1/17/2018 Convocation

This week’s convocation invited a panel of contributors to the book “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota.” This book features 16 authors, who give their stories of living in Minnesota as a person of color. The convocation featured 4 of the anthology’s contributors, David Lawrence Grant, Venessa Fuentes, Shannon Gibney, and Sun Yung Shin. Each person had a chance to read a selection from their portion of the book and then a discussion on race was facilitated following the readings.

This convocation made me reflect on our lessons last semester, which was focused on human interactions and connections. Being able to hear the authors read their own essays gave an incredible amount of depth beyond just reading the words off the page. It made me think of the effect that my actions can have on other people, whether I am aware of it or not. This affirms the importance of being aware of how we interact with other people, because actions can hurt or help people beyond what we know.

This convocation has been one of the most enjoyable that I have attended. I really appreciated being able to hear from the authors themselves. Hearing the essays out loud created an emotional experience that I haven’t had at a convocation before. Both their readings of the essays and their responses to the audiences questions were insightful and full of wisdom that I hope never to forget.

Martin Luther and the Called Life (1/12/2018)

“Martin Luther and the Called Life” was written by Mark D. Tranvik and explores a Lutheran understanding of vocation by drawing from both Martin Luther’s experiences and ideas. The largest part of the reading for this week focused on the foundations of Luther’s theology of vocation by looking at the customs of his context and Luther’s personal experiences that led him to dive more deeply into the concept of vocation. The later part of the reading begins to look at the modern applications of Luther’s theology of vocation. Vocation begins at baptism, when a Christian is saved by grace through faith in Christ and enters into the community of believers. This means that a Christian doesn’t have to do anything to save themselves. This notion of freedom from sin and an eternal connection to Christ compels the Christian to live in service to others. This is vocation. Any position that a Christian fills in life to serve their neighbor is one of that person’s vocations.

This semester has already pushed me to think more deeply on what vocation means than ever before. In preparation for this semester, I had to ask why we were bothering to do a service learning project. In the beginning my reasoning was based solely on fulfilling the requirements of the project. However, through different readings and discussions, I have found a new reason for this project. The reason I am able to serve is because I don’t have to worry about anything. I am certain of salvation by grace through faith and I am certain that Christ has forgiven me of all of my sins. Without having to worry about what I can do to save myself(this would lead to servant acts with selfish motivation), I am able to freely serve others. I am able to serve in difficult situations because I am certain that nothing will separate me from God. These revelations have been made especially apparent through reading The Freedom of a Christian and from studying Romans 8:38-39.

As I have reflected on vocation and what I have learned in the Honors program so far, I am amazed at how this class almost always ends up corresponding with other classes that I am taking. This semester I have already looked at Luther’s theology on vocation twice and it’s only been one week! Previously I have been able to tie Honors and psychology together and Honors and theology together. Being able to make the connections between classes has been beneficial for me because it has allowed me to see the same topic from multiple angles. This means that I am able to gain new insights into the topic and learn more than I would if I had studied it in just one class. Learning about vocation from two different classes with two different professors has allowed me to really dig deeply into it and make sense of vocation in my mind.

Networked Book Review

Anna Reineke

Networked Book Review

 

Framing

The book Networked was written by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman. Networked defends social networking and promotes the statistics that cast it in a good light. Rainie works with Pew Research Center, which is a center that collects facts on the various political and social issues. Wellman works at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, which specializes in information studies. The facts presented in the book represent both of the authors’ backgrounds in statistics analysis. This book is written in a style that the general public can understand, and is especially focused towards people interested in technology and current affairs.

 

Summary

Using statistics, Rainie and Wellman work to prove their thesis that “People are not hooked on gadgets – they are hooked on each other” (6). There are many people who believe that the internet is killing people’s ability to socialize and is isolating people. Rainie and Wellman are not a part of that group. Through looking at three revolutions, the social network revolution, the internet revolution, and the mobile revolution, it can be seen that people are more connected than ever, just in a different way. This is what they call a networked individual.

