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Filtering by Category: Personal

Who Built It?

Thomas Whitley

That fateful July day in Roanoke, Virginia when Obama said "If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that." It was a poor choice of words. It seems clear that he did not mean people did not build their business but that they did not build the infrastructure that makes their success possible, the context makes that much clear.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

Yet, context hasn't stopped the Republicans and the Romney campaign from constantly repeating the line. It goes something like this, "President Obama says that if you've got a business, you didn't build that. Well, I'm here to tell you today, Mr. President, that we did build it!" They even devoted an entire day to this "theme" at last week's Republican National Convention. A lot of questions come to mind when I see the Republicans so blatantly taking the phrase out of context - such as how desperate must they be to devote an entire day at the RNC to an out-of-context Obama quote - but the one the puzzles me the most is who exactly they think "built that"?

President Obama's message seems to have been that as a country we help each other out. He praised individual ingenuity in the same speech, but was making the particular point that government spending and government programs have made it possible for your hard work and risk-taking to actually pay off and allow you to be successful. It's really a rather benign message and it's one that Mitt Romney agrees with.

ROMNEY: I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the bank, the investors. There is no question your mom and dad, your school teachers. The people who provide roads, the fire, the police. A lot of people help. But let me ask you this. Did you build your business? If you did, raise your hand. Take that Mr. President! This is what’s happening in this country. These people are entrepreneurs.

In case Mitt Romney forgot, teachers, schools, roads, firefighters, and police officers are all instances of government spending. To be fair, I do understand the idea of rugged American individualism and I wholly support and celebrate entrepreneurs who take risks and provide services that we as consumers want. But the idea that anyone person did it all on their own is not just wrong, it's laughably wrong.

In a few years when I graduate with my PhD and am honored by being called Dr. Whitley I would never think of saying, "I did this all on my own and have no one to thank but myself." Did I have to make a lot of tough choices and sacrifices? Absolutely. I've lived for years making very little money as a student. I picked up am moved to a state I had only visited a handful of times to live in a city I have never set foot in to follow my dream. I passed up opportunities to get out of academia and make decent money. Yet, at the end my thoughts will not be on how great I am because I took the risks and I did the reading and I wrote the papers and I passed the exams. No, I will think of my wife who sacrificed living close to her family, friends, and a great job to move to Florida with me. I'll think of my parents who supported me emotionally and financially for so long. I'll think of my professors who gave so freely of their knowledge and their time. And I'll also think of another group - taxpayers, because when I finish at FSU, 2 of my 4 degrees will have come from state universities that are funded by taxpayer money and I want to provide a good return on investment by giving back what I can to the society that has given me so much.

So, while I've not started a business, I know what it's like to take risks, to make sacrifices, and to work ridiculously hard in pursuit of a dream, but I also know that I never would have made it by myself. On this Labor Day, I want to take a moment to thank those who work and those who provide work. We do live in a great country and we've done some amazing things, but we didn't get here on our own.

Fall 2012 Classes

Thomas Whitley

Classes at FSU begin on Monday, so I thought I'd post a quick overview of the classes I'll be taking/teaching. Gospel of Matthew - Graduate seminar in which we'll be reading selections of the Greek text of Matthew and of modern and pre-modern scholarship on these selected passages. We will also look at the interpretation of the book through the 5th century. Dr. Levenson, one of my main advisors, will be teaching this course.

Ge'ez (Ethiopic) - Graduate language class. This is only a one hour class, but I am quite excited about it. I do not have current research interests that require knowledge of Ge'ez, but having a knowledge of Ge'ez will allow me to take up opportunities in the future that I would not have been able to otherwise.

Coptic - I am doing this as a graduate directed independent studies language course. I worked on Coptic over the summer and will continue this Fall, mostly working on translating the Gospel of Thomas.

Xenophon - This a Greek language class in which we'll be working through parts of the Cyropaedia. The course is taught a professor in the Classics department at FSU, which is housed in the same building as the religion department, Dr. Branscome. Yes, I realize this makes three official language classes for this semester. Should be fun, and not at all easy.

