--> Saving page now... https://www.bookreviewsandmore.ca/search/label/Essay As it appears live September 28, 2020 12:29:01 AM UTC

Showing posts with label Essay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Essay. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Another Modest Proposal - Lucien Guillaume

Another Modest Proposal - Lucien Guillaume

(Note: From Steven R. McEvoy, please see the not at the end of the essay, to explain its origins, and some other titbits.)

An Essay on Time: The Plan
Step One: eliminate Daylight Saving time change
Step Two: expand use of 24-hour clock
Step Three: Select one standardised time, eliminate time zones, International Date Line.

2018 Version

The Fourth Dimension

The continued progress of existence and events:

This essay presents a proposal for a different view of visualising, interpreting, and displaying time. It aims at simplification and standardisation, the elimination of arbitrary constraints which complicate the existing approaches. At first it may seem bizarre to people who are quite used to, and accepting, the current environment they happen to find themselves in. However, as an educational exercise, it provides food for thought regardless of whether it may develop into an actual change or not. Your comments, if any, regarding this seminal stage will be appreciated as a valued contribution to help me refine and modify my approach as well as to contribute to its further elaboration

This is in the spirit of Occam's razor (in Latin: Lex Parsimoniae), a problem-solving principle devised by William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), stating that “among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better.

STEP ONE: Eliminate the Daily Saving Time.

Currently: We advance the clocks by one hour (or fraction thereof) from a date in the spring to a date in the fall. The initial idea or pretext used to justify the move was to save energy by benefiting more from the natural sunlight hours.
Besides the fact that this is an arbitrary decision trying to offset a natural phenomenon, it has disadvantages in application. The dates do vary from one country, or province to another. The case for the energy saving has not been proved. On the other hand a peripheral consequence is that there is a proven increase of traffic accidents and heart problems around the start and end dates.
In addition it has some logistical implications: Some institutions and companies do not reduce salary entitlement when the shift is reduced by one hour, but pay overtime when the shift is increased by one hour.

It creates a lot of work for many individuals when we consider the number of clocks, watches, etc., which have to be reset twice a year all over the world. And besides the number of people who, by inadvertence, do not comply properly, there is also some information which fails to be updated in time, on the Internet for instance, such as the schedule of periodic events.

There is no perceived concrete benefit except for the authority who feels that his/her signature on a decree has the power to have the sun rise and set one hour earlier or an hour later.

We might wonder why this change takes place twice a year, and not, for example, four, six, or eight times, or even on a weekly basis, thus reducing the amount of time change.

A more logical approach is to do away with this arbitrary procedure, retain the standard time throughout the year and leave the initiative to companies and institutions to decide whether they decide to change their operating hours,
For instance, a company with currently operating hours “9:00 to 17:00” may decide to switch to “10:00 to 18:00” (or “9:30 to 17:30”) for a specific seasonal period. The core period throughout the year becomes known as “10:00 to 17:00” with additional scheduled periodic availability “9:00 to 10:00” or “17:00 to 18:00”, depending on the season.

This scheme can be implemented with a wide flexibility within an area or an industry. If the various entities do not synchronise their operating hours, the rush hours are spread out and the traffic becomes lighter and more fluid.
Going back to basics, farmers will keep on performing their work according to the position of the sun, regardless of what it might be called.

This Daily Saving Time approach is reminiscent of Y2K, the numeronym for the Millennium bug which created a wave of concern at the time. We take note of the date and wait for something important, potentially catastrophic, to happen. To use a metaphor popularised by Jean de la Fontaine in one of his fables: “La montagne accouche d’une souris”, or as Shakespeare’s expressed it in his comedic play “Much ado about nothing”. The fact that you do not want to miss the date may create some stress regardless of what may, or not, in fact happen.

Elimination will remove a conversation topic (reminders in the media, “we are losing/gaining an hour”). We can converse about something more useful.
The elimination is a step towards simplicity, a return to a natural process without arbitrary constraints. It adds a measure of flexibility in application.

STEP TWO: Expand the use of the 24-hour clock.

Currently, we mostly use the full 24-hour clock or a duodecimal clock of twelve hours being repeated and qualified by reference to 12 o’clock which therefore gets an increase in relevance. (Besides Navy bells, monastery times, etc.). The day seems unnecessarily centered, focused on the period of lunch time.
This is the result of an arbitrary decision. And we may wonder why the duodecimal was chosen in the first place: (actually quite handy, divisible by 2, 3, 4, 6.), as opposed to another number, instead of 2 x 12 hrs, 3 periods of 8 hours, 4, periods of 6 hours.

The 12-hour clock requires an alphanumeric notation (am/pm suffixes) which introduces a level of complexity in order to avoid potential ambiguities, and the need to differentiate between Noon and Midnight by specifying 12-noon, or 12-midnight., while the 24-hour clock is used extensively quite successfully and efficiently in domains such as the military, transportation and scientific fields.
It does not require redesign of a dial which would necessitate a narrower segment of 15 degrees to display a succession of 24 hours, harder to read. The existing layout showing paired, for example concentric, combinations 1.00/13:00, 2:00/14:00, etc. is quite suitable without any change. Furthermore the trend nowadays is to shift to digital timepieces.

I would suggest that the use of the 12-h be phased out progressively into complete elimination.

This does not seem to be quite revolutionary. A more drastic change which is not considered here, would involve decimalisation which was actually implemented in a previous historic event: Each day in the Republican Calendar was divided into ten hours, each hour into 100 decimal minutes, and each decimal minute into 100 decimal seconds. Clocks were manufactured to display this decimal time, but it did not catch on. Mandatory use of decimal time was officially suspended 7 April 1795, although some cities continued to use decimal time as late as 1801 [Wikipedia]

STEP THREE: Universalise one standard time.

The third step consists in adopting world-wide one unique, standard time, such as the already existing UTC/GMT and eliminating the plethora of local times.
[Quote] Wikipedia: UTC is the time standard commonly used across the world. The world's timing centers have agreed to keep their time scales closely synchronized - or coordinated - therefore the name Coordinated Universal Time. [Unquote].
This approach represents a step towards the overall aim of standardisation and simplification. It enables the straightforward calculation of flight times without reference to local times based on time zones. It is also more accurate than the latter. For example:
Toronto, ON, longitude 79 west, is 316 min, i.e. 5 hr 16 m1n, behind UTC/GMT
Vancouver, BC. Longitude 123 west is 492 min, i.e. 8 hr 12 min behind UTC/GMT
AC181 leaves Toronto 10:00 + 5:16 = 15:16 UT, arrives Vancouver 12:08 + 8:12 = 20:20 UT
Duration of flight: 20:20 -15:16 = 5 hr 4 min
AC116 leaves Vancouver 10:00 + 8:12 =18:12 UT arrives Toronto 17:25 + 5:16 = 22:41 UT
Duration of flight 22:41 – 18:12 = 4 hr 29 min
In addition, these results, based on longitudes, are more accurate than those published in the schedule, based on time zones (5:08 and 4:25 respectively). This is a neat, straightforward approach, compared to the complex method of time zones which incorporate many exceptions and deviations.
Furthermore, it eliminates the need for the IDL (International Date Line) concept, and therefore the resulting necessity of adding /subtracting one day when crossing the antemeridian (180 degrees) in one direction or the other, which may create some confusion, although it enabled  the story behind Jules Verne’s :”Around the World in Eighty Days”
We may expect some reluctance to accept this revolutionary concept (except perhaps in the GMT time zone).  I can imagine the reaction of people missing the point: “You want me to have lunch at 12 noon (UTC/GMT), at the same time as the people in London, while here in New Orleans, the sun has not risen yet!” “No, you still have lunch when the sun passes your meridian; you may call it your lunch or noon meal, but the UT will be 18:00 like everywhere else on the globe. You keep on getting up when the sun rises at 12:00 at your place, go to work from 15:00 to 23:00, have dinner at 01:30 and retire when you feel like it.
[Subsidiary question, why did I select New Orleans for this example?]
When such an approach becomes an accepted standard practice it will not appear any stranger than our denomination of summer and winter in relation to the mental images that these terms may evoke. People in the Southern Hemisphere do not object to the fact that their winter is the warm season while their summer is their cold season.
[Quote] Australian Government, Bureau of Meteorology: In Australia, the seasons are defined by grouping the calendar months in the following way:
Spring - the three transition months September, October and November.
            Summer - the three hottest months December, January and February.
            Autumn - the transition months March, April and May.
            Winter - the three coldest months June, July and August. [Unquote]


