Tag Archives: ideas

Breaking without Recovery


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Despite the affect of finals and furious thesis writing to my general health, the common, end-of-semester exhausted wave of immobility is yet to fall.  The last paper was completed with great expectation, but the familiarity of the end-of-semester load and realization that it isn’t actually done (thesis work and job searching this beautiful break) keeps that “what will I do with my life for the next month” feeling at bay.

Sometimes I just sit and think and write and think and draw and think some more, and now that colloquium is over, I can pretty much do this all I want.  My mind combs through books and conversations, ordering them and categorizing their arguments.  There are days where I will spend the whole day just trying to fill in the diagrams that I draw in my carrel, which are often a mix of color-coordinated arrows connecting loosely associated terms attached to a timeline.

These long days have a funny connection to graduation.  All this thesis work should be pulling me away from my job applications, career research, and networking opportunities, and who knows; maybe they are.  But it has been my evenings over these crazy old books (and sometimes the really old handwritten notes I find inside of them) that all those post-graduate life questions start to make the most sense.

I got the impression that second semester senior year was suppose to be frightening and disorderly.  After all, I am officially homeless in five months.  But instead, it is just very, very exciting.  My mind bubbles over with ideas and half formed sentences, but my heart races with the possibilities of where those ideas could take me.

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Valentines and a Thesis

Valencia, Spain

There’s something about that excitement that puzzles you down in your stomach, like butterflies, but instead of connecting to your heart, it’s connected to your head.

It’s what drives you to abandoned stacks and through dense analysis.  It’s a question, although often one that you can’t quite articulate yet.  It’s the place where ideas come from.

And tonight, my cup runneth over. 

I’ve toyed with thesis ideas since freshman year.  The prospect of spending an entire year and a half, leaned over my own books, pursuing my own interest, and actually creating a substantial original work has always excited me.

My ideas have gotten clearer over the last few months, to the point that I have created lengthy lists of books to read and people to interview and attempted to articulate my exact research question.

I’m still not quite there, but I think I’m freakishly close(ish), which is probably why my mind is fluttering too much to actually take in Jurgen Habermas’s explanation of the role of technology in a rational society right now (CSS social theory reading for tomorrow).  And, being Valentine’s day, the timing couldn’t be more ironic.

In short, my thesis question will generally look at the emerging church movement, political affiliations of protestant congregations, and the rise of female leadership in conservative political movements in the United States.

More specifically, I’ll (hopefully) be dealing with the question of why/how churches geared specifically for ministry to post-modern cultures are often politically left-leaning and generally hold a very conservative few of women in ministry and in relationships.  I will juxtapose this research with churches largely composed of conservative parishioners who hold much more liberal views of women.  Both of these observations will be made in the context of the current US right-wing political scene.

As a conservative, evangelical Christian from the midwest at a thoroughly secular, liberal, New England liberal arts university who’s friends are mostly atheist, agnostic, or Jewish and/or Asian, Asian-American, or African my facebook newsfeed is could give you whiplash.

Political comments are often comical and a mix of the super-far left, conservative intellectualism, die-hard libertarianism, devote socialist, wish-washy moderates, well-spoken and educated (and poorly-expressed and uneducated) tea party-esque remarks, and anything just about anything that falls in between.

Point being, it’s a mix.  Add religion to political discussions with my friends, and you have an atom bomb.  Throw in an ever-dicey question about gender in this mix and the affect is paralyzing (at least to me).

This mess of expressing exactly what I mean and think to an ever diversifying array of friends is quite literally risky business.  One misplaced word, and I really can be shut-out.

That said, I find the mix fascinating.  It is through my relationships that I observe these questions.  I’ve noted that the audiences at academic lectures on conservatism are mostly Catholic and Reformed males.  I’ll never forget the paralyzing look one of these guys once gave me because he thought I was asking him out (I wasn’t, but that’s beside the point).  His look wasn’t because he was that appalled at the thought of spending time with me.  It was because a woman was initiating a relationship (even though that part was just a misunderstanding).

In New York City, I went to a church that was the very definition of the ministry Dan Kimball describes in his book The Emerging Church.  Everything about the ministry of this church was designed to minister to the city’s secularized, post-modern culture.  I found it fascinating that it was here, more than any other place that I had ever been, that the principle of “wives submit to your husbands” was taught to mean a secondary position in a gender hierarchy.

Every blog geared toward young Christian women touches on relationships (gee, can you imagine why?)  But each of these blogs, to varying degrees, teaches the same principles of the New York church.

