Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Category: News & Commentary

It Makes No Sense!

I have a confession to make. I typically come up with a blog post idea on my bike ride to work the morning of. I was proud of myself for thinking ahead yesterday and considered coming in this morning to blog about my favorite albums of the year so far. But all I could think about on my bike ride this morning was the terrible tragedy in Charleston, SC. It makes no sense to me to blog about music on a day like today. It makes no sense to me why a twenty-one-year-old boy, who just received a gun from his father for his birthday, would sit with a dozen other people in a bible study for an hour and then open fire on the small group, killing all but three. It makes no sense how such hate could take hold of a person. No doubt this was a slow-building hatred nurtured by others, the individual himself, and a context well-suited to cultivate it. It makes no sense that a five-year-old girl would have to play dead to stay alive. She should be playing other games! It makes no sense that the face of the killer will dominate newsreels and become the face of this event in history, while the faces of Clementa Pinckney and his eight as-yet-unnamed parishioners will eventually fade from public memory. It makes no sense! Music will have to wait. Prayers are more important this morning.

What to say about Baltimore?

I can think of nothing and everything to say about this week’s events in Baltimore. I’m overwhelmed. There has been a flood of words on the subject in the last several days, so anything that I might say would only add to the deluge and no doubt come up far short of the better pieces. I mainly want to understand, and I am certain that the place to begin is not on the streets of Baltimore. We must begin many steps prior, maybe even a few hundred years back. But we can at least explore the framing of the narrative in our lifetime. Here’s a good place to start:

Broke Cities and Broken Bodies—It’s Time to Make the Connections – “Unless we frame the narrative as one that begins with Wall Street stealing money from our cities and ends with the ruinous destruction and brutality we see around us, we risk becoming little more than sensationalizers of greedy bastards on one side, and pornographers of despair on the other.”

In addition to understanding the systemic issues, I can better respect others’ feelings. This letter encourages as much:

Dear white Facebook friends: I need you to respect what Black America is feeling right now – “I don’t need you to validate anyone’s actions, but I need you to validate what black America is feeling. If you cannot understand how experiences like mine or my students’ would lead to hopelessness, pain, anger, and internalized oppression, you are still not listening. So listen. Listen with your heart.”

And by all means, I can avoid, criticize, and/or lambast popular media’s coverage of Baltimore, its irresponsibility in framing the narrative, and its inability to understand and listen. The way the media has covered or failed to cover this important issue in our society has put the final nail in the coffin for me with regard to its respectability. Leave it to Jon Stewart to make the point. And this encounter between a young Baltimoreon and Geraldo Rivera is pure gold, encapsulating the pain and anger of one community and the smugness and lust for sensationalism of another.


Song Nai Rhee

I first met Prof. Song Nai Rhee in the mid-seventies when I was a beginning grad student in Old Testament studies at Claremont Graduate School and he was Prof. of Old Testament and academic dean at Northwest Christian University. He gave me some sage advice about continuing to the end of my doctoral program before starting to teach. In addition to the biblical studies, Prof. Rhee has been an avid scholar of Korean history and politics. He has written a biography of Nashimoto Masako, the Japanese princess who was married off to a Korean prince, titled Beautiful as a Rainbow: Nashimoto Masako, a Japanese Princess against All Odds for Love, Life, and Happiness.

He is currently Professor emeritus at NCU as well as Visiting Scholar at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Oregon. His project there is “Ancient Korea and Its Demographic, Cultural, and Technological Contributions to Early Japan.”

My interest in writing about him today is that he has written numerous commentary pieces on Asian politics, economics, and trade for the Register-Guard, our newspaper in Eugene. I read a lot of commentary and opinion pieces, and most have a real ax to grind and often project more heat than light. What is so distinctive about Prof. Rhee’s pieces is that they always incorporate a sense of history, a feel for the nuances of Asian politics, a real moral center, and information that you will find nowhere else.

Prof. Rhee’s most recent commentary piece discusses the Japanese president’s (Abe Shinzo) visit to the U.S. and speech to the joint houses of Congress. Read this piece here.

Stuck in My Craw

I don’t often take up hot button issues here on our editors’ blog. This is for a handful of reasons: 1) I rarely have the time to sit with the topics long enough to put together something thoughtful and coherent. I am not the sort of person who processes by writing. I usually need to let thoughts germinate for a while before trying to say anything in public about them, and I just don’t give them the time. Hot button topics typically come across my radar as I browse headlines or Facebook walls. They then go off my radar, or at least move to the periphery, once I turn my attention to editing books, raising kids, running, college basketball, or following various soccer leagues. 2) I have not developed the art of tactfulness when it comes to these things. My foot fits in my mouth very easily. 3) Because of the first two things, I am careful not to put knee-jerk posts on this blog (but you should see my Facebook wall!). In some ways I am representing Wipf and Stock Publishers on this forum; although, we have been given a good deal of leeway. Still, I proceed cautiously because I work with all sorts of authors, and I kind of like keeping good relationships with people across the ideological and theological spectrum.

This week I’ve been haunted by several online essays, public memes, and other cultural conversations. Given the reasons listed above, I don’t plan to say much about any of these topics, but I do want to get some of them off my chest, as it were. Some may these things and accuse me of suffering from white man’s guilt. If that is so, it is a justified guilt, I think. I come by suspicion and criticism easily. I’m especially good at poking at the cultures and institutions I myself am or have been a part of. For example, I could go on for a while about white, Southern evangelicals. I have in recent years become more critical of northwest liberalism’s influence on northwest Christianity. I think some of this criticism from within is a product of my own personal self-reflection/criticism. See all that has preceded as evidence of this! I’m working on it. All that to say, here are a couple of things that have stuck in my craw lately.

White Privilege, Quantified

In all, the experiment yielded data on more than 1,500 encounters between volunteers and drivers. Nearly two-thirds of the volunteers’ pleas were successful, but the rate at which they were granted differed greatly across ethnicities. White participants were given a lot more leeway than black ones: 72 percent of white subjects were allowed to stay onboard, while only 36 percent of black ones were. The rate for South Asian subjects was around 50 percent, and for East Asians it was 73 percent.

The Failure of Macho Christianity

The ego-inflation and aggressive tendencies that these hyper-masculine ministries encourage seem to be the very pathologies that undermine their churches, leaving their congregations vulnerable to upheaval and public spectacle.

and the backlash the author has received from the Pick-Up Artist movement she mentioned in the above article.


The Darkness of Hatred

There is a pending case in Colorado that may baffle a lot of folks. You see, Bob and Lola Autobee are trying to take advantage of a victim’s right law in Colorado (all states have something similar) that allows victims or families of victims to speak at the sentencing phase of a criminal trial. That they want to speak is nothing unusual. That they want to speak in favor of sparing their son’s killer confuses many people, including the prosecuting attorney, who is trying to bar them from testifying during sentencing. The legal wrangling is fascinating and has potential implications for the future of victim’s rights. See more in this article in the Atlantic. There are also plenty of questions about the role and intent of the state. What strikes me most, however, is the rationale of the Autobees. I’m touched and challenged and awed by its resonance with the way of Christ. From a court filing (emphases mine): Continue reading

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