The networked individual is different from the older methods of connection. Those methods used to be door to door ( in reference to your network being with in the neighborhood) and place to place ( more industrial of a setting). The networked individual networks person to person and focuses more on the individual rather than a family unit or group. While it is highly criticized for being isolating Rainie and Wellman argue against that notion. The networked individual is loosely connected to many groups of people, with each group providing a unique service to the individual. The authors have an overall optimistic outlook on the increasing use of technology, but they do include some precautions.

With the increase in social networking comes an influx in information. People can access too much information  and can share too much information very easily over the internet. This leads into another problem area, which is the feeling of zero privacy. Putting information on the internet can be risky because of the amount of people that can access that information. This also includes advertisers receiving data on the searches a person does, which means that advertisements can continue to become more specialized. The last problem area addresses surveillance, coveillance, and sousveillance. People have more power to watch what others do on the internet.

Overall, this shift in networking that was caused by the three revolutions is leading to a more connected society. People can create and interact with a multitude of groups and can easily grow their social circle. This shift in networking has also led people to develop new literacies which allow them to easily and efficiently navigate the new connections technology is providing. This means that people are becoming more connected and less isolated.

Analysis

Rainie and Wellman use many statistics to work to prove their points. This is a much more convincing way to build an argument than a case study. A case study looks into one situation in depth, while statistics get the broad picture of the situation. However, even though the author’s build a good argument, some of their points are slightly too optimistic. It is good to see two sides to an argument, which in this case is the argument whether social technology is connecting or isolating. Both sides have good points, which leads to the conclusion that this is still a gray area. While the statistics point to technology creating a more networked populous, statistics cannot show the mentality of people. Another problem with getting a wide, sweeping view of an issue is that it becomes very easy to neglect the groups of people that are actually suffering mentally from the increase in social networking. This is why it is good to temper one side of an argument with the other and explore into the gray areas more.

 

Conclusion

Networked and its optimistic view of social networking is an interesting view to explore. Looking at the different revolutions and their effects is very interesting, but knowing that there are positives and negatives to them is very important. This book mostly skims over the negatives to show that the positives are present. While reading this book, it is important to keep the optimism in check, but not to smother it.

Glad Tidings of Great Joy

CSP’s annual Christmas concert is taking place this weekend, the 1, 2, and 3 of December. The theme for this year’s concert is “Glad Tidings of Great Joy.” It features performances from the Jubilate choir and Christus Chorus, an orchestra, and the hand bell ensemble. The pieces include “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “From Heav’n Above,” and “What Child is This.” The concert runs approximately 90 minutes and has been well attended so far this weekend.

The Christmas concert is always an excellent show of how people connect with each other through music. For an hour and a half, the audience is brought into a world without electronics that the performers have the privilege of creating. Music is an integral part of the human experience and can be used to unite people to a specific cause. It can also be used to form a sense of community amongst people. This relates to the anthropology that we have studied throughout this semester. People were created to connect with other people, and this concert shows people taking advantage of the power of music to connect people.

I have had the opportunity to play with the hand bell ensemble for this concert and it is wonderful. The ensemble has formed a great community from practicing every Tuesday night. It has been really neat to hear all of the positive feedback from people. I look forward to finishing out this series of concerts and continuing to learn more music with this group.

The Shallows Book Review

Framing

The Shallows is a book written by Nicholas Carr for the general population to begin exploring the effects of technology. Carr is a journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, to name a few. He uses his personal experiences as a foundation for writing this book after noticing a change in his behavior when using technology. The book is written in a style that is easy to read and is meant to be readable for everyone. The Shallows was published through W.W. Norton and Company publishing, which is an employee-owned American company.

Summary

The Shallows begins with Carr explaining his own experience with noticing a change in how he reads. He notices a loss of the ability to read more than 1-2 pages without losing focus. From there, he investigates how the brain works on a neural level and the plasticity/elasticity of the brain. He examines the shift from orality to literacy and uses this shift to show how the medium information is communicated through can change the brain. After establishing this principle of the brain changing in response to the medium, he explains how the development of the transistor and then computer technology has influenced people. The transistor allowed for radio frequencies to be sent further than they previously could have. This allowed for more one way technology to develop, like radios and TVs. The advancement of computer technology has allowed for more two-way interactions. This increase in two-way interactions has created a culture of distraction when using computers. Computer technology has also changed how people read. With various hyperlinks attached to words, it is very easy to get away from the original material you were reading. This means that people are doing less deep reading and are more skimming the surface of information. This skimming of information is amplified through the use of search engines. Google has become a sort of external memory for people to access whenever they choose. This mentality leads to a decrease in actual memorization in people because equating memory to technology devalues memory. This loss of memory also leads to less deep thinking, which in turn leads to a lack of empathy and compassion in people.

