Bethlehem in the Nativity and in the West Bank

Earlier this year, I read Guy Delisle’s excellent comic Chroniques de Jérusalem twice in the course of two months. I began by finally checking out the English translation from a local library to give it a try (I like Delisle, but I’d had trouble getting into this particular comic in the past). Then, as I was getting into it, my brother-in-law texted me from New York to say he was stopping by a local French bookstore and ask if I wanted anything.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'Call to Life | Daily Bread | Community of Christ'

Seeing an official publication of my church advocate for public transit is a beautiful combination of two of my favorite things. I’m very pleased! link to “Call to Life | Daily Bread | Community of Christ”

songs that should be hymns but aren't (yet?)

Over the summer, I wrote about a favorite Community of Christ hymn. Without repeating the entire post here, one of my favorite things about it is that it was never written as a hymn. Rather, it was a song written by a folk song as a call for peace that got adopted into the Community of Christ hymnbook in 2013. I thought about these details last weekend as I was listening to Ici-bas, a favorite song by French Canadian folk rock band Les cowboys fringants—I figured that this song would make for a pretty good hymn, too, even if it probably has a bit more swearing than your typical hymn.

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️❤️🖤 pour Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood, par Gregory A. Prince

Rereading this book after a few years, and it continues to be great! The organization could be more clear, and it sometimes feels repetitive, but it provides important historical detail that allows the reader to understand Latter Day Saint priesthood in new ways.

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️❤️🖤 for Restorations: Scholars in Dialogue from Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by Andrew Bolton and Casey Paul Griffiths

This was an interesting read, and there are portions of it that I expect to come back to later. However, I was surprised by how often I felt like I already knew what was being covered. Given my familiarity with both faiths, I expect that I’m not the target audience (anymore) for this volume.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'Church Marks Indigenous Peoples' Day | News | Community of Christ International Headquarters'

I’ve been attending Community of Christ for over three years now, and I’m still surprised by all the little things it does that the LDS Church would never do. Both churches were born with problematic attitudes towards indigenous peoples of the Americas, but while Community of Christ isn’t perfect, I’m impressed with the steps it takes. link to “Church Marks Indigenous Peoples’ Day | News | Community of Christ International Headquarters”

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on '629 | Open Topics | Wallace B. Smith | Re-Post – Project Zion Podcast'

I love this interview so much and for so many reasons. I haven’t been a member of Community of Christ long enough to have personal connection with Wallace B. Smith, but I have a lot of respect for him. link to “629 | Open Topics | Wallace B. Smith | Re-Post – Project Zion Podcast”

40 books that have shaped my faith

A friend of mine recently asked whether I had a list of books “that have been particularly impactful or interesting,” especially in the realm of spirituality and religion—and suggested that if I didn’t already have such a list, I could put one together for one of my next blog posts. It took me a while to actually put the list together, but it’s ended up being a really interesting exercise. Of the forty books that I’ve picked, some have been more influential than others.

which Jesus?

In his closing sermon at the 2019 Community of Christ World Conference, prophet-president Steve Veazey asked a guiding question for the church: Are we moving toward Jesus, the peaceful One? It’s pretty clear from the formatting of this question—and even clearer from its translation into French and Spanish, the other working languages of Community of Christ—that Veazey’s phrase “the peaceful One” is meant to describe Jesus as a being who is inherently peaceful and who exemplifies peace for the whole world.

on hymns that acknowledge our shortcomings

Yesterday, during my regular Community of Christ congregation’s services, we sang hymn #72 from our hymnal, entitled “Gather Us In,” which the Beyond the Walls Choir has beautifully interpreted in the video below: As we sang, I was struck by the last half of the second verse, which reads: Gather us in, the rich and the haughty; gather us in, the proud and the strong, give us a heart so meek and so lowly,

things to offer vs. things to impose

A friend of mine invited me to attend a Community of Christ worship service tonight, a brief reference during which got me thinking about what Community of Christ folks call Joseph Smith’s “grove experience” but that I grew up referring to as his “First Vision.” This got me thinking (and reading) about the different accounts of this experience, including Smith’s 1832 account, where he writes: I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a piller of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee.

RSS, APIs, and automating the lectionary readings (and other stuff, too)

I am one of those people who responds to a lot of work coming my way by ignoring that work and instead trying to think about how to change my routines and workflows. With the summer coming to an end and a new academic year approaching, I’ve been reading productivity books, thinking about the software that I use, and wondering what needs to change. switching to Habitica In particular, as I’ve posted over the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about switching habit trackers.

how does a churchgoing agnostic talk about religion with his kid?