Muhammad and the Qur'an - Graduate seminar that will focus on the early biography of Muhammad and will explore contemporary scholarly debates surrounding the historical Muhammad and the field of Qur'anic studies. I am excited about this class and I expect it to only increase my desire to learn Arabic.

Introduction to the New Testament - I will be teaching this course this Fall. We will be looking at many of the texts of the Christian New Testament, focusing on reading them with as religious, literary, and historical documents. There will be a large push for understanding the context of the texts we read as well as reading what the texts actually say, as opposed to what we think they say or want them to say. This is the first course I'll be teaching at FSU, though more will come.

I will also be working on French this semester, as I have to pass a reading knowledge exam and I hope to take that exam this December. I hope to have more than enough reading knowledge to pass the exam, though, but rather to have a fairly workable conversational knowledge of the language. Luckily Trinity, my wife, is learning French with me, making the latter goal easier to accomplish.

So, that's a bit of what I'll be doing this semester. What's on your docket?

My Thoughts on the Boy Scout Gay Ban

Thomas Whitley

Boy Scouts of America Keeps Gay Ban | BBC: The Boy Scouts of America will not change its policy of excluding gay scouts and scout leaders, following a secret two-year review, the group says.... Announcing their conclusion, the Boy Scouts cited support from parents as a major reason for keeping the policy.

"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," Boy Scouts chief executive Bob Mazzuca said.

"We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."

The panel was unanimous in its decision and a Boy Scouts of America spokesman told the Associated Press it was "absolutely the best policy" for the group.

I've waited some time to comment on this two-year ordeal because I'm torn. On the one hand, I respect the BSA's right as a private organization to make and implement policies of this nature, but on the other hand I see it as a step in the wrong direction.

I grew up in scouting. I started as a Tiger Cub and went until I earned my Eagle (with much prodding from my parents and scout leaders). I learned things like how to start a fire with no matches, how to survive in the wilderness for days with only the supplies on my person, how to climb and rappel, how to shoot, and how to save lives. I also learned other less publicized skills from scouting like how to sew, how to be a good citizen (at the local, state, and national levels). I learned about water conservation and personal financial management. I was taught and given opportunity to exercise leadership and public speaking skills that still influence me today. And beyond all of this I learned to embody the words of the Scout Oath:

On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

and the Scout Law:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

I fully believe I am a better person because of my time in scouting.

But there's another thing that scouting taught me and that was acceptance and inclusion. I wasn't always in the popular group in scouting, but I was included then. And then, when I was in the popular group, I was encouraged (sometimes strongly) to include others. A lot of different types of boys came through my troop. I was friends with many of them, but just as many weren't "my type." Regardless, we learned how to get along, how to trust each other in situations where trust was important, and how to be mutually responsible.

My scout leader (who is still a dear family friend and was also my baseball and basketball coach growing up) taught us that everyone was welcome with us, whether they looked like us, talked like us, acted like us, or did none of the above. When we recited the Scout Law it meant something to us and today as I think back on those years I'm brought back to the Scout Law and the Scout Oath.

We pledge as scouts to do our best to keep ourselves "morally straight" and I can think of no better way to do that than to continue the inclusiveness that I was taught as a scout and let openly gay scouts and leaders stay in the ranks, learn life skills, and make lifetime friends.

I've spoken with my scoutmaster about this recently and recognize the many complexities involved with allowing openly gay scouts and leaders in troops, but the benefits far outweigh these (mostly logistical) concerns for me. I have no doubt that some of the thousands of scouts I encountered over my years in scouting were gay, but that doesn't define who they are just as being heterosexual doesn't define who I am.

Scouting helped teach how to be a man, it helped me understand that honor and integrity actually mean something. I can only hope that if I have a son one day that the Boy Scouts will have reversed its policy so that it can do the same for him.

