Archive for January, 2009

Urban Ecovillages

Check out the description of an “urban ecovillage” on Global Ecovillage Network:

“An ecovillage is a human scale neighborhood where people know their neighbors and care about them. People can live close to where they work and play and have access to other essential services without use of automobiles. Together, neighbors try to minimize waste and pollution of all kinds. Residents and friends work together to create a healthy community socially, physically and economically.

Urban ecovillages work with surrounding neighborhoods and the city at large to bring a whole systems perspective to urban planning and community development activities. The L.A. Eco-Village Demonstration is part of an international network of sustainable neighborhood groups which seek to model healthier ways of living based on environmental sustainability and social and economic justice.”

Click here for a short video of the LA ecovillage talking about who they are.  Favorite quote from an ecovillage member about 2:55 into the video:

The thing is, in any kind of work, the most important thing is to know your neighbors. Start with your neighbors, sharing with your neighbors anything you have. We have a table … when there are those in need, [sic] put on the table, even clothes and things like that …

Amen!

(HT: Kelly)

Church@Brunch

holidaybrunch11Just got back from Sunday morning brunch at one of our favorite little Eastie spots. It’s a wonderful little breakfast-lunch place that you’d never find by accident, because it’s in the middle of a working boat yard. You give your order to Wendy at a little walk-up window inside, grab a recycled cup for some self-service coffee, and sit down at a long, park bench-style table on stools.  It’s not uncommon to be elbow-to-elbow with two folks you’ve never met, which adds to the creative awesomeness of this place. (the photo shown is of the cafe’s Holiday brunch)

Anyway, today the spot was especially busy.  Tons of young couples, many with babies, poured in one after the other.  A few of them staked out several seats at the end of the long table, and we grabbed two seats near them.  While we read our Sunday Globe and ate our breakfast, more young couples, along with a few middle-aged or older folks, came in, some that we knew. Lots of smiles, food-talk, baby-holding, and picture-taking.

As this was taking place, we began to hear a curious word being thrown around as people filed in:

Church.

“We should light this candelabra … now we can start church.”

“Joe’s missing church? Tell him we missed him.”

“This restaurant could have a seating problem … we might have to start a church expansion committee.”

As we read and ate and overheard the conversations around us, we began to see that this group of maybe 15 or so met every (or most) Sunday(s) to eat and catch up and enjoy community — and they call it (perhaps facetiously) “church.”  What an interesting commentary on our culture’s view of “church.”  To me, it demonstrates a couple of things: 1) that for many Americans, weekly attendance at a formal religious institution makes little to no difference in their lives, so they just don’t do it. All the statistics — about church decline, etc — support this. An article I read a few years ago described the “unchurched” culture in Seattle, where many prefer to take the family and dog to a park or go out to eat with friends instead of attending church.  2) that regular table fellowship / check-in time / community is still important to many Americans, just not in the context of formal religious institutions.

To be honest, this describes us.

This phenomenon has untold implications on the future of religious expression and activity in America.  Our culture’s “third places” (coffee shops, cafes, cigar bars, parks, etc) are America’s new “churches”.  We could lament this phenomenon and wish it were different, but I’m not sure it’s a bad thing (in fact, I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing).

What are the implications?  What is the role of Christians in all of this?  Have the terms “churched” and “unchurched” outlived their usefulness?

Discuss.

“…the Bible is not literal…”

Now that I have your attention, this is from Lamin Sanneh’s new tour-de-force on the formation of Christianity within pluralistic societies, “Disciples of All Nations” (emphasis mine):

The characteristic pattern of Christianity’s engagement with the languages and cultures of the world has God at the center of the universe of cultures, implying equality among cultures and the necessarily relative status of cultures vis-á-vis the truth of God. No culture is so advanced and so superior that it can claim exclusive access or advantage to the truth of God, and none so marginal and remote that it can be excluded. All have merit; none is indespensable. The ethical monotheism Christianity inherited from Judaism accords value to culture but rejects cultural idolatry, which makes Bible translation more than a simple exercise in literalism. In any language the Bible is not literal; its message affirms all languages to be worthy, though not exclusive, of divine communication. That implied Biblical view of culture goes beyond culture as a matter of mere mechanical manipulation, including its takeover in religious translation. Accordingly, the vernacular in translation was often invigorated rather than overthrown. The relationship of the Christian movement to culture was shaped by the fact that Christianity is a translated — and a translating — religion, and a translated Christianity is an interpreted Christianity, pure and simple. “Original” Christianity is nothing more than a construction.

