Thursday, February 26, 2009

L'Engle and the Art of Journaling


As discussed in class, it is interesting to note Madeleine L'Engle's style in writing a rather heavy theological reflection about the "eschaton" that is ironically presented as an informal, conversational thought-piece.

Seamlessly written, her journal entry is rooted in time and place, beginning with a description of setting both externally--that is, involving details of her physical environment--as well as details of her internal environment, the stuff of her heart and mind, of her lived experience. She uses the space in between the opening and closing of her entry to espouse a philosophy of life that is closely tied into all that is currently happening around her at the moment of her writing, two o'clock in the morning over a cup of hot bouillon.

That said, I would like you to create a journal entry of your own, written in the very style demonstrated in L'Engle's entry. Again, notice the pattern--an interwoven dynamic of setting, time, place, reflection on current experiences, setting, time, and place.

This assignment is essentially a free writing assignment, but it will require that you seek out a quiet space in your normal home environment. Root yourself in place and then simply write about what is on your heart and mind in the style of L'Engle. Fall into your own groove and just let your thoughts drift a la free writing. Be sure, however, to have a basic thrust--that is, theme--to keep your reflection focused, as with the in-class free write we did on Wednesday of this past week.

For L'Engle, the basic thrust of her piece is the "eschaton" as it relates to the liturgical season of Advent and as it relates to the day-to-day experiences of herself and those around her. Her eschatalogical vision, like Merton's, is one of hope. L'Engle writes, "The end of the world in the eschatalogical sense has nothing to do with pride or anger and it is not just the end of this one planet...It is the redemption, not the destruction of Creation" (3). Thus, the coming of the Kingdom, the end days is really about beginning.

Please structure everything according to MLA format, especially if you quote L'Engle for whatever reason. Meanwhile, I expect you to have a title for your entry as usual and to follow the typical header and heading formats of previous essays. Remember, however, that this is not so much an essay you are writing as it is a journal entry. Thus, you can get away with being a bit more informal in your writing. Just be sure to develop your thoughts fully and clearly! This should be at least three typed pages.

It is due next Wednesday, March 4, 2009.

Sister Peach, FSC

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Merton and the Meek: On Christian Non-Violence

In Thomas Merton's essay, "Blessed are the Meek" from Faith and Violence, the deceased Trappist monk and political activist of the twentieth century sets a theological basis for the manifestation of Christian non-violence in the modern world. His understanding of Christian non-violence is informed by the Beatitudes proffered by Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. As Merton would have it, Christ's eschatalogical vision for humanity is undergirded by meekness, humilty and hope--all central tenets of Christian non-violent resistence that is most efficacious when carried out according to seven conditions the famed monk proffers in "Blessed are the Meek."


Using the above prompt as an introductory paragraph to your next essay reflection, I would like you to craft a thought piece that is structured as follows:

Intro - provided

P 1 - give an explanation of what Merton means when he discusses that the non-violent resister is one who fights for everybody and who undergoes a transformation of self in and through God (cf. 15 - 17).

P 2 - give an explanation of what Merton ultimately means by both "meekness" and "resistence" and what the end goal of any form of non-violent, meek "resistence" is (cf. 17-20).

P 3 - summarize and interpret, relying on both paraphrases and direct quotes, the seven conditions Merton sets forth as the bases for Christian non-violence (cf. 21-27).

P 4 - interpret the relationships between "person-oriented" thinking and Christian non-violent resistence (cf. 28).

P 5 - conclude (without stating, "In conclusion," or "All in all") with a statement that gives a clear indication of what Merton's ultimate mandate it is for those seeking to settle conflict (cf. 29).

This reflection is due in my hands, according to MLA format on Wednesday, February 25, 2009.

If you have any issues regarding proper formatting, particularly with regard to incorporating and interpreting quotations--long or short--in(to) your text, please refer to the MLA guide distributed to you at the beginning of the semester.

Monk Peach, FSC

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dorothy Day's Christology


To say that Dorothy Day’s outlook on life is Christological is to say that it pertains to “Christology,” formally defined as “the branch of theology [i.e. the study of God] dealing with the nature, person and deeds of Jesus Christ” and “an interpretation of the nature, person, and deeds of Christ.” As discussed in class, Day’s theology was a lived study of God as she experienced God in the person of Christ. However, her experience of Christ was not abstract. Rather, it was very much grounded in the day-to-day reality of her dealings with the suffering of the poor. It was in service to her brothers and sisters, “the workers,” that she saw the face of Christ and came closer to that person through the love she felt in suffering with those people. Ultimately, her experience of God, of Christ, and of people was rooted in compassion—the act of suffering with.

