Whose Bodies Matter? #ALS and #Ferguson

From Theresa Latini

Last week one of my friends tagged me on Facebook to complete the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I’ve known two people who died from this disease—a kind and humorous high school teacher and a generous elder from the congregation that launched me into ordained ministry. So I was happy to donate to research that might find a cure for this truly awful disease. At the same time, I was a bit ambivalent about completing the ice bucket part. Was this just a fun stunt that detracted from any serious discussion? Would this really contribute to care for people suffering from ALS? And most especially, what was I communicating by participating in this challenge while doing so little publicly to address the slaying of another young black man in America?

I read an inspiring article by a pastor whose husband is suffering with ALS, someone who expressed gratitude for this attention to the disease that had crippled her loved one. So I completed the challenge, posted the video on Facebook, made a donation, and challenged two more people to do the same. My husband took great delight in pouring water mixed with a 22 lb. bag of ice over my heard as I was finishing my not-so-grand soliloquy. Perhaps the preacher had said enough and he could finally do something about it! Yes, we had some fun with it as well.

Yet I haven’t been able to shake the sense that I couldn’t complete this challenge without doing something or at least saying something about the events that have unfolded in Ferguson, MO. Failure to speak out is tantamount to ignoring (and thus being complicit in) racism and injustice, and that is all too easy to do for any white person, myself included.  


Good-bye to All This

From Jennifer L. Holberg


Sarina Gruver Moore teaches English at Calvin College. She’s going to finally get out of your hair now and let Jennifer Holberg take her rightful place again. Stay tuned.

The past few weeks my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with not only the ice-bucket challenges and first-day-of-school photos (oh, those kindergarten cuties!), but also, for the first time, with college-orientation photos and status updates from sobbing barely-holding-it-together parents. Yes. I’m now old enough that some of my friends are dropping off their kid-dults at Harvard, Biola, Belmont, and the like to major in philosophy and political science, graphic design and music performance. 


Beyond just the holyeverythingIamOLD feeling this inspires, I find that I’m getting kind of misty-eyed about this major life transition with my own children—you know, years and years and years from now.


A Pretty Good Book

From Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

A Letter to My Congregation: An evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian and transgender into the company of Jesus

Ken Wilson
Read the Spirit Books, 2014

This isn’t a great book, but it is a pretty good book. And that is meant as the highest of praise.

When the Christian Church wrestles with significant theological and cultural issues, such as the current debates surrounding LGBT persons, there is often the impression that a “definitive book” or the “watershed moment” will resolve it all. But change occurs as the Holy Spirit nudges us in honest conversations, genuine friendships, and many pretty good books. This book doesn’t aspire to be definitive or attempt to be magisterial.

Ken Wilson is a leading pastor in the Vineyard USA, a charismatic fellowship with roots in the Jesus movement of the 1970’s. A Letter to My Congregation: An Evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian and transgender into the company of Jesus is just that—a pastoral letter. It has a warm, personal, and pastoral tone, which is not to say it is lightweight or cursory.


The Big Book of What She Really Thinks

From Debra Rienstra

Many apologies to Debra and our readers--The 12's blog editor was away for the weekend and without internet, so we missed posting this on Saturday, Aug. 23. Please enjoy an extra helping of The 12 today, with sincere apologies to Debra.

I have loved Roz Chast’s cartoons since one of my college friends introduced me back in the 1980s to Chast’s quietly twisted portrayals of ordinary neuroses and domestic absurdities. Chast specializes in boring people, living room couches, potted plants—yet somehow she cuts life on the bias and makes thought-provoking curlicues out of the clippings. A typical cartoon: a glum-looking guy standing in a room, with the caption: “Never the experiment. Always the control.” Or a series of frames under the heading “Lifetime Achievement Awards,” containing figures with captions like “Recognized for never missing a 6-month dental checkup since 1948.”  

Chast has established a long and successful career on the foundation of the standalone cartoon format—a remarkable achievement. Publishing her cartoons mainly in The New Yorker since 1978, her odometer for that publication alone reads over 1200 cartoons. All those years spent reducing—as she might put it—“human fads and foibles” down to their cartoonish essence prepared her perhaps better than most prose authors for that most difficult of challenges: the memoir.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is a graphic memoir about a topic highly resistant to humor: the decline and death of elderly parents. Chast details the last difficult chapters of her parents’ lives, a period during which she had to grapple not only with the bewildering challenges of elder care but also with a deep love for her parents streaked to the core with exasperation and hurt. Her story reads at once as entirely particular and startlingly universal.


Tell Me More

From Jessica Bratt

Robert Couse-Baker

Today's guest post comes from my friend Adam Navis. Adam is the Director of Operations for Words of Hope and is also studying the intersection of faith and writing for the focus of his D.Min. studies at Western Theological Seminary.

Since time began, storytellers have held a key role in society. Not only did they keep an account of the history of a people, they created meaning out of events through their telling and retelling. In A Swiftly Tilting World of Madeline L’Engle, Eugene Peterson writes,

“Storytellers are our most honored users of language. In every civilization and culture, the story teller holds the center. Story is the purest and most democratic use of the language: young mothers murmuring lullabies to their infants, country singers spinning ballads, young people telling ghost stories around a campfire and preachers telling the “old, old story” from a grand pulpit, poets and novelists and playwrights published and unpublished.”[1]

Yet, I fear that, for many Christians, stories are not important. I see more Christians exchanging their roles as storytellers (and therefore meaning-makers) for roles as apologist, political leader, social nanny, cultural critic, or institutional supporter. In doing so, American evangelicals are trading an experience for an explanation.