Jesus the Pacifist

Thomas Whitley

My former professor, James Tabor, has an interesting post up asking just what type of pacifist Jesus can be considered to have been.

Jesus as a Pacifist? Apocalypticism, Non-Resistance, and Violence: The difference between Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and others who have practiced “passive resistance” in our own day is that Jesus and his movement expected and welcomed a very “violent” apocalypse in which heads would topple and flood would fill the streets. These “Woes” that Jesus pronounced upon the rich, the persecutors, and those “laughing now” in the Q source (Luke 3:24-25) capture the flavor of this way of thinking quite well, as do lots of the parables that predict a sudden and abrupt calling of the wicked to judgment and a casting out of those wicked ones who had power in “this age.”

Certainly, there are many today who wish to label Jesus as the ultimate pacifist and liken him with figures such as MLK and Gandhi, but Tabor makes an important point here. Jesus not only hoped for and expected things to get better, but he expected, taught, and looked forward to a bloody and violent overthrow that would bring the hoped-for change about.

Tabor continues:

I would maintain that the kind of apocalypticism that was so prevalent both before and after the great war with Rome (66-73 CE) among a variety of late 2nd Temple Jewish groups, the Nazarenes included, is one of the most violent ways of thinking about the world and its future imaginable. Truly it was a view of the world in which “bringing down the house,” was its fondest hope and most fervent dream.

The problem of course is that the apocalypse never came and the challenge for Christians was how to live within an world in which all things continued in a “business as usual” fashion. Should one–could one–follow the pacifist ethics of Jesus if the old age was to continue indefinitely? Should evil be allowed to flourish without resistance? Or were the ethics of Jesus, as Albert Schweitzer suggested, a type of “interim ethics” that only made sense within the context of imminent apocalyptic overthrow–as a way of witnessing to those who still might be saved while “holding out” in the face of evil until the end? These are the questions that face any of us who are moved and challenged by the pacifists teachings of Jesus.

What do you think? Just what type of "pacifist" was Jesus? Is that even the right term to use of his teachings? How else might we understand the teachings of Jesus?


Thomas Whitley

Mine's great. I hope yours is too.

The Avett Brothers said it well in "Murder in the City":

Always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name

NC is Wrong (Again) When it Comes to Same-Sex Issues

Thomas Whitley

A lawsuit has been filed by six North Carolina couples challenging the state's refusal to grant second-parent adoptions to same-sex couples.

Same-sex couples' lawsuit challenges North Carolina adoption law: "North Carolina's law denies children the permanency and security of a loving home simply because their parents are lesbian or gay," said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina.

"This is fundamentally wrong," she said. "No parent should have to worry about what will happen to their children if something happens to their partner." A second-parent adoption is the adoption of a child by a parent in the home who is not married to the legal parent of the child, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The first parent does not lose his or her rights.

As an adoptee myself, I think I have a bit of a different perspective than many on this issue. For starters, as you all know, I wholeheartedly support equal rights for same-sex couples, but this issue goes well beyond that and infringes on adoption rights and does not have the best interest of the children or the complete family units in mind. It's time we all grew up and realized that "family" is not defined by a common blood line. If NC can recognize this fact when a heterosexual couple adopts a child, why do they forget that when the couple happens to be gay?

This is about much more than someone wanting parental rights to feel good about their family unit, as the lawsuit outlines.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU said a second-parent adoption is the only way that a family in North Carolina with gay or lesbian parents can ensure that both parents have a legal relationship with their child.

"Children who are prevented from having such a legally recognized relationship with both parents suffer numerous deprivations as a result, including exclusion from private health insurance benefits, public health benefits, veterans benefits, disability benefits, social security benefits, life insurance benefits, and workers' compensation, as well as uncertainty about their ability to continue their relationship with their second parent if something should happen to their legal parent," the lawsuit said.

Unsurprisingly, the Family Research Council (identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) opposes the lawsuit.

"We believe it's entirely legitimate for a state to give preference to married couples in adoption over unmarried couples," said Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Washington-based Family Research Council.

