Radio Hymns #4: By the Rivers of Babylon

boney_m_-_rivers_of_babylon_1978_single In our now time-honoured Sunday tradition, we turn to music. This week in my new series Hymns from the Radio Dial, we get political with a call for social justice from Psalm 137. It is most likely that we all remember Rivers of Babylon as a late-70s song by German disco group Boney M. In fact, the song was written and recorded in 1972 by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of The Melodians (1965-73), a Jamaican group in Kingston, the birthplace of reggae.

“Rivers of Babylon” was recorded for reggae record producer Leslie Kong (Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley) and became an anthem of the Rastafarian movement which, among other religious convictions, rejects western society as entirely corrupt, referring to it as “Babylon”, which is considered to have been in rebellion against “Earth’s Rightful Ruler” since the days of the King Nimrod. Rastas avow that “Zion” (to them Africa, especially Ethiopia) is a land promised to them.

Navigating Changing Times

day-night-transition.jpg I think I mentioned an event coming up here this October featuring Phyllis Tickle speaking on her book The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. I’m one of several people who have been asked to present a workshop and sit on a discussion panel over the course of the one-day conference. At the moment, October 31st seems such a long way off, but I’ve been asked for a topic and a brief description of the workshop I will present.

You mean I have to plan ahead? Oh, of course — I knew that. I fired back saying I’d do something on “Navigating Times of Change” to offer a description of some of the characteristics of liminal space and its effect on leaders and churches. I need to flesh that out a bit further, which will take some digging and reflection to know what’s important to present and what to cut. I think I’ve selected a good topic though, so that gives me a good start.

Random Acts of Linkage #113

getsmart.jpg Instead of giving you a separate list of funnies this week, I’ll just refer you to items 1 through 6. Will that do for now?

  1. Peter Rollins asks, “Does the devil really have all the good music?” — catch his comments on a few album covers.
  2. The Urban Blonde?
  3. Twitter users may find this chart helpful: Twitter trending topics
  4. Should you forward that email?
  5. How to Make a Baby — in case your kids ask.
  6. Awkward Family Photos — and you thought yours was bad. (via)
  7. Where ARE the Women?, asks Peggy Brown. This is the gender-related bruhaha that I wanted to comment on a few weeks back… best leave that to Peggy.

Theology by the Glass: ‘Aftermusings’

theologybytheglass.jpg This week saw the start of the summer series of Theology by the glass, now meeting at Confusion Corner Bar and Grill, just around the corner (sort of) from our most famous street sign. Our first conversation of the season began with a CBC podcast of The Age of Persuasion where Terry O’Reilly discusses church marketing and related matters.

Recasting the Good News™

goodnews.jpg JR Woodward is about 2/3 of the way through his Good News Series, where he puts a question to 50 bloggers, asking them for an article explaining what the “good news” is — but the article is to be about 500 words and written as though for publication in each blogger’s local newspaper. It’s quite a good series with a variety of responses and approaches posted so far. Today’s post is Jamie Arpin-Ricci in Winnipeg, which is also my city. I found it very poignant and compassionate approach to presenting the good news, opening with the account of a suicide that did feature very recently in our local media. Jamie takes an approach which is not theology-first, something I appreciate and attempted to do as well. My contribution was the sixth in the series. It didn’t generate a lot of discussion, perhaps because it appeared on a weekend, but I thought I would post it here as well now that it’s run on JR’s blog for a while. In the disclaimer that ran with my article, I said that I wanted to write early in the series “to get it out of the way before reading what so many astute thinkers would write so I wouldn’t feel the pressure to come up with anything so profound. This way as I follow the series, I’ll only have to say, ‘Gee, I wish I’d written that…’.” As I expected, a number of such approaches and statements have already appeared in the series. In any event, what I said follows below.

Grappling with the Story Arc of Scripture

genesis-scroll.jpg Len Hjalmarson discusses biblical literacy, questioning whether the level attained even by pastors and leaders is typically adequate to interpret the theological significance of the text. He questions this not to disparage the pastors and leaders in our churches or to bemoan some belief that the biblical text is just too difficult for any but the experts to properly handle, but simply to highlight a particular issue before the biblical interpreter. Understanding the issue at hand, one may be better able to address it — or to at least avoid the worst effects of its impact. I haven’t asked Len if this is precisely his approach, but perhaps he’ll step in and clarify if necessary. ;^) He writes,

Hey, What’s the Good News™?

good-news-series.jpg A number of people have already pointed out the blog series on ‘The Good News’ being run by JR Woodward with daily contributions from almost 50 bloggers to carry us through the Easter season, until May 31st. And according to the schedule, I’m up tomorrow… which, really, is just scant hours away now. But I’m not worried.

I was worried… and a little intimidated, maybe! There are so many great blogging voices on the list that I was certain that the more I read of the series, the harder it would be to offer my own take on an explanation of the Good News as I would inevitably try to incorporate the highlights of what everyone else had said. I don’t envy JR himself, who of course has the final slot in the series. With that in mind, I composed what I wanted to say a few days ago and sent it off to JR — and only then did I begin to read the entries so far. And it promises to be a great series. JR describes the premise this way:

A Centurion’s-Eye View

centurion.jpg I was fortunate to draw the duty of attending to these three crucifixions. It’s an assignment that every centurion wants to receive. There’s no real difficulty to it, no heavy marching — just standing by and joining the jeering and cheering of the crowd. Friends and neighbours often come by, allowing for a bit of a visit while on duty. You’re there as a guard, but what’s going to happen? Is one of them about to fight his way off his cross? Ha! There’s a certain stature that comes with being seen in this role. People fear you, associating you with the power to put these criminals and insurgents to death. The sight of the crosses from past crucifixions further along the road, with the bones still hanging off them after the birds had taken away the flesh always inform the sight of the men currently being nailed to their crosses with an immediate horror. Not for us centurions of course, but for the condemned men and for the onlookers. Not the kind of horror that makes them turn away, but the kind that makes them call out their support of the death sentence, that makes them go to extra lengths to make it known that they fall in step behind our Roman rule. Everything as it should be. There’s no better deterrent than the specter of a public crucifixion.