Year: 2010

12 Questions with David E. Campbell – Part I

David E. Campbell

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell is deservedly receiving a great deal of attention. It is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and significant sociological examination of religion in America to be published in decades, and perhaps ever. Aside from the sheer mass of sociological data that this book makes available in a magnificently readable format (the book is page turner), the book is also a tour de force of sociological analysis and interpretation. People in all fields related to religion in America are giving careful attention to this very important book. Times and Seasons is very excited, then to have the opportunity of sharing some of David Campbell’s additional insights. What follows is the first half of our 12 Questions interview with Campbell. One of the unique features of American Grace is the prominence it gives to Mormonism alongside other major U.S. religions. Consequently, we divided up our questions topically between those that deal with general issues from the book and those that deal more specifically with issues related to Mormonism. This first post will deal with former. By way of introduction, Campbell is the John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C., Associate Professor…

Best of 2010

Times and Seasons wishes all of our readers a happy and rewarding 2011. Here at T&S, we have some new 12 Questions features and the usual array of talented guest bloggers lined up for 2011. But first a look back at T&S 2010, with favorite posts from most of our permanent bloggers.

Home Waters: Recompense

Mountain

Of his awakening, Dogen says, “I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers, the great wide earth, the sun, the moon, the stars.” Tinged with enlightenment, you see what Dogen saw: that life is borrowed and that mind itself is mooched. Every day you’ll need something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Mind borrows mountains and rivers, earth, sun, and sky. But you can’t just keep these things forever. Even if they weren’t quite what you wanted, they gave what they had and now some compensation is needed, some recompense is required. “Recompense is payback,” Handley says. “It means to weigh together, to bring back into balance” (xi). What was loaned must be returned or replaced. What was given must be given back. Nobody gets to start from scratch, not even God. To make a world is to borrow, recycle, and repurpose the matter that, even if disorganized, is already out there mattering. All creation is reorganization. Even the mind of God must mooch its mountains, cajole them, persuade them, serve them, compensate them. This is messy and its messiness is compounded by the fact that everything is in motion. “Nothing is…

NT Sunday School Lesson 1: Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 3:4-11 (Joseph Smith Translation); John 1:1-14; John 20:31

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Before I offer the study questions for this lesson, let me voice my objection to the format of our lesson manuals. They treat the Gospels as if the best way to understand them is to harmonize them, as if they are each histories of the life of Jesus rather than four different testimonies—for different audiences and for different purposes—of who Jesus is, the Messiah. That’s a little bit like taking a particular version of President Monson’s testimony, and one of President Eyring’s, and one of President Uchtdorf’s and pasting them together where they speak of similar things to make one new testimony. The result would be a misrepresentation of what they said. Individually their testimonies are much more likely to get us to the truth of which they speak than they will when shuffled together that way. The same is true of the Gospels. We are interested in the chronological history of Jesus’ life only secondarily. Our primary interest is in what that life reveals about who he is and how he revealed himself and the Father to those who knew him. To learn that, we are better off to read Matthew for his testimony, Mark for his, Luke for…

Cruise Control and Doctrinal Ditches

On Friday night, I was heading up the Snake River Canyon toward Jackson Hole, with snow falling gently through the darkness. At the entrance to the canyon, the following message was brightly displayed on a portable electronic sign: “Slippery spots: Turn off cruise control.” I have never seen that particular message on a traffic sign before. Good advice, of course — you’ll live longer if you are thinking (cruise control off, brain on) while driving on slick roads.

Helpless as a Baby

This is the time of year for Christmas devotions. This year my thoughts have been on the impulse to serve the needy that we have at Christmas. We don’t have it at Easter. My thoughts have also been on the Christ child. The religious significance of the grown Christ, on the cross and in the garden, is obvious. But what did Christ do for us as a bare baby?