"Children do better when they are raised by married parents than they do when they are raised by cohabitating parents," he said.

Sprigg has said the correct thing from a PR-standpoint. Since gay marriage is illegal in NC (and was recently enshrined in the state's constitution), Sprigg can be seen to not be speaking specifically about same-sex couples by only mentioning "married parents" and "cohabitating parents." What has gotten lost to Sprigg, though, is the child. What Sprigg's comment fails to address is how poorly children do when they aren't raised by either parent. Certainly, a child will "do better" (whatever this means) with "cohabitating parents" (gay or straight) than he/she will do with neither parent. Sprigg, though, doesn't seem concerned with children of same-sex couples, except insofar as he can attempt to deny them the same type of loving family unit experience afforded to heterosexually headed families without question.

This lawsuit is about same-sex rights and it is about adoption rights and it is about equal rights, but more than that it is about family.

Photo Credit: Vivirlatino

Two Wheels, Two Feet, and Baseball

Thomas Whitley

That's what I've been doing lately. Since breaking my ankle in April, wearing a boot for 3.5 weeks, and doing some physical therapy I've been able to spend more time on my bike, running, and of course going to FSU baseball games.

Trinity has been riding with me some and that has been delightful on two fronts: 1) we get to spend time together doing something "fun" (this definition of fun applies a bit more to me than it does her, I think), and 2) we're exercising, which, by the way, can change your life . . . for the better.

One of the last hurdles for me to pass to get released from physical therapy was running (read: jogging) without pain. I've accomplished that and have continued to run, upping my distance while keeping my pace about the same (i.e. much higher than it was when I ran in high school).

Finally, Trinity and I have been taking in as much FSU baseball as we can lately, going to the Regional games last weekend and Super Regional games this weekend. You can't beat great college baseball.

Graduate School Is Not Your Job

Thomas Whitley

Graduate School Is a Means to a Job: Never forget this primary rule: Graduate school is not your job; graduate school is a means to the job you want.

This can be easy to do, admittedly. Most of us decide to go to graduate school because we truly do have a deep and abiding love for what we're studying. However, when we see grad school for what it really is - one step in the journey toward that beautiful and somewhat elusive tenure-track job - we can be that much more prepared for going out onto the job market.

Read the entire article by Karen Kelsky and take it as the good advice that it is. As a student finishing up my first year of doctoral studies, I am ever-grateful for those who have gone before sharing their experiences, mistakes, advice, and wisdom. Being a graduate student and thinking about how to prepare for the job market often feels like groping around in the dark just hoping to find something solid on which to rest our future. Needless to say, every bit of increased transparency about what lies ahead along with well-meaning advice will always be warmly welcomed by this grad student.

Everyday Carry

Thomas Whitley

I've written before about what I never leave home without. That list has changed a bit in the past year and a half (for instance, it now includes an iPhone and an iPad), but has stayed generally the same. I am a fan of minimalism, but not in the sense that I cut things out of my life just to be minimalist, but rather that I have, carry, and use only what I need and this often means carrying something that serves more than one purpose, which brings me to today's edition of "I can't wait to get one of these."

EDC Kit: At the core of it, EDC is personally defined. You find and carry the things relevant to your own life. The idea is to keep it streamlined with an eye towards self-reliance — you want items that do the most while taking up as little pocket space as possible.

This little gem sports a pry bar (which "the U.S. Military found handy enough to specially request for outfitting their soldiers"), a 1-inch capsule lighter, two screwdriver keys (flat head and Phillips head), and precision tweezers.

Head on over to Kaufman Mercantile's site and read the full description. I'll be picking up one of these in the next few days myself. Also, signing up for their email list scores you a $7 site coupon.

NB: This is not a paid advertisement and I am not a Kaufman Mercantile affiliate (though now I think I would love to be one). I just try to share products that I think are worth spending money on myself and that you may be too.

