DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Inspired by a Grizzly

Written by: on June 7, 2019

 

As I was researching the writings of Martyn Percy I unearthed our very own Dr. Jason Clark’s PhD thesis, Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A reparative account and diagnosis

of pathogeneses in the relationship and was excited to learn that Dr. Clark relied heavily on Martyn Percy’s writings and methods for his thesis.  In fact, Percy was referenced extensively in Dr. Clark’s document (somewhere between 70 – 100 times throughout his writings).  I am convinced that Dr. Clark’s brilliant thesis work (which actually brings together most of the topics we’ve studied – social sciences (social theory), capitalism, and evangelicalism) will be published as a text and future LGP students will get the opportunity to read it!

Dr. Clark also referenced Percy’s writings about map-making.  While in Hong Kong, Dr. Clark delivered an impactful presentation about map-making throughout our life and the journey of the Leadership and Global Perspectives program.  Now I understand that Dr. Clark’s inspiration for his teaching was connected to Percy (I’m sure Percy was cited at the time but I didn’t remember).

The symbiotic alchemy of map-making that occurs in religious groups is produced from the delicate fusion of the social imaginary with a prevailing theological construction of reality. The worldview that emerges will, invariably, not only determine how a church or congregation sees itself within the world, but how they see the world around them. This exercise – or rather ongoing process – rarely produces an actual map. But it does produce a kind of inner map in the mind of the believers: places to avoid; places of plenty, and so forth. In some cases, it will produce actual maps.[1]

Percy’s discussion and application of map making – and his belief that at its core maps integrate the theological construction of reality and the social imaginary which together shape current sight and future expectations[2] – inspires me to tap into my research and deconstruct the typical “map” or “paradigm” many Caucasian Americans have towards the history of our “Christian” nation – especially its response to immigrants and refugees through the years.  Just like the grizzly bear (which by the way I came within feet of in Yellowstone yesterday) – which is misunderstood as an aggressive man-eater rather than a gentle and tolerant animal who is affectionate and protective with their young – America’s history is often misunderstood.

It is generally believed that the vast majority of early-generation, religion freedom seeking Americans were Christian, however the vicious conflicts between various Protestant sects and, more explosively, between Protestants and Catholics, present an unavoidable inconsistency to the widely held notion that America is a ‘Christian nation.’  It’s important to distinguish that the Pilgrim experience (coming to America aboard the Mayflower in search of religious freedom in 1620, followed by the Puritans) wasn’t truly about freedom of religion – the Puritan founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not tolerate any religious views other than their own.  The leaders disallowed any opposing views politically or religiously.  The intent of the colony was actually to become an inclusive community – admonishing anyone who was different or an outsider.  In public law (town, city, and state government) only Christian or Catholic individuals were permitted to run for office (and of course inclusive to Caucasian men). Discriminatory practices existed by Christians towards anyone non-Christian.  So, although the original colonies were built from communities of refugees – seeking freedom of religion, freedom from persecution, and freedom of economic opportunity – Christians persecuted and oppressed non-Christians from the colonies inception.

Fast forward to 1776 when the United States became a nation…a period of time that United States citizens speak proudly of in that the Declaration of Independence established independence from Great Britain and established goals and ideals of the new nation.  Many Christians believe the formal establishment of the nation validates their perception that the country was founded on Christian principles and morals and operates thereof.  A prime example of leadership with conflicting New Testament practice in this new “Christian nation” is the third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.  Although many Christians believe Jefferson was a devout Christian, he actually most connected spiritually with Deism, rational religion, and Unitarianism.[3]

As an intelligent, pragmatic man of reason, Thomas Jefferson struggled with his own feelings regarding Christianity and his responsibility to live under Biblical principles.  In trying to resolve the teachings of Jesus with the ideals of the Enlightenment (a European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition),[4] his solution was to read and edit the Bible in the four languages familiar to him – English, French, Greek, and Latin.  Thomas Jefferson carefully read through several copies of the New Testament.  He would cut out the sections that he agreed with and found important, and then glue them together in his own notebook.”[5]  Jefferson created his own version of useful scripture from the New Testament and named it “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” With his new narrative, Jefferson offered a New Testament he found preferable to the original.[6]  Jefferson viewed Jesus as a teacher and moral example and saw himself as a follower of Jesus’ morality.  “He didn’t have any use for miracles or the supernatural, which he took to be additions added to the story later on.”[7]  In Jefferson’s New Testament he didn’t even include the story of the resurrection.  It simply ended with Jesus’ death.