The New Testament was not written or dictated by Jesus, and the Greek language in which the Gospels are written is not the language in which Jesus taught or prayed and worshipped. Christianity spread as a religion without the language of its founder — in striking contrast, for example, to Islam. In the ancient tussle between the two religions, Muslim scholars have argued that this language deficit discredits Christianity. As such, the church’s recourse to liturgical Latin concedes the Muslims’ point that Christians have abandoned Jesus’ own language, though it should be stressed that this is in obedience to Him.

Without a revealed language and without even the language of Jesus, Christianity invested in idioms and cultures that existed for purposes other than Christianity. As these idioms and cultures became the carriers of the religion, they anticipated and embodied Christianity. Being a translated religion, Christian teaching was received and framed in the terms of its host culture; by feeding off the diverse cultural streams it encountered, the religion became multicultural. The local idiom became a chosen vessel. … (pp. 25-26)

Christianity is a translated religion.  The Bible is not literal.  These concepts fly in the face of that fundie cliché many of us heard growing up, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.”  What Sanneh is getting at, I think, is that determining what, in fact, the Bible says is a tricky and complex process, involving cultural translation and discernment.  It’s striking to think that in a religion so proned to fundamentalism, even the earthly language of the faith’s founder/Savior/CEO did not endure.  That should tell us something.

“It just doesn’t work.”

The world cannot support 2.5 billion people from China and India — let alone the rest of the world — living the way you live in the United States. It just doesn’t work. So that has two implications: Number 1, you need to change — that’s your problem; and No. 2, we need to build a new model.

— John Thornton, fmr. Chairman of Goldman-Sachs and current adviser to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, in a speech upon receiving the 2008 Breakthrough Inspiration Award (videos of the entire speech here)

Why I love my Wife, the first installment

1. For their workout this morning, she and her workout partner are out shoveling random neighbors’ porches and digging out people’s cars after we got about 7″ of the white stuff overnight.

Religious

First off, and this is super important, if you link to me on your blogroll, please change the url to “https://harvestboston.wordpress.com”, if you haven’t done so already.  I have allowed my former url, harvestboston.net — which used to forward people automatically to the WordPress blog — to expire, and have been using this one for quite a while now.  If you link to me, go right now and make sure your link is the WordPress url.  Thanks.

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In parts of the U.S. where the role of Christendom is waning (the Pacific Northwest, parts of the West Coast, New England, to name a few), the term “religious” is the most prevalent moniker attached to those who still profess faith in something. If a person’s mother goes to church and follows Jesus, the daughter or son might refer to her as “religious.”

We get this a lot. Just yesterday, a friend who recently returned from a cross-country bike trip wrote this to me in an e-mail:

The bike trip was absolutely amazing!  We met so many kind,
interesting people.  We ended up staying with a lot of religious people
which was really interesting.  It was nice to meet more people like
you who are religious, but in the best way- kind and caring and
thoughtful.  So many people invited us into their homes, churches,
motor homes, etc.  haha.

I was flattered by her assertion that I was “religious — but in the best way.”  And I get what she means.  But here’s the problem: I don’t consider myself religious.  In fact, I see religion as a pretty big problem.  In many (most?) cases, religion is often what hinders people experiencing the divine.  That’s why I could sit through a movie like “Religulous” and nod in agreement almost all the way through.  I recognize how the sincere spiritual movements of men and women (though mostly men) to experience the divine down through the ages have been co-opted by men and women (though mostly men) who would rather control than connect.  And thus you have the major “world religions.”

Am I way off-base here?  How do we extend understanding toward those who mistake us for being “religious” while communicating the truth about religion and who we really are?