Friday, May 30, 2008

Dreadlocks F.A.Q.

Ok, so before I get on with some stories about how crazy/amazing the first week in Singapore has been I figured I'd put up a quick frequently asked questions section about my newly acquired dreadlocks:

Q: Do you wash your hair / shower?
A: Yes. I have some sort of fancy dread soap from Dread Head HQ which I use to wash my dreads but which won't leave a residue, like normal shampoo does, which would break them apart. I am still hygienic, especially when the weather is frequently rocking the high 90's all day long here in Singapore.

Q: Did you just let that happen? (how did you do it?)
A: I didn't just stop washing my hair and wait for them to grow in. That is possible, but would take way too long and would be kinda nasty along the way. Instead, I spent about 10 hours with a friend, Laura, at my brother's college, Brevard, putting them in. Basically a ton of back brushing and wax later you have nice little baby dreadlocks. More on the above site for how to do it.

Q: Why the hell would you do that to your hair?
A: That's a good question. I'm still figuring that one out, but I figured while I had my hair this long why not try it out for a summer.

I'm sure there are other questions out there, but hopefully this quick guide covers some of the basic questions that many of you have had about my nappy, dreaded, and waxy locks. If you have more specific questions slap them in that comment box and i'll get to them soon. And check back for some sort of legitimate update on what is going on after 4 days here in Singapore (or just check my photos, given that they are 1000 words a pop they should keep you occupied for a while).


Friday, May 23, 2008

Singapore - 3...2...1...go!

As many of you know, I am heading off this summer for Singapore (and other parts of Southeast Asia). The program I am with is basically a summer school program through UNC that takes 25 freshmen and a couple professors to Singapore for 7 weeks to live, learn, and experience life in a different culture, environment, and quite literally on the other side of the world. I will also be spending about 3 weeks at the end of the trip backpacking around SE Asia and Hong Kong, more info on that as we figure it out.

And now, I come down to my final days in the US. I leave on Sunday morning at 6am for about 30 hours of travel and layovers and trying to sleep on the airplanes (thank you benadryl). And then while struggling to overcome 12 hours of jet lag, I start classes next week! It should be an amazing summer with tons of stories, pictures, and experiences to share with you all. So I invite you to check back this summer for updates on my travels which will be posted (along with other ramblings) on this blog as well as on our group blog which you can find here. Both will hopefully be updated weekly.

If you have any more questions about what I am doing, why, or what sort of souvenir I can pick up for you in Thailand, just let me know and I'll try to get back to you.

Have a fantastic summer!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Myth of "Redemptive Violence"

Ok, so this may be a weird way to start off my blog, but the subject of redemptive violence (definition below) has sort of been on my mind recently. Last week I was at a retreat with my campus ministry, InterVarsity. I was taking a course where we looked at Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and had some very interesting talks about what it meant to follow Jesus' message as citizens of the Kingdom of God when so much of it starkly contrasts the message that the world is feeding us.

One teaching in particular stuck out to me: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-44)

In one of our discussions, I asked our leader, "If Jesus tells us to love our enemies, then can Christians conscientiously take part in or support a military that seems to be so effective at killing our enemies?" This received a few laughs from some members of the group, and also a bit of a surprised look from the panel fielding our questions. However, the answers were equally surprising to me.

Essentially, most of the panel members took it for granted that the use of force was necessary to establish "good" in this world over the corrupt forces of "evil" that face us. And because we live in America, this "good" includes the American armed forces. Now please don't think that my criticism is against the American military in general. My argument, however, is that the Church, grounded in Jesus' teachings, should not be deceived by the myth of redemptive violence and so easily accept and encourage the use of force to solve the problems that plague this world.

No matter how many smart bombs we drop, we are idiots if we think that violence will by itself end the "war on terror."

So, after getting all worked up about this at 2am, I looked up an incredibly insightful article by Walker Wink (who coined the term "redemptive violence"). In his article, "Facing the Myth of Redemptive Violence," Wink defines this idea as "the story of the victory of order over chaos by means of violence." He cites the creation story of the Babylonians, the cartoons that we watched as children, and the plots of most of our bestselling books and movies (especially in the latest superhero craze) as sources and culminations of the long standing idea that security is insured by violent means.

I highly encourage you to read the article that I linked, it isn't too long and Wink does a much better job explaining his point than I can summarizing. Basically, our popular belief and cultural narrative is that the hero (who we identify with) will go through various trials and failures brought on by their enemy (who we are made to disassociate with) until they arrive at the final battle, where, miraculously, he (or she) manages to vanquish their evil foe by the use of force, and triumphantly the whole crowd cheers and everyone lives happily ever after.

My brother played a song for me this week by Todd Snider called "Tension." In the first verse he sings:
After the bad guy killed off all the underdeveloped characters
The good guy put a bullet right through his head
The screenwriter stood up and told us that all the loose ends had been
tied, justice is irrelevant
Violent problems need violent solutions
'Cause in America we like our bad guys dead

This romanticized view of violence is not how the world works. There are not super-heros and super-villians. As we have seen in recent years, wars against such vague entities as drugs, terrorism, and even homelessness tend to be easily conceptualized, but hard and messy to carry out in any actually beneficial way. But never the less we continue down the path of violence that we have been indoctrinated in since birth. Hoping beyond all hopes that we can end the violence in this world by just one more act of violence.

Wink concludes his articles by saying that "redemptive violence gives way to violence as an end in itself. It is no longer a religion that uses violence in the pursuit of order and salvation, but one in which violence has become an aphrodisiac, sheer titillation, an addictive high, a substitute for relationships. Violence is no longer the means to a higher good, namely order; violence becomes the end."

As I look at the American church and our blind acceptance of the validity of our military's mission in far flung parts of the world, I wonder if we have taken Jesus' words to heart. Jesus knew that the church would be persecuted and he told them to pray for those that persecuted them, but never to respond to violence with more violence. In fact Jesus' instructions are to "not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39).

Non-violence is not weakness. Look at Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, they confronted two of the mightiest powers of this world with radical non-violence and won! What if Christians everywhere took up the same banner of love instead of hatred? What if we "beat our swords into ploughshares...[and didn't] train for war any more"? (Micah 4:3) Instead the American church tends to fuel an ever growing military machine, putting our hope in advanced weaponry instead of in the power of God.

I would like to close with a lyric from Derek Webb. If you have stuck with me through all of this, thank you, sometimes I get carried away when I'm caffeinated into the early hours of the morning. I would love to hear your thoughts, but I am finally coming to a close. So here goes, it's from a song called "My Enemies are Men Like Me":

peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
it’s like telling someone murder is wrong
and then showing them by way of execution

how can i kill the ones i’m supposed to love
my enemies are men like me
i will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well
my enemies are men like me