Author: Chesterton House
On Being and DoingUncategorized
I just returned from Envision: The Gospel, Politics, and the Future. The conference was a mixed bag; there were some very good talks and presentations, and there were some of the other kind. Lisa Sharon Harper of New York Faith and Justice gave a terrific and inspirational talk entitled “Theology of Shalom,” including a short theatrical reading vividly depicting the poisonous effects of the Fall. In the beginning, all things were good–not just in the Platonic sense of goodness, but in a more Hebraic, relational sense of holding together in perfect harmony. In the beginning, there was Shalom. Harper recast the biblical motif of Creation, Fall, Redemption as Shalom, Shalom lost, Shalom Regained.
In the panel that followed, Bart Campolo said something to the effect that he used to believe “all that shalom stuff,” but now that he lives among children who are born into the world disadvantaged and die before they ever have much opportunity in life, he doesn’t really buy it anymore. Simply put, he said, “my theology did not survive my experience.”
For the record, I am a strong believer in learning from experience (I worked in the field of Experiential Learning for twenty years), and yes–I have experienced the disillusionment that comes from unsuccessfully trying to help those with great needs. But as philosophers have noted almost since the beginning of time, the danger of giving experience too privileged a place in one’s epistemology is subjectivism. Miroslav Volf, another panelist, responded to Campolo by saying in effect that there are more constructive and subtle ways of making sense out of one’s experience than simply jettisoning the wisdom of Scripture and tradition. I begin with the assumption, Volf said, that the church with its 2000 years of accumulated wisdom is smarter than I am. Hear, hear!
The conference speakers were largely activists–folks like Campolo who live sacrificially in the service of others. Activists have a special place in the Christian tradition. The God of the Bible is not merely transcendent, like the impersonal God of so many traditions or the indifferent watchmaker of the deists. The God of the Bible is rather the God who acts. He is on the move. In the defining event of the Hebrew Scriptures, his people follow him through the wilderness. In the New Testament, Jesus says over and over “Follow me.” There is in Scripture an affirmation of human agency and action in the world, with no small emphasis on service to the poor.
As someone who lives in an academic community relatively removed from urban ills, I need activists in my life. Nevertheless, when I hear activists “normalizing” their particular calling, and privileging doing over being, I am reminded that action and activity need to be grounded in a larger vision. Such emphasis on social action, we might say, needs a dose of contemplative correction. Toward that end, here is a bit of wisdom from contemplatives of diverse backgrounds . . .
The nature writer John Burroughs once wrote:
I have gone a-fishing while others were struggling and groaning and losing their souls in the great social or political or business maelstrom. I know too I have gone a-fishing while others have labored in the slums and given their lives to the betterment of their fellows. But I have been a good fisherman, and I should have made a poor reformer. . . . My strength is my calm, my serenity.
Burroughs is (here) perhaps too opposed to activism and reform; vision without action is mere mysticism. But he does capture the notion that not all have the same calling. Somewhat more subtle is Edward Abbey’s famous “One last paragraph of advice.” Abbey, a student of Wallace Stegner’s, was an environmental activist and writer. He was, however, an activist who understood that activism leads to burn out if it is not grounded in something greater than itself.
One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am–a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.
Here (as elsewhere) Abbey demonizes rather than loves his enemies. In any case, the insight that comes through these passages is that reform work, by nature of it being a means to an end, inherently runs the risk not only of burnout but “loss of soul.” What is needed to balance the reform instinct, then, is something that is an end in itself. To Abbey and Burroughs this is fishing and hunting. To the Christian, of course, it is worship. Abbey’s quote has always reminded me of C.S. Lewis’s line that captures all of this more wisely and succinctly still: “A man can’t be always be defending the truth; there must be a time for him to feed on it.” (It should also be noted that in Lewis’s “sacramental mysticism,” worship would be understood broadly so as to include, rather than exclude, things like fishing and hunting.)
What to make of Campolo’s battle scars and disillusionment with the theology of shalom?
At the end of the last chapter of Orthodoxy, commonly considered his best book, Chesterton writes that the very ground for his faith is that the tradition he embraces is wiser than he is. Citing celibacy as a church teaching that he does not naturally understand, Chesterton writes, “This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing.” And so “I simply conclude that I am wrong, and the church right; or rather that I am defective, while the church is universal.” Chesterton, like Coleridge before him, would put reason in its place. As Coleridge put it, “Scripture is like the sun, while reason is like the moon.” As with Volf, then, Chesterton and Coleridge alike would have us distrust our disillisionment.