On the surface this initial essay describes a logical sequence of three consecutive steps aiming at simplification and standardization of the ways we describe time:
(1) Eliminate the Daily Saving Time methodology,
(2) Extend the use of the 24-hour while abolishing that of the 12-hour clock, and
(3) Adopt one world-wide standard time. Bingo!
But, reading between the lines, besides being a form of mental exercise on known concepts encountered in everyday life, its discussion, through the reactions it may inspire, may be seen as a tool to dissect the attitudes of individuals, ranging from clinging to unquestioning acceptance of the status quo, to open-mindedness to new ideas, and potential adaptability to change.

And to end on a lighter note of whimsicality, here is a jocular afterthought: After quoting Wikipedia: The 24-hour clock … system is the most commonly used time notation in the world today, and is used by international standard ISO 8601. It is popularly referred to as military time in the United States, English speaking Canada, and a handful of other countries where the 12-hour clock is still dominant. Zulu Time Zone is often used in aviation and the military as another name for UTC +0:00.
And, in this year MMXVIII,
Let us keep things clear and simple,
Not occasionally, but XXIV / VII

This essay is a theoretical exercise that my uncle has revised a number of times over the years. This year he shared it with select family members. As a father of children, I have observed the impact of time shift, year after year. I would love to see it go the way of the dodo. I have written about Lucien twice before:

Possibly the oldest active student at UW (2006-09-01)
The Undergrads: Who Are You? (2006-09-01)

This essay is posted here with permission. I greatly enjoy the chances I have to spend time with Lucian. He is bar far smarter than I. And have a wealth of experience. I hope you enjoyed this sampling of his thought. And yes he still continues to take courses every year.

(I ran into Lucien walking back from Kitchener to Saint Jacob's last summer and we chatted in the street.)

Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Dojo Creed and Life An Essay

My oldest two children and I have been Training at Foley's Family Karate for a year and a half now. I wrote a review last year about our experience. All three of us have progressed from white belt to yellow belt to orange belt. For each belt advancement there are two stripe requirements and then the belt testing. The first requirement for the green belt is an essay. This is mine.

The Creed and Life an Essay

By Steven R. McEvoy
For Sensei Steve Foley
Foley’s Family Karate
February 2018

The Dojo creed is central to our study, and if we are serious students it will become central to our life. We recite it at the end of most classes. We have t-shirts imprinted with it. But what does it really mean. In this work we will approach the understanding of the creed in two distinct ways. First what each of the 5 phrases or precepts of the creed mean to me personally, and secondly, we will reflect upon what the world would look like if everyone were to live by this moto. 

But before we begin close your eyes and picture in your mind a gathering of students(deshi), senior students (sempai) and teachers (sensei). The group can be 10, 20, 100 and picture them repeating the following in sync. They are loud, but clear and precise. You can hear the intention in their unified voice as the students repeat it back. 

1) We shall strive to build and perfect our character;
2) We shall be faithful and sincere in our study;
3) We shall endeavor to excel, putting maximum effort into all that we do;
4) We shall respect others and display courtesy;
5) We shall develop self-control, in order to refrain from violence and uncontrolled behavior.

There is a lot to ponder in those 51 words, and 304 characters with the spaces. I want to look at the creed, as a whole, before we begin looking at the pieces. We have two copies of this up in our house. The first is in my son’s room, and the second on the side of the fridge. He was suffering with outbursts. We printed out the creed so that when he got upset he could go and read it and remind himself of his dedication to the study and practice of karate. I found that I started using it also, when I was becoming frustrated or upset I would read it to myself before speaking or reacting. Both copies we have up at home have the numbers. But I put up a copy on my desk at work. If I glance to the right of my monitors it is there. I like reflecting upon it as a single statement. And I have highlighted in bold characters the words that often stick out to me:

We shall strive to build and perfect our character. We shall be faithful and sincere in our study. We shall endeavor to excel, putting maximum effort into all that we do. We shall respect others and display courtesy. We shall develop self-control, in order to refrain from violence and uncontrolled behavior.

Those are the words or phrases we will be looking at as we examine each of the points. 

We shall strive to build and perfect our character.

For me the two most important words in this precept are strive and character. First our character is all that we have. If we are known to lack character, it will be incredibly hard to change that opinion. But if we are known as a person of good character it goes a long way in life. But character is not a once and done sort of thing. It is something we are always working to improve. So we strive, we struggle, we persist in pursuing perfect character. Even if we will never achieve it and always have room for improvement. 

We shall be faithful and sincere in our study.

I have come to realize that this is a corner story of my practice. When I started I started because my children were hesitant. But I have come to practice for myself. My study is for me, to help me develop discipline, focus, to become healthier. So that I can be a better son, husband, father, and a better man. I need to give it my all. And even if old injuries or age slow me down, I should continue to be faithful, determined and dedicated. 

We shall endeavor to excel, putting maximum effort into all that we do.

Every time we say this phrase I picture Dead Pool, ‘Maximum effort’ is one of his mantra’s. And it is something I have taken from Karate and been trying to apply in all areas of my life. I need to give 100% in everything, shoveling snow, doing laundry, caring for my wife and children. Everything worth doing deserves that maximum effort. Like Vincent in the movie Gattaca it is about not saving anything for the return trip. To go and go and go. But not just to do but to do to the best of my ability.  

We shall respect others and display courtesy.

This is one of the corner stones of our practice. We need to show respect at all times to those of a higher belt, those with a lower belt, and those with the same belt. We are all here to learn. We are all here to practice. And It begins with basic courtesy. This includes bowing to partners who are giving of their time and effort. Listening when others are speaking. And paying attention and focusing on the tasks at hand. Basic things that we learn in kindergarten but often slowly forget as we get older. 

We shall develop self-control, in order to refrain from violence and uncontrolled behavior.

Uncontrolled behavior is an epidemic in our day and age. This is seen by examples of road rage on the news. Rampant divorce rates. And so many other symptoms in our culture today. Self-control both developed in class will carry over into other areas of our life. Personally, my uncontrolled anger, comes out in raising my voice with my children, with shouting. With getting upset often over things that an hour or a day latter won’t matter. And self-control will help is live and applied the other 4 precepts of the creed. 

