All posts by arend

Jazz Concert

Describe:

Tonight was the Vocal Jazz and Jazz Ensemble Concert put on by the CSP department of Music. It was held in the E.M.Pearson Theatre. Vox 9 was the first to preform. Vox 9 was some people that I knew — some of whom are in Christus and sang in the Christmas concert. They sang a wide variety of music, from classics like “What a Wonderful World” to Christmas music — inspired by after Pentatonix the acapella music group which do musical compilations. Then came Blue Rondo, the Jazz Ensemble. They also had an impressive repertoire of jazz music with some people that I knew as well.

Interpret:

Something that I appreciate about both Jazz and Acapella music is the intricacies within it. Especially when it comes to acapella music, the people have to be very intune with each other to make it successful– moving together and keeping a close ear to what is going on around them. Jazz pushes the boundaries of what is “acceptable” in music, and that can either be very good or very bad if poorly executed. This is like what we learned in class about how interconnectivity influences what the individuals do and how the whole unit functions. The individuals must be aware of their place and their contribution. And the unit needs each of those parts to be present and preforming properly to work and to be successful.

Evaluate:

I always love Jazz music because it is interesting to listen to. It is complex. I can imagine that it definitely isn’t easy to preform, because it can be unpredictable, but it was fun to hear classics that were rearranged in a way that I hadn’t heard before. I also thought that it was good to have both the Vocal Jazz group and the Jazz ensemble together because music is so versatile and it showcased how the same genre of music can sound so different and have a very different interpretation.

Networked

Framing:

Networked: The New Social Operating System by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman. Raine works at the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC as Director of the Internet & American Life Project. Wellman comes from the University of Toronto where he directs the NetLab at the Faculty of Information. Previously, Raine was the managing editor of the U.S. News and World Report and Wellman founded the International Network for Social Network Analysis–a professional association for researchers who are interested in social network analysis. The book is aimed towards “intelligent general readers” while “still keeping the specialists happy” (Networked X). The book addresses how to live and operate in the ever-changing digital world. It picks apart the way that the digital world was formed, how it has evolved, and Networked projects how the digital world might continue evolve, studying how technology has impacted our connections.

Summary:

The book is divided into three sections. The first section analyses what the authors call the “Triple Revolution”: the ways in which the social, online and mobile connections came to form. The social network revolution provided a shift from tight-knit families and communities to wider groups. Suddenly people were not just defined by those with whom they were in close proximity. Social relationships are build on flexible connectivity. While this has allowed for a larger friend base, it adds the stress of not having a single home base. Suddenly the relationships are “sparsely knit networks of diverse associates rather than…tight connections to a relatively small number of core associates” (Networked 12). The second revolution, the internet revolution, unpacks how as the internet has become more integrated into our society, it has changed the role of the individual. It is a tool for an individual to gather information and promote personal agendas to a larger audience. Different types of people have emerged from use of the internet such as the entrepreneurs, communitarians, and participators. The internet revolution has allowed for an expression of the individual self in ways which previously weren’t possible. When the mobile revolution came around, it blurred the lines between the public and private spaces. There was less of a separation between work and home life and personal conversations were able to be taken anywhere. The mobile revolution has allowed people to be absently present or presently absent. This means that they can be a great distance away but still “there” via technology or they can be physically there, but absent via technology.

Establishing these three “revolutions”, Networked analyses how networked individualism works. It looks 5 angles: relationship, family, work, creators, and information. The remainder of the book focuses on how to operate in a networked world both now and in the years to come as technology continues to become more prominent. It identifies some flaws with networked information such as there being too much information and much less privacy. Lastly, it looks at how we can thrive within our networked communities now and how we may continue to grow as a networked people.

Analysis:

I appreciated the insight this book had to offer. I found that much of what I was reading resonated with what I observe in my life–especially when it came to the “triple revolution”. I think it is very reflective of our society, with communities growing wider, individual selves becoming more networked, and technology altering the way that we view distance and being “present”. However I think that overall, Networked had a pretty positive outlook. “The foreseeable future holds the prospect that individuals will be able to act more independently with greater power to shape their lives if they choose to do so” (Networked 302). Networked is able to stage these changes in a way there they seem like an opportunity for growth.

