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.

Reformation Heritage Lecture

On August 29, 2017 Dr. Andrew Bartelt gave a lecture as part of the Lutheran Heritage Lecture Series. His lecture, “After 500 Years, Does Lutheranism Still Matter?” covered the topic of Lutheran theology in the context of today’s society and culture. He described the changes and challenges Lutheranism faces in this culture. Then he worked to prove his thesis, “We(Lutherans) are well equipped to handle socio-cultural change, but we have to engage the strengths of our own theology with confidence and not fear(of losing it).” His three main points for proving this consisted of our ability to link the past and future, Lutheranism is vibrant and needed, and the description of Lutheran theology as creedal, confessional, and creative.

This lecture offered an insight on how connected Lutheranism is to society and today’s culture. This semester the focus is on how we exist as humans and Christians while still being connected to other humans. This lecture showed that there is still a place for Christians, specifically Lutherans, in today’s society. This is especially important as we move forward and culture shifts and Lutherans look to connect the past to the future in a way that is relatable to people living in this society.

I thought the lecture was very insightful, and gave good ideas to keep in mind as we continue through this semester. Dark also alluded to a similar concept of us being the connecting factor between the past and the future. This hits home for me because this semester I am also studying church history and it is important to take concepts from the past and see what works and does’t work as I move forward in church work.

Spring into Dance V

This year marks the fifth annual Spring into Dance show. The show was full of energetic dance numbers along with some very moving and emotional ones. One energetic piece that stands out to me was the piece choreographed by Alex Johnson to the music of “24K Magic.” The audience could tell how much fun the dancers had while putting together this upbeat piece of dancing. One of the slower, more emotional pieces that stood out to me was “My Beth.” It used the story from “Little Women” to create a piece that showed the feelings of losing a loved one.

Dancing is one of many ways to express the way a person is feeling. One of the choreographers mentioned that there were feelings he could not express with words, but through dance he could. This is a great example of how people use the fine arts to interpret the world around them and to communicate what they feel to the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed Spring into Dance. It was great to see all of the hard-work that my friends have put in during this second semester pay off. I cannot wait to see how Spring into Dance advances in the upcoming years and what the dancers will accomplish.

Shades of Harmony

On Thursday, April 27, the gospel choir from CSP held the annual Shades of Harmony concert. The CSP Gospel Choir and the Saint Paul Community Gospel Choir performed pieces separately and two collaborative pieces. The two pieces that the choirs sang together were at the end of the concert. The first song, “Better,” is about not being discouraged about the current circumstances, but instead to be hopeful about the future, because it will get better. The second song, “I am a Friend of God,” was an upbeat song that got the audience involved.

Being a part of the Gospel Choir showed me how music can create a community. First semester we discussed how music can unify people and being a part of that concert gave me a first hand experience of that. I felt a part of a community especially during “I am a Friend of God.” Not only were the choirs singing, but the audience joined in too.

I really enjoyed being a part of the gospel choir this semester. I was a little apprehensive of it at first because it was a totally new experience for me. However, I was able to make many new friends because of the choir. I look forward to next year and seeing how the choir changes and improves.

Poetry Convocation

April is national poetry month, and for this last convocation of the year there was a variety of people reading poetry. The convocation began with an introduction about politics and art with references to Kennedy and his speech about the arts. The poetry selections included poems about poetry, summer camp, wordplay, music, hateful dogs,  and differences. Many Billy Collins poems were read. There were also several people who wrote the poems they read themselves. These poets all enjoy poetry and the arts for different reasons. The reasons ranged from poetry just being cool to poetry allowing people to express themselves in ways they otherwise could not.

These poems not only expressed how the poets felt or how the reader felt, but they also allowed the audience to experience emotions. The poems allowed for a brief respite from the stresses of the end of the semester. Some of the poems brought laughter and others brought feelings of melancholy. All of these poems showed how the arts can be a way of knowing for some people. People who learn about the world and who learn about themselves through the arts use the different artistic mediums to express themselves. This way of knowing is just as valid as knowing through logic, observation, emotions, and revelation. All of the ways of knowing are different, but all can be used to find truth.

