Hello Friends!!!

            First off I just want to say how much I miss you all in Canada. Shout out to my CityLights fam, Kingsway Baptist Church, my family, and my friends, I love you all so much. The time has come for me to make my last post, at least for this semester about my life in Scotland before I, to use the words of a good friend, go ‘whole-hog’ into the community and friends here. I would still love to keep in contact with all of you and will post my Skype and email at the end of this post.

            One thing that I haven’t talked very much about so far is how the academic side of this adventure has been…and that is precisely because there hasn’t been much to tell, or at least not yet. My classes this semester are: intermediate Hebrew, Ancient Texts on ‘Men who became Gods’, and a general methodology class. I’m finding the work load from these classes unusually light, which leads me to two conclusions, of which the latter I’m becoming more convinced: (1) I’m doing something wrong, I’m not doing all the required material, or (2) I have become much more efficient. I say I’m more convinced of the later not due to arrogance but through the observation that I have read four books, dozens of extra-curricular news articles and essays, half finished writing my new album, have done all my required reading, and gotten ahead start on an assignments by almost two months….all within the time I’ve been here, while taking naps, eating, going out, and doing day trips.  How I wish I can tell you I’ve been academically challenged, but that would be dishonest.

            However, I have made an important personal discovery in terms of my academic future while I have been here, and it is that I don’t have much a desire to continue in academic/secular Biblical studies as I do Political Theology. I have enjoyed Biblical studies a lot, but when I asked myself the question if I thought questions about hardcore philology, or Hebrew syntax, or the aetiology of New Testament stories in relation to Graeco-Roman mythology, were really important, my answer was….no…. or at least they matter only in so far as they contribute to the life of the church and contribute to genuine Kingdom of God work and mission. When I further asked myself personally what exactly it was about Biblical studies that I loved so much it was precisely in how it changed and shaped my political views. To discover that many of the early Church fathers (by some counts, most) were totally against Christians in the military; to discover that the author of the Book of Revelation was concerned with Jerusalem’s collusion with Roman power; to discover that so called ‘church hierarchy’ was entirely based on servanthood thus leading to the dismantling of societal hierarchy altogether; to discover that Mark 12:13-17 was not primarily about paying taxes but was about God’s claim on humanity; to discover that the early church was mocked by Celsus as a community for the poor, the stupid, women and children; and to discover that Christian theologians have had a long history in being part of revolutionary movements….this all spoke to my soul. More than ever, I am concerned with the life of the church, with Christian behaviour, and with transformational radical politics centred on the theo-political realm.

            Speaking of Church life, allow me to now take you on a tour of the beautifully bizarre conservative Christian church I have taken-up fellowship with here. Originally I was going to take the approach taken by most who are trying to find a new church, that of ‘church-hopping’. However the more I thought about it, the more I realized (again given my new theo-politics) that that approach is deeply embedded in a neo-liberalism mind-set that our different church communities are like a buffet of dishes from which we have our consumer-choice to pick what we please from them. Often its thought that we serve the church, and then the church gives our souls renewal of whatever…as if the gift of God were a exchange on the market. So instead of that approach I thought about how I would approach this if I thought about the Christian Church (very tricky to define, no?) as my family, and I came to the conclusion then that my family is my family and I don’t get to pick the members. If I am in the fold of Martin Luther King Jr. , I am also in the tradition of Pat Robertson, and I don’t get to make-up definitions of ‘whose in’ and ‘whose out’. If God is my father, then the Church is my mother no matter how crazy she be. So I decided I would go to the first church I saw, and attend it non-stop for the year and really participate in the community, no matter how I felt about what. If I saw or heard something I didn’t like, it was up to me to approach my family about it. If I felt I could bless them, then I should no matter what I receive because it isn’t about my spiritual life or whatever. Its about committing to a community. So I left my flat, walked a few blocks and enter the first church I saw, which was ironic in that it did not call itself a church nor did it look like much of one from the outside.

