Apr 8 2014

What Kind of King Do We Want?

PalmThe excitement and anticipation in this passage is tangible (see Matthew 21:1-11). The crowds gathered in order to see this strange new prophet, Jesus. They must have heard many different things about him ranging from, “That guy Jesus is a nutcase,” to “Have you heard about Jesus? He is the one we have been waiting for!” There was probably a lot of pushing, shoving, and grumbling going on so people could catch a glimpse of Jesus. The people in the crowd even put their cloaks down on the road for Jesus to walk on. They are shouting “Hosanna,” which literally means “save us,” or “save now.” Obviously, they were looking to Jesus to be their savior—to overthrow the Roman government and bring them peace and prosperity. Jesus was seen as the Messiah—a great King who will liberate his people.

Jesus, however, was not the kind of king the Jews expected. Yes, he is a prophet, but he is much more. He is the son of the Living God, who came not just to rescue the Jews from Roman oppression, but to usher in all of us into the kingdom of God. Kings and rulers usually come with power, might and glory. I wonder if the people in Jerusalem who were shouting Hosanna remembered the part of the prophecy that described their king as “humble, and mounted on a donkey.” Humility is about the last thing one would expect out of a king, but humility is something that Jesus embraces.

Jesus was not the kind of king that the Jews expected. I’m sure that many of them wanted Jesus to overthrow the Roman rulers and put the Jews in a position of power. They wanted someone to take vengeance on their oppressors. However, Jesus was first and foremost a suffering servant. He emphasized love of neighbor and serving one another. In Matthew 5, Jesus says to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Surely, this is not what the oppressed Jews in Jerusalem wanted to hear from their supposed liberator. Instead of fighting against the Roman government, Jesus called them to pray for them.

Jesus came to bring freedom, but not the kind of freedom we expect. True freedom is found when one moves from anger and violence to forgiveness and reconciliation. Just as the Jews were during the first century, so we too are enslaved to anger. Jesus came to release us from this slavery and to free us for love of God and neighbor. Of course, it is important to acknowledge and give a legitimate place to anger—but anger must be translated into a vision of reconciliation. We must hold in tension the seemingly contradictory images of enemies found in the Bible: the cry to crush the enemies and the call to love them.

In his book The Journey Toward Reconciliation, John Paul Lederach says, “I cannot face the enemy unless I am rooted in God’s sustaining love and at the same time give myself permission to struggle with the seemingly impossible sacrifice it represents. To pursue reconciliation, we must accept the long sleepless night of fighting in ourselves with God before we can journey toward and look for the face of God in our enemy.” Friends, this is the key: we must see God in our enemies. We don’t want to be like the crowds that failed to see the face of God in Jesus and handed him over for suffering and death. We must have humility, just as Jesus did. He identified with the least of these and called for love among friends and enemies. For this, he was crucified. He was clearly not the king that the Jews had been looking for.

It is important for us to hold his entry into Jerusalem in tension with his subsequent suffering and death. The same crowds who openly praised and accepted Jesus as Messiah soon called for his death on the cross. Sometimes freedom isn’t what we expect. Just as we must move from lament to action, we must move from anger to reconciliation. So, we too can join in with the crowds in Jerusalem pleading for God to save us from our anger and divisive actions, saying “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

–Jessica Beverstein

Jessica is a second-year MDiv and student ambassador at Candler. She graduated from Winthrop University in South Carolina with a BS in elementary education. She served as a volunteer missionary in Costa Rica and taught second grade in Atlanta before coming to Candler.

 
Art note: John August Swanson, “Entry Into The City,” “Last Supper”


Apr 1 2014

Staying Fit in Seminary

Katie O’Dunne describes her endurance training for a Half Ironman and how it informs her studies at Candler School of Theology.

Katie O’Dunne is a second-year MDiv student in the Faith and Health Certificate program, a graduate of Elon University in North Carolina, and a Candler Student Ambassador. 


