Sunday, May 22, 2005

George Bush at Calvin College

W. Where?!

No, this isn't a fancy Photoshop trick, this is George Bush giving the commencement address in a little corner of the world where I scrubbed toilets five days a week for two years.

If you look very closely you'll be relieved to see that the school motto has been returned to Latin. "Cor meum tibi offero, Domine, prompte et sincere." [For all of you who didn't spend way too much money to take a semmester of a dead language at an old fashioned school, that means "My heart to you I offer, Lord, promptly and sincerely"]

Back in my day, the administration (of calvin, not US) made the mistake of replacing all the old seals with new English ones, little anticipating the wrath they would incur. Old Dutch people from across the nation finally had proof that the school really was going to hell in a handbasket. Obviously, if God intended mottos to be in English, he wouldn't have invented Latin.


Below is a great shot of the field house where I boogied down to Rollercoaster of Love, moshed at a Jars of Clay concert (to the youngsters out there...never mind, there's no excuse), stumbled across a gang of lesbians peeing in the shower at an Indigo Girls concert, and played Dodge Ball in the coolest class ever, "Games."





I don't know how well you can see this...the student on the left has a W sticker on his cap, and the student on the right...I'm sure you can make that out. As I promised, I'm not going to talk about politics, but I will say that I think this photo says something important that all of us in the church need to be incredibly sensitive too.

11 comments:

Friar Tuck said...

Its ok to be political sometimes, especially in those places where faith and politics intersect.

Kim Traynor said...

Yeah...but I have issues!

Didn't somebody important say that being a christian frees us from a press of opinions? (You seem like a guy who would know who said that...)Anyway, that happened for me. When I became a Christian a lot of issues crystalized for me, all these great moral questions that had mystified me as a non-believer became simpler and more urgent. And in celebration of my new found enlightenment I went on a rampage! Friends, family and innocent classmates all mowed down in the path of my fiery moral clarity. And I wasn't content to make my passionate (if less than coherent) arguments and be done with it, I had to make them understand that I was right and they were wrong.

I may have the gift of "discernment" but I apparently do not have any talents of persuasion. Rather than setting everybody right, I just set myself up as superior and judgemental in their eyes. It wasn't worth it. I'm willing to make sacrifices for the things I believe in, but I'm not willing to put a shaft between myself and others for the sake of always being right.

I still have clarity on the issues, and friends and family know exactly where I stand, but these days I pick my battles more carefully and this blog isn't going to be a battlefield.

Chad said...

Sorry to hear about your mom.

I also gained a great deal of moral clarity when I first converted to the Willow brand of Evangelical Christianity. In retrospect, this was because I suddenly had the "advantage" of no longer having to think things out for myself. There were other Christians all around me to tell me what God's "perspective" on any given issue was. I didn't have to wonder what Jesus would say to me, or you, or Bill Clinton anymore. Willow put the words right in his mouth for me.
Willow prides itself on being an environment where questions are welcomed, even encouraged. But what happens when you start disagreeing with the answers? You still run into the same dogmatic wall that exists everywhere else in mainline Christianity--it's just better hidden, behind those shiny new plasma screens.

These issues (among others) gradually caused me to distance myself from Willow specifically, and Evangelical Christianity in general. To put it almost too simply, I just grew tired of being told what to think about God, or anything else. The funny thing is, my sense of moral clarity has not evaporated. If anything, it's found room to grow, now that there's no longer an external system being superimosed over it.

Sorry for the injection of cynicism into your avowedly cynicism-free blog. ; )

Steph Stanger said...

Chad,
Let me start of by saying that I'm aware that I am at a disadvantage, lacking not only the basic grammer skills you and Kim have but more importantly the elgance and style. However, just because you can make something sound like a brilliant revelation dosen't mean it's not bullshit.
With that said I have to tell you I was really disapointed although not suprised by your comments.
First off, there is no "Willow" brand of evangelical christianity-there is the Bible and it's principles and that is what Willow bases their teachings on. How you can be resentful towards the church for teaching the bible is beyond me, considering that is one of it's main purposes. As far as the churches teachings and the Bible, you are certainly welcome to take it or develop your own sense of "moral clarity". No one ever superimposed anything over you. I'm glad that in growing up you have a stronger sense of self and applaud and recognize that you have become a much stronger person over the past year. However I think it is pure pride that causes you to blame the church for whatever personaliy flaws you may have had while you were there. I think it was more your own immaturity and choices then anything the Church did. Sorry to come off alittle sharp but this issue is close to my heart.
Thanks, Steph

Kim Traynor said...

