Technology bloggers and white suburbanites across the country were buzzing with excitement after Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad last month. Jobs told the Depressio he hopes that the latest piece of technology from Apple will revolutionize the e-reader marketplace while simultaneously “kicking the Kindle’s ass.” While the iPad rightly garnered most of the attention from the mainstream media, we at the Depressio did a little investigative work to discover that Apple also intends to provide a new line of products designed specifically for clergy. An Apple insider told the Depressio that the company’s first move into this budding marketplace will be in the form of a device called the iStole. In a candid interview with the Depressio, Jobs said, “We are really excited about this product for clergy. And if I may be blunt, we normally don’t like to puff our chests out too much here at Apple, but let’s just say that whole water-to-wine miracle won’t seem like that big of a deal when people see this baby.” When asked to offer some more details about the iStole, Jobs went on to say, “we expect it to used a lot of the Apple interface designs that we have used in products like iTunes and the iPod, For example, we are looking to use Cover Flow as our main mode of browsing through different options and features that the iStole will offer. And we are especially excited about providing the opportunity to change the color of the iStole so that it can adapt to the church calendar and the different colors of the church year. Now when Lent rolls around, all you will have to do is use Cover Flow to scroll through the different colors and pick the color that is most appropriate for your congregation’s altar decorations.” The Apple design team was also psyched about offering iTunes on the iStole. One anonymous designer told the Depressio “in order to make the iStole more attractive for weekly preachers, we are hoping to open a new category of downloadable audio files on iTunes that will revolutionize the pulpit. Now instead of spending hours working on a sermon that nobody will listen to, you will be able to get a feed from the iStole directly into your ear so that you can preach your favorite sermons from Augustine, Calvin or Bonhoeffer without anyone knowing you totally ripped it off.” For you Methodists out there, the Depressio has learned that sermons from Pelagius will be available for download to the iStole, so be sure to start saving your money now.
The January meeting of Duke Divinity School’s faculty erupted into discord last week. At issue: the school’s contentious new policy of admitting avatars to its Master’s programs. The proposal, put forward by a specially-appointed Dean’s task force, would expand enrollment by 75 spaces, beginning with the Fall 2010 semester.
“There is a lot of upside to this proposal,” explained Associate Dean Laceye Warner, who chaired the task force. “We’ve always been hesitant to start any kind of distance-learning program, because of the importance of physical presence in building community. But avatars take care of that problem. What’s more intimate than passing the peace by shaking a pale blue, nonhuman hand that is electronically connected to the brain of an inert human in Tempe, Arizona?”
“The twenty-first century is already revolutionizing theological education,” added Andy Keck, Associate Director of the library and resident technological trendspotter. “Either we admit avatars now, and continue to shape the future of Christian ministry, or we let other institutions take the lead. I think the choice is clear.”
The move, while hailed by some as a bold decision to bring Duke into the 21st century, was widely criticized as a financially-motivated ploy that threatens more than just the academic reputation of the institution.
“I’d say it threatens the human race as a whole,” one professor is reported to have shouted at the meeting. “What’s to keep these avatars from taking up arms and ruling over us?” Such behavior would be prohibited under the school’s Conduct Covenant, but legal experts believe that the covenant only applies to humans, and not their scientifically-generated anthropomorphic stand-ins.
The accusation that finances were dictating policy decisions seemed especially stinging to top administrators. “It’s true, the recession is taking a severe toll,” acknowledged Director of External Relations Wes Brown. “Enrolling 75 avatars will generate an additional $1.3 million in annual revenue. But this proposal is not about money at all. It’s about welcoming all God’s creatures—even those who were created by a major motion-picture studio, which was created by God.” Brown also noted that, unlike traditional human Divinity students, the avatars will arrive on campus already looking like Cameron Crazies.
