Thursday, January 05, 2017

Small Sips Mourns the Bothans

Starting with something geeky. Rogue One made my year-end list of best movies. It was a Star Wars movie, so that weighted the scale a little. But it certainly wasn't just due to its association with a beloved franchise, but also its effect on it. Eleanor Tremeer explains how this latest installment--a prequel to A New Hope--changed the original trilogy (POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD):
In Return of the Jedi, when the Rebel Alliance faces the second of what now seems to be an endless parade of Death Stars (I mean, that's basically what Starkiller Base is in The Force Awakens), Mon Mothma explains that the crucial plans to this battle station came at a price.
"Many Bothans died to bring us this information."
It's almost an offhand comment, and that's the last we hear of these mysterious Bothans, as they are merely tools to establish the gravity of the situation.
But with Rogue One we get an up close and personal look at what the Rebellion was really like: The sacrifices made, the morals compromised, the brothers-in-arms lost to this relentless war. Rogue One is emotionally brutal, as each beautifully nuanced, well-rounded character meets their sometimes dramatic, sometimes mundane end.
I hadn't considered it the way this article does, but Rogue One is basically a movie about a handful of the background characters, the ones who fight alongside Luke, Leia, and the others. And it turns out that their roles are just as dramatic, captivating, and crucial as the ones we hear way more about. Their fulfillment of duty and sacrifice allow the ones front and center to do what they do.

If you've seen the movie, the whole thing is worth a read. If you haven't, bookmark it for after you have.

So after that obviously I have to mention this. Last week I and many others were devastated by the news of Carrie Fisher's death after she briefly tried to battle back from a heart attack. Besides being Princess Leia, Fisher was an active and outspoken advocate for mental health issues, which included her being honest about her own struggles. In response to a question from someone wrestling with bipolar disorder, she had this to say:
We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges. Think of it as an opportunity to be heroic - not "I survived living in Mosul during an attack" heroic, but an emotional survival. An opportunity to be a good example to others who might share our disorder. That's why it's important to find a community - however small - of other bipolar people to share experiences and find comfort in the similarities.
Don't I sound like I know what I'm talking about? The truth is, I've never done what it sounds like you're doing: balancing school, home and work. I left home and school. So as difficult as it seems like it can be, you're ahead of the game. You're doing more than I did at your age, and that's courageous.
Her entire answer is worth a read. I take time to give thanks for this part of her public life as well. She helped combat stigma and change the conversation from one of fear to one of acknowledging the difficulty while also offering hope.

Yeah, me too. M. Craig Barnes writes about why he worries about pastors of politically divided churches:
In this stark conflict the pastor stands in the pulpit struggling to say something that’s both unifying and prophetic. It’s easy to gloss over the divisive issues of a congregation with a declaration about spiritual unity, and it’s easy to make a congregation afraid of the “them” who are to blame for our problems. But it’s very difficult to preach to a divided “us.”
This goes to the heart of the pastor’s calling. We are not cheerleaders who lead the congregation in fight songs for our side of a political game. Nor do we wander around asking, “Can’t we all just get along?” Our calling has always been to proclaim the gospel for our life together. So what does it mean to be the pastor-preacher who has taken a vow to love everyone in the congregation in such a divisive time?
Barnes doesn't offer a one-size-fits-all answer, because there really isn't one. There will be times to be prophetic, times to be pastoral, times to push and refrain from pushing. But since ministry is an art and not a science, it takes discernment to figure out when to do what, and then courage and centeredness to actually do it.

Your argument is invalid, mostly because the other person doesn't care. Daniel Camacho proposes that more will be needed the next four years than fact-checking:
The question of violence vs. non-violence in this political situation can easily function as a subterfuge that paralyzes resistance. We must protect the vulnerable whether this includes Muslims, immigrants, women, or the LGBTQI community. The important thing to keep our eye on is the power we do possess and the various avenues by which we can resist. What can resistance look like? I think we will have to utilize all of the legal, political, economic, activist/organizing, artistic, and religious means available to us.
Essentially, authoritarian and fascist regimes don't care about logic. What Camacho argues for instead is action, resistance, pushback...something stronger and more noticeable than fact-checking. This is why my word for the year is Engage, and why I have a lower tolerance for social media.

You always remember your first, for better or worse. Jan Edmiston offers some marks of a great first pastoral call for those who are seeking them:
What I’ve noticed is this:
  • A good first call is all about God.  It’s not about “getting ordained” or “paying the rent” or “being in the same town with ___” or “impressing the parents” or anything other than being where God calls you to be.  You do not want to be where God isn’t calling you to be.  #disaster
  • A good first call will bolster your pastoral identity.  Whether your first call is in a parish, a hospital, a school, a homeless shelter, an interfaith organization, or a soup kitchen – if you are called to professional ministry by God in that particular setting, your understanding of yourself as a pastor will blossom.
  • A good first call is among people who allow you to have a life apart from work.  Your people will want their spiritual leader to have a social life, an intellectual life, and – yes – a spiritual life that will be fed beyond the congregation/ministry site. They will expect you to take your day(s) off.  They will be happy when you take vacation and study leave because they care about you.
  • A good first call allows for mistakes and missteps.  New pastors fail in small and huge ways.  Forgiveness goes both ways.
I was very fortunate and blessed to have a first call in which these positives largely played out. I know others, however, who did not experience some or all of these things, yet in many cases were still able to learn from and transcend them in order to know that they are affirmed and gifted for ministry. Jan's list is important both for those seeking or living out their first call and for churches serving as a first call for someone. Self-awareness on both sides is important.

Love-based action. Christine Grillo recounts a conversation featuring Wendell Berry. The whole thing is very good, but I've been drawn to this part:
On climate change, he said that while he acknowledges it, he finds it to be a distraction. By focusing on climate change, he said, we turn our focus away from the multitude of things that are wrong. “We need a broad-fronted economic movement to protect everything that’s worth protecting, to stop damage to everything that’s worth keeping,” he said, suggesting that such a movement would need to become part of every day life for everyone. “A whole program like that needs to be carried out by whole people who are not ashamed to use words like love, honesty and fidelity.” He also suggested that the reason we’re not seeing enough traction on climate change is that we are using the wrong tactics to make people care—fear, guilt and anger. Instead of basing our entire strategy on how scared we are about the future, we should base a strategy on love. “We all need to find things we love to do, and do them,” he said.
“We’ve been talked out of love, mercy, kindness,” he said, laying some blame at the feet of scientists who strive to reduce or quantify such qualities. “We’ve got to take those things back.”
This is a similar sentiment to what I shared in my One Word post on Monday. Yes, there is both good reason and good times for anger and even fear, but what can one do every day to help and to inspire others to care enough to start helping as well? Maybe it sounds too idealistic to think this way. I've just been wondering how to live out the change that is needed in order to actually bring it to fruition.

Misc. Dan Hotchkiss on organizing teams in churches as opposed to committees. Jan again with a love letter to straight white guys. Brittany Caine-Conley on her experience at the Standing Rock protests. Churches should really, seriously, really give up their stereotypes of Millennials. 2016 didn't cause celebrity deaths, stress did. Everyone remain calm.