I also appreciated how in the last segment “Thriving as a Networked Individual”, the authors are able to bring full circle these thoughts of how to not just coexist with technology, but to use it to our advantage. I think that oftentimes when it comes to technology there is an unspoken idea that it must be tolerated, especially from those who haven’t grown up with it. It was refreshing that, though the authors of Networked acknowledged the flaws of an increasingly networked world, they realized that it was going to be far more effective to teach people how to thrive in it than it would be to try to teach them just to live in it. “The underlying theme of this book is that it is a networked world, and that being networked is not scary. Rather, it provides opportunities for people to thrive if they know how to maneuver it…technology continues to spread through populations, so the emerging need is for people to learn how to cultivate their networks–and to get out from the cocoon of their bonded groups” (Networked 255). Technology is the future, we are going to become more and more dependent on it. If we cannot grow with it, it will hold us back.

Glad Tidings of Great Joy!

Summary:

This weekend was the CSP Choral Christmas Concert. CSP’s two choirs, Jubilate and Christus, were featured along with the Handbells Ensemble and an orchestra. I am in Jubilate Choir, so I know firsthand the hours that were devoted to preparation for the event. The theme of the concert was Glad Tidings of Great Joy, which focused on the coming of Christ bringing joy and peace to the world which is otherwise without hope. Interwoven amidst the music were spoken scriptures and translations of the words being sung. This allowed for an overarching story to be created.

Integrate:

This is annual concert–a Christmas ritual that CSP participates in each year–is planned out minute-by-minute, carefully crafted by Dr. Mennicke and Professor Speer. This is the 29th year that Dr. Mennicke has been a director here at CSP, and the 29th year that he has conducted the concert. One of the things that he talked to the choirs about before going on is how this tradition often brings back alumni from years and years ago. The audience is not only comprised of parents and family, but of past students — some of which no longer have strong ties with CSP. This annual ritual of a Christmas concert attracts many people who would never otherwise come together — but we all join for the celebration of Christ and to take part in this rich tradition of choral music.

Evaluation:

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the concert. Being a part of a ritual with such a deep past, it was evident that this event was important. It was shown not only from the time that was devoted it, but from the people who came to participate both on and off the stage. There was a common reverence for the message and the music. Music is able to bring people together in a unique way. This concert displayed that in how it used music to connect the past and the present as different generations were able to celebrate how the coming of Christ continues to inspire joy and hope.

Book Review — The Shallows

Framing:

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr is an argumentative essay that uses the personal experiences of Carr with scientific data to make a point about what the internet is doing to our brains. Nicholas Carr is a journalist who has written for The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and more. He is also an author who write predominantly on technology and our modern culture. He has written several books on the impact of technology on our society and our brains — including The Shallows. In The Shallows, he aims this book to a specific audience who would have an interest in the science of technology and how it influences humans.

Summary:

Carr begins The Shallows with a prologue in which he introduces his thesis: “a medium’s content matters less than the media itself in influencing how we think and act…eventually, if we use it enough, it changes who we are, as individuals and as a society” (Carr 3). He then launches into the book by discussing the idea of neuroplasticity. He argues that though it gives a loophole for free thought and free will, it locks us up in rigid behaviors. Maybe, then, the brain is not so much plastic as it is elastic. Instead of any part of the brain making up for anything that is lost, the brain has a specificity about it which makes it unable to do that but instead it adapts to changes. With our brain being highly adaptable, it matters what tools we use in everyday life because they will influence how our brains develop. The medium matters because it is the thing that people actually interact with. Carr then goes into an analysis of how the mediums of getting out a message. First there was parchment or papyrus, then the printing press. Books and the printing press changed the game because people were able to mass produce a message cheaply. Then came the triode transistor, the television, and the phonograph — but these were all one-way means of communication.