Even as Thomas Jefferson was creating the Declaration of Independence with the idea of equality and morality (as defined by following Jesus’ teaching), he lived a hypocritical life. One significant contradiction and struggle in Jefferson’s life was the issue of slavery. He was a slave owner, and claimed to be an advocate for individual freedoms (even once promoted a plan for gradual emancipation of slaves in America). While he composed the Declaration of Independence stating that all men are created equal, he believed African Americans were “biologically inferior to whites” and could not co-exist peacefully in freedom.[8] Jefferson inherited approximately 175 slaves from his family and owned an estimated 600 slaves throughout his adulthood.  He freed a small number of his slaves in his will; the majority were sold following his death.[9]  As the developer of the Declaration of Independence (and Christian founder of our nation) which proclaims equality for all, Jefferson was actively oppressing and discriminating against vulnerable populations.  He directly contradicted the very morals and principles this country claimed to have been built on. It would be interesting to learn if the New Testament verses of Matthew 25 and I Corinthians 12 were part of Jefferson’s new Bible.

I don’t have unlimited word count to continue on this journey of deconstruction…but do you have a new “map” of American history?  If so, do not be discouraged that it’s all negative – there are some encouraging lessons from America’s long experience with refugees (just not enough space to share here). The acceptance and resettlement of refugees reiterate what most believe to be fundamental American values and, indeed, the fundamental value of America. “There has been opposition to refugees, to their unexpected arrival in unpredictable numbers, their uncertain and chaotic origins, and their diversity since they often come from places and situations that are truly foreign to Americans. But there has also been great support, people who support refugees in both word and deed and who take their resettlement as a re-invocation of the best of what America can be.”[10] After all, the stranger is Jesus in disguise. (Matthew 25: 31-40)

[1] https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/25949/1/JClark%20thesis.pdf

[2] https://books.google.com/books?id=zdSXCwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA33&dq=martyn%20percy%20and%20map%20making&pg=PA33#v=onepage&q=martyn%20percy%20and%20map%20making&f=false

[3] https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/jeffersons-religious-beliefs

[4] https://www.npr.org/2017/06/28/534765046/smithsonian-exhibit-explores-religious-diversitys-role-in-u-s-history

[5] https://www.npr.org/2017/06/28/534765046/smithsonian-exhibit-explores-religious-diversitys-role-in-u-s-history

[6] https://www.npr.org/2017/06/28/534765046/smithsonian-exhibit-explores-religious-diversitys-role-in-u-s-history

[7] https://www.npr.org/2017/06/28/534765046/smithsonian-exhibit-explores-religious-diversitys-role-in-u-s-history

[8] https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/thomas-jefferson

[9] https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/thomas-jefferson

[10] https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/refugee-experience-united-states

About the Author

mm

Jean Ollis

22 responses to “Inspired by a Grizzly”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Jean,

    Yes! Beautiful Yellowstone Grizzly! It was so great to see you and Ron. Thanks again for lunch and for the time together. I hope the tire thing worked out in Livingston…

    I never knew those things about Jefferson. I don’t know if I assumed things, or was actually taught the wrong history.

    And I love your connections to Dr. Jason’s dissertation. That ought to score you some extra points! (grin)

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Jay, it was so great to visit with you and Lisa in the state I love! I envy your access to the resource. I found my own research fascinating when I discovered the info on Thomas Jefferson. There is so much to dig in to!!! BTW, I love how everyone thinks I’m scoring points on reading Jason’s thesis. It was honestly a great way to get the info I needed! 🙂

  2. mm Mike says:

    Jean,
    Excellent tribute to Dr. J’s use of Martyn Percy as a source for PhD on Evangelicalism and Capitalism.
    Ok, I want to comment on 2 of your points: Maps and Bears. First, I liked Percy’s use of “maps” throughout the book and especially in chapter 18 “Casual Ethnography.” I love maps too and have always used maps to develop solution strategies or navigate to destinations. To me, maps are much more than just guiding me from point to point, but also how the journey from point to point is accomplished. Sometimes we are just passing by like we are watching life happen out the window. Other times we are contributing to the social-theological landscapes and changing the secular-spiritual contour lines. I used to study 3-D maps, used a flashlight to reveal the shadowing, and then shaded 2-D maps for use in low-level radar night-flight modes. (pre-night vision goggles)
    Second, the bears! I think they are both gentle and aggressive depending on their environment, context, and threat to them or their cubs. I’ve seen them in both situations in the wild. They have an innate fear of humans, but when they are backed into a corner, trying to fill their hunger, or protect their young they can and will be very aggressive. I watched my mother act the same way when I was young!
    I enjoyed your deconstruction journey on American history. You are getting good at reading and writing “around” the book review of the week. What was your take on “contextual theology?”
    Did you have a great time in CO and USAFA?
    Stand firm,
    Mike w

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Thanks for such a thoughtful reply Mike! I too still love an actual map for navigating my journey – I’m visual so I want to have something in my hand. That darn GPS frustrates me! You also make good points about bears – gentle, yet fiercely protective. I would love to hear stories about your mom’s protection! Our trip to Colorado was amazing! Can’t wait to hear about yours…to be honest I don’t have any thoughts about Percy’s contextual theology – once I found Jason’s dissertation all my energy went in to reading it :).

  3. What a treat to be able to delve into Jason’s thesis and see how he integrated Percy’s writings!

    I had the privilege of meeting Percy in Hong Kong, during my first stint with the doctoral program. After reading this week’s text, I was amazed to see all the varied facets of his spiritual formation, including sociology, contextual theology, and practical theology.

