Sunday, December 24, 2006

adviento: maría

Picture created by RIBLA meeting at ISEDET, autumn 2006.

Love cries from a stable trough,
His passion foretold.
Still, we make ready
For a world fashioned anew.

Mary’s risk

Mary you took a risk
not with strangeness but familiarity.
You didn’t go innocent and pure
but with eyes opened,
by unwed mothers send beyond the village.
You went knowingly, deliberately.
Surely you would hesitate.
Such a dreadful thing to be asked of you.
But you said yes
And had faith
in your God who lifts up those cast down.

Another feeling I have -
one I’m not yet willing to let go of
but keep turning over, looking at it from different standpoints-
is that you didn’t have a choice;
or rather the only choice you had
was to accept the angel’s gift of possibility and purpose
out of a terrible thing.
What makes men act like this?
Making much of their power
soldiers conquering.
So the angel brought you a change for peace.
And your decision was whether to trust after, not before.

And you did trust.
And you did risk.
And we do too.

Rachel Starr, Advent 2001

This week's readings are available online here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

adviento: juan el bautista

Love cries from a stable trough,
His passion foretold.
Still, we make ready
For a world fashioned anew.

Late in the third week of advent, we turn to John the Baptist, neither a reed shaken by the wind nor dressed in soft robes, as Jesus bitingly points out many years later as John is imprisoned.

I can't tell you much about John's role in Latin American spirituality but since I arrived back in the UK the talk and action has all been about getting ready as are this week's readings. John wasn't arrested for excessive last minute shopping, or taking liberties with Nigella's Christmas pudding. No, John was arrested for his mad crazy rants. He was locked up for freaking everyone out, for bawling the crowds out of their comfortable (mince pie induced) haze. Get ready, he told them, coz it's all about to kick off.

So how do we make ready for Christmas?

John gives us a few tips:
"Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise."

"Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you."

"Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."(Luke 3.10-14)

That'll do for starters.

This week's readings are available online here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

adviento: los profetas

Love cries from a stable trough,
His passion foretold.
Still, we make ready
For a world fashioned anew.

The prophets (this week's advent theme) are remembered for their passion for justice. Jesus too, although we tend to think of his passion in terms of the cross.

But Jesus passion was not for death but for life - for friends and strangers; food and drink; the land and sea; for conversations and chance encounters; for traditions and surprises.

Our passions take us out of ourselves. They make us do things we never might of imagined. Passionately we declare a secret love, or stand in silent protest against the war in Iraq. Passionate action rarely fits codes of acceptable behaviour - just look at some of the actions of the prophets in the Hebrew Bible! But our passions can call us to deeper love and justice.

Last week I was taking to a friend about their home town in Chile. They told me it was by the peaceful sea. I wanted to know more, imagining a tranquil bay. No, they corrected me, el Pacífico, the Pacific Ocean. The two words are the same in Spanish. The origins of the word Passion come from the Latin passio, meaning to suffer, and suggest Jesus' passive acceptance of his fate. Yet, we can also think of Jesus' death or passion as a result of his passion for life. The passion for justice which, like many other prophets, was too far outside the bounds of morality for those in charge to tolerate.

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; (Malachi 3:1-2)

The readings for the Second Sunday in Advent can be found here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

adviento: esperanza

Love cries from a stable trough,
His passion foretold.
Still, we make ready
For a world fashioned anew.

In church this morning we heard the gospel from Luke 21.25-36 and when we reached the last verse, a man standing behind me spoke the words in anticipation:
but my words will not pass away.

The first week of Advent is about hope. In that man's voice, I heard a determined hope, one that echoed the other reading for today from Jeremiah 33.14:
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

Hope is fragile (the butterfly or mariposa is a traditional symbol of the hope of resurrection). But we cannot let it go, despite everything we know of pain and fear, and our constant doubts that all this will come to nothing.

Yet to sustain hope, we have to practice it. We have to hear it spoken by others and keep on proclaiming it to ourselves. So this morning we sang to each other:
May you not lose faith, may you not lose hope
May you not lose faith my brother
May you not lose faith my sister

Although the present time is difficult
and affliction grows among us
may you not lose hope, my sister
nor blow out the light of God's reign.
(J Páez, E Sosa, P Sosa)

As advent begins, we allow ourselves once more to name our deepest hopes, that God will come to meet us once more, love crying from a manger.

The revised Common Lectionary readings for today are available online.

Friday, December 01, 2006

love and passion still in fashion

Love cries from a stable trough,
His passion foretold.
Still, we make ready
For a world fashioned anew.

There are 1.8 million people living with HIV/ AIDS in Latin America. Today we are called to account as a global community, and asked why the HIV/ AIDS pandemic still continues to claim the lives of the poor and otherwise marginalized people who remain without medical care, information and support.

As we move into advent, we remember that God has formed us and been formed as one of us, sharing our lives and deaths, our loss and hope. And today we are challenged again to be bearers not of death and loss but of life and hope.
We bless you God
for your passion in creating this world
and your compassion in becoming part of its fabric -
flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone
in Jesus

God beyond our understanding,
Christ within our reach,
Spirit present at all times,
we celebrate your love for us

Take from World AIDS Day service 2006 from Christian Aid by John Bell

Sunday, November 26, 2006

bernardo campos

In a small simple church near Nazca on the arid coastal plains of Peru, I saw the holy spirit sweeping low and protectively over the earth, like a condor rising in the morning on the mountain thermals, soaring towards the sun before returning to her young ones.

Peruvian artist Maximo Laura draws on Wari culture and methods inherited from five generations of weavers in his family, teasing out:
his own gods,
his own ghosts
voices in the wind,
fiery sunsets
and horizons made of a thousand colored fibers.

In dreams and visions, the condor lends its sight and courage to those who will meet with it. And, as I discovered in the Nazca desert, for some Peruvian Christians, it has become a powerful symbol of the holy spirit.

This week's class reading was from Bernardo Campos (2002) Experiencia del Espíritu: Claves para una interpretación del Pentecostalismo, Quito: CLAI. He is a Peruvian theologian, researching pentecostal and indigenous religious movements. What interests me most is the variant connections (total rejection to syncretistic acceptance) between the spirit-focused Pentecostal movement and indigenous religious traditions that make space for communication with spirits, ecstatic experiences, trances, shamanism and prophecy.

I know very little about the Latin American Pentecostal movement. Here's what:

1. Pentecostalism has experienced tremendous growth on the continent. There has also been significant 'drop out' rates as well. It is a dynamic social movement:
Pentecostalism thus expresses a religiosity in mutation, a "culture movement" in constant transformation...Its dynamic lives in a constant process of "evolution and involution" and we find it now in a "charismatic" stage, now in an "institutional" one, or again "latent" in bureaucratic religious societies, and "manifest" in religious societies open to change or in process of transformation. (Campos in WCC discussion group, 2005/6)

2. Political and economic crisis have contributed to the growth of Pentecostalism as a way of escaping and/or dealing with poverty and political oppression. At the same time, some strands of Pentecostalism preach the prosperity gospel (faith will lead to material wealth). While it has traditionally been socially conservative (due to an apocalyptic world view and subsequent rejection of the world, and a suspicion of the predominately Catholic liberation theology movement), there are many sectors that are actively engaged in grassroots social action.

