Letter from the Editor (Fall 2014) by Amira Athanasios

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

“In the world, but not of it” is a phrase common to most church-goers, and often interpreted as a central theme of Jesus’ teachings. Christians are called to live and thrive in this world with the knowledge that they are made for some greater purpose. And because of this purpose they are to live not according to standards dictated by context or culture, but rather, strive to live as God would command.

The orthodoxy and catholicity of Christianity can sometimes paint a picture of the Church, faith, and Scripture as a holy ship that floats above the murky waters of the world: untouched and untouchable. Yet, here we find ourselves –learning, dancing, playing, crying –in the world. Moreover, the Christian faith is undoubtedly contextualized by the contemporary dialogue in which it is found. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, makes the clear distinction between the ways of the world and the good, pleasing and perfect will of God. He further suggests some “renewing of the mind” that will be transformative, and ultimately lead us to understand God’s intentions for our lives. Paul seems to argue that Christianity will offer a new lens which allows us to live according to God’s law rather than the patterns of the world.

Nonetheless, I still ask the question, does Christianity truly stand apart from our world? Church history would suggest otherwise: early Christian heresies, Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses, liberation theology in Latin America, Pope Frances’ humble attire. Tracking the church through time and space suggests that Christian beliefs have been shaped by worldly influences. I do not mean to undermine tradition or orthodoxy outright. Rather, I want to emphasize that as Christians we should not be so quick to hold on to Christianity as a separate sphere of our lives, disengaged from the world with which it is inextricably tied. Perhaps, the church is not an ark floating above the waters, but one that lives and breathes within the waters.

The Claremont Ekklesia hopes to step into this dialogue of howa traditional belief system such as Christianity remains transformative and relevant to a secular society. I encourage you to approach each of the following pieces with this question in mind: how does the Christian narrative add to our understanding of what it means to thrive in our world? Our writers and artists hold a variety of Christian beliefs, and we surely do not present a comprehensive essence of Christianity. Rather, we hope that the following pages highlight just a few beautiful genes amidst the great Christian inheritance. Above all, we hope that our thoughts may inspire the renewal of minds, and lead us to that which is good, and pleasing, and perfect. 

Amira Athanasios

Posted on September 9, 2015 .

Letter from the Editor (Spring 2013) by Ryan Stewart

Dear Reader,

If you have any Christian friends, they might seem a bit odd. Occasionally they go off to their strange “spiritual activities,” whether church, or bible study, or a quiet place to pray. Some may announce these comings-and-goings, and perhaps encourage you to come along, while others may subtly slip out at the same time each week. They might also assent to a few odd propositions about the existence of God and the resurrection of an ancient Jewish prophet. Perhaps they speak with a different language, peppered with words like “discipleship” and “Jesus” and “fellowship.” Maybe your Christian friends even seem just a bit nicer–whatever that means–than the next person. Or, on the other hand, you may discern a certain self-righteousness, an occasionally hypocritical condemnation of the world buried underneath this veneer of kindness.

But when all is said and done, Christians probably seem fairly normal, not really any different than the next friend. Most people here are generally pretty nice, have their own activities, and try to do things, right?

So what is it that defines a Christian? Or better yet, whatshould define a Christian? What really is the purpose of this mysterious thing called Christian faith? After all, the things that often distinguish Christians can appear arbitrary, largely meaningless distinctions, falling short of the goodness and power Christians claim belong to their faith.

For that reason, we, the staff of the Ekklesia, offer you these works of art as a small window into what Christian faith can be in Claremont. We hope you’ll find that our faith offers not only a distinct “spiritual” piety, but also a particular way of thinking and being that is valuable for the life of the university and, ultimately, for the life of the world. But of course, the publication you hold in your hands is not the essence of the Christian faith. Rather, it is but one drop that spills out of the lived experience of the historic and global ekklesia.

Love,


 

Ryan Stewart, Editor-in-Chief

Posted on September 9, 2015 .

Letter from the Editor (Spring 2014) by Amira Athanasios

In the summer of 1926, Miss Ellen Browning Scripps recounted her newly inspired vision to Mary Patterson Routt, an aspiring journalist of the time: “I am thinking of a college campus whose simplicity and beauty will unobtrusively seep into the student’s consciousness and quietly develop a standard of taste and judgement.”

