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Theology Thursdays – Why I Study Theology

For those tracking how I have labelled previous posts, you have seen Monday Musings, Tunes for Tuesday, Wednesday Writings, and Friendly Fridays. Poor Thursday was left out in the cold. So I figured I’d write about the one thing that I like so much, I have decided to do a Ph.D. in this area. What is it, you ask? Yup. The queen of sciences herself… Theology!

phd

For those of you who may not know, I’m currently pursuing my Ph.D. studies in Christian Theology at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Canada. My focus is on church history. I’m still up in the air in terms of the time period I want to go with but I’m debating between Roman North Africa between 300 – 700 AD or what’s happening right now with ISIS. I really need to decide soon.

A lot of people tend to ask why I’m studying theology. What is it about theology that is so exciting that I’m willing to forego sleep and some semblance of a social life to pursue a doctorate in this area? For me, theology is this living, vibrant thing that whether we want to or not, we are constantly engaging with in some form or another. As a group of people, theology has moulded and shaped cultures, people groups and nations. In a more personal way, theology has also helped define and instruct individuals’ life styles. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is subject to further discussion… however, we can’t escape from the fact that theology is a prime motivator in the lives of many people in the world.

The word “theology” comes from the word “theos” meaning God and “logos” meaning the study of… so theology is the study of God. In one sense, we are all theologians. In some way, shape or form, we all have ideas about who God is. To be an atheist is to posit a particular way of understanding God even if it is to say that God does not exist. While this may not be in line with orthodox Christian theology, it is still a way by which an individual engages in the theological enterprise. (Side note: Christians were once called atheists. Roman culture believed in the pantheon of Roman gods and goddesses. Christians, on the other hand, believed in the One True God. As a result, Christians were labelled atheists because they didn’t believe in the Roman deities.)

I am firmly convinced that our particular theology has a direct impact on the way we live our lives. It is because of this very reason why theology excites my curiousity. I’m interested in how people interpret the Sacred Scriptures. I want to know why people think the way they think about certain theological doctrines. What is it about knowing God’s goodness that motivates people to do things like going to far-flung countries in their desire to heed God’s calling on their life? What is it about experiencing God’s love that has the ability to transform people’s life? What is it about the loss of a loved one that has the potential to incur feelings of anger and hatred towards God? All of these life events, as disparate as they may seem, are all areas in which theology is lived out.

Having studied Psychology in my undergraduate studies, I am aware of how we are affected by our psyche. Our bodies are wonderful things that are able to create neural networks that inform our thoughts and actions. Psychology offers a glimpse into the inner machinations of the human being. In the same way, theology gives us another angle by which we can examine the human experience. It allows us to look at the spiritual component that animates us and controls our words and deeds. This seemingly unsubstantial and intangible concept has, time and time again, manifested itself in tangible ways. When someone offers food and shelter to a person in need and does it in the name of God, this is theology at work; when people are killed because they have done acts that besmirched the honour of a particular religious tradition’s revered prophet, this too, is theology at work.

There is no escaping theology’s grasp. Its effects are everywhere. Instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, I’d rather accept its existence and figure out how it works. Perhaps, if we can figure out how to properly understand theology, it can still be a tool to make this world a better place.

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Pensées on Prostitution

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Photo: Getty Images

In a recent article, an esteemed friend (Julia Beazley) wrote about the current problem we have when dealing with the issue of legalizing prostitution. In her article,  she reminds us not to ignore the real issue on prostitution. A lot of the argument about legalizing prostitution revolves around the intended “safety” that legalizing prostitution would bring to those who practice this particular “profession”. By legalizing it, we can then enforce laws that could potentially create a safer environment for women who have “chosen” to be in this field of work. Beazley reminds us that

The violence is rooted in the underlying view among the people, mostly men, that purchase them that women in prostitution are somehow fundamentally different from their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and daughters. This misperception justifies treatment of women as objects to be bought and sold. The very existence of prostitution requires a subclass of people who are available to be bought, sold and rented; people understood to be somehow just a little less equal than everyone else.

I know a lot of fathers who will move heaven and earth for their daughters. The moment their daughter’s little fingers wrap around theirs, even the most manliest man can be reduced to tears. They dream of a bright and lovely future for their daughter. Maybe she will become a doctor or a lawyer (especially if her parents happen to be Asians hahaha), a writer, a ballerina, a teacher, or even become the prime minister (or the president if you’re not in Canada)! I haven’t met a lot of normal fathers who ever dreamt a future of prostitution for their little girl. Probably because that would be incredibly sick and disturbing if they actually did! I would like to think that as a society, we can agree that wanting your daughter to be a prostitute when she grows up is wrong.

While I recognize that lots of things happen when a child grows up, I hope that our general views on protecting others from harm would not be something we throw out because of a change in someone’s age. The prostitute in the street is not a random piece of flesh to be bought and enjoyed like you would buy a chocolate bar from a vending machine. She is a woman created in the image of her Creator. She is someone’s child. She is someone’s sister. She is someone’s friend. She is a human being. She is not a piece of commodity to be owned and bought at someone’s convenience and pleasure.

