Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Praise for Students!

If I were making a list of “Top Ten Most Distressing/Depressing Events to Study in the World” – Genocide would be on the list. (I wonder what else I would include in my Top Ten List. How about you? What are the Top Ten Most Distressing/Depressing Events in World Today?)

That being said, in our commitment to eupan, if I were to list a “Top Ten Most Encouraging/Exciting Events in the World” – Student Involvement and Student Initiative would be on the list! Really!

As a University Professor who has worked with college students for over a decade, I can testify to the incredible power of students who get motivated to act. Students – sometimes out of sheer determination and strength of will – apart from having money, resources, capital or even “all the information” – do more than those of us with more money, more resources, more capital and more information.

Hooray for student led initiatives!!

Here are a couple of links for student led initiatives that have effected and continue to effect eupan!

http://www.genocideintervention.net/

and

http://www.change.org/stand

And, then, a whole other list of resources for people to get involved:

http://www.change.org/

Toward eupan!

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Four is better than one.

I have had opportunity to travel to a few different states over the last few months – spending time at a variety of locations from campgrounds to conference centers. The past three weeks, in particular, I have had the opportunity to be on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Every place I visit has trash receptacles, waste baskets, dumpsters, refuse containers. Human persons generate “trash” – a large volume of it from a variety of sources. Of course this is true. Every place has containers to deal with this human reality.

But, only a few of the places I have visited have clear containers and prepared intentional plans for some form of recycling.

Where I have been for the past three weeks, at Calvin College – my observation is that in every campus hallway – in all campus buildings – they offer – side-by-side, not one, but four options for disbursing of one’s trash. At each location where a receptacle is offered – there is the option for me to disburse my trash as “metal” – “plastic” – “paper” – or – “trash.”

As I walk by the containers, of course I have the option of dumping all my refuse into the “trash” container. I am not forced to use the “trash” and no one stands behind me or beside me to guide my use of the “metal” – “plastic” – or “paper” receptacles.

I have no idea *how* this particular campus clears the containers – sort the matter that makes its way into the containers – nor how they work with local agencies toward community wide recycling practices.

But, it matters to me that they give options. I value the places where local governments, agencies, public policy, campus practices, or individual businesses give options.

When I am *only* provided with trash cans as I travel – I am seriously limited from any consideration toward practices of recycling. It is nearly impossible, as an individual traveler to recycle as I travel from place to place. But, when I am given even just four options for separating out my refuse, I do *not* *refuse* to participate – I freely participate.

Offering options would not compel or force or require persons to recycle – but, offering options does work toward eupan.

Four options – as simple as “metal” – “plastic” – “paper” and “trash.” These options are eupan approved!

Thanks to those places I have visited that make eupan more likely to become effective in some way. My thanks to Calvin College in particular.

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Eupan meals.

I had the privilege of reading Contagious Holiness, Jesus Meals with Sinners this morning. The text is authored by Craig L. Blomberg in the series published by InterVarsity Press entitled New Studies in Biblical Theology. The book probes and in-depth discussion of what it means to understand meals and fellowship in the old testament and new testament. The book takes into consideration the Greco-Roman context for when the text of the Bible came together, and more importantly, how Jesus was himself a participant in the culture of the Greco-Roman society, though Jesus himself was clearly Jewish alongside many of those who followed him.

It is not the intention of this simple blog entry to parse out all of the various dynamics that Blomberg achieves in his full text, but instead I want to pick up on a simple aspect of Jesus as table fellowship.

In my immediate situation, as part of my professional work, I have been participating in a seminar dealing with issues of genocide in the modern world. Various topics and discussions have included issues of genocide taking place in the early portions of the 20th century, through and including discussions of what has happened more recently in Rwanda, Serbia, and Darfur. While not attempting to simplify a variety of social, personal, political, religious and other dynamics that take place in the context of these events of genocide; it does seem to be characteristic that in order for a person to have the will and motivation to murder an "other" - there must be some characteristic forms of "distancing onsel from the other." That is, a person is able to murder an "other" because there is something "bad" or "troubling" or "wrong" or "inappropriate" about the other - even the fact that the "other" causes the murderer to envy them. If it is the case that murder and genocide have some origin in viewing others as "outsiders" or seeing them as "despised" or "despicable" or "vermin" or whatever the case may be, perhaps a simple but appropriate point of reconciliation between opposing groups would be having such parties sit down to meals together.

