The 2018 Poehler Lecture was titled “Labels and the Death of Free Speech: What does this mean?” It was given by Thomas R. Hanson and centered around the ways that he thought labels could be broken down. He began and ended his speech with this statement: “Treat people fairly, even generously, and with respect.” He went on to explain how travel experiences, critical thinking, and understanding the value of free speech can help people overcome labels. Overall, being civil to other people and looking for what unites us instead of what divides us will help dissolve labels.
This lecture on labels can relate to this semester of honors. Through working with people from different backgrounds and experiences, the labels that are generally put on these people can fall away. Working one-on-one with people allows for deeper connections, which can show the similarities between seemingly different people. In this way, the servant learning project this semester has helped dissipate labels and increase connections.
This Poehler lecture was difficult for me to understand the point Hanson was trying to prove. He brought up many different topics without elaborating on how each can help lessen labels. However, each point individually was very interesting and I enjoyed his stories about his personal experiences. Overall, I found this lecture to be more of a sharing time for Hanson rather than an educational lecture.
For class this week, a passage from The Spiritual Exercises, by Ignatius of Loyola, taught the reader how to make good decisions. Ignatius began by explaining the goal that all decisions should fulfill. Ignatius explains it in this way: “I must look only to the end for which I am created, that is, for the praise of God our Lord and for the salvation of my soul” (239). This end goal is what Ignatius keeps in mind later in the reading as he explains some methodology on how to make good decisions.
The class discussion around this reading focused on Ignatius’s goal for all decisions and his thoughts on the “means” that Christians use to achieve certain “ends”. In general, the class agreed with Ignatius’s goal of serving and praising God, but did not like the decision making process that was laid out. The ends versus means conversation caused the class to reflect on what order they have been doing things. The example given in the book, to illustrate what I mean with this terminology, is this: “My first aim, then, should be my desire to serve God, which is the end, and after this, to seek a benefice or to marry, if it is more fitting for me, for these things are but means to the end” (240). People will often get the order of these confused and seek marriage or church offices(benefices) prior to seeking God.
I found the observations that Ignatius made about the order that people seek things to be very accurate to current situations. I know many of my colleagues, and sometimes myself, are searching for love or a good career and will put those things above service to God. As a church-work student, it should be easy to keep serving God at the forefront of my mind. However, I have found it easy to think more about the logistics of my future, such as internship, where I will be called to, and who I will work with, over serving God. I also find it easy to focus more on school work than spreading the Gospel and serving others. This reading from Ignatius of Loyola has been beneficial to me while I reflect on my actions and goals.
On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, the Concordia St Paul band concluded its spring tour with a concert at Concordia. The band consists of 45 members and has a wide range of instrumentation, from oboe to tuba. The band played eight pieces total, with commentary by director Aaron Isakson in between pieces. The pieces were a mixture of fast-paced, technical pieces and traditional hymns. The concert began with a literal bang, as the audience was hit with a wall of noise produced by the first piece, “Invictus.” The concert concluded with a tribute to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”
The concert and tour gave the performers an opportunity to use their gifts and talents to serve God. The tour consisted of a multitude of concerts, which contained hymns that praised God and allowed the listeners to experience a full band. However, the tour also gave the students a chance to build relationships at each town they stayed in. Through interactions with host families, the students were able to fulfill the vocation of being representatives of Concordia. This builds up the school and the network of people with positive interactions with Concordia.
I think the concert last night was a great conclusion to a tour that introduced me to some fabulous new people. The tour also gave the band students time to get to know each other outside of rehearsal and bond as a group. This is why I can’t blog on this concert without some mention of the relationships built up on tour. The relationships, to me, are the most important part of tour. The concerts are just a way to facilitate the growth of these relationships between students and the people at the church. The concerts also offer the band a way to bond with people over the joy of praising and serving God.
This year’s global convocation focused on being fearless global citizens. The global convocation is a day for students to learn about the different study abroad opportunities CSP offers and the benefits of travelling. The three student presenters, Anthony Herr, Brooke Steigauf, and Chelsea Wolf, shared their experiences with studying abroad. They discussed how they got outside of their comfort zones through leaving their families, exploring new places, and learning about new cultures. After sharing how study abroad creates fearless global citizens, the travel seminars for the 2018-2019 year were presented.
