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On the importance of community

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Last week, I went to Boston to learn and fellowship with other like-minded and like-hearted individuals. Honestly, it is such a balm to the soul to get together with these people. The friendships made from going there for the last three years has been truly a blessing to me.

Every time I go there, there’s a joy and expectation of great things to come. This year, the two courses I attended were “The Lord’s Prayer in the Patristic Tradition” and “Taming the thoughts: Ascesis in the Monastic Writings.” I had the honour and privilege of being a teaching fellow for “Taming the thoughts” and for good reason… I needed to learn how to tame my thoughts! I have noticed that my focus has been waning. My thoughts wander too easily and I find myself distracted way too often. One of the reasons why I decided to enter seminary was to heed the Shema “Love the Lord your God with all your mind…” I wanted to know what that meant and what that looked like in my life. It has been a very long and sometimes, I feel, fruitless journey.

Enter the Desert Fathers. I have been fascinated by the Desert Fathers for awhile now. I have the utmost respect and admiration for people who decided that the noise was too much so they had to flee to the desert to get the calm they have been yearning for. I admire the monks who either solitarily, or in community, purposefully separated themselves from the world’s systems to establish their own system to prepare themselves for the world to come. Over the years, I have grown to love these people who revolted against the system and want to hear what they have to say.

And boy do they have a lot to say! They remind me to always be aware of what I’m thinking and how my thinking affects me. As the Oracle of Delphi says, “Know thyself.” They constantly hammer home the reality that we often do not know ourselves and it is to our own detriment and demise if we do not change that reality. So many of us live in the past or live in the future with no thought of the present. Yet it is our present that in many ways define our past and forge the future we are headed towards. To live in the here and now is an ability that I am not good at. I would like to think that I’m getting better at being present… but there’s always room for improvement.

I’m thankful to have other people around me who are willing to study various texts and hear what they have to say. Learning should always be done in community. It’s always a humbling and precious feeling to know so many amazing people who are so smart and so willing to share of their knowledge and wisdom.

Looking forward to next year!

 

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“Truthiness” vs. Truth

I’m so thankful to be surrounded by so many friends who are ridiculously smart and just all around nice people. Today’s guest blog post is by my friend, Phil Strickland. With everything that is happening in our world today, his voice as an American evangelical Christian is one that needs to be heard amongst other competing American evangelical voices. His post is insightful and is an invitation for evangelicals to examine how they think and engage with Trump’s presidency based on how the Bible says Christians must think and act. – Sid Sudiacal

 

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Photo: Donald Trump’s first press conference after the election. Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal/Getty Images.

The Bible talks a great deal about the importance of truth and the dire consequences of lying. The world was cursed when man and woman believed a lie and disobeyed God (Genesis 3:1-19). Satan himself is called “the father of lies” (John 8:44), and “all liars” are said to be destined for judgment (Revelation 21:8). However, regarding truth, Jesus tells his followers that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The Holy Spirit’s mission is to guide Christ-followers “into all truth” (John 16:13). The word of God is said repeatedly to be “true,” since God cannot lie (e.g., Psalms 33:4, 119:151; Hebrews 6:18). In fact, in John’s Gospel, Jesus self-identifies as the very embodiment of “truth” itself (John 14:6). Scripture teaches us that, above all, Christians should be devoted to the truth (e.g., 1 John 5:20).

Let that sobering thought sink in for a moment before you continue reading….

The assertion that “all politicians lie” has become a maxim in our culture — and not without reason. Politicians of all stripes have been known to bend the truth and strain credulity from time to time. Spinning facts to comport with a partisan political agenda is a favored pastime for many Congressmen and women in Washington D.C. and the political operatives who serve as their surrogates in interviews on 24-hour cable news.

However, one thing that became painfully apparent in the recent presidential election is that, as far as politicians go, Donald Trump takes lying to a whole new level. Throughout the election cycle, the non-partisan organization PolitiFact meticulously tracked and evaluated the claims of the candidates running for office. They then ranked those claims based on degrees of truthfulness. During the campaign and following the inauguration, an astonishing 70% of Mr. Trump’s statements have been rated as differing degrees of false, with 51% being rated as simply “false” or “pants on fire.” None of the other candidates from either party even approached the threshold of Mr. Trump’s apparent disregard for the truth. Yet many among the conservative Evangelical right strongly supported Mr. Trump throughout his campaign and remain some of his most vocal supporters still.

