What About THE Question?

I don't intend to make this a long post.  But I wanted to give an update on my studies and keep something posted on my blog for people to read.  It's been a long, lonely month as I try to put in some solid studying and get a good head start on my research. (I hope it will be over 250 hours of quality work for the last six weeks I've been in Oxford--I'm at 234 hours now.) I'm also anxious to get back to the US (June 8) and get back to a new normal, whatever that is.

So where am I with the question?  After lots of thought and discussion with my mentor and others, I realized that I can't really get into the issue of contextualizing worship music in the Songhai church until I understand much better what is going on in the Songhai culture and church with music.  So, my main question has to deal with the background issue: Why is there so little indigenous worship music in the Songhai church?  There will be two subquestions connected to the main question.  First, what are the social and cultural hindrances to the development of an indigenous Songhai hymnody?  And, second, how have western and other African concepts of music helped to shape the current form and style of worship music in the Songhai church?  Simple questions, but not so easy to answer.

So, where do I go from here?  During the next year, I'll be missionary-in-residence at Washington Bible College in Lanham, MD.  I'll be working part-time, teaching a few courses and encouraging the missions-related groups on campus.  I'll also be studying part-time.  Between now and May 2011, I need to register with the University of Wales.  I am only currently enrolled at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, OCMS does not grant degrees.  To enroll at the University of Wales, I have to submit a detailed research proposal of 2500 words with an accompanying essay and bibliography.  So, for the next year I need to do a lot of background reading, especially about the Songhai, ethnomusicology, and a biblical theology of worship.  Then I need to submit several drafts of my proposal in order for it to be finally approved next May.  But that is just the beginning of my research.  The main research with my primary sources, the Songhai people themselves, will not commence until I get back to Niger in the summer of 2011.  That will be stage 4.  The first stage, preparation, is done.  The second stage, induction is also past.  And  the third stage, working on submitting a proposal is now at hand.


Responsible Envirnonmentalism

I'll probably alienate almost everyone with this blog, but I have to say my piece.  Let's start off with one caveat:  I am not an extreme tree-hugging environmentalist who wants to save the whales but cares little for the babies.  At the same time, I believe global warming (or is it more politically correct now to say climate change?) is real and something that needs to be addressed.  I'm skeptical about what is touted as causing climate change (is it mostly caused by people?) and if it's really significant in terms of the history of the world, so I don't advocate huge costly programs to bring the world temperatures down.  I'm skeptical that we by our efforts can really affect a major change in world temperatures.  It seems rather haughty to me and a bit like trying to play God.

Nevertheless, there is one indisputable reality that really bugs me.  Where you stand on the issue of global warming does change fact that the US uses much more of the world's resources than any other country, especially when you measure that usage on a per ca-pita basis.  Is this right?  Is it moral?  Doe we really need to use so much?  Shouldn't Christians be at least as concerned about the stewardship of the earth's resources as anyone else? Why do the liberals get to define this issue? Shouldn't Christians be at the forefront of the environmental movement, promoting responsible environmentalism?  Shouldn't this issue concern us? Why don't we hear more calls for responsible stewardship of the earth's resources amongst Christians?

I have visited or lived in several different countries.  From what I've seen learned, we could do a lot better job in the US to use less and save some of the world's resources.  Here are my top ten ways to be responsible stewards .  Call it a be Christian Manifesto for the Environment.  These may hurt.
            1.  Recycle.  Many towns and cities are promoting recycling across the US, but in most places it's still voluntary, and some things that should be able to be recycled aren't.  Everyone who claims to be a Christian should be doing this, even if it takes a little more time and effort.  Europe is doing a whole better than we are on this, in my humble opinion.
           2.  Don't buy water in plastic bottles unless you're traveling or absolutely have no other water available.  Water bottles clog up landfills (if they're not recycled) and oil is used in the process of making the plastic.  Drink tap water instead.  In most cases, it's cheaper and just as healthy as bottled water.
          3.  Reuse sheets of paper that are only printed or written on one side.  There is no need to be obsessive about this.  You don't have to be packrat like my dad who saved every scrap of paper and had so much around the house he could never use it in ten years.  When you have a drawer full of used paper, it's probably time to start thinking about getting rid of some of it.  But it's always nice to have some scrap paper around to scribble on.
          4.  Bag your own groceries at the supermarket (BYOB) using cloth bags or reused paper or plastic bags.  Avoid getting new plastic bags every time you buy groceries.  Plastic bags are another of my pet peeves.  In Africa they are an environmental disaster as they clog up landfills and sewers and foul waterways, fields, and city streets.  Plus they are made using oil.
          5.  Reuse ziploc bags.  Okay, I know this sounds disgusting to some people, but it's no more disgusting than washing and reusing pots or dishes.  If the food is properly washed off it's just as clean as a a bowl or spoon.  Again, you don't have to be obsessive.  Just reuse them once or twice or until they look worn or have a hole in them.  But don't throw away any more plastic than necessary.
          6.  Use energy-saving light bulbs that last longer, and please turn off lights when you're not using them.
          7.  Turn the thermostat down in the winter (especially at night) and up in the summer.  Just one degree Fahrenheit can make a big difference on heating bills, and if everyone did it, think how much less oil and gas we would use in our country.  Here, again, the Europeans do much better than us.  I'm currently in England where they keep the houses pretty chilly in the winter.  While it's a little cold for me here, we could easily find a happy medium between out 'hot' houses and the 'cold' ones in England and save a lot.  Putting on a sweater doesn't hurt us.  Likewise, we would hardly feel it if we raise the temperature of our air conditioning in the summer by one degree.
          8.  Plant a tree, especially in a place where it is needed.
          9. Eat in more often.  This takes a little more time and planning than eating out, but it saves on energy costs (driving to the restaurant, heating the restaurant, etc.), and it's cheaper, more healthy, and promotes more family interaction.
          10. If you live in an area where it's possible, bicycle, walk, or ride public transport to work or church, especially when the weather's nice.  Not only does it help to use less gas and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, it's good for our health.

And now I have two complaints against corporations and restaurants and businesses and retailers.  If these two complaints were rectified, it could seriously reduce our conspicuous consumption.  These are two areas that seem so simple to me, but I don't hear any environmentalists or politicians talking about them.  It seems that simple things like this could go a long way toward reducing our dependence on foreign oil, using fewer trees, and reducing costs.  Here are my proposals:
          1) Turn the thermostats down 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and up 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.  It doesn't need to be so hot in Wal-Mart in the winter nor so cold in McDonald's in the summer.
           2)  Reduce the amount of plastic and cardboard packaging on items sold in stores.  One of my pet peeves is to buy a piece of merchandise in a box or container only to have that item take up a tiny proportion of the box/container.  Why do things have to have so much packaging?  It's insane.
I'm not sure if we can legislate the last two items, but is there some way we could campaign for them?  Couldn't places of business and retailers be encouraged by the public to take such actions?  I'd like to see a movement in that direction.

Those are my thoughts.  I hope I haven't stepped on too many toes.