Questions

Today I met up with a high school friend and we talked about how different religions can be appropriated or transferred over time, and how it is hard to believe in Christianity for some people because of the way it has been associated with colonialism. I am still wrestling with what being a Christian means and what others have interpreted it as. I have been thinking about intersectionality, how gender, race, socioeconomics and religion affect people’s sense of identity and can contribute to systemic inequality after reading Jess’s dissertation prospectus and discussing these things with my high school friend today. My friend was particularly concerned with how Native American and Southeast Asian voices are often disregarded or underrepresented.

Are other religions’ views being ignored or misinterpreted? How can we talk about deeply ingrained issues such as racism, inequality, and environmental degradation in an inclusive, transformative way and bring about social justice? How can we include those questions in vocational discernment?

The Black Church

I do not think I will ever leave the black church. It is where I found my love of God and myself honestly.  Three years at Marsh and the first year at Marsh challenged me in ways I could not imagine. I was challenged by the stillness of the service and how much time there was for self reflection. However, after three years, I’m ready to go back. I’ve written before about what I miss about the black church, but it’s deeper than missing the black church. This summer, I churched hopped and tried to experience all of the different styles of worship. However, I kept coming back to same feeling I have when I go into a black church. I am at home there, but I’m always challenged. There’s a beauty found in the black church and particularly the energy that’s found in the room.

 

Marsh as a congregation, the people, the mentors and the coworkers I have are home, but Marsh itself will never be home. It’s not the type of environment where I can stay for too long. It doesn’t feed me.

The dichotomy of religion in 2017

This blog-post is very generalization* heavy, so I am open to confrontation, opinions, and criticism. 

* All generalizations are compiled from my experience with people of privilege, i.e. people who attend(ed) University, attend(ed) private high school, and live(d) in safe areas of the world.*

A conversation I had with my coworker this week sparked my blog post today. 

We discussed [and laughed] at the fact that we are fine with who we are and expressing that to the world. However, when we are around progressive people we hide our Christianity or retreat into our turtlenecks when we have to explain that we work for religious organizations. Having faith and being part of a Christian denomination in 2017 feels wrong (almost sinful) amongst certain groups of my peers and the general age group (young adult-adult millennials). I hide my faith behind phrases like, “I’m spiritual” or “I have always been fascinated by hinduism though.” There are some people that definitely have no idea about my deep interest in theology and the divine. They could read this blog post, but, considering “religion” is in the title, I doubt it. I feel like religion has acquired a very negative connotation lately.

I know I am not the only person of faith who feels this way about the majority of the young generation. In this technological, social-media oriented world, religious persons are often immediately denounced or labeled as being “bible-thumpers” and other negative terms. Organized religion has been demoralized through associations and labels like “republican,” “right-wing,” “conservative.” It is very common to find liberal people shaming political views because they have Christian undertones or overtones. I find this judgement incredibly misguided because the moral foundations of Christianity [to me] include giving to the less fortunate, taking care of each and every person, and keeping yourself humble and thankful. How is this any different from Islamophobia?

I have nothing against non-believers, atheism or agnosticism; I think it is crucial for people to have freedom of faith, ideas, and religion. However, I think people need to realize that faith and politics are not always negative, not always related, and definitely not always conservative.

For example, today on Marsh Plaza there was a beautiful display of tables to remind others of the fear that undocumented person are feeling under the current administration. There was a booth for meditation, booth for bubble blowing, booth for lighting incense, a booth to write down prayers, a large display of information about what has been happening for the past few months, and a booth with directions for taking legislative action with a number to call and a sample script of what to say in support of the DREAM act and undocumented persons. There were more displays than I can remember. The event was not specifically Christian and was organized by the Spiritual Life office.

Religion can be progressive and religion can be liberal. We could make more progress in the world if people learn to understand that and work together, especially when we are rooting for the same side.