3. The evangelism of North American Pentecostal churches has generated suspicion. Some see Pentecostalism as a tool of American capitalist expansion, others as a genuine force for authentic self-expression and discovery. Many Pentecostal churches retain strong ties with their founding churches in the USA, some are effectively run from North American offices.

4. In some countries, such as Guatemala, Pentecostal churches were manipulated and set against Catholic communities during the civil war. Campos also acknowledges this:
In Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, for example, some local Pentecostals have been used by U.S. neo-conservative and fundamentalist groups to escalate and/or control the political tensions of the region. Often ideological battles are carried out under the guise of religious conflict. What is really at stake is the defense of social identities, political power, and the attempted consolidation of old and new hegemonies. (Campos 1996)

5.In most parts of Buenos Aires, and many other Latin American cities, it is possible to walk past a number of enormous shiny new church buildings paid for in American dollars. The nearest one to me is four blocks away and the glossy posters advertise groups for children, young couples and women's prayer meetings, mimicking the design of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or Harry Potter book.

6. Pentecostal churches tend to be socially and religiously conservative, for example regarding the roles of women and men. At the same time, their focus on lay participation creates spaces for women to speak and participate.

6.There is a general belief that Pentecostals are marginalized in the wider church community and political sphere. In the classrooms and churches, the tradition is often (gently) mocked or stereotyped. And in our discussion, it was only after many generalizations that someone thought to ask the one Pentecostal student present to offer her views.

7.While some conservative Pentecostal churches reject any form of indigenous spirituality, other smaller (and poorer) independent churches have embraced popular religious practices. Campos sees it as a creative movement, liberating Christians from restrictive Western religious practices and hierarchies.
Pentecostalism is the only branch of Protestantism rooted in Latin American "popular religiosity." Witness, for example, the new movement that I call "iso-Pentecostalism" in that it takes its image from Pentecostalism but has a different form of organization. Antonio Gouvea Mendonça in Brazil calls it the "movement of the divine cure." "Iso-Pentecostalism" does away with ecclesiastical organization, teaching of the Bible, the participation of the faithful in worship, even hymnals, in order to focus exclusively on healing, and the sale of "healing objects," quite common in popular Afro-Brazilian religiosity, whence it comes. (Campos 1996)

8. Community and experience are central to Campos’ interpretation of Pentecostal theology. The experience of the presence and work of the holy spirit sustains the life of the community and individual believers. Campos suggests that such ecstatic experiences take the worshiper out of everyday life, but not as a form of escape. Rather, as with mystical prophetic traditions, the dizzying awareness of God’s presence becomes a sustaining, motivating force in the everyday reality of the believer. This intense experience of love offers a new vision, but the path towards the vision is firmly on the ground.
Pentecostal spirituality is the everyday faith experience of real communities whose very identity is wrapped up in the Pentecost. In Latin America, these communities' daily experience is born of crisis, the product of a long process of economic, political and cultural domination; however, this same crisis is perceived as the starting point of a process of hopeful transformation. (Campos 1996)

Back in the desert church, I take a last look at the condor. God's spirit strong and true, nurturing us under soft wings and with piercing vision.

Further resources: Bernardo Campos has a blog but it's in Spanish and has not been updated recently. There is an overview of Pentecostalism in Latin American by Campos on the World Council of Churches website, and a chapter "Pentecostalism, Theology and Social Ethics" by him at religion online - the complete book on Pentecostalism in Latin America, In the Power of the Spirit, Dennis A. Smith and B.F. Gutierrez eds.(1996) is available.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

the note

On Monday morning

The phone rang,
but I decided it was my daily sales pitch from Telefonica.

There was a knock at the door,
but I imagined it was Nora and Lilli beginning to clean the bedrooms.

Later on, I left my apartment to go for a coffee fix at Café Nacho. Someone had left the bathroom light on. Annoyed I stuck my head round the corner to find the switch. There was a note taped to the mirror.

"Rachel", read the note, "The reading for class today is pages 21-9 (underlined)."

I felt like Alice in Wonderland, or Challenge Anneka at least!

This week, I've been thinking about that note a lot. Not only that someone was kind enough to try three times to warn me about a change in the class reading, but also how the note interrupted my view of myself, reflected in the mirror. It put me in a relationship with someone else who was looking out for me.

It's the same with text messages, or scribble post-its. They too can connect us, remind us of the people we share our lives with, who make us who we are.

Desmond Tutu describes Jesus as God's graffiti: scribbled, stenciled or spray-painted onto a wall. Bs As is a city covered in graffiti. The majority are anti-Bush slogans but alongside are declarations of love and shared jokes, the voices of those who find little official space in which to speak.

Graffiti speaks of things we prefer to ignore, or wish to forget. It offers us new perspectives on the world and our place within it. And yet, our instinct is to paint over the messages, restoring order from messy uncertainty.

Jesus graffiti shouts from the walls, reminding of what we are and hope to be, of the realities of our world, and those who share it with us.

During their visit, Mum and I went to an exhibition on remembrance at the Centro Cultural Recoleta One of the exhibitions was a series of photos from Rosario. They showed the same stenciled bike repeatedly sprayed across the city.

During the military dictatorship in Argentina, Fernando Traverso worked in the resistance until he was forced to go into exile. Bicycles were a common form of travel for members of the resistance. An abandoned bicycle was often the first sign that its owner had been kidnapped, or disappeared.

Three-hundred-and-fifty citizens of Rosario were disappeared during the Dirty War, as it was known in Argentina. Traverso spray-painted that same number of bicycle images throughout the city of Rosario, acting after midnight or at noon when most residents were in their homes for the noon meal and a siesta.

Walking through the streets of Rosario and seeing a bicycle leaning against a wall does not seem strange. Except, when one gets closer one can tell that it’s the black silhouette of a bicycle, a memory of a life erased.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

white poppy

Writing the Church Times, director of Ekklesia, Jonathan Bartley, suggests that the white poppy is more in keeping with Christianity than the red variety.
Read more at Ekklesia

Peace Pledge Union runs the white poppy campaign. You can also buy them at Friends Meeting Houses, online at Quakers or in other education and community centres.

Since I don't have a white poppy to wear on Saturday, I'm going to try to wear other signs of peace this week:

1. Pray for both peacemakers and warmongers, on the terrace each evening (with bubbles - thanks Caz)
2. Remain calm during transport related stress (usually because I haven't allowed enough time, but ignoring that, I mutter and sometimes even yell at bus drivers, ticket collectors, supermarket checkout staff who don't have's all true I'm afraid!)
3. Be truthful in my time and conversations
4. Seek points of connection with each person I talk with, no matter how different they seem
5. Eat peace with thanksgiving

What about you?

I had a paint box
but it didn't have the color red for the blood of the wounded
nor the white for the hearts and faces of the dead.
It didn't have yellow either for the burning sands of the desert.

