On Friday, April 15, the Jubilate Choir led a Lenten Vespers Service in the Chapel. As one of the Choir members, this service has been on my mind all semester as we have been preparing. The service was based on the Concordia theme verse of the year: "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). It focused on a few of the different ways that we are able to rejoice or praise. The four emphasized in this particular service were singing, praying, dancing, and serving. The repertoire, as well as the scripture passages, liturgy, and prayers, reflected these ideas. Two of our pieces involved dancing and many used other instruments, including strings, bells, and percussion.
The first thing I thought of when thinking about how this service connected to Honors was the five ways of knowing that we learned about last semester. Just as the five ways of knowing are the different ways that we can perceive this world, the four ways of praising mentioned in the service are the ways that we give praise, honor, and glory to God. Just as each person has their own preferred way of knowing (or at least the way of knowing that they most connect with), each person praises the Lord in a different way. (It's important to recognize that praising is not limited to the four ways emphasized in the service, but those are the ones I will focus on because they formed the backbone of the service). Some people prefer singing, others prefer quiet prayer; some might enjoy the kinesthetics involved in dancing, but some are most content with serving, particularly behind the scenes. Ultimately, each form of praise has the same purpose of giving glory to God in the same way that each way of knowing leads to truth.
I also thought about how the Honors program is interdisciplinary, with the intersection of faith and learning at the core. Though we certainly did not cover many different disciplines in the Jubilate Vespers service, there was certainly a bridge between theology and music. Learning occurred as choir members learned their vocal parts and instrumentalists mastered their notes. Faith was integrated into the learning through the words of the music and message of Scripture that proclaimed Christ and His gift of salvation. The global component of the Honors program was seen through the different languages that were sung. Two songs, "Ave Verum" and "Gloria" were sung in Latin. However, I think the song "You are Holy" most exemplified the global aspect of Honors where English, German, Swedish, French, and Spanish were all used to praise God and His holiness. In particular, singing the chorus in all four of the foreign languages showed the interconnectedness of people, awareness of other cultures, and universality of the Gospel that I think the Honors program is trying to teach.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the repertoire that was chosen for this service. Many of the songs hit me on an emotional level, particularly "Make My Life a Living Prayer" and "Here I am, Lord" as I thought about how my life relates to the lyrics of the songs. As I sang those two songs, I thought about how I want my life to be a prayer--a prayer of praise that puts God at the forefront of my life and praises Him for all that He has done. I thought about how I want my life to be centered on answering the call that God has for me, whatever that may be. As the chaplain of Jubilate, I also did some other reflection on the concept of praise and the ways we can praise as I prepared devotions to share with the group. Praise is something that is something anyone can do, at anytime, and anywhere. We are not limited by prayer, song, dance, or service, but it is a matter of where our hearts are. As sinners who have been rescued from the punishment of our sins, we praise in response to this undeserved and amazing gift. During the service, as I sang and played, I prayed that I was not making the service a performance, but that it was a way for me, as well as my brothers and sisters in the congregation, to bring praise to our Savior and Lord.
On Monday, the Honors class hosted an Oxfam Hunger Banquet at Concordia University for students, faculty, and staff who wanted to participate. As guests walked through the doors of the Buenger Education Center where the event was held, they chose a card out of a hat that was their new "identity" for the night. At the top of the card was their income class: low-income, middle-income, or high-income. The low-income guests were directed to seating on the floor, the middle-income guests were given chairs, and the high-income guests were escorted to fancy tables and dinnerware.
Our three MCs gave a brief presentation on the current issues and statistics related to hunger in our world. As part of the presentation, some participants were moved across class lines to simulate how varying factors can affect poverty and their class status. During the meal, each income class had a slightly different set-up and menu. The low-income class was given a tray of rice and told to help themselves. The middle-income group was served rice and beans. The high-income group was waited on with a three-course meal. After the meal, participants were asked to debrief and share their thoughts from the experience.
This event that the Honors class hosted relates directly to the course description for this semester: "Students explore the needs of the world through the eyes of the poor and the marginalized. Students assess global conditions of population, health, economic development, ecology, and political expression in view of human responsibility for creation and the Biblical concern for the poor. Students analyze theoretical and practical approaches to addressing global inequities and needs." The Hunger Banquet certainly addresses the needs of the poor and marginalized because there is a direct connection between poverty and hunger. The guests were divided into groups according to their income, which determined the type of meal they were going to have. The Honors class took a theoretical approach to addressing these inequities and needs by simply putting on the Hunger Banquet. The simulation and proportions of the different income classes gave participants a perspective of what is currently happening in our world. Awareness is one of the most important initial steps to making a difference because without the knowledge, it is difficult for anyone to take any action. The Honors class is also thinking of taking the practical approach to poverty and hunger by initiating a collection from students, faculty, and staff to purchase animals or other things for those in less fortunate circumstances.
