The Church and Political Engagement

By Patricia Villarreal

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Is it enough to “love one another” by giving food and clothes, or by providing an after-school club, or does “love” include speaking out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves?
Is it an act of love to vote or speak out against an institution or a system that places its citizens or citizens of the world in living conditions that they need food, clothing, and assistance in education? 
Recently I had to wrestle with these questions as I participated in the Advocacy Day sponsored by the Christian Life Commission (CLC), the ethics and public policy agency of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. This event is held while our state legislators are in session at the Texas state capitol. Advocacy Day is generally attended by Texas Baptist church leaders, members, and pastors who gather together within a 2-day period to hear the latest issues that affect the greater good for fellow Texans. The different issues range from abusive gambling practices, protection of the unborn, human trafficking, pay day lending, to school reform.
I have taken BUA students from my social work classes for the last four legislative sessions. Under the guidance of CLC staff, we were equipped with basic Texas civic lessons, the process of an introduction of a bill, how it goes through a committee, then how the bill eventually becomes a law or dies in committee. CLC staff then instructed us how to make an office visit with a senator or representative. We were provided with the names of our legislative representatives and guided to their offices where we brought our concerns or presented issues that Texas Baptists were concerned about.
Without exception, every student during the debriefing on our way back to BUA commented on how easy it was to speak to an elected official or to their staff. They felt empowered with this experience to return to their homes and address communal issues that in their view require attention. This year, BUA staff member Luis Juarez took 10 students. They also served as workshop assistants to the Advocacy Day presenters. They did a great job. I was so proud of their involvement.
But this year, it was a different experience for me. In preparation for our state capitol visit on Wednesday, the Tuesday Advocacy Day group time (break-out sessions on special issues) included two social analysts: Gabe Lyons, author of The Next Christians and founder of the Q learning community, and Vincent Bacote, director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College and author of The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life. They provided thought provoking general sessions as to why we, as the church and as Christ followers, should even get involved in political engagement. These two Bible believing social analysts basically said we must, if we believe one of God’s greatest commandment “Love one another.”
I had not looked at the “Love one another” verse to include political engagement. We are familiar with the Matthew 25 text that encourages Christ followers to feed, clothe, and visit the poor and oppressed. However, there are many Biblical texts that call us to do more than benevolence giving. Biblical references in a call to action include speaking against unjust practices or broken systems such as in the Old Testament (Proverbs 31:8 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves….”; Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed….) as well as Jesus’ examples of calling out the political and religious authorities to stop taking advantage of the people (Matthew 18: 7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble!”; Matthew 23 chapter is a warning to Pharisees and religious rulers of the day. He begins with a reprimand “woe to you teachers of the law, you Pharisees… you hypocrites… you snakes, you brood of vipers” and continues this theme throughout the chapter.)
Jesus was very vocal when he spoke out against leaders who were in power and misled and mistreated those they governed. 
I grew up in a culture that was ambivalent about Christian engagement in social action. Initially, teachings in church concentrated on the “things of heaven since we were not of this world.” Other than benevolent actions, the church was not to engage in any political action. I don’t even remember the importance of voting.
Fortunately, those messages are changing. Our general speakers introduced a broader theological framework as to why we must be involved in societal injustices that affect individual potential. They introduced a macro perspective to consider for the first great commission.
In Dr. Bacote’s book The Political Disciple, a Theology of Public Life, he states “…. there is more than one Great Commission in the Bible. While Matthew 28:19-20 commands us to make disciples of the nations, Genesis 1:26 and 28 reveal that humans were commanded to cultivate the creation, to lead it to flourishing as the result of the best kind of stewardship. Human beings were created in God’s image, and an essential part of demonstrating this divine image is working with the creation in a way that displays the best sense of ‘rule’” (p. 29)
In other words, healthy systems are to maximize the potential of God’s creation. Any barriers to that potential must be addressed both in benevolence and in political engagement.
In conclusion, what I learned is that silence and lack of action are not options! Now is the time to be aware of unjust laws that deny opportunities of growth or protection to individuals. It is time for Christ followers to get involved by getting to know their legislators, learn about bills under consideration, and advocate for human rights. I, for one, pray for political leaders, and have made my initial visits to my state representatives. More visits will follow! How about you?
Patty's pic 2016
Patty Villarreal, LMSW celebrates 40 years as a social worker this April. In her 11th year, she serves as an adjunct professor in social work for the Baptist University of the Américas. She co-founded the Latina Leadership Institute where she serves as their development director. She is currently serving on several boards that deal with community development, anti-human trafficking efforts, social work education, and health issues.