Christian people have often failed to be willing to sit down to a table fellowship with "others." It is true that in the long history of Christianity, Christian purposes toward "others" has often functioned with a narrow purpose towards the evangelization of the "other." On page 129, Blomberg writes:

There were always kingdom purposes involved in Jesus' presence at banquets and other special meals. Yet it remains striking how willing he was to socialize, even in the intimacy of table fellowship, with anyone and everyone for the sake of accomplishing his mission.


On page 163, Blomberg quotes C. T. McMahan:

Of all the means by which Jesus could have chosen to be remembered, he chose to be remembered by a meal. What he considered memorable and a characteristic of his ministry was his table-fellowship. The meal, one of humankind's most basic and common practices, was transformed by Jesus into an occasion of divine encounter area. It was in the sharing of food and drink that he invited his companions to share in the grace of God. The quintessence of Jesus' redemptive mission was revealed in his eating with sinners, repentance and unrepentant alike.


On page 170, Blomberg quotes J. M. Joncas:

Jesus' promiscuous table-fellowship should commit us to a world where all human beings, regardless of race, gender, economic status, class, sexual orientation, or religious police have access to the goods of the earth bestowed on us by our Creator God. There is no avoiding the economic and political implications of genuine table-fellowship.


I don't know about you, but I really enjoy a good meal. I am privileged to have many opportunities to sit down to enjoyable meals with family and friends on frequent occasions. Additionally, I am privileged to have opportunity to enjoy good meals with people who, given certain aspects of social-economic status are very "other" than I. I eat routinely with persons at our local church, through a compassionate ministry associated with our building, OKC Compassion. I sit down with the homeless poor who are "red and yellow, black and white" - "all God's Children of the world." And when I sit with them, I hope to extend "good" to them. I hope to demonstrate kindness to them. And I do so, even when at times, I have had to "break up a fight" or be "cussed out" by someone who was in some state of rage.

What does this have to do with genocide in the modern world?

Well, perhaps the seed of animosity - the kernel of hate that blossoms into hatred, rivalry, murder and genocide *could* be "fertilized" differently such that hatred blossoms into love or animosity grows into generosity. And, perhaps it would happen - this good could be effected - if *only* we found ways to sit down to meals with "others."

It sounds trivial and mundane. I am sure. It sounds impossible and "small." No doubt.

Yet. One man came proclaiming Good News for All (!) - some 2000 years ago - and his proclamation *does* continue to effect good in places across the globe. Perhaps we ought to go back to the simplicity and purity of his proclamation - effecting the good for the all by committing ourselves to genuine table-fellowship with any and all human persons, were gardeners of race, gender, economic status, class, sexual orientation, or any other variant position that would force exclusion.

Can eupan be made effective at lunch or dinner time? Perhaps. If we act. Perhaps.

I wonder, what would the world look like if Christian purposes toward "others" expanded in purpose so that a "narrow" evangelization of the "other" shifted toward a broader evangelization of "the world" - not by exclusive practices of separation but by inclusive practices of gathering?

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Churches & Christianity guarantee nothing . . . ?

Is it possible that Christianity as a way of life in the world means nothing?

While the efforts of the Eupan Global Initiative are not exclusively Christian - and while members of our effort to advance eupan do not need to advocate any specific religious perspective - it is true that I am Christian. And I want to believe that being Christian and being a part of a group of people in the the church matters. But, sometimes, it does not matter. And that pains me - and it pains David P. Gushee.

In the text Genocide in Rwanda: Complicity of the Churches? - Gushee has an essay entitled: 'Why the Churches were Complicit: Confessions of a Broken-Hearted Christian." Among other things he writes:

Rwanda was the most heavily Christianized country in Africa.

Christian churches, seminaries, schools, and other instituations were sprinkled throughout the land.

[L]ong study of the Holocaust, and now fresh study of the Rwandan genocide, has led me to the heartbroken realization that the presence of Churches in a country guarantees exactly nothing. The self-identification of people with the Christian faith guarantees exactly nothing. All of the clerical garb and regalia, all of the structures of religious accountability, all of the Christian vocabulary and books, all of the schools and seminaries and parish houses and Bible studies, all of the religious titles and educational degrees, they all guarantee exactly nothing. (italics in original)


After his confession and truth-telling, he implores:

But still we must affirm the mission and vocation of the Churches. We must say that the Christian churches are required to be agents of resistance to genocide or any other kind of social evil. They must do so as a basic expression of faithfulness to their own God, their own sacred scriptures, and their own social responsibility. We must do so.


If the good for the all will be made available, it must involve our actions that effect good, not just our vocalized assent to do good.

Toward eupan.

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.