I really enjoyed the poetry that was read today. Each poem that was chosen to be read was chosen for a reason. I also think that the people who read poetry for us today allowed the listeners to receive a glimpse of what is important to the person. Some of the readers valued bringing joy and laughter and others used the platform to share a personal experience or to share a piece that brought forth a strong emotional reaction. I think it is so cool that people were able to share this poetry with us today and I am so thankful for this poetry reading convocation.

Student Art Opening

On April 20, 2017, Concordia had its annual CSP Student Juried Exhibition opening reception. The gallery consisted of pieces of art created by the students of CSP. The different types of art included photography, graphic design, acrylic paintings, pencil drawings, and ceramics. One rather unusual piece was a geometric sculpture made from masking tape and cardboard. The pieces evoked different feelings from the observers, including joy, sorrow, and serenity. Music that played in the background gave an upbeat feel to this exhibition. The artists were also in attendance and any observer could see the pride of the artists as they showed friends and family the artworks that they have worked diligently on.

For many of these art students, creating pictures and sculptures is a way to express themselves. It allows them to speak their truth into the world. Truth was a topic that we focused on last semester in Honors, and we learned about the different ways of knowing truth. For some, the most impactful and relevant way to know the world is through aesthetic, or the fine arts.

I thought the student juried exhibition was wonderful! This is the first one I have gone to and I will definitely be attending annually. I love being able to see my classmates and friends excel and show their hard work to the world. One of my favorite pieces had to be a sculpture of a blue octopus! I thought that it was adorable and a fun piece to admire.

Privilege Walk 2017

On Monday, March 27, 2017, the Honors Program hosted a privilege walk with the help of CHUSA and UMOJA. Concordia Hmong Unity Students Association(CHUSA) and United Minds Of Joint Action(UMOJA) are two of the diversity groups on campus. The privilege walk was hosted to help us and the Concordia community begin a conversation about privilege and what it means to different people. It allowed for a safe environment to have this conversation with adults who are trained to facilitate the event. The actual privilege walk began with everyone standing on a line across the room. A statement would be read and then according to the directions that accompanied the statement, people would take a step forward or backward. This was to give people a visual representation of how privilege affects different people. Following the walk, everyone that participated sat in a large circle to have a discussion on the feelings and thoughts that were evoked by doing the walk. After the discussion there were refreshments and people stayed to chat with each other and meet new people.

This walk allowed people that aren’t in the Honors Program take a peek into what we are studying this semester. Part of the conversation after the walk was about what people that may have a privilege can do to help others that may not have the same privileges that we do. This is what we are also thinking about in Honors, working on “hearing the voices of the marginalized.” I think this is an important lesson for everyone to learn and I am very glad that we were able to share that lesson through the privilege walk.

I thought the privilege walk was very beneficial to everyone who participated. It allowed people to hear about experiences that are different than their own. Having the opportunity to learn about other people is very important to me, and I am glad that this event facilitated that. It allowed for people to be very open and honest, if they wanted to be. I always appreciate hearing from other people and that was encouraged during this event.

Band Tour Homecoming Concert- 2017

On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, the Concordia concert band played their final concert of a Midwest tour. From March 10-15 the band traveled through Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming to play concerts at churches in different locations. The band played eight songs at each concert with an intermission between the fourth and fifth song. This break gave the musicians’ mouths a break during the long concert. Some of the songs from the concert included Communion, Buffalo Dances, and American Flourish. Communion was based on the song Be Thou My Vision and started off with a clarinet duet which transitioned into an Irish feeling 6/8 meter. The final piece, American Flourish was a medley of patriotic songs, including Yankee Doodle, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, and Shenandoah. The full, grand ending of the piece brought the concert to a thrilling close.