Analysis

Carr argues that technology, or the medium information is being delivered through, has changed people’s brains. He argues that people are losing the ability to deep read materials and are bouncing from topic to topic when reading online materials. This creates a very shallow type of reading, where less in depth information is gleaned from sources. However, he argues this in a very polarizing way, as in, a person can either deep read or not. This allows no space for a person to be able to have the ability to do both interchangeably. Carr makes it seem as though it’s an either/or situation instead of a both/and one. This is not the case though, at least for many college students. College students need to have both skills of reading developed. For quick, surface research, a student must be able to access information quickly. The various hyperlinks and other resources embedded in online resources allow people to find pertinent information quickly. This is much preferable compared to searching through multiple books for hours on end. However, professors also assign deep reading assignments. Being able to deep read a book for class allows the student to participate and be informed during the class discussions. It is clear that shallow reading and deep reading both have their places, but Carr portrays shallow reading in a negative light in his book.

This both/and view of deep reading and shallow reading does not contradict what Carr wrote about in the psychological portion of the book. Carr describes the brain as elastic and able to adapt. This does not mean that the brain forfeits the ability to deep read when learning how to shallow read. The only way that a person would be unable to deep read at all, is if they never learn how to, not that a person’s brain threw the deep reading out the window when learning shallow reading.

Conclusion

The Shallows is a book that originated because Nicholas Carr reflected on the change in his own behavior as he used technology. Carr describes a shift from deep reading to shallow reading because the brain has changed with the new technology. However, Carr writes rather negatively about this loss of deep reading. He also argues that a person can either shallow read or deep read, not both. This polarization is inaccurate and springs from his own experience, rather than a scientific study. The negative position he takes on technology should be reviewed, and the readers should create an opinion on technology for themselves.

 

Who’s in Charge? Book Review

Framing

Who’s in Charge?, a book written by Michael Gazzaniga, focuses on exploring free will and responsibility in the context of neuroscience. Gazzaniga, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, uses his scientific background to explore the questions that arise when looking at the brain and mind in relation to each other. His writing on psychology can be considered reliable because he is so advanced in the psychology field. The book is aimed towards audiences who have questions about looking into biology when making courtroom decisions.

Summary

The book begins by looking at the science of the brain. Gazzaniga does this through exploring how the brain forms connections between neurons. Neural connections develop through repetition or activity dependent processes. There are many decisions made within the brain that are conscious and unconscious, all happening at the same time. Gazzaniga also presents the concept of “post-hoc consciousness,” which means that the brain interprets events that happen with a slight delay. Through all of these many things happening in the brain at once, the mind emerges. The mind cannot be defined by the same rules of the brain, because it is a complex system that cannot be predicted through bottom up reasoning.

After looking at the science of what happens within a single mind, Gazzaniga begins to explore human interactions and the implications those have. Humans copy other humans to learn about different behaviors and what is or isn’t appropriate in a situation. There are mirror neurons in the brain, which are dedicated to creating an experience in the brain that is similar to the one a person is watching. Morals also emerge from interactions with others. These interactions are where laws, responsibilities, and free will come from.

Through looking at these various facets of psychology, Gazzaniga was able to come to the conclusion that people should be held responsible for their actions. Responsibility comes from being in a society and interacting with other people. However, courts cannot tell if a person is competent or not through looking at their brain. This is from the mind emerging from the brain and not conforming to the same rules as the brain. Determinism cannot be applied to the brain and mind.

