Monday, November 29, 2004


Me: Dude, this week is going to be impossible. Terrible.
Reno: Yes.
Me. Dude. This week is like...getting into the ring against Mike Tyson, and then finding a pack of wild dingoes waiting for you.
Reno: (laughing)

Friday, November 26, 2004


Act One: Wednesday in Chicago was pretty gross: big winds, two inches of snow. (It was actually the year’s first snowfall.) I set out in my parents’ car to drive downtown. I’m off to visit a friend (let’s call her Alice). Alice and I go way back, all the way to junior high.

I set off driving, and it is snowing like crazy. I leave at an hour which might have given me enough time had it been 70 degrees and sunny; in the snowy rush hour madness, I know I’m going to be late almost right away. It’s a long drive into the city from where my parents live: North Avenue in all the way to Kedzie, and then north to Logan Square. Traffic is bad. I’m stressed.

But I drive. I’m making progress. AC/DC comes on the radio; I crank it and play air guitar in the car. I pump my fist so excitedly, I knock the garage-door opener off the little flip-down thing in the car, and it breaks loose from its little hanger-device. (Later, I anxiously piece it back together. Whew.) I reach my destination. I am a solid half-hour late, stressed, driving a strange car, and rocking out to classic rock. I’m looking for a place to park.

Of course, I get in an accident. Just a little one: I’m turning back onto one of the main drags for the third or fourth time, having passed up at least five passable parking places because I’m a terrible parallel parker. Some guy (or girl) in a sedan—Oldsmobile? Caddy? Pontiac?—is coming out of a parking lot, moving between several lanes of traffic which have parted to let him out. I’m rolling right along, approaching the intersection. I’m not sure what happens next—either I get by him but he guns his engine too soon and clips me (charitable interpretation), or I misjudge how fast he’s moving and move right in front of him, and he clips me (dispassionate interpretation).

Either interpretation is acceptable, because then the offending car then promptly lights out of there faster than you can say Jack Robinson. My first response, is, of course, “FUCK.” Then “NOOOOOOOOOO.” But I think I stuck with four-letter words, mostly. I pull into an alley, hop out into the blinding snow, and look at a brand-new two foot scratch on the side of my parents’ car, utterly dejected.

I call the rents and let them know the bad news. I feel like a total jackass. All my efforts to show them I’m responsible grown-up? You can put those on hold for a while. I know, I know—in the grand scheme of car accidents, very small potatoes. But still no fun.

I am now an hour late to meet my friend Alice. Not only am I a crappy driver, I’m a bad friend, too. I find a place to park the car (finally) and march off through the snow. I show up covered in snow.

Act Two: I arrive at Alice’s place; the nightstand is covered with books on babies.

Alice is in the middle of an unplanned pregnancy. She’s about 10 weeks along: she hasn’t started to show yet, but she’s got insane morning sickness and is experiencing all the other weird “my-body-the-science-experiment” hallmarks of the early stages of pregnancy.

Alice isn’t married. Her boyfriend (his name is, oh, Frodo) and her—that’s a whole other question. They’ve been dating for a while now—two years. They were starting to have conversations along the lines of “hey, maybe we should maybe sometime think about getting married” before all this came along. But as you can imagine, getting pregnant puts a whole new spin on things. They still don’t know whether or not they’ll get married. They’ve got to make up their mind sometime, but…

Her parents, on the other hand, are dead-set on having a married daughter by the time they become grandparents. Her dad’s a pastor, which has a lot to do with it. Her whole extended family, in fact, are missionaries, which has an awful lot to do with it, too. We’ve spoken before about her frustration with her extended family, most of whom she hasn’t told yet. She knows that once she tells them, she’s in for a lot of support, emotional and financial, which she desperately needs right now. But she also knows she’s in for a lot of labored sighing, tsk-tsking, probing questions about the state of her soul, and self-righteous name-calling. Which she does not need.