There are a variety of reasons why Evangelicals have decided to support Mr. Trump. For instance, many view the Supreme Court vacancy as a potential means of reversing the effects of Roe v. Wade. Mr. Trump’s Evangelical supporters also find hope and security in his sweeping promise to “eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the Earth.” Many of Mr. Trump’s Evangelical supporters are also experiencing the same kinds of financial hardships as others who have been left behind in the fast-changing, global economy of the 21st century. Donald Trump’s election is, of course, also seen as a way to prevent what is viewed as a further descent into a liberal social order hostile to traditional Judeo-Christian values.

Evangelicals, like other Republican demographics who supported Mr. Trump, have also shown a powerful disdain for the “liberal media.” In fact, recent Gallup surveys show that public confidence in the media has dropped precipitously since the election as only 32% of Americans say they trust the press. Of Republicans surveyed, however, that number was just 14%. While a degree of caution is always warranted when it comes to media consumption, these statistics show signs of a disturbing trend towards an unhealthy skepticism by which even standard reporting of basic facts is easily dismissed as untrustworthy if those facts do not comport with some pre-determined partisan ideological narrative. Such rabid skepticism and hostility towards the press has frequently been stoked by Mr. Trump at his rallies, and again at his first press conference following the election. Mr. Trump’s pugnacious approach to the media is only heightened by the appointment of Sean Spicer, who is already proving himself to be one of the most combative and mendacious White House press secretaries in recent memory. Mr. Trump, in a visit to the CIA, has also falsely claimed that he never criticized the intelligence agencies over revelations about Russian hacking, and that this was a false story peddled by a dishonest media with whom he is at “war.” And now, in a move straight out of George Orwell’s book 1984,  we find Trump administration officials like Kellyanne Conway promoting some new kind of fantasy reality based on “alternative facts,” even though these “facts” are actually falsehoods easily disproved by real evidence. Americans thus find themselves in an existential crisis. A free press is a constitutionally-protected institution necessary to the preservation of a free and informed society. So, what happens when the press is undermined by the virulent partisan politics of the very society it is charged with protecting?

One problem that contributes to the issues the U.S. is facing is our country’s difficulty with media literacy. While several news organizations are credible, there are other networks and publications on both the “left” and the “right” who have a veneer of credibility that also serves as a conduit for partisan propaganda (e.g., the Huffington Post and Fox News). The internet is also littered with rabidly partisan conspiracy-theory sites that deliberately engage in misinformation campaigns in order to slander politicians seen as enemies and undermine public confidence in the press (think InfoWars, Drudge Report, and Addicting Info). As a result, many Americans simply cannot tell the difference between what is credible and what is not. Additionally, the tribal nature of partisanship in U.S. politics has led to different segments of the American population clustering around only certain outlets for any information that affirms their politics. We now have a problem with people, including many Evangelicals, preferring “truthiness” to truth. Truthiness, a word coined by the comedian Stephen Colbert, according to Webster’s Dictionary refers to “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.” It refers to the feeling that something must be true, even without evidence or logic to back it up. Truthiness is truth “from the gut.”

