C. Wess Daniels is an author, educator, and theologian living with his family in Greensboro, NC. This is his front porch in the internet, which means you'll find just find just about anything discussed here from theology, to teaching, ways of working, tech and everything in-between. This blog was established in 2004.
To state the obvious: all organizations have life cycles. That is true whether we are thinking about faith communities, businesses, non-profits, schools, etc. We could think of organizations as a collected and sustained series of stories over time. It might be easier to think about the role of stories in our personal lives but our organizations and institutions are also made up of stories. Stories identify who the founders and key thinkers were. They help to name the heroes and villains. They point to the challenges and accomplishments, often told in ways that have climaxes, plot twists and grand conclusions. Do you know what one or two of the main “core stories” are in your community or organization? Think about the common words, phrases, and other points of humor and things we can reference easily with those who are inside the organization. You can also look for places that are avoided or not talked about. All of our communities have their own lexicons. For instance, at the College where I work, I think of the stream of stories that make up our college community, and within that stream, there are certain core stories we tell and retell. Sometimes this is done in a way that brings life to a community, but perhaps there are certain stories that we intentionally shape in one direction or another.
If you have used an Internet browser (ever) and searched something through google.com you’re not alone, many of us are so accustomed to Google search that the word Google has become a verb. But why stick with something just because it’s habit when there is something way cooler out there?
I am probably medium-weird about privacy – not totally lax but not completely freaked out either. But Google, Facebook, and Amazon are notoriously terrible for tracking and spying on users and using that data for not great stuff. We are now living in a data economy, this stuff isn’t going away, so rather than pretend it doesn’t happen, I think it’s time to figure out what you are and are not willing to give up to big data. Your web search history which is incredibly personal is one great place to start. Go ahead. Try it out.
So if you like it and you want to use it all the time, what next?
The next thing to do is to open your browser settings and switch the default search engine.
For those of you on Safari: Go to preferences, then search and select DDG from the pull-down menu.
For those of you on Firefox: Go to preferences, then select search from the sidebar.
If you’re using Chrome you can install DDG as well, but then again, using Chrome means your data is leaking back to Google in other ways. Browsers like Safari, Firefox, and Brave are good places to go if you’re wanting something that has stricter privacy policies.
A couple really useful features to try out with DuckDuckGo
Search time in DDG and you can open multiple times for projects you’re working on. I love this!
DuckDuckGo has something called !bangs which are basically shortcuts to bigger searches. So instead of typing in Wikipedia and then going to that webpage and searching for your item you can type !w + your search term and DDG will take you right to that page on Wikipedia. You can do this with Amazon, Twitter, Yelp and tons more.
You can also do math in the search bar or use the calculator. Trust me, I use this one a lot.
Finally, if this isn’t enough you can go much deeper with Brett Terpstra’s posts on how to “Learn the syntax of DuckDuckGo” – Link
To me, it may seem a minor thing, but by using DDG for all my searches and using a browser like Firefox or Safari, I’ve already made two steps towards being in better control of my data and privacy. In this day and age, this will be part of what we have to pay attention to. I’m glad for services like DDG for making this as painless as possible.
A reader pointed out that I didn’t give my opinion about the search results. The short answer is, I am very satisfied with the results. In fact, I unplugged from google search so long ago that I don’t even think about search results at this point, nor do I compare them. Everything seems to work as it should. That’s not to say I shouldn’t check from time to time but I just don’t even think about it anymore.
This runs into another important way that DDG is different from google, as it says on its Wikipedia page, it helps you “avoid the filter bubble of personalized search results.” DDG aims to give everyone the same results, and those results, in their mind are meant to be the best result to the search query. It’s a different philosophy that underlies a different way to develop technology. In this case, I appreciate that approach and I find that it works as intended.
The Adapt podcast is a new tech podcast from Relay FM that is focused completely on iPadOS and using iPad as your main device. I personally am too wedded to my MacBook Pro to make go iPad only, but I really like the podcast because I learn a lot of iPad tips and tricks. I’ve enjoyed all the episodes but I found this one on creating eBooks on the iPad to be particularly interesting, as was this episode on OCR.