Analysis

Gazzaniga uses his background in psychology to produce a very strong argument for how responsibility is formed. He builds his argument incrementally, through looking at one brain, then the space between brains, and then by tying the two together to form the conclusion. He builds the argument in a way that people who aren’t psychology majors can also understand. This makes the knowledge accessible to more people, so that they can form educated opinions on how the court system is working.

His reasoning is especially compelling when looking at theological anthropology. God has created humans to be in community with each other. He created man and woman, so that the man would not be alone. Gazzaniga argues that social interactions are the basis from which responsibility comes from. The interactions between two people is where free will comes from – people have choices for how they respond in the situations – and it naturally follows that responsibility also springs from this. Without choices for how to react, and someone to impact with those choices, a person cannot be considered responsible for what they do. Once those choices are introduced, responsibility is also introduced.

Conclusion

Gazzaniga neatly argues for an emergent mind and responsibilities from social interactions in his book Who’s in Charge?. He structures his argument by starting with how one brain works and then how two brains will interact. These interactions leave space for choices to be made and responsibility follows those choices. Who’s in Charge? allows people to explore how biology, philosophy, and theology meet in the brain and mind conundrum.

 

2017 Bartling Lecture

This year marks the 7th annual Bartling lecture in the series of historical lectures. The speaker was John Bouman, a well-known public benefits advocate.  Bouman is currently the president at The Shriver Center, where he works to give people opportunities and hope through creating policies and systems to help them succeed. Bouman discussed the war on poverty, but before he did that, he gave the audience some of his familial background. He comes from a family full of pastors and that is where his passion for serving other people originated. After giving some of his personal background, he discussed his involvement with the war on poverty and then he gave some information on the war on poverty from a national view point. He made the point that reducing poverty levels was not about hand-outs, but rather it was about bringing hope to people who have been neglected. Bouman showed how the policies and programs that have been created as a part of the war on poverty have helped reduce poverty rates in America. The point of sharing the statistics that he did was to show that the war on poverty should be continued and that the government should increase its efforts, but in a smart way. This means not spending excesses of money on the programs, but making sure that opportunities are created for the people that need them.

One of the points he made to show the effects that poverty can have on a family was how stress affects people. He explained that a child born into deep poverty can experience stress because their parent’s are stressed about their financial and housing stability. This stress releases hormones that can affect brain development. He called it a type of “birth lottery.” This point made me think of the various psychological and anatomical lessons we have learned this semester and how the brain effects the mind. We have talked about how the mind emerges from the brain processes, but we haven’t talked about how chemical imbalances affect the brain and how that, in turn, affects the mind. This would be an interesting facet of psychology to look into if given the time.

I found the Bartling lecture to be very interesting. However, I did struggle with understanding some of the points that were made because I am not familiar with the terminology used. This did not take away from his main points and his goal of creating opportunities for people, but it did create a disconnect for me at times. Overall, the Bouman presented facts that I did not know before and established his points about the war on poverty very well.

CSP’s Luther

From October 26-29, 2017, Concordia’s Fine Arts department has performed the play Luther. This play revolves around Martin Luther becoming a monk and beginning the Protestant Reformation. It focuses specifically on how Luther interacted with others, especially the father figures in his life. This play was put on as a part of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation at Concordia.

The play reveals moments from Luther’s life that most people do not think about. It shows some of his weakest moments along with some of his boldest. A source of sorrow for Luther was his father. In the play, Luther’s father shunned him and made fun of him because he chose to be a monk instead of a lawyer. This made Luther doubt himself and we were able to see how the interactions between two people influenced him. This goes along with our studies of how people interact and how that can impact the peoples’ minds.

I thought the play was very good, but very long. Alex Johnson was a phenomenal Martin Luther and was able to show the anger, frustration, and doubt in the character. The set designs were also amazing. This play has been one of my favorite ones that I have attended at CSP so far.

Reformation Reformed Art Exhibit

On October 19, 2017, Concordia, St Paul kicked off its Reformation 500 celebration with an art exhibit opening. The art exhibit features a variety of works, from sound to photography, that all focus on the concept of “reformation.” One piece in particular stood out to me, and not because it was complex or abstract, but because of the meaning behind it. It was a fabric bowl created from the Luther Rose. In the description, the artist explains how she came to realize that the Luther Rose was like other flowers she had made before. She explains that she had considered changing the color scheme, but decided to keep the original coloring because of the significance behind it.