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Honor God’s Word: Treating Each Other as Equals

By Mario Ramos

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Imagine Paul the apostle visited a local church. He found out that the pastor had a slave. She was held against her will to clean, cook, wash and keep house for his family. When Paul asked the pastor why he had a slave, the pastor quoted what Paul had written in Ephesians 6:9: And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him (NIV). How do you think Paul would respond? 
I’ve asked the question to several people and no one has ever said that Paul would respond, “You are right. That is exactly what I believe you should do as long as you treat her well.”
I use this scenario to make the point that we cannot honor God’s word by applying it directly across the centuries and cultures without considering the context. Earlier in Ephesians we read, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” (Ephesians 5:22-23, NIV). And yet, it seems like some of my fellow Christians believe that one can apply that Scripture the same way it was done in the first century.
In Galatians 3:28 Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NASB). He lays the theological foundation of our standing before God and each other on what Jesus Christ has done for us.  Christ’s redemption makes us equal before God and each other. Some suggest that this is limited to our standing before God. I would argue that this has sociological and ecclesiological implications. The “dividing wall of hostility” that separated us, our ethnicities, our social/economic class, and our gender, Jesus Christ destroyed it on the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16). 
Paul confronted Peter for not eating with the Christian Gentiles, but only with the Christian Jews (Galatians 2:11-13). Peter’s behavior showed signs of hypocrisy and disobedience to the gospel. Salvation through Christ has sociological implications. Before, according to Jewish law, Jewish Christians were not allowed to eat with Gentile Christians, but now in Christ, everything has changed.  Not only are Christians allowed to eat food that was formerly forbidden by the Old Testament law, but also they are to relate in new ways. Now Jewish and Gentile Christians are to eat and fellowship together.
We see Paul’s dissatisfaction with the status quo of inequality in his letters. He seeks to point out the freedom women and slaves have in Christ. When writing to the Ephesians and the Colossians, he addresses the women and the slaves before the men and the slave masters. This was a breech in etiquette in patriarchal society. I can imagine that the men felt insulted. When speaking to the women, Paul instructs them to submit to their own husband, which was a requirement already in place by cultural norms and the law of the land. However, they were to do it out of reverence for Christ.
Paul then addresses the men. One would anticipate Paul saying that the men are to “rule” the women. After all, the opposite of submit is to rule or to lead. But Paul throws them a curve ball and shocks his male audience by saying, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, NIV). By this one statement Paul reverses the role of husband and wife for that time and place. The wife’s role is to make sure her husband (the man who has all the legal, economic, political, social and religious power) has his needs met, first and foremost. She is there to serve her husband. But now, Paul’s apostolic command is for the man to love/serve his wife, the way Christ served the church, even sacrificing his own body for her. Paul uses Jesus Christ as the prime example of that. Can you see how revolutionary, how ridiculous that must have sounded to the church in Ephesus? I wonder if some of the men stormed out of the church in disgust. 
If you think this is bad, go to 1 Corinthians 7: 3-4. The place where patriarchal culture was most clearly exercised in New Testament biblical times was in the bedroom. The man, first and foremost, had all the authority when it came to sex. It was the woman’s (wife’s) duty to fulfill the sexual needs of her husband regardless. And it was nobody’s business to tell him otherwise.  She was his property. But Paul again breaks custom when he dares speak of the sexual relationship between husbands and wives. Because we are now Christians, and Jesus has made everyone equal in salvation, we are also equal in our relationships. This truth has sociological implications. The issue of authority has now changed. Before men had all the authority but now women have equal share in that authority. Thus, Paul writes, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife” (1 Cor. 7:4, NIV).
Clearly, we no longer abide by the cultural norm of owning slaves. Even though it was considered acceptable in Paul’s day, it is no longer acceptable today. In the same way, we no longer encourage social separation of Christians based upon one’s ethnicity, social class or gender differences. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice has changed the way we relate to God our Father and to each other. Treating each other as equals before God and each other should be the new Christian norm. As we do this, we are indeed honoring God’s word. 
Mario Ramos
Dr. Ramos teaches Practical Theology courses at the Baptist University of the Américas. He earned his Master’s degree in Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas and his Doctorate in Ministry from George W. Truett Theology Seminary at Baylor University. Mario has pastored in different churches in South Texas for more than 15 years. He is married to Linda for 40 years. They have three grown sons of which two are married and have four grandchildren.