Unfortunately, the current U.S. President also prefers truthiness to truth as well, and to potentially disastrous effect. Mr. Trump, who regularly trafficked in ridiculous conspiracy theories before and during the election, has now insisted that he will spend tax-payer money in order to launch an investigation into (extremely dubious) claims of massive voter fraud for the simple reason that his ego will not allow him to believe the indisputable fact that Hillary Clinton legitimately won the popular vote by a difference of nearly 3 million votes. Because Mr. Trump prefers to believe “alternative facts” instead of the overwheling scientific evidence surrounding the issue of climate change and its causes, he has ordered all references to climate change removed from the whitehouse.gov website and has issued gag orders to a number of government agenices like the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Parks Service with the goal of censoring out references to climate change from websites and social media feeds (fortunately NASA’s site on climate change is still intact…for now). Mr. Trump, also notoriously refused to accept the consensus verdict of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee as part of a larger influence campaign during the election, causing an obvious rift between himself and the intelligence agencies he must depend upon for U.S. national security — he only just recently has reversed course on this. The President is also convinced — against all evidence to the contrary — that torture works as an interrogation method, and is now musing about reopening CIA black-site prisons and reinstituting torture even though intelligence experts have widely condemned torture as ineffective and immoral (if anyone is an expert on torture, it’s Sen. John McCain — see his comments on the intelligence community’s decision to reject torture). And now, Mr. Trump also refuses to acknowledge the reality that terrorism is by far more of a domestic problem than an immigration problem; yet the fact remains that out of all of the lethal terrorist attacks that have occurred in the U.S. since 2001 none have been committed by anyone on an immigrant visa status, and none have been committed by refugees from Syria. Mr. Trump’s sensational characterization of our current situation as being one of “open borders” and rampant illegal immigration is a total misconstrual of the reality that has existed since the U.S. immigration system was completely overhauled after 2001, and shows a surprising lack of regard or even awareness of the incredible work on immigration and vetting being done by the Department of Homeland Security (the truth is that DHS should be given more credit than anybody else for the fact that another 9/11 type of terrorist attack hasn’t happened since 2001, and for the fact that no fatal attacks have been carried out by vetted immigrant persons). Yet the President issued an executive order indefinitely banning refugees coming from Syria who are seeking asylum even though the order doesn’t touch any of the countries where foreign terrorists who were associated with the 9/11 attacks originated or any European countries where terrorist attacks have happened recently. With one swift stroke of a pen, the President signed the ill-conceived order which soon sent the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, and law enforcement officials into mass confusion, and which caused a great deal of needless anxiety for foreign nationals, legal residents, and refugees who had already been thoroughly vetted and properly awarded legal status by the U.S. government (part of the order has been blocked by a federal judge, and similar rulings are being made elsewhere in the U.S.). Lies, including those of the self-deception or truthiness variety, have consequences.

Of course, it’s also important to remember that lying is an all-too-human trait since every human being has lied at some point in his or her lifetime. So, when politicians criticize each other for lying, or when the press criticizes them, all parties should take care not to throw stones in glass houses. However, Evangelicals, as truth seekers, need to be willing to allow real facts (not “alternative facts”) to inform our view of the world. We also need to be able to agree on what the real facts are so that we can have a coherent basis on which to hold both the press and politicians accountable, and by which we can work together to address significant spiritual, moral, and societal problems. There are a number of issues where American society could stand to benefit from greater intellectual honesty from Evangelicals, including problems related to civil rights, immigration, climate change, gun violence and healthcare.

This brings us back to the beginning of this article. The Bible is unequivocal in teaching that Christians should be seekers of truth. This applies to all areas of our lives as Christians, including our media consumption and including our politics. A commitment to the truth, therefore, should always trump (no pun intended) our political ideology. It is imperative that we have the courage of conviction to follow the truth wherever it might lead, even if that truth turns out to be inconvenient. Evangelicals do need to hold the press accountable. However, we also need to hold President Trump and his administration accountable as well, regardless of whether one voted for him and regardless of how wonderful his promises might sound to some people. At some point, reality always has a way of catching up to us, and a dishonest and opaque government is a reality which could have dire consequences for American society, especially for those who are least powerful and most vulnerable. A lie is still a lie no matter who tells it.

 

Phil Strickland is a PhD student at McMaster Divinity College. He spends his days researching, writing, and building Lego sets with his awesome kids.

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Community and Belonging: Pappas Patristic Institute Summer Program 2016

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Last week, I had the great opportunity and privilege to participate as a Teaching Fellow for the Pappas Patristic Institute’s summer program. I was there last year and enjoyed my time so I came back for another year. There’s a certain feeling of home when I enter the Hellenic College Holy Cross campus. I come from an evangelical background and yet, in many ways, I feel more at home in this Greek Orthodox setting than in an evangelical church context. Perhaps, it is because I’m surrounded by people coming from diverse backgrounds. I have friends coming from Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic, Methodist, Baptist, and other Christian traditions. Despite our different backgrounds, we are all united in our desire to learn from, and understand, the words of wisdom handed down to us by our spiritual ancestors. It’s a little taste of heaven on earth! There were 12 (!!!) courses to choose from this year and trust me, it was a struggle because I wanted to go to every one of them! This year, I took “The Gospel of Matthew in the Patristic Tradition” taught by Dr. Brian Matz (Fontbonne) and “The Theology and Hermeneutics of Irenaeus of Lyons taught by Dr. David Jorgensen (Colby College).