Mar 25 2014

A Theology of Bricks

**Warning: Major Spoilers for The Lego Movie Follow**

Long before I was old enough to follow even the simplest of pictorial instructions, I fell deeply in love with the plastic building toys manufactured by the Danish toy company, Lego. My father would build towers on the kitchen floor, and I would knock them down, laughing deviously the entire time. Eventually, I was building my own towers in addition to castles and spaceships, and Lego sets became a staple of Christmas morning (in fact, even though I’m 24 and a graduate student, they still are). Needless to say, when I discovered the newly released film The Lego Movie, I was excited to see what one of my favorite companies would do on the big screen. While I was not surprised by the quality of the movie’s animation and story, I was pleasantly surprised to find fertile ground for theological reflection, especially on questions of violence and redemption.

The story follows Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt), an everyday construction worker who is particularly good at following the instructions (right down to purchasing overpriced coffee and returning every compliment). One night, Emmet discovers the “Piece of Resistance,” the key to foiling the plans of the devious Lord Business (Will Ferrel) who plans to Krazy Glue the whole world together to preserve his own particular sense of order. Emmet suddenly finds himself at the center of the resistance group – the highly creative “master builders” – but his instruction-following tendencies leave him feeling alienated. After a botched encounter with Lord Business’ police force, Emmet realizes that, although the master builders are highly creative, they cannot work together. Emmet creates a detailed instruction manual that lays out a plan for invading Lord Business’ fortress. Of course, the whole plan eventually goes sideways and the citizens of Lord Business’ city find themselves wielding their creativity to fight for survival.

At this point in a typical movie, Emmet would discover his hidden talents (in fact, he does) and then wield those powers to enact violence upon Lord Business. He has plenty of weapons at his disposal, including a powerful melting ray, Batman’s batarangs, a gigantic robot constructed from Emmet’s old construction site, and the Krazy Glue weapon itself. It would be a particular stroke of poetic irony to see Lord Business defeated by the very weapon he hopes to harness. This pattern is typically identified as the “myth of redemptive violence.” Put simply, we believe that violence is generally bad unless that same violence is used for positive ends such as the destruction of an enemy who wishes to do others violence. Though he could Lord Business, Emmet instead comes to embrace him.

In a dramatic turn of events, we discover that the setting of the film is actually Will Ferrel’s basement wherein he has constructed a complex Lego universe, albeit one where the models are glued together and the themes (castle, city, etc.) are kept carefully divided. The plot has actually been driven by Ferrel’s son, who mixes and matches characters (ranging from Batman to a kitten/unicorn hybrid) and settings for the purposes of an epic story. When the strait-laced Ferrel realizes what his son has been doing, he is eventually impressed by the amount of creativity exerted on both the story and its characters/vehiciles/locations. Recognizing that creativity and instruction-following can work together, he has a change of heart and invites his son to play with his Legos whenever he wants. In the same way, Emmet (back in the Lego universe) convinces Lord Business that he has a special gift to give the world, in the same way that everyone else does (the people of Emmet’s city had earlier turn objects of their professions into creations only they could build to combat Business’ forces). Like Ferrel, Lord Business has a change of heart, recognizing that his absolute concern for order was damaging, but that it can also be a gift to his fellow citizens. Finally, it is Lord Business who deactivates the Krazy Glue weapon.

As much as I loved the inside jokes, pop culture references (Will Arnett’s Batman paraphrases a line from the Dark Knight to hilarious effect), and homages to Lego’s heritage as a company (a classic 80s spaceman is both integral to the plot and somewhat worse for wear), I appreciated this reversal of redemptive violence all the more. True, there is violence in the film itself, but it is ultimately revealed to be useless and wasteful in light of creativity, cooperation, and reconciliation. By challenging this myth in popular culture, we can go a long way towards realizing what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt. 5:44).” By understanding those who would propagate violence and offering them compassion instead of the barrel of a loaded gun (or shark, in the case of the film’s resident pirate) we begin undoing systems of violence and start realizing the kingdom of God. May we all have the courage to embrace such stories.