Whereas, my very conservative (theologically, as well as politically) grandfather, embraces gender equality as a Biblical principle.  So does my father.

The church I was raised in (which is pretty conservative) has always ordained women, but they don’t actually have any women pastors.

The Missionary Church, which I joined at 17, rarely ordains women, even though women in leadership was an important principle to the church when it was founded in 1883.  Having visited every Missionary Church website (it was a part of  my job last summer), I know that there are no more than 2 women pastors in the entire country.  However, there are a bunch of women doing the same job as men called leaders, but this caveat is limited, because there is not a single woman on the denomination’s national leadership boards.

The church I go to now fully embraces gender equality.

Confusing much?

I realize none of those observations/half formed questions are loaded (nah, not a all), but the contradictions and relationships fascinate me.

I know exactly what I think about the role of women in ministry and relationships, because it is a topic that I’ve researched extensively for several years.  (This essay changed my life.)

But I still have other questions, like how can I apply my knowledge to a Biblical understanding of more complicated gender issues?  (Won’t be getting to that in my thesis, but I’m hoping to come across answers in my research)

So, while I had no one special with whom I could celebrate this Valentines day, I found solace in actually articulating my ideas and questions about relationships, the church, and politics.  Probably sounds pretty nerdy, but with that stomach/mind excitement pushing me forward, I got to say, it’s been great.

It makes me even more excited to go to a conference my church is having on God’s ideal for the genders.  I expect to be familiar with a lot of the basic ideas that will be taught, but I hope to use it as a launching ground to delve deeper into a few of the questions that I’m dealing with in this mess of ideas that I’ve officially named my thesis topic.

Here’s to the next year and half… and hopefully a couple of answers.  This is going to be fun.


Jimmy Stewart Gets Me Every Time

I miss CSS, the College of Social Studies.  It is the single best, most valuable academic program I have ever participated in.  I have never been so challenged, pained, and direly in love with what I was studying before.

There is something about the Thursday night misery of sitting in the CFA lab at 8pm and looking at the essay prompts for the first time, then pining over dozens of notes, finally creating an argument and still having no idea where it is going, and the feeling at 6am on Friday when it finally starts to take shape.   I can count one hand the number of times this year that I finished my paper before Friday 1:55pm and didn’t have to print and run to class.   That was never because I procrastinated, just because an essay never seems done.

I think I’m in the mood for CSS because I’ve been reading so many CSS-esque books recently.  Next week, I leave for a conference put on by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Baltimore.  This year’s theme is the language of liberty.   We’ve been sent several texts to review before the conference, and I’ve already burned through two highlighters.  ISI is like CSS, except only with books I like.

Best book I've read so far this summer.

I can’t wait to go to Baltimore and hang out with 49 other students with, generally speaking, similar interests and basic perspectives.  It’s not that often that I get to hang out with people my age who feel all inspired every time they get to that page (third quotation from the top) in Goldwater’s A Conscience of Conservative or who also have that scene from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington where Jimmy Stewart points out the window of his office toward the Capital Building and delivers that heart-melting monologue (the first 43s) as their laptop wallpaper.

"And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any other. Yes, you even die for them." (a different awesome scene from the movie)

I love thinking about how broad, basic, seemingly (relatively) ancient ideas are applied, misapplied, and morphed into totally new concepts.  By itself, that knowledge is purely academic, but that feeling, when you finally really understand the ideas and how they logically apply to so much of life, I get blown away– every time.

I get all caught up in thinking about people’s needs and desires and the world, but not in big chunks and classes and groups– just as people.  Then I think about the ability to influence and responsibility regardless of one’s position.  Then I get all overwhelmed and think about God.

I can’t mentally grasp God, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think there is a super-cool form of worship that comes from studying everything He’s made and given us the ability to do.  To me, all these ideas in my books are like physicist studying an atom and being like, “Oh my gosh. Life is…complex, but that’s not the right word.”   When I read the kind of stuff I do in CSS and ISI, I always try to understand the next thing, just to be like, “I can’t.  This is already too deep.”  Then I understand more ideas and understand them better and am blown away again.  And then the whole process just all repeats.

This kind of reading is sustain version of the feeling I get every time I walk through the National Mall.  When I’m there, I think about this country, but my thoughts quickly falls on much bigger and more important things than just that.  I get filled with a sense of right and wrong and responsibility, then awe, and finally– God.