Activists tend to be impatient. That is not all bad; we ought to be impatient with injustice. But that impatience needs to be grounded in a vision of human flourishing that sustains the activist’s labor. Although God at times works more slowly–more patiently–than we would wish, the Scriptural vision of Shalom Regained is a compelling example of such a vision. The confession Our World Belongs to God strikes the balance well:
With tempered impatience,
eager to see injustice ended,
we expect the Day of the Lord.
And we are confident
that the light which shines in the present darkness (1 Cor. 15)
will fill the earth when Christ appears.
Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20)
Our world belongs to you.
Pirates? Swedes just em don’t em get itUncategorized
The recent conference on The Opening of the Evangelical Mind, convened by sociologist Peter Berger, was outstanding. More on that soon.
Among his many memorable formulations, Berger sometimes says that India is the most religious country in the world, Sweden is the least religious, and the United States is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes. This gap between the secular cultural elite and popular religious sentiment is illustrated nicely by yesterday’s New York Times review of “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything,” a new Veggie Tales feature film.
The reviewer is utterly dismissive. Meanwhile, every single reader review posted in the first 24 hours differs sharply with the reviewer.
“My kids didn’t watch Veggie Tales because of the faith-and-values plot lines,” one reader writes. “They watched them because they’re funny as hell.” As several readers pointed out, the reviewer reveals his ignorance by suggesting that the film appropriates the Pirate theme from Johnny Depp, when in fact the Veggie Tales Pirates debuted in 1999, years before Pirates of the Caribbean. One reader speculated that the review must be a hoax or a farce–after all, “no reviewer could actuallly be so colossally ignorant of a movie.”
I suspect it is only a matter of time until other readers point out that the reviewers’ dismissive description of the plot as “boilerplate” suggests that the genre of hero quests, popular since time immemorial, has somehow suddenly run its course. In any case, if the first 24 hours are any indication, comments may continue to pile up until there is enough material for an enterprising graduate student to write a dissertation on Berger’s theory about cultural elites and popular religion at the turn of the twenty-first century. Another reader writes: “Is [the reviewer] really that jaded that he needs to give a crappy review to a children’s cartoon just because he’s got an apparent issue with faith-based anything?” And another: “I think the Times needs to focus its efforts on being even more contemptuous of the faithful and ‘middle America.’ I’ve begun to enjoy the feeling of them sneering down at me–sort of in the same way I enjoyed passing my last kidney stone.”
Perhaps the readers who sums up the collective sentiment best quotes the head Pirate: “You just em don’t/em get it.”
I have not seen the film. I do not know if it is important or amusing. But the exchange in the Times is certainly both.
Classes are over, the university has held its annual advent service, and I am headed to Boston for a conference entitled The Opening of the Evangelical Mind.
Our 2007 annual report is now posted. In the report I mention meeting one year ago with a couple that supports Chesterton House, sharing with them the idea for a conference, and together with them making it happen just six months later. Ministry should never be formulaic, but it does have essential ingredients–including vision, patronage, and prayer.
We are reminded at this time of year of our dependence on both your prayer and your patronage. As I think you will see from the report, we do a lot with the resources we have, making for a good “return” on gifts given to Chesterton House. Will you join us and our mission of promoting Christian learning at Cornell by supporting us this month? See three easy ways to give for more information. And, of course, don’t forget to order one or more copies of “Heaven in a Nightclub”!
Many thanks. And during this season of gift-giving, many blessings in anticipation of the greatest of all gifts–the Christ child.
On the cover of William Edgar’s book The Face of Truth, there is an image of a painting by Mako Fujimura. It is abstract, and, I confess, does not make an immediate impression on me. I am busy, and turn past it quickly, anxious to get to the message and substance of the book.
And yet I pause, more out of duty than desire. I know Edgar and Fujimura well enough to know that there is something of substance here. I also know that, despite my appetite for accumulating information, imagination matters.
Chesterton tells the story of a boy in a park annoyed by the wind in his face. “Well,” the boy said to his mother, “why don’t you take away the trees, and then it wouldn’t wind.” The anecdote illustrates the materialist fallacy that what is visible is always and everywhere the real cause behind the invisible. According to the Christian imagination, Chesterton suggests, it is usually the other way around.
