The Book List: Reading Difficult Fiction

Lengthy works of literature can be intimidating to approach. One reason might be fear: for students not majoring in the humanities (e.g., your humble columnist), the difficult thematic and plot complexity of long classics may seem daunting. Who are we biology majors to claim we know anything about interpreting Tolstoy and Joyce? 

I could be wrong about this , but I believe that difficult literature is worthwhile for anyone to read.

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Nicholas Barker Prize 2020 Announcement

Covenant Instagram

Covenant Instagram

“Some say he came down in a pillar of smoke and fire like some great column sent down from God’s own chamber. Ghostlike he drifted over the mesas and left nothing behind. There’s all sorts of  names for such a thing, but the Native Americans call them wind-walkers—beings that travel the air as the crow flies, zephyr-like.” 

This begins Aline Sluis ‘20’s  “Staggersville,” the winner of last year’s inaugural Nicholas Barker Short Fiction Prize, a prize created by Dr. Robert Erle Barham and Dr. Hans Madueme. Named in honor of a beloved English professor from Covenant who taught from 1966 to 2006, this annual competition is open to all Covenant students and requires them to craft a fictional story that is 2,000 to 8,000 words in length. These stories can draw from any genre of fiction, including historical fiction, contemporary realism, magical realism, fantasy, detective fiction, and science fiction. Stories are required to be unpublished and to insightfully and creatively open up fresh and new insights into the Christian scriptures. This is the second year that this prize is being offered, and excitement abounds around campus about who will take the cash prize this year.

Regarding their vision for the contest, Drs. Madueme and Barham aim to create “a more unapologetically Christian fiction, one that offers fictional words harmonious with a biblical, supernatural picture of reality rather than accommodating a naturalist, materialist perspective.” 

They argue that the genre of  Christian fiction often carries a negative reputation and that secular features are prevalent in contemporary fiction. If robust Christian perspectives are included at all, they are set in the past, mitigating the worldview. What if Covenant students could change that? 

Their upcoming academic article “Stories that Gleam like Lightning: The Outrageous Idea of Christian Fiction” expounds on these concepts. 

In addition, Covenant Professor Paul Luikart, a working writer himself who teaches Creative Writing: Fiction, plans on encouraging his students to enter.

Sluis encourages everyone who is interested, whether an English major or not, to enter the contest, saying, “It's actually really cool to see your peers apply themselves to this kind of pursuit outside of class.” 

To tackle the challenge of writing Christianity into modern-day fiction without appearing heavy-handed, she combined Western fiction, which easily incorporates the supernatural, with elements from the Old Testament, pulling from Genesis, Exodus, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. The result was “Staggersville,” which follows Jericho Fife, a wanderer who drifts into the small mining town of Staggersville in hopes of freeing the townspeople from the hands of a lawless gunfighter named Stagger Bell. 

This story, as well as runner-up Katherine Scott ’19’s “Travis” and all other previous entries for the contest, are available as a bound volume in the reserve section of Kresge Library.

Interested in creating your own Christian fiction? Full rules are posted outside the offices of preliminary judges Drs. Madueme and Barham in Sanderson Hall. Contest submissions are being accepted from October 21, 2019 through March 2, 2020. All stories must be submitted as a PDF to nick.barker@covenant.edu.


Joe Keery of Stranger Things Releases New Album

If you are a Stranger Things fan, then you know Steve “the Hair” Harrington. What you may not know is that Joe Keery, who plays Steve, is not only an actor but a singer as well, under the alias “Djo.” His album is only forty-four minutes long, which may explain the title: “Twenty Twenty.” 

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“Twenty Twenty” is an indie alternative album that begins with an intro featuring the repetition of the word “Showtime” in a distorted, deep voice. The next song, “Personal Lies” jumps the listener right into a quick and elevated beat, complete with lyrics about a woman who appears to be addicted to lying to herself. The song finishes with a long guitar solo, which is most likely Keery’s own talents being displayed, as he is the former guitarist of the band Post Animal. 