–Aaron Carr

Aaron is a second-year MDiv student at Candler and a student ambassador. Originally from Cumming, GA, Aaron was a religion major as an undergraduate at Samford University.


Mar 18 2014

Women’s History Month: New Narratives

MorrisonThis month is National Women’s History Month, and while it is important to share stories of transformational women, this month is also a time where we think about how we tell the broader stories of humanity. In my studies at Candler and my experience as a woman I am realizing more and more that history is not merely a recitation of facts but an arranging of those facts in a particular order. Writing history also means choosing some facts over others, ignoring facts that don’t make the story sound exceptional and judging which facts of history are most consequential.

There are many amazing women who have brought this predicament of history-telling to our attention: Elizabeth Cady-Stanton, bell hooks, Audre Lorde and Wendy Farley (to name some favorites of mine).  There are scholars who are retelling women’s histories that have been painfully obscured and mutilated by men, such as that of Sarah Baartman.  There are writers who are telling new histories, giving a voice to the women who screamed, laughed, shouted and sang and yet no one wrote it down. The spirits of these women come to us through the work of writers like Toni Morrison.

There is still much work to be done to reconstitute half the world’s history, the history of women. Hillary Rodham Clinton claimed at the U.N. Fourth World Conference in China in 1995 “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.” In the same way, women’s history is human history and human history is women’s history.  How do we continue to tell the history of humanity and yet still deny this simple fact?  One example surfaced in chapel last week when the preacher referenced the famous evolutionary mantra “survival of the fittest.” This little phrase contains an entire history of human existence—a history of competition, autonomy, self-interest and an illusion of fit-ness—a history told by certain men in certain circumstances.

ClintonTo tell the history of humanity as one of competition, scarcity, autonomy, fear or an abstract notion of being “fit” is no explanation for the life-giving interdependence of a nursing mother and her baby.  Survival of the fittest is not the history of immigrants who coordinate the care of each other’s children so that they can take English classes and learn to support their refugee community. Survival of the fittest is not the history of my friends in a same-sex partnership where they daily sacrifice the world’s cookie-cutter “fittest” ideals to flourish in a relationship of love and creativity. Survival of the fittest is far from the story of Jesus whose place in history marks a unifying baptism and a common table where mutuality, welcome and love are offered as the defining story of all the children of God, men and women.

Theologian Sarah Coakley is currently working with scientists to examine the implications of cooperation and sacrifice in the history of human survival.  In a Gifford lecture she comments on the “great secret that men rarely discuss…sacrifice is being done all the time physiologically in the tiring and painful human business of pregnancy, birth-giving and lactation.” (See article: “What’s God Got to Do With Evolution?” in Times Higher Education.)

Through the work of women like Sarah Coakley, we can now offer new narratives of history during National Women’s History Month.  How we tell the story of humanity this month includes the values that women have always relied on in order to survive and flourish in this world: cooperation, care, sacrifice, interdependence and mutuality. May our history become a full reckoning with humanity’s life in this world.

–Jenelle Holmes

Jenelle is a second-year in Candler’s MTS program and a student ambassador. She graduated in 2006 with a degree in English from Whitworth University in Spokane, WA.


Mar 11 2014

Snowpocalypse & Table Fellowship

Emory snowBy now I’m sure that all of you have heard of the crazy snow storms we have had down here in Atlanta over the last month. The first storm hit us with a gargantuan amount of snow—a whole two inches! Now, being from Missouri, I know that this amount of snow is tease for most people, but it was a blizzard for people down here. In fact, it was referred to as “Snowpocalypse”. People rushed to the safest place they know— the interstate—and were stuck in their cars for hours. Children were stuck at school and on school buses. It really was an awful situation for those people trying to get home. For those of us who were home, however, it was quite the welcome break. I not only go to Candler for class, but I also work part-time in the Admissions and Financial Aid office there. I also have an internship with Emory Wesley Fellowship, an undergraduate campus ministry. With these three things combined, I am on campus every day for about 45 hours per week. So, the idea of not having to leave my house was extra-appealing. I ended up getting an extra three days off from school and work! I got to spend the day in my pajamas, reading for class, cleaning my apartment, and watching Lord of the Rings marathons. It was amazing.

