Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Week Sixteen

            The primary objectives of this course include connecting Peace & Conflict studies with my major, exploring peace issues in United Methodist Hispanic ministry, researching graduate schools and career options, and vocational discernment. So, for the last journal of the semester, I would like to reflect on how these objectives have been achieved (or not).
1. Connecting PCS with Biblical Studies
            This course has been an intentional time of synthesizing my two great passions— peace and Bible. Having two credits worth of time and responsibility to carry out this task has been a tremendous opportunity, and I hope to continue this work even after this semester. This class has given me a framework for thinking about the relationship between my theology and my commitment to peace, my study of Scripture and my vision of shalom. What I have come to see is that life-giving biblical scholarship is, in fact, an act of symbolic peacebuilding. So, peace and Bible are certainly connected— in my life, my gifts, and my call.
2. Exploring peace issues in United Methodist Hispanic ministry
            Reading Hispanic/Latino Theology throughout the semester and discussing it with a focus on peacebuilding has helped me articulate an understanding of Hispanic ministry shaped by my commitment to peace. Reading the articles in El Interprete has enabled me to focus on United Methodist Hispanic ministry in particular, identifying the ways in which the UMC is already building peace through Hispanic ministry as well as some things that could be improved. This summer as a Hispanic ministry intern, I will have the opportunity to engage in peacebuilding through Hispanic ministry, putting the theories of this semester into practice. My term paper for this course critiques the use of Scripture in Hispanic ministry and proposes a nonviolent hermeneutic for the context of United Methodist Hispanic ministry; this summer as I lead Bible studies in Hispanic ministry, I will be putting my paper into practice and embodying the broad scope of this course— the connections between Bible and peacebuilding, as well as my increased knowledge of Hispanic ministry in the UMC.
3. Researching graduate schools and career options
            I have done research on graduate schools this semester, and I visited two seminaries over spring break, but the most significant contribution of this class has been the opportunity for intentional discernment; this has helped me create a description of the type of seminary I would like to attend. Ultimately, my seminary choice comes down to four factors: first, academic excellence and a strong Bible program; second, a sense of community on campus and preferably on-campus housing; third, peace & justice opportunities; fourth, scholarships and financial aid. I realize that there is no perfect place, but these are helpful indicators of the right place for me. This summer, I have plans to visit seven seminaries, and I look forward to seeing where God is leading me after Bluffton!
4. Vocational Discernment
            This category seems to encompass all of the others, because this entire course has been an opportunity for intentional discernment. Each week in my reading journals, I have pushed myself to reflect somehow on my vocational discernment, and this has been one of my favorite parts of this course and my entire semester. Writing is an empowering practice that enables me to process my thoughts, so it has been a powerful tool for discernment that I hope to keep using in the future. Looking back over my blog posts for the semester, I can see how God has been leading me day by day and week by week, which helps me see the broad patterns of discernment over the course of the semester.
            Just as I began the semester with a vocational “inventory,” so to speak, I would like to end the semester in the same way. This semester in Theories of Peace & Conflict, I have learned that I am called to do the work of building capacity; specifically, I am drawn to the work of symbolic peacebuilding. I believe that by transforming minds for peace, we can transform the world for peace; this is why at the end of this semester, I am more seriously considering going into education than I was at the beginning. In January, I was willing to entertain the idea of teaching, but at this point I see it as a strong possibility. This is because my classes and experiences this semester have consistently pointed me toward education as a form of peacebuilding and as a potential vocation. As of right now, I would love to continue my work in biblical studies with a focus on issues of violence & peace in the Bible. At the beginning of the semester, I listed peacebuilding and biblical scholarship/teaching as two separate vocational options, but now I see them as one calling, one gift, and one identity. This semester I have learned to stand at the intersection of Scripture and shalom, and it feels a lot like home.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Week Fifteen

Reading Reflections:
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, 71-86
            One of the books I have been reading for my research paper is Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. I encountered this book for the first time last semester in my Social Justice & Social Change class while studying education as a means of social change, but this semester I am reading it with a focus on Bible study as symbolic peacebuilding. For this journal, however, I will be reflecting on chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in which Freire contrasts the banking method and the problem-posing method of education (83).
            Freire describes the banking method of education as “an act of depositing” (72), in which the teacher is all-knowing and all-powerful and the students simply comply and receive the knowledge the teacher deposits in their minds (73). He argues that this type of education “serves the interests of oppression” and that it reduces students to mere objects rather than humans in relationship with the teacher (77). However, Freire proposes an alternative to the banking method of education, which he calls problem-posing education (79). This method of education “embodies communication” between the teacher and student with the goal of both the student and the teacher learning from the dialogue that is education (79-80). In the problem-posing method, the teacher is “engaging in dialogue with the students” at every point in the educational process (80). Freire describes this as “education as the practice of freedom— as opposed to education as the practice of domination,” noting that this liberating and relational form of education enables “authentic reflection” by drawing on the resources of people, relationships, and community (81).
Most interesting in this chapter was the idea of consciousness as a result of education— that problem-posing education fosters consciousness of and reflection on the world (83). By and large, I have experienced my education at Bluffton as problem-posing, dialogic, liberating education, and it has certainly resulted in this type of consciousness and reflection. Freire says that “in problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation” (83). I have been a student in educational settings using the banking method, but ultimately I have found my home in a place that is largely characterized by problem-posing education. In many ways, it is easier as a student to simply receive, remember, and repeat information— this type of education does not shift worldviews or lead to deep life questions (and crises). Problem-posing education, on the other hand, does exactly what its name implies— it poses problems. As a student, I find myself wrestling with these problems, asking big questions, and discovering answers that change my life and worldview. Problem-posing education simply demands more of students (and teachers!), but Freire is right— it is a liberating experience, and best of all, it is an experience shaped by relationship, dialogue, and community.
Journal Article Reflections:
            First, I read a poem in El Interprete called “Lavatorio,” which is a poem about washing the feet of our brothers and sisters who have crossed borders and journeyed across this strange land. The poem expresses the reversal in God’s Kingdom, and serves as a reminder that acts of humility are the way of the Kingdom. Looking forward to my summer, which will be filled with opportunities to welcome and serve my Hispanic neighbors, this poem was a great poem to read and reflect on as I begin the transition into this time of service and peacebuilding in my church and community.
            Next, I read an article called “Sacrificing the Sacrifices of War” by Stanley Hauerwas in the Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace. In this article, Hauerwas argues that “war is a sacrificial system and any alternative to war must be one that sacrifices the sacrifices of war,” the greatest of which is “the sacrifice of our unwillingness to kill” (2). He explores how war creates meaning in life, and argues that building a sustainable peace requires the identification and creation of new avenues of purpose (3). Ultimately, Hauerwas suggests that “the Christian alternative to war is worship” (8). He argues that it is not the church’s responsibility to articulate a plan to end war, but to be the end of war (8-9). For Hauerwas, Christ’s sacrifice is the alternative to the sacrifices of war— this is where meaning is located for Christians, and for this reason “war has been abolished” (9). On the whole, this article was a fascinating read. For me, this tied together two major concepts from my Christian Theology and Theories of Peace & Conflict classes this semester. First, learning about pure sacrifice versus scapegoating in Christian Theology gave me a framework for thinking about sacrifices of war in addition to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Second, Hauerwas’ argument for an alternative to war that “sacrifices the sacrifices of war” (2) reminded me of the concept of replacement rituals in symbolic peacebuilding. Christ’s sacrifice is at the core of Christian peacebuilding, replacing and transforming the cheap sacrifices of war.
Vocational Discernment:
            This week, my vocational discernment has been fueled by everyday educational experiences such as reading Hauerwas’ article. As I near the end of the semester, I am seeing something more than light at the end of the tunnel— I am seeing an integrated and synthesized vision of the things I have learned over the past fifteen weeks. Reading Hauerwas’ article for this class prompted discussion of concept from two other courses, and this is far from an isolated incident. My research paper for this class will likely include sources from nearly all of my other classes, precisely because each one has impacted the way I understand peacebuilding and my own identity and gifts as a peacebuilder. So, what does this have to do with vocation? For me, it has to do with vocation because this semester is proof that my many passions such as peace, Hispanic ministry, biblical studies, and even public speaking really can come together in surprising and exciting ways.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Week Fourteen