Home Waters: Gene/ecology

Canyon Walls 2

Earth is stratified time. Use some wind, water, and pressure. Sift it, layer it, and fold it. Add an inhuman number of years. Stack and buckle these planes of rock into mountains of frozen time. Use a river to cleave that mountain in two. Hide hundreds of millions of purloined years in plain, simultaneous sight as a single massive bluff. It’s a good trick. Bodies, made of earth, are just the same: in my face, unchosen, generations of people are stratified in plain, simultaneous sight. My father’s nose, my grandfather’s ears, my mother’s wink, the lines my kids have etched into my squint. My wife pats my cheek and says: “Dear, your genealogy is showing.” She’s right. The lines on my face and in the palms of hands are family lines. But these lines aren’t easy to follow because, counter to expectation, time’s line isn’t straight. Time piles up. It loops around, knots up, peters out, and jumps ahead. It moves in fits and starts. Time’s inevitability, its straight-shot necessity, is tempered by the meandering play of accident, coincidence, and contingency. In Home Waters, Handley finds the same thing. Alone in the family cabin, he tries sorting out his own…

NT Sunday School Lessons: Between the Testaments

Ms

This is a sketch of the history between the fall of Israel and the New Testament. It may be helpful for understanding what is going on in the New Testament confrontations between Jesus and others and in understanding the tensions in Israelite society in Jesus’ day. Jewish history between the Old and New Testaments 606 The fall of Nineveh, capital of Assyria. Babylon becomes the major power. Daniel and others are taken to Babylon from Israel. 604 Nebuchadnezzar is king of Babylon. 598 Judah’s king, Jehoiachin, and the prophet Ezekiel (with thousands of others) are carried captive into Babylon. Lehi leaves Jerusalem. 587 The fall of Jerusalem; the leaders of Judah are taken captive into Babylon. Some, including Jeremiah (who is a hostage) escape to Egypt. Mulek leaves Jerusalem. 562 The death of Nebuchadnezzar and the beginning of the decline of Babylon. 538 Babylon (in modern-day Iraq) falls to Cyrus, king of Persia (in modern-day Iran). 535 Zerubbabel and Jeshua lead approximately 50,000 Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. 533 The cornerstone of the temple is laid. 522 The Samaritans have been opposed to the temple construction because they have not been allowed to help rebuild it. Jews…

Nominate the 2010 Mormon of the Year

Its that time of year again. The media are already reviewing the important news stories of the year, Time will soon select its Person of the Year (one Mormon — Glenn Beck — has been nominated this year); so we should get busy selecting the Mormon of the Year. For those who don’t remember, T&S selected Mitt Romney as the Mormon of the Year for 2008, and Harry Reid for 2009. As in the past, the choice does not mean that the person is a good Mormon or even a good person. This designation is solely about the impact the person has had. I think the ground rules are basically the same as in the past (suggestions about changes to the rules are welcome – we try to improve the rules each year): Nominees must be Mormon somehow — nominees must have been baptized and claim to be Mormon. Nominees must have been living at some point during the year. The LDS Church First Presidency (including the Prophet) and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are not eligible (because they would win every year, making the selection pointless). Nominees must have had enough of an impact to have made the news during…

Why folks dislike Mormons

Flunking Sainthood has a nice post up on the recent finding in the book American Grace that Mormons are the third most disliked religious group in the United States. Jana makes some books points, and her call for a bit more Mormon humility is surely a good idea. Although the in-group identification that she cites is not really a proxy for smugness as much as social cohesion, there is no denying that Mormons can appear smug at times. One of the puzzles that Jana puzzles over is why Jews are so well regarded while Mormons are not. I suspect, however, that there isn’t much of a puzzle here. Let me offer a theory. Jews do well among conservative Christians and among liberal secularists. The reason for this is that while there is an anti-semitic strand in Christianity, there is also a philo-semitic strand that continues to see Jews as God’s chosen people in some sense and gives Jews a starring role in various eschatological dramas. Among conservative Evangelicals, for example, this shows up as Zionism from afar in the form of support for the State of Israel. Hence, conservative Christians — or some significant chunk of them — have theological…

Elected Mormons, 2010

000aaMikeLee

With the U.S. 2010 elections over more than a month ago, I’ve wanted to put together a summary of the results for Mormon candidates for some time, and finally got around to finishing it this past weekend. There were a few surprises.

Improptu

300px-Ardea_alba;_3_chicks,_Morro_Bay_Heron_Rookery_2_-_by_Mike_Baird

It’s approaching a year since I started writing here at Times & Seasons, back on January 20th. That, combined with Christmas, house hunting, and the inexorable New Year, has me reflective. Where am I going, and how am I doing in getting thither? I started my stint here writing about building Zion — specifically, how we can intentionally build communities that bring people together in ways that are rewarding for each member of the community. I wrote about communities and Zion through April, and thought that would be my ongoing theme. That hasn’t turned out to be the case. Since April, my writing has been approximately equally divided between posts on gender roles, complaints on specific church-related issues, and discussing my little theo-philosophical models. Not bad, but not remarkable. In a sense, I suppose those topics are the bloggernacle in a nutshell. My life has paralleled that pattern. I’m a passionate dreamer. I love being involved in the arts and creative projects. I had always planned to live a simple life, one of thought, reflection, friendship, and few personal possessions. I’m inspired by sunrises, foggy evening, windswept hills, and starry nights; by Thoreau, Whitman (not Meg), John Dowland, and George…