As we studied together, I was reminded that there is nothing new under the sun. We are not the first society to deal with the problem of evil, of violence, of discord, of natural calamities, of economic injustices, of competing biblical interpretations, etc. The words of the ancients, written so long ago, still have the power to touch and transform us because there are some truths that can stand the test of time. As we look at the text, argue about how we should understand it, talk about the social context in which they lived in, we are left forever humbled and changed by it. Personally speaking, I just find it so refreshing to have the level of conversations I have had with everyone. If you want to be smart, surround yourself with smarter people than you. I have definitely been a believer of that advice and this week, I definitely got smarter as I interacted with such amazing minds. I think it is hilarious that whenever there was any debate in terms of trying to understand a certain passage, the admonition to “look at what it says in Greek” becomes the call we all heed. And maybe that’s what I enjoyed the most about this group of people who gathered together to learn from the Church Fathers… we came to learn from the text and we want to know what the text means. Any interpretation we may have concerning the text is first and foremost based on the text. The text is the ultimate control of any interpretation. Too often, I am around people who have Scriptural interpretations that do not take into account the whole of the Scriptures. For once, I am with people who acknowledge the primacy of the text over our own interpretations. There’s something beautiful about that. It becomes less a debate about ideas of what we think the text is about but actually debate about what the text is trying to say. I cannot tell you how beautiful it is to have that type of learning environment. We spend time looking at the text, mulling over the text, digesting the text, and just eating it up. To say that it was fulfilling cannot fully capture the feeling.

At the end of the day, any organization is really less about the program, but more about the people. I am thankful for the leadership of Dr. Bruce Beck in organizing this week of awesomeness. In many ways, his belief that it is important to learn as a community is reflected in how he has organized this program and its outcome. I’m blessed to get to know so many awesome people over the past 2 years. These people are legit smart and I can’t help but feel dumb around them because they’re so smart. Even though they’re smart, they are also the funnest and friendliest people I have ever met. Definitely came out of it feeling spiritually refreshed, rejuvenated, and replenished. Looking forward to next year!

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The Gift of Play

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Today is Friendly Friday! I have been blessed to be surrounded by awesome people who are incredibly gifted and talented. Today’s guest blogger is my friend Justin Roberts. I got to know Justin awhile back through a mutual friend and at a young adult’s retreat. After that, I had the great privilege of starting my PhD journey with him as well. He is one smart dude!

And now, to present his guest blog post, here’s “The Gift of Play”

The Gift of Play

Sport is inherent to ancient and modern cultures alike, and because we are pressed to find
a thoroughly nonathletic society, it is more than trivial to ask why. Why are human beings
compelled by sport, to the point they cannot imagine life without it? The most convenient,
though pessimistic, answer might be that sport comes from combative instincts that favour the survival of the fittest, as demonstrated in the natural world and most spectacularly in war. The UFC, NFL, and NHL would be case in point.

Is sport simply the release of primal desire for domination, in which case “competition”
is the acceptable form of self-assertion and pride intended to gain personal advantage in the world? Perhaps, in some respect. But sport takes whatever domineering impulse lies in human nature and transforms it in the arena of play. With sport, we take swords and beat them into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks (Isa 2:4). From weapons, to instincts, to virtues, the athletic arena is violence overcome, and the chaos of survival is tempered by the game. Like the beautifully unnecessary play of a child, who delights in new challenges and works with others, we engage a culturally edifying act. Even the stereotypically cynical “sports guy” who demeans women and increasingly hardens himself to emotion finds sports deeply attractive, as there is an inner radiance to play that finds fewer and fewer outlets in the world.

This is not to turn a blind eye to those who abuse sport—in the many ways humans can—
for everything good is vulnerable to misuse. But we should recognize the place that “all the nations shall flow to” (Isa 2:2), and participate in the decidedly redemptive, and thoroughly Christian, gift of play. We should recognize the spectacle that tells of a primordial fount of glory, one in which life and love and gift is given and received in Father, Son, and Spirit. Be weary of the one who cannot play; for their noble and ardent facade will only distract from their more secret occupation of strangling Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Practice the gift!

 

Justin Mandela Roberts is a PhD student at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario. He is the author of Sacred Rhetoric: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Participatory Tradition and Behold Our God: Contemplative Theology for the Soul.