Journal Article Reflections:
            This week, I read two articles in Spanish about church planting in the UMC. The first article, “Los Muros Fueron Derribados,” was about a Hispanic faith community in Dallas, TX that has broken ground for their own church building. The article highlighted the difficulties in the neighborhood as well as the congregation’s hope for God’s work in the future of the community. This article about a Hispanic faith community breaking ground for a church caught my eye because typically the UMC has focused on fostering and supporting Hispanic faith communities, not standalone churches. These faith communities have typically been small groups meeting in established UM churches, and there has not typically been a stated goal of these faith communities becoming independent churches. While it is convenient to do Hispanic ministry this way, it leaves the Hispanic constituency of the UMC in a subordinate position to the dominant majority. This is especially the case in terms of the polity of the UMC, which grants power (through delegates, etc) to established churches. So, I am happy to see at least one faith community taking this step toward becoming an established United Methodist Church, with its own influence and power.
            The second article, “‘Path 1’ Entrena Plantadores de Iglesias,” describes what seems to be the next step in the National Plan for Hispanic Ministry— “Path 1” programs to train leaders to plant Hispanic churches. It seems that the UMC is looking to expand its definition of Hispanic ministry to include church planting, not simply supporting faith communities. This is exciting, and it also explains the publicity about the faith community turned church in Dallas!

Vocational Discernment:
            If there is anything I have discerned over the past couple weeks, it is this: I love preaching. There are few phrases that feel so uncomfortable and unlikely, but at the same time there are few phrases that feel so true. First, speaking in the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest turned out to be a source of great joy in the midst of a stressful semester. While I was technically speaking and not preaching, the opportunity to proclaim the gospel especially in the context of contemporary peace & justice issues was exciting. My speech flowed naturally out of my engagement with the biblical text, and the entire process of writing and delivering the speech was in a very real way a process of discerning and moving along with the Spirit. As I was speaking, I felt myself settle into the task of proclamation and was keenly aware of God’s presence with and moving through me. This week, I gave a persuasive speech on nonviolence in my Public Speaking class, and one of my main points focused on Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. In the midst of a larger speech, when I arrived at the point of teaching and proclaiming the message of Scripture, I once again felt the feeling of sinking in to the place where I am called to be and where God is with me. While I do not feel called to the work of a pastor in a local church, these experiences confirm my call to engage and proclaim the message of Scripture. I look forward to seeing where these gifts take me, but in the meantime, I am grateful for this confirmation and the joy that comes with trusting in the creating and sustaining Spirit of God.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Week Thirteen

Reading Reflections:
“Unresolved Tensions and the Way Forward” in Through the Eyes of Another
In his chapter on unresolved tensions in intercultural readings of Scripture, Eric Anum discusses “transcendental theology” (181). This type of theology is based on the belief that “Christ…transcends every culture, and therefore every cultural practice or norm has to be subjected to Christ” (Anum 181). Anum gives the example of polygamy in the particular cultural context he is discussing— that Christ’s call for monogamy transcends the cultural norm of polygamy. This entire discussion got me thinking about Christ, culture, and incarnation— how do these things come together to form the good news? For me, this transcendental theology called into question the meaning of the incarnation; it led me to ask the question, “what about the culture in which Christ lived?” It is not the good news that Jesus comes and lives among  us, meeting us in our culture? These concepts have been central to my understanding of the incarnation. So, thinking about Christ transcending all cultures is difficult to me because understanding the culture in which Christ lived has been central to my ability to understand Christ’s message. This type of transcendental theology also calls into question the concept of contextual theology; if Christ transcends all cultures and speaks one truth above instead of into one’s cultural context, then contextualized theology is simply a distortion of Christ’s message.
            After pondering and engaging the concept of transcendental theology, I have found that it does not resonate with my theology or my experience of Christ. With that being said, it has been helpful to engage the concept because I think it is a fairly common one. However, to claim that the good news is that Christ transcends one’s culture is to miss the contextual beauty and brilliance of the incarnation. For me, the good news is not that Christ is the same for all people, but that he meets each and every one of us where we are, taking on the human condition and meeting us in the midst of our culture, our reality, and our suffering…not beyond it.