Instead it had orange for the dawn and the sunset
and blue for new skies
and pink for the dreams of young people.

I sat down and painted peace.

(attributed to an anonymous Latin American child)

Friday, November 03, 2006

muriel's book

My good friend Muriel has her book published in the UK next month. Here's the link at Amazon

She and I were computer lab study-buddies, both without computers 'back in the day' and typing away frantically during our time at Union. Muriel stayed on to complete her doctorate and is now back in the Philippines teaching at Silliman University Divinity School and generally being amazing. Hurray Muriel!!

The release notes read:
This critical survey of Asian christologies focuses on the need to recognize and end the oppressed condition of Asian women. Orevillo-Montenegro shows how the christologies brought to Asia by Western missionaries failed to take into account the reality of Asia with its great diversity of cultures and traditional religions. She then describes christologies developed by male Asian theologians and those developed by women in India, Korea, the Philippines, and Hong Kong, concluding that any Asian christology must liberate Asian women who suffer from poverty, oppressive cultural traditions, a lack of basic human rights such as education, and gender discrimination.

At Orbis Books you can read the introductory chapter.

Another Union STM graduate and great friend, Scott Rennie, has just returned from a visit with the Church of Scotland to Palestine/Israel. You can read more in his new blog.

STM graduates of 1999 wouldn't be complete without Storm, similarly in a highly creative stage - go Storm and bump!

Finally for this week's post, listening to Radio Four's Front Row podcast (a happy side effect of not being able to listen to Radio 1 online is the discovery of some Radio Four (horror!) arts and news programmes. That said, I'm straight back to Jo Whiley and Mark Radcliffe once I'm reunited with a radio.) I was delighted to hear that Ian Rankin's new book, The Naming of the Dead is dedicated to 'all those who marched on 2nd July.' I don't know anything about Rankin's work but it turns out he was at the Make Poverty History march and comments,
The Meadows was full of people smiling at each other, 225,000 people there and almost no police needed.

A fantastic event, quickly forgotten in the days that followed. Make Poverty History continues via the work of Christian Aid and many other organizations.

PS: This November is Will Aid month - if you haven't made a will, this is your chance to make one while donating to nine international development agencies and UK children's charities, including Christian Aid and NSPCC.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Gustavo Gutiérrez A Theology of Liberation

I first read A Theology of Liberation in college but my fascination with liberation theology had begun a few years earlier, prompted by a single page in my GCSE text book on revolutionary theologians and the murder of Oscar Romero.

Alongside the required undergraduate reading at Oxford, I sought out liberation theologians to read: Enrique Dussel particularly, plus Pedro Casaldáliga, Jorge Pixley, Pablo Richard, the Boff brothers, Ernesto Cardenal and Carlos Mestors. Gutiérrez remained the first, the 'founding father' of the movement.

And then, with frightening speed, I arrived in Lima. Suddenly I was living in Gutiérrez's parish of Rimac, occasionally attending his church, volunteering in the centre he had helped found. I met him in the corridors, heard him speak and preach and, one afternoon shortly before I left Lima, I attended an Advent mass at which he preached and presided.

He was short, in a rush, constantly pressed for comment or answers. Concluding a student conference he preached on Zaccheaus (Luke 19), encouraging us to come down from our viewpoint in the treetops and get involved in what was going on in the crowds below.

At the mass held in a sunlit room at the centre, he reminded us that the bread and wine should be taken 'on foot and in haste.' They were to nourish and sustain us for our active life.

Recalling these brief encounters, two things strike me that correspond to this week's re-reading of A Theology of Liberation: his constant example and encouragement (more a demand) that the church is actively present in society. It is then no surprise that he begins his theology from action or praxis. He describes theology as the second step. Secondly and correspondingly, that he is nourished by the tradition, the word and sacraments.

Today I continue to appreciate the unwavering clarity in which Gutiérrez lays aside generalizations and claims to neutrality, to stand bravely with the poor, abused and broken.
Is the Church fulfilling a purely religious role when by its silence or friendly relationships it lends legitimacy to a dictatorial and oppressive government? (2001:93)

He writes of the surprise radicalism of some Christians (considering the Latin American church's generally conservative history) – and the shock of repression against priests, nuns and lay leaders in a Christian continent. Today we know the long martyrdom of the Latin American church was many years from ending when Gutiérrez wrote in 1971.

The main criticism of the book has been that Gutiérrez confused human movements for liberation (Marxism and armed revoluntionary movements implied) with God's work of salvation. Yet in re-reading Gutiérrez makes the distinction between them again and again. There is a mutual relationship but in no way an identification of what is penultimate with what is ultimate (to draw on Barth).
Without liberating historical events, there would be no growth of the Kingdom. But the process of liberation will not have conquered the very roots of human oppression and exploitation without the coming of the Kingdom, which is above all a gift. (2001:176)

Speaking from daily contact with poverty and repression, he has firm words for those who 'fudge' the issue in order to stay uncommitted to the struggle for human lives and dignity.
It is those who refuse to see that the salvation of Christ is a radical liberation from all misery, all despoliation, all alienation. It is those who by trying to ‘save’ the work of Christ will ‘lose’ it. (2001:176)

Many western Christians struggle with the notion of God's preference for the poor. Again, Gutiérrez is at pains to stress this does not negate God's love for all.
The universality of Christian love is, I repeat, incompatible with the exclusion of any persons, but it is not incompatible with a preferential option for the poorest and most oppressed. (2001:250)

No-one is excluded from God’s love. As we read in story of Zacchaeus, ‘are loved by God and constantly being called to conversion.’ (2001:250)

From the other side of the room, radical theologians have criticised A Theology of Liberation for remaining within a classical theological structure, rather than drawing also on radical and indigenous traditions of Latin America. A related frequent criticism is that the early liberation theologians such as Gutiérrez have failed to take into account the complexity of 'the poor' and see factors such as ethnicity and gender as important. Elina Vuola feels that the founding fathers of the movement have been less able to respond to the diversity of issues needing to be addressed today:
Liberation theology has largely remained unaffected by such recent developments in social theology as gender theory and postcolonial discourses… Prominent liberation theologians such as Enrique Dussel, Pablo Richard and Leonardo Boff, amongst others, grasp the need for these ‘new subjectivities’ within liberation theology, but are unable to include them because of the radical critique these new forms of social critique entail to certain traditional positions held by liberation theologians themselves. (Vuola 2002:16–17)

While I agree with Vuola, in recent articles (and even in the introduction to the revised 1988 version of A Theology of Liberation Gutiérrez does acknowledge the complexity of the situation and mentions organizations such as EAWOT that brought together theologians from poor communities around the world, each working from a distinct but related context. Nevertheless, as Marcella Althaus-Reid observes, many of the 'founding fathers' of liberation theology have remained conservative on the issue of women's rights and sexuality. In a week in which Nicaragua has voted to ban abortion, and South Dakota continues to debate whether it will uphold it's ban, both with the support of conservative church leaders, such reticence is frightening.