I see how it is...16 posts (some of them fascinating cat paintings) and I get barely a word from you people, but I put up a picture of Bush and y'all are all over it!

To Chad, one of my favorite things about you is your heart for justice. You fight for those who have no voice, and I wish there were more people like you.

But I gotta say, some of the things you said above struck me as silly. Mainly the "dumb" act; "I suddenly had the "advantage" of no longer having to think things out for myself. There were other Christians all around me to tell me what God's "perspective" on any given issue was. I didn't have to wonder"

How could any one who knows you be expected to believe that you weren't thinking, that you weren't wondering? And the implication that Brian (or any of your other friends) was force feeding you dogma is shocking to me.

Last thing...I couldn't figure out what was up with the snooty tone of your first sentence (it reminded me of that annoying Van-whats-her-face lady who uses the lovely euphemism "anti-choicers" to refer to pro-life advocates) but I think I got it...I wrote, in my response to Clint, that "When I became a Christian a lot of issues crystalized for me, all these great moral questions that had mystified me as a non-believer became simpler and more urgent."

I just want to clarify that I didn't mean that other non-believers simply sit around mystified by moral issues. I see how that would offend people. In my defense, I was only 16 when I became a Christian and only vaguely aware of my responsibilies to anyone besides myself. Sorry for the confusion!

Thanks to everyone for making this one a doozy!

Friar Tuck said...

Steph--
Ya just underlined and put an exclamation point under what Chad said...i.e. you demonstrated what he was talking about.

I have the utmost respect for Willow, I use many of their resources for teaching and for personal enrichment. (Courageous Leadership is an AWESOME BOOK) And, as far as non-denominational churches and megachurches go, it is open to more diversity of thought and opinion than both. (My sisters in-laws attend Saddleback) Its courageous stand in support of women in ministry is one such example.

Yet, for many of us, it is not the size or the passion for Christ of a church like Willow that makes us nervous, but the anti-intellectualism and group think that many people in "evangelical" circles goose-step along with without thinking.

It was this kind of questioning the party line that made me LOVE THIS POST. (Good job Kim for asking questions!)

I live in Colorado Springs. Here we have the headquarters to Focus on the Family and we have New Life Church, whose pastor is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (Ted Haggard). They are unashemedly enmeshed with political power in American Life, and everyone who thinks different than them in their opinion is unfaithful to the gospel. It sounded like Chad felt that way at Willow. Which is ok. No one church is going to do it for everyone.

My question is, what makes you all at Willow so militant and defensive?

Steph Stanger said...

Bubba,
I see what your saying about emphasizng Chad's point. But I must say I have known Chad for around 10 years and sometimes we all need a healthy dose of the truth. I have never been afraid to bring it on. It's my blessing and my curse...get's me in trouble more often then not.
You're right, I am defensive of Willow for sure...lots of reasons. First, it's my employer and I'm committed to the vision and values of the church or I wouldn't be working there. Two, if it were not for Willow I would quite possibly be headed for an eternity without Christ..as well as half of my family. And third, Willow does not deserve to be clumped in with Focus on the Family or other bullies. Willow does not superimpose it's ideas on people.
It's challanging for me to read something that is false and not respond.
And as for the anti-intellectualism comment, Paul said that even with understanding of all mysteries and all knowledge we are nothing without love.
I suppose for people like you, Kim, and Chad "anti-intellectulism" may be a sin, however for the more common folk as myself I'm quite satisfied to find a church that teaches and practices the love of Christ.

Kim Traynor said...