The global convocation emphasized being fearless in experiencing the world and experiencing new cultures. With the Hoffmann lecture still fresh in my mind, these travel opportunities are another way to seek out the wisdom that other people have. Travelling offers opportunities to discuss new ideas and experiences. These types of discussions are a key focus in the Honors Program, because they allow the learner to expand their worldview and be more empathetic to other peoples experiences. Understanding the experiences of others is an important part of being able to best serve them.
The travel seminars look like a wonderful way to experience new cultures and learn while doing it. I am especially interested in the Israel seminar because I am a theology minor. I think being able to see the places that are mentioned in the Bible and have theological significance would be beneficial to my studies. Visiting these places would be helpful for my learning, since I enjoy learning through experience. Experiencing new places and cultures would be an awesome way to supplement my current knowledge of biblical historical contexts.
The 2018 Hoffmann Lecture was titled “The Provisional Nature of Truth” and was presented by Pastor James Wetzstein. Pastor Wetzstein is the current LCMS campus pastor at Valparaiso University. He presented his theory that all current knowledge, hope, and faith are provisional. This provisional, temporary nature of knowledge leads him to think that everything should be evaluated, challenged, and changed when necessary. He continued to say that if this is the case, it should dictate how Christians interact with people with different worldviews. He proposes that in all discussions, people should be listening for wisdom, even if it is different from what the listener typically categorizes as knowledge. As people listen for and seek out wisdom, the fissures caused by competing orthodoxies shrink.
This lecture focused on how Christians can effectively and comfortably interact with people outside of the faith. In the spring of 2017, the Honors Program worked to understand and listen to the voices of the marginalized. Through listening and seeking wisdom, the differences between people can seem less and less like a barrier for relationships to form. Another phrase that has been used in other classes is “Acceptance is not a prerequisite for understanding.” This phrase also points to listening to and looking for wisdom in other people’s worldviews. All of these concepts point towards learning about others, and from that knowing how best to serve them and connect with them.
I found Pastor Wetzstein’s idea of provisional knowledge and his application of it to be particularly interesting. I am familiar with this concept of ever-changing and growing knowledge in the context of science, but I had never applied it to other aspects of life. However, I think that this new knowledge and application of the concept will be helpful to me. One of my objectives with coming to a university in an urban setting was to expand my understanding of people who have different backgrounds than me. Seeking the wisdom in other people in conversations will help me understand them better and be more open to different ideas and worldviews.
As the readings continue to focus on monastic life in the medieval time period, the clearer the three lessons for today become. These three lessons are “rhythms of life,” “cultivated simplicity,” and “wonderful impracticality.” In the reading Chronicle of the Crusade of St. Louis, the idea of cultivated simplicity came shining through. St. Louis was a king who was not a part of a monastic community, but had monastic practices. These monastic practices led him to scheduled prayer and worship, simple food and drink, and generosity towards his poorer subjects. His generosity led him to be favored by all of his subjects.
This cultivated simplicity that St. Louis maintained allowed him to be more generous towards the poor than he could have been able to had he lived a life of luxury. Reading about St. Louis made me think about vocation and serving others. Often, to serve other people best, we need to sacrifice something that would benefit ourselves. In this way, I think St. Louis exemplifies serving the neighbor.
These readings about the history of Christianity challenge my thinking every week. When I initially read these stories, I think that the monastic life is inherently weird and bad. However, this week in class we discussed how we are reading these through the Lutheran lenses that we have. To be able to fully appreciate and learn from these readings, we need to try and get into the mindsets of people who practiced monasticism. This way we are able to learn and grow from these seemingly irrelevant stories.
Kingdom Come is a musical theater piece that is running from February 15 through February 18 at Concordia St Paul. It focuses on listening to different stories of people from what they remember of 9/11. The people recounting their stories range from a third grader to a lady who has her grocery routine down pat. Not only did the age range vary, but the emotional impact that 9/11 had on them varied too. Some were not effected, other than a slight change in their routine that day. Others lost loved ones in the attack. In the end, the musical conveyed a theme of listening to other people’s stories and working towards understanding.