The introduction of the internet was monumental because it allowed for there to be fast access to information. It has the capability to search by a single word, switch between multiple things quickly, and contain hyper-texts. However, with the invention of the internet, Carr argues that there is something that is lost. We are unable to retain information as well because there is so much information available to us. Our working memories are overloaded by such an influx of information. There is so much information available to us that we become “pancake people–spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button” (Carr 196). With the ability to switch so quickly between things, and with so much at our fingertips, it crowds out our mind and we aren’t able to focus our energy on one thing long enough in order to retain it and process it. We are unable to have uncluttered thinking. Without a calm mind, there’s is a loss of deep thinking, and “it’s not only deep thinking that requires a calm, attentive mind. It’s also empathy and compassion” (Carr 220).

Analysis:

Carr makes a lot of observations about what the internet is doing to our brains and our society. He doesn’t try to shame or shy us away from using the internet. Rather, Carr writes with passion for the topic. He is describing what is going on in our culture and how the internet is influencing the way that we live. It is apparent that he is writing from some kind of experience, and in the last portion of that book that is quite evident. I appreciated his honesty. He talked about how it was rather ironic to write a book about the internet and didn’t try to hide his personal struggles with reliance on technology. This authenticity made me more receptive to read what he had to say.

I liked his argument that our minds are being compromised because with so much information that is coming into our brains all at once, our brains are overloaded. There is so much information at our fingertips that we almost don’t need to remember because we can look everything up. Carr asserts that the internet is changing us and I agree with Carr, to a point. He is correct that we are losing a lot through the sheer amount of information available to us. However, I think that it is dehumanizing to give the internet the power that he is allowing it to have. It is not the computer that is changing me, I allow the change to happen and choose what media I consume. It is not the computer’s fault for allowing us a vast ocean of knowledge. It is in the hands of the humans to notice and counteract the harmful effects of the internet. The book was fascinating and it was offered a lot of observations but it focuses a lot on what the internet is doing to us but I think it downplayed that we are the ones with the control of the media. I think overall Carr did a great job presenting his argument and making it relatable. However, I think that he could have landed on a more concrete method to counteract the effects of technology and driven home the point that if we want change, it is up to us. Technology won’t fix itself.

Book Review — Who’s In Charge

Framing:

Who’s in Charge by Dr. Michael Gazzaniga is an analysis of how free will and the biology of our brains intersect. The book doesn’t necessarily have an identified audience, however by nature of how it is constructed, it is geared towards intellectuals. In it, he seeks to “explain the route and some of the detours that we have taken to reach our current knowledge of the brain and review what we currently know about how it works… these wanderings are going to show us that the physical world has a different set of laws depending on what organizational layer one is looking at, and we will discover what that has to do with human behavior. We are going to end up, of all places, in the courtroom,” (Gazzaniga 5). The angle from which Gazzaniga tackles the topic is much like a study. He analyzes the brain and its impact on freewill from multiple angles, drawing conclusions from his findings.

Summary:

Gazzaniga’s argument is to convince us that we are responsible agents and “the mind, which is somehow generated by the physical processes of the brain, constrains the brain,” (Gazzaniga 4). The book is divided up into 7 chapters. The first three chapters lay a foundation of psychology studies and theories related to the brain and mind. In this beginning segment, he takes the reader through past ideologies that show the evolution of brain science and the brain/mind.

In the second segment of the book, chapters four through the end, he launches into the idea of free will and morals. He looks at how free will doesn’t come from the brain, but that even though on an anatomical level people may be able to “predict” what someone will do, there is much more that goes into decision-making. He talks about the “social mind” and how our communities will influence the decisions that we make because “with all our automatic processes, there is a whole living environment changing and impacting our behavior, thinking, and perhaps our genome,” (Gazzaniga 152). Even though we are individuals, “the social group constrains the individual behavior…[and] individual’s behavior is not solely the product of an isolated, deterministic brain but [is] affected by the social group,” (Gazzaniga 157).

Gazzaniga is also continually fighting against the “deterministic brain” which is a widely-held viewpoint in the scientific community. He wraps up the book looking at how neuroscience is seeping into the courtrooms and why the determinist view (which shaped many aspects of our court system) is harmful because it assumes that since our neurons are the same, we can all be treated identically — regardless of how our brains have become differentiated from the “norm” or what social atmosphere we have been immersed in.

