Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In Preparation for Holiday Hibernation: Highlights from Fall 2013

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But when the hard winter comes, the river-animal tamer, then even the most quick-witted must learn mistrust; and verily, not only the blockheads then say, ‘Does not everything stand still?’
‘At bottom everything stands still’—that is truly a winter doctrine, a good thing for sterile times, a fine comfort for hibernators and hearth-squatters.
–Zarathustra in Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 201.

Thanks, Nietzsche the Grinch, for trying to ruin Christmas peace with your yuletide cynicism.

At the risk of being a “blockhead,” I must admit that I am very much looking forward to hibernating by the fire for a week or two over the holidays. It’s been a successful semester on Ground Motive, and it’s time for some serious hearth-squatting stillness. Before collapsing in a heap of holiday cheer, it’s worth reveling in the accomplishments of the past few months.

Here are some of the high points of the fall semester on Ground Motive.

The DooyAward

I’m excited to announce that the first Herman Dooyeweerd Award for the Best Blog Post (better known as the DooyAward) has been awarded to Stefan Knibbe, author of “Rhetoric, The Other, and Boycotting Ender’s Game.” The award takes into consideration the quality of the content, the effectiveness of tone and delivery, and the overall reach, including shares, views, and comments. Stefan’s article weighs in with some insightful comments on a controversial topic with grace and a respectful tone. Regardless of whether or not you’re interested in Ender’s Game, this post delivers a compelling case for compassion and the power of stories. Congratulations, Stefan!

Honorable Mentions

Outlining some parallels between the great detective’s crime fighting strategies and Gadamer’s hermeneutics, this installment of Ground Motive’s Popular Mythology series seems to have struck a chord with readers and takes the lead on the number of page views. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the long awaited third season of the British TV series Sherlock starts up in the new year!

ICS Junior Member and prolific author of the philosophy blog Re(-)petitions Dean Dettloff made an appearance on Ground Motive with beautiful insights from an unlikely place. Posted just in time for Thanksgiving, Dean looked to the hip-hop duo Blackalicious for helpful advice on how to live in gratitude despite our consumerist culture.

Angie Hocking’s reflections on her ongoing street ministry at Church of the Redeemer in Toronto were both thought-provoking and haunting. This guest post holds up the mirror to us as readers in those times when we get too wrapped up in our own world and find it all too easy to forget that we share in a common humanity with all people, regardless of social status, income, or lifestyle.

Hector Acero-Ferrer, ICS Junior Member and born Colombian, shares a unique perspective on interreligious dialogue as a Colombian living in Canada. He explores the question of why Colombian Catholicism sometimes looks so much different from the Canadian variety. What are the hidden forces that shape religious tradition?

This post’s use of Richard Dawkins’ theory of memes and its surprising potential benefits for a robust understanding of human freedom raised a red flag for some readers. Because one of Ground Motive’s primary aims is to spark conversations about important topics in philosophy, religion, and social ethics, a controversial article represents an opportunity. So if you have an opinion on this article, don’t hesitate to add your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Post with the Deepest Thoughts: What Buddhist Meditation Taught Me About Sin
In a moving reflection on spirituality and embodiment, PhD candidate Joseph Kirby suggests that Buddhist meditation and Christian spirituality might be deepened by one another. Perhaps engaging in such interreligious dialogue makes us realize the profound similarities we share with others by simply being embodied human beings.

Best Post About the Upcoming Conference Are We There Yet? Economic Justice and the Common Good (thereyet.ca): Economic Justice and…family reunions?
Don’t forget to mark your new 2014 calendars for the upcoming conference in Edmonton on May 12 and 13! It’s going to be a fascinating couple of days that will challenge you and make you think. Take a look at this post for some information on why this conference is so important and what makes it unique.

Best Post about Free Stuff: Building a World Where Knowledge is Free
This semester, the Institute for Christian Studies launched their Open Repository, full of previously hidden gems of research and scholarship. In celebration of Open Access Week, this article, along with an interview with ICS’s librarian Isabella Guthrie-McNaughton, highlights the benefits and difficulties of moving towards an open access model of publishing.

Most Thought-Provoking Interview: Don’t Be a Hero
As the first post of the semester, this interview may not have received the airtime it deserved. In this post, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, author of The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good, recounts his experiences in Christian activism and cautions against its tendency toward valuing heroism over real-world concern for real people. He goes on to suggest alternate ways of thinking about how to approach Christian activism in this excerpt and in the second installment as well.