Journal Article Reflections:
            The final article in the NPR series on Operation Streamline focuses on the cost of the program. The answer to this question is a shocking one: no one knows how much the program currently costs. And even more shocking is the fact that the government is looking to expand it in spite of the unknown cost. One estimate states that meeting the program’s goal of prosecuting every person who crosses illegally would cost close to $1 billion a year in Tuscon alone. With only estimates of the cost, and with much doubt about the practices of the program, it seems that the government could find more responsible and just ways of confronting the issue of illegal immigration.
            I also read a review by Geth Allison of the book Justice: Rights and Wrongs by Nicholas Wolterstorff. In the book, Wolterstorff argues that justice is about inherent human rights rather than right order. He roots his vision of justice firmly in the Christian faith, and it is dependent on the sacred worth of every individual bestowed upon them by God. Allison gives high praise to the book, saying that it is “accessible and captivating” and that it “reads like an energetic and engaging conversation with bold and provocative arguments.” I hope to read this book in the near future; as someone who has always been drawn to the concept of justice, I enjoy learning about different perspectives on justice and coming to a clearer vision of God’s justice. One thing that would be interesting to think about in this book is Wolterstorff’s argument for justice as human rights against the argument of justice as right order; while I have not read the book, I do not think I would place human rights and right order against one another. Rather, I would likely describe right order as the kind of order where human rights do flourish. Thus, I look forward to reading Justice: Rights and Wrongs in the future and exploring these questions in more depth.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Week Twelve

Reading Reflections & Vocational Discernment:
Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies
           This week, I would like to focus on the concept as biblical scholarship as “critical public discourse” (Schussler Fiorenza 45). This seems like a natural move after discussing the scholar as citizen last week, since that identity certainly plays into biblical scholars’ contributions the discourse of the field. Schussler Fiorenza lays out a liberating vision of biblical scholarship echoing from the community of the ekklesia to every part of the cosmopolis (62), and this vision helps me imagine what she means by the term “critical public discourse” (45). First of all, biblical studies must be critical of the biblical text, not in a negative sense, but for the purpose of the liberation of all people. It is the responsibility of biblical studies to question, to explore, and to seek the liberating message of Scripture; further, biblical scholars also must work to dismantle oppressive structures in the biblical text and seek out opportunities in the text for transformation and liberation. Further, biblical scholarship is a public and therefore political affair. If biblical scholarship fails to proclaim its liberating message outside the walls of academia and the church, it has missed the point of its public proclamation to cosmopolis. This public aspect of biblical studies requires scholars to be connected and accountable to the wider world, and its proclamation must be for the liberation of all people. Finally, biblical scholarship is a form of discourse. Engaging in biblical scholarship means attending to and participating in many levels of dialogue within the biblical text, with the biblical text, and with others. Thus, biblical scholarship is a multifaceted, dialogic discipline. On the whole, this vision of biblical studies as critical public discourse is an exciting one for me because it provides a framework to think about what biblical scholarship does. I think about these three words— critical, public, and discourse— as characteristics by which I can test my own scholarship. Ultimately, if my work does not contain these elements, I have missed the mark for which I strive.
Journal Article Reflections:
Claims Of Border Program Success Are Unproven- NPR

Book Review- Justpeace Ethics: A Guide to Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding- Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace
            First, I read the second article in the NPR series about Operation Sreamline, a border patrol program pushing the limits of the criminal justice system in the United States. This article, by Ted Robbins, explores the so-called successes of Operation Streamline according to the Border Patrol. First, they claim that the rate of recidivism is very low after being convicted in this program. Second, they claim that illegal immigration in general has decreased as a result of the program. And third, they claim that this program has freed time and resources so the criminal justice system can focus on more serious issues. Interestingly, NPR interviewed individuals in Nogales who had been convicted in Operation Streamline, and 85 percent of them claimed they would cross the border again. Further, NPR points out that while some areas in which Operation Streamline is in effect have seen a decrease in serious crime, others have seen an increase. Thus, the statistics do not tell a clear story of these so-called “successes” of the program, and the costs (especially in terms of human rights) may well be outweighing the benefits.
            Next, I read a book review by Sebastian Garaycoa on the book Justpeace Ethics: A Guide to Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding, which is written by Jarem Sawatsky. I chose to read this book review because we have it in our library at Bluffton, so it is available for me to read and/or use as a source if I so choose. In Justpeace Ethics, Sawatsky “[creates] an ethical framework for justice and peace,” outlining specific virtues that create a framework for thinking about justpeace. The term justpeace is used to describe the fact that “justice and peace are intrinsically linked in a value-framework and should be studied as one concept.” This idea resonates with me, and it sounds like Sawatsky expands on the concept of Schirch’s values for peacebuilding (Schirch 13). These connections are likely, as Sawatsky holds a M.A. from the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at EMU. On the whole, Justpeace Ethics sounds like a great book for me to engage as I am interested both in symbolic peacebuilding and the concept of justpeace.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Week Eleven

Reading Reflections & Vocational Discernment:
Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies
(part one)
            This semester, I had the opportunity to read and review Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies. I was introduced to Schussler Fiorenza’s work in Methods of Biblical Interpretation, and chose to review Rhetoric and Ethic for Introduction to New Testament. While I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the book, a book review was not the proper context for me to reflect on the vocational discernment that was fueled by my interaction with Schussler Fiorenza’s work. Thus, I would like to spend the next couple weeks reflecting on different aspects of Rhetoric and Ethic. For this week, I would like to discuss the concept of biblical scholarship as responsible citizenship (Schussler Fiorenza 61).
            As an undergraduate student of biblical studies who is considering a career in the field, I found Schussler Fiorenza’s description of the scholar as citizen to be a refreshing one for two reasons. First, her discussion about the current state of biblical studies as obsessed with scientific objectivity and value neutrality rather than ethical responsibility made me realize that my experience of biblical studies at Bluffton is an extremely limited one (Schussler Fiorenza 1). In many ways, I think the biblical studies program here is a small example of the type of scholarship for which Schussler Fiorenza calls. So, first and foremost, reading her arguments in Rhetoric and Ethic was refreshing because it reminded me once again of the unique opportunity I have to engage in politically and ethically responsible scholarship here at Bluffton. Second, her description of scholarship as citizenship is appealing to me because it is a vision of biblical scholarship as a way of life and identity; further, citizen scholars are to engage the biblical text in politically and ethically responsible ways for the liberation of all people (Schussler Fiorenza 102). Schussler Fiorenza’s vision of the biblical scholar as citizen in Rhetoric and Ethic is not only what I want to do, but who I hope to become. Ultimately, that is what biblical scholarship is about— not only proclaiming, but becoming.