Analysis:

I found this book to be very fascinating. Gazzaniga did an excellent job using scientific studies as a platform for his arguments. He was able to present them in a way that was simple enough to understand for those who have no experience in neuroscience but also that was interesting enough that readers wanted to keep reading. The topic is difficult to tackle, especially because in the scientific world he is carrying a very unpopular belief by arguing against determinism. There are entire societal systems that are constructed around the idea that people are basically the same, that we are “vehicles for the physically determined forces of the universe” (Gazzaniga 218). Yet Gazzaniga was able to argue that though we are, on a neurological level, the same, that is not where it ends. From that basic level, we all grow and are shaped by our society. We are responsible for our actions because we have made choices. “Human nature remains constant, but out in the social world behavior can change…[we] have made choices based on [our] experience. This is what makes us responsible agents, or not” (Gazzaniga 215). He tactfully refutes the popular belief, offering an alternative way of thinking about how our minds interact with our brains.

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It is a relevant topic that offers an explanation for how the mind and body intersect in the decision-making process. Gazzaniga laid out thorough, thoughtful arguments that challenged the scientific status quo while allowing room for future growth because “the facts don’t change. What changes…are the ideas on how to understand the ever-accumulating facts of Mother Nature” (Gazzaniga 219). Who’s in Charge is a written by a true scientist, who humbly offers his truth while maintaining respect for the ever-changing life of science.

Homecoming 2017

This whole week built the anticipation for Homecoming, conversations were buzzing with talk of the game, the carnival, what to wear, and who was going. On the Wednesday before, I went with a group of my friends to the mall where we all bought gear to wear — metallic blue leggings, gold pants, face paint, jackets, hats, and various other accessories as each of us wanted. The hours leading up to it were a little crazy since several girls and I went to Wisconsin to the hometown of one of the girl to see her homecoming game. We got back around 10:15am where we rushed to get spirited up with our homecoming gear for the game. Two of us had to sing the national anthem and so at 11:20 we headed to the Buetow to warm up and walked over to the game with the choir. I have sung with choirs before, but I come from a small school so singing with such a big choir for a collegiate game was very different. When the singing was done, the game began!

The game didn’t go incredibly well and we ended up losing, but throughout the whole game the fans I sat by still faithfully cheered and chanted the school song. We sat right by the pep band which was really loud but kept the energy high throughout the game.

When it was finished, we all headed over to the carnival and began to ride rides and eat a ton of food. And it was all free!

In class we are learning about rituals and recognizing the rituals we partake in without even thinking — and yesterday was a great example of rituals. From dressing up in CSP gear to singing the national anthem, we engaged in the common rituals that are done for homecoming games to show school support/spirit and to keep traditions. The carnival, too, was a ritual, though it was a ritual that is specific to CSP. Dressing up with spirit and singing the national anthem are expected at most homecoming games, but the carnival is something that CSP puts on that is unique to the university.

The experience was great — even though we lost the game I had a lot of fun. Studying rituals in class has definitely helping me to identify them in real life. Before I had not even thought about what rituals I take part in, but now as I’m recognizing them and living them out, I’m realizing their significance. Homecoming was a ritual that helped me to feel a stronger tie to CSP and also to the people that I primarily experienced Homecoming with.

A Good Time for the Truth

Today Sun Yung Shin, author of “A Good Time for the Truth: Race In Minnesota” gave a talk on her book. I honestly had no idea what I was going to, but I knew I was suppose to be there, so I went.

“‘Essays that challenge, discomfort, disorient, galvanize, and inspire all of us to evolve now, for our shared future.’ Who is ready to be inspired?…Who is ready to be challenged?…Now what about discomforted? Disoriented?”

This is how the discussion opened, I was posed these questions which I answered haphazardly in my mind, accompanied with a slight hand raise. These were questions which I didn’t even give a second thought until hours after the talk was over and I had long since moved on with my day.

Sun Yung Shin is an American with South Korean ancestry. She is an artist and an author who wrote the book “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota” which takes a look at racism in Minnesota and systemic issues that perpetuate the racism that takes place in our society. She sought out stories that have been intentionally and unintentionally suppressed and brought them to light. Her discussion began talking about the origins of Minnesota. We are living on land which is indigenous to the Dakota Native American tribes. She read to us legislation from the 1800s when Minnesota was being established that stated, “The Sioux Indians must be exterminated.” Our government dissolved all treaties between them and indigenous people which causes masses to be forced off the land which was their home and to seek sanctuary in foreign places.