When I was in middle school, my school participated in the annual 30 Hour Famine through World Vision. On one of the introduction nights to the event, a similar type of simulation was done for all the attendees. I remember being upset because we had not been warned that this was the plan for dinner. As a hungry middle school student, I was not excited to eat half of a tortilla and a glass of water. However, as I reflected on the experience, I realized that it helped me put things in perspective, especially causing me to place myself in the situation of those I was helping through participation in the 30 Hour Famine. During the Hunger Banquet, I thought about this experience and realized, again, that I am very fortunate. As Dr. Basma Ibrahim DeVries mentioned during the debriefing session, the Hunger Banquet is only one meal that we go without. The hungry people that we are raising awareness for and trying to help financially, however, will not get back to their "normal" lives and find a hot, filling, and nutritious meal waiting for them.
I also thought the income statistics that divided the income groups were quite staggering. People in the high income group make anywhere from $12,000 a year or more. In most people's minds, an annual income of $12,000 is quite small. In fact, according to the US Census Bureau, the poverty line for any households with more than one person is above this amount. In other words, a family with a $12,000 income is considered to be in poverty in the United States, though they are considered of the upper class when compared with the rest of the world. As a future church worker who is looking at fairly low annual salary (when compared with what many other Americans make), I realized how blessed I will be given the circumstances in the world.
While I may not have participated directly in the Hunger Banquet, I can say that it still had at least a small impact on me. If anything, I was again made aware of the hunger situation in our world. And it's awareness that is one of the first steps to action.
Concordia University had the pleasure of having Dr. Charles Arand, professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, contributing author to the CTCR document "Together With All Creatures" produced by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and a translator of the Kolb-Wengert Book of Concord, speak on campus this past Monday night. His lecture was primarily a verbal summary of the first section of "Together With All Creatures," which answers the key question, "Who are we and what is our relationship to the earth/nature?" Dr. Arand discussed six different perspectives that have surfaced throughout history, explaining the key individuals and philosophies involved.
The Honors class has been required to read "Together With All Creatures" for class. So, in some ways, the information was review. In other ways, however, it brought new insights. Part of the new insight was due to the fact that the information was heard rather than read, and another part was simply due to reiteration of the same information. I didn't remember from my reading of the material that Gnosticism had been mentioned, but it came up during the lecture. In the last unit in my Church History class, we learned about Gnosticism, so it was nice to know what Dr. Arand was actually talking about. It definitely helped me understand the perspective of the relationship between humans and nature that he was describing.
Most of the new insights I gained came from the Question and Answer time after the lecture. Dr. Arand first discussed the meaning of "dominion" as it is used in the Bible. He said that the word did not mean "to rule," but, rather, that those things under the rule would flourish. It was good to hear this definition, especially since it was one of Lynn White's main arguments in his article, "Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis" that we had to evaluate in our theology paper due a couple weeks ago. Another thing I learned during this time was Dr. Arand's explanation as to why God created human beings in His image. Dr. Arand said that it is so humans can collaborate with Him so that God can reclaim His creation. This idea of reclamation of creation was also connected with Jesus. Many of His miracles centered around restoring creation - calming storms, healing sight, healing physical ailments, and so forth. I really appreciated the new Biblical insights because it helps me understand our role as God's creatures and how we fit into His ultimate plan of salvation.
Honors students were required to attend the play "Adrift on the Mississippi", a collaboration production between History Theatre and Concordia University, St. Paul. Adrift on the Mississippi focuses on the journey of a group of slaves to freedom. It begins in Missouri under the leadership of Reverend Robert Hickman and eventually ends in Minnesota. As the freedom-bound individuals travel upstream on the Mississippi River at night, they share stories and memories that have shaped their past. The audience receives a glimpse of the torture that was brought upon black slaves, the dehumanization they received from the white men around them, their faith in God, their reliance on each other to struggle through the difficult times, and the determination they held as they strove to reach their goal of freedom.