A vote on the controversial avatar admission proposal has been tabled until the March meeting, but Dean Warner is optimistic. “By March, I expect to hire ten or fifteen new faculty members that 20th Century Fox is designing for me right now. I have a feeling that Avatar-N.T. Wright and Avatar-James Cone are going to tip the vote in favor of this new policy.”
Spurred by the advent of new marketing ventures by restaurant business heavyweight Taco Bell, the divinity school Refectory announced last week that it is introducing some new features to increase both sustainability and customer demand. Headlining the Refectory’s makeover will be a new sandwich station aimed at connecting customers more intimately to their food.
“We’ll still be offering our same great lineup of grilled cheese, wraps, soups, and hot entrees,” explained Chef Robert Lawrence. “But now, if someone shows up asking for a tuna melt with sprouts and cucumbers, we can serve them through our new ‘Make Your Own Damn Sandwich’ line.”
Lawrence acknowledged that the name seems harsh, but pointed out that the Refectory is not the first campus eatery to move in this direction. “Customer service went out the window years ago,” he explained, adding that he had personally heard students declare that they could “make [their] own damn sandwich” numerous times while waiting in line at Subway.
Refectory management personnel aren’t the only ones excited about the latest developments. Kitchen staff member Lauren Jones told the Depressio, “I can’t wait until they open the ‘Make Your Own Damn Sandwich’ line. It’s usually what I’m thinking while I ask, ‘Would you like some orange slices with that?’ So now I won’t have to restrain myself. I think people will enjoy their free-range turkey, organic cheese, and locally-ground mustard sandwich served with a little side of sass, too.”
The new self-service line fits well with the Refectory’s larger mission of sustainability and justice. “There’s only one way to make sure that the person preparing your food is making a living wage,” explained junior Sharon Crawford. “And that is to make your own damn sandwich.”
However, not all members of the divinity school are convinced that the new sandwich lines will work, given the propensity for student laziness. An anonymous source pointed to the DSC coffee machine as a prime example. “There is no way these students are going to want to make their own sandwiches,” the source told the Depressio. “If they didn’t want to walk 100 feet to the Chapel for coffee from a vending machine, they surely aren’t going to want to wait in line to make themselves a sandwich.” Others questioned whether students will actually pay for the sandwich, if the lack of money given to the DSC coffee machine is any indication.
Refectory management brushed off such accusations, however, saying that a new flat-screen HDTV was being flown in from Japan to tell people that the sandwiches were not free.
We’re still working on a couple incompletes (or, as we like to call them, “anticipateds”), so, like network TV, we’ve got something of a rerun for you. Here’s a copy of a portion of one of our course evaluations from last semester.
What technology, if any, would you like to have had in this course?
Well, I’m glad you asked. A decade ago, I remember sitting in school, watching the teacher smudge markers all over that infernal overhead projector, and thinking, “If only that thing could project the image of a computer screen up on the wall. Then the teacher could type out everything he was going to say, instead of enduring the antiquarian process of making copies onto transparencies.” Fortunately, the new millennium did not disappoint me: when I see a professor dim the lights and open up PowerPoint, I want to scream, “Welcome to the future, baby!”
But that does not mean that my technological appetite has been satisfied, so I do have a few suggestions for your consideration. First, I think it would be helpful if this course’s textbooks were available in e-book format, so that I could read them on my laptop, Kindle, iPhone, or Wii. Bam, there’s a single idea that’s really like four ideas. It’s gold! I’m full of this stuff.
Here comes another one: Let us submit YouTube videos instead of term papers. This kind of internet media is here to stay, and it’s the chief mode of communication for the younger generations. Nobody’s ever going to understand eschatology if I write a bland paper on it, but if I make a video connecting it to David After Dentist (“Is this gonna last for ever?!?”), I’ve really done something for the kingdom. Besides, doing away with term papers will spell the end of those annoying page counts on people’s Facebook pages, and that’s a good thing, too.
