Martin Luther and the Called Life

Describe: Mark D. Tranvik, author of Martin Luther and the Called Life,  dives into what it means to have a vocation, and the story behind how Martin Luther found his. The book emphasizes the importance of having a vocation as a believer. Having a vocation, or a “called life”, is the foundation to building a fruitful relationship with Christ. Tranvik, however, reminds readers that living the life of a disciple means taking up your cross and following him. “Living a called life means recognizing, first of all, that this ongoing struggle with the past, the future, and the powers of darkness is a battle that every person must face daily” (Tranvik, 78). One important take-away I got from this reading is the reminder that being a Christian in this world is not easy. But, as Luther taught, we are free to be slaves to our neighbors. Tranvik makes it a point to specify this on page 77, “a sense of calling emerges when we view ourselves as liberates children of God, blessed with particular gifts, which we then are to use in service to our communities“. As Tranvik calls it, Christianity and vocation is a costly call, but it is the single most important decision in one’s life.

Integrate: Having a vocation is one of the key components of your faith, according to Luther. I think that this is true when anyone has a relationship with God. Being Christian in an interconnected world requires us to have some sort of guide, goal, or motive to accomplish what god wants us to. The Kingdom of God is so beautiful because not only is it built off of His followers, each is called to a unique purpose and has a personal relationship to the One who called them. I think that God incorporates the spiritual gifts into our vocation and places a calling in our hearts to spread the Gospel in a special way.

Evaluate: I admire Luther’s emphasis on vocation so much because it reminds us not to have a “lukewarm” faith, but rather to have a fire within us to spread God’s love. If we have a path God gave us to follow, no matter how narrow and winding the path is, we will glorify God and lead others to Him by following it. I really enjoyed this reading and was able to apply it to my life, which made it relatable but also historical. It made me think about what my vocation is and what I feel called to do with my life.

Jazz Concert

Describe: The 2017 Jazz concert was tonight at 7 pm, and it was held in the Pearson Theatre here on campus. It included performances by Vox 9 and Blue– from Christmas song we all know and love to classic jazz. Directed by William White and Adam Rossmiller, the groups presented the music they have prepared over the course of the semester and created an amazing concert with their performances.

Integrate: This concert was a great representation of a ritualistic event– an event that showcased the talents of the student in a ritual space and a “ritual time” (the holiday season). The concert brought together many people leading separate lives and gave them the gift of music in a community, which is something that brings many people joy and peace. Having an audience to support the hardworking students shows how interconnected our CSP community truly is. Staff, faculty, students, family, and the community came to support the artists on stage.

Evaluate: This event was very heartwarming and reminded me of the incredible community I am a part of here at Concordia. The love and appreciation for art and the support of the students was definitely very apparent and reminded me of what art is all about. It is about sharing your perception of the world and expressing yourself to your community and those around you in hopes to inspire them or leave an impression that they will remember, and their performances will certainly be remembered.

 

 

Networked: Book review

Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman are both authors and experts in the field of technology and future technological advancements, and how those relate to our culture and society. Lee Rainie is the director of internet and technology research at Pew Research Center, and and is an advocate for the ever-changing media ecosystem, giving several dozen speeches a year to scholars and students, media leaders, technology executives, government officials, librarians, and nonprofit groups. Barry Wellman, a sociologist and co-director of the Toronto-based international NetLab Network, studies the areas of community sociology, the Internet, human-computer interaction and social structure in social networks in communities and organizations. Together, these two recognized authors wrote Networked: The New Social Operating System, a book which discusses how social networks, the Internet, and mobile connectivity are transforming and expanding social life in society today. The book’s goal is to encourage networked users to use technology in a positive way in order to network themselves and form communities.