 

On a side note, but still related:

I have been trying to “culture” myself musically and force myself to listen to pop, rap, hip-hop and the like. So I turned on a random playlist and Kanye West came on. I have never listened to a Kanye West song, so I thought, “Hey, great! This will put me up to date in the world.” The song was “Ultralight Beam,” which after 20 seconds, I immediately added to my music library. The first lyrics include, “(Yes, God) We don’t want no devils in the house, God (Yes, Lord). We want the Lord (Yes, Jesus)…”  I was shocked because the people I know who like Kanye West are obsessed with materialistic pop-media culture, like the Kardashians, over-priced sneakers, an excessive amount of apple products and are usually millennials who denounce organized religion and think church is for old, white men. The song could be described as a prayer or used as an anthem for the eucharistic church service. In the song, Kanye praises God, struggles with his faith in the face of oppression, and turns to prayer to get himself (and his listeners) through tough times. I think the song is truly a beautiful piece of art. How many people actually listen to his words, I wonder…? And by listen, I mean internalize.

Rest

I have been able to rest well over the last few days and realized how important it is to take rest. It has become increasingly apparent to me that I should take a moment to reflect and think about what matters, not to rush into things hastily, to trust in God and pray so I can be more energetic and engaged in everyday life– at work, in classes, with friends and family. After hearing Jess’s wonderful sermon on World Communion Sunday, I am determined to be more present for others, to make more time to talk and share thoughts with new and old friends and family members, such as my sister. I wanted to share the following passage from Philippians 4:6-7 that struck me this week:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I also really love the words in “Old English Prayer” from Sarum Primer that the choir sings after the Benediction at the end of each service, it is so simple and beautiful:
God be in my head and in my understanding. God be in mine eyes and in my looking.
God be in my mouth and in my speaking. God be in my heart and in my thinking.

God be at mine end and at my departing.

I will keep this prayer at heart.

Happiness is…

It’s weekends like this one where I can wholeheartedly say, “I love my job.”

On Friday night, Jess, Karen and I hosted my favorite event of the semester: spiritual paint night! For me, I relish an excuse to turn off my mind and just create for a couple of hours, that’s why I love our “Create Space” event on Tuesdays so much, and there’s something even more wonderful about spending the evening with some good music, great friends and God’s presence as you paint. My favorite part of paint night is definitely at the end when you can see what everyone else has created. It’s so cool to me that I can be in a room full of people I may not know very well and I just get this sense of who they are based on what they decided to put on a canvas in our short time together. I met other students, we had some quality community time, and I think everyone left with their mind a little more at ease, and that’s what Marsh global ministry is all about, isn’t it?

The other thing I love about my job is just the fact that it’s here in Boston. This city never stops amazing me. On Saturday, a friend took me to the South End and I fell in love with all the cobblestone streets. It was almost quiet, even though still in the middle of the city. Almost. I decided to walk all the way home instead of taking the train just to enjoy this incredible place I’m blessed to call home. I think if you would have told a younger me that she’d be living in “the big city,” she might not have believed you. It’s amazing to reflect on how far I’ve come and how lucky I’ve been to have supportive family and friends always helping me achieve my dreams and work towards my goals, even the toughest ones.

This morning we celebrated World Communion Sunday and Jess was preaching. I would highly recommend tuning into the WBUR podcast to give her sermon a listen. She talked about Global Dinner Club and how both wonderful and important it is that we continue to come together. And she’s absolutely right. I look forward to Tuesday every week because I know I’m going to share a meal and great stories with some amazing people I never would have met without GDC bringing us together. It reminds me of why I wanted to move to Boston in the first place, exploring all of the different paths life has to offer. I don’t just learn about my new friends, some of whom come from different cities, states and countries, but I also learn about myself. From the new freshmen to the grad students who join us for dinner, my fellow associates and chapel staff, these people are teaching me who I am and showing me the kind of person I want to be.

So yeah, I guess you could say I love my job.

Can’t Change the World Unless We Change Ourselves

The one thing I want to do with my life is make for certain that it is a much better place when I leave it than it was when I was breathed into it. It sounds a bit cheesy, but I want to save the world. I want to be the change I wish to see in the world. As a little kid, whenever someone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would respond by stating “I want to be a superhero”. As I grew up and realized that in the real world the only things that are called superpowers are man-made nations that help and hinder the population, I began to shift my mindset. I wanted to be an actor, a teacher, a doctor, an engineer, an architect, and a lawyer. Although I only see two of these feats as attainable (a teacher and a lawyer), I, above all, want to be a leader; a leader who helps people in their time of need for no reason, one who holds their self accountable for their mistakes, one who truly wishes to progress the world in every part of the map in order to help create a better tomorrow.