Fujimura, I think, would agree. His painting, entitled “Grace Foretold,” was occasioned by a visit to Niagara Falls. In it, gold (a symbol of divinity) cascades down onto silver (a symbol of death). “I have used the image of cascading gold as a metaphor,” Fujimura writes. “It speaks of the City of God descending among the cities of men.” The painting is from a series entitled Images of Grace. “Grace,” he writes, “is like this cascading gold. Like the Niagara Falls, a costly city of God may overwhelm us, and such vision captures us both inescapably and irreversibly.”
Like Fujimura, I too visited Niagara Falls recently with one of my children. To me, it was beautiful–an exhibit of God’s creativity and power. But it did not turn my thoughts to the City of God descending to the cities of men. Which is why I need people like Fujimura, artists to whom God has given the gift of seeing further. Without his help, my vision, like the child in Chesterton’s story, is woefully inadequate.
The truly remarkable thing is this. Not only do waterfalls now remind me of God’s cascading grace (for those of us who live in Ithaca, that alone is priceless!) More than that, I now understand grace a little bit better. What is grace? We can only understand the transcendent or spiritual by way of reference to the immanent or material. Grace, I now know, is like a waterfall. It is attractive yet dangerous, useful yet untamable. And its effect is to smooth and transform what is below–gradually.
Fujimura, an acclaimed Japanese American painter, will be speaking twice on Friday, Nov. 2nd. Please see events for more info.
Friendship, Heaven, and a Beautiful MarriageUncategorized
The following are my reflections offered at the recent memorial service for Christian Anible. Christian was on staff with InterVarsity Graduate/ Faculty ministries, and a founding board member of Chesterton House.
My name is Karl Johnson. I am a campus minister at Cornell and an elder of New Life Presbyterian Church—two positions I shared in common with Christian.
Christian was to me not just a colleague and a friend; he was a kindred spirit. As much or perhaps more than anyone else I know, he was the one person who was regularly reading and listening to the same material that I was. From Eugene Petersen to Wendell Berry, we shared many favorite authors in common. One of the last times I visited Christian, he told me that he was listening to a great lecture he had downloaded from the internet by Henri Blocher. “This is someone new,” I said. “Tell me more.” As it turns out, I had actually just started reading a book by Blocher but didn’t recognize the correct pronunciation of his name. I mention our common interests not only to say that I will miss Christian sorely, though I will—and already do—but because this sharing of common interests and affections is the very gift of friendship. Christian was a gift to me, as I know he was to many of you.
Among the things I most appreciated about Christian is this: the virtues he made most vivid were ordinary virtues—virtues that you and I can reasonably seek to imitate. In contrast to celebrities, who are idolized for exceptional talents that leave most of us feeling like failures because we will never be as rich, or as famous, or as successful, Christian embodied the older notion of a hero—i.e., one who specializes in and makes the most of those faculties that are given equally to all persons in common. And so it is that we remember Christian not only for his talents—his clarity of thought, his skillful musicianship, and his ability to advise—but also for his virtues—his gentleness and generosity, his sincerity and sacrifice, his patience and his peace-making.
At a meeting of Cornell chaplains earlier this week, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim chaplains alike remembered Christian for conversing across faith traditions while remaining firmly grounded in his tradition. He would engage, listen, and learn without on the one hand being abrasively confrontational, or on the other hand ignoring meaningful differences among traditions. That is virtue, the stuff of heroes—the sort of thing that everyone one of us can learn from and seek to emulate.
But if there is one thing for which I admired Christian the most, it wasn’t actually anything about him as an individual. What I admired most about him was his marriage. Some time ago we were having lunch, and he confided in me that he was going through a very difficult time personally. And then I asked him point blank: “Christian,” I said, “these things can take a toll on your relationships. How’s your marriage?”
“My marriage,” he said, looking me in the eye, “is great. Adversity has only served to bring Barb and me closer.” Would that we could all say the same. Although I can think of many individuals who are worthy role models, I can think of far fewer marriages that I care to imitate. Christian and Barb’s was such a marriage. Barb: please know that we continue to pray with and for you, as we know you will miss Christian far more than any of us.
If Christian could hear what I have said so far, I fancy I know what he would say. He would say, in characteristic humility, “Enough about me. A memorial service should focus on the hope and promise of the resurrection that is offered to us in the person of Christ.”