Now that we have examined what the 5 precepts mean to me we will look at the question of what the world would look like if everyone lived these principles. I have been reflecting on this question for a number of weeks now. The simple answer is that the world would be a much better place. But in many ways that would be a copout. But if everyone lived by these 5 precepts the world would be safer. I think about rising crime rates in Europe and specifically the flood of attacks on new year's ever and other public celebrations. If all humans lived by these rules, respecting others would prevent those events. By living a self-controlled life there would be far less crime. There would be less personal conflict and through that less conflict between nations and peoples.  

If all people strived to perfect their character we would be focusing on improving ourselves, and not comparing ourselves to others. We would be working on the plank in our own eye and not making a big deal about the speck in someone else’s eye. We would extend more grace, and we would be more gracious.

So even thought it might be trite to say, if everyone lived by the creed the world would truly be a much better place. For I know that from the impact on my life and the lives of my children that is the case.

Note: You can read my review of Foley's Family Karate here.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Friendship, Mentor, and Teacher - Dr. Peter Frick

Today I had the pleasure of having lunch with one of my mentors and friends Dr. Peter Frick. I have had a photo of him of my desk for almost 19 years now. today I took a new one to replace the old. I did my first course at UW with Peter in the spring of 1998 and my final course in the fall of 2009. The first course was RS209 Paul's Life and Letters and the last course was an independent reading course on the works and life of J.F. Powers.

I have written about peter before:

It has been a blessing knowing this man, having worked for him part time and getting together from time to time for mentoring, conversation and sometimes just food or coffee. 

If you want to read any of my essays you can find them here. Or my writings on Powers here.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

J.F. Powers Literature, Life and Legacy

J.F. Powers is an enigma. He wrote mostly about priests, yet was never one himself. He was a writer yet his output was slim in comparison with his contemporaries, both religious and secular. He was praised by other authors and academics and yet his words, his works, seem to sit on the edge of a wide audience. To use an analogy, the works of J.F. Powers are like a supporting actor who wins a Grammy for a movie that was mediocre at best. Powers created an exceptional canon of work in its quality, and ability to evoke a response, yet it is a small collection by comparison to most. Maybe that is how we can best sum up Powers' life and legacy; he did not produce much, but what he did produce was of extraordinary quality. He was a modest man who for the most part lived outside the limelight, much like his works, and yet today they can be found in numerous collections, anthologies and in college curriculums.

In this final essay we will endeavor to remark about why such an unassuming man in so few published works could create such a lasting impact and legacy. Evelyn Waugh stated of Powers' first collection Prince of Darkness and Other Stories: "Prince of Darkness is almost as unique as his country as a lay writer who is at ease in the Church; whose whole art, moreover, is everywhere infused and directed by his Faith." Thus we will now examine some reactions to Powers' works and his life.

First, in his book Good People … from an Author's Life, Powers' contemporary Jon Hassler dedicates a chapter to Powers and his wife Betty Wahl and states: "J.F. powers was a man of few words and carefully chosen." He was speaking about his first conversation with Powers and yet this concise sentence sums up Powers' writings also. Hassler also relates that when asked if his priest novels were mostly for Catholic readers that Powers replied: "Is Wind in the Willows mostly for animals?" Though the comparison is a stretch it makes his point. Hassler then goes on to say: "He (Powers) and his wife, the writer Betty Wahl, were the best examples I've ever met of people whose dedication to a principle resulted in a legacy of great value. Their principle was writing fiction, and their legacy to the readers of the world." Hassler then relates a story of a conversation where he discovers that Powers was working on a novel that was thirteen years overdue for the publisher. Hassler emphatically states: "It isn't hard for me to believe that Powers had spent every day of those many overdue years working on the novel, for he was simply the most deliberate writer I've ever known or heard of." Finally Hassler, commenting on Powers' last novel Wheat that Springeth Green, states: "I was struck by what little space he devoted to physical description; his strength was in writing what people thought and said." Hassler had a great deal of respect for Powers both as a person and as a writer. That respect is seen in many who have encountered these writings.

Next we will examine Ross Labrie'. Labrie wrote extensively about Catholic fiction and catholic writers. He wrote about Thomas Merton's artwork, he compiled a collection called The Catholic Imagination in American Literature, but the piece we are concerned about is called The Professional, the Amateur and the Other Thing, his article on J.F. Powers written in 1974, and subsequently republished a number of times. Labrie states of Powers: "He is one of the foremost stylists of the 20th Century. The subject of his later work, and most of his earlier, is the life of Roman Catholic clergy, yet one would be wrong to imagine his work limited in scope. The theme is the big one of money and power." Labrie interprets the stories and novels of Powers in their scope and not their quantity. Commenting on the fact that the novel Morte d'Urban is for the most part a collection of short stories, Labrie states: "Two fine orchestral passages frame the novel and attempt to redeem it from being a set of (marvelous) short stories about Father Urban." Labrie seems to appreciate Powers' skill and talent and yet not to like the ending of Urban, implying that as Powers criticized clergy in his writings, his writings are criticized by readers.

There are two collections dedicated to examining Powers' works both published in 1968. The first is The Christian Critic Series - J.F. Powers edited by Fallon Evans. It is a splendid collection with eleven pieces examining various aspects of Powers' writings and life. At about a hundred pages of text, it is as concise as Powers' writings and just as focused. The piece that had the greatest impact on me was by Thomas Merton, called Morte D'Urban: Two Celebrations. Merton states about the novel: "This book is not a tract for or against anything, yet it can be taken perhaps as a witness and as a warning. The mission of the Church in America is not purely and simply to get itself accepted by wearing affluent expression and adopting the idiosyncrasies of American Business. We are here to celebrate the mystery of salvation and of our unity in Christ. But this celebration is meaningless unless it manifests itself in an uncompromising Christian concern for man and his society." All of the pieces in this book about Powers' works were previously published and compiled in this collection, which is an excellent resource. One of the greatest pieces in this collection is the first one, an interview done between Sister Kristen and Powers, transcribed in question and answer format. It originally appeared in 1964 and is titled The Catholic and Creativity. It is the single largest collection I have found of Powers speaking or writing about himself and his process. As such, it is invaluable to the study of his works.

The Second collection dedicated to Powers' writings is the Twayne's United States Authors Series - J.F. Powers, edited by Sylvia Bowman. This specific volume by J.V. Hagopian is dedicated to examining Powers' works. It has a great chronology of Powers' life and his works as well as an extensive notes and bibliographical section. Hagopian in his preface states: "Although he is a writer's writer, J.F. Powers has no broad popular following but is known among his peers as a brilliant satirist and meticulous craftsman. His fiction is widely anthologized and often taught in universities." It is a great pity that more recent academic scholarship has not been as extensively applied to Powers' work.

Powers' stories do indeed show up in numerous anthologies and collections, including collections of Best American Short Stories, Best American Fiction and Best American Catholic Fiction. If anything, his work is at an all-time high level of popularity. All of his books have been in print for more than a decade; almost every year one or more of his short stories makes it into a new collection, introducing a new generation to his great skill and wit.

