Friday, April 28, 2017

Rethinking Dinah

In this post, ESR Professor of Old Testament Nancy R. Bowen shares a reflection on the interpretation of the Biblical figure of Dinah through history and its continuing relevance today:

I have been rethinking the story of Dinah in Genesis 34. Feminist interpretation is focused on the question, “Was Dinah raped or not?” At the moment the debate is at an impasse. I am not attempting to resolve the debate, but rather to consider whether there are other questions feminists should ask with regard to Dinah’s story.
I started thinking about this in the aftermath of the tragic killing of nine African Americans in Charleston, SC (June 17, 2015). A relative of one of the survivors recounted that the shooter had told her that the reason he was killing them was because “you rape our women…” The day before (June 16, 2015), in his speech announcing his candidacy for President of the US, Donald Trump announced he would build a wall along the US/Mexican border to keep out “Mexican rapists.”
It turns out that the trope of “you rape our women” has a long, sordid past in U.S. history. The accusation of rape was used as the justification for lynching in the Southern states during the post-reconstruction era (1880-1920). Lynching was justified as as the “desperate effort of Southerners to protect their women from black monsters.” Ida B. Wells, an African American reporter, demonstrably proved this accusation was false and racist. Using police reports in the Chicago Tribune, Wells documented that of 504 men who were lynched between 1896-1900, only 96 were charged with rape (19%). Although black men who were lynched were described as “moral monsters,” they were also lynched for reasons as varied as “unknown offense,” “mistaken identity,” and “resisting arrest.” As Wells wrote, “This record, easily within the reach of every one who wants it, makes inexcusable the statement and cruelly unwarranted the assumption that negroes are lynched only because of their assaults upon womanhood.” Upon analyzing the records she concludes that the real causes for most lynchings is “contempt for law and race prejudice.” In other words, the accusation that black men raped white women was used to cover up that they were lynched for economic, political, and ideological reasons, namely, to ensure the uncontested authority of the while male ruling class.1
Ita Sheres, an Israeli author, explores the intersections of rape and politics in her book, Dinah’s Rebellion: A Biblical Parable for Our Time. For her, the story of Dinah functions as a parable of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Perhaps a better comparison might be that present day realities mirror the dynamics of Dinah’s story. Palestinians are portrayed as “brutal, wild, alien invaders.” The most horrifying violent acts that occur in Occupied Territories involve vengeances on behalf of women and/or girls who seem to be in danger. Settlers are known to fabricate situations that demand immediate and violent action in response. The message is that settlers attack only because of the assaults on women.2 To paraphrase Wells, “Nobody believes this threadbare lie.” As with lynching we see that the accusation of harm to an Israeli woman, whether there is any actual harm or not, combined with racist views of Palestinians, leads to a violent response. As with lynching, the stated motive of “honor” and need to protect their women from these "monsters" covers up the reality that the real reason for lethal violence against Palestinians is the ideology of extreme nationalism and struggle for territory.
Here in the U.S. we are again hearing that lethal violence against “others” is justified in order to protect our women. First we should note the racist overtones. The implication is that the women who need protecting are white and the “rapists” are men of color. Second, the accusation of rape is presented as a sufficient motivation, regardless of any actual threat to women. Third, we should ask, what is the real motivation for threats against non-white men?
Even feminist commentators recognize that Dinah’s story in Gen 34 is not really about Dinah. The result of the alleged rape (“should our sister be treated like a whore?”) leads to the killing of all the males of Shechem, the plunder of everything in the city, including women and children, and though a gap in the text, the probable rape of the Shechemite women. Whether or not Dinah was raped might actually be a moot point. The point is the accusation of rape, which, as history demonstrates, is a demonstrably false and racist premise. Perhaps what feminists should also be asking is why we allow women’s bodies to be used as the pretext for violence without our permission? White women participated in and gave moral support to lynchings. There are white women today screaming, “Build that wall!” Especially in this time in the US white feminists need to critically examine ways in which we might continue to perpetuate the rhetoric of “they rape our women.” If I (speaking as a white feminist) am not protesting loudly against this rhetoric, then I’m a racist feminist.
If the dynamics of Dinah’s story continue to echo through history even to the present day, the question becomes, can we prevent history from repeating itself? Sheres writes, “It is possible to alleviate the lot of the powerless and excluded by first recognizing each other’s humanity and by deemphasizing exclusion and separation.” If the story of Dinah is to be a parable for our day, then let this be its lesson.