Office Inspiration

Thomas Whitley

Since I set up my home office here in Tallahassee I've wanted some good office inspiration. Inspiration for me usually comes in the form of words or quotes, so I've been looking for ideas and scouring books and have come up with some good candidates. There are two that have especially stood out to me. The first is a Dr. Seuss quote:

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

The second is a brilliant riff on the classic game of Rock, Paper, Scissors (which, by the way, I always called "Paper, Rock, Scissors." Anyone else?):


Also being considered: some Walt Whitman quotes, a single large quotation mark, and the "Here's to the Crazy One's" quote.

What do you think?

What do you use as inspiration around your office or your home?

FSU Graduate Religion Symposium

Thomas Whitley

The Florida State University Religion Department is hosting our 11th annual Graduate Student Religion Symposium this weekend. This is my first symposium with FSU and am quite excited. The symposium has a national reach with graduate students from as far away as UC-Riverside, Princeton, and my alma mater UNC-Charlotte. Our keynote speaker is Dr. Manuel Vasquez from the University of Florida. Along with many of my FSU colleagues, I will be presenting a paper at the symposium. Come out Sunday morning if you're in Tallahassee.

The title of my paper is "Identity Formation Through Laughter: The Laughter of Jesus in the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter and the Second Treatise of the Great Seth." Here's my abstract:

The idea of a laughing Jesus was particularly offensive to some early christians. John Chrysostom, for instance, remarked, “Christ himself wept . . . We can often observe him doing so, but never laughing - nor even smiling gently; none of the evangelists states that he did so.” Nevertheless, some texts do depict Jesus laughing. Little scholarly work has been done on this theme, though, with most of the work apparently being spurred on by the recent discovery of, and media interest in, the Gospel of Judas. Contrary to the idea put forth by Herbert Krosney that a laughing Jesus in these texts is an example of Jesus being a "more joyful figure than in the canonical Gospels," and that he is "a friendly and benevolent teacher with a sense of humor," the use of a laughing Jesus in these 2nd and 3rd century gnostic texts often serves a polemical purpose. This paper investigates the rhetorical use of the laughter of Jesus in the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter and the Second Treatise of the Great Seth.

These texts employ various rhetorical strategies through their uses of Jesus’ laughter. For the purposes of this paper, though, only one will be examined: how Jesus’ laughter is used to build and maintain group identity. By emphasizing Jesus’ detachment from the world and by providing a means for the authors of the texts to mock their opponents, rhetorically polemicizing the Other, a laughing Jesus is discursively engaged in identity formation. Through Jesus’ laughter, these texts work polemically to push back against the real or perceived threat to the identity that this author is working to construct and validate. Beyond simply portraying an emotion of Jesus that is not recorded in the canonical gospels, these 2nd and 3rd century gnostic texts use Jesus’ laughter rhetorically to accomplish specific social goals.


Thomas Whitley

I thought about writing a detailed post about what we can know about the history and origins of Valentine's Day, but decided that a lot of other people would be doing that and most of them would probably do a better job than me. So, instead, I'm offering this picture of me and my valentine.

This picture was taken at a bus stop outside of Stockholm, Sweden a few days after we got engaged - almost 6 years ago now.

Hey Government, Stay Out of My Reproductive Organs

Thomas Whitley

Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of the historic supreme court decision, Roe v. Wade. President Obama took the opportunity to release this statement:

As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue -- no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

It should be more than a little surprising that the Republican party who consistently says that the government should not be involved in our personal lives wants the government involved in the most intimate of matters: marriage, women’s health, and birth control. From the narrative that Republicans have presented one would think that an apparently “socialist” Democratic president could never express a commitment to less government intrusion in private matters. Nevertheless, it is the Democrats who have consistently stood up for women’s rights (see this decision from Friday) on this issue and the Republicans who have shown their desire to have the supreme court decision overturned.

