All posts tagged “university

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Weaving together belief and behavior

For many of us the college years are an especially formative time, shaping who we become as people and pointing us in the direction of a career. That is, at least theoretically. Each of us have different kinds of college experiences, of course, shaped by our own choices and priorities as well as by factors beyond our control.

I started college in the fall of 2001 at a state university as a business major because I thought that was as good a way as any to ensure I’d have a job when I graduated. And I chose the management concentration because as an eighteen year old I thought managing people sounded better than being managed. Halfway through my freshman year I’d come to hate it and had terrible grades, so I switched over to the major with the fewest math requirements.

Somehow it hasn’t all turned out terribly, which I attribute solely to God’s grace, but I do wonder how my college years would have been different had I made life-altering decisions based on even better questions than how to avoid math requirements — for instance, questions about the nature of the world, and God’s relationship to it and to me and to everyone else, and how a college education may actually be a gift to be stewarded for God’s glory and to be used for loving our neighbors.

I hadn’t heard of Steven Garber yet, but I wish I had. His book The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP) came highly recommended, and now I see why. Garber currently leads The Washington Institute in DC, “a place to explore common grace for the common good.”

In working with students over many years, Garber noticed that the university setting is often an environment that allows room for private beliefs and opinions, but it isn’t comfortable with affirmations of public truths, especially ones clearly connected to private, and deeply held, beliefs. Therefore, those students seeking integration of their deepest beliefs with the realities of the world around them are often frustrated, and at times they face a crisis of identity or even a crisis of faith. When integration is thwarted, dis-integrated cynics are born.

Garber’s work has been an effort to give students a vision, as the subtitle puts it, for weaving belief and behavior together into a fabric of faithfulness. Higher education isn’t to be used simply as a ticket to privilege, but, rooted in our deepest beliefs, a means of serving others, of seeking the common good.

How does one come through college prepared for a life with belief and behavior woven together?

He has found three crucial factors:

Over the course of hours of listening to people who still believe in the vision of a coherent faith, one that meaningfully connects personal disciplines with public duties, again and again I saw that they were people (1) who had formed a worldview sufficient for the challenges of the modern world, (2) who had found a teacher who incarnated that worldview and (3) who had forged friendships with folk whose common life was embedded in that worldview. There were no exceptions.

I think the wisdom in prioritizing those three things speaks for itself, but Garber illustrates it much more fully in the book, and he does so largely through different people’s vocational stories and by asking the big questions that only we can answer for ourselves.

Garber includes a quote from Jacques Ellul, the French philosopher and theologian, on the importance of working these things out while we’re young, before it’s too late:

You must take sides earlier — when you can actually make choices, when you have many paths opening at your feet, before the weight of necessity overwhelms you.

Though I wish I’d known about this book during college, I’m glad to know about it now, on the other side of both college and grad school, still working on figuring out the particulars of my vocation and how I could best steward it to serve the common good. Needless to say I highly recommend the book for everyone, but especially for those in their college years, or for those who interact with college students, whether as parents, siblings, teachers, pastors, or friends.

Weaving together belief and behavior is an ongoing process as we seek to be faithful in all areas of life, and Garber has given us some clues to point us in the right direction.

Develop a worldview. Find a mentor. Be in community.

[Photo credit: luna13.com; this is a Guatemalan woman weaving a traditional piece of fabric, which I think serves as a beautiful picture of what this sort of “fabric of faithfulness” represents. Check out WeavingWomen.org, an organization the photographer founded “in partnership with indigenous Mayan women to preserve traditional, sustainable weaving arts in Guatemala.”]

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Upcoming faith & development conferences

I admit it: I like conferences. I’ve been to a variety of them during college, grad school, and at various times in between, and I’ve almost always had a great time. I’ve recently seen promos or otherwise heard about four upcoming conferences in particular that strike me as awesome, though it sadly looks doubtful that I’d be able to attend any of them. I offer them here anyway as a sort of public service announcement. If you’re at all connected to the field of community development, whether domestically or abroad, and are inspired and/or informed in your work by your Christian faith, these four events look simply fantastic.