1 Quotes from Ida B. Wells-Bammett, “Lynching and the Excuse For It,” (from The Independent, May 16, 1901).
2 Ita Sheres, Dinah's Rebellion: A Biblical Parable for Our Time (New York: Crossroad, 1990), 101-123).

Nancy is an ordained minister and author of Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries: Ezekiel (2010). She earned a B.A. from the University of California in 1978; an M. Div. from the School of Theology at Claremont in 1985; and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1994. She joined the faculty of ESR in 1991.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A student reflection on attending the 2017 International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education

In the post below, ESR MDiv student Andy Henry shares about his experience attending the recent International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education in Columbus, Ohio:

On March 16-17, I joined two fellow ESR students—Tom Decker and Ashlyn Stanton—in attending the 11th annual International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education. The event took place at the student union on the campus of the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. It was encouraging to see and hear from so many diverse practitioners during such a tumultuous time. There is a great need for healers and coaches who are skilled in modes of conflict engagement and teachers who can impart those skills to others. Our country and world are anything but short on conflict and violence so we need all the help we can get. My fellow students and I attended workshops on circle processes and restorative justice in various contexts as well as ones that focused on the conference theme.  

The theme of the conference was “Tools for Preparing the Change Leaders of the Future: Social Enterprise, Innovation, and Education.” I was particularly attracted to this topic of social enterprise and was curious about how it could be connected to conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Through the workshops, I learned about social enterprises like zero waste initiatives, produce auctions, and revitalization efforts in Appalachian Ohio. I also learned about the value of tying social enterprise to a larger narrative rooted in a community’s history. These enterprises are vital for providing services in a sustainable way, innovating for a community’s future, and promoting peace through cooperative ventures. It is interesting to consider these themes of social entrepreneurship in conversation with ESR’s emphasis on spiritual entrepreneurship. There are several places of overlap and the language of faith and spirituality provides a unique source of inspiration and vision.

While we hosted a table and provided materials for folks interested in exploring ESR, our presence in the workshops and discussions seemed to be the primary point of contact in representing the school. To the best of my knowledge, ESR was the only seminary present at the conference. We were able to bring a unique perspective to the workshops, reflecting on how the ideas and practices discussed by the facilitators can be applied or reframed in terms of spirituality, theology, and faith community. That is one of the great qualities of ESR: we seek to be present to conversations happening in society, particularly those related to peace and justice. We also have a unique perspective to offer, one rooted in the enduring language of faith and the living light of spiritual vitality. I think we all left carrying some beneficial ideas and topics for reflection. And I hope that we were also able to contribute to the conversation of the conference.       

Andy, Ashlyn, and Tom are all currently pursuing their MDiv degrees at ESR. Andy and Ashlyn are pictured here. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Student couples at ESR, Part III: Dan and Jaimie Mudd

In recent years, the ESR community has been blessed with the addition of several couples who have decided to pursue seminary studies together. In this series, we will profile our current couples-in-residence. Below we feature Dan and Jaimie Mudd:

Dan and Jaimie had a calling to ministries of individual and community renewal. They had cast longing glances towards attending ESR for an MDiv. Together they began to deliver retreats on prayer, Meeting and Church renewal as well as Friends Couple Enrichment. While delivering a workshop at the 2016 Intermountain Yearly Meeting they took time to visit with ESR alum Tracy Davis and ESR Student Travis Etling. These ESR shining stars urged Jaimie and Dan to call Matt Hisrich and discuss admission possibilities. They called Matt and proceeded to enter discernment with their anchor committee. Within weeks they were admitted, enrolled, moved to Richmond as Cooper Scholars and began studies. Whew! 

They love sharing their lives as a couple with ESR and with Richmond. Dan’s passion is creating a safe space for people to explore their spiritual life and relationship to the divine. His ministry is focused on prayer, spiritual direction, and the Experiment with Light meditation. Jaimie brings her passion for the Light within people and organizations into her work with faith communities across the denominational spectrum. She enables the realization of faith in action in community and entrepreneurial ministry. Together they deliver Friends Couple Enrichment Retreats.

