Not in my Backyard

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Before I begin, I have a confession to make: I’m an addict. I didn’t choose to be, I was born with this addiction. Sometimes I am able to wean myself off of it, if even for a little while, but never for very long—a few hours at most. To be honest, if I were to go without it for much longer then that, I would probably die. Continue reading

A Recipe for Revolution

Jeffrey Metcalfe

“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

–Luke 2:34-35

This afternoon, I came to the conclusion that I needed to overthrow the state, and so I baked a loaf of bread. It seems like an odd response doesn’t it? What does yeast rising have to do with revolution, and perhaps more to the point: why would I need to overthrow the state in the first place? The simple answer is that I’ve come to realize how deeply my imagination as a Christian has been held captive by the state. Continue reading

Borders: An Apology

André Forget

Borders have, in contemporary discourse, had a rather rough time of it. Perhaps, at the end of a century that saw the partition of India and Pakistan, the ruler-happy imperialist line-drawing in Africa and the Middle East, and the blood-soaked, increasingly microscopic division of the Balkans, it is simply impossible to believe that borders are anything but a sign of failure. After all, even the gentlest uses of the word suggest something to be overcome, something to be crossed, and the images most commonly associated with it – barbed wire fences, armed guards, desperate refugees, watchtowers, customs officers – are steeped in the biometric panopticism of the modern state. Even to the white middle class, perhaps the most privileged of all international travelers, the border is an ambiguous site of anxiety and potential trouble. In the academy, the border has become increasingly fashionable as a site of transgression. “Border Crossing” and “Liminality” are celebrated as ways of resisting the totalizing logic of the centre, and even those who criticize (consider, for example, Roy Miki’s excoriation of those who are drawn to the margin’s “curious exoticism”) do so from the position that the border still names a painful division. It would seem that transgression is all the border is good for in the modern world. Continue reading

Preaching the Good News After Auschwitz

The Responsibility, Judgment, and Risk of Homiletic Thoughtfulness

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in the camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.


–       Elie Wiesel, Night[1]

Night, smoke, bodies, silence, flames, and ashes: these are the words that describe a shattered faith and a murdered God. Seven times Wiesel tells us life after Auschwitz can never be the same, that he shall never forget. Yet the question remains: can we? Or, perhaps more accurately as church leaders, have we? Continue reading

Missionaries or Mercenaries?

Jeffrey Metcalfe

When my father retied from the airline industry he decided he wanted to more actively seek a life of Christian service. Taking his pension early, he joined an aviation mission group and traveled overseas where he was assigned to fly medical supplies and doctors into remote villages in Papua New Guinea.

At the beginning, it seemed like it would be a straightforward task. He would fly into small isolated communities, pick up the sick and wounded, and fly them to where they could receive medical treatment.

Yet nothing in life turns out to be so straightforward. On one of his first missions, he was greeted with skepticism by a few of the locals in a village. After a bit of awkwardness, one of the locals approached my father and asked, “You’re new. So, are you missionaries or mercenaries?” Continue reading

Advent: Collideorscape

Joshua Paetkau

The Sunday preacher is apocalyptic. A bit tongue-in-cheek, but nonetheless. This is the first Sunday of advent, after all, the dawning of the Christian year; the time when traditionally Christians began to think about death. And why not? The hustle and bustle of commercial Christmas pales, indeed vanishes, in the swirling vortex of activity that is the Christian story. Here we encounter a murderous king driven mad to the point of genocide by news of an infant birth, foreign intellectuals who undertake an incredible journey in order to lavish expensive gifts on a small family, and agrarian labourers who neglect their work in an act of spontaneous celebration. Insanity and jubilation, unfeigned merriment and unspeakable horror; the enigma of Christmas. Advent is an onslaught ominous, glorious, unpredictable. Like wildfire, like storm the news of the coming Messiah spreads causing disturbance and upheaval in its wake. What is at stake is nothing less than a fundamental reshaping of reality that leaves all who encounter it profoundly unsettled. All, that is, except those closest to the narrative’s centre of gravity. Mary and Joseph, those paragons of serenity, who accept the incredible tasks thrust upon them with an unbelievable, almost infuriating, calm. Continue reading

I Am Not The 99%

Andre Forget

I’m am not part of the 99%. I mean this in both a global and in a local sense. While many university graduates struggle to find any work at all, let alone work in their field or work that uses their degree in some way, I find myself employed by my alma mater in work that I find stimulating, meaningful and lucrative. Does this mean that I am part of the 1%? I pay my taxes fairly willingly (knowing that I will get the bulk of it back), would have voted NDP in both the federal election and the Manitoba provincial election had I been allowed, and am entirely on board with wealth redistribution. Perhaps others in my position could lend their support to the Occupy movement whole-heartedly, without a shadow of doubt. I cannot. Continue reading

Getting to Mt. Athos

Andre Forget

Orthodoxy.  The word has always had a strange taste in my mouth, as if it were an arcane branch of medicine or an obscure and ancient legal state of affairs.  Until this past year, when I moved naively to Istanbul on a vague and ill-defined search for an experience of the Other, my knowledge of Orthodoxy was almost purely academic.  I’d read Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World in my first year of university (and probably missed the point), and I’d had a few conversations with a former Anglican of my acquaintance who had gone on to be baptized Orthodox in his late twenties, but in my limited understanding of the Orthodox I thought of them as a sort of eastern Catholic – all liturgy and incense and icons.  I was to find out exactly how wrong I was, and how impoverished my understanding of global Christianity had been.  Continue reading

Imagination Beyond Horror

An Introduction to the Catholic Commons

Jeffrey Metcalfe

“The horror is that for the first time we live in a world in which we can no longer imagine a better one.”1

Theodor Adorno

Can an idea change the world?  If not, we in the Church should give up now; there is no point in continuing.  For over two-thousand years we thought we knew the answer to this question.  It led us to welcome the stranger, to feed the hungry, to redistribute our wealth, and to fight against the principalities and powers of the darkness of the age.  Granted, we were never entirely faithful to the Idea.  From the beginning, some of us tried to use it to enslave the stranger, to engorge ourselves, to consolidate our wealth, and to become the principalities and powers.  Yet the Idea would not stay our possession, it would always return to confront us, to invite us back, and at times, it would bring the Emperor himself to his knees. Continue reading