1. CCDA National Conference
Christian Community Development Association
Oct 12-16, Indianapolis

Each year, the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) National Conference draws over 3,000 people from around the world to share in best practices of Christian Community Development. Experts and scholars teach workshops around relevant themes. Practitioners find support in networking with others facing similar challenges. Advocates bring attention to issues affecting people at the grassroots. And provocative speakers challenge our assumptions about what it means to embody Christ’s love to the poor in our communities.

2. Spiritual Metrics Conference
Eastern University
Oct 21-22, St. Davids, PA

What is Spiritual Metrics? How Do You Measure Impact? Why Now? We’ve heard it all before … “We’re not quite sure if and how to measure whether our programs are having the kind of spiritual impact we’d like to see…” and so we are creating a space where we can explore, prayerfully and in detail, the theological and practical dimensions of measuring spiritual impact.

3. Developing Excellence Forum
Accord Network
Nov 15-17, Baltimore

Don’t miss this chance to shape the future of relief and development: Join one of these five summits [Transformational Development, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, MicroEnterprise Development, Advocacy, and Gifts-in-Kind] and be ready to network, collaborate, and assist in the developments of Principles of Excellence in that arena.

4. The Justice Conference
World Relief & Kilns College
Feb 24-25, Portland

The Justice Conference 2012 is the second annual international gathering of advocates, activists, artists, professors, professionals, prophets, pastors, students and stay-at-home moms working to restore the fabric of justice. For some it means speaking. For others it means singing. For some it means going. For others it means giving. For all, it means living with mercy and love. You are invited to come weave your voice and gifts into the conversation. Join us, and discover that in the garment of justice, your love is an irreplaceable thread.

And as a bonus, Calvin College’s Faith and International Development Conference, which will likely happen next February, will certainly be a goodie too, though details won’t be released until next month.

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Repaso: Justice goes global, Indigenous university, Christ unwanted in Lima, and more

Repaso is something new I’m trying: a weekly roundup of news, commentary and more at the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace in the Americas.

Justice goes global
My good friend Barnabas sent me this piece from Tom Friedman about how Michael Sandel and his Justice course at Harvard (which I discussed here) is gaining popularity in Asia.

Sandel is touching something deep in both Boston and Beijing. “Students everywhere are hungry for discussion of the big ethical questions we confront in our everyday lives,” Sandel argues.  “In recent years, seemingly technical economic questions have crowded out questions of justice and the common good.  I think there is a growing sense, in many societies, that G.D.P. and market values do not by themselves produce happiness, or a good society. My dream is to create a video-linked global classroom, connecting students across cultures and national boundaries — to think through these hard moral questions together, to see what we can learn from one another.”


Barefoot college helps Venezuela Indians fight back

This is an interesting Reuters piece about a university aimed at preserving indigenous culture in Venezuela. Not all the “threats” listed below are created equal, in my opinion.

Like similar groups across the world, their habitat and way of life in a vast, long-neglected region of forests and waterways around the Orinoco river are increasingly threatened by illegal mining, ranchers and evangelical Christianity. Adding to the mix of influences are socialist aid programs from President Hugo Chavez, who has placed Venezuela’s Indian identity at the heart of his home-spun revolution.

Christ unwanted in Lima?
Outgoing Peruvian president Alan Garcia wants to construct a huge “Christ of the Pacific” statue overlooking the capital city, but his plan is being met with resistance. Lima’s mayor says Garcia didn’t ask permission to build on that prominent location, and says it will have to be built elsewhere.

Ghosts of Guatemala’s past
This is the co-author of a definitive book on a key chapter of Guatemalan history, on the significance of former president Jacobo Arbenz finally being recognized by the country, not as a villain but a hero. The United States, he says, should do the same.

Blowing in the Wind: Dylan’s spiritual journey
This is slightly out of date, but in late May the BBC had a 30-minute radio program commemorating Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday, taking a look at his one-of-a-kind spiritual journey.