Describe: This year, Concordia’s Performing Arts and Music Department hosted its annual 3-day-long Christmas concert in the Buetow Auditorium, the theme being The Promise Fulfilled. A variety of student groups performed at this event, such as Jubilate, Christus, and the Handbell Ensemble. These groups were directed by faculty in the Music Department: Professor Spear and Dr. Mennicke. To get the audience in the Christmas spirit, they chose a mixture of songs we all know and love, such as “Joy to the World” and “Gloria”, while also including more complex songs to showcase the talents of the choirs and ensembles.
Integrate: This concert best showcases the aesthetic way of knowing because it is communicating the Christmas story through music from all different time periods. Most of them were traditional songs sung in the church or in choirs in America, and this familiarity brought nostalgia and a sense of tradition to the event that we often associate with Christmas. Music as a way of knowing allows us to as an audience and performers share an experience as a community and together celebrate the thing that is most important to us.
Evaluate: I loved attending this event because I was able to support my friends by listening to them sing, enjoy the beautiful music, and celebrate the birth of Jesus with everyone as a community. I love experiencing the magic that music has and how uplifting it can be. I think that this event has been and will continue to be cherished by students, faculty, and families for years to come, and I look forward to attending as many times as I can.
Describe: This year I was able to vote on voting day (November 6th) for positions in the midterm elections. The options on the ballot mainly concerned state and house representatives, as well as our own state governor. My experience voting was very simple and easy- I went to my assigned location based on my address, I verified my registration, received my ballot, and filled out the ballot. It was very easy and quick to do, which wasn’t what I would have expected. The entire process took only 15 minutes, and I received a sticker and scanned in my ballot at the end of the process.
Interpret: This event was more emotional than I had anticipated. I found that the people who helped us complete the voting process were extremely helpful and made me feel as though I had done it before. Rather than going into the room fearful, I was able to have more confidence about what I was doing and the decisions I was making. In the end, I felt very proud that I was able to contribute to the decisions that make up my country’s government. During the voting process, I found that my decisions on who I voted for relied on my memory of the parties and what they stood for, as well as my past experiences of researching and discussing these candidates with others. Without memory or emotions, I would not have been able to make a decision.
Evaluate: My family has never been very much into politics, or even voting for that matter. My parents firmly believe that it is a privilege to vote, and that no one is forced to vote, and that no one should be ashamed for voting. Because my parents didn’t take the time to educate themselves on candidates prior to election days, they would choose not to vote the majority of the time because they didn’t have a strong opinion. Growing up in that mindset, it created a very interesting voting experience for me personally. I was able to vote and feel proud of my decision. I still believe that I have a choice to, and, although I most likely will vote as much as possible, I shouldn’t feel ashamed if I am unable to or cannot do it.
Describe: This year’s fall musical was the Broadway show Little Shop of Horrors, a dark comedy featuring a flower shop and a plant from another world. The musical attempts to bring to light very serious issues, including but not limited to abusive relationships, class separation, selfishness, and violence. The show is about a guy named Seymour Krelborn, who works in a flower shop in a poor urban neighborhood with the shop owner and a girl named Audrey. After years of poor business and failure brings them to the brink of closing down the shop, Seymour discovers a strange and interesting plant that brings business to the shop. The catch, though, is that the plant craves human blood. For the rest of the show, Seymour must navigate keeping the plant alive and growing for the sake of the shop without anyone knowing the truth about how it is growing. You can see the mental battle Seymour faces as his naturally good tendencies slowly change into violence and even murder to keep the plant and his relationship alive.
Interpret: This show hits on some major issues in humanity. Rather than resolving them, as most shows would, they are actually left unresolved for the most part. In the end, greed is the ultimate thing that makes Seymour’s world crumble around him. The musical seems to approach this topic as a warning to viewers through analogy, even saying “Don’t feed the plants!” at the end of the show. If you think about it deeply, they could be referring to the human problem of greed. Using the imagination as a way of knowing in this way creates an analogy that people can remember and think about. Seeing a show that showcases a narrative about the ultimate consequences of greed (even if it is fictional) will most likely stick better than someone just saying the words “don’t be greedy”. We respond well to the use of metaphorical language.
Evaluate: I think that being in the show allowed me to have more time to listen to the lyrics and process their meaning. The other stage manager, Matthew, and I would always analyze the meaning of the songs in order to find out the shows deeper meanings or politics. Those conversations were always the most interesting. What I find fascinating about the aesthetic way of knowing is that you can continue to re-visit it, or talk about it with other people and gain an entirely new perspective on it. Not to mention musicals are also entertaining and fun to watch and be a part of.
Robert Capon was an Episcopal priest who spent the majority of his life in New York. He wrote a large collection of books centered around Jesus and Theology, including The Romance of the Word, Genesis: The Movie, Between Noon and Three, The Supper of the Lamb, The Parables of Grace, The Parables of the Kingdom, and The Parables of Judgment. He became widely recognized for his works primarily for his apologetic and sarcastic writing style, which stood out again other theologians during that time. He seems to write to anyone and everyone who decides to pick up his books because of the cultural references he makes and the easy vocabulary he uses. Very little theological understanding is required to understand the biblical references he makes.