            This week I read two articles from the Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace. In her article, “Building a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence in a Context of Oppression,” Palestinian peace activist Jean Zaru reflects on her experiences working for peace in her homeland for the past 40 years. Specifically, she shares the ways in which her experiences have given her great hope that it is possible to create a culture of peace even in the midst of great oppression. She also reflects on the ways in which her religious commitment has interacted with her political activism and work for peace; she says, “for more than forty years, I have been walking that edge where the spiritual meets the political. For me, the two have always been integrated” (Zaru 2). She also says that for her, religion is “to re-link…to bind one to the other” (Zaru 2). I especially appreciated these reflections, as my faith commitment is both the foundation and sustaining force of my commitment to nonviolence. Finally, she reflected a great deal on the power of nonviolence, and I especially appreciated this succinct statement that goes a long way in explaining the overall concept: “the peculiar strength of nonviolence comes from the dual natures of its approach: the offering of respect and concern on the one hand while meeting injustice with noncooperation and with defiance on the other. These seemingly contradictory impulses— to rage against while simultaneously refusing to destroy— combine to create a force worthy of nothing less than a revolution” (Zaru 6). So far, in all my reading on nonviolence, this quote is likely the most complete and accessible explanation I have read about how nonviolence works. On the whole, this was a helpful look at nonviolence from a very different perspective than my own.
            I also read a book review of Understanding World Religions: A Road Map for Justice and Peace by David Whitten Smith and Elizabeth Geraldine Burr. The book was reviewed by Andria Wisler and Bethany Haworth, and while it is a textbook, it sounds like an interesting read. I chose to read this book review because I am interested in religion as a resource for common ground and peace, so a book about world religions specifically as a “map for justice and peace” is very appealing to me. While it sounds like the majority of the chapters are on the worldviews of each religion, Wisler and Haworth noted valuable chapters on active nonviolence and the just war theory, exploring each of these concepts through the lens of the major world religions. Overall, this is not a book I am likely to own in the near future as I already own one textbook on world religions, but reading the chapters on nonviolence and just war could be interesting and valuable for me as I think about religion and peacebuilding.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Week Ten

Reading Reflections:
Hispanic/Latino Theology pp. 351-374
            Chapter 19, “Confessing Our Faith in Spanish” by Jose David Rodriguez, explores the significance of the confession of faith “in Spanish,” meaning both in the Spanish language and from the perspective of the Hispanic people (359). Rodriguez argues that “the affirmation of faith from a Hispanic perspective” enables the church to both recover the “sociohistorical reality” of the Hispanic people and affirm the “basic dimensions of the church’s faith that have made possible a continuous renewal of our understanding and confession of the gospel” (352). Rodriguez demonstrates these points by exploring historical and cultural elements that contribute to a confession of faith not only in Spanish and from the Hispanic perspective. First, he acknowledges the “cultural, historical, and racial” diversity of the Hispanic people, saying that the Hispanic race is a “cosmic” one (355). This diversity influences the task and proclamation of Hispanic theologians if the theology is to be authentically Hispanic. Next, he discusses Hispanic religious history, contrasting the faith of the Hispanic people with the “religion of faith imposed by the conquistadores” (357). From here, Rodriguez explores the centrality of confession in Christianity throughout history (356), emphasizing the political power of confession (357) and highlighting the political practice of confession during the conquest (362). Rodriquez acknowledges the “theological grounding” of the conquest, which he rightly calls “shocking” (363). Ultimately, Rodriguez points to the “challenge and promise” of a confession of faith in the Spanish language and from the Hispanic perspective (365), saying that it has been and will be “instrumental for challenging the church to remain faithful to God’s word in the context of our social reality” (366). The thing I most appreciated about this chapter was its emphasis on Scripture— the key element of the confession of faith—being available and engaged in the Spanish language and from the Hispanic context. This quote especially resonated with my belief in the potential for Scripture to be used as a tool for liberation: “When the Bible becomes a resource accessible to the people and the people discover in the Bible their own particular perspective, then the Bible becomes the people’s book, that is, a subversive book no longer under the control of the dominant groups in society” (359).
            Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz concludes the book with “Strangers No Longer,” which brings together this collection of Hispanic theology by highlighting three features of the field: maturity, ecumenism, and community (367). According to Isasi-Diaz, the maturity of the field is demonstrated by its distinct identity, diversity, openness to dialogue, unique contributions to theology, and recognition of limitations and need for development (368-69). Creating space for this development to take place, she provides some questions for further reflection, such as, “what do we clearly understand liberation to be?” (370) Next, she highlights the ecumenical nature of the field of Hispanic theology, noting the ecumenical reality of Hispanic culture as one that often encompasses many denominations at once (371). Thus, true Hispanic theology is also ecumenical, which holds both challenge and promise; Isasi-Diaz notes that one task of Hispanic theologians is to “continue to insist on the possibility of diversity without divisions” (371). Finally, she highlights the role of community and praxis in Hispanic theology, saying that “we do not write theology; we do theology” (371). Hispanic theology for Isasi-Diaz, as evidenced by the theological reflections in this book, “is not only for the people but also by the people” (372).While Hispanic theology is mature, ecumenical, and community-driven, most of all, it is invitational— calling for engagement and dialogue that transcends the walls of the Hispanic church and academy. It is “a theology from which others can learn much” (373), which has certainly been the case in my own experience.

Journal Article Reflections:
            The first article, “La Primera Impresion” in El Interprete, discusses the issue of hospitality to visitors in local churches. It stresses the importance of the first impressions of visitors, and the general argument is that it is better for visitors to feel valued in our churches rather than impressed by them. Since “radical hospitality” is one of the UMC’s “five practices of fruitful congregations,” it is often emphasized (as it should be) at Annual Conference and other denominational events. On the whole, hospitality is not a strength of the UMC, which is why it is stressed in denominational materials. This article was helpful in distinguishing between valuing visitors and impressing them, and ultimately valuing visitors is a more sustainable and positive form of hospitality.
            The second article, “Border Patrol Program Raises Due Process Concerns” on NPR, is the first of a series of three articles that a friend suggested to me. Though the series is from the fall, it is still a relevant issue in general but especially for me as someone who is interested in border justice issues. This article exposes Operation Streamline, a government initiative on the border that began in 2005 and enables mass convictions in the U.S. court system each day. The article tells of courts convicting 70 individuals on any given day, with little to no individual legal counsel; they simply line up and plead “guilty” in unison, while lawyers are often paid by the case. This is a disturbing and alarming violation of human rights as well as the Constitution, and serves as a reminder that the borderlands are the margins of our nation in a very real sense, both geographically and politically. It is shocking that these kinds of programs exist on the margins of society without any type of national awareness or outcry. Over the next few weeks I plan to read the other articles in this series, educating myself on the realities of the criminal justice system in the borderlands.