The book is centered around a concept presented by the authors as “networked individualism”, which is a term for describing someone who is networked to other individuals through a large and diverse network. This concept being extremely new to society as of the past decade has asked the question: what does the networked individual look like? And how can we respond, in social aspects, to this advancement of technology in our culture? The book tackles these questions by first breaking down the most recent technological advancements in history, starting with the industrial revolution, then the internet revolution, and then the mobile revolution. Today’s’ networked culture has been formed from crucial components from each of these movements- from machinery to the world-wide-web to user connecting. This building-up of technologies had led us to where we are today: a culture with laptops and smartphones, being able to access internet and countless users from handheld devices. Rainie and Wellman argue that this has brought about a significant amount of change in our culture. One of those changes is our change in how people associate with one another. Relationships are typically determined by the physical groups we are a part of, for instance family, churches, teams, etc. The internet and mobile revolution, however, have brought about changes in how we approach those relationships. We are not in groups as much as we are networked individuals. “It is the person who is the focus, not the family, not the work unit, not the neighborhood, not the social group” (Rainie and Wellman, 6).

I believe that this cultural change can certainly be used in a positive way. However, as we gain more and more access to information online and people in the networked world, there is also more opportunities for unwanted information to make it onto our screens. It is crucial in this day and age to be careful and to have a “filter” when online. Taking advantage of account settings and ad blockers can safen and enhance one’s experience in the networked world, specifically online and on social media. Once precautions are taken, I believe that individuals and communities can make positive impacts on those around them online. As said in the book, “networked creators can truly use the internet for good. It can be used in self expression, an opportunity to learn, space for collaboration, and connecting with community. I very much agree with Rainie and Wellman on this argument, and enjoyed the positive outlook Networked had on our culture and technology.

Christmas Concert

Describe:  Music and the performing arts have always been big here at Concordia University. Every year there is a large Christmas concert to showcase all the students have learned and worked hard on throughout the entire year. This year was no exception. The name of the concert, Glad Tidings of Great Joy was not only just the title of the evening, but was a strong theme throughout the event. The strong student choirs, the various bands, and all kinds of musical performances created a mix of nostalgia and warmth for the upcoming holiday season. The choir sang some traditional hymns and wore formal red robes that tied both the Lutheran and Christmas aspects of the concert into their performance. The choral directors took turns directing beautiful pieces that brought the Christmas spirit into the room.

Integrate: This concert is a perfect example of how humans come together for an annual ritual of celebrating an important part of both our religion and culture. It takes place in a ritual space- the recently updated Buetow building, which has housed previous annual concerts. The formal red robes and hymns sung by the choir pointed to the traditional values our school holds being Lutheran, while the  Christmas songs performed throughout the evening brought in the Christmas spirit and a sense of community, which brings those in the room closer and reminds us of the reason we celebrate.

Evaluate: This event was not only very interesting and beautiful to watch and listen to, but it was also very heart-warming and reminded me that the one of the most important seasons of the year is ahead of us. It gave me a feeling of nostalgia and well as feelings of peace and joy. It is a tradition that I am familiar with from my high school, so it is an event I plan to attend every year. I was excited to have been able to listen to and support my friends in their performance and be able to get some Christmas spirit out of it too.

 

 

Who’s in Charge? Book Review

Who’s in Charge?: Book Review

Michael S. Gazzaniga is both a professor of psychology at the University of California, a leading researcher in cognitive neuroscience, as well as the head of the SAGE Center in studying the mind. His most well-noted book, Who’s In Charge?, deals with the popular question of what exactly “free will” really is, and how that relates to the science and anatomy of the brain on a neurological level. The book discusses and explores what makes up the brain, how the brain is wired– specifically in the areas of learning and decision-making, and then applies that knowledge to commonly asked questions. In addressing a wide audience of thinkers, he redefines the concepts of “free will” and “responsibility”.

Gazzaniga starts his book off by establishing what we know to be true about the human brain. Referring back to basic anatomy and psychology, he puts his own perspective on facts that scientists would all agree on. He dives into neural-specificity and connections, using the phrase “Neurons that fire together wire together” to better understand the concept of activity-dependent processes developing the brain. He then goes on even deeper to discuss the complexity of our brains, the biggest concept being parallel processing. The brain is a hugely complex network of connections that are capable of firing and sending signals as needed– in some cases we are consciously aware of this and can voluntarily control it, and in other instances we cannot. Our brain is capable of firing both of these types simultaneously, so that we may, for instance, be able to focus on tasks in our daily lives and not worry about our heart pumping blood or our lungs taking in air. We technically don’t have freedom to make a lot of choices in our brains. From this comes the topic of emergence, which is one of Gazzaniga’s main points. The neurons that make up our brain are categorized into various “levels” of processing, which in turn have different rules that apply to them, which Gazzaniga calls “organized chaos”, “Chaos doesn’t mean that the system is behaving randomly, it means that it is unpredictable because it has many variables, it is too complex to measure, and even if it could be measured, theoretically the measurement cannot be done accurately and the tiniest inaccuracy would change the end result an enormous amount”. Because of this “organized chaos”, everyone is wired completely different from one another. Despite this, though, we are built to mirror one another and create morals within social constructs. Responsibility and the law are built within these social constructs: “…The way to think about responsibility is that it is an interaction between people, a social contract. Responsibility reflects a rule that emerges out of one or more agents interacting in a social context, and the hope that we share is that each person will follow certain rules.” (193). Gazzaniga argues that we have freedom, but only in a social context.