Further, I would be remiss if I did not note that President Obama’s strategy in this complicated issue is multiform and one that supports women and families at all stages, calling for reduced need for abortions (i.e. better and more available birth control) and especially promoting adoption. Contrary to popular belief not all who support Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose want to see every woman having multiple abortions and using the method as just another form of birth control. Rather, many of us support better health and sex education in our schools, more available birth control, proper care and support when a women is going through the decision making process (and that does not mean trying to guilt her into not going through with an abortion), and a more effective, efficient, and cheaper adoption system here in the US.

Having been adopted myself I know how thankful I am for the adoption process and those willing to sacrifice as much (and often more) than biological parents to be parents to those without. I also know, though, how complicated and expensive stateside adoptions are and while I commend those who choose to adopt a child from elsewhere in the world I also realize that it is often chosen over stateside adoption because the process and cost of adopting a child here are extremely prohibitive.

I am quite thankful that we have a president willing to stand with the medical community and with women and families on this most important of issues. And if you’re a female considering voting for a Republican this November, just remember the control that they want over your body.

It's Just Not Worth It

Thomas Whitley

Since I started working on my PhD last Fall I have become quite busy, as would be expected. There have been some unintended consequences of my lack of "free time." I have come to realize the benefit of my busyness recently. Today I'll talk about just two. First, I have followed the Republican race for the nomination much less closely. This has, to be sure, meant that I am a little less well-informed than I have been previously, but the greater impact has been less stress because of watching and hearing politicians attack one another and offer their proposals for this county that are directly antithetical to every thing I believe in. Thus, I was able to watch last night's SC Republican debate more for entertainment purposes than anything else. I knew how each candidate would answer every question they were asked and I didn't let the possibility that one of those four white men would be leading our country in the future totally scare and depress me.

The second benefit I have noticed as a result of my busyness is that I have gotten much less caught up in what conservative evangelical Christians are saying and doing. Many of the people I follow on Twitter continue to write about why Mark Driscoll is wrong about this or that or why Al Mohler's stances are unacceptable. There's basically no chance I will ever agree with Mark Driscoll or Al Mohler on anything anytime soon so why waste my time offering refutations of their views and ideas? They're not listening to what I say or write and no genuine dialogue will come about by me decrying them. I know that in some circles these figures and others like them are very influential, but they aren't in any of the circles I find myself in. On top of that, I am about as far from a conservative evangelical Christian as one can get, so why get worked up over the views of those who do  fit that description? It's just not worth it.

Do I wish I had more time to blog? Absolutely. I quite enjoy it. Does this mean that I will never write something correcting or refuting someone else. Probably not. This is not an ultimatum on what I will allow myself to do/say/write in the future, it is simply a realization of how my busyness of late has had some positive unintended consequences. Besides the above, I have also been able to spend the free time I do have with my wife and dogs (since we live together now), something that is much more enjoyable than other ways I could be spending my free time.

Today I Remember

Thomas Whitley

It was three years ago today that I received the early morning phone call telling me Dr. Goodman had died suddenly. In man ways these past three years have allowed the pain and sense of loss to slide out of the foreground a bit. I have gone on with my life, finishing my masters degrees and even starting a PhD. But in many other ways, the loss is as real as it was that morning. There were so many more conversations I thought we'd have, so many more emails, so many more trips. Nevertheless, I am reminded of his legacy on just about a daily basis by those who are close to me and who were close to him as well. It is a legacy we all share.

More than anything, this post is for me (and maybe Trinity and Sam).

Today I remember Dr. Dan Goodman; professor, mentor, friend. He taught me how to walk away and how to be a passerby.

Walking Away

Thomas Whitley

  There is a short story that was written in 1973 by Ursula Le Guin called, "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas." Sam has shared and referenced this piece rather frequently over the past few months. It came up again in a recent email conversation among a few friends regarding this recent episode of This American Life, where Mr. Daisey travels to China to find out who makes all of our Mac crap and shares what he saw and what he learned.