Okay, now my technology juices are really flowing. I’m just going to let these technological ideas come out, and we’ll see if any of them stick: Laser pointers! Ice cream machine in the DSC lounge (with a ten-year contract)! Lounge chairs in W0016! Library staircases wide enough for two people! Virtual classrooms! Virtual prayer room! Virtual Refectory! A flat-screen TV that we use just like a bulletin board! Hydraulic rotating communion table! Goodson Chapel aroma therapy! Moving walkway for Westbrook building! Robotic puppies that can carry books!Toilets with a third flushing option—mushy!
Phew! That brainstorming takes a lot out of me. Again, thank you for soliciting my input regarding our school’s ongoing technological needs. I’ll be happy to discuss any of these proposals with you in the coming weeks.
** Of course, we would never submit this in reality, not because we got a case of the goodie goodies, but because we fear Kojak the Registrarian.
As the last few days of the semester come to their conclusion, divinity school students and faculty have resorted to their customary practices and routines for reading and exam weeks. Students have been seen carrying blowup mattresses, cigarettes and industrial-sized coffee makers into the divinity school library, where they plan on setting up shop for marathon study sessions on campus. Other students have been seen “taking a Sabbath” down at Shooters II, where nobody seems to care if Moses would have crapped his pants if the Israelites had treated their Sabbath’s similarly. Nobody cares that Moses would have crapped his pants at the notion you can “take a Sabbath” whenever and however you choose, nor does anyone care that he would have crapped his pants if the Israelites had celebrated their Sabbath on a mechanical bull (and we don’t need to mention the issue of Moses’ ritual cleanliness over his crapping-of-the-pants!). Div school registrar Todd “Kojack” Maberry has been sending out a flurry of emails to students, urging them to complete course evaluations or face a number of unspeakable punishments. (As a side note, Kojack told the Depressio that if he manages to break the 80% barrier for course evaluations, he wins a free Duke koozie. So, in an effort to provide our beloved registrar assistance, we’d be happy to randomly fill out your course evaluation in order to save you the 2 ½ minutes you would normally take to do it.)
However, like the Tickle-me Elmo doll in years past, or “helping people” more recently, a new trend has become quite popular among a certain segment of the divinity school population. It’s called “pulling an Ehrman” and at least three members of our esteemed faculty are currently in the process. An anonymous source told the Depressio that the trend started last semester when an unidentified scholar was contacted by Eerdmans Publishing Company about undertaking the process of Ehrmanization. “Oh yeah, he definitely was the first one to pull an Ehrman,” the source told the Depressio. When asked to elaborate on what that meant, the source explained: “Well, you know how Dr. Bart Ehrman has been putting out these books on topics that have been written on for years, and acting like he was the first to came up with the idea? Well……it’s a lot like that.” Ehrman’s popularity has soared in recent years, thanks to his groundbreaking work in articulating the problem of evil or pointing out that some biblical manuscripts disagree with one another.
The painstaking process of successfully “pulling an Ehrman” is still unclear. Some experts believe that frequent appearances on the Colbert Report to promote one’s book ought to be considered more important than going to SBL; after all, scholarly conferences are not the place to peddle conspiracy theories about what goes on at scholarly conferences. Another proven strategy is to write books on terrible pieces of fiction like The Da Vinci Code in an effort to widen one’s target audience. Treating these pieces of shhhh—pieces of fiction—like they are worth studying is at least one of the keys to successfully “pulling an Ehrman.”
Whatever the solution may be, we at the Depressio fully support the faculty of the divinity school in their efforts to “Ehrmanize” the academy. Therefore, we would like to suggest a few potential book topics for “pulling an Ehrman.” They include: arguing that Paul actually wrote Romans; that John is like waaaaaaay different from Matthew, Mark and Luke; that Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch; that the word “Trinity” never actually appears in the Bible; or that Jesus was (gasp!) a Jewish carpenter!
That’s it for today. We have to get back to studying for our exams and a little “Ehrmanology” of our own. Until next time, keep hitting the books and remember that sometimes the best exams are the ones that say nothing at all.
