Jun 23 2010

Kierkegaard the Vampire Slayer

So some friends and I were talking the other night about vampires and zombies. Have you noticed that vampires and zombies are everywhere these days? Zombie movies have never been so popular (see chart below), ranging from the comedies like Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2008) with Woody Harrelson, to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a New York Times best seller (based on the Jane Austen novel, of course), and to be adapted on screen starring Natalie Portman and scheduled for release in 2011.

Vampire movies are enjoying a resurgence as well. Dracula is the single most popular film character of all time and vampire movies and TV shows feature A-List Hollywood types like Wesley Snipes (Blade movies) and Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). And of course the Twilight movies of 2008-2010 and HBOs True Blood are mega-popular cult hits.

So we were talking about zombies and vampires, but we’re all theology geeks. So we bring in God, Jesus, and theology. Questions arise like:

  • If zombies are un-dead, what would happen if Jesus returned in “the rapture?” Would zombies be able to accept Christ in such a premillennialist scenario?
  • Vampires and Zombies are archetypal “Others.” They are different than us, but they are also human (or used to be); do they not symbolize those dark parts of ourselves we’d rather not acknowledge?
  • Further, do we not demonize and scape-goat other Others in our society and our churches? Don’t we as Christians all too often demonize those who are Other? Whether they are Democrats, Republicans, White people, Southerners, illegal immigrants, or LGBTQ folks, don’t we all put people who are different from us into categories of Other and not experience them for the fullness of who they are, different though they may be?
  • Vampires and zombies (and monsters in general) consume human flesh, i.e., negate life. Literally, vampires and zombies bring death, but metaphorically, do they not represent fear or despair, rather than death? Do they not embody Kierkegaard’s “Sickness Unto Death”?
  • Continuing with Kierkegaard, does the fact that stories of vampire- and zombie-like creatures go back thousands of years tell us that these symbols of anxiety are part of life, are existential elements never to be gotten rid of fully, but are perpetually in the human psyche to be wrestled with? (Thus part of the human condition would be to continually slay one’s vampires).
  • One blogger named Buffy the Vampire Slayer as 2001 Theologian of the Year! Not only is Buffy a theologian, but she is very much a Christ-figure. She fights Death in every episode. When she dies at the end of one season, her tombstone reads, “Buffy Anne Summers, 1981-2001, Beloved Sister, Devoted Friend, She Saved the World… A Lot.” And the next season she is resurrected (or brought back to life, at least)!
  • Is it mere coincidence that the rise of Zombie films, which are almost always set in an apocalyptic world (there’s even a term “zombie apocalypse”), coincides with the rise of the Left Behind books (1995-2007) and evangelical Protestant end-times theology, a la John Hagee?

So what do you think? Zombies? Vampires? Kierkegaard? Jesus?


Jun 18 2010

Candler and the Care of Creation

More and more religious people and congregations are returning to the importance of caring for God’s creation as part of responsible living. Did you know there are over 1000 references in the Bible to the Creation, but only 490 references to heaven?! Candler as a theology school, training and forming religious scholars, ministers, and leaders, has taken many steps to live more responsibly and in better harmony with the earth over which humanity has been given stewardship (Genesis 1:26).

From l., Candler Creation Keepers President Jason Myers, Emory Sustainability's Ciannat Howett, and Anthropology professor Dr. Peggy Barlett

Theology Garden

Created in April 2010 next to the second floor entrance of the Candler School of Theology, Emory’s eighth educational garden is a product of the collaborative efforts of the Candler Creation Keepers and the Office of Sustainability Initiates. The 100%  organic garden contains several herbs, such as basil, sage, oregano, thyme and rosemary, as well as a large variety of foods, including blackberries, blueberries, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, beets, peas, squashes, eggplants, and several types of leaf vegetables.

Candler Creation Keepers

On of the newest student groups at Candler is the Candler Creation Keepers. The group has raised funds for and oversaw the construction and planting of the Theology Garden. The group tends the garden – picking weeds, fertilizing, and harvesting the herbs and veggies – while educating fellow students on food and the theological importance of creation stewardship. The Creation Keepers also helped with several Earth Week activities in April of this year, including promoting composting among Theology students, faculty, and staff.

