March Edition: What Faculty are Reading, Watching & Listening To

Written by Kristina Alvarado
March 17, 2015

"When it comes to discerning what to read, watch or listen to in the precious time we have, it is always helpful to have the suggestions of people who read and experience new information as part of their work. Some of our faculty monthly share here the books they are reading, as well as the media they are listening to or viewing. In a world with almost too many options for reading, watching and listening, we hope these faculty suggestions help you in your discernment process about what to take up along the road."

?~ Dean Mark S. Markuly, PhD? ?



Mark Chung Hearn, PhD

Books:
Reformed and Always Reforming: The Postconservative Approach to Evangelical Theology by Roger E. Olson
Olson makes the claim that Evangelicalism is wide and diverse. There are Evangelicals who, while coming out of an Orthodox position, also realize that truth as humanity comprehends it is situated and particular. Therefore, we need to be open to others to speak a fuller truth into one another?s lives

Waiting for Gospel: An Appeal to the Dispirited Remnants of Protestant Establishment by Douglas John Hall
Among other points, Hall asks Christians to consider that Gospel is created and re-created over and over again (he withholds the article the before Gospel to reflect this continual in-breaking of Gospel). He encourages us to form a habit of seeing the world through the question, Where is Gospel?

Music:
For gospel/R&B and jazz buffs, I am listening to Hezekiah Walker?s Every Praise and Dave Brubeck Radio. The soul, rhythm, and creativity of both are refreshing.?

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Erica Martin, PhD

Books:?
re-reading Judith Shulevitz, The Sabbath World
I've been speaking to STM student David Chilton about his research on Sabbath, which sent me back to this l piece by Shulevitz where she masterfully combines her own personal experiences of Sabbath *(and struggles with it) and a history of Sabbath in Judaisms and Christianities.

Music:
Brandi Carlile "The Firewatcher's Daughter"
This is a fantastic new album. I can't listen to it enough, great messages both of despair and of loyalty and love.

Performances:?
Andrea Gibson (poet), 3/16
I can't wait for her to come to Seattle. This poet uses language powerfully to discuss social issues, queer embodiment, politics... everything. ?

The Snow Queen at Tacoma Youth Theater (Mar 6-8)
My 7 year old daughter performed in this adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's tale (which is also the basis for the movie Frozen) so I saw it three times, and of course loved it completely.

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Becky Cobb, PhD & Christie Eppler, PhD

This month, Drs. Cobb and Eppler read the same book and shared their reflections with one another. Read about their conversation below:

After a meeting, we (Drs. Cobb and Eppler) checked our respective mailboxes. We were surprised to find that each of us had received a copy of Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. We had both loved The Secret Life of Bees and we had borrowed/ordered Kidd?s new book. We thought since we were reading the same book at the same time, we would share our reflections. The story is about two women who live in Charlotte, NC in the early 1800s. Handful is a slave and Sarah is a budding abolitionist. They live on the same homestead. Despite Sarah?s refusal, Handful is gifted to Sarah on Sarah's eleventh birthday. The story spans thirty-five years, weaving through each woman?s story of hope, loss, courage, friendship, and search for freedom. After we finished the novel, we asked each other about the images that stood out the most:?

Dr. Cobb: There was a tree in the story that stood out to me as a symbol of refuge and strength. Throughout all of the social injustice, abuse, and inhumanity presented by life and those in it, the tree stood strong and tall. Even though horrible things had happened beneath that tree, Handful and her mother found comfort and respite in this symbol of strength and freedom.?

Dr. Eppler: I agree that the tree was a vivid image. I love thinking about the roots and leaves being grounded and a place of looking up and out towards hope. Also, I was taken with the textiles. Early in the novel, we see Handful being dressed in ribbons. Soon, it becomes apparent that Handful is a gift, a piece of property, gifted to Sarah. Even at eleven years old, Sarah knows that morally she cannot own another person. However, the social and legal laws force her to accept Handful as her handmaid. Handful and her mother make quilts that tell stories of perseverance and hope. The quilts serve as a narrator when nothing can be said aloud. As we see Sarah change, her style of dress changes too. Textiles become an image of transformation.

Dr. Cobb: In my "Family Systems in Ministry" class this quarter, we were recently discussing the ways in which different forms of art can provide mediums for telling one?s story when words are difficult to find. Handful and Sarah both had the words to tell their stories, but societal oppression created an environment in which words could be used against you. Words could mean the difference between life and death. Sarah told part of her story through the clothes that she wore. Simple clothing expressed her desire for a life in which riches weren?t valued above human life. Handful?s social location, however, made it incredibly dangerous to tell her story. The tree and the quilts served as mediums for story telling across generations.