In a forthcoming journal article, Professor Geoffrey Wainwright is expected to lay the groundwork for a new systematic theology that takes its structure and approach from an unlikely source: the world of music. In an apparent response to Dr. J. Kameron Carter’s well-known contention that theology should be a disciplined, improvisational performance, like jazz, Wainwright maintains that the best metaphor for the theological task is Gregorian chant.
“Gregorian chant is a perfect theological paradigm,” Wainwright explained. “In jazz, there can be infinite variations on the same theme. Too many ways to express what is, fundamentally, only one melody. But in Gregorian chant, you hear something that someone sang a thousand years ago, and you repeat it exactly. That’s what I want my students to do.”
Wainwright, one of the past century’s leading ecumenical theologians, has always emphasized the Great Tradition that all Christians share. He believes the metaphor of Gregorian chant invites everyone to join in voicing their common doctrinal heritage. While some believe that this unity comes at the expense of minority voices who do not conform to the monolithic song, Wainwright disagrees: “Gregorian chant is very inclusive. It actually has a greater capacity than jazz to handle dissenting voices, because off-notes will be completely drowned out by the dominant monotone.” Wainwright added that, in his opinion, when it comes to theology-as-jazz, we should “pay attention not to the riffs it contains, but therifts it creates.” (Unfortunately, we could find no way to meet Wainwright’s request that this be printed “in a sparkling tone of wry British sarcasm.”)
Wainwright denies that this approach makes theology tired and boring. “Ah, I’ve never found that objection to be substantial. But to settle the case once and for all, I’ve convinced my favorite artist, Michael Buble (who’s no small fan of The Oxford History of Christian Worship, I might add) to produce a chant album, which will come out for Christmas. If that doesn’t make you sweat, you’re already dead, baby.”
When we asked Dr. Carter for a response, he got too excited to speak.
Longtime critics of Duke Divinity School’s focus on narrative theology appear poised to have the last laugh this December, as the venerated theological institution has been brought to its knees by a wave of vampirism thought to have its origins in the narratives of the popular Twilight series.
For years, Duke’s theology, ethics, and biblical studies departments have all emphasized the centrality of the biblical narrative in defining Christian identity. But once Stephenie Meyer’s novels began to appear in the bookbags of students, faculty, and staff, a powerful new narrative began to rival the story of God’s gracious election of Israel and redemption of all creation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Where once there was a community of people shaped by the grace of God, there is now a divided body: vampires, and those who fear them.
Vampire rumors have been swirling around one member of the faculty this fall. Due to the speculative nature of these allegations, the Depressio’s lawyers have advised that we not print the name of the professor in question. Let it suffice to say that his universally pleasing countenance and impeccable attire, coupled with his supernatural ability to be both omniscient and humble at the same time, have led more than a few of his students to wonder whether he might not be a mythological creature who subsists by feeding off the vitality of living creatures. “He does talk about belonging to some sort of group that gathers around the body and blood,” acknowledged one student. “He says that certain texts can only be read from within this Circle.”
Faculty members are not the only ones within the DDS community who are suspected of vampirism. First-year student Charlotte Wilson believes she encountered a vampire classmate in the women’s restroom. “When I saw this classmate (whose name I’d rather not give), I was just coming out of the stall. She looked shocked to see me; she didn’t realize I was in there. I didn’t understand why she was so scared until I looked in the mirror: she had no reflection at all.”
Wilson indicated that she got no response when she reported the student’s vampirism to the DDS authorities. Repeated inquiries by the Depressio eventually yielded a brief statement from the Communications Office: “Duke Divinity does not, and has never had, vampires in our midst. Nobody should bother looking for any, because you won’t find them. We heard there are some over in the Law School, though. You should check over there.” Most students, however, remain unconvinced by the administration’s assurances.
