Oxford Update!

Hello beautiful people!

Know that if you are reading this post, I truly miss you. People often are surprised when I talk about how much I miss home but quite honestly I don’t really miss home as a place all that much, but I really, really miss home as a community. But I suppose the two aren’t quite as extricable as that, but moving on!

I’ve been here for two days short of a month now and am just starting the fourth week of classes! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Oxford system for school, let me fill you in, it’s quite a strange thing: A term only lasts 8 weeks here and in a term you take two tutorials, one being your primary and one your secondary tutorial. Your primary tutorial meets once a week for an hour but it is a one-on-one with a tutor that has expertise and the exact subject area you are studying. For instance, my primary is Victorian Literature (mid-late 19th century in Britain) and my tutor has read nearly everything from that time period and is just in general really knowledgeable about all things Victorian. Then your secondary tutorial meets every other week in the same fashion. Mine is Philosophical Theology. For each of these tutorials it is expected that you write an essay that is roughly 2000-2500 words longs on a given topic. So far, I’ve written on the agency of fate in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the guilt of Dr. Jekyll in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the role of identity and art in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and if it is possible to have a faith that is at once rational and meritorious. I’m also working on an essay that attempts to determine how we should understand the Incarnation of God the Son in the person of Jesus Christ. All of these topics are incredibly interesting to me and, while I do get bogged down doing all the reading, I love the process of working through what I can add to the conversation.

And although course-work does take up a huge chunk of my time, those of you who know me know that I’m not content to just sit and work throughout the day! I’ve joined the Queen’s College Football (soccer) team which is one of the colleges affiliated with Oxford (there’s a total off 44 colleges and halls that are a part of Oxford University), spent lots of time biking around the city and discovering lots of cool places, cooked my own dinners (woah!), gone for a day trip to London, seen a play, and so many other fun things! Oxford is a truly incredibly beautiful city and it’s so easy to get around in. The city is very small in terms of geographic size despite the amount of people that live here. I have a bike for the semester and can get anywhere in the city on my bike which is fantastic!

I’ve also meant a lot of really cool people here! There are 22 of us plus our Junior Directors that are living in an old Victorian house that’s about a 15 minute bike ride from the center of Oxford. We’ve all grown really close together and a group of 10 of us make dinner together and eat together 5 days a week! Having this core group of people has really helped me to adjust to life here as we all take in the new experiences together (shout out to Casey, Rebecca, Chris, Emily, Kelly, Jewel, Karin, Jenn, and Ryan!). They’ve all been a true blessing in my life.

Sara and I are able to Skype about 5 days a week and stay in contact through WhatsApp throughout the day which has been a real blessing! Our time apart sucks but it’s going to make being back together that much better!

I’d love to hear from all of you! What are you all up to? Facebook me, email me (morriscaleb44@gmail.com), or WhatsApp me to get in contact! I love you all!

~Caleb

What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege

For my Philosophy of Mind class, I recently read something that talks about how we can experience true, objective reality. It’s not necessarily removing ourselves from the equation, but it is using our own cognitive abilities to look down upon ourselves, as if we are an instance rather than the rule – that we might view ourselves as part of something greater and be able to recognize the brilliance of what we are apart of.

This article fits that theme, if not the discipline. Enjoy.

A Little More Sauce

The phrase “white privilege” is one that rubs a lot of white people the wrong way. It can trigger something in them that shuts down conversation or at least makes them very defensive. (Especially those who grew up relatively less privileged than other folks around them). And I’ve seen more than once where this happens and the next move in the conversation is for the person who brought up white privilege to say, “The reason you’re getting defensive is because you’re feeling the discomfort of having your privilege exposed.”

I’m sure that’s true sometimes. And I’m sure there are a lot of people, white and otherwise, who can attest to a kind of a-ha moment or paradigm shift where they “got” what privilege means and they did realize they had been getting defensive because they were uncomfortable at having their privilege exposed. But I would guess that more often than…

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The United States Sucks at Prison



Mass Incarceration in the United States is reaching levels of absolute absurdity. Nationwide, one in every 100 adults are in prison (John Oliver) and the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of democracies by 5-10x (NYTimes).