            Carrubbers Christian Centre, was the first church I attended and I have stuck to it. ‘Be Thou my Vision’ done with Bongo drums fed my soul, listening to their stories about their missionaries was inspiring, being blessed by a substantial Student population was wonderful,  me getting to be a Bible scholar among them has been a delight, and to serve at their breakfast program for the homeless reminded me about what the Kingdom of God was all about. Listening to how Jesus was literally an astronaut because of the ascension cringed my reason, listening to a sermon about the importance of Hell in Christian missionary work made me despair, listening to a story which when thought about more deeply was almost a perversion of the doctrine of atonement made me worry, and attending a Bible study in which almost two chapters of Romans were covered in an hour made my head pound against the wall. But…My family is my family, the minute I get to start picking and choosing is the minute I’ve lost a sense of commitment to those who claim to follow the same saviour I have met.

            Before I end on a note of personal relationships with people here, let me tell you about a few new habits of mine. I knew that coming here would allow me to re-invent my way of life, my habits, and culture. Nothing extraordinary but perhaps these are the petals of a beautiful flower as yet to grow.

  • Due to the haunting verse of Proverbs 21:13, which says “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered” I have been deliberately making a habit of carrying change to give to those I see on the street corner. Now, is this solidarity with the worker-class on the brink of revolution? Is this ‘radical’ commitment to the poor? No, but its certainly a start.
  • I’ve started saving my white t-shirt to wear exclusively for Sunday, not to convey that I’m putting on my best clothes to impress God but I find that the colour white speaks of joy as much as it does purity, and I want to make Sunday a reminder of joy.
  • I’ve found it quite easy to eat as a vegetarian for days on end. I am more and more repulsed by meat. And the more you get a chance to really see animals the harder it is not to think about their suffering. Will a new 100% diet formation come about? quite possibly.
  • I LOVE taking photos, ever since I discovered how well my IPod can do this I’ve enjoyed taking pictures. More and more, I’m finding how art, architecture, photos, and images are capable of telling a story all their own. Being an academic you of course focus mainly on texts, so the shift to visuals is coming as a surprise, which I realize to most people it isn’t. :p
  • Lastly, I think I’m becoming more aware as to how easy it is and how often I tell ‘white’ lies (and don’t you hate how in this instance ‘white’ has become a code-word for ‘harmless’, ah racial prejudices embedded in language!). I formulate stories sometimes in certain ways as to make people see it in the angle in which I wish them to see it…the new habit is being aware of this pattern, and trying to develop a radical honesty in story telling.

            Let me end with a moving insight I found in G.K. Chesterton’s biography on St. Francis of Assisi . Of very recently I got to take two days trips around Scotland, one to Calton Hill and the other to the village of Comrie. The scenery was absolutely stunning. Have you ever seen such a beautiful sight as to fall to your knees in awe at the artistry and majesty of God? I have, and it seemed like I did at almost every corner I turned. (don’t worry will put a photo gallery at the end!) And this passage from Chesterton’s work resonated with me deeply as I thought about the most amazing woman I met this past summer (I’m terribly sorry for the long string of tease about who this woman could possibly be, but you have to understand that very much like God, she is someone who I shouldn’t be talking about in so human a manner but who I can not prevent myself from talking about). The passage from Chesterton is thus,

“The transition from the good man to the saint is a sort of revolution; by which one for whom all things illustrate and illuminate God becomes one for whom God illustrates and illuminates all things. It is rather like the reversal whereby a lover might say at first that lady looked a flower, and say afterwards that all flowers reminded him of his lady.”

So as I was looking upon all the gorgeous sights upon God’s earth, not merely the colours but the sense of awe, reminded me of the sense of awe at so wonderful a soul as the woman who I hope one day to call my Queen.

For contact:

Skype: caleb.upton.

Email: calebdupton@gmail.com

love, Caleb

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