This book made me do a lot of thinking regarding what “free will” really means, and how much of my brain I actually consciously control. Although a lot of our processes happens automatically, I believe that there is a still a part of our brains (or minds) that I can control. I believe that we have a responsibility to God and to each other to use our past experiences in order to make wise decisions. Gazzaniga doesn’t mention how this correlates with spirituality, but I would say that the complexity of the brain and mind points to God’s creation because only He is capable of creating such intricate systems., which further points to the idea of us being built to be in communities and not be isolated. I overall enjoyed the book and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a deeper perspective on free will and something to chew on.

The Shallows Book Review

The Shallows: Book Review

Nicholas Carr is a blogger who writes on the topics of technology and culture, and how the two interact. Carr has written for The Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Wired, and several others. He has an M.A., in English and American Literature and Language, from Harvard University. One of his more recent books, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains received a 2011 Pulitzer Prize and was named as a New York Times bestseller. The book, which aims to better understand the effects of technology on our brains, poses the question: are we compromising our abilities to think deeply by relying on the internet for fast information and easy entertainment? He addresses this question by giving his perspective on the issue in the book, while also referencing recent studies in neuroscience.

To start his book, Carr talks about his personal experiences with technology. As a blogger, technology is something that is woven into his career. In writing this book, he decides to break from technology and explore “deep thinking”. He claims that the internet takes him away from being able to deeply understand the world around him. “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” (Carr, 6). He then goes on to understand how the internet and media shape our brains. In doing this, he finds that rather than the content of the medium being the giver of a message, the medium itself is the message. Brains have the capability of changing how they process information based on the medium delivering them the information. Carr uses many examples, one being a clock. Before clocks were invented, humanity relied on the sun, moon, and stars to tell time. This method was far more figurative and a lot less linear than it is today. With clocks now at our disposal, we see time as a line constantly going forward. We quantify it and turn it into a tangible and linear thing, which has forever changed our perception of time. In a similar way, Carr argues that the Internet has changed how we perceive thinking and even our own brains. Rather than being complex structures capable of holding a wide variety of concepts and ideas on deep levels, brains are now more than ever being seen as machines, or even computers. The understanding of the brain becomes more mechanistic. “The Web provides a convenient and compelling supplement to personal memory, but when we start using the Web as a substitute for personal memory, bypassing the inner processes of consolidation, we risk emptying our minds of their riches.” (Carr, 192). The more time we spend on technology, the more we try to become like it. Because of this phenomenon, more shallow-thinking society is produced and we are trained to be more easily distracted.

I agree with many of the points Carr made in this book, such as his warning of being careful of how much we are on the internet and how blind we can be to how it is changing our brains. Going into the internet with a cautious mindset and a “filter” helps to eliminate the distractions that are always present online. However, I disagree with Carr’s overall negative stance against up-and-coming technologies. I believe that they are extremely useful and efficient, and viewing them in a negative light can affect our perspective on technology as a whole. If we accept that the Internet as well as other technologies are constantly developing and expanding, we can learn to use them in moderation as well as an effective and impactful way.