This was shocking to me. It was painful that this state that I love so much has a legacy of oppression and extermination. It was grieving to examine my culture within the context of this past that condoned the belittling of entire people groups. Shin talked about ways that our society cater to white people and favor them. With systemic racism what can we do?

I totally agree that there are issues in our society that perpetuate the problem of racism. As a white, middle class female, I cannot imagine what it is like to live as a POC. I know that it is important to hear what she talked about because I can’t even imagine it. Also, in class we talk about being human and Christian. Both of those identities call us to care for our fellow person. If we consider it from a humanitarian view, each human should be awarded basic human rights and privileges just from the fact that they have breath in their lungs and a complex brain that can make decisions and process emotions. In light of Christianity, our job becomes even more clear — we are to love all people, to help the oppressed, to care for the poor and underprivileged. As Christians, if there is a chance there are people who might be oppressed, it is our job to that we stand with them because people cannot stand alone. If it is other white people that are oppressing and belittling others, maybe it is my job as a white person to stand up, because maybe I am the only one they would listen to. The Dakota struggle is important, people being oppressed is important. As Shin said, “Silence is to engage in the status quo. Truth telling can alleviate the burden of maintaining oppressing systems. Maintaining them are a moral disfigurement.” As humans and Christians we are called to set right that which is wrong, to bring life and liberation to all people. We have a lot of work to do — but it is no more than what we are already called to do as Christians.

Did it inspire me? Yes. Did it challenge me? Yes Now what about discomfort me? Disorient me? Yes and yes. As I was reflecting I realized that that is what happened to me. I was inspired to stand up to oppression. I was challenged to consider the ways in which systemic racism has seeped into my life in ways I have not recognized. I was discomforted and disoriented as I realized she was shining light on things that I did not like to think about — calling a spade a spade. It was a wake up call to recognize the struggles of the people around me and to stand with them in whatever way I can to bring restoration and healing to oppressed people.

Book Review — Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious

Framing:

Life’s Too Short To Pretend You’re Not Religious opens with a provoking list. The author, David Dark, outlines the people his book “goes out to” — a list which every conceivable person falls into. The book is for those who will read it — and though Dark is a professing Christian, the scope was broader than Christianity alone. The book is not about wooing new believers, but about changing the connotations associated with the term “religion” to stimulate conversation and connection among people of diverse backgrounds. It is meant to alter the way that all people view religion — especially those who are hostile to simply the idea alone — so it will not be a semantic stumbling block, but they will begin to view it as an intrinsic part of their story that shapes who they are and what they do.

Summary:

From the start, Dark opens the discussion to all people. He addresses the reaction of nonreligious people to the word “religion”: they label. When people hear the word “religion,” their emotional baggage automatically rises to the surface, leading to judgment. Dark recognizes the necessity of identifying the labeling problem within the introduction: “When I label people, I no longer have to deal with them thoughtfully… they have been taken care of” (Dark 13).

Dark also weaves several central Christian principles into the book: the need for community, the relational aspect of religion, and how it’s for everyone. Dark acknowledges the importance of community, not only within the context of Christianity but also in humanity as a whole. He spends an entire chapter imploring people to recognize the importance that community has in our life. He captures this in the phrase “chother,” a shortening of “each other.” Our chother — our family, our community — is the iron that sharpens iron.

Dark offers a thorough motivation of community as a basic human need, acknowledging that community is a universal necessity, not only for people of faith but for all of humanity. In the words of Dark “everyone needs at least one or two people asking them to tell them specifically how they’re doing in this unfolding tale” (Dark 114). Indeed, this key principle of Christianity is for everyone. Dark recognizes a deep desire for meaning within us and that “the idea that any of us can have our meaning alone…is a death-dealing delusion” (Dark 139).

