A response to Prince EA's Why I Think the World Should End video

A daily prayer: May today be about love not experienced as an emotional response...instead, a fierce commitment one to another characterized by:  an acknowledgment of a shared creator, respect and a sense of responsibility for others, and an orientation towards others infused with an ethic of care calling us to action. 

So thankful my parents were people for whom relationship was the most important thing...

Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/pCZq5tVnbwU

A Leader's Call to Radical Hospitality Graduate Commencement Speech

What a treat to return to my alma mater, Lincoln Christian University, to speak at the 71st ceremony....  An extra special treat because I was the first woman in their history to speak at commencement!   The speech is entitled A Leader's Call to Radical Hospitality (subtitle:  Lessons Learned from a dog named Lovee).      Dr. Green's  Introduction begins at 10:09 and the speech begins at 21:10 through 38:39.

Excerpt:

It seems as though we are at a juncture in human history where we must intentionally consider Francis Schaffer’s question of how shall we than live.   Our human tendency to categorize, connect with those like us, and to declare difference as not right but wrong has profound implications in an increasingly pluralist society.  This is our leadership challenge.  Drath (2001), a leadership scholar questioned “How can people who make sense of. . . the world from differing worldviews” work together? (p. 125).  How indeed?   By demonstrating hospitality we might create more welcoming spaces and orientation towards others.  

Stone Campbell Dialogues: Addressing Race and Racism Within the Church and Society

From the outset I sensed that a conversation about race and racism would be a tough conversation.  These sorts of topics are maddening in their personal and systemic reach and difficulty.  Replete with images and messages depicting Black and White Americans, our media highlights challenges on a regular basis.  So it was that a group of Christians committed to dialogue, conversation, and frankness convened to explore Black and White within the church in the United States.

 Mural by Ernest Shaw, Baltimore 401 East Lafayette Street    http://www.examiner.com/article/baltimore-artist-creates-images-to-uplift-communities  

Mural by Ernest Shaw, Baltimore 401 East Lafayette Street  http://www.examiner.com/article/baltimore-artist-creates-images-to-uplift-communities  

Logistics

Held November 13 and 14 - Our dialogue was sponsored by the Stone Campbell Dialogues, facilitated in partnership with the Racial Unity Leadership Summit, and hosted by Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, Maryland and West Side Church of Christ, Baltimore, Maryland.  

Affectionately called the Stone Campbell Dialogues, this annual gathering brings together representatives from the Christian Church, Churches of Christ, and Disciples of Christ  historically rooted in the Stone Campbell or Restoration Movement.  These conversations exist to develop relationship and trust. . . through worship and through charitable and frank dialogue."  I joined the National dialogue team in 2012 representing the Christian Church tradition - this is truly a highlight of my year.  I hold my co-dialogue partners in the highest regard!  

The Racial Unity Leadership Summit (RULS), founded by Dr. Jerry Taylor, Abilene Christian University, is a a national program of the Churches of Christ, focused upon inspiring unity among people of different races and cultures.  RULS emphasis on contemplation and transformation speaks to my commitment to creating transformative learning spaces:   

When blacks and whites become partners in a contemplative community, they can experience together the transformation of their conscious and subconscious minds. It is when people sit together in silence that they give their souls the opportunity to communicate with one another in a spiritual language that is not of this world. Authentic racial unity grows out of an authentic spiritual union between human souls that are jointly connected to the divine life of God. It is only when their attachment to the life of God has complete supremacy in their hearts that people find the strength to release their attachment to the color of skin.

Dr. Jerry Taylor of Abilene Christian University serves as the RULS director.    What follows are highlights from each presenter.  I should say a word about target audience for this dialogue is primarily Christians; therefore, I have intentionally used the vernacular of each presenter.  I realize that a downside of this may be a sort of "Christian-ese" language and vocabulary. 

Speakers and Notes

Newell Williams (President, Brite Divinity School) opened our time together highlighting our Stone Campbell Movement history saying that racism has been a part of the Stone Campbell tradition....."Since the beginning..."