Vocational Discernment:
            I believe that discernment is a task to be done in community, and I believe that God’s voice is often echoed most clearly in the voices of the people who God has placed in our lives. Last week, I had a strange experience in which two different people expressed the exact same vision and call for my life. The first person was my mentor, Diane, who after our visit to AMBS told me that she sees God leading me to pursue Peace Studies beyond Bluffton and eventually teaching peace in the UMC, which she said would be my “contribution to the denomination.” Later that same day, during our visit to MTSO, we met with the admissions director there, who I have known through the conference for a while now. While she is not part of my daily journey, she knows me fairly well, especially since we both share a call to ministry as deacons in the UMC. During the conversation, she said something I had heard just a couple hours before— that getting a masters degree in Peace Studies and teaching peace would be my “contribution to the denomination.” This “contribution,” this call, though, comes with its risks— risks that the admissions director clearly expressed to me during that conversation, the kind of risks that come with acting outside of the norms and expectations of the powerful majority. The greatest risk, however, is silence.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Week Nine (Spring Break)

Reading Reflections:
Hispanic/Latino Theology pp. 325-350
            In chapter 17, “Un Poquito de Justicia,” Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz shares a mujerista vision of justice that emerges from Latin American women’s experience of oppression. First, she points out five ways in which Latin American women are oppressed (327). Then, she goes on to present the eight elements that come together to form “a mujerista account of justice” (332).  The five forms of oppression include exploitation (328), marginalization (329), powerlessness (330), cultural imperialism (330), and systemic violence (331). These elements all contribute to the oppression of Latin American women, and it is from this experience that mujerista theology and specifically a mujerista theology of justice emerges. The mujerista vision of justice is marked by eight elements: a goal of establishing justice (332), contextualization (333), discontinuity of the past and present oppressive reality (333), engaging differences (334), an understanding of the positive and negative potential of power (335), a “belief that justice cannot be achieved at the expense of justice for others” (336), an insistence on both socioeconomic and political rights (337), and effectiveness (338). The mujerista vision of justice is driven by the practical task of doing justice; Isasi-Diaz makes this clear by saying, “the reason for articulation a mujerista understanding of justice is to bring about justice” (332). Ultimately, a vision of justice that is not useful is no vision of justice at all. As a whole, this chapter provided a good way to measure not only the mujerista vision of justice, but all visions of justice. I also especially appreciated Isasi-Diaz’s ideas about the transformative potential of learning in the context of a give-and-take relationship (335). This resonated with my own experiences and confirmed my belief in the power of learning in community.
             Chapter 18, “Metamodern Aliens in Postmodern Jerusalem” by Justo L. Gonzalez, explores the effect of postmodernism on Hispanic theology. Gonzalez makes the connection between modernism and colonialism, drawing from Ashis Nandy who calls colonialism “the armed version of modernism” (344). Thus, Gonzalez holds modernism responsible for much of the oppression of the Hispanic people. From this viewpoint, he is grateful for the postmodern perspective which dismantles modern principles, but he also voices concerns about the postmodern belief that “there is no metanarrative”; if no metanarratives have the “power to demand allegiance,” then “no new metanarrative [has] the power to change the status quo” (346). Though the postmodern metanarrative is more positive than the oppressive modern metanarrative, it does not provide a framework in which the existing oppressive power structures can be transformed. Therefore, Gonzalez introduces the concept of “metamodernity,” or a framework that is beyond modernity (347). While postmodern thinking is completely separate from modern thinking, metamodern thinking acknowledges that the Hispanic perspective both emerges from the oppression of modernism and seeks to transform the oppressive modern power structures (347). Metamodern Hispanic theology seeks both to affirm the authority of liberating texts and to read Scripture with an openness to God’s mystery and activity (348); this stands in contrast to a postmodern reading, which “[discounts] the authority of all texts and all metanarratives” (348). Ultimately, these theological differences between postmodernism and metamodernism illustrate the ways in which Hispanic theology has been impacted by and has responded to the oppression of colonialism, fueled by modernism.
Journal Article Reflections:
            The first article, “Que es una comunidad de fe?” in El Interprete, defines “faith communities” and describes their role in the National Plan for Hispanic Ministry of the UMC. The National Plan articulates the UMC’s unique approach to Hispanic ministry, which is fueled by “faith communities” rather than churches. While many denominations seek to establish Hispanic churches, the UMC seeks to establish an active network of “faith communities.” This article describes the life of these faith communities; essentially, the vision is that each faith community will be like a small house church. This was a helpful and interesting article as someone who is technically certified as a “lay missioner,” which is the National Plan’s terminology for the leader of a “faith community.”
            The second article, “Latino Groups to Oppose Union Attacks” in The Latino Journal, describes the role of unions in ensuring fair pay for Latino workers and highlights the efforts of nineteen Latino organizations working to protect the right to collective bargaining in several states, including Ohio. Most notable is the statistic that “unionized Latinos earn approximately 51 percent more than their nonunion counterparts.” While I have mostly heard about the changes these laws would make for teachers, this article reminded me that the issue of collective bargaining also has a great impact on the Hispanic community. So, while it may not be my issue, it is an issue of great importance to the Hispanic community and many others with whom I live in community and solidarity.

Vocational Discernment:
            So, I spent my spring break visiting two seminaries—AMBS and MTSO. I had two good, but very different, experiences. I was very impressed by everything about AMBS, especially the combination of community and academic challenge. The interactions in class and on campus were engaging, and it felt like a balanced place where I would be pushed academically but also supported personally. In many ways, AMBS seems to be everything I am looking for in a seminary. I also had a good visit at MTSO, but I have trouble seeing myself as a student there for several reasons. While this is disappointing since MTSO was my #1 United Methodist seminary, I am glad that I am coming to this realization now, with two years left until I have to make a decision. I hope that AMBS will gain United Methodist University Senate approval in the next two years! However, even if it does not, I have the option of going to an approved seminary for a Bible degree and then going to AMBS to study Peace Studies once my ordination requirements are met. Overall, this week resulted in two things: a more complicated seminary search, and a clearer vision of the kind of seminary I am looking for— a seminary where I can engage in serious academic study and the life of the church, a seminary shaped by community and challenge and the creating Spirit of God.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Week Eight