I will not try to describe "Omelas" to you, for my attempt would be futile no doubt. And besides, that would rob you of the experience of reading it for yourself. It is short after all. The story ends with this line:

But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

In some ways, "Omelas" reminds me of the much more well-known poem by Frost, "The Road Not Taken." The problem with something being well-known - be it a holy book, a poem, a movie - is that we think we know what it says when the reality is that we have most likely focused on one part at the expense of the whole. That one part in Frost's poem is certainly the final stanza.

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

That decisions was not reached lightly, though, for the first half of the poem recounts the traveller in the process of deciding which way to take, looking down each road as far as he (or she) could. The final line of "Omelas" appears to have more certainty than Frost's poem, but I think when you read both you will see that neither decision is reached lightly. It is only after the mind has been made as to the path to take that one can walk confidently - both away from something and toward something.

I don't know what you need to walk away from. Heck, I don't know what I need to walk away from, but after hearing Mr. Daisey's piece, I feel pretty strongly that some other direction is needed. And when this direction is away from injustice it will certainly be the road less travelled.

New Site

Thomas Whitley experiencing life, exploring Tallahassee, and trying to minister along the way.

My wife Trinity has been toying with the idea of blogging for some time now and has (finally) decided to use her domain name that I've had for a while now. She's writing about crafting stuff, her new life as a presbyterian, and many other random gems. She's got a nice little design going on too. So, head over and check it out.

1 Semester Down, Many More to Go

Thomas Whitley

Things have been quiet here for a few weeks with the holidays, my wife moving to join me in Florida and a lot of travelling, packing, unpacking, and preparing for the semester which started today. This is my second semester as a PhD student and things really are going great. Because I know some of you are interested in these types of things, I thought I'd give a quick rundown of my classes this semester.

Aramaic This promises to be a great language class as I learn Aramaic (in just one semester). Aramaic's many similarities to Hebrew make learning it significantly easier than just any other language. By the end of the semester I should have translated all of the Aramaic portions of Daniel (roughly half the book) as well as at least some of the Genesis Apocryphon, an Aramaic text found in Cave 1 of Qumran.

Rabbinic Judaism This course serves as an introduction to the rabbinic literature of late antiquity. Most of our reading will be from the Babylonian Talmud and Genesis Rabbah. The readings will all be in English, but knowing Dr. Levenson we will spend plenty of time focusing on the Hebrew and Aramaic versions, at least as reference resources. I'm extremely excited about this class and the potential to how it allows for a better and more thorough understanding of the 1st century world.

Hebrew Bible Proseminar This is a seminar on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) which will focus on the history of scholarship surrounding the HB and various critical approaches to the text. I'm particularly interested in the section on scribal culture as it relates to the HB.

Christianity in Antiquity This is the followup class to last semester's Christianity After the New Testament. Mostly we'll be dealing with 4th and 5th century Christianity with the majority of our time spent with primary texts, though we will also be spending a healthy amount of time studying the rise of saints and monks during these years. This is much more my area (early Christianity) so I am naturally looking forward to this course.

I am also TAing an Intro to the New Testament course for Dr. Levenson. And when you add on a likely weekly Josephus Greek reading group my semester will be quite busy. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tower of Song

Thomas Whitley

After Targuman posted this picture on Twitter, which he aptly titled "Birds on a Wire," I immediately thought of the Leonard Cohen song "Bird on a Wire" and switched my iTunes to Willie Nelson's version. I am now listening to the entire album, titled Tower of Song: Songs of Leonard Cohen, again. It is heartfelt music with lyrics that contain depth, religious undertones, and an introspection rarely matched. I don't listen to entire albums much anymore with the advent of Pandora and shuffle listening, but this is an album that, when I listen to it, I always do so entirely. If you've never listened to the album, go do it now. Seriously. Leonard Cohen is a genius and this album is a collection of his songs as done by the likes of Willie Nelson, U2, Elton John, Bono, Tori Amos, and Suzanne Vega.

Also, Leonard Cohen is releasing a new album soon that is expected to be just as brilliant as his previous work. Check it out.