Finally, Marcella Althaus-Reid is bitingly critical of the conventiality of and the subsequent comercialization of liberation theology and of 'church tourism' by western Christians to find and photograph 'fashionable' base communities.
They came with notebooks and cameras to take photos, and returned to their countries of origin suntanned, with some traditional shirt from Latin America and notes for a future book to be published on Liberation Theology. Meanwhile, the liberationists were loosing the initial indecency of their project of theological dissemination. Too much clapping and admiration was as bad as the criticisms.' (Althaus-Reid 2000:26)

She makes for uncomfortable reading.

Acknowledging these and other criticisms, Gutiérrez's book continues to inspire me, calling me down from the tree and into the confusion and life of the crowds below.
To know God is to work for justice. There is no other path to reach God. (2001:245)

1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." 9 Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost." (Luke 19:1-10)

Gustavo Gutiérrez ([1971] 2001) A Theology of Liberation London: SCM Press

Elina Vuola (2002)Limits of Liberation: Feminist Theology and the Ethics of Poverty and Reproduction Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press

Marcella Althaus-Reid (2000) Indecent Theology Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender and Politics London and New York: Routledge

Thursday, October 19, 2006

with special guests charmian and barrie

This week's post comes to you via guest bloggers charmian and barrie.

The waterfalls were awe inspiring, beyond all expectations. And we really enjoyed drinks at the Sheraton as the sunset over the falls. (Rachel says: Cuba girls - PC sampled, 8/10)

The kamacazi style taxidrivers have given us a few close moments - we're looking forward to seatbelts and indicating lights. Motorbikes seem blind to zebra crossings, especially when you are half way across!

Don't miss tango dancing, San Telmo bars, and the gaucho fair at Mataderos

Our first stop in Patagonia was to see the Southern Right Whales and we weren't disappointed. At one stage there were eight mothers and their calves swiming around the boat and jumping into the air.

In El Calafate we saw this glacier, it's surface as big as Bs As and in constant movement with pieces crashing into the lake.

In the snow at Ushuia, we took a boat down the Beagle Channel (after Darwin) and reached the lighthouse at the end of the world.

Some people never ajusted to Bs As time....

Monday, October 09, 2006

patagonia preview

The other day I sat down for a cup of tea and a nice long chat with my good friend Robert Redford. Ok, so it was a dream, but still. I actually think Robert and I would have lots to talk about: independent films, horses, NYC, card scams, Patagonia...So now can you see where I am going with this? As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently read Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia in preparation for our visit which begins today. Chatwin recounts a theory that Butch and the Kid weren't killed in Bolivia but settled down on a ranch in Patagonia. I promise to keep my eyes pealed for any Redford lookalikes and will report back in a week's time.

Here are some of the places we will be visiting (more info here)

Puerto Madryn to see the whales and...

the welsh at Trelew (Welsh teas, yum, yum)

Then it's on to El Calafate and the blue glaciers

and finally, Ushuaia at the end of the world.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

machismo made me do it

...those who, after hitting their wives, insist that,
'The machismo culture made me do it.'
(Matthew C Gutmann, "Real Mexican machos are born to die." 1996:164)

In yesterday's Theology and Gender we discussed masculine identities in Latin America.

Juan, a fellow student from Ecuador, told us about his work in Quito with men who hit their partners and children. Six women out of ten suffer from domestic violence in Ecuador; in Argentina the figure is 54%.

The progamme explored what kinds of society promote violence understandings of what it is to be male, and asked how the connection between men and aggression can be broken. It challenged understandings of abusers as simply sick individuals, or just following their 'natural' insistincts; instead encouraging both individuals and wider society to take reponsibility.

Juan commented that is unusual in Ecuador for men to meet up, outside of the bar to watch the football. However, those men that had stuck with the programme had found it helpful to have a space to share their feelings and talk through their actions.

R.W. Connell's article, 'The Social Organization of Masculinity' (Berkley: Uni. of California Press, 1995) suggests alongside the dominant model of masculinity, man live out a number of different masculinities. Other factors such as etnicity, class and sexuality dramatically affect a man's power and identity. While few men live up to the 'ideal male' of patriarchal thought, Connell suggests that the majority are willing to accept the dividends of patriarchy.

Víctor Hugo Robles, the 'Che' of the Gays in a demonstration in front of La Moneda
, Santiago de Chile, September 2004, by Javier Godoy

This picture was part of an exhibition of images of Chile that I saw in the seaside town of La Serena earlier this year. I was struck by how prominent human rights campaigner Víctor Hugo Robles constructs his identity, employing and subverting one of the dominant images of maleness in Latin America, that of Che Guevara.

Within the church, traditional teaching on the Trinity sets up conflicting types of masculinities: God the Father demands the death of his son, the efeminate victim. We have to learn how to subvert these violent ideals of maleness, or else be content to live with a God who excuses his lust for sacrifice saying:
machismo made me do it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

feliz primavera

Yesterday officially marked the arrival of spring. I celebrated with flip-flops, and a delicious few hours reading in Mark's Deli, Palermo.

The trees are turning green and other bright colours. The Palermo well to do are drinking smoothies while checking their wi-fi connections. The day skies are bluer and the evening ones lighter.

The rapid advance of October also means that in less than two weeks Mum and Dad will be here, so I am busy getting ahead with papers and sorting out the little things than need doing around the house. Who knows, it may even be time for a spring clean!

Barth and Bonino

Over the past few weeks, our theological methods class has been reading Karl Barth's Evangelical Theology: An Introduction, and Dogmatics in Outline. As well as considering Barth's influences and political context, we've also discussed Barth's impact on liberation theologians such as Emilio Castro, Julio de Santa Ana, Gustavo Guiérrez and José Míguez Bonino.

In her book, The Praxis of Suffering Rebecca S. Chopp comments:
Latin American liberation theologians, trained in twentieth-century theology, retrieve the notions of freedom, grace, sin, obedience, and redemption as a way to interpret Christian praxis. In this hermeneutics of retrieval within modern theology, theological concepts are often radically transformed. For instance, Karl Barth's stress on obedience to the revelation of God comes to the surface in Jose Miguez Bonino's vision of theology as the discernment of God's actions in concrete situations...Latin American liberation theology continues modern theology's concern for the subject, the representation of freedom by Christianity, and the experience of faith in history but, in a radical reformulation, defines the subject as the poor, reinterprets freedom to include political self-determination, and envisions history as the arena for both liberation and redemption
(Chopp 1986: 45-6, Orbis Books Avaliable on Religion-Online)

As a native English speaker and European, it's easy to forget that readers in many countries wait years for editions to be published in their country or language (This month ISEDET is launching a translation of some of the texts of Swiss Reformer Zwingli from the 15th century; now that's a long wait!). The Spanish translation of Barth's Evangelical Theology: An Introduction was published in 1986 in Argentina (although many pastors and theologians would have been familar with the original German version published 1963).