The significance behind the colors is what really peaked my interest. In Honors this semester we have looked into ritual studies and one key piece in ritual studies is symbolism. Each color in the Luther Rose was chosen because it was representative of something for Luther. All of the colors, except for the black of the cross in the middle, represent joy and and many of the wonderful things that faith provides. It is wonderful to see that the symbolism of the colors of the Luther Rose is still being considered and valued today.

I enjoyed the art exhibit opening. It was neat to see how different people interpreted the concept of “reformation.” It was not what I was expecting, except for the two large portraits of Martin Luther and the various Luther Roses scattered throughout. However, it was full modern art pieces that motivated the observer to reflect more deeply on what reformation means to them and how that applies to their lives.

Dark Book Review

Anna Reineke

Dr. Schuler

Honors 210

 

Religion or Relation?

 

Framing

David Dark’s book, Life’s Too Short To Pretend You’re Not Religious, explores what religion is and how it plays a role in a society that values being a labelled individual. David Dark uses his experience from teaching at Belmont University and from experiences early in his life to make the argument that everyone is tied together by a religion. This book, published by InterVarsity Press(IVP) in 2016, pushes the reader to redefine religion and how it applies to them. The argument targets young adults with its references to pop culture and the impact of technology on relationships.

Content and Methodology

The book begins with Dark presenting the statement that triggered the response. “No one doesn’t believe in God as much as I do”(1). This statement creates a barrier that prevents open conversation through the use of labels and stigmas. The assertion made in this book states that everyone is religious and it proves this by redefining religion to encompass a broader range. “In its root meaning, religion (from the Latin religare, to bind again, to bind back) is simply a tying together…”(14). This definition creates a less spiritual attachment to the word “religion.” Religion is now tied to what you value and what communities you are a part of. In this way, the label “nonreligious” is inherently isolating and that prevents an open line of communication between people. The second half of this book focuses on how religion, the newly defined religion, impacts how humans connect with each other and with themselves. Dark provides a commentary on the relationships that are fostered in today’s society, especially with a technology focused culture. He asserts that the increase in use of technology negatively impacts the patience people have in getting to know one another.

Analysis

              Using the word “religion” to describe how people are connected is a foreign idea to most; however, it is not a bad shift of thought. Religion is tied to spirituality or faith for most people. However, faith is the relationship between God and a believer which was made possible through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:17-21). Religion on Dark’s terms looks to root itself in how people interact and the different actions people take. “Religion is the question of how we dispose our energies, how we see fit to organize our lives and, in many cases, the lives of others”(18). This is the first major perspective challenge in the book. Dark bases his book on this distinctive definition and that creates a weakened argument from the beginning. His definition remains close to the Latin root of religion, but in today’s society religion is viewed as a set of worship practices. By choosing not to work within society’s current view of religion, Dark creates a tension in the reader’s mind. This causes the reader to focus on figuring out how to define religion and diminishes the impact of the rest of Dark’s argument.

The first half of the book is Dark working to reframe the word religion. The second half works to connect the new definition of religion to relationships. Dark maintains that religion is what unites us because religion is what we do and how we organize ourselves. This portion of the book is much stronger than the beginning portion of the book because many people can agree that there is a community aspect to religion. By saying you are not religious, a separation is created. However, that happens anytime someone accepts or denies a label and that concept is mentioned at the beginning of the book. “When I label people, I no longer have to deal with them thoughtfully”(13). The way that Dark frames religion to encapsulate a broad range of habits and actions weakens his argument because any label can prevent conversation.

Conclusion

              In Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, Dark works to redefine the word “religion” and use the new definition to prove that everyone is religious. Dark showed how labels can create barriers in conversations; however, he was less successful in redefining religion. Religion does have communal aspects to it, but it is viewed in a spiritual way in today’s society rather than religion being whatever you do. While Dark had a weak argument for redefining religion, he brought up many good points about how people interact with each other and how people struggle to create relationships in today’s culture.