Less than two weeks later, the weather reports were saying we were going to get more snow, but this time, it would be accompanied by an ice storm. Of course, people started freaking out—some groceries stores literally ran out of bread and milk. My first thought, however, was “This is too good to be true!” I couldn’t believe we would get MORE days off. This gave me more time to finish assignments and catch up on my reading. We ended up being off of school Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I had a great time on Tuesday, but Wednesday, I started getting a little stir crazy. By Thursday, I was beyond ready to go back to school. Even though I was enjoying living life in my pjs and Charlie Brown sweatshirt, it felt like something significant was missing in my life. It wasn’t until the next week at work that I found out what that was.

ATL snowjamThe Admissions and Financial Aid Office was in an uproar when I arrived at work the next Monday. There were red files all over the place and the phone was ringing off the hook with panicked students wondering if we received all their materials before the priority deadline. (Okay, I may be exaggerating a little bit, but it was much busier than usual.) The entire morning I longed to be back at home in my pajamas, watching movies and pretending to read. We were all stressed and behind because of the snow. Around lunchtime, some of us congregated at the little round table near the office reception area to eat a quick lunch. Our conversation quickly turned to laughter as we caught up with each other and shared our experiences of the snow days. The stress and chaos was left behind as we communed together. Soon almost the entire office had congregated around the table. As we were eating, it hit me: this is what I had been missing. I hadn’t gotten to experience the wonderful fellowship with my Candler community in two weeks. I missed them and the experiences we shared.

All of this was made known to me around the table. By sharing a meal together, we were building up our little community and strengthening each one of us. In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes the significance of table fellowship as a way to strengthen our bond with each other and our bond with Christ. He writes, “The Scriptures speak of three kinds of table fellowship that Jesus keeps with his own: daily fellowship at the table, the table fellowship of the Lord’s Supper, and the final table fellowship in the Kingdom of God. But in all three the one thing that counts is that ‘their eyes were opened, and they knew him.’” Thus, when we commune with each other, Christ is also present in the breaking of the bread. It took Snowpocalypse (parts I & II) to make me see the importance of my Candler community. The life we share together, no matter how hectic or stressful, is a life centered around Christ. We are a community that is bound to Christ, and because of this, bound to each other. The many birthday parties that take place in our office is a testament to this communal practice. We become closer to one another and with God in the breaking of the bread (or mostly, cake). So, instead of eating your dinner in front of the TV in your pajamas all the time, sit around a table and eat with the people in your community. The fellowship you share around the table will not only enrich your relationships with each other, but also your relationship with God.

–Jessica Beverstein

Jessica is a second-year MDiv and student ambassador at Candler. She graduated from Winthrop University in South Carolina with a BS in elementary education. She served as a volunteer missionary in Costa Rica and taught second grade in Atlanta before coming to Candler.


Mar 4 2014

If I Had Known Then…

Eric JI have a confession to make. When I made my decision to apply to and attend Candler School of Theology, it was based on the work of one professor.  I read her book, saw where she taught, and decided to apply to that school. I am lucky to have stumbled into one of the most prestigious Hebrew Bible programs in the country, but if I had known then what I know now, I would have chosen the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program at Candler one-thousand times over. Here’s why:

The Faculty

As you already know, I made my decision to attend based on a single member of the faculty, but I am leaving Candler in complete awe of the constellation of faculty and staff at Candler School of Theology. I have had unprecedented access to the world’s foremost scholars across every discipline I have worked in. They are available, helpful, encouraging, and supportive.