You can read the first post in this series, on Eva Abbott and Van Temple, here: The second post in the series is on Elizabeth and John Edminster, and is available here:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Student couples at ESR, Part II: Elizabeth and John Edminster

In recent years, the ESR community has been blessed with the addition of several couples who have decided to pursue seminary studies together. In this series, we will profile our current couples-in-residence. Below we feature Elizabeth and John Edminster:

With the help of Cooper Scholarships, Elizabeth and John came to ESR from New York City, where John had raised two children to adulthood and retired after 44 years as a packaging and display designer, and Elizabeth was working as senior research associate for a consulting firm serving non-profits. Each of them a mid-life convert to Quakerism, they had met at New York’s Fifteenth Street Meeting and married under its care. Now members of Richmond’s Clear Creek Meeting, both had been active contributors to the life of New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM), as well as to their monthly meeting and to the annual meetings of Christ-centered Friends in the Northeast. 

Elizabeth holds master’s degrees in music and library science. John, a sometime street evangelist whose tract Jesus Christ Forbids War was taken under the care of NYYM in 2006, carries concerns to promote ministries of prayer, hands-on healing, and mutual confession and absolution of sins among Friends. John serves ESR’s student body as Recording Clerk of the Student Meeting for Business and as editor and publisher of the weekly newsletter The ESR Luminary.

You can read the first post in this series, on Eva Abbott and Van Temple, here:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Student couples at ESR, Part I: Eva Abbott and Van Temple

In recent years, the ESR community has been blessed with the addition of several couples who have decided to pursue seminary studies together. In this series, we will profile our current couples-in-residence. Below we feature Eva Abbott (left in the photo) and Van Temple: 

When I (Eva) started working in pastoral care in 2012, I quickly realized I needed more knowledge and training to do it effectively. After taking two courses on-line through ESR, I applied for and was awarded a one year scholarship to continue my studies. Van was nearing the end of a four-year effort to create an affordable housing organization in New Orleans and needed a sabbatical for rest and discernment. Moving to Richmond and joining the ESR community have revitalized, deepened and directed our passion for justice. I’ve found academic study both exhilarating and exhausting, and Van has been thrilled to audit several ESR writing classes. We are both very grateful for the welcome and guidance from professors, administration and staff.

Professionally, Van has restarted his land trust consultant business, and I will be exploring ministry direction in my upcoming 9-month internship. I’m in conversation about a chaplaincy internship at the Veteran’s Hospital in Cincinnati and an advocacy position with a local nonprofit committed to community well-being and justice. Both of us have also gotten active in the local Indivisible resistance group and are watching, with wonder, something new emerging in us and in the community.

You can read the 2nd post in this series, on Elizabeth and John Edminster, here: 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Emma Churchman: Working the 7 Deadly Sins Into Your Business, Part II

ESR graduate Emma Churchman describes herself as "a business mentor with a seminary degree and mad-genius psychic skills." In her latest blog series, she explores the concept of the "7 Deadly Sins" and urges us to "actually look at what has stereotypically been called the 'shadow' side of your power – via the framework of the 7 Deadly Sins – as a way to motivate you towards a beautiful outcome in your business." Below is a preview of the four next posts in her series:

Wrath, or Anger – can be an incredibly powerful force, because it represents passion. And passion can help us move past resistance. As we’ve explored in previous blogposts moving past your resistance is absolutely critical for your success as a conscious entrepreneur.
Your anger has to move you towards your goals – because it is really destructive to just hold anger in your own body. Folks who hold anger often experience symptoms like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, weight gain, migraines, and general body tension.
The beautiful thing about being a conscious entrepreneur is that you have the capacity to feel your emotions, and the emotions of others, exquisitely, but then it’s as easy to allow all of these emotions to get stuck in your body, especially anger!
So, how do you utilize anger in a healthy, productive way to reach your goals?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Quaker Water

Below is an excerpt from ESR MDiv student Jack Rowan's article appearing in the latest issue of Western Friend:

David Foster Wallace’s ideas are not revolutionary; indeed, they are the crux of nearly every civic ethics and religious catechism. However, the visceral examples and uncomfortable honesty he employed to make his points transformed the twenty-minute video of his commencement speech into a generational touchstone. In one example, he worked his audience into a cheering crowd by delivering a rant against arrogant, gas-guzzling, rude drivers with self-satisfied bumper stickers . . . and then he interrupts his own rant to make his point – that his audience’s ready cheers are exactly the sort of response he is encouraging them to resist. He emphasizes we must counteract our own arrogance and self-satisfaction, and resist our ready assumptions that we know who others are based on a few clues and our own self-focused immediate circumstances. He emphasizes, “It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Yoga for a Messy World: Creating Calm in the Chaos

ESR MDiv graduate Steve Cleaver delivered the following message during Joint Seminary Worship in Bethany Theological Seminary's Nicarry Chapel on Friday, March 10, 2017:


Welcome. My name is Steve Cleaver. This is “Yoga for a Messy World, Finding the Calm in the Chaos.” If you are look for the “Eschatological Humor of Martin Luther and John Calvin”, then this is not it. Bathrooms are out in the hallway. Note your exits. (points). There are no oxygen masks under your seats.

