Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

10/18 2014

Gamergate: The Invisible Scandal Impacting Your Ministry

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GamerGateYour ministry has been impacted by a debate that you probably didn’t know was happening. It has involved major Universities, news outlets, and even the FBI. You probably missed it because it’s about something you don’t usually notice. It’s about video games.

But why would a seminary blog bother discussing a debate on video games? Here are some facts that may help explain.

  • More adult women play videogames than teenage boys.
  • 71 percent of video game players are old than 18.
  • The average video game player is 31 years old.
  • 59 percent of Americans play video games.

(These numbers are from the Entertainment Software Association. The full report is here.)

Think about the people served by your ministry. If you serve adult women, people in their 30s, or Americans, chances are pretty good that someone reached by your ministry is playing video games.

Convinced? Good. Because what’s happened this week is very important to your ministry.

Threats of a school shooting set off a chain of events that forced the cancellation of a lecture at Utah State University. The speaker is known for her criticism of the way video games portray women. It’s been covered by several major news outlets like CNN and Time.

This is the most recent event in what’s been called “gamergate.” Without going into unnecessary details, it’s become a fight about the portrayal of women in video games.

The people your ministry reaches are playing video games. Those games shape our identity and our ideas about things like gender. Consider this: Statistically speaking, the 31-year-old woman in your congregation probably didn’t read Galatians 3:28 this week. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” She probably did play a video game.

The average American video game player spends 6.3 hours a week playing video games.

Most Americans read the Bible less than once a week.

This is why issues like “gamergate” are important for your ministry. You don’t need to jump into the debates. You don’t need to follow the minutia. You do need to know that a major source of influence on the people in your ministry is struggling to articulate how it will inform our cultural identity.

Written by the Rev. Derek Davenport ’05, director of enrollment and program co-director of the Miller Summer Youth Institute at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Derek is also an alumnus of the Master of Divinity (MDiv) Program. Derek researches church symbolism on his website www.preachingsymbols.com.



10/15 2014

Theology Here and Now

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Biblical-TheologyThe global challenges we face today seem impossible. The spread of Ebola, the brutality of the so-called “Islamic State,” and the changes already occurring in the climate are enough to make me feel overwhelmed.

You probably remember the old advice: When the problems of the world seem too big, just concentrate on the smaller problems closer to home.

I don’t find that helps very much. The challenges we face right here in Pittsburgh and throughout Pennsylvania are pretty daunting.

Our economy is still leaving too many people on the sidelines. There are signs of prosperity, but poverty is still far too common throughout Pennsylvania, especially among our children.

We are sitting on top of abundant natural gas resources. But getting the gas out safely is a big problem. And then we read that someone just dumped contaminated fracking water into the Greene County sewer system near Waynesburg.

And even if we can get natural gas out safely, what about our coal miners and their need to make a living? And as much as we would rather not think about it, using any fossil fuel—gas or coal—sets in motion irreversible changes to the climate. No one wants our economy to languish when so many are still looking for a way into the middle class. But no one wants to ruin the planet or its ability to sustain the rich diversity of creation for generations to come.

And then we look on in horror at events in Ferguson, Mo., and see there a mirror of our own racial divide and the fear and mounting frustration that come along with it.

All these are Pennsylvania problems. They won’t be solved by sitting in church. They won’t be solved by someone in Washington. They won’t be solved by politicians or experts. In fact they won’t be solved at all unless people are able to come together for safe, honest, and sustained conversation.

To me, that sounds a lot like theology. The best theology is not about broad generalities. It’s not about some far-off future. It’s about the here and now. It is grounded in real problems and real people who have the courage to be real with each other.

I believe that’s exactly what God is inviting us to do. When we respond to God’s invitation, when we get out of ourselves and enter into relationship with our neighbors, theology begins to happen. The best theology does not come from books or from experts. Instead, it is born of honest conflict and nurtured by dialogue that is searching and sometimes painful. It arises from within and takes the form of shared hopes and growing confidence that God is alive, here and now, active and real, taking us forward in ways that no one of us alone can dare imagine.

The Rev. Dr. Ron Cole-Turner is the H. Parker Sharp Professor of Theology and Ethics and teaches courses in the MDiv program including systematic theology, Christianity and evolution, and the Holy Spirit. He’s the author of numerous books including Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Advancement.


10/14 2014

Studying Scripture with CW’s The Flash

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The new CW series The Flash is upon us. With reports of more than 4.5 million viewers for the premiere, chances are that you or some of the people in your congregation were watching this latest show based on a DC superhero.

As I’ve discussed in other blogs for Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, I’ve come to love the language of superheroes. They all have attributes that identify them regardless of the artist or medium. Flash’s attributes would have to be the red suit, the lightning bolt on his chest, and the bolts on his mask/cap.

It turns out that his attributes aren’t exactly original. The lightning bolt is an easy one. It belonged to Zeus. The bolts on his cap, though, are more interesting. They look almost like wings. If you dig into the history of the Flash, they used to be wings.

It was in January of 1940 that the Flash first got his own comic book [1]. He looked quite a bit different from the hero of the new CW show, but the beginnings of the uniform are there.

FllashComics_GA_1If the hat looks familiar, that’s because it didn’t originally belong to the Flash. The winged helmet belonged to a mythical character named Mercury or Hermes, the son of Zeus and messenger of the gods. Not only did Hermes’ attributes include a winged cap, but he was fast—really fast. In fact, it was said that Hermes could move “as fleet as thought.”

So in classical mythology we find the son of lightning, wearer of a winged cap, with supernatural speed.

The Flash is Mercury.

Mercury is mentioned in the Bible.

That means… the Flash is in the Bible!?

In Acts 14:8-18 we find Paul and Barnabas preaching, teaching, and healing. In the midst of their work, people mistook them for Hermes and Zeus. They assumed that Paul and Barnabas had supernatural powers because of the healings, and they figured Paul for Hermes because he did most of the talking – like a messenger would.

Naturally Paul and Barnabas immediately did their best to correct the people. They reminded everyone that Hermes is just a character in a story. Then they proceeded to talk about the ways the Living God had been present in the lives of people throughout generations. Paul used the stories of the swift son of lightning to teach people about God.

So why not do the same?

I’m not talking about a sustained campaign over the next six months, but when you overhear people mention that they watched it, follow Paul’s example. Here’s how you can teach a one-shot Bible study on the Flash. Read Acts 14 and talk about the connections between Flash and Mercury/Hermes. There are plenty of pictures all over the Internet that would be fun to show. Then ask people to talk about the ways God has impacted their lives in real ways.

By the time you’re done, people will know more about the book of Acts. They’ll also know more about how God is at work in their own lives and the lives of those around them—all thanks to the Flash.

[1] Relax superfans. I know Jay and Barry aren’t the same people. I’m just claiming that the “Barry Flash” developed from the “Jay Flash” artistically, not canonically.

Written by the Rev. Derek Davenport ’05, director of enrollment and program co-director of the Miller Summer Youth Institute at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Derek is also an alumnus of the Master of Divinity (MDiv) Program. Derek researches church symbolism on his website www.preachingsymbols.com.

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