Is faith always a long reach out of hand? I wonder when I see people searching, struggling to find God if the thought is the more distant the revelation, the greater the conversion? One of the underlying practices in certain parts of the Christian Church is to praise those who have had the most dramatic conversions. The further away one is from where they started the better. There is a kind of categorical rejection of who you are embedded within this kind of theology.
In talking to a friend recently, one who is looking for a way forward in their own spiritual life, I learned that they were reading a book about Christianity that presented ideas I found to be quite a stretch for them to believe. I couldn’t help but think – there is no way this person is ever going to buy into what this book is saying. It just is too far of a stretch, and yet, this person’s Christian friends keep sending these kinds of books.
“If only you read this one, then you’ll get it!”
“This one will finally convince any doubts you have left!”
I found myself in this conversation, saying, “if you have to work that hard to connect with God, it just isn’t going to happen. It is much closer than you think.” I saw in my friend someone who is searching and interested, who has a growing spiritual curiosity and is willing to explore. Unfortunately, that was being met with a set of arguments and books that did not speak to where they were at and instead said if you’re going to find God that discovery will involve you fundamentally re-writing who you are. In other words, what I see this view saying that God is absent from this person’s life until that person rejects themselves and crosses a great chasm to become someone else.
Eric Muhr from Barclay Press shared this poem around earlier this week from a new book of poetry Barclay Press recently published from Carol Bialock, which is really good:
Does the heart have a narrow door?
Will it allow in just one more
of every beast and flower and bird
and every song it has ever heard?
Just one more child, just one more flower,
one more relinquishing of power
to that sane and sacred foolishness
of living by inclusiveness?
Does the heart have a supple, elastic latch
that makes it easy to dispatch
all pettiness and bigotry
and opens it to what makes us free?
. . .
You who can heal all wounds and hate
make my heart open, free, and great.
I read Austin Kleon’s book “Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad” and really enjoyed it. It came at a good time for me where I feel that my creativity has been languishing and as a friend told me recently, creativity is my oxygen. I like how Kleon gives some very simple and actionable ideas for helping keep these pieces alive. I found it a lot like his other books, which I also enjoyed, full of good quotes, great pictures, and things that make me slow down and think.
Stephen Colbert’s recent interview about the power of comedy in the face of politics and how faith and morality play into his making sense of the world today.
New beginnings are hard. Endings may be even harder. It is hard to say goodbye. It is hard to see all the hard work, all the investment evaporate before our very eyes. It is hard to know when to let go. Some endings are not hard. Some endings are more like heroic escapes in the nick of time. That’s not what I want to address here. I want to address those endings that are hard to come by, hard fought, hard won: endings that feel more like death than relief.
I have experienced many endings in my life. Most of those endings were extremely difficult. I have shared some of them here. But most of these were more personal.
I want to lift up collective endings. Endings that mark a change in leadership. Endings that mark a change in the existence of a community: a church, an important program, or an organization or set of relationships we came to rely on.
Revelation speaks to the reality that we are caught in the fray of cosmic conflict. We are guilty. We’ve already been contaminated. But it’s not too late for us to exit empire and enter the kingdom. We are yet both victim and victimizer. We have healing work to do, and we must take responsibility for the ways in which we have benefited from and been complicit with the religion of empire. This is the truth of Revelation. God wants to liberate us in body, heart, soul, and mind.
Revelation reveals how scapegoating functions within empire to define its own boundaries and contours as being over and against wicked others.
Revelation critiques wealth and shows that even in the first century there was prophetic critique against an economic system that was based on abundance for some, while exploiting the rest.
Revelation demonstrates the importance of liturgy as something that forms people into the likeness of either empire or the lamb.
Revelation reveals an alternative social order which becomes the center of resistance rooted in a vision of what the book describes as “the multitude.”
“Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation as Resistance” is my new book offering an alternative look at how Christian communities can read the Book of Revelation through the lens of liberation theology.