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A New Year’s Reflection on Christian Higher Education

By Marconi Monteiro

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At Baptist University of the Américas I have been blessed with a role that leads me continually to observe how we “as in institution of higher education” are working toward the “formation, from the Hispanic context, of cross-cultural Christian leaders.” Thus, in this essay, I would like to reflect on what a Christian higher education means in the context of our mission and experience.
We are a university, an institution of higher education. A significant component of higher education is the focus on understanding, preserving, and expanding human knowledge. Three major activities are considered essential for this component: research, teaching, and application. Through research, the university is challenged to explore, expand, and integrate knowledge in a systematic way. Observation, curiosity, and discipline are essential components of the research mission of a university. The other side of the equation is the scholarship of teaching, whereby human knowledge is questioned, subjected to systematic analysis and critique, and disseminated.[1]  In addition to teaching and research, the element of application, typically associated with a service mission, connects the university to the world and focuses on the impact of learning on the community at large.
At Baptist University of the Américas, teaching is our primary mission. We seek to understand areas of human knowledge that are pertinent to our mission as well as to foster in our students the desire for continued learning throughout their lives. However, we approach teaching and learning with the humility of those who know that our task will never be completed. We see ourselves engaging in a dialogical and dialectical enterprise where human beings interact with their reality and critically understand their world and their role in the world.[2] In the educational setting, our reality is presented as a body of knowledge that represents our continuous struggles to know, to create, to re-create, and to act upon the world. We recognize that the outcome of this enterprise is the ongoing transformation of all involved in it: professors, students, and knowledge itself. The ultimate transformation is the achievement of human freedom as expressed by our Lord Jesus Christ himself “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32, NRSV).
The transformational purpose of higher education is directly linked to our identity as an institution of Christian higher education. We state that our mission is the formation of our learners. There is a teleological perspective in the purpose of a Christian university: we are not just focusing our efforts on the exploration, expansion, and dissemination of knowledge; we are engaged in a project defined by Jesus Christ that is the implementation of the Kingdom of God that shows itself through the formation of disciples.[3] We, students, professors, staff and administrators undergo the transformational process of becoming the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:13; Romans 8:29). The challenge for us is to be intentional in how we design and implement every aspect of our milieu. Every dimension of our activities from the business office, through our facilities, through our services to students, to the classroom interactions must demonstrate the formation imperative of our mission statement.
I propose that our Christian identity is shaped by two elements: faith and practice. Our faith is established on the authority of the Scriptures. Our curriculum must portray a biblical worldview in the broadest sense of the expression. We are challenged to read, understand, dialogue with, and apply the Scriptures in every aspect of our work. This does not mean a shallow repetition of biblical texts or a literal application of doctrinal understandings, but a deep and comprehensive conversation with the Bible in our reading and studying the world around us. Such scriptural dependence is done and framed by a theological dialogue with our faith and through our understanding of the work of God in human history. Thus, our biblical and theological framework provides a foundational and developmental structure whereby our educational programs are designed and implemented.
The consequence of this conversation with the Bible must be evidenced by our behaviors and practices. It must be seen in the lives of our students, professors, staff, and administrators. It must be clear in our institutional policies and the multiplicity of our activities, interactions, and actions. At BUA, we have been blessed by a diverse student body that surrounds us with different cultures, languages, needs, and experiences. The students inspire us to show hospitality, humility, generosity, and respect; and we should also challenge them to respond with the utmost in every aspect of their ability and habits. Their example demonstrates to us that we can respond with faith to the call of Christ.
Our human infrastructure must also reflect the mission of the university and be included in the formation outcome. We come to work with a commitment to participate actively in the mission of the university and thus we are under the same imperative. Therefore, we are called to demonstrate our values toward each other in our work relationships, in our decision-making practices, and in our commitment to the Reign of God. We are critically engaged in the continuous dialogue of faith and learning that shows itself in Christian practices that must impact ourselves, our students, and the community around us.
At the beginning of a new year, let us renew our commitment to Baptist University of the Américas: an institution of Christian higher education. Happy New Year!