“Yes,” I would respond, “but . . . what better way to make concrete that hope and promise than to call attention to a life well lived, a life transformed by the gospel, a life of one whom God himself has already said, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’? What better way to anticipate the eternal pleasures of heaven than to meditate on the proximate pleasures of friendship?” Then, in support of my argument, I would quote CS Lewis, another of our favorite authors, to the effect that friendship is a foretaste of heaven.
“Friendship,” Lewis wrote,
exhibits a glorious nearness by resemblance to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed, which no man can number, increase the fruition which each has of God for every soul in heaven seeing Him in her own way communicates the unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying out Holy, Holy, Holy, to one another.
“Touche,” I imagine Christian responding with a smile, acknowledging my point. Or, perhaps, he would push back on me again, with a clever counterargument—raising points I have not yet considered. I don’t know. And I will not know until we meet again. And that is what I will miss.
In any case, if it is true, as Lewis says, that we need friends in order to know God more fully, then what those of us who had the privilege of knowing Christian share in common is this: we have been immeasurably enriched not only by his friendship, but through his friendship, by having had the opportunity to know God, and even to partake of the very pleasures of paradise.
Living and LearningUncategorized
Ostensibly, your college education is about acquiring knowledge and skills to help you get a job and to live life well. It does that, of course. But as all students know, the college years are defined as much as anything else by the quest for friendships that are deep, satisfying, and enduring.
This “college experience” is a somewhat modern phenomenon. In ages past, most people traveled less, didn’t go to school for so long, and married younger. Friendship needs were met largely through rootedness in family and community. Today, in a world of social and geographic mobility, extended schooling, and later marriage, friendship is a little more complicated. Suddenly landing on a campus with thousands of peers and potential friends one has never before met entails both great disorientation and great opportunity. For all its benefits, there is one weird side effect of the modern college experience: the compartmentalization of learning and living.
Contrary to the image of students staying up until all hours debating politics, religion, and the meaning of life, academic life at the modern university too often becomes a duty, like a 9-to-5 job, after which one unwinds to “get away from it all.” The classroom and the dorm thus become divorced and dichotomous, analogous to work vs. play, duty vs. desire, obligation vs. discretion, perhaps even slavery vs. freedom. This explains, in part, why social life in college often resembles a kind of carnivalesque release or “licensed transgression.” It also explains how learning came to be understood as un-fun.
This is ironic, given that the English word “school” is derived from the Greek word “schole,” which means leisure. That transformation is a long story, but suffice it to say, college life does not generally embody a deeply relational epistemology. Where does that leave you? Will you put learning before living? Living before learning? Or will you strive to find some semblance of balance, or possibly even integration?
This week’s New York Times has an interesting article featuring Cornell on the movement toward living-learning residence halls. It is a good trend.
As an undergraduate at Cornell, I recall visiting friends at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, and thinking that their residential college system–based on the English model–was far superior to the cinder block barracks of “U-Hall 3.” We had Telluride House, of course, but that was for nerds. What didn’t occur to me at the time was that the segregation of good students into one house inadvertently reinforces the norm that caring about the world and wanting to talk about it over dinner was abnormal. Cornell has recently torn down six of those WWII-era “halls” and invested hundreds of millions of dollars in new “houses.” Faculty live in them and lectures take place in them.
The goal of this movement, as the Times puts it, is “the fusion of academic and residential life.” President Emeritus Hunter Rawlings, for example, was concerned about addressing the schizophrenia of hard work and hard partying. “It had become clear,” adds Vice Provost Isaac Kramnick, “that there was a 4:30 p.m. cutoff at the university, after which many students entered an intellect-free zone.” Putting it all in a broader perspective, the Timesalso quotes Will Willimon and Tom Naylor (The Abandoned Generations: Rethinking Higher Education) to the effect that lax parenting and social permissiveness combined with faculty focus on research and disengagement from student life resulted in a campus culture characterized by “substance abuse, indolence and excessive careerism.” All of this resulted in what the Times aptly calls “the marginalization of undergraduates.”
The Times does not mention that Willimon and Naylor are devout Christian scholars. That is not necessary to mention, of course, but I do think it is good and right for Christians to be thinking seriously about the relationship of living to learning, of friendship to knowledge.
The universal longing for friendship, as testified in virtually all of the world’s art, music, literature, and film, suggests that reality is deeply relational in structure. What are we to make of this? The relational structure of Creation, Scripture suggests, reflects the relational structure of the Creator. God himself is revealed as three persons in perfect community. Given that human persons are created in the image of God, it then comes as no surprise that, according to the opening chapters of the Hebrew Scriptures (the “Old Testament”), the one unfulfilled desire and deep longing that preceded sin was the longing for relationship. The longing for friendship, it turns out, is more fundamental and fundamentally different than the longing for money, power, status, control, or even sex.
