Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thrilled about violence?

I am not thrilled about violence.

But I am thrilled to take note of an exciting opportunity for me, personally, and for future options for the Eupan Global Initiative.

I have been selected to be among other scholars in considering issues of violence and the church. The Seminar I am now making plans to attend (based on the announcement of my selection today!) is part of the Calvin College series of Seminars in Christian Scholarship.

The seminar focus includes:

“Deliver Us From Evil: Genocide and the Christian World”
will explore the role of the church as a social institution, with institutional actors, and how it shapes a culture in which genocidal violence may occur and how it responds to such a culture both during and after the genocidal violence. Over a three week period, participants will critically examine the role of the Christian churches in 20th century genocide and the subsequent consequences for Christian thought and practice in the contemporary world. Embedded throughout these analyses are questions of the moral responsibilities of the institutional church; the churches’ standing as manipulated or independent actors; how and why churches become linked with power holders in genocidal regimes; how institutional church leaders use rhetorical and theological devices to develop religious justifications for genocidal belief systems; the variability of institutional churches’ responses; the motivations behind churches’ interventionist role in reconciliation after the genocidal violence, etc. Such questions remain keenly relevant for church-state relations in contemporary international affairs – for instance, the ongoing genocide in Darfur; the escalating violence in Zimbabwe (about which church leaders are warning could reach genocidal levels); and the recent move in Russia to coronate the Russian Orthodox Church as the de facto official state religion, reinforcing a nationalistic ideology while promoting state-sponsored religious intolerance.

Towards eupan.

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Which is more violent?

Crucifying Jesus or indebtedness in quantities that are this excessive?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Garden in the East

In the context of the story of origins narrated in the Bible, it all starts with a garden. One way to frame the story of God, most briefly is that Creator creates creation.

The idea of Creation and the quality of that creation - namely, "good" - is a core idea to the foundation of eupan and the Eupan Global Initiative.

I have commented briefly elsewhere that one of the first distortions of Creators "good" creation arrives in the violence of Cain. Another interesting feature of the story of origins as found in Genesis (in the Bible), lies in the fact that as distortions in creation began to pervade the story, the story also indicates in subtle ways that persons move further and further "east" of God's garden. (See Genesis 4:16, 11:2, 29:1)

It does seem to be the case that the story of creation demonstrates in geography as well as in orientation, that people "move away" from God's garden.

To the extent that we can, metaphorically, get closer to God's garden, we can reinvigorate God's goodness for the world. I genuinely believe that anything we can do to get us closer to God's (Eden) Garden intention, moves us in the direction of eupan.

I find that I am always trying to discern patterns of violence in our world - bringing "goodness" to those patterns. For me, violence is a very "large" word.

I think most people associate violence with some form of physical action enacted by one person (or group of persons) against another person (or group of persons.) By this understanding, violence is when I hit someone or violence is when a nation attacks another nation.

For me, violence is more than physical action - and it is more than between persons. Violence can be silence in relationships, where one person, lets say in a marital relationship, shuts out the other by a failure to speak - or by a failure to listen. Silencing oneself or the other - apart from some shared understanding and participation in the context of a relationship - enacts a kind of subtle violence that shuts out the other and seeds the basis of missed communication which might mature into brokenness in relationship, separation, and dislocation. (This does not mean that any or all relationships must stay permeable or transparent for all time - but that, in the context of relatedness - relational partners deserve to not be violated by silence.)

It is easy to call physical violence "violence", because the scars or bruises or physical death it manifests are easy to "see" - picture, record, or describe in objective and quantifiable ways. It is harder to call silence "violence." In relationship even silence can cause "scars," "bruises," and "death."

How can we become the kind of persons who demonstrate and effuse a kind of radical openness for the sake of others and ourselves? How can we model relationships that demonstrate only charity and kindness?

We must discern such things.

We must embody such things.

We must enculturate such things.

Perhaps, if we discovered a way to discern, embody and enculturate a kind of radical openness, in a stablized and structured world we could create a fertile habitat for all God's inhabitants in the world . . . it could seed a new kind of "gardened" existence for our world today.

Working towards eupan.

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Embodied Forgiveness

Every few months I get the opportunity to teach a class on Biblical and Theological perspectives for understanding human personhood. For me, this means we have to talk about relationships since human personhood is fundamentally relational.