From a Christian perspective, I have a hard time reconciling the life and teachings of Jesus with an incarceration system that is racially imbalanced (Prison Policy, Pew Research), dishes out streamlined, mandatory sentences for non-violent crimes (John Oliver, Human Rights Watch), and continues to treat inmates inhumanly.

From a non-Christian perspective, I believe everyone of these issues is also a humanist concern. Whether or not one believe in Christ should not influence how we care for our fellow humans. And that is just as much a problem for Christians, if not more so (but that is an entirely unrelated subject).

Anyways, I don’t want to spend a lot of time stating my opinions on the issue but I’m going to leave a few resources that should get you up to speed on this issue. There are a couple of editorials, some reports, and a few videos that explain the issue very well (especially the VlogBrothers episode, although it is brief).

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Pz3syET3DY
VlogBrothers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaPBcUUqbew
New York Times (Editorial) http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/25/opinion/sunday/end-mass-incarceration-now.html?_r=0
Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/06/us-nation-behind-bars
Pew Research http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/09/06/incarceration-gap-between-whites-and-blacks-widens/
Prison Policy Initiative http://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/raceinc.html
iDebate (Presents opinions of both sides) http://idebate.org/debatabase/debates/crime/house-believes-criminal-justice-should-focus-more-rehabilitation

And yes, this is my first blog post in 6 months.

Heavenly Paradox

This morning I had the opportunity to hear Dr. John Dendiu speak at Keller Park Church. It being the first time I had visited Keller Park for a Sunday morning service, I didn’t have a great idea of what to expect. In a sense, I guess I didn’t get the full Keller Park experience since their Pastor was out sick and Dr. Dendiu filled in, but the wisdom of Dendiu’s words and the spirit of the Church gave me a great first impression. I’d like to write a bit about the theme of Dr. Dendiu’s sermon, some of which will be taken directly from said sermon and some won’t be, but I’ll try to give credit where credit is due.

Dr. Dendiu asked us, the small congregation gathered to worship and learn, “Do we worship God because of who he is, period?” This statement was poignant enough, but he went onto to ask if instead we worshiped God because of the gifts and the blessings he bestows upon us. Now I come from a very blessed family. Never have we had trouble with basic needs (i.e. shelter, clothing, food, etc.) and we have been able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, for which I am incredibly grateful. The blessings God has given me and my family are far, far too numerous to list here. But this question of why I worship God has been at the center of my thoughts lately. Do I know what it really means to need God? I seem to have adequate, and in all actuality, probably above adequate possessions and connections to live what would generally be considered a “happy life” by many in our culture. So why God?

Hebrews 11 was the key text in the sermon this morning. The author of this passage gives a history of many Old Testament characters that have showed extreme faith. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, etc. served God through faith. Verse 16 (ESV) says “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” All these great Old Testament personalities, through faith, were unashamed of God as they desired a better country. This is my favorite part of the verse. They recognized that this world (or this country) holds nothing for them and it is only in this better country that they will achieve their heart’s first desire, to be one with God. It is then not because of the blessings that God has for us on this Earth, but because of the promise of being with God in this better country, this “heavenly one.”

Verse 35 marks a shift in the chapter. Verses 35-40 talk of a different sort of people that had faith. Everyone mentioned above had faith in God and received many blessings from God. Abraham became the father of all nations. Enoch was taken up with God, not experiencing death. Isaac gave a blessing to both his first and second born sons, something that hadn’t been done before. However, these last verses of the chapter speak of those who “were tortured”, “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment”, and “were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.” These sort of people did not, for whatever reason receive all the blessings that others did. You might say their life was harder. But I’d like to propose a different conclusion. These people had no choice but to lean on the might and majesty of God. They were persecuted, impoverished, and even put to death for having faith in God. Is their anything more telling of complete faith than being willing to lose everything they have? These people understood the paradox of when they lost everything for God, they gained everything in God.