Miss Scripps’ words capture the essence of a particular power –that of external beauty and aesthetics. I have come to learn that the physical campus has great influence on the culture of the student body and its ideologies at the Claremont Colleges. Scripps’ dream for her school captured two ideas: consistency and subtlety. The unchanging aesthetics of the campus evoke particular feelings, which go on to shape how we hold ourselves and how approach others: there are open, inviting spaces which foster community; secret gardens that persuade the mind into self-reflection; regal book rooms which challenge our studies; rolling lawns that encourage play. I am led to question what it might look like to actualize one’s beliefs quietly and unobtrusively, with simplicity and beauty, as the Scripps campus has done for many of its students.

Quite contrastingly, we often characterize others by their SHOUTS. I have misjudged friends by their actions on particularly important days, rather than remembering the subtle ways by which they care for me each day. Similarly, the Christian faith is frequently seen in light of the LOUDEST actions and statements made by the church. Whether we judge the church by obvious gestures of goodness or of wrongdoing, both actions are shouts. Shouts are bold and so easily heard, but they are neither captivating nor revealing in the same way as are our everyday thoughts.

So, I ask, might the quiet and consistent thoughts –the whispers– within the Church be more telling of our beliefs than the shouts, just as the subtlety of the campus architecture is more telling of the campus culture than its mission statement? Of course it is difficult to hear a still and quiet voice amidst the noise, but perhaps the transforming, inspiring hope of Good News is more truthfully heard within the whispers among us than within the shouts (1 Kings 19).

Our faith reveals itself through whispers. Many of us have had ‘Jesus’ and ‘salvation’ shouted at us from different directions, particularly the pulpit. However, the Christian faith cannot solely inform our understanding of Jesus and Salvation, but must shape our understanding of each issue, topic, or project we approach. Herein lie the whispers of our faith –in the subtle and beautiful ways by which an understanding of Christ as Lord distinctly and persistently colors all other things that we think and do.

I hope that the following pages quietly develop a standard of taste and judgment: a taste for reconciling damaged hierarchies of power, articulating critiques, expressing emotions, and questioning one’s beliefs, and a judgment that allows us to pursue our desires righteously. Above all, I hope that we may continue to whisper with a beauty that is humble yet influential.

 

Amira Athanasios, Editor-in-Chief

Letter from the Editor (Fall 2013) by Ryan Stewart

Dear Reader,

 

In these first few weeks of school, we arrive with great excitement and anticipation. Leaving our homes and families behind, we gather together to participate in, and indeed shape, this place we call the Claremont Colleges. In the coming months and years, we will all encounter ideas that push us to reconsider our worldviews and narratives that capture our imaginations. Together, these ideas and narratives create the campus wide dialogue that is a liberal arts community.

In your hands, you are holding the inaugural issue of The Claremont Ekklesia, a journal that hopes to bring Christian faith into this dialogue. Ekklesia, a Greek word often translated “church,” literally means “those called out,” and originally denoted the political assembly that gathered in ancient Athens. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Paul used this world to refer to the assembly of Christian believers called out for purposes in this world.

What could the Ekklesia possibly have to offer our community? Why do these schools need a bunch of religious folk publishing their opinions and stories and works of art?

We write because we honestly believe that the Ekklesia which ultimately extends beyond Claremont and across time and space, offers an exciting, alternative vision of reality. Rooted in an embodied community of love, these words spill out of the ongoing narrative of the living people of God. Through this journal, then, we hope to contribute a distinctively and particularly Christian perspective to discussions of the good life in our community.

Much of this current issue is devoted to stories. Whether it’s a journey across the traditional boundaries between faith and science, a reflection on pain and suffering, or an investigation of God’s relationship to nature, each of these stories is one of your fellow student’s attempts to bring their deepest spiritual convictions into conversation with their learning at these colleges.

As members of a variety of denominations, we hope these stories reflect both the unity and diversity found within the Christian faith. Although we consider ourselves Christians, and anchor our faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we all bring slightly different perspectives to the discussion. None of us approaches this dialogue with certainty or objectivity–rather, we are committed to a humble search of understanding, and we warmly invite you to join us in this endeavor.

 

Love,



Ryan Stewart, Editor-in-Chief

Posted on September 9, 2015 .