marconi-picture

Marconi Monteiro is Associate Professor and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Baptist University of the Américas. He also chairs the Bachelor of Arts in Human Behavior degree. He is originally from Brazil where he attained undergraduate degrees in Theology and Psychology. He attended Baylor University for graduate education, where he attained a M.S.Ed. in Educational Psychology, a M.A. in Religion, and an Ed.D. in Educational Psychology. Education is his passion, having served in different capacities in K-12 education, medical education, and Christian higher education over the course of his career. Dr. Monteiro is married to Maria Monteiro, who also serves at BUA as Chair of the B.A. in Music. They have a daughter who teaches high school English in Hondo, Texas.
[1] Ernest L. Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990), 23-5.
[2] Paulo Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness (London: Continuum, 2005).   
[3] David I. Smith, and James K. A. Smith, eds., Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith & Learning (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2011). See also James K. A. Smith, “Are Students Consumers?” in James K. A. Smith, The Devil Reads Derrida (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2009), 39-45.

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Aslan Sings!

By Linda Cross

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“In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing.”[i]  
In his imagining the creation of Narnia C. S. Lewis vividly pictures the great, golden lion Aslan singing everything that is into existence.
“There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it.
Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by the other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with, but far higher up the scale; cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leapt out – single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world…. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time…. (I)t was the stars themselves which were singing, and it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.”[ii]
For almost ten years I made the trip from Arlington, Texas, down to Waco and back once a week, sometimes more. Even though that meant driving I-35, I enjoyed the drive. The reason I enjoyed the drive was the scenery. What scenery, you might ask. This is Texas, after all, and even by Texas standards I-35 isn’t known as a scenic highway.
But as I made the trip I began to see the fields, trees, horizons and birds as a changing palette every week. The bright green of new wheat and budding trees was soon changed to the deep green of full summer. In autumn the mown fields looked like hills of tweed cloth buttoned down by loaves of hay. Migrating birds blinked in and out of sight as they rose, circled and soared on unseen drafts. And on windy days, the trees seemed to be clapping their hands, applauding the exuberant beauty of God’s creation.
I became convinced that there is music in the universe that our ears are not attuned to hear, but the composer, Maltbie D. Babcock, got it right: “All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world.”[iii]
The Bible gives word to this music! My love for the Bible became a search for what is true when I was a teen. The world was deep in the throes of the Cold War. Apocalyptic preachers predicted the coming of Armageddon: World War III with Russia and China pitted against the United States, Great Britain and Israel.
It was fascinating stuff. Yet as I pondered those Doom’s Day sermons I wondered, does the Bible really say that? Does the Bible really mean that?
Finally, my wondering and pondering led me to study the prophets – Isaiah and Jeremiah principally – for myself. That led to more questions and more study.
And what I have come to believe is that the poets had it right all along – although what they were saying and writing and singing was more right than they knew at the time.
“For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4 nrsv).
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28 nrsv).
In the mid-1950s J.B. Phillips wrote a little best-seller entitled Your God Is Too Small.[iv] Although he had other issues in mind at the time, the title is worth reconsidering. If scientific exploration threatens your concept of God, perhaps your god is too small. If a billion years is more than your god can manage, perhaps your god is too small. If your god is surprised by string theory, or the idea of universes of universes, or any new idea that will be advanced tomorrow or next year or in a thousand years, perhaps your god is too small.
The Creator God is not small at all. Yet this God, who energizes and sustains all that is, who commands armies of angels and the stars of deepest space, this God sees into the darkest corners of our suffering world and into the secret pain of our suffering souls. This God, our God, with love so immense and mercy overflowing became one of us in order to sing us into God’s own harmony. This is great news, indeed!
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying:
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’” (Luke 2:8-14 nrsv).
We live in an amazing time. We are learning things about our universe that we could not even imagine a generation ago. Yet we live in a darkness as deep and threatening as the dark that surrounded those long-ago shepherds.
In the beginning the breath of God hummed over the chaos, calling everything that is into being. God’s humming is the perfect pitch to which all creation is attuned. It is deeper in our souls than our own DNA.
Underneath the disharmony, dysfunction and brokenness of our existence, God’s humming throbs in our bones, God’s singing woos us back, God’s living Word calls us each by name, enfolds us in his arms and carries us back into harmony with God and our own best self.
Are you listening? Do you feel it? The heavenly hosts are still singing. If only we have ears to hear!
linda-cross
Linda Francis Cross, an adjunct BUA faculty member, works as Advocate for Hispanic Leadership Development on the Rural Americas Team of CBF Global Missions. She is a professional writer and communications consultant. Her most recent book is Radical Excellence: Implementing Sequential Radical Positive Change for Personal and Organizational Excellence (San Antonio: World Class Quest, 2015).
[i] C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew, First American Edition (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 61.
[ii] Ibid., 61-62.
[iii] Maltbie D. Babcock, “This Is My Father’s World,” Baptist Hymnal, 1975 Edition (Nashville: Convention Press, 1975), 155.
[iv] J. B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small: A Guide for Believers and Skeptics Alike (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1952). nrsv)