Our LEED Building

Candler’s main building, shared with Emory’s Center for Ethics, is a state of the art, five-story environmentally friendly classroom and office space.  Like all new buildings that Emory builds, Candler’s building reached LEED certification (at the Silver level). Emory’s 17 buildings on campus with LEED designation save energy and water, feature improved air quality, are sited appropriately – such as in areas with public transportation, and are constructed using a percentage of recycled, local or rapidly renewable building materials.

Make a Pledge Today! Emory has developed a Personal Sustainability Pledge, addressing personal behaviors related to energy, sustainable food, water conservation, green space, commuting, recycling, and other sustainability issues when at Emory and at home. The pledge is very sophisticated, calculating exactly what the carbon impact of your current sustainable practices is – how many cars are you keeping off the road, how many acres of forest and gallons of gasoline you are conserving – and what impact your pledged actions will have in the future. Take the pledge right now!


Jun 11 2010

Emory & the Environment

In case you hadn’t heard, Emory has a well-established program in green building — currently having one of the largest inventories by square footage of LEED-certified green buildings among campuses in America.  We have 13 LEED Silver or Gold buildings—including the Theology/Ethics Building—and counting.

Here are some of Emory’s Green Highlights—check back next week for more on the Greening of Emory, including Candler’s initiatives and what you can do at home, at school, and in your places of worship!

Emory Awards and Highlights

Bike Emory. Emory, Fuji Bikes, and Bicycle South bike shop have teamed up to provide all of Emory access to discounted bikes, on-campus bike repairs, free bike-share program, and more.

Food. Buy Local-Emory does! Emory has set a goal of providing 75 percent local or sustainably grown food in the hospitals and cafeterias by 2015. Organic Market Boxes are USDA certified fruits and veggies coming in three sizes—order yours online and pick up on campus the next week! Additionally, the Educational Gardens around campus—including the Theology Garden, shown here on the Sustainability Map—aim to provide fresh food and herbs to the community and get people reconnected to dirt, and water, and sunshine, and real food!

Recycling and Composting. Emory sent off it’s 3900 graduates this year with its first Zero Waste Commencement celebration. Emory diverted over 1900 pounds plastic bottles, aluminum cans, food waste, and compostable plates and service to recycling or composting bins. Speaking for the compostable and recyclable materials, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who gave the keynote address, said, “I’ll be back…as healthy garden soil and recycled goods” (not really). More and more of Candler’s events are Zero Waste, and we even have our own compost bin!

Emory Academics. At last count, Emory was teaching 129 courses with a sustainability-related curriculum in disciplines across the campus, such as medicine, law, ethics, theology, anthropology, spanish, philosophy, journalism, and English. 34 of 43 Emory departments had at least one course related to sustainability–that’s 79%! Emory College already has majors and minors in Environmental Science and will soon have  a Sustainability minor.

Make a Pledge Today! Emory has developed a Personal Sustainability Pledge, addressing personal behaviors related to energy, sustainable food, water conservation, green space, commuting, recycling, and other sustainability issues when at Emory and at home. The pledge is very sophisticated, calculating exactly what the carbon impact of your current sustainable practices is – how many cars are you keeping off the road, how many acres of forest and gallons of gasoline you are conserving – and what impact your pledged actions will have in the future. Take the pledge right now!

Check back next week for more about what Candler is doing to be sustainable, plus even more ways for you to get involved. Care of the Creation is all of our God-given responsibility (Genesis 2:15) – so let’s get to it!


Jun 3 2010

Spiritual But Not Religious?

Probably the most popular religious “movement” in the US today is the multifarious group of “spiritual but not religious” people.

CNN has an article looking at various sides of the phenomenon. Critics label SBNR folks as selfish – the individual is the center of their own spiritual life. Religions become food courts – we should all choose based on what suits us, what fits with our individual personality and feels right on any particular day. Have a bad experience with Buddhism? Try the Taoism or the Native American spirituality – they’re very tasty!!!

Others say SBNR people are rightfully turned off by organized religion. Though there were of course exceptions to the rule, The Crusades, The Inquisition, The Holocaust, slavery in America, and terrorist attacks around the globe have all been carried out with support of many leaders of organized religions. So SBNR people (rightfully) want nothing to do with such power structures. Why do people need intermediaries between themselves and God anyway? Haven’t we all stood in awe and wonder at the beach, in the mountains, in the midst of Beauty? That’s God, and we don’t need any hierarchical authorities to explain that to us.

So what do you think?