This summer, I’ve taken advantage of my 9-month contract with the University of Kentucky to have lots of adventures with kiddo while my spouse (who has a 12-month contract) continues at her job. It’s been a real delight! A couple of Fridays ago, we drove to Danville, a town in Central Kentucky where I spent a summer as a high schooler but haven’t been back to since. We bought her a book, me some amazing chocolate mint tea, and had a great time exploring fun shops and public art in adorable downtown Danville.

radical early Christianity

One of the biggest perks of working in academia is access to an academic library. Don’t get me wrong: I deeply appreciate and regularly visit my local public libraries, and kiddo and I have made a couple of visits to her school’s summer library hours (which is an amazing idea). There’s something about the breadth of an academic library, though, that can really come in handy sometimes. For example, I was recently reading an article by Dan McClellan on Bible translation in Latter-day Saint contexts and noticed with interest his reference to David Bentley Hart’s translation of the New Testament.

text for today's Toronto Congregation sermon

As I wrote earlier in the week, I gave today’s sermon for the Toronto Congregation’s inclusive online worship service. The service was recorded and can be found at the YouTube link below: I really enjoyed participating with Beyond the Walls. I had some idea of how much work they put into making this look like a professional production, but getting to peek behind the scenes and see how much work they put into juggling different cameras, testing and managing audio, and everything else made me really appreciate what they do all the more.

upcoming sermon for Toronto Congregation of Community of Christ

Next Sunday, I’ll be giving the sermon for the Community of Christ Toronto Congregation’s Beyond the Walls inclusive online congregation, speaking on the Parable of the Samaritan (more often called the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but my sermon will explain why I’m going for that name instead). I had been planning to post about the sermon after the fact, but the links for the YouTube live events went up today, so I thought I might share them ahead of time.

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️🖤🖤 for Autobiography of Elder Charles Derry, by Charles Derry

This is a fascinating bit of history. Derry was an early convert to Mormonism who emigrated from England to Utah, became disgusted with polygamy and what he saw as an abusive system of tithing and church governance, and returned to the American Midwest, where he joined the RLDS church and became a leader and missionary in that denomination. Like The Giant Joshua, it’s odd to read something that is so clearly “a pioneer story” but isn’t uniformly positive.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on '78 | Common Grounds | Trinity Sunday – Project Zion Podcast'

Really loving this (six year old) podcast episode. I don’t care much about the Trinity except when it’s understood in the ways that Karin Peter and Susan Ocley describe here. link to ‘78 | Common Grounds | Trinity Sunday – Project Zion Podcast’

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on '584 | What’s Brewing | A Path Forward for Chicago – Project Zion Podcast'

Bookmarking this for later. Community of Christ isn’t very big in Kentucky, and I wonder how digital technologies could help connect us and provide people easier ways to visit us. This seems like an interesting model. link to ‘584 | What’s Brewing | A Path Forward for Chicago – Project Zion Podcast’

on doing—and asking—what is right

One of this week’s lectionary readings in Community of Christ (and presumably elsewhere) is in 1 Peter 3. As I was reading the NRSVUE rendering of this passage this morning, verses 13-17 stood out to me: 13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.

the Book of Moses and the subjectivity of scripture

One of the more interesting passages of scripture produced by Joseph Smith Jr. is in Section 36 of the Community of Christ Doctrine and Covenants (or the Book of Moses in the Latter-day Saint Pearl of Great Price): And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residee of the people, and he wept, and Enoch bore record of it, saying, How is it the heavens weeps and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

affirming worship services and queerphobic campuses

I was disappointed this morning to see this article in the Salt Lake Tribune. The article reports that BYU professor Sarah Coyne “became the target of online bullying and hostile emails” after discussing “her child’s years of wrestling with gender dysphoria, including suicidal thoughts and agonizing mental health issues” in a class she was teaching. According to the article, this is something that she has done for several semesters, but this time, her action “made it into a critical article in a conservative off-campus newspaper… which was retweeted by Utah Sen[ator] Mike Lee on his personal Twitter account.

a second World Conference experience?

A week from tomorrow, I’m heading to Independence, Missouri to attend a few days of the 2023 World Conference of Community of Christ—and to act as a voting delegate in any of the legislative sessions that take place during my short time there. This is the first time since my confirmation into Community of Christ that a World Conference has taken place (the last one was in 2019), so I’ve been thinking about this for several months as “my first World Conference experience.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'Some political movements among us deserving of being opposed and rendered powerless'

In my journey with Community of Christ, I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about what it means to pursue peace. I appreciate Pyle’s thoughts (and Star Trek references) here as he warns against allowing “peace and understanding” to neuter our opposition to evil. To be clear, that’s not what Community of Christ—or even maybe Nelson—is calling for, and I know my own opposition efforts risk denying the humanity and dignity of those I oppose.

how to understand 'Restoration'

One of the lectionary readings for tomorrow’s service is Ezekiel 37:1-14, which I read in Robert Alter’s beautiful translation. In this passage, Ezekiel famously prophesies: “O dry bones, listen to the word of the LORD, Thus said the Master, the LORD, to the dry bones: I am about to bring breath into you and you shall live. And I will lay sinews over you and bring up flesh over you and stretch over you skin.