The Community

Because I am an introvert by nature, the Candler community was not even on my radar when I made my decision. What I had grossly underestimated in my calculations was the effect that moving so far away from my family would have on me. The students at Candler have supported me and challenged me in ways that have made me at least a better scholar, and I like to think a better person. From a friendly face on the first day of orientation, to celebrating admissions decisions over margaritas at noisy restaurants in my last weeks of my degree, my experience at Candler has been bookended by people who have changed my life.

The Opportunities

When people ask me why I chose Candler, I largely recount what I have discussed above. I caveat this by saying that if I had known how important that scholar was in her field, or what Candler’s reputation was in the scholarly community, I would have talked myself out of applying. The reputation of Emory University and Candler School of Theology are well earned and far-reaching. Whatever one’s goals happen to be for his or her degree, the outstanding reputation of Candler will help you along your journey.

The Program

The flexibility of the MTS program is such that it allows its students the freedom to explore and shape their research interests. I was allowed to pursue a highly specified course load consisting mainly of languages and biblical studies. At the same time, the program is designed to provide the structure and faculty support to make that exploration focused and productive. The fortunate outcome of this dichotomy is a well-rounded training that prepared me thoroughly for doctoral studies.

–Eric Jarrard

Eric Jarrard is a second-year Master of Theological Studies student in Hebrew Bible. He will be pursuing a doctorate at Harvard Divinity School this fall.


Feb 25 2014

What is the value of an African American male?

Is the worth of an African American male priceless or is it comparable to meaningless matter, insignificant and cheap?  For centuries the value and worth of the black male in society has come under question, as if God didn’t create everyone equally.  Who are we as a society of brothers and sisters to determine otherwise?

As I sat in my room and watched the Michael Dunn verdict, I immediately reflected on the question: What is the value of an African American male?  The jury convicted Michael Dunn on four of five charges against him, but were indecisive concerning the murder charge.  How can you be uncertain when 17-year-old Jordan Davis was unarmed and was unable to protect himself from the rage of Michael Dunn?  Furthermore how could you shoot into a car because of loud “thuggish” music and then go home as if your actions were normal?  A mother and father have lost their son because someone felt threatened by the face of difference rather than seeing the heart of similarity.  A split jury, some who will never see the black experience, has decided that a mistrial is better than convicting a man who killed out of malice towards someone different.  Is it a matter of changing the laws or changing the individual who views African Americans as inferior second-class citizens?

One could pontificate that the laws need to be amended, but the world will always have its stance on the value of an African American male.  This ongoing sense of injustice has continued to be a huge problem within our society.  Some may deem that we should worry about other issues.  Some may revert back to the argument about black-on-black violence, but is this a mechanism to cover up the overall injustice towards African American men?  Should we ignore these new Jim Crow laws and modern-day lynchings of African American men?  Several African Americans have been mistreated by the judicial system that is only designed to work for people with privilege and power.  Brothers such as Emmet Till, Oscar Grant III, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Danroy Henry, Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and several others have been victims of an unfair system that judges based on “the color of the skin rather than the content of character.”

When personal bias and bigotry enters the soul, it damages the very fabric of what it means to be alive in this world.  Being alive in the world means waking up everyday acknowledging that God created everything well without blemishes.  Personal difference is not a blemish but rather it is the gateway to exploring the essence of God.  I am not a blemish and I am not an enigma.  I am an educated black man who may be different on the exterior because of my skin, but I breathe the same air as those from other cultures.  I am a black man who longs for the moment when we all walk down the hallways of schools and jobs with love towards one another.  I am a black man who wants people to see my rich value rather than my skin tone.  I am not a monster.  I am human.  We all are precious in the eyes of God and we should cherish the fact that we are worth more than silver and gold.  With our seminary experience let’s change the world so that everyone can be treated equally and fairly.

–Lawrence Waters

Lawrence is a second-year MDiv student at Candler, a student ambassador, and president of the Black Student Caucus. He is a licensed minister in the American Baptist Churches (USA) and has served as a youth pastor for several years.