One of the focuses of the Honors program is to recognize the poor and marginalized in our society. As I watched the play and saw how the slaves were treated because of their position on the social ladder and because of their race, I kept thinking how they represented the poor and marginalized. When Reverend Robert Hickman was mocked and mistreated because of his race by two white men, I wondered how anyone could treat another fellow human being so unkindly. When he was then given forty lashes for walking over white land, I cringed as I heard the snap of the whip and the agony in his voice. It is one thing to read about the hatred in books, but it is another to see it dramatized. That scene certainly struck me on an emotional level.
At the same time, it made me think about the role of racism in today's society. The artistic director, Ron Peluso, of History Theatre, wrote in his introduction an echo of thoughts I have had before: "It may be easy for many to say: 'Now that we have a black president, racism in America is over! We now live in new and enlightened times!' We have come a long way. Yet it is critical that we continue to remember, re-examine, and discuss with our children and neighbors our American history." It's so true. I've been discovering that people like to draw quick conclusions, either because they want to diminish problems that exist or because they do not understand the extent of the issue. I think the idea of racism applies here. For one, people may say that because there is a black president, all racial issues have evaporated. Yet, as Peluso says, that does not mean that we stop thinking about what is going on and making sure that our society is actually prejudice-free. It's also important to recognize that racism can go both ways and that it is not just the Black Americans or other minority groups that may be facing racist feelings. Racist feelings can also be directed towards white people. At the same time, there is another extreme conclusion that must not be overlooked. Many times, people point to integration of races as evidence that racism no longer exists and homogenous groups as supporting the idea that there are still racist feelings. However, it is important to remember that people tend to be drawn to those who are most like them. In other words, seeing students sitting with their friends who are primarily of the same race as them does not mean that it is a result of racism, but it could just mean that those groups of students found things in common and their skin color also happened to be the same. So, I think Peluso brings up a good point. While racism is certainly changing in our society today and does not produce the same violent actions that occurred in our past, we cannot forget to evaluate our society on that level simply because things seem better nor can we operate on the other extreme and say that racism is still everywhere.
Adrift on the Mississippi, while not the best play I have seen, certainly caused me to respond to the characters on an emotional level, think about racism and its role in our society, and re-evaluate my own actions. I was convicted again today of the importance to treat all people with the same love and acceptance that God demonstrates for us.
Each year, Concordia University selects a Book of the Year, which every Honors student must read. Last year, we read Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, a book about Abraham Lincoln and his presidency. While I did learn quite a bit from the book, I have to admit that I am not a big fan of history, which made my interest in the book somewhat less. This year's Book of the Year is Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I probably approached Three Cups of Tea with the same attitude of "I'll try to get the most out of it." However, I was more than excited to discover that not only did I find the book enjoyable, but I connected with it on multiple levels.
Three Cups of Tea is the story of Greg Mortenson and how one wrong turn changed his life. An avid mountain climber, Mortenson was in the Pakistan area climbing K2, one of the most daunting adventures of even the best mountaineers. After several mishaps and a night spent in the bitter cold, Mortenson was unable to reach the top and began to head back to civilization. On his way, he missed the road to the main town and ended up in the village of Korphe. There, he was greeted hospitably and spent time getting to know the people. He discovered that they did not have a school and promised to build one for them.
This promise rewrote Mortenson's future. Upon returning to the United States, he sought monetary support to help him reach his goal. Eventually, after several obstacles, Mortenson returned to Korphe and was able to successfully establish a school there. Mortenson's work did not end with one school. Instead, its benefits to the community drove him to raise more funds and begin more schools in other villages around the Pakistan area. Three Cups of Tea is the true story of one man who saw a need, took action, and made a difference in the lives of other people.
It wasn't just the allusions to familiar names and places (Mortenson lived in the Twin Cities and mentioned Roseville, a place not too far from Concordia; he also attended University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where my dad received his doctorate and where we lived for four years) that I connected with. It wasn't just the fact that Mortenson was a missionary kid and grew up overseas, similar to me spending a significant portion of my childhood in Taiwan, that I understood. It was the fact that Mortenson had a desire to make a difference in his life and influence people positively that I felt a connection with him. It was the importance that Mortenson put on education, particularly those who have no access to it, that I understood his motivation. It was the sacrifice Mortenson was willing to make to live in a remote village, to live simply so he could spend his money on other people, and to invest his life in the needs of others that has inspired me. As I read Three Cups of Tea, I couldn't help thinking about whether God would call me into work such as this (especially after all of our discussions about callings last year), a place such as this, to serve the poor and marginalized such as this. These thoughts were not new to me as I have thought them before, but I was again struck with the feeling that God may have plans for me involving work similar to what Greg Mortenson did for the people in Pakistan.