“I think the administration has known about the vampire thing since the summer,” declared senior Carl Thompson. “That’s why they installed those motion-sensing lights in the hallways. Vampires can’t stand the light,” he said, adding, “That’ll preach.” Thompson’s roommate Stan Lewis has his own theories about school authorities’ role in the vampire affair. “I was here early one morning. It was, like, 9:30 a.m. And I saw our esteemed Registrar, Todd ‘Kojack’ Maberry, roaming the halls with a wooden stake and a mallet. He had the kind of look in his eye that made me think I’d better stay out of his way.” When asked by the Depressio if he would answer a few questions about the vampire rumors, Maberry grumbled that the form for this request can be found online.
Editors’ Note: This post is dedicated to Julie Laub, who spoke up for
thousands dozens of fans when she asked the Depressio to publish some comic relief during this hard week. We had to arrange for some paper extensions ourselves, but we’re going to make it happen for you, Julie. Keep up the good work, everyone!
Two of Duke Divinity School’s most esteemed faculty members are scheduled to perform songs from their forthcoming album at a CD release party Friday night. Dr. Richard Hays, the George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament, and Dr. Richard Lischer, the James T. and Alice Mead Cleland Professor of Preaching, have garnered high critical praise for their first collaborative venture, entitled Richard the Lionheart.
“Obviously, since we have the same first name, it’s natural for us to start a band,” said Professor Hays. “It gives us a good common ground. Take the album title, for example. Richard the Lionheart obviously refers to my magnanimity and beard. But I told Lischer that the album title was about him, and he bought it! Having the same name makes our collaboration work a lot more smoothly. That’s a lesson the Beatles learned the hard way.”
Hays indicated that the early stages of recording also involved a third DDS professor, the esteemed Richard P. Heitzenrater. “I wanted him to sing the bass part on a remix of the Fanny Crosby hymn, Unsearchable Riches. That’s a pun on our name, too. Because we’re all named ‘Rich’. But Heitz wouldn’t sing a hymn that wasn’t in the Methodist hymnal, so we had to part ways.”
For his part, Professor Lischer is confident that the duo will reach the top of the charts. “I’m telling you right now, the first single is gonna blow up. It’s called Rick in a Box. I don’t want to spoil it, but I’ll give you a hint: Step One is to cut a hole in Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. I’ll just leave it at that for now.”
Although Richard the Lionheart has not yet been released, the duo is already looking ahead to their next project. An album of Christmas hits, tentatively titled Jolly Old Saint Rick, is planned for December, and one of the songs has already been posted on YouTube. ‘Tis the season!
A Ph.D. student has informed the Depressio that New Testament and Christian Origins scholar Joel Marcus is planning a significant revision in the second edition of his monumental Mark commentary. In order to understand the revision, we had to first get some background information from student. “In his first edition, Marcus made heavy use of J. Louis Martyn’s literary theory of a ‘two-level drama.’ Martyn coined the theory in relation to the gospel of John; Marcus applied it to Mark’s gospel, to illuminate the interplay within the narrative between concern for the historical Jesus and concern for Mark’s community.”
This careful, balanced approach has been praised by numerous critics. What is there to change? “In the next edition, Marcus plans to replace every instance of ‘two-level drama’ with his newly-preferred expression, ‘double-wide drama,’” the student revealed.
We contacted Joel Marcus for an explanation. “For years, I’ve been hearing criticisms from my colleagues at Duke about the state of NT studies and its scholars: the discipline is too rigid, with arbitrary conventions; it operates under outdated Enlightenment assumptions; it assumes a white, male, bourgeoisie perspective; yada yada yada. Well, when I saw all the coverage of the balloon boy, something hit home, and I knew I had to make some change in my commentary, to speak to the people—you know, the people’s people.”
