Viewing entries in
Events

Join Us for our March 15 Pub Night

Join Us for our March 15 Pub Night

Our annual tradition...a high-energy evening of Irish tales, poems, songs, and of course food, beer, and whisky! It always sells out early and it is always one of the highlights of the year. Don’t forget your tickets!

If you like to cook, bring a plate of food with an Irish flair and you can deduct $5 from your ticket price. Please send an email to athena317@gmail.com to tell us what you're bringing.

March 15, 7:00-9:00 pm

Downtown Fine Spirits and Wines
103 S. Wasatch Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Scott Cairns speaks on community

Scott Cairns speaks on community

In our September 5 conversation with poet Scott Cairns, we explored the nature of Christian community in light of the human condition.

Photos from Year Kickoff Party

Photos from Year Kickoff Party

Anselm member artists joined 50 of our supporters for a special evening to kick off our year, hosted in the lovely home of Clay and Sally Clarkson.

Join Us: Christianity and Story

A three-part class at 10am at Holy Trinity.

Brian Brown, Director of the Anselm Society

 

Week 1 (Feb 1): How do we tell stories?

Do we as Christians have compelling stories to tell our friends? Our culture? Our children? Or are we an increasingly insular minority, speaking only in “family friendly” God-talk with easy answers that don’t stick—either with non-Christians or with our children as they grow up? This week will explore how the Bible uses story, focusing on the prophets and Christ, and continue into how we as Christians can tell great stories that shake people—including ourselves—out of the darkness of their circumstances into the light of truth.

Week 2 (Feb 8): How do we listen to stories?

Bible stories, fairy tales, Christmas morning…they all have one thing in common: they’re for kids. Or are they? What if we had a cradle-to-adulthood conception of Christianity? What if we knew what to do with stories as adults? This week will explore the proper role of stories in the lifelong Christian identity—whose story we’re in, how to listen for truth in stories (instead of looking for reasons to discount them), and how to build and pass on a Christian identity that stands the test of time.

Week 3 (Feb 15): How do we illustrate stories?

Are we Christians known for what we fear, and what we forbid? Are the good things about Christianity all invisible? This week will put it all together, covering the relationships between goodness, truth, and beauty in Christian theology and worship—and how our understanding of story can move from what we tell to how we live.

Imagination Isn't Safe

Why my generation has done everything from kiss dating goodbye to give up Harry Potter in unnecessary penance.

Michelle Hindman

__________________

When I attended summer camp growing up I would frequently hear 2 Corinthians 10:5 brandished about, reminding me to "take every thought captive." This admonition was usually applied to the topic of lust, but made me feel generally guilty about every thing, from thinking a boy was cute to reading "secular" books. Their interpretation of the command implied taking a Jack Bauer-like approach to any passing thoughts not sufficiently "God-centered" and beating them into sniveling submission. It seemed we were to practice a kind of thinkstop, an Orwellian mind control in which orthodoxy comes, not from the heart, but from constant vigilance.

That kind of intense focus epitomized, supposedly, the mind-made-captive-to-Christ. I had friends break up with unoffending significant others to "focus on God" instead. This attitude explains why my generation has done everything from kiss dating goodbye to give up Harry Potter in unnecessary penance. It was primarily a position of defensiveness and fear, driven by the anxiety that the regions of the imagination, and also the products of it, were full of danger and sin unless tightly controlled. This disengagement disguised itself as piety, but was instead simply dismissal; it was a refusal to risk venturing into territory not thoroughly comfortable, pre-approved, and sufficiently "God-centered" -- as though the presence of God's beauty in the world was dictated only by our concentration on Him.

This anxiety is all too often reinforced by much of what Christian culture deems to be distinctly "Christian art." With an emphasis on tidy morality and an avoidance of ambiguity, we believe that the imagination can be rendered safe. Stories are sanitized to the point of becoming saccharine or ludicrous. This is all done in the name of protecting our minds, taking captive even our entertainment so it will not pose a threat to our sanctity.

(Continued below)
_____________________________

IMG_6583-2-wb-690x1024Register now for the Anselm Society's event with Dr. Michael Ward, C.S. Lewis expert and author of Planet Narnia:

"Is Faith Without Imagination Dead? C.S. Lewis on Imagination and the Christian Life"

Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 6:30pm at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Gleneagle

Register

_____________________________
 

 

But what if we assume that a Christian's imagination is formed in God's image? Unleashed, it might more reflect C.S. Lewis' Aslan – not safe, but good. Christ commanded his disciples to resist defining holiness by what things are avoided or by who is left out. This sort of disengagement keeps things simple, but robs us of real righteousness and faith. Our goodness has never been defined by that which we, by our own power, control. The faithful Christian knows that the only righteous posture is not one of defensiveness, but one of humble receptivity to the God who alone gives all good things. I cannot presume to give a decisive list of the things which Christians should and should not pursue; that is a line that only individuals can draw, with the guidance of the Spirit. I would suggest instead, however, that we flee the temptation to put imagination on "lockdown" out of fear, as I and so many others have in the past.