Reading Reflections:
Hispanic/Latino Theology pp. 289-324
            In chapter 15, “A Theological-Ethical Analysis of Hispanic Struggles for Community Building in the United States,” Ismael Garcia explores both diversity and solidarity within the U.S. Hispanic community. His argument in this chapter is that the shared Christian faith of the Hispanic community is a tool for building solidarity and overcoming divisions caused by different value orientations (290). Garcia explores three spheres which have been the dominant location of the struggle for U.S. Hispanic emancipation: “the political sphere, the social sphere, and the cultural sphere” (291). He explains the values and priorities of each of these spheres at length, but ultimately the difference between the three spheres is not the values they uphold, but the priority they place on these values (302). All three of the spheres value equality, order, and power, with each one prioritizing these values in a different order (302). The political sphere places the greatest value on power, the social sphere emphasizes order, and the cultural sphere focuses on equality (302). After discussing the three social spheres and their respective values, Garcia moves on to his main argument, that “the Christian tradition might provide a way out of this impasse,” the impasse of division between the three spheres (302). Drawing on the fact that all three spheres share the three values of equality, order, and power, Garcia discusses each of these values “from a theological point of view” (303). He uses theology to affirm each of these values, ultimately affirming each of the three spheres (303). He explains that “this transfiguration of foundational human values can make the struggle for the emancipation of the Hispanic community more inclusive, synthesizing the values and goals that are presently being fought for within the different spheres” (305). In other words, Garcia argues here that theology can and should be used as common ground, a tool for the affirmation and harmonization of the Hispanic struggle for emancipation. On the whole, I appreciated Garcia’s analysis of the prominent value orientations in the U.S. Hispanic community, especially his argument that religion can be a source of common ground; this resonates with my ideas about peacebuilding, especially peacebuilding in the Hispanic context.
            In chapter 16, “Popular Catholicism,” Orlando Espin explores the positive and negative potential of Popular Catholicism in the U.S. Hispanic context (313-15). To set up this analysis, he discusses the interdisciplinary nature of the study of religion, particularly pointing out the interdependence of sociohistorical and theological study (308). Espin claims that “the experience of the divine always occurs in human culture” (309), and culture “only [occurs] in society” (310). Thus, an understanding of Hispanic culture and society is necessary for an understanding of Hispanic theology. After establishing this foundation, Espin moves on to discuss the two roles played by Catholicism: the legitimizing role (313) and the rebellious role (315). While Espin is writing from the Catholic context, I would argue that these roles are actually undertaken by religion in general, not only Catholicism. Essentially, these roles signify the church’s choice between legitimizing or rebelling against the status quo, the “hegemony in society” (313). Espin explains that while the Catholic Church in many ways has legitimized the status quo (318), it also has the potential to rebel and act as a force for change. He calls this the “rebellious hope,” a term which serves as a reminder that “today’s social and ecclesiastical realities are not final” (323). Overall, Espin’s reflections on the role of the Catholic Church were insightful and helped me think more about the way my own tradition legitimizes and rebels against the status quo. I especially appreciated his comments about how the church “trains and controls the ordained ministers,” which gives it “a powerful means of control and suppression of Latino hopes for justice and change and thereby a powerful means of enforcing compliance with the current hegemonic social formation and ideology in the United States” (320). These are strong but true words, which echo far beyond the Hispanic/Latino context. It is my prayer that the power of the church would be used for justice and change and against hegemonic structures and ideologies, not vice versa.

Journal Article Reflections:
The first journal article I read this week, “Latino Education Experts to Gather in Texas,” told of the upcoming meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), which will take place in Austin, TX. The event will be focused on “budgeting strategies for student success,” which is especially relevant as Texas tries to balance its budget and support their students, half of which are Latino. I am interested to see what comes of this gathering, especially since education is one of my highest priorities in peacebuilding and in general. The gathering is coming up March 4-6, 2011, so in the coming weeks I will be sure to investigate the outcomes.
The second article I read, “Cuban Facebook Friend Shares Joys, Struggles,” focused on the power of social media in bridging the gap between cultures and contexts. Alicia Almanza-Leyva, the administrative assistant for the Rio Grande Conference, told her story of becoming Facebook friends with Rev. Onay Lopez-Diaz of Cuba. In the article, Almanza-Leyva shares the story of Rev. Lopez-Diaz’s congregation in Cuba, Consolacion Methodist Church. I have met a few Cuban Methodist ministers through Module I & II Hispanic Ministry training events, so hearing the story of this Cuban congregation and some of the challenges of ministry in Cuba was interesting for me.

Vocational Discernment:
            This week, I hardly know where to begin with vocational discernment! This Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at my church, which exceeded my expectations and confirmed my call to proclaim God’s message of peace in the UMC. While I was home over the weekend, I was also offered a Hispanic ministry internship through the Maumee Watershed District, which is my home district in the West Ohio Conference. I will be working with Puente de Esperanza (Bridge of Hope) Hispanic Ministry Partnership, of which my home church is a part. In addition, I will be available as a resource to other churches and ministries throughout the district. My specific job description is still being shaped; actually, over spring break I will be spending time in prayer discerning how God is calling me to serve specifically within this internship. The people I am working with are very flexible and excited to shape this internship around my gifts and interests, so I am excited to see where the Spirit will lead us together in ministry!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Week Seven

Reading Reflections:
Hispanic/Latino Theology pp. 240-288
            In chapter 13, “The Collective ‘Dis-covery’ of Our Own Power,” Maria Pilar Aquino discusses the conquest of Latin America and its relation to Latin American liberation theology, particularly feminist theology (240). Aquino says that “it is radically impossible to disregard the fact that we sprang from a conquered and colonized continent” (240). It is from within this reality that Latin American feminist theology emerges, choosing and articulating a different future (241-42). She creatively subverts the word “discovery,” used so often to describe the conquest of Latin America; instead of the discovering, Aquino says that the conquest was actually the covering of the Latin American people (241). Thus, it is the task of Latin American feminist theology to dis-cover, to uncover, the strength and beauty of Latin American women (242). Aquino lays out the “fundamental principles” of Latin American feminist theology, a list that comes together to create a radical egalitarian vision for the church (252). She also lists three features of this theology: 1) creative participation in theology (254), 2) an understanding of woman as both “subjects and objects of theology” (255), and 3) a relevance for daily life (256). This theology is rooted in the daily realities and struggles of Latin American women, and working actively for transformation, “convinced that things should and can change” (257). The thing that was most significant for me in this chapter was the strong connection Aquino made between the conquest and Latin American liberation theology, especially her strong words about the institution of the church in relation to this. A few of her comments hit home for me, such as “the institutional church arrives late, does so at a snail’s pace, or simply does not arrive at all” and “the behavior of the institutional church can only indicate a systemic resistance to the re-creating activity of the Spirit of God in the world” (242). These are harsh but prophetic comments, and I have experienced them to be true firsthand in my own context. For me, this served as a reminder that the church has the choice to arrive, to welcome and seek the Spirit…or not.
            In chapter 14, “U.S. Hispanic Popular Catholicism as Theopoetics,” Roberto S. Goizueta explores the theological form and expression of popular Catholicism, particularly in the images of the crucifix (271) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (280). Goizueta points to these images as places where theology comes to life in vibrantly meaningful ways, standing in contrast to much of today’s “increasingly irrelevant” academic theology (262). The crucifix is a central image of Hispanic theology because in it, the suffering of the Hispanic community is reflected in the suffering of Christ (275). Goizueta explains that it is “within the context of [Hispanic] historical praxis as a community” that the crucifix becomes a “symbol of hope— a hope born of the crucified Jesus’ identification with us in our own crucifixion” (272-73). The significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hispanic theology also emerges from the historical praxis of the Hispanic community (282). Guadalupe meets the Hispanic community where they are, in the midst of their “abandonment,” and affirms their humanity (284-85). Thus, the images of Christ’s suffering on the cross and Our Lady of Guadalupe are two primary expressions of Hispanic theology, reflecting the reality of the Hispanic experience in both content and form (269). Particularly interesting for me in this chapter were Goizueta’s comments about the content and form of theology (269) as well as his distinction that “Latinos and Latinas live in a world where God is revealed primarily in flesh and blood, in symbols and images; in Anglo society and its form of Christianity, we are faced with a God who is revealed primarily in clear and distinct ideas” (267). This reminded me of Marshall McLuhan’s idea that “the medium is the message,” which we have been discussing in Methods of Biblical Interpretation. In a very real way, God is who (and how) our theology portrays God to be. So, what does it mean for Hispanic theology to be primarily tangible and Anglo theology to be primarily theoretical? Well, if the medium is the message, if the form is the content (267), then these differences are far from minor.