So, with all of the accolades and resurgence in his popularity, what does it mean to my study of J.F. Powers, his life and literature and legacy? I can only state that by having worked through his works in published order, and working through the books about him and his works, I now have a greater appreciation for him as both an artist and as a man. Powers' one short story had influence over me for more than a decade. I could not even remember the name of the story or the author but could have told you the story nearly verbatim. Now, having examined his works as a whole, I can only state that that influence has been magnified. He wrote about people trying to live a life of faith and people living in a fallen world. He wrote about struggles, goals, aspirations and hopes. He also wrote about fears, failures and fragility of both body and mind. His works are pieces I will return to again and again. And each time they evoke an emotional response and a desire for action. They seem to help center me, to help me return to a focus on prayer and other spiritual disciplines. Maybe that is the greatest testament to Powers' writings - those who truly discover his works become fans and dedicated disciples.


1. Evelyn Waugh as quoted in J.F. Powers, 81, Dies; Wrote About Priests http://www.nytimes.com/1999/06/17/arts/j-f-powers-81-dies-wrote-about-priests.html
2. Hassler, Jon: Good People … from an Author's Life, Loyola Press, Chicago, 2001, p.86
3. IBID p.87
4. IBID p.87
5. IBID p.88
6. IBID p.98,99
7. Labrie, Ross, Honest Ulsterman, The Professional, the Amateur, and the Other Thing, p.32
8. IBID p. 39
9. Fallon, Evan (Editor) The Christian Critic Series J.F. Powers, B. Herder Book Co. St. Louis, Missoury, 1968, p.100
10. Bowman, Sylvia (General Editor) Hagopian, J.V. (author) Twayne's United States Authors Series - J.F. Powers, Twayne Publishers Inc, New York, NY, 1968, p.9

(First written for RS398 - The Religious Fiction of J.F. Powers.)

My Reviews and Articles on Powers:

1962 - Morte d'Urban - novel
1963 - Lions, Harts, Leaping Does, and Other Stories
1988 - Wheat that Springeth Green - novel
1991 - The Old Bird, A Love Story - Illustrated Edition
1999 - The Stories of J. F. Powers
J.F. Powers Selected Bibliography
J.F. Powers Book Covers
That Elusive Story
The Warm Sand
Meme Booked By 3 May 2007
Meme Book Meme
Meme Booked by 3 February 2007

RS398 Directed Reading - The Religious Fiction of J.F. Powers
Essay - Why J.F. Powers
The Prince of Darkness and Other Stories
The Presence of Grace
Morte d'Urban
Look How the Fish Live
Wheat that Springeth Green
Essay - J.F. Powers Literary Life and Legacy

Monday, 14 December 2009

Why J.F. Powers - Essay

J.F. Powers was called, by Joseph Bottum: 'The greatest Catholic Writer of the 20th Century'. His work is infused with his faith but a realistic faith. His heroes are often priests - yet priests with faults, foibles and very human. He wrote about a 'pre-Vatican Council II' faith and even though I was born after the Vatican II reforms, his stories touch something central to my being and my faith. I have found a small community of devoted fans of his writings and few whom I encounter who have read his works do not love them. In this essay I will examine my own introduction to Powers and his works, present a short biography and conclude with a Bibliography as complete as I can generate on his fictional works.

J. F. Powers is an author whose works haunted me for over a decade. His short story The Warm Sand was in an anthology of Catholic Fiction that I read years ago. Shortly after reading it, I lent it out and never got it back. A few years back while on retreat in Toronto, the story came to mind yet again, and this time I had to track it down. Unfortunately I did not know the name or title of the story, or the name of the anthology or editor. All I could remember was that it had a black cover with gold lettering. Thus began the quest for finding the story. I started searching online book stores, new, used and out of print, for Catholic short story collections. I could not find one with a cover that matched but found a few without covers, so I interlibrary loaned them until I found the book in question. It was called The Substance of Things Hoped For and was edited by John Breslin S.J. After finding and rereading the story I became obsessed with the author and his works. I interlibrary loaned all of his works and sometimes different editions. I devoured his fiction writing. This course will be a culmination of that quest and academic inquiry. So come join me in a journey through the literary fiction of J.F. Powers.

J.F. Powers, born James Farl Powers, on July 8th, 1917 is a bit of an enigma. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest American short stories writers. He published only 3 collections of short stories and two novels, in a writing career that spanned more than 50 years. During that time he published just 2 novels, both of which won the National Book Award by the American Library association. Those two novels published 26 years apart are really a collection of continuous short stores and many of the chapters in the books had been previously published in one form or another. Powers was a conscientious objector during World War II and worked instead as a hospital orderly. Powers was a writer, a husband, a father, and, from some accounts, in that order. He moved his family back and forth across the Atlantic from the United States to Ireland a number of times. He was a teacher, a researcher and to many who knew him a man of good character. Powers died on the 12th of June 1999 just months before his complete works were put back into print by The New Yorker's literary line, New York Review Books.

Powers was a master wordsmith. He did an especially good job of capturing Post World War II American Catholicism, both from the perspective of clergy and from laity. He specialized in satire but not a cruel, cutting satire, rather a more balanced, gentle approach. Powers would not have made a good priest, but he does an amazing job writing about priests and their lives. Over the next 6 pieces we will journey through his works in their original published order, examining his canon of fiction in chronological order. After we have examined each of his books separately, we will examine his works as a whole and the lasting impact of his life and works.

(First written for RS398 - The Religious Fiction of J.F. Powers.)

My Reviews and Articles on Powers:

1962 - Morte d'Urban - novel
1963 - Lions, Harts, Leaping Does, and Other Stories
1988 - Wheat that Springeth Green - novel
1991 - The Old Bird, A Love Story - Illustrated Edition
1999 - The Stories of J. F. Powers
J.F. Powers Selected Bibliography
J.F. Powers Book Covers
That Elusive Story
The Warm Sand
Meme Booked By 3 May 2007
Meme Book Meme
Meme Booked by 3 February 2007

RS398 Directed Reading - The Religious Fiction of J.F. Powers
Essay - Why J.F. Powers
The Prince of Darkness and Other Stories
The Presence of Grace
Morte d'Urban
Look How the Fish Live
Wheat that Springeth Green
Essay - J.F. Powers Literary Life and Legacy

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A Study of the Easter Texts - An Essay

A Study of the Easter Texts

To work on the gospel texts and the "Easter Accounts", in particular is a very difficult and troubling task. It is very easy to sit back and take faith at face value, but when one is working on the Holy books or sacred texts of their own fa
ith, that task becomes harder. One must constantly be striving to remain objective, yet realize the impossibility or improbability of this task.

With that in mind, I am trying to overcome my own bias and preferences in attempting to examine these texts as I would any other document. Part of the problem this task creates is that it is like reading 4 biographies and two history texts all recounting the same events, but each aimed at a different audience and each through the filters that the individual authors look at the world through. To do such a thing with William Wallace, St. Patrick, Pierre E. Trudeau, or even a denominational leader would be a far far easier task. Here it is easier to accept discrepancies and contradictions. But when the issue is faith, the heart is at war with the mind, making it harder to stay academically focused.