“Tentpole Shangrila,” the next song, begins with psychedelic beats and a chiming sound. Guitar riffing breaks the song in half, and more psychedelic beats ensue, accompanied by more striking sounds from the guitar.  

“Chateau (Feel Alright),” “Roddy,” and “Mortal Projections” share the status of being released as singles before the entire album was released. “Chateau (Feel Alright)” starts off slow and mellow, with a gradual increase in volume of guitar. The lyrics exemplify a sense of longing for past times, when “I’m at the chateau and I feel alright,” as Djo puts it. “Roddy” contrasts with exciting, hopeful, and happy tones, featuring lyrics about self-revelation and motivation to move on and do better. “Mortal Projections” begins with intense chiming sounds and slows down and smooths out to allow piercing lyrics about heartbreak. 

“Total Control” features only Keery’s distorted, deep voice, chanting phrases like “relax, lay back.” “Flash Mountain” provides a refreshing switch up with intense rocker vibes.

The final song, “Mutual Future (Repeat)” begins with a synthetic guitar sound that sounds slightly similar to the main theme from Disney’s “Up.” The song is a surprising ending to the album, with its sensitive lyrics about wishing to be back with a past lover. 

Joe Keery’s talent shines in his first album. Although he is fairly new to the music industry, “Twenty Twenty” features many different layers and levels of musical skill. Fans of “The Hair,” beware, for you may end up loving Steve Harrington even more after experiencing his talent as a singer and guitarist. 


The Book List: Human Rights

Human rights: this is a term we usually hear in the context of international law and grandiose political rhetoric. Often, human rights are distant concepts used to make a point, or to construct aspirational creeds like the International Declaration of Human Rights. But what does it mean when these rights are brought down to the level of personal stories and specific systems? Frequently, we find that human rights are not nearly as universal as we might hope—they are often luxuries of the rich, or simply reservoirs of pleasant language that are used to mask injustice.

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Clark Beckham Comes to Covenant

On September 30th, a guest musician will be playing for us in the chapel. You may have some questions about who this person is. These will hopefully be answered in this article. Clark Beckham is an American singer-songwriter who was born in Nashville, Tennessee on May 15, 1992, but grew up in White House, Tennessee. Beckham is the son of Virgil Beckham, who is also a singer and an actor. 

Beckham graduated from Lee University and got most of his musical experience from playing his guitar and singing in church and on street corners. During his college years, Beckham was a member of Campus Choir, performed in the theatre production “Big River,” and wrote and performed original music for the school’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” He also composed the score for two short films and wrote an original song called “Love’s Not Fair.” 

After graduating from Lee, Beckham hit the streets of Nashville in hopes of honing his craft. Beckham had planned to work on a graduate degree and with the Campus Choir but those plans were changed in 2015 when he auditioned for American Idol, becoming the fourth Lee student to do so. Beckham made it all the way to the finale of season 14 and placed second, losing to Nick Fradiani by a very small margin. 

Subsequently, there was a three year gap where Beckham didn’t release anything and fans were left wondering where he was and what he was doing. In October of 2017, he was signed on by Quincy Jones Productions and recorded a new EP called “Year One” with Steven Jordan, John Mayer’s drummer and producer. 

Following the release of “Year One” in 2017,  Beckham’s record company granted him a tour. This tour is featured on his new album “Year One.” Beckham enjoyed vibing with the crowd while he sang his new album straight through. Beckham was really excited about the tour, and he wanted the tour to be more than just good, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

He enjoys writing his own music, and his music is a blend between classic and modern R&B. Beckham wants to make the best music he can without being trendy like every other artist that is around today.

In an interview by Rodney Ho, Beckham got honest and open about his life. He’s been dating the same girl for three years now, and he is really happy with the way his life is today.  Because he is an independent artist, he keeps costs down to a minimum. Quincy Jones, his management, is a great mentor for Beckham and he gives Beckham the exposure that he needs to allow his music to be heard. He performed in Jones’ bar in Dubai for five nights a week, which ended in 2018. 

Beckham has a deep rooted belief in the Gospel and has had a life-changing experience with the Holy Spirit. He sings and writes Christian music but doesn’t want to only sing these songs. The reason for this is that Beckham believes that God doesn’t want Christians to be isolated to one genre. 