We live in a broken, messed up world. I am not naïve enough to think that just because I think someone is wrong means that everyone will think what I think is wrong is wrong too. But, in a world of relativity and lack of absolutes in this post-modern world we inhabit in, there are general ideas that most people irregardless of their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or political stance do agree on. In general, we are all about love, peace, joy, and general happy things. We generally want peace instead of war. We are all about protecting the weak and oppressed against the power of the strong tyrant. And maybe this is just the idealist in me, but I really hope and pray that as a society, we would rise up to protect the weak and the disenfranchised who find themselves in the prostitution trade and remind them that they are not disposable sex objects but human beings who need to be treated with love and care. But then again, maybe that’s not me just being idealistic… maybe that’s just me recognizing and respecting someone else’s humanity. Maybe that’s just me being truly human.

 

 

Comments are always welcome. It’s ok to disagree with me and/or others, but we can disagree in a nice way that doesn’t result to denigrating or being demeaning to others in the process =)

Wednesday Writings – Dec. 5, 2012

Welcome to this week’s edition of Wednesday Writings!

I have some exciting news! I started my Facebook fan page for this website! Please click on the “f” logo up top and it will directly link you to the page. Click on “like” and tell others about it too! I wanted a forum to speak to you as my readers because I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to read my stuff. I would love to continue this conversation over on yonder Facebook page and hear more from you! =) (For a limited time, I have also added it on the sidebar for easy clicking!)

Background story about this poem: I wrote it awhile ago. It was inspired while I was on vacation. Sometimes, we need time to get away for the creative juices to start flowing. In terms of inspiration, Greek mythology ranks second only to Christianity as a constant theme in my writings. I have always been fascinated by the gods and goddesses with their capricious whims and avaricious desire for power. Supernatural creatures with unfathomable strength or special abilities. This poem is my personal reflection on our fragile human nature.

sirens

Credit image: Ulysses and the Sirens, J.W. Waterhouse, 1891, Oil on canvas

Portrait of a human

Riding the waves of this ocean called life
I am lured by the Sirens’ beckoning call
Slowly but surely, I find myself moved
Ever closer to their rocky shores.

Come and see, such pleasures for thee
Come and live out your wildest dreams
Come, for I can fulfill your every fantasy
Come, take hold of me, for I am truly Yours.

Logic escapes me, when faced with such a temptress
Reason flees, my mind lay bare naked
No matter how hard I tell my feet to escape
Step by step, they bring me closer to my fate.

If I then shall give myself wholly
What names shall I say, of those who bested me?
They looked at each other, faces confused
“Poor mortal,” they said, “have you really no clue?”

We are called by many names, but nothing changes
Time and time again, our wares render you helpless
Though warnings and alarms about us may abound
No human is immune, even the pious are defenseless.

We three, the unholy trinity of yore
Will ever devour you to your very soul
Mortal tongues cannot begin to describe us three
Money, sex and power – your names for we.

Suddenly, mine eyes began to see
It was as if a veil was lifted, their true forms they revealed
The lustrous hair, the luscious lips, the virgin smiles were but a mask
What was hidden underneath, too ghastly for any man.

I cowered in a corner, what destructive monstrosity!
There are no words to describe the fear, my heart rapidly beating
For there it was, I could not deny
Their faces unmasked – their faces were me.

The importance of mystery

More and more, I’m convinced of the need to see the world afresh and anew. We are a society that has accumulated millions and billions of data about everything. And somehow, this strange phenomenon has not caused us to wonder about the world but instead has done the exact opposite. We now think that we know this world we live in. Back in the good old days, people didn’t know about the sun, so they wanted to know more about it. They didn’t know about the stars, so they wanted to learn more about it. They didn’t know about this, that, and the other… and in their curiousity, tried to understand the very thing that got them intrigued. I sometimes think we have lost this vivacious curiousity, this desire to ask “why” and “how” when it comes to the things around us or the ideas that are all around us. I mean, why bother, isn’t that what Google and Wikipedia are for?

But it is this craving to ask the questions that others aren’t asking that makes us humble in our understanding. It is in the very not-knowing that we can know things. It’s hard not to come at a situation with pre-conceived notions of how it works, or what it is. And sometimes, it is this very arrogance of know-it-all attitude that closes us to further experiencing this world that God has given us.

There’s an anime show I watched called “Full Metal Alchemist.” The show was about two brothers who lost their mom and wanted to bring her back through alchemy. Of course, this was also forbidden. According to alchemy, every action has a reaction. To create matter, you must first have the ingredients needed to create the very thing you want. The theory is, if all the raw materials are there, they can then resurrect her. They try to do it and of course it fails. The question that hounds them is why? Why is it that even though they had ALL the raw ingredients to make up a person, they could not create a person? Shouldn’t this cause us to wonder at how “fearfully and wonderfully made” we all are?

It is only when we look at the world with wonder that we can experience its beauty. Nature yields its secrets only to those who actually seek to know its secrets. In religious settings, it is the mystic who, in his or her desire to know God, finds God. Doesn’t the Bible itself affirm this when it says “seek and you shall find”? My challenge to you is to go out of the door tomorrow and notice the birds in the air, the trees, the little squirrel scurrying away, the flowers, the grass, the bus, the cars, the elevator, the door, the air… and realize how wonderful all of it really is.

and scene…