 

Convocation – Poverty

Describe:

Today’s convocation covered the topic of poverty, specifically on the legal end. John Bouman, the speaker, is the president of the Shriver Center and specializes in advocacy and anti-poverty work as well as offers a legal services program. This program has not only been extremely effective and impactful to those in poverty, but it also benefits the middle and upper class as well. Networked in thirty-four states and counting, the Shriver Center has been widely recognized as one of the best advocative programs in the country. Bouman’s calling to serve others sparked after watching generations of his relatives become pastors or serve in church leadership. His personal calling, though, wasn’t necessarily being a pastor– it was to help those in need and fight in the “war on poverty”. He helped build up the Shriver Center and has since lived by its mission statement: “how in our current political climate we can address and help our most vulnerable citizens”. Bouman’s work has three major values, or goals, that he commits his life to reaching. The first, is to promote fair opportunity for all, even if that means through the government. The second, each person’s potential has the chance to flourish. Third, the potential of these people can positively impact the entire human endeavor and contribute to society as a whole. And finally, in doing this we can improve the economy and give them the chance to contribute to the world.

Integrate:

Bouman’s work seems to hold an array of values, but some common themes very apparent during his speech were his passion of community and service. As we learned in our studies of the physical world as well as biblical anthropology, humans were clearly not meant to be alone. We are a social species that uses teamwork and collaboration to get things done. This idea can be directly applied to Bouman’s goals. He clearly embraces this truth about humankind and promotes communities and supporting one another. The worst possible thing we could do to those in poverty is make them feel isolated, or worse– actually ignore the issue so that they truly are isolated. Christian or not, it is a known fact that we weren’t meant to do life alone, so it is our job as people with lots of resources to not keep them to ourselves, but to give them to those who need it.

Evaluate:

I very much enjoyed Bouman’s presentation/lecture and found it very motivating to go out the serve these people. It’s unfair that people born into poverty-stricken homes and neighborhoods have to seek help and work twice as hard to get half as much in return. I agree that we need to give our resources to programs and non-profits that make it their goal to end poverty for good and win the “war on poverty”. In doing this, we are not only helping them, but we are helping our entire country and human population.

Homecoming

Describe:
This weekend was the annual Concordia Homecoming weekend, an event that unifies the school by gathering students, faculty, alumni, friends, and family to the campus for the homecoming football game, events, and even a carnival. The most important day of this event was Saturday, the day of the football game. All students were able to get into the game for free and cheer on their school team with their family and friends in the bleachers. Activities such as face painting and carnival rides surrounded the field and were available for people to enjoy in addition to the sporting event. Most people stayed at the game until the end, and then made their way to the carnival food stands and rides (and a petting zoo) to enjoy the rest of their evening.
Integrate:
This event’s goal was to unify the schools current and past members by having fun and showing school spirit. In light of this course, we can see several themes overlapping. The biggest of these is living in an interconnected world. This school-wide event is a great example of how humans are social creatures and how we long for interaction and to feel like we are a part of something greater. The network of students, faculty, alumni, friends, and family is immense at this event and creates a social energy that promotes connection. Parents visit their children, faculty catch up with students, and alumni reconnect with past friends- these are all examples of the connection that humans crave. This event was very ritual-like in its actives as well, such as the singing of the national anthem, the symbol of our mascot and school colors, and the order of the events that took place, which all play a crucial role in the event. It is definitely one of the students’ favorite rituals here at CSP.
Evaluate:
I thought that this event was a very fun and efficient way to bring people together to support a common cause. It gave me a chance to meet new people and, being a freshman, learn more about Concordia traditions. The knowledge I now have about rituals and being human in an interconnected world made this experience much more interesting overall. It made me think deeper about the meaning behind the event and what it accomplishes. I think this event is overall a great example of being united and unified under a commonality. I think most people love the idea of getting involved with their school in one way or another, and this event offers the perfect opportunity to do so. Even just showing up impacts the school because it shows support. I really enjoyed the fun activities and the sense of school spirit on Saturday, and definitely plan on attending next year.