Alice is 24, and works for a non-profit that does art therapy for the disabled. You can imagine how much money she makes, and how much less than that she has socked away. Her apartment is tiny: kitchen, bathroom, combination bedroom/living room. She makes passing reference to how difficult it is to imagine a whole other person living there with her. I sigh in sympathy.

Alice and I talk about things for a while. We talk about churches; she’s having a hard time finding one she likes. We talk about the physiological changes she’s going through. We talk about strange cravings. We talk about potential names for her child (they already have candidates identified). We talk about her obstetrician (she likes him).

I don’t approve of Alice and Frodo’s decision to get it on prior to marriage, but that seems beside the point right now. The burden they bear is the burden they bear, and all I can do is help them in whatever small way I’m able to carry it. I’m flattered by the fact that they told me—their level of trust in me—and heartbroken by the strain I know they’re going through, and will continue to go through. It’s one thing to go through, say, a nine-month bout of the flu. It would suck. You’d need people’s help. But it would go away at the end. This is totally different—at the end of this crazy nine-month marathon of morning sickness and changing bodies and sleepless nights and shotgun marriages—there’s going to be an infant, a helpless, dependent child, that’s going to need to be fed and loved and diapered ALL THE TIME. Alice’s life is going to change—I hate the cliché, but it’s the best way of expressing it—in ways I can’t imagine.

And suddenly I am humbled. Here I am, so dejected about my parents’ car and hung up on the stresses and strains of graduate life, worrying about whether or not I’m going to get a B or a C on my midterm. And here’s Alice with a baby in her belly. God, God, help me have perspective. Reset my frame of reference.

Later, when it’s time for me to leave, it occurs to me I should ask Alice if she wants to pray with me. This is pretty unusual for me, and for a variety of reasons, I’m uncomfortable with it. I start to get that feeling I get when I’ve had a good idea, but I’m too chicken to actually act on it.

Then I surprise myself by asking (“Hey, uh, I know this is weird, but…do you want to pray?”). And she surprises me too, by instantly saying, “Yeah, that would be great.” So she, Frodo, and I bow our heads and hold hands and pray. We forget to turn the music off, so our whole prayer was accompanied by Frodo’s Buena-Vista-Social-Club-knockoff tunes on the stereo.

I ask them what we ought to pray about. They tell me. Then, Alice looks at me and says, “What about you?” I’m caught off-guard by the rightness of this question. But I tell them: ask God to give me perspective, to not get caught up in the pressure and BS of what goes on at school. Ask God to help me focus on what’s important.

So we pray, hands in one another’s hands: for Alice and Frodo, for their life together, for courage and strength to tell their relatives who don’t know yet, for wisdom and discernment about whether or not to get married, for an appropriate church community for Alice, for continued health insurance coverage for Alice. For enough money to pay the bills. For patience, wisdom, strength, endurance, faith. And for me, too: that I’d never be so busy learning about God that I forget walking with God, actually serving God. It feels so damn good to pray these things, to say them out loud, to lay them at the feet of God, to feel our burdens lightened.

I leave shortly afterward. When I arrive home, it is Thanksgiving Day.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


The German word for "runway" is: "Takeoffundlandbahn."

Fun fact via the Technology.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


For some reason, this poem popped into my head while showering this morning. An old favorite.

God's Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared
with toil;
And wear's man's smudge, and shares man's smell;
The soil
is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast, and with ah! bright

Happy thanksgiving.


Yesterday: Princeton, New Jersey. Temperatures in the upper 40s/lower 50s; sunlight, a brisk fall breeze. Today: Chicago, IL. Temperatures in the 30s, and a stinging precipitation which is charmingly oscillating between snow and rain. Oh--and, lest I forget--winds up to 30 MILES AN HOUR.