A Christian's imagination should not be defined by the things it avoids or rejects, in pride or in fear. Instead, a Christian's imagination should be set apart by a radical hope. Our scriptural precedent is one of incredible inclusiveness: bring in the Gentiles, lower the sheet full of 'unclean foods' to kill and eat as clean, use the altar to the "unknown God" as a starting point for conversation. We are not called to be iconoclasts, but rather seekers of God's image everywhere, for "Christ plays in ten thousand places." Awakening our imaginations, and partaking in a wide variety of imaginative works, displays trust in the goodness of God's creation and the prevalence of his grace rather than in our own legalism. We need not plunge into that which is offensive or utterly counter to Christian virtue, but we can, more than others, wade through dark content and still maintain a sense of the light. We can read Job and we can watch Christopher Nolan. We have nothing to fear.

We must, therefore, trust that the God who made our imaginations also does not fear, but rather delights in our use of them. We are not called to thinkstop, but to allow our imaginations also to be fruitful and multiply. We must hope that the Beauty which calls to us, secular and sacred, is not a distraction, but rather a direct path to the God who made all good and beautiful things. Whether the Rolling Stones or Bach, we can see God's creative image everywhere in human creation. Our goodness is not defined by how many rogue thoughts we can capture and control, but by the One who captivates our whole imaginations. We must be known not for what we renounce, but for what we affirm and welcome.

Share with friends:

Michelle Hindman is an instructor of English Literature at a classical school in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is a graduate of Westmont College. She is currently enthusiastic to be working with her church on behalf of the St. Anselm Society, which is rekindling a renaissance of the Christian imagination within the church community.

 
This post was originally published by the John Jay Institute, and is re-posted with permission.

Truth Without Clichés

Mixing Discourses to Write About Religious Experience

Heather Walker Peterson

__________________

“In a culture where every phrase of God-talk has become a cliché, finding a new God-talk requires a journey into an unknown land; and dragons wait on the other side. To reach beyond the trivial, to use words about grace that are different from those used before, to give a startling new take on conversion, is to risk having stones thrown at one for heresy. The evangelical shorthand is not only simpler but safer.”1

So ends a review of a novel published by a Christian house. The reviewer, Susan Wise Bauer, critiqued the conversion scene of the book for being “abstract” and dependent on “overused phrases.” Bauer went on to explain that she had committed similar errors: she once received a letter from the historian Mark Noll in which he gently commented that the “God talk” in one of her novels had floundered.

Bauer explains that “God-talk,” language about religious experience, lacks “vivid clarity.” Devout Christians are hard pressed to be theologically accurate in their writing, but unfortunately that accuracy is often limited to a logos-centered accuracy, an accuracy reliant on specific abstract words with specific definitions. The impact of the meaning, the pathos-centered or emotional accuracy, produced by fresh imagery, is lost.

When we believe there is only one right way to say something, then those words have become authoritative. The literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin understood the authoritative use of words through his experiences with the Russian Orthodox Church and the government of Lenin and Stalin. According to Bakhtin, if “discourse” is a social group’s language usage, “authoritative discourse” is a category that “demands our unconditional allegiance.”2 Certain words become all important, and then “the context around [them] dies, words dry up.” He states, “For this reason the authoritative text always remains, in the novel, a dead quotation, something that falls out of the artistic context (for example, the evangelical texts in Tolstoy at the end of Resurrection).”

What is a Christian writer to do?

(Continued below)
_____________________________

IMG_6583-2-wb-690x1024Register now for the Anselm Society's event with Dr. Michael Ward, C.S. Lewis expert and author of Planet Narnia:

"Is Faith Without Imagination Dead? C.S. Lewis on Imagination and the Christian Life"

Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 6:30pm at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Gleneagle

Register

_____________________________

Writing about the need for imagination in biblical interpretation, theologian Kevin Vanhoozer insists that “God’s original intention for language—its design plan . . . was to be a tool for exploring the world, for interacting with other people, for getting to know God.” He argues against the postmodern view of “despair” toward language and instead insists on “delight”3: “the main reason we can delight in language is that we believe language is God-given (and hence reliable), and that we believe there is something beyond language in which our poems, our propositions and our prayers all point: the reality of the Creator and the created order.” In this delight, “the imagination is both enabled and constrained” with the biblical text.