The translation includes an Introduction by José Míguez Bonino, a Methodist theologian from Argentina. In his retirement, Bonino continues his association with ISEDET, and can often be seen chatting with students in the corridors or popping into a class. I have especially appreciated his interest in feminist studies, for example he attended most of the recent course on feminist theological anthropology. I note also that Marcella Althaus-Reid, includes him in her thanks in the preface to her book Indecent Theology (more on Marcella and her work in future blogs).

Bonino's introduction to Barth draws out Barth's social engagement, noting for example his early ministry amongst industrial workers and trade unions.
His social lens through which to view Barth is unsurprising considering the translation was published the same year as the military dictatorship ended (1976 - 1983, the so called Dirty War) following a period of great risk for the churches who committed themselves to the human rights struggle.

Bonino reflects Barth would have probably had some 'grave hesitations' with liberation theology but nevertheless, like Gutiérrez, sees 'fertile ground' within Barth's ideas. He offers three reminders for liberation theologians from Barth's work:

1.A call for modesty
That we do not take ourselves too seriously as 'liberation theologians'. As if we were the 'liberators'...As if the future of the poor depended on us. The only Liberator, Jesus Christ has the first word..He is the one who brings good news to the poor..The second word is the response of the community of faith. (21)

But, Bonino asks, does Barth's emphasis on the primary action of God disable human action? Not if we consider Barth's lifelong social action, culminating in the Barmen Declaration.

2.A call for committment
While God's will can never be directly identified with a political movement or group, Bonino reminds his readers that God's word and work can only be encountered in history. He points out Barth's focus on the covenant between God and humanity, our response to God's word.

3.A call from and for the poor
Bonino quotes Barth as saying God is always and unconditionally to be found alongside the humble (Dogmatics II/1, p.434). The word from heaven in the face of hell on earth (citing Gutiérrez).

4.A call to newness
Barth challenges us to be constantly open to the newness of God rather than stuck in our own system of theology.
The living Word of God, that points always to the new and the condition of the poor, that is known incompletely, broken and inaccessible in humanity...leaving open space for the creation of possibilities and projects - certainly human and therefore ambiguous and imperfect, but by such things, freely the power of the Spirit returns, forever and ever, to renew the face of the earth.(25)

(Introducción a la Teología Evangélica, (trad. E. de Delmonte) Buenos Aires: La Aurora 1983, my translations)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

iona once more

It's a year ago since I was on Iona yet the island lingers unexpectedly and with persistence.

April Szuch's poem Iona: One-Year Anniversary (click to read) expresses surprise at the depth of her remembering.

With joy I remember who we were: two kind friends from Scarborough; a chaplaincy group mischief-making, singing and running; a beautiful couple newly-wed; ministers old and new, ordained and otherwise called; four women from Iowa (and Joe!), full of years, life and courage. Many of us had planned to visit years before arriving. We were many at times of change or contemplation.

With thanks I remember the space and sanctuary of structure and simplicity. Toast duty, breakfast, morning prayers at the abbey, chats over coffee and the paper, walking down to the beach, wholesome food followed by fiercely contested giant Connect 4, discussion, rich soup and warm baked bread, sunset, evening prayers, stumbling back in the dark, listening to Mark Radcliffe before falling asleep.

With longing I remember the sea, calling me persistently from where I sat on the white sands until I was part of it, a moment of such peace; a gift of blue-green depths to clarify, refresh and sustain me.


Thursday, August 31, 2006

leaving and living

My friend Patricia left for the States yesterday where she will be working as a hospital chaplain. I'll miss her, just as I'll miss the other friends who have left over the past few months. Right now, this airplane-skype-blog-transitory life seems a bit mad. These great distances more and more of us live at can seem easily breachable when a funny postcard or parcel packed with love arrive in eager hands. But then so so wide when someone you love is not doing so well.

My situation is such that I have video phones and plane tickets and visitors but many migrants lack regular contact with home alongside little security in their place of arrival.
Migration "is one of the main features of the changing global context, with decisive consequences for the ecumenical movement locally and globally," Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia noted in his opening address to the WCC's central committee, meeting in Geneva 30 August-6 September 2006.

The UN estimates that over 175 million people are on the move worldwide, and the trend is growing as economic globalization, civil conflicts and transport links transform traditional societies.

In the face of such complex change, churches in all places are called to live out the biblical ideal of hospitality towards the stranger and accepting change, Kobia said.

"In today’s world, welcoming strangers is a justice issue, and often a political statement," Kobia underlined. "Practising true hospitality involves recognizing our own vulnerability and being open to transformation...Standing with migrants is politically unpopular in most regions of the world. The risks are very real, yet so is our calling," he said.
The full text of Kobia's report is available on the WCC website

Argentina's recent (post-conquest) history is of migration. Bruce Chatwin spun fantastical tales about the isolated communities of Patagonia, clinging to old traditions, language and dignity. My favourite story begins and ends like this:
The hotel in Río Pico was painted a pale turquoise and run by a Jewish family who lacked even the most elementary notions of profit...
In the morning I had a tremendous row about the bill.
'How much was the room?'
'Nothing. If you hadn't slept in it, nobody would.'
'How much was dinner?'
'Nothing. How could we know you were coming? We cooked for ourselves.'
'Then how much was the wine?'
'We always give wine to visitors.'
'What about maté?'
'Nobody pays for maté.'
'What can I pay for then? There's only bread and coffee left.'
'I can't charge you for bread, but café au lait is a gringo drink and I shall make you pay.' (In Patagonia [1977] 2003:55-6)

Back and forth between my two rooms this week, I noticed a poster for a film night at the local Mennonite church. The film advertised is about the expectations and realities of a Bolivian immigrant to Argentina. If I make it on Saturday, I'll tell you more.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Conference report - with photos

Here's my daily reflections from last week's conference, now with a couple more photos.

I’m worn out from a day of Portuguese. It may look similar to Spanish, but those important little words like no and if (and much more besides) are catching me out. In conversation, I talk in Spanish and they reply in Portuguese and we get by. But presentations are tough going.

Ivone Gebara kicked off proceedings with a challenge to move away from the notion of systematic theology, which she views as a method of control and intimidation over ordinary people. Do we really have everything wrapped up in a neat package? Or do we need to admit our incomplete and inadequate understanding of God, which is ever-changing?

Wanda Deifelt explored the impact of having an instrument of torture and death as the symbol of Christianity. She noted how violence placed at the heart of faith has manifested itself in the reality of church life. There is an implicit demand for violence – through ‘holy suffering,’ retributive punishment, or the trivialization of pain and injustice on the pay-off of heaven. But she said, all symbols have the potential to help as well as harm; and that is the task at hand.

This evening I chatted with two women who I knew from my time in Lima. Irene I met briefly after an evening service in Collique, a poor area of Lima. Luzmilla, we remembered, I knew from weekly visits to a Pentecostal women’s group. The group where I was once asked whether I was married (casada) but I thought the women wanted to know if I was tired (cansada). ‘Un poco, a little’ I replied.

It’s cold. I’ve packed summer clothes. I need to watch some rubbish telly. I’m theologied out and it’s only the first day.