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️❤️🖤 for La réinvention du nom de Dieu [Reinventing God's Name], by Gérard Siegwalt

A few months ago, I began listening to the Radio Télévision Suisse show Babel again; I have an off and on relationship with the show and decided it was time for another on. I was impressed with an interview Siegwalt gave discussing this book and put it on my list. It turned out I could buy it from the Swiss publisher, which offered a flat 5€ shipping fee, even to have it sent here to Kentucky.

prophetic clarity and prophetic uncertainty

A few weeks ago, while walking through Julietta Market at Lexington’s Greyline Station, I stopped for a few minutes at a used bookstore at one of the stalls and walked away with a copy of Thomas Merton: Passion for Peace. I haven’t gotten far into it yet—later that week, a book by a French theologian that I’d ordered arrived in the mail, and that’s taken up most of my reading attention since.

📝 writeblog: spent 1:12:41 on 'publish digital religion as international religion study'

I’m helping organize the Global Mormon Studies 2023 online conference, so I’ve been trying to figure out what (if anything) I would submit for myself. I’ve been wanting to do something about the online (and, thereby, intentionally international) Toronto Community of Christ congregation, but I’ve had trouble figuring out what exactly that would be. Today, an idea clicked. I was going through their YouTube and Facebook videos for some early data collection when I realized just how different the two platform experiences are.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on '531 | Cuppa Joe | Historic Sites Foundation | Divergent Paths of the Community of Christ: The Past One Hundred Years – Project Zion Podcast'

Steve Shields does good work and has an interesting perspective on things. It’s fun to hear from him. link to ‘531 | Cuppa Joe | Historic Sites Foundation | Divergent Paths of the Community of Christ: The Past One Hundred Years – Project Zion Podcast’

on faith transition and letting go of LDS modesty worship

I’ve mentioned before that I support the Salt Lake Tribune’s Mormon Land podcast on Patreon, one of the perks of which is that I get access to the Tribune’s Mormon coverage without having to subscribe to the whole paper (which would be a lot of money for someone who doesn’t care about Jazz coverage or Utah politics). Thanks to this Patreon perk, I read a lot of news about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and between that and over three decades that I spent as an active member of that church, you’d think that nothing would surprise me anymore.

new publication: an autoethnography on French, data science, and paradigm change

I’m pleased to share the publication of a new chapter of an edited volume. The chapter in question is “I’m a French teacher, not a data scientist”: Culture and languages across my professions, and it’s part of a volume called Cultures and languages across the curriculum in higher education. According to the CLAC Consortium, Culture and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) is a: a curricular framework that provides opportunities to develop and apply language and intercultural competence within all academic disciplines through the use of multilingual resources and the inclusion of multiple cultural perspectives.

A mentor in Community of Christ is encouraging me to attend the April 2023 World Conference—and even to register as a voting delegate. The idea of a church conference that asks for bottom-up consensus is very different than my previous, top-down ecclesiastical experience.

Pretty sure the sermon I heard this morning had undercurrents of British Israelism in it and 😬😬😬

gratitude for models of being imperfect but 'good enough'

Yesterday, I listened to a new episode of the Project: Zion podcast, the semi-official podcast of Community of Christ. This episode was an interview with Shandra Newcom, one of two apostles-designate who will begin their service after the April 2023 World Conference of the church. It was a delightful episode, and I posted something to the Community of Christ subreddit that I wanted to repeat here: What a great episode!

on distinctions between 'church' and gospel'

During the last few years I spent as a practicing Latter-day Saint, one recurring pet peeve that I had was the overbroad use of the term “gospel” to refer to all Latter-day Saint doctrines, teachings, and beliefs. In hindsight, learning to separate the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ from everything that I believed was a major part of my faith transition—and my ability to continue in Christianity even when the version that I was used to started to no longer work for me.

sticking with the Book of Mormon

I am a big fan of the Book of Mormon. It’s one of the reasons that I stuck with Community of Christ when transitioning out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know the book is problematic, and I doubt its historicity, but I’m still an advocate for making some religious meaning out of it. There are diverse opinions about the Book of Mormon in Community of Christ, and while there’s plenty of room to believe lots of different things, the default institutional view tends to be either indifferent or suspicious of the text.