Earth Day + After Trade

stephanieberbec:

imageWhen coffee as a product is the primary focus rather than the people it affects, it can be a difficult endeavor to convince others to join efforts of ethics and sustainability, or have any concern for the wellbeing of those involved in the industry before export. The issues involving ethics and sustainability not only include the dehumanization of people, but the despoilment of the land and the effects of export as well. What many fail to realize is that coffee is not a plant that can be picked from year-round. Like other crops, the coffee cherry has a peak season in which it best produces. Essentially, the coffee plants and the land where they are grown is being depleted because farmers can’t afford to only pick during the peak of the season. This also effects the quality of coffee being harvested. In other instances, farmers do not profit enough to be able to re-invest funds into proper care of the land for organic fertilizers or irrigation systems.

After Trade is our attempt to reverse these priorities. Which is to say, After Trade is foremost about people, not the quality of coffee being produced. Our hope is to commit to a farm and its people, work alongside them, develop relationships of trust, and take the necessary measures to work toward improving their farm, and as a result, improving the quality of beans produced. Part of our work will involve land development, such as planting shade trees or constructing washing stations. Additionally, it may prove beneficial to develop alternative sources of income that would provide subsistence during the off seasons of the coffee harvest, such as building chicken coops for poultry farming and egg sales. On this point is where our work with EITanzania doing sustainable development projects will overlap with our work with After Trade. For us, this is just as much a theological concern and responsibility as it is environmental or humanitarian. 

Today is Earth Day. If you are looking for ways to celebrate, we would be incredibly grateful if you might consider donating to After Trade. Doing so would help us get to Tanzania and begin this work towards reconciliation between farmers, roasters, coffee, and the land. 

Partner with these friends to help Creation - both the Earth and its inhabitants.

Hermeneutics: Jonah | Chapter IV (Part V)

imageYou can read the text of Jonah here. This is the fifth installment of my Jonah series. Be sure to read the other installments:
Part I: Interpretation
Part II: Chapter I
Part III: Chapter II
Part VI: Chapter III

All biblical quotations are from the NRSV unless otherwise stated.
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The fourth and final chapter of Jonah focuses on Jonah’s reaction after God shows mercy towards Nineveh. After all the turmoil Jonah went through, he is disappointed with God’s decision. The Assyrians, an enemy of Israel, were spared from God’s judgment which infuriated the prophet. In his anger, Jonah complained to the Creator, “It is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4.3, 8). However, Jonah also expected this outcome: “That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing” (4.2). Here, Jonah echoes a traditional Israelite statement found within Exodus 34. Although this statement is usually about God’s character within the covenant of Israel, Jonah seemingly implies that God’s mercy also extends to a hostile empire. We turn to how this narrative deals with
Creation, Salvation, and Inclusion, as well as what Jonah teaches modern readers today.

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Hermeneutics: “Jesus is Lord” as a Speech-Act

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If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Romans 10.9-13, NRSV
This meaning of this passage has been flattened in the wake of the Enlightenment’s effect on Western Christianity. John Locke, the 17th century philosopher, stated “the Gospel was writ to induce men into a belief of this proposition, that Jesus was the Messiah; which if they believed, they should have life.”[1] Combined with the Reformation overemphasis of sola fide (faith alone), modernity’s “reasonable Christianity” caused salvation to be understood “epistemologically rather than ontologically.” In other words, salvation became “an assent to clear and intelligible propositions” and less about Christian works and being.[2]


However, one could say Locke is interpreting the “plain meaning” of the above passage from Romans 10: One simply needs to “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved. I argue that this passage calls for more than mere intellectual assent in its historical context.[3] “Jesus is Lord” is a speech-act. But what is a speech-act, exactly? And how does that help us navigate through this passage?

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Hermeneutics: Jonah | Chapter III (Part IV)

imageYou can read the text of Jonah here.  This is the fourth installment of my Jonah series. Be sure to read the other installments:
Part I: Interpretation
Part II: Chapter I
Part III: Chapter II

All biblical quotations are from the NRSV unless otherwise stated.
________________________

The third chapter of Jonah focuses on the response of the Ninevites to the prophet’s preaching. Jonah cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” It’s undetermined whether this was all that Jonah spoke or if there was more to his message. Although this is an interesting textual issue, the Jonah’s message is not the main subject of the passage. We will focus more on the response of the Ninevites in the
Inclusion section, as well as who they are and why their place in the story is so important. Now we move on to our familiar terms of Creation, Salvation, and Inclusion.

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Living Theology: Praying ‘The Lord’s Prayer’

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Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
    On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
    As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil.

Christ’s statement “Pray, then, in this way” has been popularly interpreted in two ways: Actually praying the following prayer or modeling our prayers after this one. There are those who want to avoid a ritualistic prayer life, and that is understandable. There is always the temptation to merely utter words from memory and not mean them. However, repeating a prayer over and over does not necessarily mean that the prayer loses meaning. We eat every day, with some meals tasting more or less bland, but they give our body sustenance. Those who have been married a long time go through a day-to-day routine with their loved one, but that does not mean their love has become insignificant. Athletes repeat workouts, but their exercise maintains and builds strength. Too often, we do not know what we ought to pray for and our minds wander and our words stumble. The Lord’s Prayer is the ideal prayer to put into practice because it is not only connected with the early liturgical Christian community, but to the historical Christ himself.[1] St. Gregory of Nyssa, a 4th century theologian, remarked:

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Hermeneutics: Jonah | Chapter II (Part III)

imageYou can read the text of Jonah here. This is the third installment of my Jonah series. Be sure to read the other installments:
Part I: Interpretation
Part II: Chapter I

All biblical quotations are from the NRSV unless otherwise stated.
________________________

The second chapter of Jonah focuses on the prayer of Jonah and his salvation. There are a few issues with this text, however. It has been argued that this prayer/psalm was a later addition or outside construct, but I will be treating the text as pivotal to the narrative.[1] There is also the issue of narrative
timing. How can Jonah pray “out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you [Lord] heard my voice” when Jonah is still within the fish? How can Jonah be sure that his “prayer came to [God]” at this point in the story? One possible answer is that the prayer of Jonah is reflective; that is, a prayer about a past episode. Consequently, it would be difficult to separate what Jonah actually prayed in 2.2-9 from its reflective elements. Textual issues aside, my goal is to treat Jonah as a fully received narrative. The allusions, mostly to the Psalms, are a major non-critical textual note in this chapter.[2] These allusions are important to tying the story of Jonah to the larger theological narrative and doxology of the Old Testament. How does Chapter 2 of Jonah fit in with Creation, Salvation, and Inclusion?

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Early Church: Clement of Alexandria and ‘Seeing Through A Glass’

imageThere are many Christians who who subscribe to the thought that, when they read the Bible, they simply “read” instead of “interpret” Scripture.[1] These Christians, with good intentions, want to preserve the “objectivity” of the Bible and defend what it “clearly says”. However, any survey of historical biblical interpretation or historical theology shows us that the Bible has been interpreted in many ways that self-referenced by individuals who claimed that their interpretation was the “true” interpretation of Scripture. The Early Church was rife with differences over the interpretation of Scripture: Was Jesus God? If so, how? How can God be One while invoking “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”? These early theological debates were centered around the interpretation of Scripture, and I claim that is still one of the main, if not the main, issue today in Christian theological debates. Clement of Alexandria wrote:

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