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Thanksgiving: More than Just Noshing

By Sophia Botello

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In poetry and prose, any time there is a meal scene, something important is happening – mainly a communion of some sort. I truly enjoy reading and analyzing these literary meal scenes because they are about so much more than just eating or food. These scenes may represent many themes: power, chaos, rebirth, love, pride, reunion, vulnerability, or faith, just to name a few.
Additionally, when I read a meal scene, I take note of who is present, what are they eating, how the characters share the meal, and what happens as a result of the meal. I also take into consideration how the scene is written in terms of language, tone, and imagery. So, yes, in literature, sharing a meal has much meaning. 
As Thanksgiving approaches, I have been reflecting more and more on the meaning of sharing a Thanksgiving meal (and craving my mom’s amazing pecan pie).
As an English professor, I believe in the interdisciplinary study of literature and the social sciences. In other words, from fictional stories, we learn about real life in terms of principles, truths, or morals. (Consider the function of parables in the Bible.) My approach to understanding Thanksgiving, therefore, lies in the intersectionality of these two fields of study.
At Thanksgiving, we celebrate with food and family and friends. But, what, exactly, are we celebrating and how did this culinary tradition begin? 
First, let’s get a historical and social perspective of Thanksgiving.
Elizabeth Peck enlightens us about Thanksgiving: “The history of Thanksgiving is hallowed ground for antiquarians, popular writers, and even an occasional anthropologist. The story begins with the Pilgrims who held a feast for themselves and their Wampanoag neighbors in October of 1621. Prior to Lincoln, [who initiated Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863], three presidents, George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison, issued ad hoc proclamations of a national day of thanksgiving. Nonetheless, Thanksgiving in the early nineteenth century was mainly popular in New England and to a lesser extent the Mid-Atlantic States. As of the 1850s, Thanksgiving was a legal holiday only in these states and in Texas” (775). 
This tells us that Thanksgiving originated when two groups of people, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians, joined together and celebrated the Pilgrims’ first harvest in the fall of 1621.  (For the visual learners, here is a short video on the history of Thanksgiving: http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving.)
This information also tells us the holiday of Thanksgiving has moved through various economic and social eras in the U.S. This means who celebrates Thanksgiving, how it is celebrated, and why it is celebrated has evolved. 
So, who celebrates Thanksgiving? Well, currently, many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Also, since many immigrants integrate to U.S. culture by observing national holidays, they celebrate Thanksgiving, as well. Please note: the fact that immigrants celebrate Thanksgiving is not so far removed from the first Thanksgiving – the Pilgrims were immigrants to the Americas, too.  
How do we celebrate Thanksgiving? By eating, of course! But, even that has changed. For example, the food served at the first Thanksgiving was venison, fowl, corn, and barley. Now, the traditional food is turkey, stuffing, and did I mention my mom’s amazing pecan pie?
People celebrate Thanksgiving for various reasons: to be with family, to have fun, or, my favorite, give thanks to God for the blessings in my life. 
Now, on to a literary perspective of Thanksgiving.
In literature, there is much symbolism found in the four seasons. The Thanksgiving meal takes place during the fall season – a time that constitutes harvest. Harvest represents abundance and prosperity. The Pilgrims were celebrating their first successful harvest after a harsh winter the year before. 
Fall is the season of maturity; celebrating during fall implies that humanity is moving toward full development and wisdom, hence peace. 
Fall is also the season of gratitude. The Pilgrims were thankful for the successful harvest and they displayed their gratitude by sharing a meal with their new neighbors, the Wampanoag Indians.
A significant point here is that two very different cultural groups come together over a meal, action that may be perceived as an intentional move to promote unity and peace between the groups. In literature (and in real life), if you’re breaking bread together, that means you’re not ‘breaking heads,’ so to speak.
Of course, Thanksgiving is not without its controversies. Scholars disagree on whether the 1621 meal between the Pilgrims and the Indians was really the first coming together of European settlers and Native American peoples, as there are other encounters on record of similar events.  Also, in the background, is the controversy of colonization and the real intentions behind the meal.
Nevertheless, I predict Thanksgiving is here to stay.
So why is it important to know all this information about Thanksgiving? In literary analysis, we call this the So what? or Who cares? questions.
We learn real-life lessons from this first Thanksgiving meal:  
  • We see the importance of building bridges with our neighbors.
  • We physically practice gratitude.  
  • We engage in the act of remembrance.
In addition, when we participate in the holiday of Thanksgiving, we model how to outwardly display love. Yes, I do believe love is at the center of the Thanksgiving meal. When people partake in a meal together, when they break bread together, when they are physically close together in the company of food, these are signs of sharing and peace, manifestations of love. 
Needless to say, breaking bread together – whether it is in real life or literature – has significant meaning. 
My mind enjoys wandering into the intersecting space of fiction and reality. (I undoubtedly fall into the stereotype of the quirky-English-lit-teacher.) You could say that I truly enjoy reading about food in poetry and prose and sharing food in real life.
By the way, did I mention my mom’s amazing pecan pie?

