Book Review: Third Way Allegiance: Christian Witness in the Shadow of Religious Empire

At times, it is quite complicated to separate who is doing the narrating: Is the church narrating what it means to be an American, or is American narrating what it means to be the church? It is not always easy to know.       – Tripp York,  Third Way Allegiance

This question an other challenging thoughts that Tripp York presents in The Third Way Allegiance have been refreshing, yet challenging to me. I resonate strongly with York’s difficulty in discerning what defines our culture. Living in America, we all experience moments when the lines between church and state have been less than clear, and those in America that claim Christ as their King have an obligation to think critically about those lines. Does the path of the church run parallel to the path of America? Are the people of God meant to also be the people of a man-made nation? To whom do Christians swear allegiance? These are the questions York asks us to consider.

Considering allegiances, I believe it will be helpful to start with a familiar story from the life of Jesus. After Jesus had entered Jerusalem he came to the temple courts to teach. At one moment, the Pharisees raised a question to Jesus with hopes of trapping him. They asked, “What is your opinion? Is it right to pay takes to Caesar or not?” Jesus asked to see a coin for paying taxes and asked whose portrait and inscription was on the coin. The denarius bore the portrait and mark of Caesar. Then Jesus responded, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

At first glance this appears clear enough, but when we reexamine Jesus’ reply, doesn’t it hold quite a large contradiction. Of course Caesar lays claim to taxes, but our faith informs us that all the wealth of the earth, along with every part of creation, has come from God. Jesus’ answer is simple, but to discern what it means is not. For it appears to me that Caesar and God both desire our sacrifices.

Considering our allegiances is a very personal subject. Certainly the foundations in which we put our trust will make a deep mark on our character, and when those foundations are questioned, it is natural for us to be defensive. Because of this I have often found books and articles that deal with Christian allegiance in a black and white manner to be unhelpful. They can be instructive but they often feel too rigid for interaction. On the contrary, I have found Tripp York’s writing to be very interactive. When I read this book I found many parts of my foundation called into question, but I did not ever feel resentful of York’s words. Instead, with each chapter being followed by a section for reflection and discussion, I feel that York is promoting conversation and critical thinking, instead of simply shouting his ideas.

York addresses issues ranging from our politics and peacemaking to our treatment of holidays and non-human animals. Looking for a thoughtful summer read? Consider Third Way Allegiance by Tripp York.

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Kittens

Yes, kittens.

These two were found this week up at the market. Fiona (grey, girl) and Oliver (orange, boy) are barn cats only a few weeks old. These two were being chased around by Coco, the farm dog who doesn’t know any better, when we saved them.  Oliver had crawled under a trailer cart under the pavilion. Mary had to crawl underneath to get him out! Coming from a line of hunting cats, Fi and Ollie aren’t accustomed to the life of a house cat. Since Molly and Annie have taken them in they have taken great strides to help tame and calm them.

Fiona and Oliver like to snuggle

Weekend in Atlanta pt.2

Saturday, before the wedding, Sawyer, Cooper, Clay, Mariel, Allie, and I took a trip up Stone Mountain!

Cooper had on his trusty finger-shoes and Sawyer was wearing flip flops. I was wearing Sawyer’s basketball shorts and my city shoes. For those who are wondering, my city shoes are generally for light use only, in casual situations that do not involve work. These shoes also contrast with my work shoes, which I use on the farm. Those still curious might refer to the picture in this previous post.

However well equipped each of us were (Mariel was also wearing borrowed sandals) we pressed on up the mountain!

At long last we made it to the top where we enjoyed a nice lunch of blueberries and cold pizza. On a side note, I think there should be a better term for cold pizza than “cold pizza” because a lot of people like to eat pizza that way and it sounds derogatory to call the pizza simply “cold” or “left-over.” I am open to suggestions.

Lunch!

This is me. I have found I rarely blog with pictures of myself, so here I am!

At the top!

Yes, as you can see above, Cooper did have his frisbee and yes, he did begin to throw it around. Miraculously we made it to the bottom without any broken bones and the frisbee still in hand.

Stay tuned for part 3, which will feature a wonderful agricultural exclusive!

 

Weekend in Atlanta pt.1

Over the past weekend I flew to Atlanta once again for the wedding of two of my good friends, Billy and Katy. While I was in the airport I got to do some shopping at one of my favorite stores!

I bought a sheet of new stamps that I really like! If I send you correspondence through the mail you will certainly find out what I mean! On the way to the Pittsburgh airport my trusty GPS decided I needed some adventure in my life. After being directed over this nice bridge and around a few turns in a small town. After a puzzling twist of turns I was lead across this nice bridge once again and back onto the road I was travelling on originally. Thanks, Garmin, for the extra vacation stop! Courtesy of my GPS, here are pictures of me going both ways on the bridge.

I had a great time in Atlanta seeing many my friends and family. Even my brother, who works a tough night shift, had time to share breakfast. Thanks, Aaron!

My mom made great food not only for me but for many of my friends in town! She also opened her home for 4 of my friends in town for the wedding. Thanks Mom!