Dreams

I’ve got dreams on my mind today. Years ago, while perusing the History of the Church books, I was surprised to discover an account of a strange dream from Joseph Smith (via Wilford Woodruff). I find it fascinating and I’ve never heard anyone refer to it, so I share it here: “I was standing on a peninsula, in the midst of a vast body of water, where there appeared to be a large harbour or pier built out for boats to come into. I was surrounded by my friends, and while looking at this harbour I saw a steamboat approaching the harbour. There were bridges on the pier for persons to cross, and there came up a wind and drove the steamboat under one of the bridges and upset it. “I ran up to the boat, expecting the persons would all drown; and wishing to do something to assist them, I put my hand against the side of the boat, and with one surge I shoved it under the bridge and righted it up, and then told them to take care of themselves. But it was not long before I saw them starting out into the channel or main body…

Home Waters: Soul as Watershed

Provo River

Spurred by Handley’s Home Waters, I’ve been reading Wallace Stegner. Like Handley, Stegner is interested in the tight twine of body, place, and genealogy that makes a life. On my account, Handley and Stegner share the same thesis: if the body is a river, then the soul is a watershed. Like a shirt pulled off over your head, this thesis leaves the soul inside-out and exposed. You thought your soul was a kernel of atomic interiority, your most secret secret – but shirt in hand, everyone can see your navel. Stegner’s novel, Angle of Repose, opens with the narrator’s own version of this thesis. An aging father, writing about his pioneer grandparents, names the distance between himself and his son: Right there, I might say to Rodman, who doesn’t believe in time, notice something: I started to establish the present and the present moved on. What I established is already buried under layers of tape. Before I can say I am, I was. Heraclitus and I, prophets of flux, know that the flux is composed of parts that imitate and repeat each other. Am or was, I am cumulative, too. I am everything I ever was, whatever you and Leah may think.…

Home Waters: Overview

Home Waters

George Handley’s Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River (University of Utah Press, 2010) practices theology like a doctor practices CPR: not as secondhand theory but as a chest-cracking, lung-inflating, life-saving intervention. Home Waters models what, on my account, good theology ought to do: it is experimental, it is grounded in the details of lived experience, and it takes charity – that pure love of Christ – as the only real justification for its having been written. It is not afraid to guess, it is not afraid to question, it is not afraid to cry repentance, and it is not afraid to speak in its own name. The book deserves some time and attention. It’s what you’ve been wanting to read. It may also be what you’ve been wanting to write. At the very least, it made me want to write about it. I’ve planned a few posts that will air some of my ideas about Handley’s ideas: one on the importance of place, a second on the importance of genealogy, and a third on importance of (re)creation. The book’s self-description reads like this: People who flyfish know that a favorite river bend, a secluded spot in moving…

Introducing Adam Miller, guest blogger

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It’s my pleasure to announce that Adam Miller will join T&S as a guest blogger. Adam S. Miller is a professor of philosophy at Collin College in McKinney, Texas. He is the author of Badiou, Marion, and St Paul: Immanent Grace (Continuum, 2008), the director of the Mormon Theology Seminar (www.mormontheologyseminar.org), and a managing editor at Salt Press (www.saltpress.org). The Mormon Review recently featured his essay on the film Groundhog Day, which was highlighted here on T&S. Adam has planned a series of posts on George Handley’s recently-released book Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River. Miller on Handley is sure to be a feast of poetry. Welcome Adam!