This musical made me think about how different people process a crisis in their life. While 9/11 effected an entire nation, there are small crises that happen daily and effect a smaller number of people. When I encounter a crisis, I try and process it through logic, emotion, and revelation. However, everyone thinks in different ways and has different ways of knowing truth, which is a topic that we studied in the fall of 2016. Different people will rely more heavily on different ways of knowing, whether it is through observation, revelation, logic, emotion, or art. This musical focused on using art to process the different impacts that 9/11 had on people.
I found this musical to be very well done. The actors and actresses all portrayed their various characters wonderfully. This musical caused me to think more critically about how people process tragedies and the privilege it is to be able to process tragedy in a healthy way. People in areas of constant crisis do not have the opportunity to recover from a specific tragedy before the next one strikes. This thought makes me thankful for the opportunity we have in the U.S. to express our thoughts and emotions through art.
This section of readings focused on the monastic response to Christianity becoming the “in” thing. Monastic communities turned away from the cultural norms and gave up all worldly things. People who lived the monastic life style were considered the most committed to the faith and could almost be called the “extreme sport athletes” of Christianity. These extreme religious sports included intense asceticism, solitary lives, and complete devotion to prayers and studies. While these monastic practices are not as popular now as they were in the the early church period, there are still ideas that Christians can work to integrate into their daily lives. Practices, such as scheduled prayer times, viewing death as not the end of life, and not remaining comfortable with where a person’s faith journey is at, may help a Christian grow in their relationship with God.
While on the surface monastic life is very extreme, looking into the reasons they do things can help inform how we live today. While many Christians today do not give up all worldly things, or die to the world, Christians do recognize that there is a death in Baptism. Romans 6:1-14 discusses this concept of dying to sin, but being raised to life with Christ daily. We are called to live a new life with Christ, but we are also called to share this life and good news with other people(Matthew 28:19-20). If we were to choose to isolate ourselves like the monastic communities that we read about did, we would not be able to share the Gospel with anyone. Through all of the lessons we have learned in the Honors Program, I think learning to share Christ with everyone, including the marginalized populations, is the most important one.
Through all of the weirdness of monastic life, I think learning about it is very interesting. I find it interesting how Christian practices have changed and adapted throughout history. I think seeing these changes reaffirms that Christianity will never truly die out. I have heard many people concerned about how the post-modern attitude may cause a loss of interest in faith, but I think that people will always be interested in faith. I think that especially in a post-modern era the Christian faith shines bright. It is a glimmer of truth and certainty in a world where truth doesn’t exist or is created arbitrarily.
This evening the art exhibit Gnarled Heritage, by John Martin Bell was opened to the public. The exhibition is full of abstract art pieces made from various mediums. Some were paint on canvas, while others were “found objects” with plaster and paint on them. Some of these objects included shells and a lamp. The exhibit was created to express the vivacity of ever-changing life. The artist describes life in this way: “It constantly reinvents itself, bubbling over any container that we try to put around it.” Keeping this phrase in mind, the art truly captured this idea of life in a unique way.
The art I had the opportunity to view today made me think back to my first semester of the Honors Program. Everyone has a unique way of exploring life and finding truth in their experiences. Art is one of the ways some people use to interpret the world around them. I think that Gnarled Heritage allowed the artist to express his views along with allowing the art observers to form their own interpretations. The name plates included with each piece, “Filled Beyond Fulfillment,” “Like a Summer Thursday,” and “As Its Work Is, So Is Its End” to name a few, also pushed the interpretation and pondering processes to a new place. People who think in very logical terms may not gain very many insights into life from this exhibit. However, people who enjoy abstract, artistic thinking have the chance to explore how life shifts and changes in rapid, unexpected ways.
This art exhibit pushed me to ponder how I view life. I appreciated that the style of the paintings left much of the interpretation up to the viewer. Some exhibits will have very clear cut pieces, which leave little to the imagination, but the paintings and sculptures paired with the thought-provoking names left very open-ended impressions. One piece that I liked in particular was one called “Wood Duck.” It was made of a piece of wood, preserved duck feet, and string. I found it to be a nice splash of humor along side the more philosophical pieces.
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 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. Growing up in a small Wisconsin town led to very few conversations about race and privilege. The awareness of the struggles of other people has given me new perspectives that have shaped my worldview, and I do not want to go back to a state of ignorance.