Strangely, Chicago's foul weather kind of makes me smile. It's like an ugly relative--your ugly Uncle Lester or Cousin Job or whoever--yeah, maybe it's not nice, but if things improved you'd miss it. I like relying on the fact that the weather in Chicago will usually, if not always, be several degrees worse than wherever else I am. I like pulling out the thick winter coat when it's time to go home for the holidays. I told Gary yesterday: man, this weather here in Jersey is nothing. Jersey is like a little playful cougar cub; you've got to pay attention to it, but it's basically not that dangerous. Chicago, on the other hand, is like an enormous, enraged saber-toothed tiger. You must pay it constant, respectful, terrified attention, or you'll find yourself walking home from the El at 2 in the morning without your long-johns on, and you'll get hypothermia. Or, as I did, waiting in line this afternoon for a Chicago-style Italian beef and getting soaked in the process.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


President Torrance mentioned this incident in chapel this morning; it was the first I'd heard of it. Disturbing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


N Clayton Croy

Oh, how I curse you, N. Clayton Croy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Up to my eyeteeth in work, but here's something to sustain you all until I can go back to ruminating about Scripture:

Part the first: Camassia is right on--checking out Telford Work's FAQ regarding the historicity of the Bible is a good idea. Well worth your time if you're interested in Biblical authority or the historicity of Scripture.

Speaking of Telford, here's a conversation I had back in September he probably would have appreciated:

Me: So, where'd you go to college?
PTS Girl: Westmont.
Me: Ah! Did you know a prof there named Telford Work?
PTS Girl: did you hear about him?
Me: Ah, he's got a blog I like. What did you think of him?
PTS Girl: His courses were hard.

Part the second: Keith at Among the Ruins also went to last week's Cornel West lecture here at the Seminary, and has posted some interesting reflections. Go read them here. I don't have the time to respond to them appropriately now, but suffice it to say that Keith's comments hit pretty close to home for me, and are indeed quite troubling. Go, read.

Friday, November 12, 2004

JOSHUA 6 (pt ii)

Thought #2:

If you read Joshua 6 you discovered verse 21, which is in my opinion quite chilling: “And they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep and donkeys.” The Hebrew word here for ‘devote to destruction’ is ‘kherem,’ which usually is translated as ‘banned’ or ‘cursed’; in this context, it just means to totally destroy the city. Wipe out everything there.

(Incidentally, Joshua 6 is far from the only example of this in the OT, of course. This idea of ‘kherem’ is present throughout the Israelite conquest of Canaan in Joshua and in Deuteronomy. It’s just one instance that I happen to have stumbled across recently. For another example, see Moses’ instructions to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7: “When you enter that land…you must utterly destroy them”! Thanks for making that clear, Moses. We were gonna let the women and children go, but hey, now it’s time to kill them too! Boo-yah!)

There are two really freaky questions that come up here: first, does my God work through violence? As troubling as the questions about this passage’s historicity are, the ones provoked by its violent nature bother me even more.

As a Christian, I’ve had it hammered into my head for decades, from Sunday school on, that Christians are not about violence. Violence, retribution, hatred: these are not God’s way. Yes, just warfare and all that—sometimes Christians have to use violence to preserve justice or protect the innocent. But we never want to use violence. And we certainly never delight in it, or pretend that it’s something that is morally exemplary.

This passage takes an enormous battering ram to that attitude. (I wonder, incidentally, how the brutality of this passage escaped my notice my previous 24 years of life.) How are we NOT to see God as encouraging in this kind of wanton slaughter? The passage certainly sees it that way. Is this the God I worship?

The second question springs from the first: does God’s putative presence “on the side of” Israel in these battles mean that God associates Himself with nations and peoples and intervenes on their side militarily?

Take a contemporary example: if someone says that God is on the side of the United States in its military struggles, I cringe. Honestly. I think this is an extremely dangerous way to think, one that identifies the purposes of our nation-state with God’s purposes. At best, I think, the United States can hope that it is on God’s side, not the other way around. But given the biblical witness, how can I totally reject this point of view? It seems pretty clear that, even if God is not currently on America’s ‘side,’ that God was on Israel’s side, up to and including through military events. Maybe all we need to do as a nation is get God back on our side again.