Thus, to endeavor an analysis of these texts, one must first determine where they are similar and where they differ. In order to do this a meticulous reading of the text (breaking them down into the individual components) is required. Chart #1 is an attempt to do just that. As chart 1 indicates, there are many more areas of overlap in these texts than spots where they do not. I will attempt to explain the findings of the chart, condense them into a unified view, and interpret this data. After this
consolidation of the data, there will be an attempt to explain these findings.
Chart #1

As is seen in chart #1, there are 28 key points from the six texts that I have decided to correlate and compare. Of the 28 points 14 of them do not have exact duplicates in more than one text. Yet if one is willing to gloss over minor differences (for various reasons that we will cover later) such as

a. how many women went to the tomb,
b. how many angels appeared at the tomb
c. the location of Jesus appearance(s)

Then we actually have worked the list of specific datum down to 10 events that can be seen here in chart #2.

Chart #2

These 10 events all have at least 2 points of contact between the 6 texts. In fact I will now do a third and final chart that will show the co
rresponding versus for each of these groupings. I will use the Number and lettering codes in reference to these points from this point on. Thus when I make reference to 1a I am referring to Matthew 28:1, or if I make reference to 1 I am referring to the Women (woman) being the first to see the empty tomb. So as can be seen by Chart #3 each of these ten areas of constancy have confirmation from the other texts involved in this study.
Chart #3

Of these ten items only have four of them have confirmation in 4 or more sources thus giving us a 67% confirmation rate. But when we factor in the audience and intended purpose of each text, that is a surprisingly high rate. These 4 areas of greatest consistency are:

i. Women(woman) being the first to the tomb
ii. Angels being at the tomb
iii. Jesus appearing to the disciples (both in Jerusalem and Elsewhere)
iv. Commandment to preach and teach all they have learnt, heard and seen.

I think it is important to note that the women went to the tomb thus, in most accounts were the first to see the risen Jesus. For in a patriarchal culture to have women as the key players in a historical event and a very significant historical event would not have been the common practice. Yet I believe that there is no mistake in this being in the texts. For it is consistent with what we see from Jesus himself in being counter cultural, in having women followers, and women whom he teaches, and even women who pay the bills, or carry the purse's for Jesus and the twelve "male" disciples.

As well, of great significance is the appearance of Angels in all four of the gospel accounts. This clear supernatural intervention must have had a strong impact on the original witnesses to these events. Significant for both building up the faith and belief of those witnesses, and also as a tool in bringing others to faith. Having seen the risen Lord Jesus, and having seen Angels at the tomb. This would have lent great authority to this new sect of Judaism. For the appearance of angels is a very old tradition within the Hebrew history. It would be interesting to know what the effect of this supernatural Angelic influence in the story would have had on the Greek hearers. If they responded as I did with awe and wonder it would be another factor to sway them in belief of these events. For the Jew it would be something they are used to. So the two kinds of "Jesus Followers" would have responded very differently to this specific event.

Not only had Jesus appeared after his death and resurrection, but did so an various times and various places and up to over 500 people having witnessed these events, would have been a great witnessing tool for the early church. For the witness of so many people would be overwhelming evidence to the accuracy of these events.

I also believe it is of great importance that Jesus appeared many times and in many ways after his resurrection. According to these texts, he appeared in Jerusalem, Galilee, on the Road to Emmaus, The Road to Damascus, and others places as well. So that there could be no doubt in this movement's membership, Jesus appeared to them after his death with much proof's and with power, thus enabling the believers to follow his final words to them "To go and make disciples" (10a,b,e,f). It appears Jesus didn't want to just leave behind his little band of followers but that he wanted them to make more believers. This can be seen in 4 of our texts 10a, 10b, 10e, and 10f in each of these cases Jesus commanded them to teach and pass on these traditions.

I started with the idea of trying to explain these texts and there discrepancies. I have come to the conclusion that I can not do such a thing due to space limitations and my own personal limitations. I would need much more research and study to accomplish that task. I can only give some ideals and theories of why there is variance in the datum. Why some things might have been changed, or even just mistakenly reported. That is what I will attempt to do in the next few paragraphs. I will share my belief and thoughts on what that data means. Why do we not have 4 identical gospel accounts, and for what reason do we have for the consistency and inconsistency in the texts?

First that some of the variance may come from the authors intended audience. Luke, for example, was a physician writing to a fellow Roman Citizen. He is not likely going to include as much information on specific Jewish aspects to these events as Matthew does, which is the most Jewish of the gospels.

One of the other possible reasons for slight variations, could be either mistake in retelling in the earliest oral traditions, and copying errors in early texts. Or even deliberate changes by early scribes due to how they thought the story could be told better or with more power.

Yet another possible cause of these variations could be the very fact that we are dealing with matters of faith, and people may have wanted to put some things in a better light then they originally appeared.

As has been stated earlier most of the discrepancies are really minor variances. But there is one large variance that must be addressed here, and that is the one of people touching the risen Jesus. In the Jewish tradition the touching of a dead person would have caused uncleanness. Yet Jesus commands Thomas to touch him. And the contradiction comes in Matthew, the women in the garden touch Jesus (MT 28:9), in John he commands them not to for he has not ascended yet. To be honest I have no understanding or explanation for this contradiction.

This is the most confusing detail in these sections for me. Unlike the others it is not just a slip in numbers or a missed or changed minor detail. It is a true contradiction. And I do not have an answer to it, nor do I want to hypothesize on such a blatant statement. Some thoughts that come to mind make it even more of a contradiction, that of Jews being made unclean by touching the dead. But why then would Matthew have the women touching Jesus? From this there could be two interpretations of the resurrection: The first that Jesus was made clean again by his resurrection, and that he was still unclean from having been dead. The second one is that he never really died, and therefore was not unclean.

I do not have an explanation for this confusing detail. And can not say why it is there in the texts. But this discrepancy does not affect my faith.

As can be seen from this short and inadequate study there appear to be more areas of uniformity then inconsistency when it comes to the biblical texts. What one needs to be able to do, is gloss over minor variations. Then look at the major contradictions and decide which of them will or could affect their faith, or academic pursuit of the material.

(First written for Tom Yoder-Neufeld Ph.D. for RS100F New Testament Survey Winter Term 2000.)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Bondage or Life, You Can Choose: A Study of Galatians - An Essay

Bondage or Life, You Can Choose:
A Study of Galatians

The letter to the Galatians has always been one of my favorites. In this paper I will try and examine it as a stand-alone document; reading it as I would a letter from a friend, pastor of mentor. I will first outline my view of Paul from this document, then of the Jesus that Paul presents, finally Paul's views of the Law. Then with that basis, I will discus my impressions of the Galatians, my overall impression of the letter, and any unresolved questions I have at that point.

I would like to state that of the Pauline letters this one is the one that often affects me the most. I tend to find myself sliding into the problems, and entanglements that the Galatians do. So when Paul states in 3:1 "You foolish Galatians…" I see myself right there hearing the letter read for the first time. With an
initial response of a mental smacking of myself on the forehead. Then I thinking to myself, I knew that, why have I slipped down this slope again? Maybe it is something in the Celtic Nature that draws me and the Galatians or Gaul's, Celts to these problems. This nature of beings is summed by Robertson Davies Book title states What's Bread in the Bone. The same was true of Saul/Paul being a Pharisee was something that was bread in his bone, and it did out in the flesh. Therefore, I will start with a look at a Timeline of Paul from this letter.