Today the theme turned to violence. Luis Mott of the University of Bahia outlined the history of the church’s attitude to homosexuality in Brazil. References to homosexual practices in Brazil can be found in colonial writings as early as 1549, often restricting such activity to marginal groups such as Amazonian or African communities. Luis noted the denouncement and denial of homosexuality within the church, including the assassination of gay priests in their homes or on the streets. In contrast, the African-Brazilian religion of Candomblé seems to have a more inclusive attitude to diversity, e.g. two of the gods appear as male half the year, and female the other.

In carnivals, pray and protests, San Sebastian has been adopted as the patron saint of gays. This builds on the tradition that he was a Roman solider and lover of the emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century but converted to Christianity, thus renouncing paganism and committment to the empire, resulting in his execution (first by arrows, which legend has it he survived, only to be clubbed to death).

Wikipedia's entry notes,
According to Brazilian anthropologist Luiz Mott, Saint Sebastian (in Portuguese, São Sebastião) is considered by many homosexuals, especially in Brazil's lower and marginalized classes, the Patron Saint of Gays. Officially Saint Sebastian is the Patron Saint of the city of Rio de Janeiro. In the tradition of the Afro-Brazilian religious syncretism Saint Sebastian is often associated with Ogum, especially in the state of Bahia, in the northeast of the country (while Ogum in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul is more likely to be associated with Saint George).

Los Angeles artist, Tony de Carlo has produced a series of paintings on San Sebastian. Here's one, entitles, San Sebastian in my home.

Today's theme was sexuality and we heard from Lilian Celiberti, Italian-Uruguayan woman who was a political prisoner in Uruguay during the 1970s and is active in the campaign for women's rights.

She showed a video called An Upside-down World is Possible which included images of some imaginary headlines:
Bush takes up yoga
Iraq elects a female president
an accessible cure for AIDS
first gay marriages celebrated at St Peter’s Basilica
disarmament enables worldwide primary education.

Think, question, denounce, change.

Lilian went on to talk about what she described as a war against women, their bodies and sexuality. One of the afternoon presentations took up this theme, asking why 'family values' translated as protection of male control over women and their behaviour.

Knowledge, violence, sexuality were the conference themes and over the three days complex connections between them were revealed in numerous discussions and examples. In response to my presentation on violence and worship, the group discussed the traditional contrast between the life-giving holiness of Jesus' sacrifical blood made present during communion, and women's monthly bleeding often regarded as impure and weakening, still excluding women from sacred spaces.

I enjoyed working on my presentation but it was good to have it done and it's nice to be back in Buenos Aires, settling into the routine of the new term.

Monday, August 14, 2006

2nd Latin American Conference of Gender and Religion

Tomorrow I'm packing my bag once more (using the well known rule that packing takes as long as you have, which in my case will be 5 minutes) and heading off this time to Brazil (and on a plane not by bus. It'll be some time before I can look a bus in the face). I'll be attending the above conference for the rest of the week.

The theme of this year's conference is Epistemology, Violence, Sexuality and amongst the keynote speakers are Nancy Cardoso and Ivone Gebara. STETS readers will know Ivone from her book, Longing for Running Water: Ecofeminism and Liberation which is on the reading list for the ethics module. I will try not to be too star-struck.

The conference is held at Escola Superior de Teologia (The Graduate School of Theology), São Leopoldo, Brazil. EST is a Lutheran theological institution and one of the most important Latin America. I have discovered:
1. I shall be staying at a home for elderly people (no comment)
2. Every other paper being given is in Portuguese (I really really hope there is translation).

São Leopoldo is on the outskirts of Porto Alegre where the World Council of Churches Assembly was held in February. I'm hoping to make at least one return visit to the most beautiful cafe in the world, if I can find it's new location without Tamara's help.

My paper (currently well over an hour, to be cut down to ten minutes) is about how church worship can be experienced as violence by women. Violence in terms of:
the exclusion of women from key roles within the service (such as presiding at communion),
the negation of women's experiences or concerns (such as an unwillingness to preach on domestic violence for example),
the over-use of male metaphors for God and faith,
a lack of critical interpretation of biblical texts that portray women in a negative or stereotypical manner,
violent theology (such as the constant demand for self-sacrifice, especially for women.)

I have sung songs that women have written,
but seldom in church on a Sunday.
I have even prayed to my Mother God,
but not in the sacred rites.
(Miriam Therese Winter (1991) WomanWord: A Feminist Lectionary and Psaltar. Women of the New Testament. New York: Crossroad, p.266)

I've been reading various articles as well as interviewing women at my church here about their experience of worship. One thing that's emerged strongly is the connection between the marginalization of women and that of people for other reasons such as ethnicity, age or sexuality.

Some of the strategies for resisiting violence and surviving the Sunday service are:
making space for women during the service, and being willing to step into that space
ensuring women's ordination and leadership continues to grow and be supported
rethinking the model of one leader or preacher each Sunday and developing more participative liturgies
sharing stories
welcoming diversity in language, metaphors, voices, theologies
making use of senses and symbols
peace-making and justice-creating
speaking about the reality of everyday life joys and struggles, and everybody's bodies.

Rebeca Montemayor, an ordained baptist from Mexico offers her alternative creed spoken at her ordination service as an example of such work. Here is a brief extract.
Creo en la santa Cena
La santa Cena es un recordatorio de las mujeres solas, abandonadas, que trabajan duro para poner en la mesa el pan cotidiano; por sus cuerpos cansados, violentados, rotos; a la vez, se recuerda la mesa de las mujeres que sirven con cariño, alegría y solicitud; esto es esperanza de resurrección.

I believe in Holy Communion.
The Holy Supper is a reminder of the single, abandoned women who work hard to put food on the table each day; by their tired, violated, broken bodies; each time remember the table of the women that served with love, joy and attention; this is the hope of resurrection.

(Rebeca Montemayor (2004) “Espacios Sagrados Negados. Ministerios Ordenados de Mujeres, un Proceso Inconcluso en Iglesias Protestantes de América Latina.” in Sylvia Marcos (ed) (2004) Religión y Género Enciclopedia Iberoamericana de Religiones EIR 03 Madrid: Editorial Trotta, p.200)

I was going to also add something about the women-church movement but this post is getting long so I'll end now and maybe return to that some other day.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

praying for work

Monday saw a line of people 14 blocks long outside the church of San Cayetano in Liniers, Bs As. They come each year to petition the saint for work, or for a better job. The priests blessed the faithful with holy water as they waited in hope to touch the statue of the saint. This year, the general feeling is that the economy is improving and of those present, many had come to give thanks for a better year. But the struggle to control inflation and high unemployment levels continue to make life difficult for many Argentines. (you can read The Boston Globe's report here)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Peru ten years on

Well I didn't manage to blog while on the road, but I'm now back in Bs As, albeit in temporary accommodation following an impressive flood in my apartment last week.