Does Lutheranism Still Matter? ~ Dr. Bartelt

Describe: Dr. Bartelt gave a lecture as a tribute to the 500th year since the reformation. The lecture: “Does Lutheranism Still Matter?” was about how Lutheranism is still relevant in this developing and ever-changing society we live in. 
Integrate: Dr. Bartelt started his lecture with the statement “Our religious life is directly related to where we are in history”, which he then used to transition into the thesis. His argument during the lecture was the idea that Lutheranism doesn’t have to be lost because of socio-cultural change in the contemporary and developing world we live in. Bartelt’s claimbegs the question: What does Lutheranism look like today? Is the heart of Lutheranism in it’s doctrine, which should not be changed over time? Or is it in spreading the Gospel and fulfilling the mission Christ put before us? Bartelt goes on to say that is it a balance between the two, having its own “niche” and “role” by being between the Catholics and the Evangelicals and in doing so links the past to the future. Although Lutheranism very much values traditions and rituals, it should still be adaptable and compatible with the next generations.
Evaluate: Overall I enjoyed the lecture, although I did disagree with several components. I realize that this lecture was catered to Lutherans specifically, but for me personally it was hard to apply his ideas to my own life since I don’t identify as a Lutheran. Bartelt targeted millennials a few times during the lecture- mostly about how they are fierce advocates for change and base much of what they belief on “proven” scientific fact. While that may be disappointing to many Lutherans, I think it is a great opportunity. It opens up a different area of study: looking to documents other than the Bible to learn about Jesus’s existence and events that occurred in the Bible. Of course, being a Christian requires faith, that is its very foundation. But, I think during this time of change and new developments in science, we need to (as Christians) use these new technologies to spread the Word. Bartelt mentioned that Lutherans should be flexible and adaptable to the new generation, but I think we can take it a step further and dive into this new culture and fulfill our mission. Bartelt referenced the quote “You can only sharpen your pencil for so long- you gotta pick it up and write!” which to me directly relates to us going out into the world and spreading love, and maybe putting a little less priority on doctrine. 
     Another point I disagreed with was Bartelt’s argument that “Theology doesn’t change, even if social context does”. I disagree with this statement mainly because I think that theology, like any other study, is constantly growing and expanding and, sometimes, changing. Luther’s own legacy was that he changed theology during a time when religious leaders were opposed to change. In order for something to be a foundation it doesn’t always have to be unchanging. I think that this new generation has a lot to bring to the table in terms of theology, and some might not follow “Lutheran Theology” completely, and that is okay. The Gospel makes it clear that faith in Christ is what matters, the specifics (theology, certain laws, etc.) are going to vary domination to domination and culture to culture. Our foundation should be in our faith, which is what should remain unchanged even while social context changes. 

Thoughts on “Life’s Too Short To Pretend You’re Not Religious”

     The introduction to the book Life’s Too Short To Pretend You’re Not Religious immediately got my attention. Dark starts his book off with the claim that the term “religion” has become both a limiting and categorizing term, leading people to be blind to the fact that everyone is religious in one form or another. What we allow ourselves to bond to and place the highest value on in our lives is what we idolize and worship, making endless possibilities for the meaning of the word “religion”. I very much agree with Dark’s claim and found myself very intrigued by the points he proceeded to make in this book.
     Dark achieves his goal set in the beginning of this book: to communicate with (and hopefully spread) open-mindedness regarding religion. Although the claim made in the beginning may seem stunning to readers (especially those who identify as Christian), Dark’s ability to steer from heavy bias and opinion makes the reader feel as though he is “thinking out loud” and not making any judgements. When approaching the topic of religion with an open mind, we should not only talk about it- we should embrace it. Dark believes that these things go hand in hand because we cannot talk about something everyone does without first recognizing that everyone (including ourselves) does it. We can embrace that religion is built into every human being, and in doing this really dive into our own and others’ “religions” to better understand one another, as well as become far more open-minded in our conversations and perceptions of the world around us.
     As Dark states on page 15, “Putting religion on the table in this way, if we’re open to doing so, might be the most pressing, interesting and wide-ranging conversation we can have”. In this quote, Dark is suggesting we make discussing religion a casual, every-day thing. According to Dark, we are all religious in different ways, and the sooner we embrace that about ourselves, the sooner we can have honest and open conversations about what exactly that means for us.
     This book introduced a new perspective to me on what religion means and how we as believers should approach this topic. Not only did this read encourage me to be more open about my beliefs, but it also gave me insight on the opinions of non-believers and how I can enter into both their “religion”as well as their values as a human being. I hope to use this new perspective when talking openly about religion to the various people in my life, especially when I start college at CSP.