Paul was a Pharisee who excelled in law, and in practicing the "Traditions of the Ancestors". He was so jealous about these things that he was persecuting the "Church", Followers of the Way, or members of the Jewish Sub-sect of Christ
followers. He received a "revelation" or vision from God, and now sees himself as being called to be the Apostle to the gentiles, just as Peter is to the Jews. Three years after (either his conversion or after his first trip to Arabia) he makes his first trip to Jerusalem. Some 14 years later Paul makes his second trip to Jerusalem; this trip is based on a revelation to go there. Decisions are made about gentiles during this trip in Jerusalem. At some later point he has an argument with Peter while in Antioch, because Peter had been associating with the Gentile believers, but after some others Jewish believers came he started pulling away. Paul called him on this hypocrisy. At some point between his conversion and this letter Paul preached in this area, and founded this cell of the church. He did so while suffering from some sort of illness. And now he is writing this letter because of his concern for the Galatians. Now that we have a timeframe for these events, lets look at Paul's self-understanding or view of self.

Paul used to see himself as the most extreme of his generation, in that he surpassed all his contemporaries in excelling at the Law and the "Traditions of the Ancestors". But then he has a theophany moment. He believes that he has had a direct revelation from God. This revelation does a few things, first it sets up Paul's authority, and secondly it completely alters Paul's self view. He now is more concerned with God's will, over the opinions of men. He sees himself as called and set apart for this specific ministry. Even as being set apart for this from his birth. That this calling influences his authority and teaching, making them both from God and not of men. This call on his life is totally by grace, and now by works, or anything else. He now sees himself as the one called to preach to the Gentiles, even if this is causing him to be persecuted by other Jews (5:12). Specifically his not having the Gentiles circumcised, is a cause of Jews persecuting Paul, which is one of the major issues in this document.

Some other information about Paul is also
present in the letter. The first is that the Church in Jerusalem gave praise to God saying that the one who persecuted them is now preaching Jesus. On Paul's first trip to Jerusalem the only apostles he met was James and Peter\Cephas. Paul has an emphasis and focus on his being a servant of Jesus Christ. (As an aside there are some that believe that The "Thorn in the Flesh" Paul mentions elsewhere is possibly, blindness, or severely impaired vision, this can be argued from this document in two ways. The first is in 4:15 where they would have plucked out their eyes and given them to Paul while he was there. And also 6:11 Paul's states that he is writing in his own hand with such big letter to them.) Finally Paul is really concerned with the state of the Gallatin Church (4:11) but we will get to that later.

What is this message or belief that Pa
ul is teaching. He is teaching about Jesus Christ. But what did he teach them while there with this church? That we can not be certain about, but we can tell from this document exactly what he was trying to reinforce and bring them back in line with. Thus we have view of Paul's "Jesus"!

Paul in this letter teaches a Jesus, who was Jewish, born of a women, but the Son of God (4:1). That He came to the earth to redeem all that were under the law, so that all might become adoptive sons and daughters of God (1:4, 4:5). That Christ freely came to give himself up for our sins (1:4). He not only came to do this, but he did it, in delivering himself for our sins (2:20). That by doing so Christ has become the fulfillment of the promise or Blessing of Abraham (3:14). This promise is that all nations will be restored by Abraham's seed to God. That in order to become the curse for us Jesus was publicly crucified (3:1). He thus became a curse for all (3:10). That this Christ did not only die, but he raised from the dead (1:1). Based on his death and resurrection, if we believe in Jesus He is to become our Lord (1:3). Thus if we have Jesus as lord, and are baptized into Christ, we will become recipients of that promise to Abraham (3:27). If we receive this baptism, Christ lives in us and wants to live His life through us (2:20). Because of all Christ has done for us He is deserving of Glory (1:15). Christ appeared and revealed Himself and this message to Paul, and sent him to be the apostle to the Gentiles (2:7). And thus Jesus is working through Paul to build His church among the gentiles, in the same way He uses Peter to build the church among the Jews (2:8). If the Galatians had received the above teaching and believed and lived it, to now turn back and try to live the Law, Christ will become of no use to them (5:2). Thus, is we have been crucified with Christ, and He now lives in and through us, we should live out that grace, and not return to the slavery of the Law (2:20).

Thus we have the complete Gospel message in this short document to one church. Paul writes to remind them of all they had heard and learnt and accepted when they first believed. He even goes so far as to pronounce a course twice on anybody who adds to this message of Jesus Christ (1:8,9). So now we get to the heart of the controversy that Paul is writing to counter. It was one that according to Paul had already been debated in Jerusalem. Had also caused problems in Antioch, the question of does someone have to become a Jew to become a follower of Jesus. Or specifically do the men have to be circumcised to be followers of Jesus. It all boils down to questions about the Law.

As stated earlier Paul was originally very jealous for the Law. But now he believes he teaches a message from God. A message of Christ Jesus, and Christ crucified. Paul believes that what he teaches is a new covenant, a covenant that has precedent over the Law. And that this covenant is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham to bless all nations through his Seed. Just as the law did not invalidate the Abraham
covenant, which was over 400 year old at this point in time. So too, Christ does not invalidate the law, He just supercedes it. For Paul the law shows us we are sinful, and in need of Christ Jesus. Paul goes on to show that in the Council of Jerusalem during his second post-conversion visit to the city, they decided not to enforce circumcision on the followers of Jesus who were Gentiles. But he shows that there are some false brethren, who he calls the Judaisers, who want Jesus followers to be Jews, then followers of Jesus. He shows that we are justified by faith and not by works. But if we try and follow part of the Law then we will be responsible for all of it. There is no way we could do that. We would be entering back into slavery of sin and bondage. The Law does not justify anybody, it just shows us where we fall short of God's goals for us. Our only justification can come through belief and living in Christ Jesus. For if righteousness could come from the Law, then Jesus died for no reason. Paul makes it very clear that you can not live for both the Law and the Spirit, you must choose which of the two will be your master. God has offered to bless all through Abraham's seed, Jesus Christ, then the question becomes will we live it? For all the law will and can do for us is to put us under sin. We are no longer under the law; it was there to show us Christ and the justification that is available through him (3:25). If we are lead by the spirit we are not under the Law and then, faith working through love will be our goal.

Now that we understand the problem, lets look directly at Paul's discussion, direction, exhortation and commands to this congregation. As seen above Paul reminds the Galatians of all that he has taught them about Jesus, all that they accepted and believed. But now they seem to be falling away. Paul wonders about who is trying to lead them astray (1:7). He even asks them if they had received Jesus by the spirit or by law? He reminds them that they are sons of God under Christ (3:26). As sons they have the right to call God Daddy. That because of their relationship with Jesus they are no longer slaves but sons. Thus, Paul pleads with them not to turn back, from their freedom in Christ to the law. To have been set free and turn back is far worse then ever to have known freedom. Paul is very concerned that they had originally received him and His message enthusiastically, but now appears to be turn away from both. They are heading back into the bondage under the Law (5:1). Paul commands them that things had been going well, but now he again questions who is leading them astray (5:8).

Now after Paul deals with the issue of the Law, he goes on to give them further instructions and commands. He reminds them of their call to love and serve one another, to love their neighbor as self.
He also exhorts them to walk by the spirit and not the desires of the flesh. He goes so far as to command them to fight the deeds of the flesh (as seen in 5:19-21). And also commands them to be cultivating the fruit of the spirit (5:22,23). He reminds them to live and walk by the spirit. Paul also asks them to work at extending grace and to try and restore fallen members of the church. Reminding them again of their need to be upholding one another. Finally that each of us is to examine our own works and hearts and to guard against being deceived.

