Orphans of God

September 1, 2010

I will rise from my bed
with a question again Read the rest of this entry »

William Stringfellow

July 16, 2010

To retrace my path to Stringfellow is to try to follow a rather tangled thread (or string).

Alas, I have completely forgotten how I came to take an interest in Stanley Hauerwas, who really helped me out when he wrote, “I am still mad as hell at Christians, which certainly includes myself, for making the practice of the Christian faith so uninteresting.” Read the rest of this entry »

the Tug of War Tour

February 19, 2010

When I was teaching high school, there were one or two times when I said to myself, “OK, this gig is rough, but I do get to rub shoulders with young genius. Take this kid here – I should keep an eye on this kid, because someday her name will be in lights and for once I’ll be ahead of the zeitgeist.” Well, it wasn’t so much a matter of discovery, of painstakingly searching out the diamond in the rough, but of paying some very basic attention. When the kid came along, it really did not require subtle perceptions on my part to know she was going to make a splash. Her name was Tahani Salah, and she was a politically-vibrant, down-to-earth Palestinian-American Muslim slam poet. She had the way with words, but she also had the winsome combination of a profound vulnerability with an urban toughness, and for a WASPy Masshole from Naw-wood like myself, the combination of the hijab and the Brooklyn accent was irresistibly exotic.

Anyway, keeping her on my radar really paid off the other night, when I visited the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for the first time, trudging through LES snow, to catch Tahani in the Tug of War Tour. Read the rest of this entry »

a story about a story

April 23, 2009

I went to a conference being held at a church called the Meeting House thirty minutes from Toronto. The conference was called “The Evolving Church Amidst the Powers.” It attempted to address the fact that we are all caught up in an ongoing struggle between God’s growing Kingdom and the defeated (but still dangerous) powers of darkness. Read the rest of this entry »

beg for help

April 21, 2009

Today I was listening to the Brian Lehrer show, and heard a brief, throwaway comment that seemed to me to be terribly revealing.

Food stamps were the topic. For his last question, Lehrer asked Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, “Is one of the biggest hurdles… this stigma that won’t allow somebody to even allow themself to get on food stamps?”

Berg said, “Absolutely. New Yorkers are more willing to beg for help from their neighbors than to get help from their rich Uncle Sam, and that is absolutely the reverse of how it should be.”

I’m not trying to bust on Berg, who was told. “You’ve only got 20 seconds!” – it would be shocking if I could come up with anything intelligent to say about anything in 20 seconds – but it’s precisely the offhandedness of the comment that makes me marvel. How can it be that clear to him that a government safety net is not merely necessary (something I would not dispute) but preferable? I would just like to ask him: is it really better to rely on the government rather than your neighbors?

The reverberation of hip-hop rhythms through pop culture has lent a fresh relevance to various “spoken word” genres of writing and performing. Poetry slams have become a fixture of the cultural scene in cities like Flagstaff and Corpus Christi as well as New York and San Francisco.

Meanwhile, even in the face of a national love affair with standardized testing, creative writing still has its defenders. Believing that young people will learn literate practices when those practices are in the service of their own purposes, these educators favor workshops over worksheets.

A handful of organizations squat at the intersection of these two cultural streams: they aim to cultivate youth literacy by initiating teenagers into the craft of slamming. Some of them simply run slams and invite young people to participate. Others want to midwife new poets into being, so their goal is to bring “free, safe and uncensored” writing workshops to young people.

“Free, safe and uncensored” turns out to be quite a trick. Read the rest of this entry »

stephenson on wink

March 15, 2009

I’m grateful to Wikipedia for directing me to this fascinating mention of the theologian Walter Wink by the novelist Neal Stephenson (who, as the author of Anathem, is an imposing figure in my mind right now); it’s an example of cross-fertilization between my two geekdoms, so I’m pleased. Read the rest of this entry »