Journal Article Reflections:
            In the first article, “Called to Be a Bridge Person,” Marigene Chamberlain reflects on her call and role to build bridges between cultures. She describes the dimensions of cross-cultural communication, pointing to differences such as high-context and low-context communication. She also describes the gifts that enable people to be bridge builders, such as the “ability to live comfortably in ambiguity” and “having a sense of humor.” Ultimately, Chamberlain points to God as the Creator of diverse cultures, “the One who calls us to be in covenant with one another.” As someone who feels called to build bridges in many different ways, this article helped me think more about the gifts God has given me according to my call.
The article “Justice For Our Neighbors: Dallas/Fort Worth” discusses the work of Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON), a ministry of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The article highlights the ministry of Amy Spaur, one of GBGM’s Church and Community Workers. Amy serves at JFON in Dallas/ Fort Worth, which provides free legal services to immigrants and seeks to build community and dialogue across cultures. JFON has eight core values: expression of faith, quality free legal services, cross-cultural community, hospitality, congregation-based, volunteer-based, education, and advocacy. Overall, these core values painted a balanced and holistic picture of Hispanic ministry, which helped me think about the core values of my own vision for Hispanic ministry.

Vocational Discernment:
            This week was filled with opportunities to explore vocation and discern the Holy Spirit’s leading. First, Marcia Riggs’ presentation helped me think more about the kind of leader God is calling me to be in the church and beyond. Specifically, I appreciated her comments about living into the “energy” of conflict and being open to the Holy Spirit’s creating power in the midst of conflict in the body of Christ. This put what we have been learning in Theories of Peace & Conflict about the positive potential of conflict into the context of church leadership, which was helpful for me. I also really appreciated the opportunity in Theories of Peace & Conflict this week to fill out a personal theory-practice template. This for me turned out to be an intentional time of reflecting, making connections, and ultimately aligning myself with the vision God has for me as a peacemaker. One thing I took from the theory-practice template was the fact that education and peacemaking are undeniably linked for me. This is an invaluable insight for me, that education for me is an act of peace and a tool for peace. Finally, even New Testament this week was an opportunity for me to think about how the Holy Spirit is guiding me in my vocation; I appreciated Friday’s discussion about discernment, about listening to the Holy Spirit in community and being willing to follow in the unexpected directions it leads. I love the way the Jerusalem Council words its letter to the Gentile Christians in Acts, describing their decision making process by saying, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15.28). For me, this statement is a powerful example of the gentle, natural leading of the Holy Spirit. Together in community, it is my prayer that my vocational discernment will be this way— not a stressful experience, but an affirming process in which every step simply seems good to the Holy Spirit and to the community of people God has placed in my life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Week Six

Reading Reflections:
Hispanic/Latino Theology pp. 195-239
            In chapter 11, “In the World but Not of It,” Fernando F. Segovia discusses the role of exile in U.S. Hispanic American theology and shares his personal experience of exile and diaspora, reflecting on its theological significance (198). He explains that most U.S. Hispanic Americans end up in the U.S. either by birth, acquisition, or immigration, and these paths “ultimately account…for different experiences with and within the country itself” (201). I appreciated these categories for thinking about how U.S. Hispanic Americans end up in the U.S. to begin with, especially since these different paths to the U.S. impact their experiences and ultimately their theology of exile (201). Segovia’s personal experience was that of immigration, specifically with his family as political refugees from Cuba (202). His theology has been shaped by this experience of exile and living in diaspora, although originally he expected his stay in the U.S. to be short term (211). For Segovia, like many others, “the journey [proved] to be too long and exile [settled] into a permanent condition” (203). He explains that living in diaspora causes the lines to be blurred between the sense of feeling like the “other” and the sense of belonging (203). This shapes Segovia’s theology, which seems quite paradoxical much like his experience; just as living in diaspora means living in the reality of otherness and belonging (203), for Segovia living with God means living in a world “beyond reformation and crying for reformation…a world of profound ambiguity” (214). I appreciated Segovia’s reflection on the ambiguity of his theology, intertwined with his experience of exile and diaspora. While I was uncomfortable with some of his reflections on God, such as his statement that God is “in charge of creation but forgetful of it” (215), I very much respect the context from which these statements emerge. After all, Segovia himself admits that “the God that emerges out of my diaspora [is] a profoundly ambiguous God” (215).
            Chapter 12, “Theologizing from a Puerto Rican Context” by Yamina Apolinaris and Sandra Mangual-Rodriguez, discusses the cultural contexts of Latin America, the Carribbean, and Puerto Rico, and explores the unique theology of Puerto Rico (219). I appreciated these brief overviews of history and culture, specifically their focus on the involvement of the United States in all of these contexts. I was unaware of the militaristic presence of the U.S. in Puerto Rico (232), so that was alarming new information. I have been almost exclusively interested in and focused on Mexico, so I appreciate that this text is expanding my horizons and painting a larger picture of the history and culture of Latin America.  As for the theology of Puerto Rico, I found it fascinating that prominent Puerto Rican theologians have identified Puerto Rican identity as the “primary subject” of Puerto Rican theology, with Puerto Rico as “the optimal locus” for this theology to take place (234). It seems logical to me that this would be the case, but this type of highly contextualized theology stands in stark contrast to much academic theology. This semester I have had the opportunity to read this text alongside great theologians such as Augustine, Origen, and Barth, and the difference between systematic theology and contextualized, culture-affirming theology such as this Hispanic theology is striking. I must admit that for me, there is something incredibly life-giving about this theology, rooted in the heart and experience of a people rather than in the minds of scholars. But ultimately, I do not see this as a choice between heart and mind, church and academy— these scholars in Puerto Rico seem to be firmly rooted in both, and the results are refreshing.