While I did connect on many levels with Mortenson, there were other areas in which I felt differently. As we discussed in class this morning, though Mortenson grew up Lutheran in a family of missionaries, he did not seem to devote any effort to sharing his faith. Instead, we read about how he observed Muslim practices and prayed with the other Muslims around him during the five daily calls to prayer. He made sure to ease the fear that he was bringing in Western religion with the school building. So, the area in which I fail to connect is this sharing of beliefs. My faith is the most important thing in my life and I feel like we, as Christians, have a calling to share the Good News we have with others. While I understand, and think it's important to note, that Mortenson may have had doubts about his faith or not felt compelled to share it, I think it does not undermine our call to share Jesus and His salvation plan with those around us. Reading the book and discussing this idea in class has made me consider how to reach that delicate balance of sharing our faith and not offending others' beliefs. How do we stay steadfast in our convictions yet remain "tolerant" enough to build relationships? To what extent do we observe other religious celebrations to show respect, yet not compromise our own beliefs? How do we share our faith, which we believe to be true, with those who also believe their faith is the true faith? How do we explain the difference between God and Allah (or another god) when we and the worshippers of Allah (or another God) believe that the higher being has orchestrated events in our life?
So, yes, each year, Honors students must read the Book of the Year. While always good, some years it can make a deeper impact on a more personal level. Three Cups of Tea has certainly made me think, feel, and understand more about myself, my past, and my future. What more could I ask for in a book that is "required" reading?
(written on December 8, 2010)
Note: The following words will be used in the essay with the given definitions.
Terrorism - "Terrorism is the unlawful use--or threatened use--of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies and governments, often for ideological or political reasons" ("Terrorism," Britain and the Americas). Terrorist actions include hijackings, bombings, suicide bombings, random killings, armed attacks, kidnappings, and vandalism. It often is directed towards random people ("Terrorism," World of Sociology).
Pre-emptive war - "To preempt means to strike first (or attempt to do so) in the face of an attack that is either already underway or is very credibly imminent. The decision for war has been taken by the enemy" (Gray v).
Wrong - "not appropriate or suitable; unjustifiable" ("Wrong").
Major Writing Assignment
The question of whether or not war strategies are right or wrong in a given situation has been asked since any form of fighting between two individuals or groups began. Debates over controversial topics regarding morality, intentional harm, weapons, the role of government, and the social good have all contributed to answering this question. Over the last couple hundred years, the question seems to have been asked more often, particularly within the context of overcoming terrorism. Of the many types of warfare, preemptive war is one such strategy that has been hotly debated. In discussion, leaders address the security of the people involved based on the weapons, targets, and timeline of the terrorists. They also attempt to anticipate future actions of the terrorists and discuss multiple strategies that can be used when faced with terrorism. Given the nature of terrorism, the tactic of preemptive war is not wrong when used to protect, prevent, or as a last resort.
First, preemptive war is not wrong when it is used to protect citizens, particularly those who are innocent. One of the functions of a government is to provide security for its citizens. Society also has a responsibility to ensure that its citizens are protected. Since terrorists target people who are usually part of a government or society, it follows that terrorism is one instance where citizens should be protected. This is particularly true in the case of pre-emptive war. If an attack is already occurring or impending, it is in the best interest of the government to take pre-emptive action because citizens will suffer either way. Then, it is appropriate (that is, not wrong), for the government to choose the path that will give the citizens the most protection. An attack on the enemy would result in less harm being inflicted upon the citizens because the enemy would not have a clear pathway to success. Not only citizens, but the innocent, in particular, should receive protection because they do not deserve the force or the violence imposed on them by the terrorists. According to the definition of terrorism, it is often "random people" who are affected by terrorist action. Since the majority of people in a society are usually innocent, the principles of statistics show that a random selection of people would contain mostly innocent individuals. Therefore, pre-emptive action, if successful, would limit the number of innocent people harmed by terrorism. The effect of terrorist attacks on the innocent is depicted in a photograph found on the September 11 Digital Archive website (Nelson). This picture depicts a memorial wall found at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, which contains photographs and notes that reflect only a small sample of the thousands of people who died. Most of the people killed were businessmen and women working at the World Trade Center, New York citizens and tourists walking along the street, or passengers of the airplane traveling for business or pleasure. None, with the exception of the terrorists, probably had the intention of dying on September 11 because an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center. As a result, one can conclude that the people who suffered and are depicted in the photograph are all innocent. Pre-emptive war can lead to protection for the innocent because it blocks a terrorist's clear pathway to a successful attack. The protection of citizens as a justification for pre-emptive war goes hand in hand with the prevention of future terrorist action.