My impression of this congregation is mixed. I se
e a lot of myself in the Galatians and the area's or legalism, and attitudes, which Paul addresses to them. It is very east to fall into the sin of legalism, or any "ism" for that matter. We all fall away, and have different areas of struggling. What we need to remember is grace, love, faith, hope trust and belief in God's promises, and in the support of our community will carry us through anything. If we are willing to lean on others in the church and be vulnerable, and admit our need. From my readings of church history, most movements and church denominations have sound theological and ecclesiastical beginnings. But all seem to fall into a certain amount of ritual-ism, legalism, and any number of another "isms". Today the biggest struggle is against denominationalism. The Galatians are just on record in history as being rebuked by an apostle for it. I was even told once at a church that I was not really a Christian because I had Tattoo's.

The letter as a whole gives me a few strong impressions. The first is the curse on any that teach any other message, then that of Christ Crucified. As someone who has lead bible studies and small groups and studying for ministry, this is a great warning to be cautious in what we say and teach. When we presume to speak for God we are shouldering a lot of responsibility.

The second is that we have been crucified with Christ and risen with Him as well. He lives in and through us, and we are sons and daughters of God through Christ. As such what type of a "Christ" am I modeling to others, at work, at school, at play? But being a son of God I have a responsibility, to be active in the battle between the flesh and the spirit, in my personal life and in the world.

We must each choose to live for the flesh or for the spirit. O
ne leads to death and the other to life. Every action I make, or don't make is in one of these two categories. What am I choosing most often? Finally that we must be choosing to do the Good while we have the opportunity to do so.

I do have a few unresolved questions from the letter. The first is how can we be sure of God's revelation and command to Paul. Are the people that are causing problems the people who lead Peter astray (2:11). If so, how much power and how many "missionaries" did they have going about trying to counter Paul.

Do I live up to the calling on my life? That is the questions I
get from this letter, To self examine and proceed with caution. Walk close to God and listen to the spirit.

(First written for Tom Yoder-Neufeld Ph.D. for RS100F New Testament Survey Winter Term 2000.)

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Memorial Service - An Assignment

(On one of the exams for a course we had to write a description for turning a profane place into a sacred place. I chose to write a memorial notice for my memorial service. The teacher loved it and asked to share it with the whole class, and yes the humour was intended.)

Transforming Space into Place: Creating a Memorial Site

It is wi
th great regret that we are herby informing you that Steven R. McEvoy, honors distinction student at the University of Waterloo, Renison College has passed away. There will be a memorial service at the Chapel of St. Bede, and the great hall at Renison College from April 1st-3rd 2005. As per Steven's last will and testament, there will be a traditional Irish wake for Steven at the campus.

Steven's body will be on display for visitors in the Chapel, he will be upright with a pint of Guinness in one hand and a Cuban cigar in the other. Live Gaelic bands will be playing in the afternoon and evenings, and prayer vigils will take place each evening.

Temporary spiral staircases will be installed at either end of the gallery for easy access back and forth between the chapel and great hall. The Flags in the great hall will be replaced with an Irish Flag, a Scotish Flag, a Canadian flag, the Christian Flag, and 3 Pirate flags.

The Tables will be places in squares around the room. Refreshments will be served at all hours. Live shamrocks both red and green will be the centerpieces at each table, surrounding celtic crosses.

The family would enjoy your dropping by to pay your respects, come hang out, tell stories and celebrate the life that was Steven R. McEvoy.

(First written for RS272 Sacred Places Winter 2005 - In class test #2.)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Ruether & Chung - Seminar

Ruether & Chung - A Seminar

Chung Hyun Kyung

Chung Hyun Kyung, is an Associate Professor of Ecumenical Theology, she graduated from Ewha Women's University in Seoul with the B.A. (1979) and the M.A. (1981). She holds the M.Div. from the School of Theology at Claremont (1984), a diploma from the Women's Theological Center in Boston (1984), and the Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary (1989). She studied in North America for 9 years before returning to Korea to teach. Her teaching and research interests include Ch
ristian Buddhist dialogue; feminist and eco-feminist theologies and spiritualities from Asia, Africa and Latin America; as well as mysticism and revolutionary social change; she also has a focus on history and critical issues of various Asian Christian theologies and traditions. The two dominant Christian traditions in Korea are the United Church and the Presbyterian Church, Chung is a Lay Theologian and teacher in the Presbyterian tradition.

She was 30 years old before she met her mother. Her father's wife could not bear children, so he found a beautiful poor woman and paid her to be his mistress and bear children for him. After he had his children she was discarded. Chung upon her return
from North America was encouraged by her best friend, a Buddhist monk to seek out her mother and break the social stereo type, that of being a surrogate's daughter. After finding here mother they performed a ritual to recreate bonds, they bought turtles in the market to set free again in the sea, and the turtles would take away their pain and hurts and bring healing and wholeness to them. Chung stated "I have a PhD, in systematic theology and I felt uneasy doing the ritual of the turtle." Yet she soon came to realize that her illiterate mother had a wisdom that she lacked. From then on she only wanted to only do theology her mother could understand. She began to seek spiritual renewal in different places, one place she found it was in the markets, and the women there who struggle to survive each day. Chung states "I go to the Market as a spiritual place of renewal, by seeing and speaking to the women who are struggling to live. I go to the mountains sometimes for spiritual renewal and sometimes I go to the market." The biggest accusation against Chung is that she is a Syncretist. She herself states: "My Bowel is shamanist, my heart is Buddhist, and my head is Christian. So I have to build this whole reality and I can not cut anything from me to be a real Christian. Who defines a real Christian?" From this we see that she does not fight against the accusations but lives her life as she see's her calling to do so. Her best friend is a Buddhist monk and together they are looking for truth. They both believe that religions can learn from each other. The Merging of religions help us to see the hidden teachings in our own traditions and for Chung Buddhism has helped her to understand contemplation, silence and symbolism which she thinks much of protestant Christianity has lost. She also has learnt from her friends that the best way to grow is to ask questions. Another of her close friends was trained as a theologian and yet works as a painter, a liberation theologian painter. Chung has the walls of her lecture hall covered in the paintings by this friend. Showing the empowerment of women and some of their pains and struggles from the past. Chung says that there are many ways of doing theology, theology as dance, song, painting and like herself in the world of academia, as long as it is a reflection of the divine in the midst of their life.

She writes and speaks much against the traditions of her Asian world, She states the old way is "When you are young you obey your father, in midlife you obey your husband, and when yo
u are old you obey your oldest son." Yet she has become involved in a movement to liberate the marginalized of her country, and this group focuses on women. One thing they do is provide child care so women can have other options, school, and work. She believes if she just stays in academic life all the time she will not know what is going on in the real world, at the bottom of her society. Much like Simon Weil who went to work in factories to understand the oppressed in Europe, Chung spends time with the poor and most oppressed in her country. For Chung Liberation theology to be real and vital it must focus on the non-human, or those perceived as non-human and how do we regain humanity and dignity for them and through that for ourselves. That is the main issue to Chung.

