The United States is a Christian nation, and we are the greatest nation on earth…at least if measured in terms of how much gross revenue made from the sales of weapons. In all seriousness, though, most of these sales of weapons go to “developing nations,” which means that 1) the weapons do great harm, landing in the hands of tyrants and war lords in unstable countries and 2) these weapons can more easily find their way into the hands of terrorists. Karma, though, what goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. We create the terrorists that we so greatly fear and that cause us to enter ill-advised, unwinnable wars that divide us, cause us to go into great debt, and further destabilize the world.
Plot Summary: A young Nigerian woman travels to America, discovers race and blackness, and navigates a wide range of deep experiences that are intense and demanding.
What I most appreciated: The author digs into the various experiences of Africa and of America and of the lived experience of what it means to be “black.” It truly feels like a privilege to read a narrative so well-crafted and yet also so deeply informative, something that the author conveys through the characters and the story.
An important novel? Very. The discussions of race are open and raw, difficult for the characters and for the reader, but very timely in this so-called “post-racial, America.” In addition to the deep discussions of race, the author manages to speak to 21st century people navigating their lives in global and multicultural societies. Takes you into both the intellectual and emotional element.
A classic novel, an important novel, and a novel historically set just before the implementation of Apartheid, Cry, The Beloved Country illuminates a nation on the fragile edge of possibility, a nation whose white power structure would soon choose to plunge the nation deeper into darkness and chaos, and yet in this novel, Alan Paton does what great novelists do: he illuminates the people living the reality presenting both a panoramic of perspectives along side a nuanced and detailed examination of the subtle textures of diverse peoples, cultures, and points of view in collision, all struggling among and against each other, grappling with their fears and seeking a way forward in a time where wisdom and compassion were so desperately needed.
What if Bob Dylan had never sold a record? Imagine that.
Imagine that none of us have ever listened to one of America’s greatest singer-songwriters. What if one our most icononic musicians had cut two albums – just two – but we’ve never heard the songs, we’ve never heard ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ or ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ or ‘Watchtower’ or ‘Tangled Up in Blue’? Try to picture an America where no one in 60s counter-culture had ever heard ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’, because maybe Dylan had to hang it up early because his albums just didn’t sell, so he had to be realistic and work a construction job to provide for his family. And maybe way back in the day you actually worked with Dylan – think of that – but instead of being an icon, he was just “Bob” to you, one of the guys, and that was a long time ago. He used to play music, you recall, he mentioned that, but you actually never heard Bob play, come to think about it. Then one day you discover that those two albums he cut all those decades back are super sensations overseas and that they’ve have helped to inspire a resistance to totalitarian rule in a land far away….See the rest of my review at Cinema Faith.
That’s me in the photo, about two years ago. It was the last time I completed an extended meditation retreat. A few months before the retreat, I was sitting in my office, in the village of Sinoni, a few miles from the city of Arusha in Tanzania. I was volunteering as the Finance Manager for a non-profit, and I had discovered that for a little over $300, I could fly to India and back. I couldn’t pass that up. Read more
Let me clarify that this blog post is not about church-bashing. It’s not really even so much about church, actually, now that I think about it. (So, if you are one of my non-believing friends or family, you can safely continue reading.) My original intention was to write about my experience at a Columbus church last Sunday and contrast it with my own interpretation of Jesus and how it inspires me. This would involve a bit of criticism, yes. But it would be in a spirit of generosity. And it wouldn’t be about church-bashing. I respect that different people go to different churches, and I respect that choice. If a particular church is working for you, then, yo. Go for it.
But this post has to be more than that. My story of attending this church is about something much deeper and more personal. Really, it’s a story about the broken heart that I brought back from Africa.
Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. – Paul in his Letter to the Romans
Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. – Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians
My theology of homosexuality is described thusly. That being gay was considered by biblical authors like Paul to be “unnatural” and as such was wrong. But there were other things considered to be unnatural as well, like having long hair, or having women as equals and as leaders. Likewise, slavery was also considered natural by many ancient worldviews.
Initially when I purchased my cheap ticket via Orbitz, I was worried about having to spend almost 48 hours in transit, the bulk of the wait being a 16 hour layover in Qatar. As luck would have it, my long layover qualified me for a stay at a hotel, with transportation and meals provided. Lucky me. This is the view from my room. Doha, Qatar is filthy rich, off of fossil fuels, of course, and they are currently modernizing and diversifying their economy, resulting in an economic boom and grand building projects such as the one just outside my hotel room. Surrounded by desert, the parabolic warning about “building castles in the sand” comes to mind. But Doha is merely a metaphor for the situation of all humanity right now. We have overextended ourselves to the point where our earth cannot support us. Still, we keep building, using the wealth of a resource that is running low.
Very pleasantly surprised at the diversity and spottings in Arusha National Park. Less than an hour’s drive. We had a great day.
An amazing day on the African Savannah.
To confess, I’m becoming increasingly addicted to African novels, ever since Chinua Achebe’s magnificent Things Fall Apart, which is the African novel to top the canonical collection of them all. But Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible has me hooked. Kingsolver is easily one of my favorite novelists. She is a master storyteller, and in The Poisonwood Bible, she weaves the stories of four girls and a mother who are taken to the Congo, in 1959, by their Baptist preacher father, a driven, angry man intent on converting the natives to the salvation of Jesus Christ.
I’m amazed at Kingsolver’s ability to weave the stories of the family together, in the voices of each of the women of the family. The writing entertains, intrigues, then entertains some more. Then, when you are completely submerged in the narrative, Kingsolver nails you in the back of the head with a profound post-colonial insight.
We are a getting the “long rains” early here in East Africa. No worries. In some of the spots in coastal Alaska that I’ve inhabited, this kind of rain never stops. It’s kind of soothing, actually. We have power tonight, so I’ve decided to spend my Valentine’s Day evening finishing up Into the Wild, the story of Chris McCandless, an adventurous, idealistic, and romantic young American guy in his early twenties who dies in the Alaskan wilderness back in 1992 while attempting to survive a summer on ten pounds of rice and whatever he could hunt and forage. I’ve been reading this book a little bit at a time over the span of about four months, having found it in our Food Water Shelter library, which, though exceedingly small in our number if books is nonetheless dense with intriguing reading material.
A few pictures of my recent travels. Read more