'Cause everybody wants to pick on the big guy! When people are unhappy with the way things are going in the American Church they look around for a big shiny target and Willow is often it. You doubt it? Here's what you should do, set aside an hour with the lap top and search "Willow Creek" in the search engines and read what comes up. It'll be an eye opener. And it's not just on the internet...when I was a student and I would tell people where I went to church they would respond by saying something like "Oh , I don't think I'd like to go to a church where they water down the gospel," and "Your pastor came to our conference to speak once but he got booed off the stage." All four of us have attended Willow at some point, and have informed opinions, even if we disagree, but I've met plenty of people who have very misinformed opinions, and I don't just want to just tell them what I think, I want to get the real info out. (And while they are here they can be ministered to by my cat paintings!)

Friar Tuck said...

Yeah, my experience at Willow was by Hybel's own admission at a low point in the history of the church (1991-1992).

I think the picking on thing goes both ways. As a member of a mainline denomination, which I will admit has its own very profound issues and problems, I feel like people from megachurches look down on us. And don't get me started on suburbia....which is a rant all its own.

I happy for you and Steph and your happiness with your church. But, lets be open to God meeting a variety of people in a variety of ways and celebrating all of them.

seegeepee said...

I know everyone probably just wants to move on, and Kim obviously already has, given the roughly 2,000,000 posts she's done since this one. I'll go ahead and respond here, fully accepting of the possibility that no one will see it.

Steph:

"There is no "Willow" brand of evangelical christianity-there is the Bible and it's principles and that is what Willow bases their teachings on."

Every denomination and church claims to base their teachings on the Bible and its principles, yet they end up at wildly divergent places. Willow has worked and continues to work to bridge some of those gaps, but they definitely have a proprietary interpretive theology and methodology of their own. And they can be just as convinced at times that their way is the "right" way.

"How you can be resentful towards the church for teaching the bible is beyond me."

I don't resent Willow for trying to teach the Bible. I do have other reasons for resenting Willow, but they weren't what I was trying to focus on here.
The frustration I was expressing is not directed solely towards Willow, but almost all denominations of Christianity. It's my opinion that an open forum is the most useful paradigm for addressing spiritual or metaphysical matters. Willow has not lived up to my hopes in this regard and in others, nor could they necessarily have been expected to. They welcome seekers, which is good. The disconnect, for me, happens when one begins to "seek" outside of their established parameters. At the same time, I recognize that there are a lot of people out there who at some point feel the need to stop relentlessly questioning everything, and start relying on faith. If they find fulfillment there, I don't begrudge them that. It's exactly the mindset I was in during the period I was speaking about. There just came a point after that point for me when I came to the conclusion that I was placing my faith, not in God per se, but in the teachings and decisions of a corporate bureaucracy, run by fallible humans.

"I think it is pure pride that causes you to blame the church for whatever personality flaws you may have had while you were there."

By no means do I blame Willow Creek for my own shortcomings or flaws.
Is it overly prideful to consider my own thoughts and opinions to be as valid as anyone else's?



Kim:

"How could any one who knows you be expected to believe that you weren't thinking, that you weren't wondering? And the implication that Brian (or any of your other friends) was force feeding you dogma is shocking to me."

I didn't stop thinking, but during the period in question I did tailor my opinions to align more closely with Willow's teachings and groupthink.

I wouldn't say that Brian or my other leaders "force-fed" me anything. But the small groups at Willow which I was a part of definitely followed certain approved guidelines. Imagine if, as a small-group leader, I started teaching, say, a Universalist doctrine. I don't imagine that I would be allowed to continue leading for very long. This makes perfect sense, given that Willow is not a Universalist congregation. But it just goes back to my dissatisfaction with any setting where not all ideas are welcome. Willow is very big on tolerance, but that tolerance has limits, and I found myself on the outside of those limits.



Sorry for turning your blog into a battlefield, which is exactly what you didn't want. I'll try not to leave such controversial comments in the future.

Kim Traynor said...

No need to apologize, my heart can handle a little excitement once in a while, and blogs are meant for big talk, not small talk, so we all did our duty on this one!