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Sebastian fixed dinner for the family for the first time, rather than simply helping. He made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This most common of children's food (which I've continued to eat all my life) actually plays a role in my very first political activity. Back during the 1976 presidential election, when I was Sebastian's current age, because I loved peanut butter, I decided to support Jimmy Carter because he was a peanut farmer. Oh, and I liked his wide grin. Mom says I also asked questions about him and Ford, which surprised her. On election night, when he won,... Continue reading
In the last post in this series, I wrote about beans and dumplings and how this originates as poor people's food that my family continued to eat even as they rose into the middle class. I e-mailed my mother asking her about favourite foods and family traditions and she echoed this theme when she wrote of her mother, "I’ll gross you out--a favorite of mom’s was pickled pig's feet. Once again poor people’s food." I remember Mammoo eating her pickled pig's feet. And it grossed me out as a kid. Mammoo grew up in Arkansas, raised by her grandfather. Her... Continue reading
This one time in college, Laura Picazo and I got to talking about culture and food and she asked me, "What's a traditional Oklahoma meal?" Laura's ancestors were Basques and French who had emigrated to Mexico and eventually to Texas. Laura taught me how to season my taco meat. "Beans and cornbread," I said. Soon we had scheduled an evening for me to come to her apartment and prepare what I considered the most traditional of meals from my cultural background, a meal my mother made all the time. It is also a meal that reveals our socio-economic roots. My... Continue reading
In The Cooking Gene Michael W. Twitty includes an entire chapter on the history of rice and it's connection with the Atlantic slave trade. In the mid 1700's American plantations owners intentionally imported slaves from the rice growing regions of West Africa, which accounted for about 40% of the entire trade to the United States. Rice had a long history in Africa, as he writes: Rice has been part of West African life in Upper Guinea and the Western Sudan for nearly two thousand years by the time the Europeans arrived, spreading out from heartlands along the Senegal, Gambia, and... Continue reading
Most people would find the picture of our universe as an infinite tower of tortoises rather ridiculous, but why do we think we know better? What do we know about the universe, and how do we know it? Where did the universe come from, and where is it going? Did the universe have a beginning, and if so, what happened before then? What is the nature of time? Will it ever come to an end? Recent breakthroughs in physics, made possible in part by fantastic new technologies, suggest answers to some of these longstanding questions. Someday these answers may seem... Continue reading
From my theology reading today: "Finally, the Spirit counters our indolence by placing us within the community of Christ's body. Community helps craft us into good givers. It's in the community that the Spirit suffuses our giving with hope; we hope because are part of a community of hope. It's in the community that the Spirit mold our character; we display a life of virtue because we live in a community that values and fosters virtue. And how does the Spirit energize and direct our talents? We allow the community's needs to lay claim on us, and we seek the... Continue reading
"The church is an Easter community created out of the crucified and risen body of Jesus, enveloped by empires, but not overwhelmed. The church is a graced gathering that has been transformed by the good news of God's life-giving reign. The church is the assembly in which the holy and mysterious presence of Christ Jesus is welcomed. The church on Easter Sunday . . . is called to trust in this good news so deeply that it renounces all that opposes it, resists all that seeks to upend it, and rejoices in God's gracious resurrection power that changes everything, even... Continue reading
Breaking the Numbness Zephaniah 3:1-5 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Called to Action: A Day of Lamentation and Vigil Against Gun Violence 14 March 2018 I must confess that last month when I first heard the news of the shooting in Parkland, I was numb. These mass shootings have become such a regular feature of American life that my reserves of grief and anger ran out long ago. But in his masterful work The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann tells us that numbness is a significant problem. There is a royal consciousness and a prophetic imagination,... Continue reading
Many authors have analyzed the puzzling alliance of Evangelicals with Donald Trump, who is antithetical to traditional Evangelical views. Writing The Atlantic, Michael Gerson, himself an Evangelical and conservative Republican, gives one of the most insightful and perceptive contributions yet to this growing body of literature, including a good history of American Evangelicalism. He concludes, "It is the strangest story: how so many evangelicals lost their interest in decency, and how a religious tradition called by grace became defined by resentment. " I appreciated his discussion of the social justice actions of Evangelicals in the 19th century and then how... Continue reading