Don McLaughlin, preaching minister of the North Atlanta Church of Christ in Atlanta, Georgia will serve as the program director for the Baltimore Stone-Campbell Dialogue/RULS.

“We don’t have the vocabulary” to discuss race relations currently or presently.  He then noted that while our conversation specifically focused on African American and White relations, this focus required attention to three parameters:  1)  To the females in the room, we are behind the game in addressing gender roles and issues; 2)  This conversation does not address other minorities and peoples for whom racial injustice occurs; and 3)  We must have an open hear to be educated.

Daryl Reed, Lead Pastor of DC Regional Christian Church - That the World May Believe

In referring to John 17, Daryl reminded of the focus:  “so that the world may believe.”  He noted relative to apologetics that love is the strongest defense, experiencing the love of Christ as embodied and enacted in His people.  He asked:  How did we get so much right and miss the big stuff?  “When we are completely connected to Jesus, we will do what it takes.  Citing Joshua 1:9, Daryl exhorted that it will take courage and leadership to begin to address race issues. 

~ Transition ~

After Daryl’s talk, Don questioned whether ‘color blindness’ is really what we’re after given that color blindness:

·        Requires that I see less of you

·        Possible creates less to deal with

·        Denies the fullness of a person’s being

“Do you have to know me less to love me more?"  Unity [in the John 17 sense] is the expression of how we live with difference.  

Doug Foster, Professor of Church History, Abilene Christian UniversityThe Great Deception: How Satan Created Our Perceptions of Race and Deprived Us of Christian Unity

Doug started with a reading of 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 – specifically:  6 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. . . . .  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.” 

The United States story is perpetually filled with conflict and oppression of peoples.  If we look historically within the United States, race is seared into the US DNA (e.g., slavery, US Civil War, Jim Crow Laws, Civil Rights, incarceration, Black Lives Matter, etc.).  Using excerpts from the film:    Race – The Power of An Illusion  While we are founded on the ideal of All Men Are Created Equal, the US created a story around the idea of race, an idea that led to notions of that black and slave were synonymous.  In an 1846 debate of ‘species’ Samuel Morton put for a notion that blacks were inferior based on skull size.  Josiah Nott further argued that blacks are a different species.  These ideas served to naturalize a social structure where blacks were subhuman, inferior to whites.  Doug emphasized that this creation of a perception of blacks’ inferiority does not go away when Morton and Nott’s flawed science is debunked, does not go away when slavery is gone, and does not go away with civil rights.  The rationale does not disappear even if it is flawed once it becomes enculturated.   The film Ethnic Notions explored anti-black stereotypes highlighting how popular culture reinforces stereotypes:

·        Black is ugly – standards of beauty, comparatives, distortions of black images

·        Blacks are savage – African = primitivism, reversion to savagery

·        Blacks are happy servants – sambo, Uncle, etc.; dancing, singing, big smile

Project Implicit is a test that explores a person’s thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.  https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/  

  Mural by Ernest Shaw, Baltimore 401 East Lafayette Street

Mural by Ernest Shaw, Baltimore 401 East Lafayette Street

~ Transition ~

Don discussed the challenge of systemic racism noting the difficulties of moving forward because trust is simply not present.  “It’s hard to face [that as a white male] I am complicit.”

Travis Stanley, Pastor of Norwalk Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Norwalk, Iowa - Disrupting White Supremacy from Within

Whiteness is often portrayed as the antithesis of blackness.  Whites created race as a construct.  Cone (2014) in the Cross and the Lynching Tree asserted that white theologians ignore race.  Racism is a white problem.  Disrupting White Supremacy notes the following:

  • ·Locating ourself in this life sucking system malforms us as white people. 
  • ·Acknowledge the oppressive system.  Name it.
  • · Uncouple white ‘maleness’ from the discussion.  This is not about feelings, it’s about systemized superiority.  Need to dismantle the system. 

The reconciliation paradigm has failed us – it is inadequate.  Travis referenced The Black Manifesto of 1969 which was written to white churches.  Relationship is not the problem.  Power is the problem.  He called for reparations. 