In the larger work Struggle to be the Sun Again, the first few sections focus on some interesting area's, the historical and social context of Asian Women's spirituality, Humanity, Who is Jesus?, Who is Mary?, and then our selection Emerging Asian Women's Spirituality. So let us now turn to our text. The poem that begins our section is by Ting Ling, in a collection titled O'Grady, Chung in her footnote stated that she originally was going to drop this quote for it's individualist nature, as she see's spirituality and spiritual development as communal. Yet she decided to leave it in. This poem is intriguing for though it is written for Asian women and their development it can be applied to anyone who wishes to grow and develop as a person of character and integrity. One of the things I think we need to be aware of is that when a theology becomes so narrowly focused it can loose it's power for liberation. I think back to some of our earliest writers writing when the church was oppressed and persecuted and how their faith was vibrant and alive. Of people like Vibia Perpetua, and Irenaeus of Lyons who's writings had a universal approach, not a narrow view. Even feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether states: "All theologies of liberation, whether done in black or a feminist or a Third world perspective, will be abortive of the liberation they seek, unless they finally go beyond the … model of the oppressor and the oppressed. The oppressed must rise to a perspective that affirms a universal humanity as the ground of their own self-identity, and also to a power of self-criticism … Quite simply, what this means is that one cannot dehumanize the oppressor without ultimately dehumanizing oneself, and aborting the possibilities of the liberation movement into an exchange of roles of oppressor and oppressed." Thus there must be caution taken in any endeavor to work at liberation that it does not in turn need to be overcome in a new liberation. On page 92 at the top of the page "Asian Women say that their emerging spirituality takes into concrete relational reality into consideration…" This appears to a central point of Chung's theology that it is communal, the women of her country and region need to work with each other, draw strength when needed and lend the hand when it is called for. At the bottom of that same paragraph it states "There is no place for dualism between body and soul in this spirituality, because it arises from women's everyday, mundane, bodily experience" Chung attends a women's home church, each person has a chance to speak and share. On the video Gentle but Radical, they show one service, with worship, bible reading, then the women passed around a red scarf and shared stories about menstruation, and children, and ended with Chung giving a lesson about the women with the Hemorrhage. For them faith is about every aspect of life, and every aspect is open to the church service.

The next section focuses on characteristics of this emerging spirituality, it is Creative, flexible, prophetic, and historical, Community Oriented and Pro-life. These characteristics should be evident in any church that wishes to grow in a post-modern world. We can learn much from these new religious movements and bring it back to our own traditions.

Chung presents a view of religion that many in a postmodern world could embrace. It should not be limited to Asian women because that is the tradition she emerges from. But
should be offered for all to examine and draw the strength to stand up for the humanity and dignity of all people, in all places and from all classes.

Rosemary Radford Reuther

mary Radford Ruether is the Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology she has a B.A., Scripps College, 1958; M.A., Claremont Graduate School, 1960; Ph.D., Claremont Graduate School, 1965. Rosemary Radford Ruether is a pioneer Christian feminist theologian for nearly five decades and is among the most widely read theologians in the world. Her book, Sexism and God-Talk, is a classic, and is reported to be the only systematic feminist treatment of the Christian symbols to date. With her very wide-ranging scholarship, Dr. Ruether has edited over thirty books and hundreds of articles and reviews as well as published over two dozen books of her own work. Her primary research and her specialization in teaching interest is that of women and social justice in theological history. Her work explores how Christian theology has been biased by the exclusion of women's experience and female symbolism, and thus she seeks to shape an inclusive theology. She has always been a strong voice for those without a voice, women, children, minorities, yet she was a faithful wife and mother to three children. So with all this in mind let us now turn to our text.

It is interesting to note at the beginning that we are back into a predominantly biographical text again. It appears that through out each of the five periods of Christian history that spirituality is often demonstrated through personal example, and story. Through 'our story' we are the continuing church, the book of acts from the bible, the Acts of the Apostles is continued by each person who shares there story and their interaction with God, Son, and The Holy Spirit, and through them with the communion of sain
ts the body of believers. This piece is her story of how she came to begin thinking in feminist ways, and from the excerpt we have we see that such thinking began at a very early age.

From the very first lines we hear her voice state: "It is hard to trace my awakening to feminism … because it seems to me that I was implicitly always a feminist, if by being feminist one means a woman who fights for her full realization." But such a statement could be true of any Christian seeking to become all that God has called them to be. For her it includes the title Feminist and role of Feminist theologian. On the first paragraph on page 455 "My older sister remarked …" Was her first internal realization that some would put limitations on her, or roles they saw for her, and from that young age she stood firm against these stereotypes. In the second full paragraph on that page she speaks about Mary, as the one to turn to in prayer, for having been raised by women, and being in school with an all women faculty, men were a distant presence.

In the next paragraph she sums up her experience of this environment and how it nurtured her future idea's: "Although I occasionally glimpsed a narrower and more authoritarian side of nuns, most of my memory is of a cozy, female-run world where I felt myself a favored daughter." She thus grew up believing she could be anything she wanted to be, a position her mother encouraged. Men were a curiosity to her she states "But secretly, one suspected that their aura of superiority was a fragile façade, a bombast concealing secret impotence." And further in the paragraph, "For endless generations women have paid public deference to male authority while, privately, not really believing in or counting on it." This resonates with my experience growing up, I was raised in an Irish Catholic home, and the Irish are one of the few remaining Matriarchal societies. Andrew M. Greeley in many of his theologian and fictional works affirms the Matriarchal nature of the Irish culture, he states often "Irish women let their men think they make the decisions and run the home, but they know that it is not so." Later on the same page Ruether shares how she started her husband with the goal of an academic career but he adjusted to that reality quickly.

I the final paragraph on page 457 she states, "It takes a new consciousness to go back and isolate the whole body of material as a problem rather than as normative tradition." She here advocates that Christianity and Christian spirituality must re-examine it's roots and origins, and traditions if it will be a c
hurch that draws women, and embraces them. She does not want to destroy the church but to reform it. To make it a church that is appealing to men and women. As I quoted earlier in the section on Chung, if a theology does not go beyond it's own narrow focus it will become the oppressor. Ruether does not want a new women's only spirituality. She would like to see a new spirituality that speaks to both men and women, black and white, European and Asian. But one that grows out of the needs of individuals to be fulfilled and growing.

  1. Gentle But Radical Korean Theologian Chung Hyun Kyung, Video
  2. Gentle But Radical Korean Theologian Chung Hyun Kyung, Video
  3. Gentle But Radical Korean Theologian Chung Hyun Kyung, Video
  4. Gentle But Radical Korean Theologian Chung Hyun Kyung, Video
  5. Liberation Theology, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Paulist Press, 1972, p.16
  6. Struggle to be the Sun Again, Chung Hyun Kyung, New York, Orbis 1990, p92
  7. Struggle to be the Sun Again, Chung Hyun Kyung, New York, Orbis 1990, p92
  8. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.454
  9. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.455
  10. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.455
  11. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.456
  12. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.455
  13. Paraphrased from memory.
  14. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.457

Tyson, John R. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. New York: Oxford UP, 1999

Placher, William C. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983

Chung, Hyun Kyung Struggle to be the Sun Again: Introducing Asian Women's Theology. New York: Orbis, 1990

Ruether, Rosemary Radford Liberation Theology, New York: Paulist Press, 1972


Gentle But Radical Koren Theologian Chung Hyun Kyung
Kilimann Production, From the World Council of Churches

(First written for RS 383 Shapers of the Roman Catholic Tradition in the winter of 2003.)