Here are two great summaries of the book from Rev. Darryl Aaron and Wes Howard Brook (both have written material in the paperback version of the Resisting Empire) :
The book of Revelation, according to C. Wess Daniels, is a resistance text for “Angelic Trouble-makers,” who must learn how to remix, understand how scapegoating functions, recognize the shaping and forming powers of liturgy, and discover the composition of the multitude…. I pastor a people who have historically been pushed to the periphery of all existence, even ontologically declared as non-human or three-fifths human. Therefore, to read the “multitude is a beautiful tapestry woven together of all humanity, with those who were lynched, those who were oppressed and victimized, at the center with the lamb. This centering of the victims and marginalized is something that is too often missed within western, white, middle-class Christianity today,” makes my soul happy. This prophetic claim of Daniels places Black people at the heart of God. –Rev. Darryl Aaron
No other book has been as consistently and wildly misread as has John of Patmos’s visionary narrative. And yet, at the same time, no biblical book carries as much passionate power and imagery aimed at inspiring Jesus-followers to “come out” of the place of imperial violence and domination and to dwell instead in the light- and love-filled realm of God. C. Wess Daniels masterfully and clearly lays out a series of reading strategies and perspectives culled from the best of recent scholarship to invite readers into engagement with John’s vision. If you’ve been drawn to study Revelation but have been stymied as to where or how to start, you can trust Wess’s step-by-step guidance to lead you into the depth and breadth of this unique narrative. –Wes Howard-Brook
I wanted to make a few more things available for the book that readers can download to use while you read. These are like graphic novel summaries, capturing key ideas from the book. Sketchnotes #3 is the one that summarizes the whole book into a few select images.
The first download is a .pdf of some of the charts that show up in the book. Kindle doesn’t translate those charts very well so here there are which will be easier for you to read. The second link is a series of short devotionals based on the work within this book that was original published for “Fruit of the Vine” publication.
If you are looking for a verse by verse commentary on the book of Revelation that will tell you what it “really means” then this is probably not the book you’re looking for.
Yes you will get interpretation. But what you will also get is an extended reflection on what it means to try and read the Apocalypse of John in this world which is so very different from the era in which John of Patmos was writing. And I hope you will take that extended reflection seriously because it will tell you something about how you can read the rest of the scriptures as well.
Let’s look at how we usually read Revelation. We see it as a kind of future history — the world’s first science fiction story if you will. It’s a call to arms it’s a call to join the winning team. And that means fighting the good fight now when it doesn’t look like were winning at hall in faith that God our quarterback will call us offside when the real fight begins. With this reading the beast and the false prophets and all the other strange critters crawling around the pages are all the other guys — there are the bad guys but where the good guys.
C. Wess Daniels presents us with a thoroughly biblical Christology of the Slaughtered Lamb. This is who Christ is for us and this is the model of faithfulness that Christ leaves with us. Life is not about fighting until the rapture comes — it’s about loving our enemies until the our enemies become friends.
He examines this image of Christ using scapegoat theory. Scapegoat theory was made famous by René Girard the French literary and social sciences critic. But Daniel accesses a Girard mostly through James Alison — the Catholic theologian who applied Girard’s theories to theology. At the heart of our sinfulness lies our tendency to point fingers at other people to make our own discomfort at our vulnerability go away. This is a trap. And God’s way out of that trap is to place her faith in the Lamb that was slaughtered from the foundation of the world.
Read this book. Share it with others. Learn to have faith in a God who is more than just the biggest bully on the block. DavidMcKay | Apr 9, 2019
Resisting Empire looks at the Book of Revelation through a different lens than the “Rapture” one that became popular a few generations ago. It reaches for an older reading, based in the Roman Imperial oppression experienced by the churches who received the revelation. This book draws a line between the “religion of empire” and the “religion of the lamb that was slain,” contrasting the lives we lead within each.
Daniels’ quote repertoire is alone a reason to read it. He’s pulling from James Cone, Martin Luther King Jr, James Alison, and Wes Howard-Brook.
If the Book of Revelation has always confused you, or if you’re turned off by Rapture Theology, this is one you’ll want to check out. It’s short too! –Maco April 8, 2019
There is in every person an inward sea, and in that sea there is an island and on that island there is an altar and standing guard before that altar is the ”angel with the flaming sword.” Nothing can get by that angel to be placed upon that altar unless it has the mark of your inner authority. Nothing passes ”the angel with the flaming sword” to be placed upon your altar unless it be a part of ”the fluid area of your consent.” This is your crucial link with the Eternal.
Source: Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart
Recently a friend shared this with a group I was with and it has stuck with me ever since. It is a powerful image and progression that moves to the inwardmost parts. The piece that really connects with me right now is that “nothing can get by that angel to be place upon that altar,” nothing…