March/April Issue


Sixth Sunday in Lent

The Lenten rose, one of the longest lasting blooms in any garden, still shines in the corner. Its flowers will continue well into summer, gently bending before the garden as the more vivid flowers emerge.

As I walk out to savor the promise captured in this heavenly hellebore, the heavy garden odor of soil and decay is suddenly pierced with sweetness. A hyacinth is blooming, clad in a deep purple robe. Its humble yet kingly appearance suits Palm Sunday.


Susan VanZanten teaches English at Seattle Pacific University, in Seattle, Washington. Her writings include Mending a Tattered Faith: Devotions with Dickinson (Wipf and Stock, 2011) and Reading a Different Story: A Christian Scholar's Journey from America to Africa (Baker Academic, 2013).


"Jesus Freaks in the Streets"

From James Bratt

Christianity Today’s Book of the Year award for 2013 went to a volume whose first chapter is entitled, “Jesus Knocked Me off My Metaphysical Ass.” The book in question is God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (Oxford University Press, 2013) by Wheaton College history professor Larry Eskridge. The book, as befits the conjunction of A-word and an Evangelical first prize, calls to mind Bob Dylan’s lyric from 1965, “something’s happening here/but you don’t know what it is/do you, Mr. Jones.” 

It’s apt to quote Dylan, troubadour supreme of the 1960s, because God’s Forever Family raises once again, but from a wonderfully revealing angle, the question of the meaning of “the Sixties” for American history. The Sixties of myth and legend was not identical with the chronological decade whose name it bears, of course; it began sometime around the aforementioned 1965 and ended with Watergate in 1974. The component parts of the era are familiar enough. The civil rights movement cresting and giving birth to Black Power. The antiwar movement growing broader, deeper, and more radical. The rebirth of feminism and first birth of ecological consciousness. A widespread dissatisfaction among young people with the blandishments of American materialism as defined by suburban living and corporate striving. Above, or below, all of these, the explosion of a youth culture driven by rock music in quest a new “lifestyle” (the word was coined just then) that was more hedonist than constrained, expressive rather than conformist, yearning for authentic relationships and personal meaning rather than the regnant tokens of middle-class success. The whole amounted to a cultural revolution that, with the rising acceptance of same-sex marriage, is now coming to completion in the USA—and that defined the culture wars in the decades in between.


The Same Coin

From Jason Lief

Yesterday I was listening to a conversation with a historian on the difference between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith. It was interesting, but I've heard it before. You know, the Jesus of faith being the result of a mossy, mythical, build up. The conversation sounded like a rehashed John Dominic Crossan PBS special. Earlier yesterday morning I had given a lecture to college freshman about the the way the gospel writers present the death and resurrection of Jesus. I've been trying all semester to help them see that the biblical authors aren't concerned with objective history, they're always much more interested in what events and people mean. Put bluntly, they gospels are trying to convince us of something. Most students find it interesting, but some think it's dangerous. They don't want to focus on meaning... it's not about interpretation. It's about facts. Did things happen exactly as the biblical writers said they did? That, after all, is the measure of truth--whether something happened exactly as it's described in the text.

The problem with both liberal and fundamentalist Christianity is that they end up arguing two sides of the same coin; they both overemphasize historical fact.


Welcome, Eleanor!

We're thrilled to welcome little Eleanor Oliva to The 12 family. She was born on April 3, 2014, to contributer Theresa Latini. (Hopefully Eleanor will make an appearance or two in future posts from Theresa.) 



From James C. Schaap for Theresa Latini

Congratulations to Theresa Latini, blogger-extraordinaire, who gave birth to Eleanor Olivia on April 3! Please remember Theresa and Eleanor in your prayers. Filling in today for Theresa is a familiar voice, James Calvin Schaap. Thanks, Jim.

We weren't poor. Shoot, we were well off, but when we moved to Iowa long, long ago, we needed furniture and somehow--I don't know how--I got into refinishing old stuff, old stuff we'd pick up at auctions and an occasional antique store. Oak stuff--you know, the people's wood, the wood that won the west.

We're moving again, the house is littered with boxes, a goodly number of them open and gaping. We're both a little edgy because moving is not a happy job and we're now of the age that even minor impediments to daily ritual can be emotionally upsetting, you know. When I was a kid, people my age were just plain old and almost always ornery. My only memories of my own aging grandpa are of a prune-faced old grouch who announced his sober presence by the way his house-slippers dragged on the kitchen floor.

Anyway, one of my projects is itself reclaimed from our past. For the first time in years, I'm trying to make an old piece of furniture not only functional but even a little attractive. It's homemade and it's ancient. It was in the basement of our century-old house when we moved in, a looming old kitchen hutch full of doors and drawers, something stiff and functional and unwieldy--maybe I should just call it "a storage facility."

It wasn't pretty, and, trust me, I'm not about tell you that, with a little stripper and elbow grease, I discovered a treasure. That's not where this is going.