Dr. Eppler: Yes, telling and retelling your stories to those who are safe and trusted are key assumptions of narrative family therapy. ?Retelling of stories creates a richer, thicker narrative. In this type of therapy, personal, filial, and spiritual freedoms evolve from deconstructing society's messages of fear and constraint. From oppression come threads of hope. We see this when Handful looks at the quilt her mother made. Handful draws strength from generations that suffered under the dominance of slave masters yet remained resilient. The ancestors told their stories to women who needed their grandmother?s and momma?s strength and hope. The resilience stems from the women?s spirituality and the meaning that is created through the sharing of stories. Handful searches for a home where she is free. Sarah searches for a faith community that aligns with her moral call to abolition and suffrage.

We both agree that this is a beautiful, elegant story of hope, friendship, and freedom. There are strong and beautiful images. And there are vibrant, feisty women who refuse to settle for status quo. We recommend this novel to you. Please let us know what you think!

?Dr. Mark Markuly

Because I have been traveling quite a bit in the past month, I was able to make use of airplane time catching up on films I had heard about, but never had time to view. Here are three I finally got a chance to see.

The 100-Foot Journey
This modern-day fable invites viewers into a meditation on the longest journey any of us ever take ? crossing from our world into the world of others. ?Produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, there is a feel-good quality to the film that can overshadow the very complex issues underlying the narrative. ? The movie is based on the international best-selling fictional book by Richard Morais, which is based on the middle-aged reflections of an Indian immigrant cook who rose to the top of French haut cuisine, becoming one of the most celebrated chefs in France. ? The movie follows the book fairly closely: ?a noisy and close Indian family, running a popular restaurant in Mumbai, is driven from their home because of civil unrest and searches Europe for a place to settle and begin their lives anew. ?Based more on the father?s intuition (if not superstition) they buy an empty building in a rural area of France that just happens to be located across the street from a highly decorated French restaurant that is run by a haughty and somewhat bigoted Frenchwomen, Madame Mallory, played exquisitely by Helen Mirren. ?As the Indian family launches their own restaurant 100 feet from Madame Mallory?s famous restaurant, competition, misunderstanding, humor and personal transformation all occur in the collision of cultures, personalities, cuisines, ethnicities and values. ? The 100-foot journey is a metaphor for the ways in which globalization is forcing the human race to learn how to reach across the divisions that separate us ? from the food we like to the way we envision the world.

Transcendence
This is a mind-bending film about the possible outcome of an artificial intelligence (AI) achieving human-like consciousness. ?Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a brilliant AI researcher on the verge of death, has his ?mind? uploaded into a program and supercomputer by his loving wife (Rebecca Hall) and friend (Paul Bettany), resulting in the apparent creation of a human consciousness operating within a virtual world. ?Caster, (or is it just something resembling Caster?), has an unlimited ability to assimilate information and reason about it, and sets in motion the building of a new kind of society and world. ?The film surfaces a host of theological and philosophical issues, and is an excellent meditation on the issues associated with the interface of technology and transcendence. ?What constitutes the unique capacities that make us human? ?Could such capacities go digital, and if so, what would happen to our ability to make ethical decisions? ?Can a computer transcend its hardware and software and have a ?soul,? as we have traditionally defined this unique dimension of the human person? ?Would such a computer supported ?soul? exist in reality, which might support the thesis that our humanity is nothing more than electrical impulses and chemical reactions, or would such a computerized soul only create the illusion of its human counterpart? ?If a computerized soul did exist in reality, however, would this ?soul? differ qualitatively from the primary descriptors of the core of our own humanness? ?Lastly, can love and idealism survive in such a digital environment, and if so, how might it manifest itself? ?If you give yourself over to the theological and philosophical implications of the narrative, this movie is a mind-bender. ?

St. Vincent
This is an unpredictable story of a crude, self-absorbed, gambling, boozy, and politically incorrect neighbor (Bill Murray) who agrees to babysit the son of a next-door neighbor (Melissa McCarthy) who is going through a nasty divorce from her two-timing husband. ? McCarthy?s son is a precocious and almost annoyingly polite child, who is adjusting to a new home and a new school, and a growing awareness that his young life is not in neatly folded corners. ?Murray?s character, Vincent, is a decorated war hero with an institutionalized wife. ?He has an intimate relationship with an equally crude Russian stripper, prostitute girlfriend (Naomi Watts). ?Yet, he finds himself a role model for an impressionable young boy going through a difficult life transition. ?To a young boy in a religious elementary school, who has been given an assignment to tell the story of a modern day saint, the hideously flawed Vincent seems like something more than a slovenly, burn-out, degenerate. ? The story explores in very subtle ways the nature of love and caring, and the influences that shape a child?s understanding of a messy, imperfect world. ? A major message of the film is that human goodness and kindness, and the virtue of fidelity are sometimes found in the most unlikely people and places.?