Journal Article Reflections:
            This week, my “journal article” readings were a bit less academic and a bit more focused on the stories and experiences of people, both in the United Methodist Church and in Mexico. The first article, “The Sweetest Sound” in El Interprete, was a reflection on call to ministry by Christina Saenz, a young woman now serving as a youth pastor in Texas. She reflected on being called, being distracted by the noise in her life, and God ultimately reminding her of the call on her life. As a young woman pursuing and discerning a call to ministry in the UMC, I appreciated her thoughts and very much related to the difficulty of remembering and following God’s call in the midst of life’s noise. The second article, “Remember Jesus,” also from El Interprete by Rev. Lorenza Andrade, is a prophetic call to “remember Jesus” in the face of all people, specifically “the poor, the stranger, the undocumented immigrant.” I was especially interested in this article, as Rev. Andrade was the Texas pastor arrested for DREAM Act nonviolent action in November. I followed her story and analyzed it as my final project for Social Justice & Social Change; I am inspired by her prophetic work within the UMC on issues of immigration, and find her story fascinating especially as she is currently in the candidacy process for ordination.
            The final “article” I read was really a video on BBC World called “The Many Faces of Mexico,” which I stumbled upon while looking for an article. However, it turned out to be an excellent glimpse into Mexican culture and it even connected with some readings and discussions from this class! For example, it discussed the women and their role in carrying on the traditions within the communities, which reminded me of chapter five of Hispanic/Latino Theology, “The Oral Tradition of a People.” And the most striking thing about the video, besides the images themselves, was the reciprocal relationship between the photographer and the people of the villages. I thought it was great that he not only wanted to capture the beauty of the culture and people, but also visit the communities again with prints of the photos. This reminded me of our conversation in class about ministry being about giving and receiving genuinely and equally; it seems that this photographer and his work can serve as an example for our churches, giving and receiving, celebrating and affirming culture, and ultimately understanding that these (and all) relationships are gifts from God.

Vocational Discernment:
            This week, I visited the UMC website and reacquainted myself with the order of deacon, to which I am called and pursuing ordination. This actually began because I was beginning to question whether I really need to, or should, pursue ordination. In thinking about my vocation, most of what I am exploring could be done perfectly well without being ordained, such as pursuing further study in Biblical Studies. I had always been particularly drawn to deacon’s orders as ordination to service, but as I read the description on the UMC website this week, I was struck by the first part of the description of the call of deacons, the part I always used to skim over— ordination to Word. Specifically, deacons are called to teach the Bible both inside and outside the church, transcending the boundaries of church and world, church and academy. It seems that even as life changes, God’s call remains the same. Word and service? Sometimes for a moment, everything makes sense.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Week Five

Reading Reflections:
Hispanic/Latino Theology pp. 167-194
            Chapter nine, “The Social Location of Liberation Theology” by Gilbert R. Cadena, explores the emergence and relationship of liberation theology in Latin American and the United States (167). He argues that liberation theology emerged in both contexts primarily as a result of “traditional Catholic hegemony and conflicts in civil society” (167). What struck me was that in both contexts, struggle and discrimination were primary factors in the emergence of the movement (174). Of course, this is what led to the emergence of liberation theology in particular. But this particular similarity in the midst of other differences signified that liberation theology is relevant anywhere that struggle is taking place; while other factors may differ greatly, it is out of the experience of struggle that liberation theology emerges. I was also interested in the chart entitled “Influences and Relationship between Latin American and U.S. Latino Theologies” (180). This chart shows that even though the religious and social conditions of Latin American and the U.S. do not directly interact, their theologies serve as a connecting point between cultures. The social conditions of Latin America influence Latin American Liberation Theology, which in turn influences U.S. Latino Theology, which influences and is influenced by the social conditions of the U.S. This chart illustrated well how the theology is both influences and is influenced by social and religious conditions, as well as how theology can be a form of communication and influence within and between cultures.
            In chapter ten, “The Barrio as the Locus of a New Church,” Harold J. Recinos proclaims that the Kingdom has come and is coming to the barrios of both Latin America and the United States. He describes a liberation theology born of struggle and suffering in which the good news is that Jesus’ new way of life will and does come to the barrio (185). For Recinos, following “the liberator Christ” means being willing to participate in “a unique and visible community of just struggle,” seeking to transform oppressive structures and live in solidarity with the poor (186). Recinos also points to the presence of Salvadorian refugees in Washington, D.C. as a situation that has enabled this message to be proclaimed and practiced in the U.S. (190). The refugees’ experience of great violence and struggle in their home country has led to the formation of radical, liberation-centered communities of faith in the barrios of D.C. (192). These communities are “inextricably linked to the agony of the barrio and the crucified people of global history” (193), but they are also characterized by renewal, liberation, and prophetic struggle for a more just society (194). Overall, this was an inspiring read that serves as a reminder that God’s Kingdom is present and coming to the margins of society; only if we live in solidarity with the marginalized will we be able to say, “God’s reign is truly near” (194).

Journal Article Reflections:
            This week, I read a book review on Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas. Overall, it sounds like a great overview of the history of peace movements as well as theories. I am especially interested in the book’s focus on peace as a “pragmatic and realistic” choice rather than an “ideological” one. As someone whose interest in peace came as a direct result of religious and moral beliefs, arguments for the practicality of peace intrigue me. This reminded me of the book A Force More Powerful, which I own and started reading over Christmas break. It also discusses nonviolence as a practical choice, as a “force more powerful” than using violence. Since I am curious to learn more about these concepts, I might get this book and read it after I finish A Force More Powerful.
            I also read two articles about health issues and health ministry in the Hispanic community. First, “Older Hispanics Go Un-Immunized” in The Latino Journal discussed the fact that immunization rates are often low among the Hispanic population. For example, only 40% of Spanish-speaking Hispanics over the age of 65 got the pneumonia vaccine compared with 74% of white seniors. This article told of a clear inequality and need in the Hispanic community; on the other hand, the article, “Reaching Hispanics Through Health Ministry” in El Interprete described how churches can meet these needs through health ministry. The article described the health ministry of El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church, which includes health classes and a community garden. This ministry was the result of a partnership with the county health department, which serves as a model for Hispanic ministries everywhere to make connections and meet the needs of the Hispanic community.

Vocational Discernment:
            This week, I have been striving to remember that vocation is not an end goal, but rather a journey that I am already on. Right now, my vocation is that of a student, which will be the case for at least the next 5-6 years. It is exciting to think about vocation beyond that, but it is even more exciting to take joy in where and who I am now. I feel strongly that I am called to be a student at Bluffton, particularly in the religion program. Two years ago, I would have rejected that idea completely; it seems likely that two years from now, I will be equally called and equally surprised. What is important is that I live into my calling and vocation as a student today, trusting that it will lead to my calling and vocation tomorrow.