By applying tired theological wording to religious experience, Christian authors are ironically showing their despair of language—that if they don’t use the “right” words, their meaning will be misunderstood or truth will be misrepresented. Instead these writers have the opportunity to delight in language, exploring the world with words and creating a pathos-centered accuracy for their readers. It takes a fearless Christian writer to play with imagery that is not explicitly Christian and a wise one if imagination is to be constrained by the historic interpretation of scripture. Or it takes a writer with no fear of God and the Church. Perhaps that is why a conversion scene where I didn’t lift my eyes off the page and mumble, “Oh here we go,” was written by an author with no claim to Christianity—Mischa Berlinski, a self-described secular Jew.

David Walker, in Berlinski’s Fieldwork, is an adult missionary kid who meanders with members of the Lot of the Grateful Dead for four years.4) One day he goes to the Lot, ticket-less, and hangs a pizza box around his neck, scrawling on it, “I need a miracle.” He is given a ticket, has a “bong hit,” and “somewhere in the second set, just after ‘Uncle John’s Band,’ when the miracle happened, and what could it be but a miracle? David heard the angels singing.” Jerry plays a hymn about the parable of the lost sheep that David knew from his childhood; he “felt his soul separate from his body and he knew that he had died and was being welcomed into Heaven. Now he had come Home.”

How does Berlinski get away with a convincing conversion scene (about two pages of text in the book)? He mixes discourses—what Bakhtin called heteroglossia. Throughout the book, Berlinski’s narrator, an outsider to the story, points out multiple discourses by capitalizing certain words. David was “welcomed into Heaven. Now he had come Home.” This blending of discourses is clear earlier in the conversion scene where there is a sense of a baptism or a partaking of communion from the Grateful Dead: “The day was so hot that Bob started spraying the crowd down with water from the stage—and in the audience, someone thinks: Those are little drops of Bob himself, floating out of that rubber hose, little refreshing drops of Bob himself.”

Berlinksi never brings up the name of Jesus, using only symbol and later the language of Shepherd in the song, so the authoritative discourse of evangelicalism is subdued enough that it does not deaden readers’ experience of the conversion but still refers to the theological source. Berlinski also draws in imagery that echoes the worldview of Thai or Chinese mountainous indigenous groups. After David’s soul left his body, it peers from Heaven down to where the people his family had missionized, the Dyalo, lived. For the Dyalo, when someone died or a baby was born, the soul had to be gathered from wandering, similar to the beliefs of the Hmong, who were influential in Berlinski’s creation of the Dyalo people.5

Berlinski’s genius is in acknowledging through the various imagery the variety of explanations for David’s religious experience—biologically, the effect of marijuana; psychologically, the loneliness of separation from family and the emotional influence of music; and spiritually, the collective belief of the Dyalo as well as God’s working of David’s return to Himself. If Christian writers attempted this, they would likely be accused of universalism, of watering down the handiwork of God.

And yet wouldn’t the use of mixed discourses demonstrate a faith in a God authoring a complex world, a God making use of the Balaam’s ass of marijuana or unfolding the individual narrative of a psyche? There are usually multiple explanations for our behavior and experiences. But Berlinski doesn’t leave the scene with readers sorting through a mishmash of discourses. His final technique is one that Christians could emulate.

His narrator frames the conversion scene with one theological term: “miracle.” He mentions it at the beginning–“I need a miracle”–and end–“In the story that the Walkers told of themselves, this was the miracle that brought David back home.” For the Walkers, other interpretations or stories of David’s conversion were subsumed within the greater story of Christianity. Berlinksi, who conducted in-depth research on missionaries for his novel, shows his characters’ belief that David’s experience, despite its other explanations, “point[s]” ultimately “to a Creator and created order” (in the words of Vanhoozer).

This is writing that evokes life, lively rather than deadening, representing a pathos-centered accuracy along with a hint of logos-centered accuracy to remain true to its characters. This is writing to which fearless Christian authors, without despair for language or their readers, could rise.

 

Heather Walker Peterson, Ph.D., is a member of the St. Anselm Society in Colorado Springs. She has taught at University of Northwestern–St. Paul. She now writes and mothers two young and remarkably different daughters. She is on Twitter @languageNfaith.

This post was originally published by the John Jay Institute, and is re-posted with permission.