    You rightly assert, “America’s history is often misunderstood.” This is very true. Nationalism has become a rampant form of bias that has blinded many of systemic prejudice and faulty assumptions. One of the beauties of this doctorate is the ability to attend differences from the stance of teachability. What has been the greatest impact on you and in your research during the DMin program?

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Colleen! That’s very cool that you actually met Percy on your first HK trip. I’m so excited to hear about your LOUD Summit. Jenny is so excited to participate! For me, the challenging readings, discussions and attempt to apply our readings to my research have been the most impactful. We have such a great group!

  4. Great post, Jean. Yes, deconstruction is such an important part of growth. It canbe painful to have our maps changed, but if we don’t allow for that we will navigating from an erroneous guide–and stay lost in many ways.

    I wish you did have more words here, because I’d love to hear how this map-making is shaping your research, and vice versa!

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Jenn,
      I feel like the whole research process has been deconstruction for me and everyone I know. Unearthing the “truths” of our American history and the history of immigration is fascinating. I engage in lots of conversations with family/friends/students on this topic!

  5. Jean,

    This was a great post that was provocative — your specialty! 🙂 — and insightful.

    It is so helpful to review history and witness how we have revisioned it, both from the right and the left, in attempts of justifying our current theories. Past traditions were often just attempts in a particular moment to be relevant. But then they calcify and become Tradition!

    Perhaps, like Percy, we just bumble along and try to be loving now in today’s culture, and allowing our current cultural reality inform how we do theology.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Mark! I love that I have the reputation for provocative posts! I will gladly accept that. I agree with your thoughts on “bumbling along” – to be honest that’s probably where most of us are!

  6. Shawn Hart says:

    Jean…what’s up? Come on now, are you needing extra credit? You read the professor’s dissertation?! Then you wrote, “I am convinced that Dr. Clark’s brilliant thesis work.” I see what is going on here…I might need some pointers on how to do that better come dissertation time. LOL

    Okay, now in all seriousness. I can understand the reason Dr. Clark kept referencing this reading. I was reading one chapter and looked at my wife and told her, “I just found two sources I need to add to my dissertation.” There was just some solid meat to this reading. Honestly, was shocked to find discussion including baptism in it.

    Great job.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Shawn! I’m so glad you found some resources in Percy’s reading…Dr. Clark clearly leaned heavily on Percy in his writing. BTW, I’ll take every point I can get :)!!!

  7. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Jean great content. And your thorough content is evident of your passion and expertise in this topic.

    But most of all, I had not realized any of that connectoin between Percy and Jason. Amazing. This makes me like our whole topic of study that much more. Im sure we will continue to hear about Percy over the next few months while getting ready for our trip.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Kyle,
      Dr. Clark’s thesis felt like a summary of all of our reading for the program. It was a great joining of all our resources!

  8. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Jean,
    Great job in sourcing Dr. Clark’s dissertation and the use of Percy throughout. I can understand why he would use Percy as well. (Side note can you email me a link to the dissertation?) I appreciate your deconstruction of history, there will always be good and bad sides to everyone, while we tend to focus on the parts we like, it is good to be reminded we should lift no one up except Christ.

    Jason

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Jason! I sent the document via email. Enjoy the reading! It’s quite fascinating! Keep looking for truths in history. We need to be vigilant! That’s definitely my takeaway from all my research!

  9. Great post while on vacation Jean, it seems to be the most popular for people to comment on. 🙂 I also was impressed with your ability to smoothly butter up our lead mentor at the same time that you highlighted a very insightful aspect of Percy’s map-making metaphor. Excellent job, and I too enjoyed what Jason shared about map-making. Glad you had an awesome trip.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Jake – glad it felt like a journey lol! It was a challenge to get it done but it’s fun to enlighten readers to new historical “truths”.

  10. Chris Pritchett says:

    Wow Jean this is fascinating how you connected Percy’s map-making with American history! It is true that the history books I read (or was supposed to read) did not tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding our Original Sin as a nation and how we’ve continued to perpetuate it. One of my favorite recent books is: “The Warmth of Other Suns” which tells a different history of black migration than we would have every heard in a public (or private) school in this country. It’s a beautiful read. I always appreciate your courage in your posts. They challenge me to speak out.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Chris! Thanks for the recommendation of the book you read. I get so frustrated by skewed history (I know you do too). We all need to stay vigilant to “truths” in history. There’s usually more to the story!

  11. Greg says:

    You took us on a journey with this blog Jean. I loved the way you connected the books we have been reading (thanks to Jason’s research that we all benefited from) with may misunderstandings of our own heritage. We all do love to reinterpret history to fit the narrative we want to be. This was a great reminder.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Greg! I imagine you can relate to this on many levels – around the globe this is common. I plan to remain vigilant to the “stories” of history – the narrative is often changed/skewed and we need to dig until we feel confident in histories “truths”.

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