I feel like I was kind of a bitch in my CHPC email (but I'm right!) and I went through back entries of an LJ tag which I'd meant to do last night and my housemate told me about SadTrombone.com.

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Smith College, Ainsley Hayes

referencing Matthew 7:28-29 would be inappropriate, huh?

So, Tuesday's World Religions class.

A friend of mine had criticized one of the main texts we're using, saying, "she [the author] makes some cringingly simplistic statements, and her bias against traditional Christianity was so apparent (to me, anyway) that I didn't fully trust her appraisal of other religions I know less well. I wish I knew of a better comparative religion text to recommend."

Early in class, the prof spoke praisingly of the author (whom he has become friends with). I'm only about ten pages into the text, though, so I didn't have an opinion of my own to make me hesitant.

[Sidebar before I start complaining in earnest: I will give the prof credit for recommending to us that we get to know people from other faith traditions -- and other countries, other ethnicities -- and sit down and have a drink with that person, that you'll learn more from that than you will from a class. Though it came across a little uncomfortably tokenizing, with an implication of "tell me about your faith tradition" without an understanding that everyone's experience of a given faith tradition is going to be unique and often very different from someone else's ... though he did sort of touch on this at other moments ... and he's traveled to lots of places around the world getting to know different Buddhist practitioners, so I think he really is aware of the diversity that exists within a given faith tradition.]

Later, he told a story of saying to his parents, "Isn't it interesting that two out of your three kids became Buddhists" (his parents were Methodists, possibly ministers), and his sister turned to him and said, "You're not a Buddhist." He said he was -- he meditates some, the Buddhist philosophy is very important in his life. She insisted that he didn't actually practice it (she gets up every morning and chants, has an altar, etc.), sure he goes all over the world and writes books, but "it's a hobby for you." (As the class went on, I returned to this as an articulation of my problem with him -- that he's not a practitioner of religion but rather an outsider ... though admittedly my problem may simply be that he's an outsider talking about my faith tradition.)

A friend of his suggested he take the Belief-O-Matic quiz to settle the question. So he read us his results, mentioning an important belief of his (concern for social justice, the environment, church that doesn't have lots of talking) that explained why he had scored high for that faith tradition (until he finally got to a kind of Buddhism, which I think was #8).

Later in the class, he talked about how we're going to focus on elements common across many religions, but that he's not trying to say that all/most religions are at heart the same. For example, he said, suffering is a central theme of Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity, but if you actually dig down, the way that suffering is central to their faith traditions are very different. Buddhism: everyone suffers, this is the first Noble Truth, doesn't matter how much material wealth or anything you have you're still as susceptible to suffering as anyone else. Judaism: a people who have faced threats of extermination over and over again (the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Nazis), so suffering is understood in community. Christianity: Jesus on the cross is a central image, but that's an individual suffering, albeit suffering to atone for the sins of the whole world.

I couldn't point out to anything he said during class that was factually wrong [maybe "untrue" is more the word I want?], and I tried to remind myself that of course in an introductory overview you have to oversimplify and you can't necessarily be constantly caveating (e.g., "Substitutionary atonement is the traditional understanding of Jesus' death on the cross, but there are many different ways to understand Jesus' salvific work, and many progressive churches in particular reject the idea of substitutionary atonement") but much of what he said still really rankled.

Plus, of course, "suffering" is not something I would posit as a central theme of Judaism or Christianity (or Buddhism).

I told Cate that if I were asked to list major themes of Judaism I would say: enslavement, exile, liberation, being a people set apart, having a covenant with God, a legalistic understanding but along with that a tradition of arguing with God ("see the fine print here... oh you didn't specify that... what if there are only ten righteous people in the city? etc."), holidays of "They tried to kill us but they didn't succeed; let's eat!"

I then went to say, "If I were asked to list major themes of Christianity... actually I'm not sure what I would say. Maybe because it is my tradition and so I'm very aware of how much disagreement there is?"

Cate said she was never particularly observant even when she went to church with her family, but that her main takeaway from church was: "Jesus loves you, so go and love everyone else." She later said that she would also list "hope" as a major theme of Christianity.


Back in April 2002, I took the Belief-O-Matic (as did my mom).

I took it again today and ugh, my beliefs do not fit into your options... I can pick an approximate, but your statement has resonances I don't intend and elides certain things that are important to me. Yes, multiple choice quizzes are inherently problematic. And this does help the prof's commentary on his results feel less offensive. "Concern for the enivironment" would not be the key phrase I would pull out were I asked to talk about Neo-paganism, for example, but given the questions and answers in this quiz I can see how someone like him could score high for Neo-paganism in large part because he has strong concern for the environment.

Anyway, my scores this time:
1. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (100%)
2. Liberal Quakers (83%)
3. Orthodox Quaker (80%)
4. Unitarian Universalism (72%)
5. Reform Judaism (70%)
6. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (62%)
7. Seventh Day Adventist (61%)
8. Eastern Orthodox (48%)
9. New Age (48%)
10. Roman Catholic (48%)
11. Baha'i Faith (44%)
12. Neo-Pagan (42%)
13. Secular Humanism (42%)
14. Orthodox Judaism (42%)
15. New Thought (41%)
16. Sikhism (41%)
17. Taoism (37%)
18. Islam (36%)
19. Mahayana Buddhism (35%)
20. Theravada Buddhism (35%)
21. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (34%)
22. Scientology (32%)
23. Nontheist (31%)
24. Hinduism (31%)
25. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (26%)
26. Jainism (25%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (18%)
Back in July 2005, I posted that for another quiz it was "no surprise" that I got the result "Average Christian." I rather suspect I would get a different answer now, though the website no longer exists, so I can't check.
hermione by oatmilk

Intellectual Property (Class #2) notes

Titles and short phrases cannot be copyrighted.
Series is protected by copyright because people might be deceived (protecting the marketplace from fraud). So "The Best Game Ever" is fine, "Harry Potter and the Best Game Ever" not so much.

Prof isn't sure that Salinger should be allowed to own Holden Caulfield -- "cultural icon." You can write books about nonfictional people... I can write a work of literary criticism about Holden Caulfield...

"If you wanted to write a book about Harry Potter at age 76, you couldn't do it in a way that suggests you're writing a book in the Harry Potter series. But if you titled your book, The Hogwarts Reunion: Harry Potter at Age 76, as imagined by me, then at least you're telling the public that this isn't J. K. Rowling."
He then talked about the Harry Potter Encyclopedia (i.e., the Lexicon -- which was what I had suspected when on Monday he mentioned a recent Harry Potter copyright case).

"Copyright is, as we said on Monday, attempt by the law to draw the line between giving people incentive to create by denoting their creation as property and giving them certain property rights and on the other hand, not restricting the free flow of ideas, argument, etc. which advance society."

The Idea-Expression Dichotomy
(Copyright protects the expression, not the idea.)
[Could also be called the "Fact-Expression Dichotomy"]

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