The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Hannah Arendt My rating: 4 of 5 stars I picked up this little volume of four Arendt interviews while in Oklahoma City last week. I continue to be impressed by Arendt's analysis and enjoy teaching her in my philosophy and ethics classes. Among the interesting tidbits in this volume: "A functionary, when he really is nothing more than a functionary, is really a very dangerous gentleman." Her worry, in 1970, that the American working class was going to be attracted to nationalism. That the student movements of the late 1960's had revealed the... Continue reading
One of the great joys in our family is making breakfast together, usually on a Saturday morning. Of course this is not unique to us. As I continue this series on foodways, inspired by reading The Cooking Gene, this morning as Michael and Sebastian work on pancakes, I'm reflecting on the role of breakfast. Some highlights from my past: Mammoo, my grandma Nixon, would get up early to fix breakfast and the smell of bacon wafting up from the kitchen is what would awaken you. My parents making pancakes in fun shapes for us to eat as kids. Something Michael... Continue reading
Fortunately one trait Michael and I share in common is pulling off the highway to visit small town and roadside attractions. Last week when I was alone en route to Oklahoma City, I decided to finally see what that "Rock City" sign at the Minneapolis, Kansas exit was all about. First you have to drive through Minneapolis itself, which is filled with beautiful Victorian homes that are well-maintained. This one was my favourite. The downtown looked like many very small towns in the region, with this building being an interesting exception. The town also had a fun looking city park... Continue reading
A Long Letting Go: Meditations on Losing Someone You Love by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre My rating: 2 of 5 stars A series of meditations and prayers that could be helpful to someone coping with the terminal illness and death of a loved one. View all my reviews Continue reading
Recently I read The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty, and it has inspired me to write a blog series on the role of food in my life. Tonight was our book club, which I couldn't make. But I went ahead and prepared the Texas Caviar I was going to take, using the opportunity to discuss foodways with our son Sebastian as he helped me to prepare the dish. Texas Caviar is a black-eyed pea based dip often encountered at parties in Texas and surrounding areas. I'm sure I was first acquainted with it in Oklahoma. Now, growing up, I... Continue reading
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty My rating: 4 of 5 stars When I read/heard about this book last autumn, I recommended it to our church book club. They adopted it for our March gathering, so last weekend while traveling I read it. I really liked the book in that I learned a lot from it, even feeling better informed about food I grew up on. For instance, learning that the annual New Year's tradition of eating black-eyed peas goes back to the Yoruba people. Now in future... Continue reading
Something to Die For Mark 8:27-9:1 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational UCC 18 February 2018 This being the First Sunday in Lent, we have begun a new worship series—"Practicing Passion." But there is continuity with our worship since Advent, in that we are continuing in the Gospel of Mark. With today's story, we arrive at a new section in Mark's gospel. We have ended the "way through the wilderness" and now begin "the way to Jerusalem" and the cross. Here is how scholar Ched Myers introduces today's reading: We have arrived at the midpoint of... Continue reading
Strange Things Mark 9:14-29 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational UCC 25 February 2018 Last August many of us participated in the solar eclipse. Our family drove hours west in order to be in the center of the path of totality and to avoid the heavy clouds obscuring eastern Nebraska. Part of what I enjoyed that day was the shared experience. Not only was the eclipse itself sublime, but there was an extra joy in knowing that so many people were sharing it together and posting their stories and pictures for others to see. One of... Continue reading
Ancient Apocryphal Gospels by Markus N a Bockmuehl My rating: 3 of 5 stars A good survey of the subject matter with more recent scholarly conclusions than some I had learned earlier in my career. View all my reviews Continue reading
An analysis in the Atlantic provides fresh ways to approach controversial political issues in hopes of building common ground. Continue reading
Fear Itself Mark 6:30-56 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational UCC 11 February 2018 Fear is a theme that runs through the Gospel of Mark. And in this story the disciples' fear get in the way of their understanding who Jesus is and what he's doing. We've skipped over a few passages since last week's sermon, in those stories Jesus calmed the storm on the sea, cast demons into pigs, healed a woman of a twelve-year hemorrhage, and raised from apparent death a young girl. All of this witnessed by the disciples. Jesus also sent them... Continue reading
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut My rating: 3 of 5 stars I never used to be this cynical, but in the Trump era I'm getting more that way. What a complex, interesting, wickedly funny, yet sad story. It's about an American spy who infiltrated the Nazis so well that he's now on trial in Israel for his crimes against humanity. View all my reviews Continue reading