The goal of preventing further terrorism is to protect citizens, but prevention is worth exploring separately as being appropriate in a time of terrorism because it looks at the larger scope of the situation. Prevention is justifiable because it has the potential to lessen the duration of the war. Since preemption occurs only if the opponent's attack has already taken place or is forthcoming, it is inevitable that a battle will occur. As a result, a group should have the mentality that if conflict is unavoidable, they might as well participate to the best of their ability and strive to end the fight once and for all. If the pre-emptive action does overpower the enemy's strength and cause the enemy to surrender, then the pre-emptive action is justified by preventing further conflict that could be even more harmful to citizens. In addition, prevention is justifiable because it keeps more people from getting hurt. Weapons of mass destruction, also known as nuclear weapons, are available to terrorist groups. These weapons operate through nuclear fission or nuclear fusion, which "produce large explosions and hazardous radioactive byproducts [...with up to] thousands of kilotons of explosive force" ("Nuclear weapons"). With so much energy, nuclear weapons can easily wipe out entire populations. If terrorists were to use nuclear weapons, pre-emptive war would be an appropriate response because it could help prevent destruction that could affect such a vast number of people. While terrorism causes physical pain, it can also cause psychological pain because its aim is to effect political or ideological change. Pain, whether physical or psychological, is never pleasant. Physical pain, though sometimes chronic, is often temporary due to the body's ability to heal itself. Psychological pain, on the other hand, can be much more complex and require more attention. It also affects people in a deeper way because it adds mental and emotional components. Therefore, pre-emptive war is justifiable because it not only prevents physical pain, but also psychological pain. While protection and prevention are just reasons for pre-emptive action, one may ask if there are other alternatives to reach the same goal.
Leaders can and should evaluate other strategies before turning to pre-emptive war in overcoming terrorism; however, when all other tactics prove ineffective, it is appropriate to take pre-emptive action. Religious groups, especially Christian groups, have often used the Bible and Jesus' command to love other people as a reason for pacifism. They believe that Christ's example of sacrificial love and silence at the painful cross should be followed by refraining from war, including pre-emptive war. At the same time, while the Bible talks about loving others, it also points to sin and the fact that "Jews and Gentiles [(all people)] alike are all under the power of sin [...] There is no one righteous, not even one" (New International Version, Romans 3:9-10). As much as Christians or other religious groups may hope for a world filled with perfect love, it will never happen because of sin. Violence is a consequence of sin and will continue to exist as long as this world continues to be filled with sinful humans. As leaders are faced with an impending threat or a current attack, it is appropriate for them to take pre-emptive action because imitating Christ's love, unfortunately, will not stop the inevitable. Another commonly suggested war tactic is diplomacy. However, this tactic is ineffective when people are set in their ways and unwilling to make compromises. Psychologists call this phenomenon "belief persistence" where people are "very resistive to change, even in the face of fairly compelling evidence that [a belief or opinion] is wrong" (Nickerson 187). A group of scientists conducted an experiment whose results supported this concept. Participants were told to judge between real and fake suicidal notes and received preplanned comments on their progress during the task. After completing the task, the participants were informed that the comments were random and were then asked to fill out a self-assessment of their performance. Those who were given positive comments, though arbitrarily, gave higher ratings, while those given negative comments, also arbitrarily, gave lower ratings. The researchers explained how the individuals' initial beliefs of their behavior persisted even though they were told the beliefs were incorrect. The idea of belief persistence also applies to terrorism. Since terrorism is often based on resolute political or ideological beliefs, diplomacy may be ineffective if the terrorists are unwilling to compromise because of their belief persistence. In this circumstance, it follows that physical violence, such as pre-emptive action, is more effective than verbal discussion. As can be seen from discussion of two other war strategies, it is likely that pre-emptive war will be necessary in response to terrorism. Since terrorism involves ideological (often religious) as well as political motivation, there is more at stake. United States Navy Commander Jonathan P. Wilcox thinks that "the changing nature of the enemy, the inefficacy of traditional deterrence, and the terrible consequences that accompany considerations of failure require new strategies specifically designed to deal with a new and nontraditional threat" (Wilcox 11). Pre-emptive war, given its definition and that it is a means of protection and prevention, can and should be used when all other alternatives have been exhausted.