There’s just one issue: the problem will always start at home. It’s like a chain reaction of problems you need to fix in order to fix the even bigger issue. So many people want to help the entire world, but we need to look smaller in order to go bigger. Before helping the world help a region of the world; whether politically, socially, economically, or even culturally. Before that help individual nations in a similar way; if you have the means to help Puerto Ricans by offering aid after the affects of a natural disaster, do it; if you have the means donate food and water to the Somalians in need, do it; if you have the means to help innocent Rohingya Muslims escape persecution; do it. Even before that we need to help our own community, donate, not just money, but also time to those who roam the streets looking for food and shelter or the kids who grow up living in fear of the world around them because of what they see, hear, and live through in their own neighborhoods or households. Speaking of households, an individual who truly wants to help the world will also help their household. Call your parents and siblings to make sure they are in good health, make sure to talk through the issues facing the family, make sure you help your parents get themselves in good economic standing (even if it means having multiple jobs to help your mom pay her mortgage), but make sure to call your parents even if it’s just to say hi, one day they may not be there and they will be replaced with regret if the proper steps are not taken.

Before all of this, you must help yourself. If you want the world to be a better place this is an unselfish act. make sure you are in good health, make sure you are in the condition to help others, make sure to think before any action you take. Understand that you are also not self-sufficient. Ask your parents, siblings, friends, relatives, the people you love for help when you need it and understand that even if you are a non-believer, God will always be willing to help you in your time of need. We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves.

Theology, Forgoing, Humanity

I just finished walking over the stairway from Cummington Mall to Beacon Street, and began to turn left towards my apartment.

As the blinding sun shone on my eyes, words began to buzz into my head that I heard just a couple of hours earlier in a brief conversation I had with my girlfriend as we were looking at our options for food.

He said he had to do some hard things.
He sometimes had to forego theology
for the sake of
humanity.”

Buzzing thoughts. The sun shining over my head. My day was just beginning after my early lunch.

“forego theology for the sake of humanity.”

I get it. I think I get it. I mean…I think I get it.

C.S. Lewis talked of how the truths in theological concepts can be found through different interpretations of ideas and stories. They can be understood in various levels. I think that’s the idea.

I mean I think that’s it. I mean do I think that’s it?

Fractions of other conversations popped into my head. My excited words over a dinner table:

God is like a sine curve, friend. See, this *I draw some kind of waveform that is not uniform* this is like God. See, the Celtic Christians say the Holy Spirit is like a wild goose. See we, *I start drawing other curves* see we are like these lines trying to converge on this one to pursue God. See how the Bible has all these stories and in some ways they are inconsistent? That is because the writers were speaking to humanity at a specific point in time. Sometimes some ideas are more relevant than others. Sometimes some ideas are also better than others. And so we as individuals respond courageously to our existences, friend. See we bring the hope, we bring hospitality and holy community, and we stand for justice. We respond to our cultures and societies with relevance by mapping to this sine curve. The parameters depend on the society, the cultures, the people in it at that specific point in time. Our God responds and we respond. We speak for this hope and for God. There’s some aesthetics here too. Beauty. Beauty changes. Beauty responds. We use imagery that maps to this curve and speaks to our fellow humans in new and ever-changing ways. But the beauty is still beauty. The hope is still hope. It’s about how this impacts. How these ideas impact us as human beings. The concepts. The ideas. The emotions. The values. Existence and the challenges of today change. God changes. But God is more than that, friend. I mean, somewhere in that sine curve some man wrote that God just…well that God is. God is. Existence. But aesthetics too.

It brings me back to an old conversation I had with a pastor after we debated the literalness of certain biblical stories. I just could not conceive these stories to really be dependent on their historicity and literalness. My intuition cannot accept it. Call it the engineer in me, or spare me some judgement, Mr. Pastor, but it might just be my theological and philosophical influences. As I heard many times before, a liberal Christian mantra: “I take the Bible too seriously to take it literally,” continues to echo through my head.

Although, yes, I know there’s some history in there too. This library of art has many different literary styles.