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Thanks to everyone who contributed to Ground Motive this semester. It has been an exhilarating season of fresh insights and fruitful conversation. As we head into 2014, the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics eagerly anticipates a new year of innovative research and inspiring ideas.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Search for Colombian "Q": Discovering the Hidden Source of a Spirituality of Hope

By Hector Acero Ferrer

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to share some of my interfaith experiences in a session of a Muslim-Christian dialogue run by two very active interfaith organizations in Toronto. In the panel where I participated, youth and young adults were asked to talk about their particular encounters with other faith traditions in the context of a secularizing, globalized world. Since I was born and raised in Colombia, I was supposed to give an overview of the situation in Latin America, providing some context for my personal experience and for the way in which interfaith dialogue is done outside of Canada. As I started to think about the topic I panicked, as I had the same reaction many Canadians have when they hear the terms “interfaith” and “Latin America” in the same sentence: what can I possibly tell a group of Torontonians about interfaith when my own experience in the topic is so limited?

This was the first time I reflected upon the fact that I had appropriated a stereotype without further consideration: I assumed that Roman Catholicism was an overarching attribute of Latin American culture and, more to the point, that my own circumstances had isolated me from the input of other faith traditions. Although concerned about these prejudices and unfounded generalizations (especially coming from someone who claims to take philosophy and religion seriously), I began my analysis confidently, aware that it is common to all Colombians –every single one of them- to overgeneralize and exaggerate. In this process I found out that diverse faith traditions are still alive in Colombian territories, finding expression through radical Christian theologies, different forms of mystical spirituality, and an ongoing, insistent call to social transformation.

In order to further explore the encounter of faith traditions in Colombia, I should probably begin by mentioning Colombia’s current socio-political environment. Similar to many other nations in the so-called “Developing World,” Colombia is a country where many layers of conflicts and crises stem out of a single social contradiction: how is it possible to be so poor when we are so rich in all the resources that the world needs the most? This is not a new question, or one exclusive to this region, but it is certainly a concern that has oriented the “Colombian-experience” from the time of the Spanish colonial rule.

Claiming to be 90% Roman Catholic, Colombia is "officially" consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the birthplace of Liberation Theology (Conference of Latin American Bishops of 1968), and the location of the first office of the Spanish Inquisition in the Americas. Colombia is also the country where thanks to the traffic of drugs the meaning of "full of grace" and "full of sin" have collided, where the shrine for "Our Lady of the Assassins" is not only the content of a movie but a crude, escalating reality, and where the current well-being of its peoples is exchanged as the mortgage for an afterlife justice.

Although all of these seem to be extensions of the Roman Catholic worldview imported to the Americas by the Spanish colonizers, it is possible to argue that there is a plurality of faith traditions that have found their way into current faith expressions. When comparing the way Roman Catholicism is lived in Toronto to my experience at home I cannot avoid concluding that there is a source to my interpretation of Christianity, a second set of beliefs and practices that informed the ritualistic experiences in which I was raised, one that did not correspond to the Western worldview. In a similar way that Biblical scholars postulate “Q” as the missing source of information for the synoptic gospels, I was led to postulate a “Q” source in the Colombian case, a source identifiable with not only one, but a multiplicity of aboriginal worldviews.

Colombians’ strong emphasis on motherhood and the role of women in organized religion, the significance of rituals surrounding death, marriages, and welcomes, and the understanding of the church as an organization that should start the building of the Kingdom here on earth are not necessarily the foundational pillars of Canadian Roman Catholicism. It seems to me that all these are indicative of the profound multicultural context in which Latin American Catholicism continues to develop. What the Spaniard “Conquistadores” encountered in the lands now called Central and South American was a plethora of faith traditions (some of them more ancient than Christianity) that infused Romanism and produced a Catholicism with a renewed spirituality and strength, which we can trace all the way to Pope Francis,
“God makes God-self felt in the heart of each person. God also respects the culture of all people. Each nation picks up that vision of God and translates it in accordance with the culture, and elaborates, purifies and gives it a system[…] God moves everyone to seek God and to discover God through creation[…] God encounters us; God reveals God-self to us, God shows us the way and accompanies us[…]” (Bergoglio 2010, p,19)
The call to action, the profound concern for the poor, and the special attention to hospitality are all elements that the aboriginal peoples cherished and imprinted in the following generations of natives, blacks, criollos, and Spaniards in Latin American lands. It is now widely accepted that the cultural interchange that occurred during the colonization process of the Americas happened in more than one direction; what is not usually discussed is that the exchange is still alive after many generations. This very rich encounter continues informing Colombians silently on new ways of living out the gospel of Christ, of remaining hopeful, and of holding each other in trust as members of the same human community. Isn’t this interfaith at its best?

Hector Acero Ferrer is a junior member at the Institute for Christian Studies, currently focusing his research on philosophy of language and philosophy of religion.