First stop on my trip was Santiago de Chile where I visited the Con-spirando Collectivo for a coffee and chat with Andrea, one of the team. They publish a journal on women, spirituality and ecology and have just produced a 'best of' collection in English called 'Circling In, Circling Out' and edited by Mary Judith Ress. It's not available on Amazon but her book Ecofeminism from Latin America is.

After Santiago it was a mere seven hours up the coast to La Serena and a night time visit to one of the observatories in the Atacama Desert. I did take pictures of the stars but unsurprisingly seeing as I haven't a clue how to take pictures in the dark, these didn't turn out to be anything but black. But here's one of the observatory to give you a sense of place. And I can tell you about
dying planets smoldering in red,
a mess of galaxies layers upon layers,
and one brilliant blue shooting star, sharing its elements with us.

From stars to smog in Lima. And once I had got myself re-orientated to the city and the mad mad combis (minibus-buses) it was great to be back. I had a fantastic few days visiting old haunts and meeting up with friends and my Peruvian 'family' who so graciously let me into their house and lives ten years ago. I also spend a few mornings in the resource centre of the Bartolome de las Casas institute where I used to, I would say work, but it was really more hanging around and pestering people to let me tag along.

I'd been told Lima was much improved. There were fanciful stories that the River Rimac had been cleaned of rubbish and the waters flowed clear blue one more. I didn't get to check out the river, but certainly the historic centre of the city had been spruced and secured up. Yet the smog remained - thick pieces of ash and dirt streaked across my face at the end of each day. From conversations, I had a sense that Lima was a little safer and wealthier, at least the areas the tourists visited. And the tourists were certainly much more in evidence than before. People seemed positive about the tourist industry and the income it generated - outside of the multi-national hotel firms. One thing I never thought I would see in Lima - a Starbucks next to the very upmarket Wongs supermarket which I remember wandering round in amazement many years ago.

I then flew to Iquitos right in the heart of the Amazon and closer to Brazil and Columbia than the rest of Peru in many ways. I spent a week with my friend Katharine, a minister in the Peruvian Lutheran Church (ILEP) since 1994, and recently awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon. Well done Katharine!

The Amazon region is amazing, even overwhelming, in its riches. I sampled a host of delicious fruits, spotted bright yellow birds and fuzzy black caterpillars, walked through lush forests and sailed along the vast Amazon river. One evening on the boat ride home, we were joined by two river dolphins jumping and diving close by.

It was a real priviledge to spend time with the church 'God is Faithful' in Cardozo, a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city. We met for prayer, worship and discussion, youth club games and sunday school lunch. The church is in the midst of a building project and there are many possibilities for the future.

My favorite times were going visiting as the sun set. We visited members with only a small oil lamp for light, in humid hot evenings or tropical downpours, amidst children's toys, the evening meal and mending taken in from a neighbour. Back on the street, a child's voice would call out, '¡Hola Hermana Rachel!' and a little hand wave in greeting.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

end of term, off to chile and peru

My first term at ISEDET has ended. To finish, I took a four day intensive course on feminist theological anthropology - thinking about how the church has understood human beings, and particularly women. And how we might want to challenge some of those views today. We talked a lot about boarder lands and crossing frontiers, both physical and in terms of our identity. During the course, we watched a documentary on Central American people trying to cross the boarder into the USA. The documentary is called "Wetbacks" and you can watch a clip here
The documentary focuses on the journey of Nicaraguans and others but there are also some revealing interviews from US vigilantes which reminded me of the response of some of those interviewed in the Channel Four 2004 documentary about Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire. Here's a link to the Neighbour Lee group that was formed to encourage residents to become more welcoming of new arrivals.

Tomorrow I leave for Chile and Peru for just over two weeks. I'll be visiting the Conspirando collective in Santiago that is a centre for ecofeminist theology and spirituality. Then I am heading up the coast by bus to Lima, where I am hoping to see some friends from when I lived there ten years ago. After that it is into the Amazon to stay with another friend from those days for a week. I may post a few entries while I'm away, otherwise it will be on my return. More then.

blogging as theological reflection

This one is for all the STETS students!

I noticed an entry on Mark Goodacre's blog exploring the idea of blogging as theological reflection. You can read it by clicking here. The questions come from Francis Ward.

Amongst the wide range of theological blogs out there, some are more reflective, others more informative. One blog that is very much of the reflective type is Real Live Preacher. Click here to read a recent entry

For myself, I've found it useful to have a space and a reason to reflect on my experiences on a weekly (usually!) basis. The possibility that others will read my thoughts keeps me a little more focused and responsible than a private journal would. It also helps people keep connected with your journey, especially those you may not be in regular contact with otherwise. When I was back in the UK in May, it was great to have conversations that began from something I had posted on my blog, rather than people not really knowing what I was doing.

John: face to face with friendship

Chapter 11 of John's gospel is traditionally understood as the conclusion of the 'book of signs' which begins with the wedding at Cana in John 2. It begins with a wedding and ends with a (near) funeral. References to Hugh Grant aside, I like reading the miracles (or signs) in the context of Jesus' social life: family gatherings, village celebrations, friendships sustained.

When Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus,
Lord, he whom you love is ill. (John 11.3)

they are reminding Jesus of his longstanding relationship with their family. Their words are a request for help, recalling friendship and hospitality codes of the time. Supporting a friend in need or sorrow was a serious duty that could not be dismissed lightly. And the disciples know this too. When Jesus eventually leaves for Judea, a the location of previous conflicts with the authorities, Thomas says to the other disciples,
Let us also go, that we may die with him. (John 11.16)

Becoming friends involves faithful committment through times of sorrow, difficulty and even death. It means being present at all the weddings, and the funerals too.

What I like about Thomas, whom we often call 'doubting,' is that his doubts and fears are not the end of the story. Rather they are a springboard for action.

The same week as John 11, another class had me reading Emmanuel Levinas reflecting on how we meet God in the other. Levinas talks of being a hostage to the other, always responsible for them without ever having chosen to be so. And it is our care for others that we find God:
The goodness of the Good - the Good which never sleeps or nods - inclines the movement it calls forth, to turn it from the Good and orient it towards the other, and only thus towards the Good...

He does not fill me up with goods, but compels me to goodness, which is better than goods recieved.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Una estrella y dos cafes

I was going to post more on my John class last week but faced with an intensive course on feminist theory this coming week on top of my regular classes, I'm not sure I'm going to get to post this week either so I thought I would give you a quick link to a film I saw on Saturday.

Una estrella y dos cafes (One star and two coffees) is an Argentine film set in the far north of the country. A simple, gentle tale (what a surprise choice!) of a girl and two visitors to her village of Purmamarca. Some nice digs at the town's backpacker visitors; and an ongoing joke in which the whole town conspires to stop Pedro drinking by claiming that all the wine has been sold, or that Tomás, the other drunk, has beat him to it. Check out the website where you can listen to music from the film, see shots of the stunning scenery as well as watch the trailer and a few scenes (with subtitles). Recommended viewing if it reaches where you are.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

back in buenos aires

Following a truly lovely two weeks at home, I'm now safely back in Bs As and straight into class reading and papers. Today we have our last seminar at the University of Buenos Aires or UBA for the class on women and work in Latin America. It's been a great class with fascinating reading and lively discussions, even during a four hour class!

Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on the blog and what you would like to see more or less of. I will keep the suggestions in mind, and keep them coming.

Weather report: cold, damp, grey mist. Did I forget to get on the plane and am really still in England?

Finally for this posting, here a couple of pictures from the book launch at Sarum College last Friday. It was fantastic to be back with friends, colleagues and students and to be able to celebrate the book David and I worked on. Thanks very much to Sarum Bookshop for organizing the event.

Mum, Dad and me
the authors!
Sally, me and Helen.

Monday, May 22, 2006

no woman is born to be a whore

Last weekend I went to an exhibition at the Centro Cultural Borges (remember the name from the quiz?!) entitled ninguna mujer nace para puta which translates as no woman is born to be a whore. The exhibition was organized by a group from Bolivia and an Argentine group, Ammar Capital whose website includes photos of the exhibition.

The small exhibition space was packed full when we arrived with conversations and debate in full flow. One of the installations was a pyramid of cardboard boxes printed with information from the government identifying them as basic food cartons provided for low income families. Between the stacked boxes, packets of pasta, tins of corn and cartons of milk mixed with condoms. In conversation, it emerged that prostitutes were tired of the government's response to their situation: meager handouts creating more dependency. Prostitution and violence against women must be seen within their social and cultural context. We need to keep asking how any woman comes to depend on prostitution to feed themselves and their family. As the title suggests, it's not a career choice.

Three beds occupied the centre of the room. They were covered in words and images:
I am a woman
Not a thing
They commandeer my body,
the pimps, clients, police, politicians, unions
And I am here to say 'enough.'
My clients are your brothers, husbands, cousins, sons, and priests
I don't need your condemnation
It will turn on you
Prostitution isn't a theme for prostitutes
If you don't like me on the corner
Struggle with me
Shout with me
I am here to say 'enough!'

I've noticed a growing number of articles in the British media about prostitution during the World Cup, particularly about legalized brothels in Germany, and whether they actually protect women. There's also been some attempts to raise awareness amongst football fans about not using women who have been trafficked. There is an interesting debate on the feminist blog Gender Geek

Encouragingly, the exhibition I visited was supported by my local church, the Methodist Church in Flores. I wonder how many British churches are actively working with prostitutes, or helping their congregations challenge patriarchal ideas about women and attitudes to violence. Too often churches are part of the structures that enable prostitution to flourish.

This is my last post for a few weeks as I'm heading home a week today for a fortnight catching up with family and friends. I'm looking forward to seeing some of you at Beckminster (most likely at the evening services), others at the book launch at Sarum, and others elsewhere on my travels. See you then!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Argentine quiz: answers

1.Boca Juniors (I, sadly, didn't see the interview with Gary)

2.Martí­n Fierro is the eponymous (anti-)hero of the epic poem by José Hernández (published 1872, 1879.) It tells the story of the gaucho (cowboy) lifestyle.

3.There are around 400,000 Argentine Jews. This week, students and teachers from ISEDET participated in a conference organised by the Jewish-Christian Council on the impact of the Shoah (Holocaust) on Latin American theology.

4.Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

5. 655 Argentines were killed, half in the sinking of the ship, General Belgrano. Only today I read about the controversy over in which direction the ship was heading when hit. I was taken aback when during my first week here I was told that some Argentines 'thanked' Thatcher for the war which helped bring down the military junta led by General Galtieri. It brought home to me the great difference between the actions of the dictatorship and those of ordinary Argentines, which are conflated in much British discussion of Argentina.

6.Lunfardo. It translates, Hey mate! Shall we go out tonight for a coffee and to dance tango? Lunfardo has various elements but the one used here is to change the order of the syllables of common words, so noche becomes cheno; cafe, feca etc.

7. Nueve Reinas or Nine Queens. A great film about two con men in Buenos Aires - see trailer here. (I've also seen Ana y los Otros, a gentle story of a girl visiting her home town for a reunion.) There's an Argentine film in the running at Cannes this year: Crónica de una Fuga, about the military dictatorship.

8.Boliva, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil. Many different indigenous communities and nations live in this area.

9.In Buenos Aires - it's the name for people from here.

10.There are many rules for drinking Maté: the gourd always moves in the same direction round the circle; between each drink, it returns to the 'master of ceremonies' who refills it with hot water; keeping hold of the gourd too long will not endear you to your fellow drinkers, some of whom seem to need maté more than air; it's drunk in Hebrew lessons, on the street, while out for the day, at home, in fact everywhere (although rarely in cafes or restaurants.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Argentine quiz

Ten questions about Argentina to distract you from work, study or other distractions. You can post your answers on the comments page or wait to see mine next week.

1.Easy one to start with, What team is Maradona most closely associated with? (and what did you make of the documentary with Gary?)

2.Who is Martí­n Fierro?

3.What is the approximate size of Argentina's Jewish community: 5,000; 80,000; or 400,000?

4. Which literary legend of Argentina once claimed:
The central fact of my life has been the existence of words and the possibility of weaving those words into poetry.

5.How many Argentines died during the Falklands war or Guerra de las Malvinas?

6.¡Che! ¿Este cheno vamos a tomar feca con chele y vamos a bailar gotan? What form of Buenos Aires slang am I using?

7.What Argentine film is this picture from? And how many Argentine films have you seen?

8.The Gran Chaco crosses the borders of which South America countries?

9.Where would you find a porteño?

10.Maté is drunk everywhere in Argentina, Uruguay and elsewhere, but what are the rules for drinking it?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Never judge a book by its cover (or title)

SCM Studyguide to Biblical Hermeneutics by David and myself is finally published! Hurrah! I've yet to see a copy but can confirm its now available from Sarum College Bookshop, other theological bookshops, SCM press, Amazon etc.

Despite the academic title, the book attempts to be an accessible and interactive guide to reading and interpreting the Bible.

Enough with the shameless self-promotion!

John: something from nothing

After a few weeks since my first post on my class on John's gospel and letters, here's another snippet from our class on John 6.

In the passage, John contrasts the disciples questioning of what is possible and a child's offering. In the Greek, there is a play on words in verse 8 in that the disciple Andrew is the man (the Greek word for man is andros) and thus the one who is expected to be able to provide. Yet, he brings to Jesus instead a child (the Greek word is paidarion, a form of pais or paidos which could refer to a boy or girl since children were seen as without gender in some ways.) paidos could also be translated as slave, reiterating the idea of someone who is 'without,' without rights or possessions and often seen as without capacity. Moreover, the incapacity of the child-slave is emphasized by the tiny amount of food carried.
five barley loaves and two fish...What are they amongst so many people?
John 6.9
Yet true to form, Jesus sees the gifts and potential offered, finding riches amongst those society trivializes or ignores.

Today I'm working on a class presentation on John 14 (highlights to follow?!) I read a beautiful reflection entitled Journey Toward Wholeness by Frederick Buechner:

Friday, April 21, 2006