And as we continued to discuss this, I pressed the actual question to this preacher that was actually on my mind:
“But like, I want to grow with the church  go to – maybe this church – and I think I want to be involved more, in the community – in..well maybe ministry. Or other leadership. That’s my concern: even with these ideas, could I be a minister or a leader? Could I help? If this was further down the road, would you ever let me be involved in some sort of leadership…would I help serve? Would you let me help, knowing I think this way?”

And then I was told, “No.”

And that was it. The words hit me sharply. I looked down. The identities I hold – this church I go to, and yet I know the truth: I just do not belong here. I’ve known for months.

But that wasn’t the whole response. He continued, “Because, if you were dealing with a person struggling with,”

I continued to listen.

“—and this person, they ask you, ‘do you think the resurrection was literal,’ what do you do then?”

I don’t even remember what I told that man.

But the image crossed my mind in an almost comical mockery of my Christian and humanist and existentialist spirit as I pictured my response in trying to show my theology while I was standing in the dining hall after hearing Sarah talk about forgoing theology for humanity.

“Oh,well,youseeIdokindofinawaybutlikethecrossummsoseelikePaulTillich
talkedaboutthecouragetobeandsothisrelatestotheseanxietiesthatheargued
humanityincertainperiodsexperienced
okaysoJohnHick,nowaitletmetakeastepback,considerMcHarguewell
Idon’tagreewithMcHarguemaybehow
BellKaniaLewisKierkegaardputsit…nowaitsookaysobacktoTillichwellhe
wrotetoapopulationofProtestants
inthe50ssothere’sanintentionalitybehindbecausetheywere
afraidofimpendingdoombecauseyouknowwars
andweaponsofmassdestruction–Iamnotansweringyourquestion,
wellImeanyesbutwellImeanwellyesbutno?likewhat
doyoumeanbyresurrectionbecauseyikesseeIwell
ImeantheologicallyIthinkyoushouldconsidernoI
meanseeIummwellImeantheChristasthechurch
seestheChristtheologicallydoesnotdependonthehistorical
Jesusbecausethetheologyisthere
regardlessitservesapurposeandwellyouIseeGodisExistencewell
ImeanGodismorethanexistence
ImeanGodistheGroundofBeingaswearebeingsin
existenceyouandI,collectionsofmolecules,
wearetheyouseeImeanI I I I I I I I I I
I..ask me a question like that when we are in a different context, friend.”

And bam! It all hit me.

But then I remembered another example of theology being forgone for the sake of humanity. But this example involved baptizing dead babies.

‘But yikes,’ I thought, ‘dead babies. Wait like almost like proxy baptism but for yourself? But I get the context. But, the hurt. The pressing feelings there. And why is that where the focus is?”

Forgoing that theology for humanity?

I was now closer to my apartment, just a few brownstones away. The thoughts buzzed and bounced around in my thoughts.

So many theological concepts broken and subverted by Jesus in the Gospels. So many. He forwent theology for the sake of humanity. He changed the theology for the sake of humanity. Many theological concepts at that time oppressed and hurt people. Better theology, I think, came out of the subversion.

But, does theology responds to humanity or vice-versa? Would the need to forego theology mean that there is something strikingly wrong with the theology in the first place?

And the waters of theology I draw from? When I go back to my earlier reflection and my obsession with literalness, is that really just the older waters I drew from in high school still impacting me? Is that the point?

Another telling experience I had recently was when I was comforting a friend who was burnt out on their faith and their faith communities, and they just wanted to feel the presence of the Spirit again.

And I sat there. Dumbfounded. I thought about and discussed the psychology of religion and changing concepts. This did not help. I talked about courage, I talked about meaninglessness. Nothing helped. I wasn’t toying with theological or philosophical ideas with a friend at a bar or over Bibimbap.

No, I was trying to find the words
to help
this
friend.

And, there, sitting there, overlooking the many books in my little personal library, was me looking at my little personal idol of myself, my little pedestal of intellectual sharpness for all to see at my apartment, with all my books. Books on theology. On the philosophy of religion. On theories of knowledge. On the psychology of religion. So many books. Look at the books.

In a bind. I sat there, and my little pedestal came crashing down. My eyes were open.

I had little, if anything, to offer to my friend.