Pre-emptive war is not wrong when used during an age of terrorism for the purposes of protection of citizens, prevention of further harm, and when all possible strategies have been exhausted. A government's responsibility for its citizens is especially important during an imminent threat and pre-emptive war is often the best way to protect them. The use of pre-emptive war also prevents additional destruction, including physical, mental, and emotional. In addition, it is a final solution when other strategies such as Christ-like love and diplomacy are ineffective. There is no doubt that the controversy about pre-emptive war will continue to exist. However, it is important for leaders who are against the strategy to keep an open mind and evaluate all variables because there may be a time, such as in the age of terrorism, when pre-emptive war is appropriate.
Gray, Colin S. "The Implications of Preemptive and Preventive War Doctrines: A Reconsideration." Strategic Studies Institute. United States Government, July 2007. Web. 5 Dec. 2010. <http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/>.
Nelson, Patricia. "1023." Photograph. September 11 Digital Archive. 2001. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.
Nickerson, Raymond S. "Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises." Review of General Psychology 2.2 (June 1998): 175-220. PsycARTICLES. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.
"Nuclear weapons." The Columbia Encyclopedia. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. Credo Reference. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.
"Terrorism." Britain and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2005. Credo Reference. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.
"Terrorism." World of Sociology, Gale. Farmington: Gale, 2001. Credo Reference. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.
Wilcox, Jonathan P. "Legitimacy in the conduct of Military Operations." Short of General War: Perspectives on the Use of Military Power in the 21st Century. Ed. Harry R. Yarger. Strategic Studies Institute. United States Government, April 2010. Web. 5 Dec. 2010. <http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/>.
"Wrong." Chambers 21st Century Dictionary. London: Chambers Harrap, 2001.Credo Reference. Web. 2 Dec. 2010. <http://911digitalarchive.org/index.php>.
 This uses inductive reasoning, part of the reason way of knowing. It starts with the premise that government should protect its citizens and uses the definitions of preemptive and terrorism to draw the conclusion that preemptive war is not wrong.
 This uses reasoning because math (including statistics) is reason-based.
 This uses the aesthetic way of knowing.
 This uses the reason way of knowing.
 This uses the science way of knowing since nuclear energy and radiation are scientific concepts that have been observed and tested.
 This uses the emotion way of knowing because it relates to how people feel.
 This uses the revelation way of knowing.
 This uses the science way of knowing because psychology, as a social science, uses the scientific method. In the example given, the scientific method was used through the hypothesis was given, the experiment conducted, and the conclusions drawn.
(written on November 8, 2010)
Throughout history, individuals or groups have protested against situations or issues that existed in society. These protests have taken a variety of forms with numerous driving forces, including religion, politics, and personal rights. During the 1960s, several protests arose in response to the Jim Crow laws and segregational attitudes that dominated society. In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an African-American leader, wrote a letter to church leaders explaining his plans for civil disobedience in the form of militant nonviolence, driven by his religious faith. Parallels between King's philosophies and actions can be seen in other famous thinkers in history, namely Martin Luther, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Jefferson.
Martin Luther was a German monk who questioned the beliefs of the well-established Roman Catholic church. On October 31, 1517, he posted what has come to be known as The 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Many of these statements questioned the existing practices of the church, particularly the purchase of indulgences, and the role of the church leaders. Given the authority of the church during Luther's time, Luther took a large risk in making many of his statements, especially those like the 32nd statement, in which he said that "those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers" (Luther 2). Yet, driven by his convictions that the Bible was the ultimate source, Luther was willing to speak against the popular teachings of the day. Similarly, King spoke against the wide-spread practices of segregation between blacks and whites in the South. King writes how some people "have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful 'action' antidotes to combat the disease of segregation" (5). Just as Luther felt the need to write 95 statements about the teachings of the Catholic church, King believed it was the proper time to take action against the system of segregation. His religious faith, as shown by his belief in following just laws, which are "man made code[s] that [square] with the moral law or the law of God," drove him to make such a decision (King 3). This force reveals a dedication to Scripture, which contains the "law of God," that parallels Luther's beliefs.