Mom and I having a chat in the kitchen after breakfast, which is great tradition!

 

Killdeer in the Soybeans

Reeger’s Farm’s work can be divided into two operations. There is the fruit and vegetable farming that Mary manages (this is the part I help with) and there is a grain farming side that is managed by Mary’s brother Bill. Bill grows wheat, oats, soybeans, and corn on Reeger’s Farm and on some land nearby that we lease. Today we had a job to do in Bill’s soybean fields.

This year Bill has planted soybeans on a number of fields that grew corn last year. Yet there are a few volunteer corn stalks cropping up in the fields. A “volunteer” is simply a plant that grows on its own, often coming up as the offspring of last years crop. Bill told me there are sprays that he could use  that target volunteer corn without harming the soybeans, but this would be expensive and there are not that many volunteers. It was more sensible and cost effective for us to simply walk through the fields and pull up the volunteer corn.

One could say that today we weeded corn. A weed is defined most simply as an unwanted plant. There is no characteristic that makes some plants weeds and others not. In most of our yards grass is not considered a weed, but when we find it in our tomato and pepper fields, it is a weed. So today, you could say that corn was a weed.

Some of these things are not like the others…

As you will see in the photos above and below, the fields we worked on today are known as “no-till” fields. By not tilling in between crops the soil can maintain more nutrients and moisture. This method also helps to severely reduce soil erosion. You can see the bottom of corn stalks from last years crops laying in between the soybean rows. While the soil look dry and dusty, the no-till method has allowed this land to maintain rich soil underneath this top layer. There is much to be said about no-till methods and I think they are pretty interesting. Yet the blog must go on so if you want to lean more, try Wikipedia!

Residue from last years crop that decomposes where it lies

As we walked through the rows plucking out corn, Mary came across this Killdeer in the field! Birds often make their nests in fields and this mother bird was squawking in defense, standing right beside its nest!

Mom with the kids

What a surprise!

As I was reading on Wikipedia about no-till methods, one of the very advantages to no-till mentioned was the protection of birds and burrowing animals that make their home in fields.

Finally, here is a sneak peak of what is going on with our peppers!

Fun with Basil

The basil in our field rows is coming along nicely. To help it along and allow it all the growing room we can we tip our basil plants. It is kind of hard to explain without a visual. So let me tell a story:

This is basil

Basil is a good plant. As you can see above it is growing up straight and tall. However, things are about to change for this little guy…

Tipped!

I took the top off this basil plant. I know it looks bad now, but in a few days this guy will come back twice as strong!

Two tops grow back in the place of one.

Tip the basil, basil grows back twice over, repeat

Early in the season we sell the tips at market while the plants are still on their way to full size. Once they are fully grown we will sell full stems. The methods vary but the flavor is great all season!

Basil varieties growing side by side

Along with the Italian Basil shown in the demonstration above, we also grow Lemon Basil (on left and below).

And Thai Basil:

Later on I will put up a blog on our homemade pesto! Stay tuned!

Blueberries At Last

Thursday morning while we were picking chard in the greenhouse for a farm stand order Mary got the call that we were in the clear to pick blueberries. We nearly dropped everything we were doing and shot down the road. As each day reveals new knowledge and new beauty, the blueberry patch had me amazed once again. Mary told me there are around 5000 bushes in the field. I will guess there were 18-25 rows. Each row is half a mile long. I can’t explain that, you just have to see it.

Endless blueberries

You can’t see one end of a row from the other. Let me clarify, there is nothing inherently good about this field because it is large. I say this because often we can be impressed simply by how big something is, or how expensive or rare. I am not telling about the expanse of this place for the sake of impressing you. Rather, the space this field occupies is special because of where it takes me when I enter. I get lost. You would get lost too.

Joyfully I set out at the end of my row with a bucket looped through my belt. Bush by bush I walk down my side and pluck of berries that are ready to eat. Some of them I do eat. Most of them I toss in the bucket. At first, as with most new tasks for me, the method is clumsy and I second guess myself. I start slow; my hands and eyes not yet trained to the task. Soon, before I even realize there has been a change, I feel locked into the rhythm of my work. My eyes stop seeing berries that aren’t ready and my hands pick more precisely. I am not saying I became an overnight expert, but I became nearly hypnotized by the process. I looked up after 30 minutes and I was in the middle of what felt to be an endless field of blueberry bushes.

 

This is how the size is important. There is great peace in being surrounded on all sides by such health as fruit bushes in the summertime. There is humility in recognizing you are in a place where mankind only holds so much power. As I have written before, the heat came early this year, and as a result many plants started budding before the frosts were completely finished. The blueberries suffered somewhat. Over the winter the bushes were pruned and cared for. The soil was maintained and the false bushes and weeds were removed. Yet still nature holds within its hand the whole fate of this field. In the pictures you can see a dip in the middle of the rows. As we came to this dip the berries disappeared. Here, we suspect, the weather was just slightly colder than it was on the sides of the rows. The difference meant some bushes would yield and others would not. It is a powerful force to recognize, the force that holds these living things together.

Some of the later varieties are not yet ready

Some are just right!

A full bucket!