Tuesday Reflection, Week 9

November 25, 2006

Very interesting class on modernity and late modernity (or postmodernity). I appreciated the info on the reasoning behind the use of the words “late modernity” instead of “postmodernity.”

Also, listening to the description of the cultural changes that came about with the arrival of modernity aroused a hunger for the positive aspects of cultural life that were lost or eroded as a result of this transition.  The lecture provided me with a better understanding of the vague sense of dissatisfaction I often feel about life in modern industrialized cultures. This dissastisfaction comes as gnawing urge for a way of life that seems elusive and unattainable, a desire to find a village community of sorts amid the rush of a city or the bureaucracy of an office environment.  Ryan’s comments on one of modernity’s characteristics that he referred to as “disembedding” or the “lifting out of social relations from their local contexts” was particularly helpful in understanding the resulting disenchantment expressed in response to this which marks late modernity.

Thursday Reflection, Week 8

November 22, 2006

Our discussion about some of the books we read for class was helpful.  I enjoyed hearing what others valued about the readings and the time we had to critique the authors’ perspectives. One topic that struck me in particular was the discussion about some of the tactics suggested in the book Culture Jam that were reactionary and did not seem to have a clear redemptive purpose. Though I had not thought through this in great detail prior to the class, I resonated with the concerns and questions that people brought up about these sort of strategies that focus on being against an industry, practice or ideology but do not make attempts to support a positive alternative of some sort.

Tuesday Reflection, Week 8

November 21, 2006

The discussion about the difference between attractional and missional churches was compelling and helpful. I found myself thinking about how some churches that are in the emergent category have a strong attractional, seeker-sensitive quality about them, and seem to lack an outward focus on how they can be involved in God’s work in our world—the kingdom of God. Will it end up that they will have some of the same deficits found in the seeker church movement? I have not entirely resolved how where I come out on this issue, but I realize that this question continues to surface in my thoughts.

Thursday Reflection, Week 7

November 14, 2006

The Missiology Lectures were great. I was most struck by Jude Tiersma-Watson’s presentation and the way in which she had her “son” Chris shared about the way their relationship has grown over the years. Both have impacted one another in positive ways.  

Tuesday Reflection, Week 7

November 11, 2006

I found myself identifying how I have changed and seen God working in my life over the past years during class. I thought about times in the past when I ineffectively sought to change systems and practices from the position of an outsider. The zeal that drove me to write off entire practices and aspects of our culture I am now somewhat embarrassed by. In time, God began to stir questions in me about the Christian subculture that I was cloistered in, and challenged me to learn to love people and the culture around me.  I experienced some false guilt during this time about the shift in my thinking, but often found God confirming the importance of this new freedom to love. Today’s class was one more way in which I have been able to develop a stronger theological basis for my call to love a culture and “affirm every activity within the practice whose shared understanding is not contrary to God’s design for the practice.”

Thursday Reflection, Week 6

November 7, 2006

Our discussion in class about the books we have recently read were of course interesting and helpful in further processing my thoughts on the texts. I may possibly have thought most about the comments made about Shane Claiborne’s limited emphasis on inviting those he was serving into relationship with Christ.  This is something that I had questioned when I read the book and heard him speak at Eastern Mennonite University. However, I do not feel that I have entirely determined how I would approach the issue myself as there is so much I appreciate about how Claiborne is going about ministry.

Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper’s The Social Movements Reader provides a wide selection of essays and readings insightfully communicating the causes, organizational structures, activities and outcomes of social movements. Through a series of commonly asked questions regarding social movements and a number of case studies, Goodwin and Jasper offer a framework for their examination of the topic in The Social Movements Reader.

“When and why do social movements occur?” is the first question that Goodwin and Jasper offer in establishing the direction of their study.  In an introduction to this segment of the book, they outline how various theories seek to answer the question, differentiating the “mobilization,” “process,” “network,” and “cultural” approaches. Goodwin and Jasper offer insight into these approaches in the context of case studies of the civil rights movement, women’s movement, gay liberation movement, and Iranian revolution. For example, a poignant tale of the evolution of the women’s movement reveals the role of a crisis event in motivating groups towards collective action.  One can hardly listen to the words of the 1967 New Politics Convention chairperson, “Cool down little girl. We have more important things to talk about than women’s problems” without connecting with the rage that ignited Shulamith Firestone and other women to overcome barriers that had prevented previous attempts to organize a women’s group in Chicago. 

Other questions that Goodwin and Jasper present include “Who joins or supports movements?” and “Who remains in movements, and who drops out?” Some predictors of involvement in social movements include biographical availability, frame alignment, social networks, and “moral shock” while it appears that personality traits are less reliable indicators of recruitment potential than once thought.  Presenting work from both Eric Hirsch and Bert Klanderman, Goodwin and Jasper provide opportunity to consider various perspectives on the roles of polarization in either strengthening commitment to a movement or causing people to disengage from it.

Additional topics throughout the reader depict the multifaceted nature of a study of social movements. For example, the editors give attention to what worldviews and emotions are present in those who are a part of social movements.  Another section addresses the organizational structure of movements and highlights the differences in the degree of bureaucracy employed, and how, and if they are funded.  Further, in the segment titled, “What Do Movements Do?” Saul Alinsky’s and Aldon Morris provide insight into protest tactics, while others Mary Bernstein addresses the differences between the “movements pursuing goals in the outside world…and identity-oriented movements that realize their goals, at least partly, in their activities” (p235).  Also within The Social Movements Reader, a compelling argument is made for the role of the media and the state in a movement’s success. The remaining sections provide answers, some being fairly obvious, to the questions of “Why Movements Decline?” and “What Changes Do Movements Bring About?”

I found The Social Movements Reader largely to be inspiring.  I became aware of how I take for granted the freedoms and opportunities that others courageously and diligently rallied together to achieve in social movements of the past. Also, the complexity of and the skill needed for a social movement deepened my respect for those who have led the way in bringing about change in our world’s systems and practices. On another note, I felt that the reader’s research was somewhat dated and found this as a surprise since the book was published in 2003.  For example, it seems as if the developing role of the Internet in social movements received limited attention since the book includes few studies from the 90s and beyond. 

Tuesday Reflection, Week 6

November 2, 2006

I enjoyed the group discussion time today. It was helpful to hear how my classmates have put into practice some of what we have been learning and about in class. Often when I have finished one of the books from the assigned readings, I find myself thinking about how and if ever I will carry out some of what I have learned. Plenty of excuses abound to a busy grad student to put off doing anything now. Academia often does not weave the practical aspects of a discipline with the inward focused life of study and research. I find this particularly unsettling in the context of a seminary because all too often our churches similarly become a subculture that struggles to translate how faith applies to life in the everyday or the building of the kingdom of God during this lifetime.  I was pleased to find our discussion groups moving us beyond the divorce between academic study and our current witness as Christ-followers.