Speaking of sex, it is neither a coincidence nor a joke that “to know” (in the biblical sense) refers to intercourse. Intercourse is the deepest way of knowing another, but it is not altogether different from other ways of knowing. In fact, it illustrates what is true of knowledge more generally–namely, that all knowledge (contra DesCartes) is relational and embodied. The analogy may be rough, in both senses of the word, but true discourse, like intercourse, entails hospitality, vulnerability, and the blurring of boundaries. Of course, the boundaries of our person must be managed so that we are neither impermeable nor overly porous. As C.S. Lewis put it in the introduction to Pilgrim’s Regress, we are called to steer a middle course between crustaceans and jellyfish.
When we see that knowledge and friendship go hand in hand, it helps us navigate the seemingly competing claims of living and learning. Believe it or not, academic life and stewardship of the mind can actually be enjoyable, especially in community. And social life can (and should) include “serious” conversation. Expressing care and concern about the world over dinner may be mildly countercultural, but it need not be dismissed as nerdy. Calvin Seerveld referred to this as “tensed leisure,” and there is a compelling depiction of the ideal in an obscure documentary entitled “Arguing the World.” Living-learning houses such as those being built at Cornell are a good step in the direction of rendering tensed leisure normal.
One last thing. Residential initiatives such as those at Cornell may be modeled after the English college system, but there is one big difference. The English college system includes religious residences nestled within the larger pluralistic environment. Whether we should have something like that at Cornell or not is rather beside the point; we don’t, and we are not going to anytime soon. And that is, in part, the ecological niche that Chesterton House is here to fill. How do you unwind on a Friday afternoon without entering an intellectual freeze zone? Where do go to find friends who, like you, want to talk about the things that matter most? Friends with whom you can enjoy a good argument as if it were a good game of chess? We do not (yet) have the resources for a faith-based residence hall such as Westminster House in Berkeley or Pres House in Madison, but we do have some very fine discussion groups that meet to talk about important things in a spirit of tensed leisure.
For those who are interested, I will be elaborating on the theme of spiritual friendship at the first Cornell Christian Fellowship meeting, Friday, August 24th, 7:30pm, in HEC auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall.
The Simple WayUncategorized
According to the New York Times, there is a “new breed” of evangelicals that doesn’t fit the old stereotypes. Whether the old stereotypes had any merit or not, Shane Claiborne is certainly a new breed of sorts.
Claiborne, for those not familiar with him, is the author of The Irresistible Revolution and founder of The Simple Way–an intentional Christian community in urban Philadelphia. For a good introduction, listen to this segment from NPR’s Speaking of Faith entitled The New Monastics.
The Simple Way’s home has just burned down. See the website for more info. Take the opportunity to acquaint yourself with this group, and let them be a reminder of the radical lives we are all called to live, no matter how differently that calling may be enacted.
Faith & CollegeUncategorized
Just a few years ago, nobody seemed interested in talking about religion. How things change.
In a much-discussed CHE article from a couple of years ago, Stanley Fish wrote the following: “When Jacques Derrida died I was called by a reporter who wanted to know what would succeed high theory and the triumvirate of race, gender, and class as the center of intellectual energy in the academy. I answered like a shot: religion.” The article, entitled One University Under God? is well worth reading.
Also worth reading–when you have a bit more time–is the Social Science Research Coucil’s Forum on the Religious Engagements of American Undergraduates. There are many, many fine articles here, including:
Elaine Howard Ecklund, Religion and Spirituality among University Scientists
Neil Gross, How Religious are America’s College and University Professors?
Rebecca Y. Kim, Asian Americans for Jesus: Changing the Face of Campus Evangelicalism
John Schmalzbauer, Campus Ministry: A Statistical Portrait
Robert Wuthnow, Can Faith Be More Than a Side Show in the Contemporary Academy?
The site also provides an online guide as a kind of summary of the research. (See especially Craig Calhoun’s preface to the guide.) The online guide is full of links to an annotated bibliography and other web resources.
Ground Zero, Jazz & HeavenUncategorized
I don’t know what I would have done if I had been an artist living blocks from Ground Zero, but I like to think I might have done what Mako Fujimura has done.
