Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Another excuse to "need" more clothes

I just heard about a new fashion magazine that will feature only modest clothing... looks pretty sweet to me! (Although it does nothing to stem my growing clothes addiction, fed by the fact that I still live at home and hence treat all my income as disposable.) Anyway: www.elizamagazine.com

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Expanding our universes

"So, I am sure we are all experiencing new and wonderful things in our lives that are changing how we think about the world - including new books, travels, conversations, food, films, jobs, scents -- anything.

I think it's time we share some of these things with each other."

Kudos to Alexandra!


- My beautiful little boy!!

- A River Runs Through It - both the book and the movie.
Some of my favorite quotes:
"You can love completely without complete understanding."
"How can a question be answered that asks a lifetime of questions?"
"It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us."
The author, Norman Maclean, was a professor at the University of Chicago - how fitting. Besides, it's a true story, and it beautifully describes the masterful art of fly fishing.

- Lamb Shawerma with vegetables, Middle Eastern rice and pita bread.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Remix: Abraham and Isaac

I talked about this briefly with Alexandra the other day, and decided to post on it. I am taking a Bible as Lit class, and on our first day of class, we discussed Abraham and Isaac. Of course, I always prescribed to the amazing story of faith. When we discussed it in class, it kind of rocked me a little. Here's a rough paper on some of my thoughts. They are by no means complete thoughts, just a little something to hopefully get some conversation churning (I hope). And, um. I don't know what's going on with the font. Sorry.

The ultimate story of faith: Abraham, unquestioningly diligent in following the word of God, trudges up the Mount of the Lord to sacrifice his beloved son. The Hebrew term for this long-disputed story is the Akedah, or, the Binding of Isaac. Early rabbinic interpretations quote God, "
'I never considered telling Abraham to slaughter Isaac' (using the Hebrew root letters for "slaughter", not 'sacrifice'.)" (McInerny). Rather than a test of loyalty, in seeing if Abraham would kill his beloved son, Rabbi Yona Ibn Janach claimed the commanded sacrifice was meant to be symbolic.

God puts Abraham in quite the moral dilemma: Obey God, commit murder. Save Isaac, disobey God. Even the LDS cover answer for divinely appointed murder cannot fit: there is no risk of an entire nation dwindling in disbelief based on Isaac's living. In fact, God has already covenanted with Abraham in Genesis 21:12 that Abraham's seed will be preserved through Isaac. Theology professors Caspi and Kramer argue that "[Isaac] went together with his father (perhaps having dialogue with his father about the meaning of the sacrifice). In this way, Isaac actively participated in the non-tragic drama of the Akedah" ("Response"). As Sherryll Mleynek rebuts, "There is no textual basis that Abraham knows this is a test. [Caspi and Kramer's] attribution of a second 'dialogue' appears to be based on the wish for such in the context of faith, rather than on any exegetical justification" ("Rejoinder"). The end result that this is a just a test of Abraham's faith is irrelevant to Abraham. Because the text does not support Abraham's understanding, it cannot be assumed. To Abraham, the question truly is, would God have me kill my son? If God had covenanted with Abraham that Abraham's seed would come through Isaac, could it come from God to kill Isaac?

The authoritative Christian reading is that Isaac is a precursor to Jesus. Just as God, the Father, must sacrifice his own son, Abraham must sacrifice his son, like a lamb to the slaughter. Even if this is meant to be a type of Christ, it is incomplete, because Abraham's hand was stayed. How is this taste of sacrifice meant to shed light on the Atonement or the Crucifixion? As a type of Christ, Isaac's sacrifice would have had to accomplish something. Isaac's sacrifice would need to act as a catalyst for something greater, as Jesus' death was the catalyst for the salvation and resurrection for humanity.

While a Christian, type-of-Christ application is irrelevant to the Jewish reader, a Hasidic reading of the text interprets Abraham's inner battle as the pertinent issue. The test was not of Abraham's faith, but of his emotions. "For our Hasidism, had he felt love or pity for Isaac at the akedah, Abraham would have failed the test, even had he sacrificed Isaac!" (Gellam). Abraham had to prove his total devotion to and love for God by eradicating his feelings toward his son.

The Genesis account does not state this is a test of Abraham's faith: "God did tempt Abraham" (Gen. 22:1). Early rabbinic interpretations of the Akedah also refute the notion of a test of faith: "Abraham's imagination led him astray, making him believe that he had been commanded to sacrifice his son" (McInerny). Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi asked "how could God command such a revolting thing?" (McInerny). The divine intervention which prevents the actual sacrifice is curious. God commands/tests/tempts Abraham to sacrifice his son. Surely such a grave command would need to come directly from God in order to be believed, yet when Abraham's hand is stayed, it is on the errand of an angel. If God gave the commandment, would God not need to be the one to revoke it? God shows his mercy and love repeatedly. In his destruction of Sodom, God tells Abraham he would refrain from destroying the city if there were but fifty, then forty-five, then forty, then thirty, then twenty, then ten righteous people. God seems to want to give the benefit of the doubt to his people. The evidence suggests a fair, rational, loving God. Commanding a father to sacrifice his son just as a test of faith is not only unjust, it is cruel and sadistic. The only way to rectify this seemingly cruel joke, is to use the evidence: "God did tempt Abraham." Consistent with God's character, battling temptations are the way to test and prove faith. If God did tempt Abraham, as Genesis states, Abraham was not meant to carry out the sacrifice; Abraham was not meant to attempt the sacrifice. When Abraham yields to temptation, an angel of the Lord stays his hand.