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Theology Thursday – When fear is no longer a reaction, but a willful action

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A picture taken by Magnus Wennman from a collection called “Where The Children Sleep”, which showcases the life of refugee kids after their flight from their homeland, Syria.

Like most people, I was shocked, angered, disheartened, and incredibly saddened by the recent horrific violent scenes coming out from Paris. I was at a book launch when my Twitter feed started to fill with the news that there were shootings and explosions in multiple locations. I saw the number of fatalities rise, almost every hour, it seems. The number of injured people also changed each time I checked.

Beirut also suffered severe bombings that took the lives of many people. I read the story of an unexpected hero, a father who saw the second bomber and rushed him, causing the bomber to detonate early, saving multiple lives and yet losing his own in the process.

Japan also suffered an earthquake and there were potential tsunami alerts. All of this happened within the space of 48 hours. It’s a bit too much to take it all in.

A video recently came out of a father having an important discussion about the event with his young son. The reporter asked him if he knew what happened. He replied, “Yes, because they’re really really mean … Bad guys are not very nice.” He was so worried that he may have to change houses. His father reassured him that they were not leaving because France is their home. “They have guns, they can shoot us because they’re really mean, Daddy,” the young boy responded back. “It’s ok. They may have guns, but we have flowers,” his dad calmly reassured him.

Admittedly, that was the part of the video where a tear or two may have escaped my eyes. I’m thankful that in the face of death, this father chose to focus on life. I’m glad that a generation of children can potentially grow up knowing that violence may not necessarily be the best response. I want a generation of children to know that flowers and candles can protect us.

However, I only have to go on Facebook to know that my dream is nothing but a dream. Many in my news feed want nothing but for there to be total destruction, even if it means innocent civilians are left dead, or what I think is even worse… alive and orphaned. The reaction against Syrian refugees has also been rather infuriating for me. These people want to escape the same terror that Paris and Beirut experienced and yet they are being blamed for the very thing they are trying to escape. As a Christian, it seriously boggles my mind when I hear anti-refugee sentiments from other professing Christians, especially since the main figure of Christianity was forced to flee from a maniacal terrorist and received refuge in another city. With Christmas fast approaching, the irony is rather striking.

In the past, I have tried very hard to write fairly neutral blog posts. However, I refuse to remain neutral in the face of injustice. When there are prominent Christians who are lumping the term “Syrian refugee” with the word “terrorist,” I am going to go out of my way to make sure people know that they do not speak for me. When there are more self-professing Christians who are bothered by Starbucks red cups and their lack of Christmas designs thus making them anti-Christ figures yet find nothing wrong with elected officials saying that they refuse to accept any refugee, even if it was a 3 year old orphan, there is something incredibly wrong about this. There is a vast difference with someone saying that proper procedures must be put in place to weed out terrorists among those claiming to be refugees versus making sweeping generalizations that all refugees are terrorists. Lest people forget, Timothy McVeigh was white. Last time I checked, there were no sweeping legislations made against white people as a result of the Oklahoma bombing. Dylan Roof went into a church and brutally killed 9 people and yet there was no general prevailing sentiment against the American people that all American males were cold blooded killers. It would be a lie to think that racism has not reared its ugly head throughout this situation.

Recent reports state that the Syrian passport found on one of the bombers was a fake. However, this information will probably have no effect on those who think that all the bombers were from Syria. This goes to show that this is not an issue of the head, but an issue of the heart.

I can only pray that our hearts will be full of compassion towards those who are in need. History reminds us that one day, we might need it too.

 

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Pensées on Love, Homosexuality, and the SCOTUS ruling

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The recent SCOTUS ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in the United States of America was met with a flurry of rainbow-themed avatars and #LoveWins hashtags. There was also a proliferation of warnings of apocalyptic destruction and the empire’s downfall from others. These two messages filled the air waves and polarized people in two camps. Social media was quick to highlight the tension between these two camps. Messages of love, hate, compassion, and confusion intermingled with one another forming an amorphous blob of simplistic explanations and pithy aphorisms.