Over the last several years, Fujimura has communicated in images and words that 9/11 was not only an extraordinary event, but also an ordinary event, in this sense: the whole world is a Ground Zero of sorts. The world is broken, full of suffering that ought never be denied. That is not to say Fujimura’s work is cynical. He rather steers a middle course between despair and sentimentality, capturing the complexity of a world that is simultaneously broken and beautiful. Not only that, but he also suggests hope for re-creating the world as it ought to be. Such nuance is a mark of good art–and of good religion.
Last month, Chesterton House provided scholarships to Cornell students attending “Redemptive Culture: Creating the World that Ought to Be,”the 2007 International Arts Movement (IAM) conference in New York City. The conference was outstanding. Speakers included IAM founder Fujimura, Les Miserables producer Karen Goodwin, Ground Zero master plan architect Daniel Libeskind, and two theologian-musicologists–Dr. Jeremy Begbie and Dr. William Edgar.
Begbie’s keynote addresses also dealt with the theme of re-humanizing a broken world. The tension is that while we long for something radically new, we are bound to time and space. The “relentless cult of novelty” (Solzhenitsyn) among the avant-garde is a longing to be re-born, and yet we cannot escape tradition. Every effort to transcend tradition fails, and results in a new tradition. The concept of artists creating ex nihilo is thus mistaken. What creative artists really do is re-create; they add something new to something old and thereby re-make or re-envision it. Indeed, in art, music, literature, and film, there is always the presence of antecedent texts, styles, and methods.
Speaking from the book of Isaiah, Begbie asked whether God himself might renew this world by a similar pattern–by introducing “a newness from beyond” that arrives in the world in recognizable form. “Quite so,” he concluded his first lecture.
There is nothing so new, Begbie continued the next evening, as the new heavens and the new earth promised in Scripture. And yet even the new heavens and the new earth are not radically new, but a renewal of what already is. What does that mean for us? It means that we are “agents of the new world” who still live in the old world. Playing bi-tonal chords from various pieces of music, Begbie illustrated his point that we live in the overlap–“between the times.” The new world has invaded the old.
Good art thus not only weaves joy together with woe, but hints at hope for the transformation of mourning into dancing (Ps. 31). In his keynote address entitled “Being a Child of the Creative Age,” Fujimura encouraged members of the audience to think of themselves as wedding planners. “We need to begin to live like a bride expecting a great, cosmic wedding.” Our work is to be anticipatory, even preparatory, of the new heavens and new earth.
Edgar, also a presenter at the IAM conference, speaks and writes on this theme of beauty amidst brokenness with respect to African-American music–spirituals, ragtime, blues, and jazz. The blues, he writes, echoing Fujimura, are funerary but not hopeless. In fact, they are preparatory. “The realism of the blues does not stand opposed to hopefulness, but to sentimentality. So often the music of white people responds to troubled times with escapism. The blues is stark and realistic, but not hopeless. The blues tells us how to live on earth in order to prepare for heaven. Living down here makes no sense unless there is a heaven to give it meaning.”
For those who love the arts, for those drawn and intrigued by this theme of finding grace amidst the ground zeroes of our lives, and for those who are sorry to have missed this wonderful conference, we have some very good news. For those in Ithaca, Chesterton House will be hosting Fujimura next semester. For those in the Metro New York area, we will be hosting a very special evening of jazz music and history with Edgar in May.
On May 5th, at the Ethical Culture Society in midtown Manhattan, Dr. William Edgar will provide his highly regarded routine entitled“Heaven in a Nightclub”–a narrative of misery and hope in the history of African-American music. We are also pleased to announce that Dr. Edgar will be joined by a stellar cast of guests, including recording artist Ruth Naomi Floyd on vocals, Ithaca area virtuoso Joe Salzano on saxophone, and Grammy Award winning composer and musician John Patitucci on bass. Master of Ceremonies for the evening will be Christianity Today columnist and Christian Vision Project Director Andy Crouch.
The event is a benefit concert, and all proceeds will go to support the operations of the Chesterton House ministry. More information can be found atTicketWeb.
One last thing . . . A favor to ask . . . Would you help us spread the word?? Do you know somebody in or near New York City who might be interested in this event? Somebody who knows somebody in or near New York City? Please take a moment and call their attention to this event. Mention it on your blog. Put it in your church bulletin. The theatre seats 800, and our goal is to fill it without spending, well, without spending money that we don’t have on advertising. This is a very simple way you can help the Chesterton House ministry. Thank you!