~Transition~

Don asked:  Why do some white people get offended by the notion of white supremacy?  White privilege is not solely about resources, it’s about access.  

Travis Hurley, Vice President of Development, Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri - The Next Generation Must Be Better

How did we get so far from the truth?  

David Fleer,  Professor of Bible and Communication, Lipscomb University -  How to Talk About Racism: The Art of Scapegoating

Truth telling is a prerequisite to reconciliation.  Scapegoating prohibits my seeing.    

Reflections

This was a day where childhood memories came flooding in from a life lived in a small town in the 1960s and 1970s.  'Diversity' where I was raised was often described in terms of Catholics and Protestants.   So many stories though... I don't recall any African Americans in our town or school.  Life revolved around work, school, church, and family - sporting events were popular.  It was told that African Americans could not be in town after sundown although an exception was made for athletic teams.  So many memories... As a young child in the mid-60s returning from family vacation we were driving through East Saint Louis when one of my brothers said the N-word.  Daddy pulled the car over and yelled at us to never ever say that word. Momma reflecting on working at an ammunition plan in Texas in the late 1940s/early 1950s where she supervised a crew of black men saying that when her boss asked if she was afraid of the blacks she said No! - she was a whole lot more afraid of the white male truckers - they weren't afraid of repercussion...hearing Mom describe the time when the Ku Klux Klan came down the center aisle of the church with a gift.  I recall a time in Sunday School when we were asked to describe what it meant to be unequally yoked in 2 Corinthians 6:14 - I said it was a discussion about belief and nonbelief but was informed that this was about interracial marriage - don't yoke yourself to someone who's not your kind.  ...so many images and stories.  I wonder about my unquestioned or unrecognized biases and assumptions.

December 12

For a million reasons I didn't publish this blog post.  I guess I felt as though it were way too summative with little substance....I found myself fearful that it would seem to light brush a topic that is so vital and important.   This week, however, I am reeling in response to persistent hateful rhetoric stemming from what I perceive to be feelings of national boundary setting, fear of decreased security, and X-phobia (black, Hispanic, Muslim, homosexual, non-US citizen OR any other category).  The news and social media included a litany of calls to:  deny all Muslims access; prohibit refugee entry, monitor mosques, kick everyone out, build a wall, see entire groups as this or that (gross negative assertions about entire groups of people), blow 'em all to hell, arm yourself with guns and protect yourself from terrorists.. ....on and on it went.  Hateful.  Bigoted. Isolationist. Dangerous. Murderous language.  Rhetoric justified by its communicants as okay due to concerns about national boundaries, security, fear, otherness, and judgment.  

Clearly, I understand the fear that one could be in a movie theater and there be an attack - a fear of dire consequences related to being in the wrong place at the wrong time; a sense of shaken reality stemming from monitoring one's surroundings looking for things out of whack.  It's odd for my husband and I who both travel for work to talk about a contingency communication plan should there be a terrorist attack somewhere where we are or that prohibits our travel.  I understand that we are thinking differently, we are more cautious. Yet - in the face of possible horrors the call to love and be hospitable is ever present.  God's grace is never ending and in response we must strive to extend grace.  I don't know how we do this but I know we are called to do so - no exceptions.  I find myself praying for a time of silence and meditation - it feels like we are at a time in history of amped and intensifying communication, hatred, bigotry with accompanying negative actions.      Some Scriptures important to my understanding include:  John 17, Mark 12, and Hebrews 2. Jesus said his followers are in the world but not of the world.  Our national citizenry lessens in comparison to our identification with Jesus and his kingdom.  In Mark 12 and Hebrews 2 - Christians are called to love your neighbor and be hospitable to strangers.  These passages are swirling through my mind as I try to process this dialogue and discussion around race evoking the following thoughts:

  • Orientation - We are called to orient ourselves to others with love, hospitality, and with a focus on unity.  
  • Unity is NOT about agreement, e.g., agreeing to a specific interpretation or doctrine but again one of orientation one toward another. 
  • Citizenship - Believers' citizenship (God's Kingdom) ultimately transcends locational citizenry.
  • Love and hospitality are required...even to strangers...those not like us, we don't know.  There are no expressed boundaries to our call to love and be hospitable.  
  • Grace - this is a challenging concept to understand (God's grace, by God's grace) but also as in extending grace to others AS it has been extended to us.
  • Political correctness leaves little room for conversational grace where people seek understanding and revelation of thoughts and assumptions.  In digging deep, we likely are to say things that can be perceived as 'racist' - yet in the spirit of dialogue and grace we must talk with one another.  
  • 2D thinking and rhetoric (right/wrong; black/white, etc.) minimize the complexity of this conversation and are not that useful in their opposition and hierarchy.
  • Bridge building - there must be leaders committed to creating opportunities for dialogue and opportunities to discuss these issues, raise awareness, and seek restoration.

At the outset of this post, I said that the Dialogue I attended was a dialogue of fellow Christians trying to highlight issues of race as a way of fostering understanding and conversation. This week I have seen far too many instances of Christians joining in with the negative assertions and hateful language.  Sigh.  I'm reminded of my grad school ethics professor who said that the call to be a follower of Jesus is the most demanding call - one where a person transcends the tyranny of the day in response to grace through expressions of love and hospitality for others...even when those expressions are difficult and seemingly non-nonsensical.    

Resources

Foster, D. (2015).  Raising Consciousness—White Privilege & Creation of Race, Annotated Bibliography.  Download PDF  (Shared with permission from D. Foster, 11/2015).  

Taylor, M. (2015).  Moving Beyond Color Blind.  Retrieved from  http://christianstandard.com/2015/12/moving-beyond-color-blind/

Press Release. (2015).  http://christianstandard.com/2015/11/race-unity-topics-at-stone-campbell-dialogue/

Book: Concerning the #Spiritual in #Art by Wassily Kandinsky

There's something about art...I can spend hours in museums, streets, books  exploring and reading about artists, art, and the varying explanations and philosophies.   I like the way Helen Mirren described her love of art:  "Just a note of a song can make you feel something and likewise a painting can make you feel the same thing."   Ahhh, yes...an experience beyond words.  

About Kandinsky's art, Mirren noted the seeming "chaos and randomness but organized. . . [an] incredible contradiction."  When I see a Kandinsky I experience fascination, beauty, and geometry - I wanted to read more about his ideas, then I found his book:  Concerning the Spiritual in Art.  I should state from the outset that I have no formal training in art or art history -  thus, I am just a girl trying to make sense of this book.  [Source:  All images of Kandinsky's art retrieved from WassilyKandinsky.net and are for noncommercial use.]

Background

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was born in Moscow, studied law and economics, and then turned at the age of 30 to a life of art and art theory.  Early examples of his works include Kochel Lake with Boat (1902), Blue Mountain (1908/1909), Murnau Street with Women (1908), and 304 (1910).  

Per WassilyKandinsky.net, Kandinsky experienced four movements throughout his work:  1911-1914  Blue Rider Period; 1914-1921 Returning to Russia; 1922-1933 Bauhaus, and 1934-1944 Biomorphic Abstraction.

1911-1914  Blue Rider Period

Untitled (1910) is considered Kandinsky's first abstract painting and by some as the first abstract painting in general.    He wrote Concerning the Spiritual in Art in 1912. 

1910 Untitled first abstract water color.jpg

One of my favorite pieces from this period.  

 1913  Color Study Squares With Concentric Circles

1913  Color Study Squares With Concentric Circles

1914-1921  Returning to Russia

Some favorites from this period:  Blue Crest (1917); Overcast (1917); and White Line (1920).  

1922-1933 Bauhaus

This is my favorite period!  Circles in a Circle (1923); Two Movements (1924); In Blue (1925); and Dark Freshness (1927).