There were many Christians who went out of their way to define and describe what love is. Some even reminded their audience of Jesus’ unconditional love for them. However, this was also coupled with a fairly lengthy caveat of sorts that turns into more like a disclaimer notice one would find in most contracts. I think it’s very important to make sure that we communicate what we truly mean. I would say that’s a basic given in trying to communicate with others. Yet, I feel like if you have to explain what unconditional love is by adding so many conditions to it, then it fails to be unconditional love anymore. If you have a son who is a drug addict, would telling him “I love you” mean that you are condoning or endorsing drug behaviour? No. If you have a daughter who got pregnant out of wedlock, would telling her “I love you” mean that you are condoning or endorsing sex outside of marriage? No. It means that even though they may have committed actions that you do not condone or endorse, you are not going to withhold or refuse to offer them your love. Displaying unconditional love means that our expression of love for another person is not based on what they have done but based on who they are.

In the Scriptures, we constantly see Jesus interacting with the marginalized and the oppressed. They were the bad people that society says we should never associate with: prostitutes, tax collectors, and cheaters. There is something startling in the way that Jesus dealt with those on the fringes of society. What startles me is not what Jesus said, but what he didn’t say. He never utters a single word of condemnation or what could even be interpreted as a “loving sermon.” He treats them with kindness, dignity, and dare I say it… love… that is so shockingly simple. This was not a love that needed lengthy explanations. This was a love that was simple and clear. It needed no further ramblings on what it meant. It was given purely. It was received purely. And it had the ability to transform their lives in ways that verges on the unfathomable.

When unconditional love is given, no words can properly define it. Why? Because unconditional love is intensely experiential. It arouses feelings within that we didn’t even know existed before. It is an incredible experience that defies logic. It may be difficult to put into words but it also unbelievably clear. There is no confusion in it. There are no doubts. Only clarity.

If we, as Christians, truly have this type of unconditional love for homosexuals as we often say we do, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have to go to great lengths to give them a detailed explanation because they would know what it means. The fact that we do makes me stop and pause for a minute and wonder if this is actually true.

Maybe it is best if we just said this: I love you. Period.

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Theology Thursday – Lenten Reflections, Part II

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This month, I had the opportunity to attend two back-to-back conferences in good ‘ol US of A. First, I presented a paper at the Eleventh Annual Archbishop Iakovos Graduate Students Conference in Patristic Studies hosted by the Pappas Patristic Institute in Brookline, MA. I also got a chance to be a respondent and a moderator for a session. It was a great experience and I enjoyed getting to know so many awesome people. Perhaps, it is a sign of the times that before going, I was wondering if the presenters were Christians too. In today’s academic climate, you just never know. Just because it’s a conference on a biblical topic, doesn’t necessarily mean that those who go will necessarily be Christians. So it came as a surprising shock (albeit the good kind) when I found out that the presenters were Christians too! There is a certain bond, a sense of camaraderie and fellowship, that Christians share. It is this sense of belonging to something… or should I say, Someone… who is greater than me, than us, than my culture, than my nationality, than my gender, than my socio-economic status. Through Christ, we are all brothers and sisters. There is something inherently powerful about that.

I also got the chance to go to the SPS (Society for Pentecostal Studies) conference in Florida. There is something weird about not wearing winter jackets in March. I enjoyed meeting my new roommates and making new friends. There was something so beautiful about seeing so many like-minded and like-hearted people in one place. I think that’s why I loved these two conferences that I attended. In some mysterious way, I felt like I belonged. As an academic, I think it’s really important to make sure that you join a society that gives you that feeling of belongingness. Everyone was incredibly gracious and extraordinarily nice. SPS felt like home, a place where there are people of differing personalities and temperaments, but are still united in love for God and for one another. Yet, their love for God doesn’t mean shoddy scholarship. In fact, I think that their scholarship is great because of their love for God and their love for the church.

I have been blessed to attend these two conferences. If anything, it was a lesson on humility. I was surrounded by people who were so smart, it’s hard not to feel dumb. However, they were not arrogant or prideful at all. They were so humble and gracious. These are the people who, in my mind, have arrived. But, there is a danger for anyone who ever thinks they have arrived. There is always something more to be discovered. No single person has the ability to know everything about anything. It was great to see these men and women of God exhibit that type of humility and grace within an academic system that is often bereft of such qualities. It is a reminder that I need to guard against arrogance and pride as an academic scholar. The call for humility becomes even harder when you feel like you have something to boast about. If I were to boast in anything, may I only boast in Christ, and Christ crucified. As this Lenten season is nearing its end, may it also signal the end of my own pride and hubris, and the beginning of humility and grace.