Feb 18 2014

Chaplain on the Hall!

prison“101, Chaplain on the hall!” I call out, as the officer on duty buzzes me through the second of two doors leading to a long corridor. As I enter the hallway illuminated by fluorescent lighting, another officer sits on duty in the first small room to the left. I walk further down the hall and observe the many doorways; each door containing ID cards giving the names and faces of two inmates residing within. As I move deeper into the heart of the passage, I catch a glimpse through an open door of two obviously pregnant women dressed in prison attire, confined to a room and serving a sentence. Somehow, these pregnant women have landed in the Georgia Department of Corrections. Then the realization occurred to me that I came to seminary and now I have somehow landed myself in prison.

The past six months or so, I have spent time as a chaplain intern at the facility that houses all the pregnant female inmates in the state of Georgia. My time has consisted of building relationships with a group of marginalized women and offering a pastoral presence in the midst of unsettling circumstances. Candler’s Contextual Education program has provided an avenue that intentionally placed me in the path of the marginalized and facilitated authentic relationships through community with strangers and peers.

Reflecting on the ministry of Jesus reveals that he was on the move. Where was he going? Towards the Cross. What was he doing? Intentionally placing himself in the midst of the marginalized. For example, Jesus encountered the Syrophoenician woman who because of the status of her daughter and the fact she is a woman would have been considered twice marginalized. He cured the deaf man—another marginalized person. Among many examples, Jesus continually placed himself among the hurting and oppressed.

The opportunity as a seminary student to serve prison inmates who seem cast aside by society has helped me see the presence of God and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of these women. The reality is that our world is indeed dark at times and yet, through this journey, God’s presence has been manifested through genuine relationship and has become ever so clear during my journey as Chaplain over the past months. What has become even more evident to me is the worthiness of these women and the reality that each woman at the facility is a child of our Creator God. There is not a soul on Earth that is not worthy of the Grace of God.

Mark 8:34-35 says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel will save it.”

So, let’s get movin’, friends!  We’re all going somewhere—I challenge each to take the scenic route in life and see the unmistakable richness of God and experience wholeness through community with one another.

–Emily Edwards

Emily is a first-year MDiv and student ambassador at Candler. She lived and worked in Ocala, FL, before relocating to Atlanta.


Jan 28 2014

The Church Must Speak

Ukraine Priest with cross“In the end we remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

     –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Two months ago an anti-government uprising began throughout the Ukraine. The unrest has brought thousands into the streets. Amidst the burned buses, tear gas, and barricades, a large number of Orthodox priests have assembled, not to protest but to pray. Earlier this month, Ukraine’s government threatened to ban prayer services at the protest but that did not stop the priests from showing up with their robes, crosses, and holy books.

One priest spoke about the proposed ban as being “illegal and immoral.” “Nobody can forbid people to pray,” he said.

I have learned all my life and believe with all my heart that prayer is essential to Christian identity. The church must pray. In my faith tradition we believe that there is power in prayer. We anoint and pray for the sick because we are confident that God has the ability to heal. We pray for the poor and those in need because we identify God as a provider. The Church must pray.

But the Church must also speak.

The church is not only obligated to pray for the sick but also to advocate for access to better healthcare and affordable medicine. The church is not only obligated to pray for the poor but to seek redress from broken systems that lead to poverty. We must speak for a reasonable living wage. We must speak against exploitation and oppression. We must offer both bread and reproach, prayer and action.

The Church is not the church if it is not concerned with the human condition. Neither is the church fit to call itself Christian if it does not reprove the systems, paradigms, and the politics that perpetuate inhuman and immoral conditions.

In his 1967 speech, “A Time to Break the Silence,” Dr. King admittedly discovered that “…the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.” Our moral conscience leaves us no other choice.

If the church’s heart becomes totally poisoned, the autopsy must identify a partial cause of death as “silence.”

Not many understand the importance and difficulty of the church speaking more than Dr. King. Many condemned King for his diatribe against the Vietnam War in his quest to connect Montgomery and Asia. They contended that he was hurting his own cause and that peace and civil rights did not mix. King explained that through conscription (military draft) we were exploiting the poor. “We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia. We told them that they could not solve their problems with Molotov cocktails and rifles yet America is using massive violence to solve their own.”