Analysis:

My primary critique is of the idea that we can be religious about anything. Dark says you can be religious about “your obsession with Game of Thrones” or “your determination to hold onto that plastic bottle till you’ve found a recycling receptacle” (Dark 22). Dark goes to significant lengths to level religious playing field in an attempt to bridge the gap between those who think they’re religious and those who think (or even assert strongly) that they are not. This move is problematic because it cheapens the concept of “religion” itself. Dark defines religion as “the what, the to whom, and the how of our everyday lives” (Dark 115). He defines it this way so that the idea of “being religious” is no longer something that people can separate from themselves. In this way, he strives to make religion a less polarizing topic. However, in doing this, he devalues the very notion of religion in some sense. Religion has historically been held to be sacred because of its relationality — it uniquely describes the tradition of how people relate with God. Dark allows religion to be replaced by a fake replica of relationship with whatever it is that people invest their time in, no matter how trivial. By construing “religion” as something so casual and commonplace, he undermines its relational principle.

People often associate rules with religion, perhaps because they were taught to have that relationship they must follow the rules and jump through the religious hoops. But at its core, religion should always be used to describe a relationship between two beings. In my case, it is me and a triune God. In others, it may be someone and Allah or some unnamed god. But in each case, it is a living human with another perceived being — not with an object. To use religion to describe a relationship with an inanimate object lessens the significance of religion as a relationship with another being.

Conclusion:

I disagreed with Dark’s loose definition of what can be considered a “religion” because it can desensitize people to the word itself. If we hope to draw people into a more comfortable place with Christianity, we must not attempt to convince them they’re already religious. This risks minimizing the notion of religion entirely. We must shift the discussion away from religion and towards the relationship. Relationship is where the gravity and sacredness of religion lies. That is why the Gospel is all about cultivating a relationship with God and knowing Jesus. Forgetting about relationship cheapens religion and misses the point of the Gospel.

Does Lutheranism Still Matter?

This evening Dr. Andrew Bartelt gave a lecture addressing the relevance of the Lutheran faith in today’s culture. We are now in the 500th year since Martin Luther composed his 95 Theses and it raises the question, “Does Lutheranism Still Matter?” After all these years, is there still a place for the Lutheran faith in today’s world? Bartelt argues that though the times have changed much since Luther nailed the Theses to the door of the church, and though the social contexts have changed, the theology on which the Lutheran faith was built has not changed. “Theology doesn’t change, even if social context does” — which is precisely what makes the faith intrinsically relevant to humanity. Lutheranism is always applicable because it gives us tools to deal with a diverse, complex world. Dr. Bartelt asserts that we can fearlessly face the changes to come, embracing the human condition, because the Lutheran ideals remain independent of any new sociological differences that come with new generations. It is a faith with a rich past that still informs future generations because it encourages engagement with the culture at hand for the purpose of growing and enhancing the body of Christ.

This is exactly what we are unpacking in class — how to bring our Lutheran traditions into all aspects of our lives so that what we do is reflective of what beliefs we profess. We live in an interconnected world; we cannot separate our faith from the life that we live in the world because they are so deeply intertwined. It is paramount that we allow “our religious life [to always be] in the context of our place in history” because it informs how we interact with the world around us. It allows us to be sensitive to the needs of our communities so that we can step into the unique role we have and minister to the broken world around us.

Overall, I found that Dr. Bartelt’s lecture brought to light some significant aspects of our faith that are not often focused on. For many people, trying to balance faith with modern culture is difficult because the two seemingly conflict. However, Dr. Bartelt put importance in allowing the tension of differing viewpoints to hang in the balance, which moves people away from feeling the need to defend their position and gives the opportunity to enter into dialogue with others about any points of discord. I appreciated this because recognizing our differences with those around us, while coexisting in a respectful environment, provides the chance to can converse freely about contrasting views. It keeps the door to religion open and informs us how to adapt accordingly as the social contexts continue to change.

Thoughts on Religion

I had many expectations about what I would read when I opened “Life’s Too Short To Pretend You’re Not Religious” by David Dark. Primarily, I expected that the book would attempt to soften the term “religion” specifically regarding Christianity, making it less polarizing for the purpose of encouraging people to consider it. However, as I delved deeper into the book, I realized that its scope was broader than Christianity alone. The book was not about wooing new believers, but about changing the connotations associated with the term “religion” to stimulate conversation and connection among people of diverse backgrounds. Here I will discuss several points on which I agreed and disagreed with Dark.