That said, I would like you to write a five paragraph essay in which you interpret three claims (overall) Day makes in “We Scarcely Know Ourselves” and “Beginnings” that communicate a Christological message. Here is a possible outline to help you structure your response:

1. Start with a thesis statement that essentially sums up Day’s overriding theology in your own words. Be sure to mention the author’s name and the title of the work in your introduction. (eg., In Dorothy Day’s autobiographical reflections, “We Scarcely Know Ourselves” and “Beginnings” from Robert Ellsberg’s Dorothy Day: Selected Writings…). You may paraphrase some of Robert Ellsberg’s introduction and/or preface to help you formulate the introductory thoughts on Day.

2. Find a quote in either “We Scarcely Know Ourselves” or “Beginnings,” cite it (indicate page number in parenthesis followed by a period), and then write a few sentences in which you interpret the passage. You can begin your interpretation with a statement such as In other words, Day is saying…

3. Repeat step #2

4. Repeat step #2

5. For a conclusion, it is good for a writer to suggest further ideas for consideration regarding the topic. What a writer should avoid is simply restating everything that’s already been said. He should ask himself any unanswered questions before writing and then set about answering them in brief within a paragraph or so of concluding remarks. He can even ask unanswered questions in the conclusion, as long as his conclusion isn’t chock-full of them. That said, here’s some things to consider for your conclusion:

Closing statement on man’s search for God through service to others:

a. Questions to consider:
i. Is God really an essential function of service? If so, why?
ii. What would life be like without God? Would it have the same meaning? Is belief in a higher power or the person of Christ essential to making life more meaningful? Why or why not?
iii. How is service linked to the essence of God? To the essence of Christ?
iv. Is action wedded to faith? Service to justice? Humankind to Christ? Explain.

This reflection is due, typed and according to MLA format and guidelines provided you in the syllabus, on Wednesday, February 18, 2009.

In peace,

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Some Questions for Soldiers: Responding to Tolstoy and Dragomiroff

In Leo Tolstoy's essay, "Notes for Soldiers," he responds to a propagistic treatise on war of the same name written by a General Dragomiroff of the Russian Army--likely set in the late 19th or early 20th century.

It is the duty of the soldier, according to Dragomiroff, to "Die for the Orthodox faith, for our father the Tsar, for Holy Russia" (qutd. in Tolstoy 39). Dragomiroff relies on various biblical verses from the New Testament to spiritualize the vocation of the soldier, lacing his battle-cry as general in the Russian army with a religious fervor that echoes the shouts of Israelite prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures: "Obedience, education, discipline, cleanliness, health, tidiness, vigor, courage, dash, victory! Glory, glory, glory! Lord of Hosts, be with us! We have no other helper than Thee in the day of our trouble! Lord of Hosts have mercy on us!" (qutd. in Tolstoy 39). Essentially, Dragomiroff makes a jihad or crusade of Mother Russia's military agenda on the battlefield.

Tolstoy refutes Dragomiroff's contention that the soldier is responsible to the orders of his general to kill under God. Tolstoy claims that the Dragomiroff and his minion soldiers are violating the most essential of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shall not kill." Just as no one is above the law, Tolstoy reminds his audience, namely the soldiers under the command of a general such as Dragomiroff, that no one--particularly a Christian--is above God's law. Ultimately, Tolstoy asserts that a "Christian cannot be a murderer and therefore cannot be a soldier" (37).

Summary aside, I would like you to answer the following questions in response to Tolstoy's piece during class. Please answer all questions in your journal. Be sure to date your entry and quote from Tolstoy's essay where necessary, using proper MLA format. See guide packet for help on how to format quotations into your responses.
  1. If you were to pinpoint a thesis statement from Tolstoy's essay, what would it be? Rewrite it in your journal.
  2. On what grounds do the Russians make an exception to the Sixth Commandment according to Tolstoy?
  3. What are the true 'Notes' for a Christian Soldier according to Tolstoy? Please quote him verbatim in your journal.
  4. What are the three biblical quotes that Dragomiroff uses to inspire the Russian soldiers to fight for God and country? On what grounds does Tolstoy refute the manipulative use of these biblical excerpts?
  5. Lastly, what is Tolstoy's most conclusive statement regarding the issues discussed in his essay? Rewrite it in your journal.


As for the Tolstoy reflection due next Tuesday, February 10, 2009, I would like you to respond to the following question in five paragraphs:

Do you agree or disagree with Tolstoy's philosophy that there is no moral ground on which a soldier is justified to fight and kill? Explain. Do you agree or disagree with Dragomiroff's philosophy that there is moral ground on which a soldier is justified to fight and kill? Explain. If you agree, what is so convincing about the argument or philosophy you support? If you disagree, what is misleading or inconsistent about the argument or philosophy you condemn?

Be sure to answer as thoroughly as possible. I expect you to follow MLA formatting guidelines for all citations. You are required to quote from both essays.