1934 - 1944 Biomorphic Abstraction

Gentle Ascent (1934); Gravitation (1935); Orange Violet (1935)

Thoughts on Concerning the Spiritual in Art

I’ll have to say I feel like I have only gleaned the surface of Kandinsky’s meaning relative to the spiritual in art.  What follows are some key themes that spoke to me:

Art offers revolutionary possibility and is the sphere turned to in time of societal stress, breakdown, and chaos. “When religion, science and morality are shaken. . . . when the outer supports threaten to fall, man turns his gaze from externals in on to himself.  Literature, music and art are the first and most sensitive spheres in which this spiritual revolution makes itself felt” (p. 25). 

Artists and their art connects humans to a deeper or transcendent meaning.    “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist” (citing Schumann, p. 16).  “No other power can take the place of art. . . at times when the human soul is gaining greater strength, art will grow in power, the two are inextricably connected” (p. 63). 

Art communicates – without the use of words.  I’m increasingly tired of the primacy of words and speech acts as the preferred communication method – particularly when the rhetoric is 2D, hateful, and divisive.  “At different points along the road are the different arts, saying what they are best able to say, and in the language (emphasis mine) which is peculiarly their own” (p. 31). 

One’s hermeneutic must move beyond impression or observation (what the art is, what it depicts, or its specific configuration or construction) to an allowance for the art to communicate its meaning.  “Our materialistic age has produced a type of spectator or ‘connoisseur,’ who is not content to put himself opposite a picture and let it say its own message.  Instead of allowing the inner value of the picture to work. . . . his eye does not probe the outer expression to arrive at the inner meaning” (p. 58).  

Kandinsky's Spiritual Triangle represents a societal and personal progression from solely material to spiritual concerns where the primary movement is influenced by artists and their work.   “Painting is an art, and art is not vague production, transitory and isolated, but a power which be directed to the improvement and refinement of the human soul – to, in fact, the raising of the spiritual triangle” (p. 62).  

Kandinsky triangle.png

In describing the triangle, Kandinsky spoke of an artist's Inner Need where :  “(1)  Every artist, as a creator, has something in him which calls for expression (this is the element of personality).  (2)  Every artist, as a child of his age, is compelled to express the spirit of his age (this is the element of style).  (3)  Every artist, as a servant of art, has to help the cause of art (this is the element of pure artistry [the top of the pyramid]” (p. 43).  Prophets are those artists who move from art for art's sake extending the expression of the age's spirit or accepted forms of expression.  Kandinsky noted that the spiritual prophets [artists], whom he also described as eccentric and solitary visionaries,  are capable of “seeing beyond [each] segment” (pp. 18, 19).  This seeing beyond creates a spiritual movement of transcendence beyond our physical and material condition, a movement with influential power relative to our collective meaning and experiences.  Kandinsky used particularly derisive tones relative to Art for art’s sake, a retrogression from the spiritual:  “The vulgar herd stroll through the rooms and pronounce the pictures ‘nice’ or ‘splendid’. . . . this neglect of inner meanings. . . . this vain squandering of artistic power is called ‘art for art’s sake’” (p. 16).  Perhaps his tone is related to what his belief that humans “hunger consciously or, much more often, unconsciously for their corresponding spiritual food” (p. 18).  

So What?

My curiosity about this notion of 'spiritual in art' arises from a bias that there's something about aesthetic experience that facilitates a moment where humans transcend individual interest solely captivated by the awe or beauty of the experience of art, music, theater, dance, etc.  I've stood before works where people were like wow! and felt this sense that undivided attention was toward the wowness such that individual concerns were suspended but for a moment.   Additionally, a few years ago I researched the worldview and leadership of Vaclav Havel a playwright who later became president of Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic).  Since I studied his life and learned about his 'spirituality' grounded in a sense of connectedness and responsibility - I am fascinated by the special role, power, and influence artists have in society.  In Havel's case, a playwright and his cadre inspired the Velvet Revolution.  Kandinsky's work provides a framework via the triangle to understand art and artist's importance beyond the material toward meaning, purpose and transcendence.  I realize in using the word transcendence I'm not defining it - this too is a term I want to learn more about.  Reading Kandinsky is but a starting point in this exploration - finally, this work was written early in Kandinsky's career - it would be good to read more of his ideas to further clarify definition and meaning of key constructs:  spiritual, sacred, inner meaning, and inner need, for examples.  