Little to offer.

By now I got to my door, and the buzzing in my head continued.

I think I get it. The importance of this study of theology. But how do I apply it. I have little to offer. Am I blinded by my arrogance?

It’s not about what I have to offer, but it’s about how I can help another. An other. It’s not about me.

But how do I help. I sat there, what is there to do to help. This friend, burnt out. Faith. Community.

But the theological concepts matter. Remember the energetic words:

It’s about how this impacts. How these ideas impact us as human beings. The concepts. The ideas. The emotions. The values.

What drives us to be better, more courageous, and selfless human beings? Where do we find the drivers for hope? The eternal life? What do I say? What can I offer to this friend to help give them back some life?

How exactly do I take the theological ideas within and put them to use beyond myself?

Ordinary Moments

Lately, I’ve been thinking about journeys. More specifically, the journey of life, the moments that make it up and the people we share it with.When I think about my journey, my mind is quickly drawn to high or low points, clearly defined, with tangible lessons learned on the spot. This post is not about those experiences.

This is about the moments in-between.

In my experience, ordinary moments rarely feel significant, especially when they are happening.They don’t come with big realizations, they just exist. For this reason, I  often overlook them. But, these moments in the middle, are where I spend most of my time and it’s where life happens. The conversations, Starbucks runs, commutes, Netflix sessions. The day to day. I believe these moments are some of the most incredible we have on our journey. As Pam Halpert of “The Office” said, “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things”.

Additionally, I’ve been thinking about the thousands of ordinary moments I’ve shared with the people in my life. Some of these people left too soon. Others, God-willing, will continue to walk with me for many more years. All have shaped me in the most ordinary of ways-conversation,laughter, silence. They have taught, challenged, encouraged, believed in me and shown up every moment of every day.

 

I found a picture the other day of me and a friend. It’s from a  women’s retreat in Western Pennsylvania this summer.We’re in the mountains, surrounded by green trees walking on train tracks under a blue sky. I immediately tried to remember what we were talking about, sure from our posture and the scenery that it must have been profound. But all I can remember is conversation about high school, upcoming trips and thoughts about college, peppered with references to the musical Hamilton and the occasional complaint about the length of the hike.It was nothing and everything. As I looked at the photo, all I could think was that it captured life… happening. I have had some version of that conversation so many times, it was perfectly ordinary, but still, so beautiful.  

Me Me Me

My Collegiate Identity is one I find to be increasingly about “I.” My future. My homework. My schedule. My needs.

It is hard not to focus solely on oneself in an atmosphere that encourages us to look inward at our true identities, taking four (or more) years of discovery to find our personal passions, preferences, and personalities.

Currently I struggle to find a balance between focusing on myself and others. How can I accommodate others when I have such a need to find myself? Is it enough to simply learn and study about how others think, believe, and act without interacting with them?

Don’t get me wrong, I think BU gives us ample opportunity to meet other people of different backgrounds and grow in understanding to find common ground, but it is certainly difficult to do so when placed in such an intensely personal time of self analyzation and discovery.

I have been thinking about this quite regularly throughout the genesis of my sophomore year and I am trying to make an effort to think about others more.

The generous donations MOVE received from Marsh this week really put this concept of putting others first at the forefront of my schedule. There is so much need in the world today that I feel I should do more to consider “we” rather than just “I.”

But then again, that’s just what I think.

Energy.

I have been attached to the concept of energy since the middle of the summer. Energy is what I seek constantly in my life. I believe in the power of energy, and more importantly how much I learn from energy. In my third year at Boston University, I have tried to portray a different energy this year. Mentally, I’m more focused on the future and what happens next then any other time in my life. I’m determined to leave Boston university someone who made an impact on the community. A few weeks ago I wrote a prayers of the people that was deeply personal, although it was general. Every sentence hit me. I was speaking to around 50 people in the congregation, but it felt like just me in the sanctuary. Over the summer I fell in love with energy and attached myself to people with high energy. But, reflecting on the summer, I fell in love with energy because I myself was drained of all energy. I was exhausted and a shell of my true self. So, I am now torn. Is energy me running away or running towards something. I honestly don’t know. It hurts either way.

“sometimes I laugh with God about how they can’t stop me”