Sophia Botello Picture

Sophia Botello is Instructor of English and Director of the Writing Center at Baptist University of the Américas in San Antonio, Texas.
Pleck, Elizabeth. “The Making Of The Domestic Occasion: The History Of Thanksgiving In The United States.” Journal Of Social History 32.4 (1999): 773. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Oct. 2016.

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In praise of political correctness: A Bible drill on civil and civilized public conversation

By Craig Bird

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September 1983. Franklin, TN. One of our best soccer players runs toward me, tears streaming down his seven-year-old face. Since he’d just accidently kicked the ball into our net and scored for the other team, I thought I knew why he was upset.
Not so.
“They’re calling me big, fat Jabba the Hutt,” he sobbed, motioning with his head toward his teammates. “I’m NOT a big, fat Jabba the Hutt.”
He also wouldn’t be a soccer player much longer. The next week he told me he was quitting to concentrate on gymnastics. “I’m going to do something so I don’t have to depend on anyone but me,” he explained. Unstated but clearly understood: he was NOT a big, fat Jabba the Hutt, the disgusting, slug/sloth-like evil meanie from the summer’s hit movie, Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi. And when his angry teammates targeted him with that name it was intended to hurt. Bull’s eye.
Unfortunately, the power of words to damage doesn’t end when you change sports. Or grow up.
In fact, a strong case could be made that in today’s antagonistic, I’m-right-you’re-wrong culture, adults are much more productive and creative in wounding with words. Only we’re not always as obvious about it.
Today it is seen as a “right” to say anything about anyone and if they don’t like it, tough.
For many people being “politically correct” (PC) —originally intended to encourage people to say “deaf mute” instead of “deaf and dumb,” not call grown men “boys” or adult women “girls” and to recognize that ethnic slurs are contrary to civilization in general and Christianity in particular, etc. (you know, the verbal aspect of the Golden Rule)—has become a bad thing.
At best being PC is considered a weakness, at worst akin to Nazi Germany’s and Communist Russia’s attempts at thought control through group think.
The Oxford dictionary defines “political correctness” thusly: 1. the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.
Logically it follows that the opposite–Political Incorrectness (PIC)–REQUIRES using terms that offend and hurt people: negatively labeling “other” groups by painting emotions with the broadest possible brush, demeaning people for things they have no control over, insisting that the mean-sounding words aren’t mean—they are just “honesty.” 
Does the Bible speak to this? 
A good starting point is to check our emotional and spiritual temperature when we choose to be PIC. If I knowingly call an individual or a group something that may sting or rile, what motivated that word choice? I confess that when I want to insult by being PIC, it is because I am angry at a person/s or at something they remind me of. And I want to hurt them.