Sources

WassilyKandinsky.net Retrieved from http://www.wassilykandinsky.net/

Kandinsky, W., & Sadler, M.T.H. (2010). Concerning the spiritual in art.  Readaclassic.com   You can also download this book in PDF format.  

 

Concerning the Spiritual in Art
By Wassily Kandinsky

Source:  All images of Kandinsky's art retrieved from http://www.wassilykandinsky.net/  and are for noncommercial use.  

Book: The Artisan Soul by Erwin McManus

Crafting Your Life Into a Work of Art presents the byline and focus of Erwin McManus' book addressing humans as created beings.  His starting point, a theological commitment to God as creator, resonates with my fascination with creativity specifically that people create, are creative, and must express themselves.  Our creativity contributes to wildly various forms and genres.  And yet - somehow along the way some lose a sense of their creativity.  This loss manifests itself through expressions like "I'm not creative" or "I wish I were creative like that" or "I don't have a creative bone in my body."   In McManus' words, creativity is that which makes us uniquely human.  

To deny our creative nature is to choose a life where we are less and thus responsible for less. We see ourselves as created beings, so we choose to survive. When we see ourselves as creative beings, we must instead create.
— McManus, 2014, p. 7

The question asked:  "What if the creative act is not an act against nature but an expression of our nature?" (p. 9) moves us toward a reframing of notions around our creative capacity.  Too often, creativity is assigned to a nebulously identified 'creative class.' My question:  who are those people?   Admittedly, I'm guilty - I'm not an artist, I'm not creative, I'm not gifted....like that.  Notice the vagueness of 'that.'  Where does this negative inner voice come from?  Do you hear it in your head?  

McManus reminds us of the nature of art, creativity, and imagination (direct ""): 

  • Art exists to remind us that we have a soul, the essence of being human, transcendent (p. 14). 
  • Creativity is the natural result of spirituality (p. 17).     
  • The only art we can create is that which authentically reflects who we are. . . . every true artist fights for their creativity (pp. 18, 33).  
  • The role of the artist is partly to interpret the human story. . . . to be an interpreter of human possibility (p. 76).  
  • The soul feeds on the imagination. . . . imagination always precedes creativity (p. 101).
  • All art has an underlying narrative for which it advocates; all art is a declaration of meaning or the lack of it; all art is created both for self expression and for the extension of self (p. 106).   
  • Design thinking:  the process is informed less by the product than by the people it serves. . . . what matters is how what we create affects and serves humanity (p. 111).  
  • Art has in its universe words like creativity, inspiration, beauty, and imagination, but in that same universe are words like perseverance, resilience, tenacity, and discipline (p. 140).  

At the end of McManus' book, he provided a series of practices to foster soul work; find our voice; change our perspective, materialize dreams, become 'great' at our work; be human and reclaim our humanity; and live fully.    

This is one of many books on my reading list for a research project exploring creativity - McManus' contributes to my understanding of God as creator and how that creativity or capacity to create manifests itself in us.  Our need to create is essential, a way to create meaning and stories illustrative of who we are, our deepest beliefs, questions, fears, and messages.  Creativity is about voice - what needs to be said, what messages are vital.  Finally, creativity and the many forms it takes are revelatory of God's essence.  In other words, we learn something about Him when we witness, observe, and experience others' creation.  

Questions

How does our 'work' regardless of what it is contribute to our sense of creativity towards fostering imagination?  

How might the prevailing leadership style within an organization influence individual and collective capacities, imagination, courage, risk taking, and innovative possibilities?

What types of spaces contribute to one's sense of possibility, wonder, and imagination?

Once we experience a sense that "I'm not creative" how do we reclaim our essential nature as creative beings?

How do our educational approaches foster creativity, one's sense of and capacity to imagine, design, and create?