The Akedah may be similar to that of David and Saul: a cautionary tale. God is consistent; man rarely is. When Abraham felt tempted to sacrifice his son, he was tempted with the current trend.
Human sacrifice was a common thing in Abraham's day: as evidenced by Abraham's father's actions. Rarely does God command his child to follow the current trend. "Unlike the cruel heathen deities, it was the spiritual surrender alone that God required" (McInerny). God is constant and sure. While a story of unwaivering faith is the most common as the interpretation of Abraham and Isaac, a story of temptation is the only one to make sense.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Shakin things up...

This afternoon Al and I were talking about how to stimulate more discussion on the blog. It's kind of a crazy time for a lot of us--between babies and graduations and theses and new jobs etc--and so I think FQI is less active than some of us (me?) might want.

One idea we had was to open the blog up to comments from non-bloggers. I think two big pros of this would be to (1) revitalize discussions and (2) bring in some other perspectives to issues that we discuss.

What do you think? Since it's kind of a big change, we'd like to get as many opinions as possible. Also, if we do end up opening up the blog, we want to give everyone the chance to remove whatever personal information they'd like to.


Monday, 7 May 2007

Intro Post

Hi guys!

I'm Jenn, a first year law student at the University of Chicago, and I know Allison through the law school. I'm new to both blogging and religion, which makes this blog an apt one for me to learn about both. I've never been particularly religious, but with the conversion of a close college friend to the LDS faith and other LDS influences in my life, I've come to treasure and appreciate how faith and the gospel have enriched my life. However, with that faith have come ideological struggles with balancing faith, advanced degrees (especially with loans), the prospect of motherhood (however distant that may be), and all of the other tricky things that seem to come with being a woman of faith. I'm eager to hear how others who have been in this position for far longer than I wrestle with some of these tricky ideas.

Looking forward to getting to know all of you!

Expanding our universes

So, I am sure we are all experiencing new and wonderful things in our lives that are changing how we think about the world - including new books, travels, conversations, food, films, jobs, scents -- anything.

I think it's time we share some of these things with each other.

-Arab baths: wading from pool to pool, a tepid pool, a hot pool, a freezing pool, a salt pool, a jetted pool, an aromatherapy room, a sauna room; see here. I don't understand why spas across the world haven't embraced this ingenious practice - I have never been more relaxed and my skin has never been softer.

-The scent of orange trees. Inexplicably fresh and delicious.

-Lectures on Faith. What does "faith unto life and salvation" mean?

-The Mezquita Catedral. Iconic images:

-Brie, tomato and basil sandwiches on a fresh baguette. Or, brie, tomato and avocado.

-"Ti regalero una rosa" by Simone Cristicchi, winner of the San Remo Song Festival. Lyrics here - those who cannot handle Sylvia Plath, beware.

-Chocolate-covered matzo (thanks Kathryn).

Silver clouds

You know those Chevy Chase movies where everything sort-of falls apart, like one thing after another? Well, my family vacations were actually like that (think extensive "scenic detours" and imploding motorhomes) and as amusing-slash-disastrous as that was growing up, I had always planned on my own vacations being a little more peaceful and vacation-like.


My trip to Spain with Emma and Ade turned out to be similarly amusing-slash-disastrous (think disastrous in the sense that no one died, no long-term damage was done etc, just materially unfortunate). To quickly sum up the dramatic highlights: I lost my wallet (in Cambridge) including my passport, bankcards and allll my cash, missed my flight to Barcelona, had to wait four days to sort anything out since everything was closed for Easter weekend, had to travel to the us embassy and buy an emergency passport, buy a new flight, finally made it to Spain where my bankcard didn't work (sorry Emma), got food poisoning in Toledo, was sick in the Madrid metro (sorry Madrillenos), then after barely making it back to Cambridge, my bike and I had a serious altercation with the pavement of Mill Road where I left behind patches of clothing and skin. Basically I'm not going to travel or eat gazpacho for a really long time - BUT that's not the point: even though with each new thing I was increasingly uncomfortable, I increasingly appreciated - on a really personal, immediate level - the power of human kindness.

For example, when I finished crawling around the bus floor in search of my wallet, the bus driver asked me if I had enough money to make a phone call and pressed a two pound coin into my hand.

When I realized I would be staying in Cambridge for the weekend and didn't really have any food in my flat, a friend in my ward invited me to a picnic with her and her children - her daughter drew me a card, my friend brought me lunch and she also brought the children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" for us to read, haha.

When I was ill on the metro, Emma not only held my hair back but gave me her coat to be sick into!

When I crashed my bicycle, a man on the side of the street yelled, "aaugh!" and ran to collect me and my belongings from the pavement and guided me to the sidewalk.

Even though losing my wallet, wrecking my bike etc were all just superficial unpleasant experiences, the sweetness of human kindness was like some wonderful nectar, some really profound force that sustained me in the moment and has made this past month one of my most treasured times in Cambridge. I'm really not being sappy here, right? I just want to share how I have been blessed by dear dear people who, whether they knew me or not, loved me and helped me when I was having a rough moment - and, in doing so, allowed me to glimpse the world as a place where charity and goodness do rule -- how beautiful!