Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer Reading, "Numero eg" (that's Spangarian)

Discussion: “Faith, Social Justice, and Service-Learning in Environmental Studies: the Struggle for Integration” by Mark Bjelland

I agree! and I appreciate Bjelland connecting faith, service, and social justice to environmental studies. I want to focus on the idea that the connecting of each of these practices should be done most intentionally by recognizing that they are all imperative to the success of each other. As much as I appreciate Bjelland seeing a place for faith, service, and social justice in environmental studies I think we should recognize that it is also necessary to create a place for environmentalism in all other aspects of study and practice. Particularly when we believe that living a Christian life acknowledges that all things are important and therefore connected. In living the Christian life all things are required to be taken care of and to also care for.

In the article Bjelland claims that Gustav, the school he works at, has become less associated with the church over the years and he has struggled with integrating these well. I don’t want to belittle that that may be true and it is also a fear for educators at Calvin. Thinking actively about integrating faith, service, environmentalism and social justice may seem like a revolutionary act but in actuality I think that it can be seen as following how we have always been intended to live. I think that it would be wise for colleges and universities to make intro environmental classes a requirement of many majors and programs. I think it seems more accurate that beyond becoming educated on a skill or particular field the goal for any educational institution is to create people that will care and be mindful of the way that we live. Shouldn’t we therefore be providing them with all the resources to do this well?

I encourage all of you to think about this. There are several ways that action can be done. Being extreme is one, the reason I think extremeness is important is because in reality we are going to fail at uniting these ideas with thoughts and actions. But if our aim and goal is amiably extreme then when we fail at reaching them we will at least have made some movement in the right direction. However, some people are discouraged by failure and need to approach change with accomplishable steps. However, each person has their way that fits them and contributes to their transformation and growth in living, I want to encourage you to please change and participate. Figure out what way or process will help you think and act most thoughtfully and pursue it.

Love from Maine, Elisabeth

Friday, July 18, 2008

Preparing the Way for Justice - Reading 3

The abstract reads, "Though moral educators cannot make their students virtuous, they can promote certain habits of active learning, analogous to the traditional spiritual disciplines, which can dispose the soul towards the subsequent blossoming of embodied and lived-out justice. The incorporation of a range of these disciplines improves typical service-learning courses because each discipline is designed to resist or prune preexisting negative dispositions which could otherwise undermine the transformative power of the service-learning experiences themselves. Kant's doctrine of virtue and Merton's account of monastic spirituality are developed to explain and defend this view."

And here is how he concludes, "I have been arguing that common attempts at the promotion of justice in moral education can suffer form a certain narrowness of vision. In many instances, students quite simply are not morally prepared to make the gargantuan leap from often sheltered and privileged lives to the sacrificial steps required to stand up and support the rights of all, especially the oppressed. Tossing such students into situations where they must go through the motions of justice will not likely bear must fruit unless the ground of their dispositional set is being carefully tilled as well. I hope to have shown that such tilling can be accomplished by adopting the spiritual disciplines as a way to form helping, bulwark, and uprooting dispositions that can then serve to clear a path toward justice. As instructors we cannot guarantee that someone will take the project of morality seriously enough to turn whatever moral exercises we may offer into a fully lived-out justice. But if we grant that transformational moral education is a worthwhile goal, we are at least responsible for creating the conditions under which justice may be cultivated with as little resistance as possible."

Whew. This is in case you don't have the time to read the entire article. The main value I find in Brad Hadaway's argument is the idea that our disposition toward justice may be intimately related to our general spiritual condition. The idea that many Calvin students come to college with preexisting dispositions that actually block them from a deep concern for justice issues resonates with me - I'm pretty sure it was the case with me back in the day. Even now, I think we are all affected by certain elements of our context that prevent us from fully caring about justice for everyone - it's simply too much to think/care about all at once.

My question for all of you has to do with whether or not you can find any connections in your own journeys between your participation in the spiritual disciplines (prayer, service, study, giving, fasting, meditation, worship, etc) and your ability to more fully care about the "rights of all, especially the oppressed?" Another question I take away from this idea has to do with the links that our work has with the work of other folks at Calvin who are charged more specifically with the task of introducing and encouraging the spiritual disciplines in Calvin students - Residence Life staff, and Christian formation staff for starters. Any thoughts on these relationships might be productive too.

That's it for now - hope all's well with you all.