It is at this point, I suspect, that numerous Christian scholars begin to find the potentially ahistorical nature of this passage to be something of a relief rather than a worry. There are plenty of things in Scripture, and many in the Old Testament, that some Christians would be happy to have not be true/historical. Most liberal OT interpreters discuss Joshua 6 and say, well, look, this is Israel’s historical remembering of this particular battle. It was probably not this bad. God’s issuing a command to destroy everything in Jericho is something that Israel threw in there. It may be reflective of their sense that their victory in the battle was completely a result of God’s intervening on their behalf, and not something that happened because of their own efforts. But God actually saying, “Go on, boys, wipe them all out!” is not something that actually happened.

I’m willing to grant that that seems possible or even likely. But yet—even if we see Joshua 6 as not-quite-historically-accurate, if we want to hold on to some semblance of the biblical narrative and not just throw it out completely (“there was never any military conquest of Canaan; the Israelites were just Canaanites who were having a bad day”), we have to say that God was in some way working through the Israelite conquest of Canaan, right? How else can we explain the seemingly clear and persistent memory of Israel that not only was God present in their lives, but present in their battles? How else can we explain God’s constant promises to Abraham, Jacob, Joseph to give them this land? Doesn’t adhering to that narrative, accepting that, in some way, God was with Israel, working to give them the land, require accepting that God worked through violence? And if that's the case, how does the self-sacrificial death of Jesus make any sense? Why does God do a 180?

I realize I'm not exactly inventing the wheel by asking these questions; share wisdom if you've got it. Thanks.


Please pray for a close friend of mine (not anyone here at the seminary) who is experiencing an unwanted pregnancy. She's not married, and she's in for a lot of grief from her family. Thanks for your support.


Please allow me to give a long, long overdue shoutout and blog-rolling to the emerging PRINCETON BLOG ARMADA:

Adam at Pomomusings, whose penchant for documenting every single aspect of his life with his digital camera keeps me checking it compulsively;

Andrew at Nakedchurch, who is a full-time div student, has a wife and child, a blog, and is also sane;

Nick, who you all know by now;

Reno at Far Country Tell (mama! peanut-butter-chocolate rice krispy treats....SO....GOOD...);

Jenny at the Medieval Bestseller, the first blogger I met at Princeton;

6'8" Dean over at Basileus, who's recently owned up to his poor spelling;

the superbly-named Kellen Plaxco over at Fear and Trembling;

and witty Mary Blacklock.

They all rule, and make me feel less guilty about blogging (!) on a Friday night (!) when I should be studying (!!).

Also, linkage long deferred: the Old Professor is an old friend of mine, who used to be the drummer in a band I was in in college. Some say deepest thoughts to emerge from the state of Kentucky since the invention of bourbon. Also the very fine Scandal of Particularity and Verbum Ipsum. Check 'em out, ya'll.


Q: Is anyone else an enormous nerd, like me, and therefore inordinatedly excited by the new Star Wars III trailer?

Just checking.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Inspired by Nick's own fan letter to me, I wrote one to him. It's posted here on his blog. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

JOSHUA 6 (pt. 1)

(Click here to go read Joshua 6.)

So, I wrote a paper about Joshua 6 several weeks ago for my Intro to the Old Testament class. It’s a great course, team-taught by Profs. Patrick Miller and Katherine Sakenfeld, who both know WAY more about the Old Testament than any reasonable person should ever know.