In his book The Romance of the Word, Capon tackles several theological issues using metaphors and every-day references in hopes of helping the reader better understand some of the fundamentals of Christian theology as he sees them. His book is broken down into three parts, one being Hunting the Divine Fox. He starts this portion of the book off with using fairytales and analogies to explain our relationship with God and how that affects the ways in which we can make sense of Him. Capon makes a strong point on this topic by using an analogy of an oyster and a ballerina. An oyster is incapable of fully understanding what a ballerina is and how beautifully it can move because its knowledge on movement is limited to the creatures it sees on the ocean floor. As the oyster attempts to understand what a ballerina is like, a voice speaks to the oyster, “It’s all true. There are things you never even dreamed of. All kinds of stuff. And with moves you couldn’t imagine if you tried. As a matter of fact, that’s your problem. There you sit with a rock on one side and a starfish on the other. My apologies. It’s a limited field of vision” (Capon, 244). Capon argues that this analogy can be used to describe our human understanding of God— we must understand that we will never be able to come close to fully understanding who God is, due to our “limited field of vision” being only mortal human beings. From this Capon concluded that we must turn to theology not for perfect answers as to who God is, but as a metaphorical method of understanding His character through our human experiences. Capon’s conclusion: We use human experiences to describe something we will never fully understand.
The following chapters of this section in Capon’s book build off of this ideology of theology being metaphorical. He uses the term “bent speech” to ultimately describe theology. If an example of “straight speech” is that “1+1=2”, then bent speech would be something more like “I like that color”. It can’t exactly be proven or considered rational, but it can still be true. Capon argues that the importance of this differentiation of speech and applying the correct kind to the topic of theology is simple: we cannot believe that the analogies we create and the words we use to describe the character of God are in fact who He is. We are just using our human feelings derived from our emotional experiences through bent speech to describe something greater than anything we could dream of. Another analogy Capon uses is the Superman analogy. He argues that we tend to paint our portrait of God as being some kind of superhero, someone who is not human and who can perfectly save us when the time comes. “The human race is, was, and probably always will be deep unwilling to accept a human messiah. We don’t want to be saved in our humanity; we want to be fished out of it. We crucified Jesus not because he was God but because he blasphemed: he claimed to be God and then failed to come up to our standards for assessing the claim. It’s not that we weren’t looking for the Messiah; it’s just that he wasn’t what we were looking for” (Capon, 314). In short: we don’t want our heroes to be fully human.
This book overall offers a lot of fresh perspective on how we look at theology and the character of God. Rather than focusing on the accuracy of details regarding who God is throughout scripture, the goal is to recognize how little we know compared to what we think we know, and how that alone can reveal a part of who God is. Anyone can believe that God is all-knowing, but being able to fully trust in that is much more difficult. Capon emphasizes that remembering that our theological differences are not nearly as important as the similar belief we all share is crucial. In addition to all of this, Capon makes a point to state that this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t hunger to learn more or be interested in theology, in fact those are still important. We just cannot lose sight of what we know is true, and our behavior should be shaped by that truth.
Describe: This year was the 8th annual Bartling lecture, in which Jaylani Hussein, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR-MN, spoke on the topic of understanding Islamophobia and countering hate. The CAIR organization he represented today is focused on educating people on and helping them understand Islamic culture and relations through the topics of civil rights, media relations, civic engagement, training and development, youth empowerment, and Islamophobia. Hussein used these topics in the lecture to describe the ways in which history is repeating itself, particularly in the way America treats Muslim men and women. His goal in speaking at Concordia today was to further raise awareness on this ongoing issue of Islamophobia.
Interpret: This lecture related to the topics we are discussing in class because it dealt with the very emotionally-charged topic of Islamophobia. When it comes to social issues like these, almost everyone has their own formed opinion about how it should be addressed and dealt with to create a better society, but oftentimes the conversation ends up being a fight rather than an educated conversation. Hussein explains how this tension surrounding the topic makes it that much more difficult to see change. People use their emotional reaction to a people group to create an opinion about them. For many Americans, past experiences and social constructs create these opinions and ideas, which eventually can grow into hatred. This is especially true in schools where Muslim children are heavily bullied because children are following their parents’ and society’s reaction to the Islam group.
Evaluate: This lecture was very eye-opening and educational because it addressed real and current issues that need to be talked about in America, and discussed several ways in which we can contribute to ending Islamophobia. It also helped me personally relate to and empathize with the Islamic community by hearing someone from that community lead the lecture. I was able to see statistics, view footage, hear stories, and see people who were and still are affected by this hatred every single day, and it motivated me to further research this topic and take a stand.
Describe: This year, we celebrated the 125 years since Concordia has been founded. This celebration made a much larger crowd at the homecoming game, which was filled with students, alumni, and student families. The game itself was very exciting, but the activities that followed were just as fun. There was a carnival filled with rides, food, games, a beer garden, and other activities.