It is hard for me to put complete trust in God because I have what the world tells me is all I need. In a sense, I don’t NEED God to make it through this life. But of course, I NEED God to make it into the life that really matters. I NEED God to enter the heavenly country. God has prepared for me a city, and he wants me to live an unashamed life of worship and proclamation of his name, whether or not I have been afforded great blessings in this life.

New Thoughts on a New Year

The Least Interesting Blog on Earth

My mother might be the most amazing woman I have ever met. Juggling 3 kids, a husband, and a job teaching at one of the top public institutions while quickly becoming a renowned thinker on social entrepreneurship, she certainly keeps busy. She’s the last one to go to bed and the first one up, and I can’t remember the last time she missed one of our sporting events or concerts. She is literally a superhero in a pantsuit.

She and I are built very similarly. We are task oriented and goal driven. We love making lists and setting benchmarks. Because of our similar makeup, we also butt heads a lot. Our ultra competitive natures make it a challenge when we disagree on something because neither wants to back down or give an inch. Our disagreements can last for days but we always manage to make up and move on. The…

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Reading Genesis 1 “Literally”

This is a perfect example of how context is so important in reading ancient texts, especially the Bible. The Bible wasn’t written with our modern worldview in mind but was written based upon what the writer understood. Check it out:

Scribalishess

Reading Genesis 1 “Literally”

Most people who claim they read Genesis 1 “literally” don’t. They believe that what they believe about Genesis 1 is literal. But they aren’t reading Genesis 1 literally.

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Why I’m a Sucky Reader

Christmas break came at exactly the right time. My classes began to feel stale. The professors gave lengthy lectures to cram the rest of the information in. And I was ready for a break. I was excited to get back home, sleep a lot, eat a lot, and read a book for fun.

I had done so much academic reading over the course of my first college semester that I was pumped to be able to turn the pages of a good novel. A novel that grips me and won’t let me retire after a chapter ends. Something that I can get lost in and not only be interested in mining its content. But something was wrong.

My first book was William Golding’s famous Lord of the Flies. It had been sitting in my dorm room desk for the entire semester, begging to be opened. I like to say that I didn’t have enough free time to read, but what it really came down to is that I wanted my free time to be spent doing other things since so much of my classwork was reading. But what I failed to realize is, that like all good things, reading is a talent that has to be practiced in order to be maintained and developed. My reading at school was largely done in order to complete an assignment, find a necessary bit of information, or understand/respond to an argument. This sort of reading isn’t conducive to the kind of reading that lets you get lost in a book.

I’m still working on Lord of the Flies, though I am nearly finished. And don’t get me wrong – I have really enjoyed the book, but it has, at times, been a laborious process. And here I do not mean it has been laborious in the sense that I am fondling every detail and making notes on themes and character developments, I mean going back and rereading a page because I didn’t digest a single bit of information laborious. My eyes see the words while my brain wanders into other realms.

You may have read the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Carr describes how our technologically savvy generation is far less able to keep their brains concentrated on a single task because of how much multi-tasking goes on in our day to day life. I won’t go too far into this, but I think, as does Carr, that this directly affects our ability to read literature. When I’m reading, I may also be texting someone, checking my twitter, and doing other things. How can I expect to be taken into the world of literature if I have so many things keeping me in my world? 

One might ask why this is even important. Aren’t books only information to be attained? Isn’t it more efficient to get the information and not have to worry about such trivial things as the style and motifs of a novel? I vehemently disagree with both of these statements. Literature is art and art is beauty. The way the plot of a novel moves forward with the development of the characters and the themes that traverse all of it is in fact beautiful. Right now, I am only experiencing that beauty on a superficial level, unable to dive into the literature because of my lack of practice and my distractions.

I’ll post a follow-up to this at the end of Christmas break and report on how isolating myself from social media during reading is affecting my comprehension. I need to stay concentrated during my reading and keep myself reading regularly. If any of what I’ve said resonates with you, I’d encourage you to try and do the same.