He believes that God doesn’t have a problem with him being a secular artist who helps to show people the light of God. He also believes that God doesn’t want there to be a distinct wall between Church and secular. Beckham wants to write songs about this world, about people, and about this life that God has created through redeemed eyes, according to an article from The Christan Post. 

Either way, Beckham has a beautiful voice and is successful. His performance is sure to make people happy. Beckham will be coming to Covenant College on September 30th at 8 pm in the chapel. You should all come out and see his performance. It could be life changing. 

The Greater and Lesser Doxology

On August 30, Covenant College had the first chapel of the 2019-2020 school year. Chapel commenced as normal with an opening time of worship, a message from Chaplain Lowe, and a closing benediction. While for many years chapel would end in a singing of the Doxology, this year the announcement was made that instead of singing the Doxology, we would be singing the Gloria Patri. 

Photos by Eden Anyabwile

Photos by Eden Anyabwile

There was much confusion that spread across the Covenant community. Many students were unfamiliar with this new hymn and questioned if they would ever learn to appreciate the Gloria Patri as much as the beloved Doxology.

But what’s the big difference between the two hymns? At first glance, both hymns simply speak of giving praise and glory to the Trinity. But when you take a closer look, the Doxology speaks of all forms of creation giving praise to the Trinity, while the Gloria Patri strictly focuses on how all glory should be bestowed to the Trinity from now until eternity.

During the time of the early church, there were not many creeds that embodied the beliefs of the church. However, in response, the local churches composed creeds according to their faith and understandings. Similar to the Doxology, the Gloria Patri was used as a “cut-off” for psalms or hymns, as a sign that the liturgy was complete. While not as known as the Doxology, the Gloria Patri is also known as the “Lesser Doxology,” in order to distinguish it from the Gloria in excelsis, the “Greater Doxology.”

A modern telling of the origin of the Doxology is that it was written by the Anglican Bishop Thomas Ken. He wrote a series of hymns during his time at the Winchester College for the purpose of edifying the lives of the students. In 1695, Ken wrote a series of three hymns that the students could sing at different parts of the day. He urged the students to “be sure to sing the Morning and Evening Hymn in your chamber devoutly.” The closing of the three hymns ended in the same stanza that we are familiar with singing today. Despite a minor change made in 1709, the lyrics have remained consistent since the hymns were originally published.

In contrast, the Gloria Patri origin story is blurrier. However, there have been scholars that contribute it to Paul’s writing and his invocation of the Trinity: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Corinthians 13:13). 

The mystery of the Trinity has existed since the dawn of creation. Nicholas Ayo wrote a book entitled “Gloria Patri: The History and Theology of the Lesser Doxology.” Ayo goes into extensive detail about the history of the hymn, but in short the statement, “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, [world without end]. Amen. Amen;” has Trinitarian baptismal formula influences, as well as Arian influences from disputes surrounding the divinity of Jesus.

These hymns seek to remind us of the mystery and majesty of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In them we are able to share in the same hymnal prayer sung by believers before us. So, while it may take some time to adjust to the new change, we can be encouraged that the change was made out of respect for our mutual faith in the Trinity. 

Photos by Eden Anyabwile

Photos by Eden Anyabwile

Chaplain Lowe said that when he was growing up, the church was not a part of his upbringing. But he remembers that once he started going to church as a young adult, he heard these hymns and felt a connection to this deeply established church history, as well to theology as a whole. He doesn’t favor one hymn over the other, but rather views both as fundamentally important to the church. His hope for the Covenant community is that we can enjoy this new shift in hymns as an extension to our faith and further understanding of the Trinity and the church as a whole.


The Best Kind of "Tryhard"

Since their 2015 Soundcloud debut, The Band CAMINO has rapidly become a staple of alt rock music and my Spotify diet. Having titled themselves “your mom’s favorite band,” their songs sport soaring guitar riffs, dark vocals, and mournful lyrics wrestling with love and personal identity. 