Integrate: Of all the ways of knowing, this activity seemed to fall under the category of emotion. Families and alumni from all over come back to Concordia to celebrate because it is an emotional experience that can bring feelings of nostalgia and happiness. Seeing professors, staff, and classmates again while cheering on the school’s football game is a fun and emotional experience that becomes a tradition every year. It creates a sense of community and a shared goal.
Evaluate: This experience was very fun and memorable because it reminds me of the amazing community I have at Concordia. This school has impacted students over generations, and will hopefully continue to impact students in the future. It was very eye-opening to think about how old our school is and how far it has come. It was exciting to see all of the people who have been a part of this large community and how fun it can be when we all get together to celebrate something we all share.
Describe: The 2018 Heginbotham lecture was given by Kelly Barnhill, author of the book The Girl Who Drank the Moon. In the lecture, Barnhill talked about the process of writing her book, her method and writing style, and how she hopes her books will impact the world and the generation they were written for. She discusses how the topics of feminism, the notion of false narratives, and both fiction and fantasy play large roles in her novels, which are written for children. Her combination of the dark realities of the world combines with values of love and friendship resemble fairy tales, which are her true inspiration for her pieces.
Integrate: This lecture seemed to mainly hit on two of the five ways of knowing: emotion and aesthetics. Barnhill uses her emotional connections and interactions with the world and fairy tales to fuel her stories. It seems like her nostalgia from childhood and her past experiences heavily influence her writing, which is why she caters her books to children. As for aesthetics, Barnhill sees the world in a creative light and is able to capture her real-life experiences and put them into analogies and poetry that are then used in her writing.
Evaluate: I found this lecture very interesting, especially since I am an artist myself. I think that people like Barnhill are extremely important to society because they are able to offer a fresh, fun, and creative perspective to the world. I think that the political stances that she expresses in her writings are crucial for children to read about in today’s society. Children are very much affected by what they observe, and so the more they can read about values such as bravery, love, friendship, and kindness while growing up in an unforgiving world, the better. As Barnhill said in her lecture, “Kids need books to navigate the world they will inherit– they teach them to break down walls an build bridges”.
Describe: The annual Percussion Ensemble on Sunday evening at Concordia University St. Paul. was a performance entirely dedicated to percussion instruments. The pieces ranged from an adaptation of an orchestral piece by classical composer Edvard Grieg to a 5-part drum piece (titled Shock Factor) to even a solo drumming piece, composed by CSP senior Patrick Inouye. The concert had a wide range of music, even featuring some reggae-style Caribbean music. Some fellow honors students, Sophia, Emily, and Hannah, made appearances in pieces such as Anitra’s Dance.
Integrate: The percussion ensemble was a fun experience that showcased the student’s hard work throughout the year to a supportive audience of friends, family, students, and faculty. It brought the student body together to celebrate a talent that the students involved in this concert share.
Evaluate: I enjoyed the concert very much, particularly the reggae piece, and was surprised at how musically gifted these students were. I think that Concordia could advertise these events even more so that more students can come and support the students in the percussion band! I hope to come to this event next year as well.
Describe: Dorothy Day was a very motivated activist who spent her life writing, protesting, and serving the poor. In her writings, she made her stances clear and asked questions that prompted the reader to re-think how the church and society handle certain issues. In her quote “Is it not possible to be radical and not atheist? Is it not possible to protest, to expose, to complain, to point out abuses and demand reforms without desiring the overthrow of religion?” (pg 414), she asks the tough questions and makes readers think.
Integrate: Day’s passion for her work is so clearly fueled by the love of God. Her vocation and her love of serving those around her are very apparent her both her writings and in her life’s work, from her activism to her service of those who have less than her.
Evaluate: I enjoyed Day’s writings because I feel like we have similar personalities. She is inspiring to me because of her bravery and how bold her work is and the impact it makes. She was able to combine her love of serving others and her bold personality into her vocation, which I admire.
Describe: Walter Rauschenbusch was a Baptist pastor and theologian. He spent many years teaching in the rough neighborhoods of New York City and exploring how Christians can bring their faith into the workplace, no matter what position, class, or demographic they belong to. He also explores how “class” and the differences between groups of people lead to negative effects in society, and that’s where both personal and social religion comes in.
Integrate: I think this writing is something very relatable in today’s society. We experience division in our society all the time. One quote by Rauschenbusch that I enjoyed was “The demand for equality is often ridiculed as if it implied that all men were to be of identical wealth, wisdom, and authority. But social equality can co-exist with the greatest natural differences” (Callings, pg. 379). I think that as Christians trying to live out our vocations in this fallen world, we sometimes can feel hopeless. But Rauschenbusch’s writing is a good reminder that even the little things we do for our neighbor and the faith we have in Christ are what ultimately gets us through.
Evaluate: I very much appreciated this reading because I felt that I resonated with it well. Living in today’s capitalistic and opinionated society comes with its challenges, but being able to have the foundation of Jesus and my relationship with Him is what has given and will continue to give me hope.