I get the opportunity to teach L. Gregory Jones' text entitled Embodying Forgiveness.

Jones argues that violence does not have to be our master. He articulates a cruciform way of discerning the world, whereby we understand that God in the person of Jesus offers an example of how to make forgiveness happen. This forgiveness is not cheap or "therapeutic" but "costs" Jesus something, and costs us something too.

Perhaps I will have more to say about it later.

We need more models and better models of embodied forgivness. We need exemplars of how to overcome the patterns of violence in our world.

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

1 million, 1 billion - What difference does it make?

I was reading God Gardened East by Louis Ruprecht the past few days.

In the opening chapter he tells a story about an experience he had, meeting with a Philosopher while he was in Athens, Greece.

The Greek Philosopher critiqued the American (Louis) for his failure to understand numbers.

"The problem with you Americans," he noted with a sad smile, "is that you don't know how to count."

Eyebrow arched, and a little defensive, Louis asked him what he meant.

"You lack patience," he explained. "You don't take the time to think what numbers mean."

The Greek Philosopher went on to note that, in his purview, most Americans do not understand the difference between a million and a billion.

Louis would quip to the Greek Philosopher that he did know the difference - "Three more zeroes."

The Greek Philosopher failed to laugh.

One million seconds, the philosopher patiently explained, is roughly ten days long.

Do you know how many days are in one billion seconds?

As I read the text, I must admit, I was surprised. Indeed, I was shocked.

Where one million seconds is roughly ten days, one billion seconds is roughly 32 years. It seems unbelievable.

One million seems not too far removed from one billion . . . doesn't it? I mean, honestly, it doesn't seem that one million can be that far removed from one billion. Nor, does it seem possible that one trillion (if I have my math facts correct) is some 32,000 years of seconds!

While I am *not* an economist who readily confesses my ignorance . . . I must also confess, I worry in deeply troubling ways for the future. If the facts regarding what I read are true, the U.S. government is considering another bail-out plan of roughly $800 billion (give or take a few billion, it's just a few zeroes after all.) That will be added to the more than $800 billion already promised with the ink barely dry on that legislation! This will make the U.S. Government bailout plans top more than 9.7 Trillion Dollars!

This can not be good. This can not be good.

I do not have an answer or answers.

But, I know I need to learn how to count.

And, I need to think seriously, very, very seriously about the grievous future I fear. I am not a nay-sayer. I want the best - the good for the all. But 9.7 trillion is millions and millions and millions and millions of seconds away! It is so far away in seconds, that it is removed by, vast millenia!

If we want the good for all, we must learn how to count better, to be more patient, and to be more frugal.

In times of my own fear and anxiety, I at least have the comfort of Wendell Berry's poetry:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I spun off on this one . . .

The other night I was up late reviewing data/facts/statistics on issues of Global Climate Change for some work I'm doing on issues concerning Global Stewardship.

I do not know how or where, but I "came across" links to SPIN farming. I spent too many hours perusing the ideas connected to SPIN farming and the persons in various parts of the country that are SPIN-ing.

If I could slow down from too many "irons in the fire" in my life right now, I would love to SPIN here close to home. I have this grand vision of students from campus wanting to "dig in" to the efforts - perhaps on land right here around campus. But, then, I remember that they would probably rather eat in the cafeteria.

So, what is a SPIN garden, you ask . . . well, SPIN stands for S-mall P-lot IN-tensive.

SPIN-Farming is a non-technical, easy-to-learn and inexpensive-to-implement vegetable farming system that makes it possible to earn significant income from land bases under an acre in size. Whether you are new to farming, or want to farm in a new way, SPIN can work for you because:

* Its precise revenue targeting formulas and organic-based techniques make it possible to gross $50,000+ from a half- acre.
* You don't need to own land. You can affordably rent or barter a small piece of land adequate in size for SPIN-Farming production.
* It works in either the city, country or small town.
* It fits into any lifestyle or life cycle.

SPIN is being practiced by first generation farmers because it removes the two big barriers to entry - land and capital - as well as by established farmers who want to diversify or downsize, as well as by part-time hobby farmers.

SPIN yourself.

It's good for economic issues related to how money is spent within local places (ahh, thinking of great Wendell Berry poems/short stories here!). It is good for food produce - organic, healthy foods. It is good at getting "us" out into creation instead of into "big boxes." It is good for exercise and well-being.

It seems eupan to me.

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.