Over 40 years later these Ukrainian priests find themselves in scenes reminiscent of the civil rights movement. At the threat of being tossed in jail, and while staring down the barrel of guns, they show up, not to protest but to pray. Through their presence these cross-wielding, Bible-toting, robe-wearing holy men speak. Through their defiance and civil disobedience, they speak. Loudly, passionately, and poignantly, they speak. They speak because their moral conscience demands it.

The Christian Church must speak.

Ukraine prayerWhether it is against a corrupt government in the Ukraine that seeks to silence the prayers of the people or corrupt capitalists in the United States that promote profits over and apart from the human condition, the Church must speak. Be it from the steps of the state capitol or from the asylum of the pulpit, the Church must speak. We must both feed the hungry and advocate to change the structures that affect the human condition. The church’s voice is vital for both those offended and those who have committed offense.

There is no magic in the pronoun “my” that gives some people greater value than others, nor is God divided by borders and boundaries. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all those who dwell herein. Or, in Dr. King’s words: “We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.”

–Sam White

Sam is a second-year MDiv student at Candler and a student ambassador. A native of Alabama, he earned a bachelor in communication sciences at the University of Alabama.


Jan 14 2014

Working Out the Numbness

Mandela TutuThere are two things that I don’t like very much: numb-heads and numb-legs. We’ve all sat in that meeting/class/small group that felt like you needed to just get up and do something rather than talk anymore. By the end of it, your head is just numb.

Often those meetings have another side effect: numb-legs. If I sit for too long, my legs go to sleep and my lower back feels numb. The worst part is when you attempt to stand up and walk it out. You try to get up and walk, only to have that horrible tingly feeling all over as you wobble around until your legs are normal again.

This past week I’ve been completely immersed in my 1-week intensive course on the topic of reconciliation. For the past few days we’ve explored the journey of reconciliation from many angles. It’s a topic I’ve learned is deep, complicated, and powerful.

It’s also a topic can be difficult to put into action. We looked at reconciliation efforts in places like Rwanda and South Africa. As we did, we discussed and critiqued what has been done in different situations. Sometimes these discussions can be frustrating as we critique too much. If anything doesn’t meet the ideal, then it gets picked apart. After a week of this, you get numb-headed.

I can’t help but draw a conclusion between these two frustrations of numb-headedness and numb-legs. In class, we often critique the latest strategy or model. Maybe that’s a church model, maybe it’s a model of reconciliation, or maybe it’s a strategy for effective evangelism. The truth is, we can only sit around critiquing for so long. We have to stand up and get on our feet. I believe we’ll find out it was harder than we expected. Our legs will tingle. We’ll wobble around, and hopefully we’ll find a way that feels right and our legs are strong again.

I always feared coming to seminary because I’d rather be in the field of action than sitting in a classroom. As I’ve been here at Candler I’ve learned that critique is necessary because no model, system, or strategy is perfect. Critique helps us get closer to the ideal. Candler helps me engage in important critiquing. Admittedly, I’ve felt that numb-headedness come around a time or two, but this has also been a place where our legs are moved into action. Learning happens within the context of serving others through Contextual Education I and II. Candler has been a place where critique and action meet face to face.

In their book, Reconciling All Things, authors Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice write about leaders saying, “Leading is not about knowing where you are going. It is about starting somewhere then taking a next faithful step, then another and another.”[1]

I find this to be true in almost any line of ministry. At times the critiquing can create fear of going out and being the church God is calling us to be. Yet we have to get up, work out those awkward first steps, and continue faithfully.


[1] Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice, Reconciling all things: a Christian vision for justice, peace and healing, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 129.

–Mark Kimbrough

Mark is a second-year MDiv and student ambassador at Candler.  From Springdale, Arkansas, he completed his undergraduate studies at The University of Arkansas.