Another prominent European thinker was Immanuel Kant. In his writings, he answered the question, "What is Enlightenment?" Kant's basic answer was that enlightenment occurs when an individual moves away from automatically accepting others' beliefs to using his or her own reasoning (often in the form of questioning) to reach understanding (1). Kant goes on to differentiate between private and public uses of reason. Private use of reason occurs in a person's position, whether as part of the military, a church, or another entity. Kant argues that one should not question the organization's practices while on the job because it is part of his or her duty to uphold the teachings. However, through public use of reason as a citizen, an individual can and should express views on the practices of society. King engages in the public use of reason in his attempts as a member of society to fight against the injustice between black and white Americans. This reasoning is evident in his discussions about just and unjust laws, about which he claims that "one has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws...[and] a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws" (King 3). King believed that civil disobedience, arguably ground in his religious faith because of the morality factor, was an appropriate response to the segregational issue at hand. These views came about as a result of the public use of reasoning that Kant supports and encourages.
Finally, Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, the document that stated the colonies' desire and reasons for removing themselves from under the control of King Britain. There are distinct similarities between Jefferson and King in their adherence to religion. Jefferson states that "all Men are created equal...[and] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" ("Declaration of Independence" 1). King states as part of his reasoning for engaging in action against segregation that the blacks "have waited for more than 340 years for [their] constitutional and God given rights" (2). These statements both look to a higher being - the Creator or God - as an explanation for the rights that all individuals should have. The statements also tie into the theme of religious faith that King emphasized throughout his letter. Also, in both cases, this belief in rights has caused action. King lays out his goal of militant nonviolence by describing the "four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action" (1). These four steps can be seen in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson collects the facts by describing the different ways that Britain has exerted control over the colonies. He then describes their negotiation, describing how they "petitioned...appealed...[and] conjured" with the king ("Declaration of Independence" 3). Self-purification and direct action occur when the colonies assert themselves independent from Great Britain through the writing of the Declaration.
It can be seen through thinkers like Martin Luther, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Jefferson that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s beliefs about civil disobedience and militant nonviolence as well as adherence to religious faith were not new. However, according to his letter, these philosophies had not yet been applied to solving the problem of segregation. King believed that his new approach would address the existing strategies of complacency and violence that were ineffective. As seen through historical events that followed, King's plan, although it did not eliminate segregation, certainly contributed to the movement toward equality.
(written on September 27, 2010 as an in-class assignment)
Art is all around us. It's found in our homes, our schools, our hospitals, and even our bathrooms and janitorial closets. The prevalence of art is, in part, due to the variety of media through which it occurs. As discussed in class, art can be portrayed through words, music, painting, sculpture, architecture, and food. Through these various media, art is a tool of communication that helps individuals express their ideas, understand others' ideas, and appreciate the beauty that God created in this world.
Art is a tool of communication. Aristotle claims that art communicates emotion through his explanation that tragedy should evoke fear and pity in the audience (Aristotle 7.4). Even if the emotions are not new to the audience, there is a connection between the actors and the audience that is communication. In class, Dr. Mahnke and Dr. Schenk continued to reiterate the idea that art conveys a set of universal truths, including ambition, love, beauty, a need for purpose, and shame. Regardless of the medium or the background of the artist or audience, central ideas can be perceived through art. Finally, Graham discusses the idea, proposed by Nelson Goodman, that art is a means through which we can gain understanding (44). He contrasts this with the idea that art is meant for pleasure (Graham 47).
As a venue for communication, art is extremely important. Without communication, society ceases to exist because of our dependence on this form of connection with other people. Communication in art is one-way, in that it is an expression of the artist to the audience. This expression can have two main purposes: understanding and entertainment.
Understanding occurs through the communication of basic truths and individual perspectives. As Dr. Schenk and Dr. Mahnke stated, basic truths are communicated through art. These universal ideas transcend time, place, and culture and therefore can be understood by all people. At the same time, not all pieces of artwork communicate universal truths because some art is subject to cultural or personal ideas. In other words, an audience must sometimes have prior knowledge about a certain topic or symbol in order to understand a piece of artwork. In this sense, art also serves to communicate an artist's perspective. Through observing the piece of art, an audience can gain a new point of view of the world as communicated by the artist. It follows, then, that understanding on the part of the audience occurs.
Art is also a form of entertainment. People take pleasure in attending art shows, music concerts, or theatre productions. Art can be a source of recreation for some individuals, whether as an artist or as a member of the audience. The essence of art - its beauty - can evoke a range of emotions, including the positive emotions of joy, contentment, love, and serenity.
Art helps us as individuals, a society, and children of God. As individuals, we become more aware of our biases and backgrounds. We realize the extent of our knowledge as we look at a painting or read a play that contains material that we have never been exposed to before. Upon understanding others' perspectives, we begin to see that there is more to our world than just our opinion. We begin to think globally and think of life as more than just our perception.
