In a lecture to a group of teenagers, theologian Stanley Hauerwas retells one of Søren Kierkegaard's last parables to illustrate how most Christians think of the resurrection. In the story, a prince is one day riding through his fields when he sees a beautiful peasant girl. Being of noble birth, he is careful not to overwhelm the girl with his power and riches and decides to masquerade as a peasant in order to fairly win her love.
My parents are celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary on Monday. In the same vein as other recent milestones, my parents do their best to invite everyone and throw a big party. We had a huge celebration when they each turned 50, 55, 60, 65 and even 70 for my father a few years ago. We have tons of food -- no, really, Filipinos have enough food to ensure that everyone there would be able to eat for days, just in case an earthquake broke out and we all were stuck there together -- entertainment that only "American Idol" or "The Voice" can rival, and many, many stories.
What strikes me the most is how integral the church is to my parents' story.
A dictatorship is threatened by that which speaks to the heart of a people. If one can crush that which stirs the soul, a dictator needs not worry about the soul being stirred to resistance.
A day after news broke of Trayvon Martin's death, I was walking to the bus. On my way, I passed a neighbor. It was drizzling so we both had our hoodies up. The striking difference, though, is that my neighbor is a young black man, and I'm not.
I was a junior in college when I went to El Salvador for the first time. The van moved slowly through San Salvador traffic, the window down, my mouth covered with my scarf to protect from the pollution, my lungs still burning. A slender boy no older than 10 came to my window with his hand out and gently grazed my hand with his fingers. The tiredness in his eyes, which were as brown as his leathery skin, could have belonged to an old man. When I looked at him, he put his arm on the windowpane and rested his head as we gazed into one another's eyes. I remember this moment so vividly as I sat staring into his eyes, completely humbled, realizing that his suffering was greater than my capacity to respond.
This is the second in a three-part series examining the theological ideas of Søren Kierkegaard through the work of three contemporary church critics. The first part can be found here.
To me, the most memorable voice in the St. John's Passion has always been that of Pontius Pilate. After struggling fruitlessly to undo the inevitability of Christ's death, confronted with the real certainty of executing the world's most innocent person, Pilate is shaken to the core. He is left clinging to one existential question: "What is truth?"
I, too, have a confession to make. I didn't give up anything for Lent. For someone so attached to the poetic rhythm of the liturgical calendar, I failed to do something "special" for Lent.
I suppose I could give you all these superficial excuses about not having time, being too busy, just forgetting that it's Friday, but that would not get to the heart of the issue.
I even thought of saying that I am just tired. Tired of the giving something up just to get back into my previous habits. Tired of trying something new just to do more. Tired of broken monologues and debates that keep the same positions.
But all of these excuses would merely be symptoms of a deeper resistance: My pride has really gotten me away from God.
I first noticed it when I started making exceptions for myself and challenging God's grace: "Wow, God was really looking out for me. I wasn't supposed to park there, AND I didn't even get a ticket. Whew!"
Then I puffed up my chest even further when I was asked to consult on a number of different projects: "Surely, there is no one like me who could do this job. Obviously, I'm special."
I have a confession. I don't just fall in love with people -- I also fall in love with ideas, often those that promote liberation. I see a woman in church leadership and I swoon.
I used to travel annually to Fort Benning, Ga., for the annual vigil at the gates of the School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHISC.
This is the first in a three-part series examining the theological ideas of Søren Kierkegaard through the work of three contemporary church critics.
Kierkegaard’s work is notoriously difficult to comprehend in total: He was a prolific author and frequently wrote under pseudonyms using characters designed to represent contrary or hypocritical positions. Most of my observations on Kierkegaard over this and the next two columns come from writings selected in "Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard" (edited by Charles E. Moore, Plough Publishing House 1999). Unless otherwise noted, the translations quoted here come from that volume. The podcast "The Partially Examined Life" provides a good introduction to the philosophical Kierkegaard. (Be advised that the recording contains occasional adult language.)