Archive for May, 2009

I’ve been reading Roger’s Version by John Updike this week, which is about a graduate computer science student who thinks he can write a program to prove God’s existence, a Barthian theology professor, his wife, and the daughter of his half-sister. I’m almost finished with it, and as Ben Myers points out, it’s a very good “theological” novel, if we can phrase it so. I’m anxious to get to the end – about 100 pages away – but in the meantime, I thought I would share some poetry.

I’ve recently become infatuated with attempting to write poetry, which has become something of an inconsistent passion for me. It’s something I want to keep myself to over the summer and in the future, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Anyways, I’ve debated sharing some of my poems on the blog, both for the sake of sharing and to see what people think, if anything at all. Maybe I’m posting because it’s nearly 3 AM, and maybe I will be enticed to post more (I have some on Nietzsche, and hopefully more as the summer goes on), but in the meantime, here’s the poem. Note: I’ve just realized that it’s going to come out in an awesome double-spaced setting, but just imagine it single spaced, or better yet, transfer it to a word processor and make it double spaced to get the effect. I hate double spaced poetry, but I’m not good enough at wordpress to make it otherwise. It’s also worth mentioning that several of the phrases are lifted from the book, which contributes to the attractiveness of poetry for me as well as is why I titled this ‘poetry after Updike.’


Zero is Information Also

To traverse the path

leading into

the mathematical woods

is to find God

knitting quarks

three times a day.

Otherwise, God keeps

a low profile,

carting needles and yarns

from tree to tree.

If there’s a snag,

God threads through

the back of the loop.


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I’ve just returned from a week in Jackson, Mississippi at the John Perkins Foundation. It was a great trip, and deeply challenging in many ways. Upon returning home, I stumbled across an excellent article by Norman Wirzba in The Christian Century on what he calls a “Sunshine Economy.” Here is an excerpt:

To replace the fossil fuel food economy, we need a sunshine food economy. A sunshine economy represents a unique revolution in human consciousness and practice. In contrast to civilization’s previous revolutions—the agricultural, iron, industrial, green and now global revolutions—the sunshine revolution restores rather than burns up carbon. Each of the previous revolutionary advances depended on the exploitation of previously untapped forms of carbon—they used the soil, burned forests, consumed coal or burned oil and natural gas. A sunshine economy would cultivate diverse forests and return green cover to the bulk of the earth’s landscapes. Keeping carbon in the ground rather than burning it up is a vital step in the effort to halt, if not reverse, the worst effects of climate change.

Over the past several months a number of this nation’s leading agrarians, including Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, David Orr, Herman Daly and Fred Kirschenmann, have been meeting to work out the conceptual and practical details necessary to move beyond today’s fossil fuel addictions. They are devising a 50-Year Land Use Bill that will nurture soil fertility, conserve forests and watersheds, rebuild rural communities and bring food production into harmonious alignment with ecological systems. 

Intended as legislation, this bill would supplant the dismal farm bills adopted by Congress every five years that keep the nation mired in policies that exhaust and degrade waters, lands and bodies and that prevent good forestry and agricultural practices. Sunshine-powered, natural-systems agriculture must replace many of the current agriculture policies and practices if we hope to eat healthy food in the long term in a world of growing populations and declining habitats. It will not be enough simply to tweak today’s food economy and expect healthy, sustainable food production.

Check out the rest here.

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I have not paid closed attention to the recent media outlets’ coverage of the issue of torture, or as Dick Cheney might have it, “advanced interrogation techniques.” (This is not an exception; I make a concerted effort to avoid major media outlets altogether).

It’s finals week here at school, and as I was reading The Other Journal earlier, I was reminded of a ridiculous editorial that appeared last spring in our campus newspaper. The editorial expressed an outrage over the outrage over torture techniques such as waterboarding, giving the seeming age-old line that torture is necessary to get important information. It was coupled with the amazingly ironic line about why “we” should have the right to torture “them,” because “they” are terrorists and they are bad.

But that’s not all. I kid you not, the editorial also advanced the claim that waterboarding was no worse than the writer’s experience studying for her finals. 

I am convinced that the proper response to such patently absurd, Machiavellian bullshit is denunciation. 

Cavanaugh, however, is more eloquent in his articulation of the issues. In this article that appeared today in The Other Journal, he sets down the role of torture in the imagination of the state, particularly as it relates to the contemporary US imagination in the “War on Terror.” Then he details the claim of why the Eucharist serves as the proper mode of thinking/action for Christians. It’s a great piece.

Here’s a little bit of it:

What would this solidarity of friends mean in our own situation today, as we confront torture? It would mean, I believe, first and foremost affirming our primary loyalty to the Body of Christ and not to the nation-state in which we live. We are Christians first, Americans second. This redrawing of imagined boundaries can have a dramatic effect. It helps us to unimagine the enemies that the nation-state has made for us. The Body of Christ is an international body, transgressing the boundaries of nation-states. In the Catholic Church, we have popes who are German, Polish, Italian, and so on to remind us that the Church is beholden to no national agendas. The 700,000 Christians in Iraq are just as central to the Church as we imagine ourselves to be.

This does not mean, however, that we are only concerned with the welfare of other Christians. Being a sacrificial body means being open to love others, especially our fellow children of Abraham. Our concrete solidarity should be with victims of all nations, the tortured and the disappeared, the victims of bombs in backpacks and bombs dropped from sophisticated aircraft.

Remembering all victims will help us to tell the truth, both about others and about ourselves. If we live inside God’s imagination, we will see that even the people we most demonize as enemies – fundamentalist Muslims, for example – are made in the image of God. Furthermore, they have something to teach us about ourselves. In Roxanne Euben’s phrase, Muslim fundamentalists are the “enemy in the mirror” for the Western world. Our fear of Muslims can tell us what we fear about ourselves. Our charges of irrationality and violence against them can tell us about our own unreasoning fanaticisms and our own violence. Peace will not be achieved by torturing and bombing them into democracy. We have been making terrorists faster than we can kill them. Only by addressing the underlying causes of terrorism honestly is peace possible.

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