The paper was four pages, tops; I found I could barely contain my thoughts on the topic. I actually ended up leaving out most of what I thought was the ‘important stuff’—i.e., my doubts and frustrations with the passage and its application to the life of the church—out of necessity. But here’s some of the leftover stuff:

So, Joshua 6 depicts this battle of Jericho. The Israelites walk around, blow some trumpets, the walls fall down (‘the walls came tumblin’ down, etc.’), they win. Great. But there seem to be big questions about whether this passage is historical (i.e., whether or not it happened). Seems archaeologists in the 19th/20th centuries (who actually set out to try to verify the biblical story) went out to Jericho and dredged around for a long time, trying to find some evidence that jibes with the biblical narrative. There isn’t any; at least they haven’t found any yet, and they’ve looked pretty carefully. The city’s been around for a long, long time, but the archeological evidence seems to show that the city was tiny and insignificant, rather than a thriving city, during the time period when the Israelites are supposed to have stormed it. There’s no evidence the city was walled when the Israelites would have moved in on it, as per Joshua 6’s description; there’s some question of whether the city was even inhabited round then.

So, thought #1: oh, crap. I hate it when this happens. It’s no fun when the historical bottom drops out of a story you always assumed has been true. Now, I know my seminary professors (as well as some friends) might critique me a little bit about what ‘true’ really means in this context. Does a biblical story have to be totally historical to be true? Or authoritative for the church? Or the word of God?

Yes, yes, I know, there’s “true” and then there’s “true.” I’ve never believed that, say, Genesis 1-2 is a literal account of humanity’s creation, but yet I still find it meaningful and authoritative for Christians. Why should Joshua 6 be any different? To which, my response—probably not all that intellectually worked-out, but still very heartfelt—is: when does it stop?? It’s all well and good to arrive at these conclusions here in the Old Testament; pretty much everybody can deal with the reality that Adam and Noah weren’t real people, or that Joshua isn’t a great historical account of what really happened. But what’s going to happen when we get to the New Testament? What’s going to happen when we get to, say, the difference between John and the rest of the Gospels? What’s going to happen when we hear that the story of the woman taken in adultery in John 8 isn’t present in the earliest scriptural witnesses? (My New English Bible leaves it out entirely.)

What’s going to happen when scholars start nosing around and saying, with all their erudition, “Well…y’know, some of these earliest manuscripts don’t contain the tradition of Jesus’ virgin birth…for instance, Paul doesn’t reference it…it may just be a tradition of the early church”? It’s one thing for my to try to re-frame Joshua 6 in my mind as a tradition of Israel, as a way of their articulating God’s power and protection. It’s quite another for me to deal with the idea that a miraculous truth which I recite in church every week (Apostles’ Creed: “…born of the virgin Mary..”) is seen by some as 'not historically true.' Or, for that matter, the miraculous truth without peer—-the resurrection itself. I know perfectly well that a lot of liberal scholars are quite happy to do away with the miraculous/supernatural nature of the resurrection. "Jesus’ corpse wasn’t actually resuscitated," they’ll say. "But the disciples experienced his presence in a real way. He was with them in a post-Easter way after his death." They’ll probably be wearing clothes from the Gap and reading Elaine Pagels, and I will want to stab them in the eye with a fork.

I’m reminded of St. Flannery’s comment about communion: “If it’s just a metaphor, then to hell with it.” In some ways—in certain ways, not in all—I feel the same way about Scripture. It’s not possible to prove that Christianity is true based on historical evidence, but it is, or ought to be, in my opinion, hypothetically possible to disprove it, to make it intellectually untenable. (I’m not saying Christianity IS intellectually untenable—I’m just saying that I think that’s a possibility.) If there's no reliable historical core to the Old Testament and New Testament, we may still have the Christian faith, but I think it'll be a pretty different faith than what St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Martin Luther all believed in.

Pt. II on this tomorrow. Really. I promise.


"Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of Lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven."
--Deuteronomy 10:16-20

Sunday, November 07, 2004


All I can say is: Whoa.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Via Rilina, via Camassia.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


Huh. Interesting.

Via Godspy. (EDITED TO ADD: Curse you, Blogger! Links should now work.)