Marcus found there wasn’t much in the commentary that could be altered. (In his words, “no reason to scuff what sparkles.”) However, his “two-level drama” terminology did catch his eye. “I came to hear in the phrase ‘two-level’ an echo of the sneers of those on top. It might as well have read, ‘two-level drama with a three-car garage.’ Other possibilities like ‘two-bedroom efficiency’ or ‘split-level’ run into the same problems. ‘Double-wide’ provides a comparable amount of literary space, even if it is more susceptible to tornadoes.”
We spoke to a representative from Marcus’ publisher, DoubleDay. She said that while DoubleDay is happy to accommodate Marcus’ change in terminology, they are less enthused about some of his other requests. “We esteem Joel very highly, but there is no way our time-honored Anchor Bible Commentary series is containing references to a ‘Markan sloppy-joe.’ Is he concerned that the average person doesn’t know what a sandwich is?”
Marcus appeared willing to concede that “Markan Sandwich” would remain in the second edition of his commentary. “I’m principally focused on the new ‘double-wide drama’ language,” he said. “I think it’s really going to open up the marketing of my commentary to a whole new audience. Some people want to know how I could’ve spent twenty years writing 1100 pages about a gospel that only has 16 chapters. The answer is simple: I’m a hardworking American with a never-say-die spirit. They should call me Joel the Plumber: just an everyday patriot. These colors don’t run. Hey, do you think I could put some patriotism into the second edition somewhere? I’m willing to suggest that Mark’s original ending was lost, and should be reconstructed as, ‘The women were greatly afraid, and told no one…so Jesus went to America, where he became super-popular.’ But c’mon: no one is going to take that seriously.”
Reports obtained by the Depressio have shown that the recent flurry of midterm examinations, papers and field ed sermons have created a substantial amount of turbulence among divinity school dating relationships. For students looking to maintain new romances, the midterm period is providing a good opportunity to judge their sustainability. Second year M. Div. Julie Anderson has placed herself in the same CT32 study group as her new boyfriend David Jefferson in hopes of getting a clearer picture of his mental abilities and educational enthusiasm. “I’m in charge of dividing up who is responsible for providing information on which identification question, and I’m going to give David some of the more difficult questions to see how he responds. That s.o.b. had better not copy anything from wikipedia or we’re finished. Can I really spend the rest of my life with someone who has the theological imagination of a thirteen year old? At least a thirteen year old recognizes he’s no theologian and makes bathroom jokes instead, which I think everyone can appreciate.”
Some students are preparing their take home midterms with the knowledge that their significant others will be proof-reading them. “Look, I know what my professor wants to read on these discussion questions, but that’s not what is important right now,” said third year M. Div. Jonas Thompson. “What’s more important is that my girlfriend hears what she wants to hear on my midterm. You know, gender-inclusive language, feminine references to God and the Spirit, and your stock white-male bash-sessions. I need to bring my A game or else it’s back to asking out girls I meet at the bar over facebook. The women of Shooters II eat up my Lucado quotes and my pain for the poor, but after searching for someone on fifty different facebook networks for an hour, it gets hard to look at yourself in the mirror, believe me.”
Other students are concerned over upcoming midterms for other reasons. Several male students have expressed a concern over the possibility that their girlfriend could be smarter than they are, and have found themselves sabotaging their study habits. One anonymous student told the Depressio, “My girlfriend has been putting in way too many hours on her exams and papers the past couple of weeks, so I’ve started to try to disrupt her study sessions in one way or another. I’ve tried being sexy as hell, but let’s just say it hasn’t been a distraction. I’ve tried hiding some of her books under her couch and in her kitchen cabinets. I even tried disconnecting the wireless internet at Francesca’s once, but she still manages to get a lot of work in. I’m going to have to give up soon and move to plan B: dismiss, deride, and denigrate. It’s not too hard to come up with things to say for plan B, like, ‘Wow, you’re really concerned about your professor’s opinion? That’s cute.’ or, ‘Just remember—and I say this in love—you’re called to serve people, not ideas.’ No, the words aren’t difficult. It’s the tone, the tone!, that’s so hard to master. ”