From the start, Dark opens the discussion to all people. Without wasting time, he addresses the reaction of nonreligious people to the word “religion”: they label. When people hear the word “religion,” their emotional baggage automatically rises to the surface, leading to judgment. Dark recognizes the necessity in identifying the labeling problem within the introduction: “When I label people, I no longer have to deal with them thoughtfully… they have been taken care of” (Dark 13). This creates a strong conceptual foundation for Dark’s arguments throughout the remainder of the book.

Dark also weaves several central Christian principles into the book: the need for community, the relational aspect of religion, and how it’s for everyone. I concur with these points — community is an integral part of Christianity, going hand-in-hand with its relational aspect. In fact, Christianity serves a triune God who, in His very being, is a representation of perfect community. You cannot ignore the relational aspect of the faith because its entire foundation is a God who is relational — a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit coexisting together in flawless unity. To deny that aspect is to undermine a pillar of the faith. Dark recognizes this much, spending an entire chapter imploring people to recognize the importance that community has in our life. He captures this in the phrase “chother,” a shortening of “each other.” Our chother — our family, our community — is the iron that sharpens iron.

While Dark offers a thorough motivation of community as a basic human need, he fails to tie it directly to Christianity. Dark acknowledges that community is a universal necessity, not only for people of faith but for all of humanity. In the words of Dark “everyone needs at least one of two people asking them to tell them specifically how they’re doing in this unfolding tale” (Dark 114). Indeed, this key principle of Christianity is for everyone, but Dark stops short of explicitly connecting it Christianity. This point could have been made by explaining that the principles were laid into place by an intelligent, intentional God who knew His creation would need each other and, ultimately, would need Him. Dark acknowledges a deep desire for meaning within us and that “the idea that any of us can have our meaning alone…is a death-dealing delusion”(Dark 139). However, he never brings his point full circle by mentioning where this deep desire came from. I read all the way to the end of the book expecting Dark to draw this connection, but he failed to address it entirely.

However, my primary critique is of an integral aspect of the book: the idea that we can be religious about anything. Dark says you can be religious about “your obsession with Game of Thrones” or “your determination to hold onto that plastic bottle till you’ve found a recycling receptacle” (Dark 22). Dark goes to significant lengths to level religious playing field in an attempt to bridge the gap between those who think they’re religious and those who think (or even assert strongly) that they are not. This move is problematic because it cheapens the concept of “religion” itself. Dark defines religion as “the what, the to whom, and the how of our everyday lives” (Dark 115). He defines it this way so that the idea of “being religious” is no longer something that people can separate from themselves. In this way, he strives to make religion a less polarizing, and more accessible, topic. However in doing this, he devalues the very notion of religion in some sense. Religion has historically been held to be sacred precisely because of its relationality — it uniquely describes the tradition of how people relate with God. Dark’s “religion” capture no such relational aspect. Dark allows religion to be replaced by a fake replica of relationship with whatever it is that people invest their time in, no matter how trivial. By construing “religion” as something so casual and commonplace, he undermines its relational principle.

This criticism becomes especially important in the context of Christianity. For Christians, religion is sacred because it represents a relationship. People often associate rules with religion, perhaps because they were taught to have that relationship, to be more holy, they must follow the rules and jump through the religious hoops. But at its core, religion should always be used to describe a relationship between two beings. In my case, it is me and a triune God. In others, it may be someone and Allah, a person and Mother Nature, or some unnamed god. But in each case, it is a living human with another perceived being — not with an object. To use religion to describe a relationship with an inanimate object lessens the significance of religion as a relationship with another being. This is somewhat like insisting that someone is married to the TV because they watch it all the time. But in reality, that demeans the concept of marriage as a relationship between two people.

If the goal is to draw people into a more comfortable place with Christianity, we must not attempt to convince them they’re already religious. That risks minimizing the notion of religion entirely. Furthermore, it desensitizes people to the word “religion.” The way to sway people towards Christianity is to shift the discussion away from religion and towards the relationship. Relationship is where the gravity and sacredness of religion lies. That is why the Gospel is all about cultivating a relationship with God and knowing Jesus. Forgetting about relationship cheapens religion and misses the point of the Gospel.