Sunday School Lesson 48: Zechariah 10-14, Malachi

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Zechariah 1:7-6:8: We may be able to read the first six chapters of Zechariah as having a roughly chiastic structure. As with many chiasmi, however, deciding whether this is a chiasmus is a matter of judgment rather than fact. A 1:7-17: The Lord’s omniscience B 1:18-21: Judah and the empires C 2:1-5: Jerusalem’s territory [2:6-13: Reiterates the first three parts] D 3:1-10: Joshua the high priest D’ 4:1-14: The temple itself C’ 5:1-4: Jerusalem’s self-rule (the scroll of the law?) C’ 5:5-11: Judah and Persia (? perhaps a “counter-temple”?) A’ 6:1-8: The Lord’s omnipotence If this analysis is correct, the chiastic structure helps us understand better some of the more difficult parts of Zechariah’s vision. Earlier parts of the chiasm help “define” later, more obscure parts. Notice that each step in the chiasm narrows the scope: from the widest scope, that of the Lord; to the next widest, the international; to Jerusalem; and to Joshua (Jeshua) and the temple. The focus of the vision is clearly on priesthood and on the temple standing at the “center” of the world. The return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple were of critical interest to the Jews. Why? Many had become…

Sunday School Lesson 47: Ezra 1-8; Nehemiah 1-2, 4, 6, 8

TS_scroll

Note that the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were considered one book until well after the time of Christ. The rough chronology below will help place this week’s material in its historical context. 606 The fall of Nineveh, capital of Assyria. Babylon becomes the major power. Daniel and others are taken to Babylon from Israel 604 Nebuchadnezzar is king of Babylon 598 Judah’s king, Jehoiachin, and the prophet Ezekiel (with thousands of others) are carried captive into Babylon. Lehi leaves Jerusalem. Habakkuk and Ezekiel prophesy 587 The fall of Jerusalem; much of the population of Judah is taken captive into Babylon. Some, including Jeremiah (who is a hostage), escape to Egypt. Mulek leaves Jerusalem 562 The death of Nebuchadnezzar and the beginning of the decline of Babylon 538 Babylon (in modern-day Iraq) falls to Cyrus, king of Persia (in modern-day Iran). Cyrus reads the Hebrew scriptures and encourages the Jews to return to Jerusalem 535 Zerubbabel and Jeshua lead approximately 50,000 Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple 533 The cornerstone of the temple is laid 522 Haggai and Zechariah encourage the Jews to finish the temple after the Samaritans’ opposition and Jewish indifference had forced a stoppage. King…

Sunday School Lesson 46: Daniel 2

TS_scroll

Verses 4-5: Why does the king make this demand on his wise men? Verses 10-12: What did it mean to be a wise man in Babylon? Why was the king angry? Why do you think that the gods of Babylon are never mentioned in this story, not even negatively? Verse 24: Why does Daniel save the other wise men of Babylon?  Verse 28: Why would a king living hundreds of years before Christ’s birth be interested in what would happen at the age when the end of the world would come? (“Latter days” is probably better translated “at the end of days.”) Why should anyone but those who live in the latter days care about them? Books about the last days and prophecies of them were not uncommon during the time after the Jewish exile in Babylon, but why? Why are they important to us? Verse 32: The Greek poet Hesiod uses the image of world history as having four parts, each less happy than the last, and each designated by a metal of decreasing value: gold, silver, bronze, iron. The Persians had a similar understanding of the ages of human existence: gold, silver, steel, and iron mixed with clay.…

Transhuman

Why is the concept of holiness so closely related to self-denial? This isn’t just a Mormon thing, or even a Christian one. We see it in the Buddhist monastic tradition, the yogis of India, and the shamans of many cultures. The holiest people are the ones who can undergo the longest tests of endurance. Most of us are more familiar with what holiness isn’t than what it is. For us, the essence of holiness is “not me”. I would guess that this is the reason we associate “holiness” with the ability to endure trials — we expect to find holiness in something greater, stronger, or more powerful than ourselves. When we find a person who demonstrates great longsuffering, we don’t understand that person, but we instinctively revere her or him. I think that this instinctive divide between “me” and “holy” is the root of the professional clergy class. From ancient times, the priests or shamans of a society have set themselves apart with distinctive dress, habits, forms of communication, and associations. Intentional or not, these clergy obtain power by becoming “not me” or “not human”. They become unrelatable transhumans, and it is by virtue of their unrelatableness and transhumanity that…

Mormon Feminism Panel at Patheos

Don’t miss the excellent Patheos panel on Mormon feminism. Kathy Soper’s thoughtful and perceptive essay headlines the event, and a fabulous group of respondents — Claudia Bushman, Tresa Edmunds, Rixa Freeze, Kristine Haglund, Caroline Kline, Neylan McBaine, Melissa Proctor, and Rosalynde Welch — pitches in with a wealth of excellent follow-up analysis. If you’re at all interested in Mormon feminism, make sure to check out the discussion.