Last semester in the Honors program, we learned about the different “Ways of Knowing.” Personally, music is one of the ways that I learn more about myself and the world. Playing pieces of music from different cultures and countries and learning about what emotions to put into the pieces allows me to learn about other people. Music also allows me to experience/express emotions that I don’t normally encounter in my day-to-day activities. Overall, playing clarinet for Concordia’s concert band and being able to travel with it has let me experience new emotions and cultures that I never would have if I wasn’t in it.

This concert was a bittersweet performance for me. It signaled the end of the 2017 band tour, which was more fun than I thought it was going to be. However, it was a long and tiring trip with some sickness along the way. I am happy to have been a part of it, and happy that it is over! I was also very thankful for all of the people that attended the concert. My dad was able to attend the concert and was able to hear me play for the first time since I have come to college. I am also very thankful for the people in the Honors program that came out to support the band. The class has become very close, and we have a neat opportunity to support each other’s endeavors.

Poehler Lecture 2017

On March 7, 2017, Dr. Barb Schoenbeck gave a lecture entitled “So, how are the children?” This lecture was the 2017 installment of the Poehler Lecture series and covered the topic of early childhood development. Dr. Schoenbeck listed five areas of child development: physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual and moral.  She explained how each of these areas impacted the child, with a special emphasis on the intellectual portion. She gave 10 requirements that a child needs to thrive as they are developing: care, safety, self esteem, touch, music, communication, reading(!), solid and loving relationships, interaction, and play. She also talked about how God, as a loving creator, created children to develop in predictable ways at their own paces. She also emphasized the importance of being an example of God’s love to children because children are always watching.

Dr. Schoenbeck made sure to always mention how God had a hand in all of the development stages of a child. This can be connected to the Honors program philosophy because we are always working to see God at work in the various subjects(science, math, sociology, etc.). This semester we are looking to see how we can reflect God’s love not to children, but rather to the marginalized in society. We are learning that listening to the marginalized is an important part of showing God’s love to them.

I found Dr. Schoenbeck’s lecture to be fascinating. I am not an early childhood education, but the information I learned at this lecture will be applicable in my future career. As a Director of Christian Education, I will be working with people of all ages, including young children that are still developing. Knowing the various ways that children develop and what they need to thrive will allow me to better tailor my actions towards the children to help them in the best way possible.

Global Convocation

Today’s convocation was centered around encouraging students to travel abroad during their college years. There were four students who gave personal stories about how they grew while abroad. The first student discussed the difficulty of language differences while he was trying to have a conversation with a local. He discussed the understanding he gained from this experience, and felt he could begin to relate with immigrants and refugees who did not speak the language of the country they are moving to. The next student discussed the culture shock she experienced while studying abroad in South Korea. She then gave some advice for students that were going abroad and emphasized having fun and taking advantage of the opportunity of experiencing a new culture. The third student discussed the independence she gained from studying in London for a semester. And the final student talked about the New York trip she had recently gone on. She emphasized the fact that there are trips available for people who may be uncomfortable with leaving the country for an extended amount of time. And after the student stories, the new travel opportunities for next year were announced. The faculty that will be leading these trips gave brief summaries of what the trips were all about. The convocation concluded with the opportunity to go around to different stations that represented different countries and to talk with the students that had experienced these countries.

The experience of immersing yourself in a different culture is a way to expand your worldview. This expansion of worldview is a way to grow your knowledge. Part of the Honors Program is learning about how other people know and experience the world around them. By going abroad, a student is able to get a hands-on experience of a different culture. This allows them to expand their frame of viewing the world.

I found this convocation very interesting, because traveling and experiencing other cultures are very important to me. I am slightly disappointed because many of the traveling opportunities fall on dates that I cannot be available for. This is because of how my school schedule falls and the dates of other trips fall. However, I think that studying abroad is a great opportunity that should be taken advantage of if you have the chance.