What does it mean if my PIC vocabulary is spawned by anger? Jesus warned that, “out of the heart come evil thoughts” (Matt 15:19). The Old Testament advises, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
How does our 2nd Amendment right to free expression stand up as responsibilities as Christ followers to care about the feelings and needs of others?
Jesus clearly felt that loving others trumped our rights. Thus we should walk the second mile (Matthew. 5:41) and give people more than they ask for (Matt. 5: 40-42). The church at Phillippi (and all Christians) were encouraged to let, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
Paul states we should be “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21) and he clearly championed being PC when he talked about eating meat or not, depending on the feelings of those surrounding you at the table (1 Cor. 8: 9-13). And being “all things to all men so that some may be saved” (1 Cor. 9:22) looks PC-ish to me.
And why was it necessary for Timothy to be circumcised as an adult (Acts 16:3) but it wasn’t necessary for Titus (Galatians. 2:3-5)? Apparently, being politically correct to make the telling and hearing of the Gospel possible was what believers were/are called to do.
But if I can have only two, I opt for:
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6: 2) and It [love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Though some reputable scholars argue that the Galatians’ instructions are limited to Christians carrying burdens of other Christians, that seems to go against the clear meaning of Matthew 25 about our involvement with the least of these.
That means I am called, and gifted, to help those on the margins of society who are stung by PIC terms. They know how and where they are wounded, I don’t. So if a fellow human says, “that hurts” I should listen.
Of course the Love Chapter is all about being considerate of others. Particularly relevant to this conversation is 1 Corinthians 13:5 which states that Christ-like love doesn’t dishonor others (as slurs do), casts off anger and doesn’t keep score of how it has been wronged.
Recently I’ve given myself two spiritual tasks in watching over my language about other people.  1. To commit myself to civil and civilized discourse (such as not casually using the term “political correctness” because it offends some other people Jesus died for) and, 2. Never forget that, in Christ, love never demands its rights. It asks for the privilege.
The young boy slurred as Big, Fat Jabba the Hutt became a very good gymnast. He had enough self-identity to quickly throw out the emotional garbage his unthinking teammates poured into his soul.
But, unlike most targets of mean-spirited PC, he didn’t have to absorb an on-going, unrelenting emotional trash. Many people and many groups do—and not from seven-year-olds but from adults who should know better.
As we daily have an opportunity to show Christian values and attitudes with our speech may we use our words in a way that give honor and glory to God, and show God’s love and care for all human beings!
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Craig Bird is Assistant Professor of Missions and Cross Cultural Communications.

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Brotha, did ya forget your name?: Reflections on Education, Memory and Identity

By João Chaves

La versión en español está disponible al final de este documento.