In seeing others' perspectives, we can gain a better understanding of the people around us. We are made aware of others' hopes, dreams, struggles, and pain. We see the differences in how other people live. We also catch a glimpse of each person's uniqueness and range of talents and abilities. At the same time, we also reach an understanding that we, as humans, are not all that different. We still hold to the same basic principles (universal truths) and realize that we can still communicate across language and location barriers.
In gaining a better understanding of ourselves and others, we gain a truer picture of our Creator God. We realize that life is a gift from Him and that He created us individually. He gave us unique gifts and talents that we are to use to express our thoughts and our feelings, often through artwork. Yet, He also created us to be the Body of Christ, a unified entity that is codependent and draws from each person's strengths and weaknesses. Most of all, art reveals the beauty of God and His majesty. We are often struck by a piece of artwork, and it is good for us to remember that it is only a small reflection of the beauty of God. Perhaps, that is the most important part of all.
It has fostered the creation-evolution debate and put tension between the scientific and religious community. Scientists are at odds with the conclusions of theologians, and vice versa, as both attempt to justify their side of the argument with numerous examples and explanations. The tension to reconcile science and religion, or the opposing conviction of some to make the two disciplines remain as separate as possible, continues to affect the world. In much the same way, the medieval world of the thirteenth century struggled with the connection between faith and reason. How could a person's mind that requires tangibility and concrete objects reach truth through faith? Philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas sought to bridge the two approaches of faith and reason in his well-known work, Summa Contra Gentiles. He argued his points through the use of the first principle of non-contradiction and the first condition of the mind's ability to know the truth.
All individuals who search for truth and wish to discuss its implications must first assume three primary truths. The first fact is that each person exists. Without existing, individuals could not even begin discussions about truth. The first principle is that statements cannot contradict each other. In other words, truth cannot be reached if it is considered true and false at the same time. For example, if one were to say that he had a blue coat, but his friend claimed that the coat was red, no one could come to a truthful conclusion about the color of the coat because a true statement and a false statement both exist. Therefore, any discussions regarding truth must adhere to this principle. Finally, the first condition to reach truth is that the mind has the ability to know the truth. Just as a copy machine must have the capability of making copies to do its job, a person's mind must be able to comprehend and process truth in order to discuss it.
Thomas Aquinas begins his argument that faith and reason are not contradictory by using the first principle of truth. He premises with the widely-held belief that truth acquired through reason, as attained by means of the natural world, is true. On the other hand, he claims that faith is also true because it comes from God, who is perfect, and is above all knowledge and truth. As the principle of truth states, something cannot be true and false at the same time. Therefore, as Aquinas points out, "it is impossible for the aforesaid truth of faith to be contrary to those principles which reason knows naturally" (Aquinas 333).
Aquinas furthers his argument by using the example of a teacher and student. He contends that a student receives knowledge from his teacher. Since God is the teacher of humankind, all the knowledge that humans have comes from God. This concept applies to knowledge both in the natural world and the spiritual world. Therefore, since the source of knowledge is the same, "those things which are received by faith from divine revelation cannot be contrary to our natural knowledge" (Aquinas 334). Once again, Aquinas employs the first principle to show that reason and faith are not contradictory.
The next part of the essay focuses on the first condition of truth. Aquinas asserts that human intellect is hindered when two ideas oppose each other. When this intellect is obstructed, it is impossible for truth to be attained. In other words, the search for truth is dependent on the ability of the mind to comprehend it (the first condition of truth), which cannot occur without the full use of one's intellect. However, Aquinas reconciles this issue by saying that God, the creator of the universe, would not create conflicting knowledge.
Aquinas ends his essay by returning to the first principle of non-contradiction. He builds on the fact that nature is stable and therefore will not change. In addition, based on the principle of non-contradiction, knowledge in a single domain cannot be conflicting. As a result, faith and reason will not oppose each other since "God does not instil [sic] into man any opinion or belief contrary to natural knowledge" (Aquinas 334).
By using the first principle and the first condition of truth, Thomas Aquinas shows how faith and reason do not need to be in opposition with each other. He uses God as the creator of knowledge in both the natural and spiritual domain to show that truth cannot result from contradictory statements. He also shows that God's creation of the human mind allows humans to understand and process truth, which is necessary to reach the ultimate truth. While Aquinas' arguments may or may not have been accepted by the people of his time, he certainly made a case for the positive relation between faith and reason. Perhaps there is also hope for those who wish to attempt similar arguments regarding science and religion.