Silence, turn off, discard or destroy any technological devices that are going to distract or deter you from living in the present moment. If asking the question, What Would Jesus Do, he didn’t have a cell phone. At least it is never mentioned in the bible. None of this talk will come to you by text or phone. That I promise.

Any time you find yourself not in the present, you find your mind wandering into other places and times, wondering why you are here, wondering how soon is lunch or if you unplugged the iron, just tap your finger, and say quietly to yourself, this is my finger. Try it now. (pause) This is my finger. Your body is your portal into the present moment. Let’s meet there.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Emma Churchman: Working the 7 Deadly Sins Into Your Business

ESR graduate Emma Churchman describes herself as "a business mentor with a seminary degree and mad-genius psychic skills." In her latest blog series, she explores the concept of the "7 Deadly Sins" and urges us to "
actually look at what has stereotypically been called the 'shadow' side of your power – via the framework of the 7 Deadly Sins – as a way to motivate you towards a beautiful outcome in your business." Below is a preview of her first two posts in the series:

Embracing Desire

The only force that is as powerful as our need for survival is DESIRE. Unfortunately, we’ve been taught by all kinds of “spiritual authorities” for thousands of years that desire is wrong.

We’re taught that we should be grateful for what we have. We shouldn’t want more, but be satisfied with our lives. This is especially true when our lives are pretty good.

There is nothing wrong with having a gratitude practice. Gratitude is beautiful!

If we practice gratitude in order to make ourselves feel better because we don’t think we can attain greater abundance, or we don’t think we deserve an even more abundant life, then suddenly having a gratitude practice causes us to settle. It creates a limitation.

“It could be worse” is not a reason to stay where we are!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

He knows me, let’s know JESUS

Kim BeomHeon (Tiger), an ESR exchange student from Hanshin University Graduate School of Theology in South Korea, delivered the following message during Joint Seminary Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion on Friday, February 17, 2017: 

Leviticus 19:18
Psalm 23:1~6
Romans 3:9~18

I heartily welcome and bless you today in the name of the Lord.

We have gathered here to believe in something.
The object of our faith may be God alone,
it may be Jesus Christ, or it could be another object of worship.

Why do we have faith, and why do we worship?
Faith is the primary thing that saves us from sin.

The forms of salvation and methods of salvation that world religions claim are diverse.
The concept of sin we must know for salvation is very diverse.
Especially, the concept of sin today is very diverse.

In these circumstances today, Christianity asks this serious question.
What is sin?
There can be various discussions about sin, but I think that sin is not knowing oneself.

"Do you know exactly who you are?"

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

“It is Well with My Soul”: A Journey of Grief and Faith

In this powerful reflection ESR MDiv student Anne M. Hutchinson shares about the loss of her son. 

Everything about that phone call felt wrong, even before I answered. It had started as an ordinary evening in April. I was in an empty classroom preparing for an English as a Second Language class that I was subbing for, when my phone rang, with an unknown number showing up on the caller ID. It was my son’s stepmother, and she quickly put my son’s father on. He said starkly, without any preliminaries, “Your son is dead.” My son? Not our son? When had he become exclusively “my” son? Almost mechanically, I asked the requisite questions: how did it happen, when would the funeral be. My ex said he had just come from the coroner’s office and was too upset to talk any more. My son had taken his own life at the age of 27.
Trying to take it in, I called my sister and a close friend to let them know. It was too late to cancel class. The students would be arriving within the half hour. Somehow, through the shock, I finished my preparations and greeted the students as they arrived. The subject was spring, which would begin in a few days. In a numb state, I put on my bravest face and got through the session. I invited the students to generate English words about spring: flowers, seeds being planted, rain, frogs—of all things. From the words, they created sentences to practice vocabulary and verb forms. They worked in their textbooks in small groups, as usual. Finally, time was up and I sent them home.