Thursday, November 04, 2004


OK. So Nick emails me the following letter tonight and begs me--repeatedly and at length--to post it here. Here it is, in what is, I assure you, an almost entirely unexpurgated and unaltered form. (N.B.: "Osborn" is my middle name.)

Dave: A man, a face, a namesake

Now, this is not some epitaph to David Osborne. But I will admit that talking to Dave is like sitting in front of the window on a fall afternoon and watching the rain fall in cold, wet sheets. It is refreshing. It is cold. It is DAVE.

With humor as dry as an Arizonian summer on an August afternoon when the air conditioner has broken.

With a fifth grade picture that screams, “I like Dungeons and Dragons.”

With a personality as large as Goliath and a heart as noble as David.

With a sense of direction that often loses things like cell phones and rented movies

With a charisma that will lead the 21st century church into places it may never really want to go to…

With a smile that often charms and whiles others

Daveism is not simply a way of thought; it’s a way of life.

Keep reading and looking here for more witty, energetic, and yet thoughtful posts by our favorite Princetonian Lutheran—DAVE!

Ladies and gentlemen: Nick. These are his friends.


I have a fourth-level fighter/thief.

Me at the PTS Halloween Party. I went as "Fourth-Grade Me." Sure, I'm no horrifying Adam Cleaveland costume, but hey.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


OK. I think we can agree that blasting any of the following things from your room might be cause for a little irritation when you live in a dormitory: a) rap-rock; b) a Coldplay knockoff (not the very good band themselves, of course; just one of their legion of less-good imitators); c) music sung in French.

But what, WHAT is a reasonable Seminary student to do when someone down the hall is blasting music which is a Satanic hybrid of ALL THREE of these musical influences? It sounded like the bastard child of Linkin Park, Coldplay, and Edith Piaf, and I swear to God, it almost gave me a seizure as I was walking to the john. Sigh.

Right now: midterms. Late nights, early mornings, papers, midterms. For amusement in the meantime, check out Nick's spirited (albeit somewhat factually diminished) defense of the greatness of Delaware.

Monday, November 01, 2004


Friday AM: Wake up here. Beautiful Hudson River views. Rampant foliage (e.g., Adam, Nick). Everyone observes "the Great Silence" until after breakfast. Eucharist. Prayer.

Friday Noon: After a hearty lunch, we take our leave of the monks. Pile into Adam's car: me, Adam, Katie, Nick. Katie is the only person in the car without a blog. Within minutes, we are driving very fast with the windows open, blasting music: "Video Killed the Radio Star," and the entirety of the Blue album by Weezer. I freak out the rest of the car by singing along very loudly to all the words of the Blue album. Nick and I stick our heads out the windows and bark like dogs. Fun is had.

Friday evening: Back at PTS. I aid and abet Adam in purchasing this costume (that's him/her second from the right), perhaps the most horrifying thing produced by human ingeneuity in a long time. My own costume is a little more simple: I'm fourth-grade me. Josh assists me in creating a t-shirt emblazoned with the words "I Heart Dungeons & Draqons." Fourth-grade me studies Greek for a while and goes to the Halloween party.

Friday late: the Halloween party. Typical party: loud, sweaty, boozy, dancing, laughs, fun. Nick's got a view on it here. 15 hours after I woke up in a monastery, I am dressed like fourth-grade me, dancing to "Hot in Herre" and "Milkshake" between a man dressed as a woman and a man dressed like Darth Vader. (I later discover that the man dressed as Darth Vader actually is a preceptor for Hebrew classes.) I'm having a great time, but I'm struck by the bizarreness of it all. I keep turning to people, saying: "I woke up in a monastery this morning...?!"

These are the disparate parts of my life; these are my efforts to put them together into a coherent whole. Some days you get a lively, wonderful, vital sense of variety, of the Spirit being present both on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Other days you're shaking your rump next to the Dark Lord of the Sith, and you're thinking, "What the..."