Most of us have heard the story of the lion that thought he was a sheep. Yes, that one we hear in motivational speeches that try to awaken the metaphorical lion that is supposedly sleeping inside of us. The story goes sort of like this: a lion cub gets lost from his family and is adopted by a flock of sheep. The lion grows up among sheep and, therefore, he thinks he is one of them. He bleated instead of roaring; ate grass instead of meat. The lion was a vegan—how hip—and that made him weak. The lion had forgotten who he really was.
You may, of course, feel free to use this story in order to try to awaken the beast that may be sleeping inside of you; that is, in order to recast the suspicious notion that you as an individual have full control over your destiny and that, if you only act right, all will be fine and dandy. My sociological commitments question the motivational-speech approach to the story, but you are welcome to give it a try.
The reason I am mentioning this well-known story, however, is because despite its shortcomings, it illustrates well the epistemological dynamic that became an increasing concern of mine on my ongoing development as a minority teacher who teaches minority students. We may not be able to change our destiny by bumping up our self-esteem. But we can, no, we must be able to tell our own story. In order to better serve our students, our community, the people we lead, and ourselves, we must understand and pay attention to the interdependence between memory and identity. In a very deep way, we are what we remember and, in turn, we remember the stories that we are told. That seems like a fairly innocent observation, but it is one with deceivingly complex ramifications. Let me illustrate parts of this dynamic with a personal story.
When I was in seminary, one of my professors, asked a question in class: “when you think of a Latino person, what comes to mind?” There was tension in the air! I was the only non-white person in class and they already knew I was less than shy. A friend of mine, now a pastor in a mid-size church in Texas, had courage and took the lead. He said: “I think of janitors and cooks!” Most of the other students—all of whom had at least one college degree—had similar opinions. A number of questions came to mind at that moment: how about Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, or Cachao? Had they ever heard of Paulo Freire, Oscar Romero, Gabriel García Márquez, Frida Kahlo, or Gloria Anzaldúa? Have they never read Pablo Neruda or Isabel Allende? Surely they’ve heard of Rudolfo Anaya, right? There is, of course, nothing wrong with being janitors or cooks. I have cleaned houses for money and I worked in the restaurant industry—and those aren’t even the less prestigious jobs I’ve had. The issue is the implicit (and sometimes explicit) essentialization of Latinas/os as a pathological sub-class; a widespread practice in contemporary U.S.
I know, reader, what you may be thinking: “well, Disney is coming up with a Latina princess. Look how far we’ve gotten,” or “Didn’t you see Eva Longoria speaking at the Democratic National Convention? She’s my favorite housewife.” Yes, I’ve seen that and much more. So don’t say I don’t recognize a level of improvement. Despite the fact that I am not impressed by the commodification of Latina/o image as businesses discover the Latina/o market or politicians cater to the Latina/o vote, I get that we may be doing better.
But the issues surrounding the image and history of Latinas/os in this country have deep structural roots. The fact that my college-educated seminary colleagues knew next to nothing about Latina/o and Latin American role models is a far-too-common reality. This reality thrusts us inevitably to the production of knowledge and, as some of us may know, the production of knowledge thrusts us to the dynamics of power. “History has its own story,” said Michel Foucault, and he was right. Save a few exceptions, U.S. schools and colleges do not teach about the value and richness of Latina/o culture and history. Just ask yourself: “outside courses taken in Latina/o studies departments, what books written by Latinas/os were assigned to me in my high school, college, and even graduate school education?” I suspect the numbers will—to use a British-like understatement—not be very high. That illustrates, among other things, that the lack of awareness of the richness of Latina/o and Latin American contributions to American culture and history is, to a great extent, sustained by institutional practices.
Awareness that Latina/o and Latin American people may have internalized a distorted narrative of their heritage is important. It is important because our stories are an integral part of who we are and the stories of our ancestors are inseparable from our biographies, both for us and for those with whom we relate.
As Latinos/as who may have been trained under the shadows of the very disseminators of distorted narratives, we must constantly question the canons of our disciplines in the name of expansion; in the name of inclusion. We must include into our educational and leadership models creative ways to raise the awareness of the richness of the Latina/o heritage. A former Mexican-American student once told me she was so much more proud of her heritage after I taught, on my way towards explaining the invention of modern racism, about the former greatness of Tenochtitlan. How much prouder would she be had the story of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Geronimo, and José María Morelos not be stolen from her memory?
If we are leaders concerned about the subjectivity of those we lead and who indeed appropriate the vision of valuing our heritage, then we must embrace the challenge of rescuing formative stories that were neglected along the way. In this qualified sense, there are many lions to be awakened from their sheep-like slumbers. 
joao-chavez

João Chaves, BUA adjunct professor, is a Brazilian-born historian of Christianity. He loves trying to catch up to his marathon-running wife and playing board games with his two American children. João is the author of Evangelical and Liberation Revisited (Wipf & Stock, 2013) and of several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.

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