Following their rise to popularity, the band’s music has gradually become more produced, straying away from their old recipe of spotlighting electric guitars and melancholic melodies in favor of synthesizers and pop-music vibes. If COIN, Colony House, or The 1975 are your jam,  you’ll love them.

Their latest release is “tryhard,” their third EP (although Spotify is convinced it’s an album), which showcases their newer, more energetic sound. It’s worth noting that the band releases most of their music as singles, which creates the curious situation of four songs (well, more like three and a half) of the eight on the EP not actually being new. Likewise, they don’t tread much new ground when choosing song topics: heartbreak, poor romantic decisions, and self-doubt. The fantastic novelty and energy of “tryhard” come from more melodic bass lines, brighter vocals, faster tempos, and bouncy synth riffs.

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The opening track, “What I Want,” is the half-old song I mentioned earlier. Having released the original version in 2017, the band chose to tweak the intro of the song and clean up the vocals a bit. I miss the cutting harmonies and plucky guitar riff of the 2017 edition, but the updated sound fits well with the new style. 

Next up is the first new song, “Hush Hush,” in which lead vocalist Jeffrey Jordan goes over the plan for a clandestine rendezvous with a lover, repeatedly imploring, “Hush hush / Don’t give it away.” That catchy tag, the lilting but powerful electric guitar lines, and driving drums make it hard to not nod along to the beat.

“Daphne Blue” is another previously released song, but it fits perfectly with the rest of the EP. It foreshadows the band’s transition to their new style as the vocals cut from dark and rounded in the pre-chorus to the bright, belted-out first line of the chorus: “You got me off-track, got me thinkin’ abstract.” 

Switching from lost love to current relationships, “Honest” (their most recent single) begins deceptively laid-back with twinkling synths and auto-tuned background vocal tracks, giving way to punchy bass lines, wailing guitars, and unrelenting drums.

The fifth track on the EP, “See Through,” is the last to have debuted as a single. It was also my most binged song over the summer; I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to memorize the staccato, impassioned chorus (“I’ll be outside, I been cooped up / Bloodshot eyes, need a ride, will you pick up?”) on my commute. Arrangement-wise, it’s similar to “Honest,” with an emphasis on pad loops and synth choirs in the verse and more “classic” instrumentation in the chorus.

It’s hard to pick my favorite song from this EP, but the next two may be the top contenders. “Haunted” starts with a cheerful-enough synth loop and driving two-part intro, only to drop off into a musically sparse, voice-and-drums driven verse. The vocals rise to a wail for the chorus, and the song never completely lets go of that angsty energy. 

Its competition, and the next-to-last track on the album, is “Farsighted.” The band wraps this fretful, introspective tour of self-identity in a positively bouncy bass riff, chipper synths, and a generally upbeat vibe. Incidentally, the song contains a delightful description of inner monologue: “There’s a voice inside my head that I call me / Who’s a collection of conversations and melodies.”

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Following the trend of disguising pained lyrics in upbeat tunes, “Break Me” concludes the album by picking apart the narrator’s justifications for staying in a possibly abusive relationship. This soul-searching is set to biting synths, lively drums, and relentless guitar lines. “I hate the way you make me just / Wish I could make you hate me” is a brutal way to describe a relationship.

In a Facebook post regarding the EP’s release, the group shared, “Somewhere along the way people have called us ‘try-hards’ thinking we took ourselves too seriously or were trying to be something we weren’t. Of course, we are try-hards. The entire reason we’re here is to create something bigger than ourselves. A lot of times people use ‘try-hard’ in a derogatory sense, but we’d rather own the fact that we’ve given every ounce of ourselves to making this music.” 

The effort The Band CAMINO put into this record shows, and careful listening has only increased my initial, immediate enjoyment.

"Unplanned" Movie Review

On a typical Saturday in Abby Johnson’s Texas Planned Parenthood clinic, Johnson would normally work at her desk speaking with potential clients. However, one particular Saturday was different as Johnson was called to help with a doctor performing an abortion. The doctor tasked her with holding the ultrasound so that he could see the unborn baby as he was removing it, a.k.a. killing it.

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Profile on Morty

This is how Professor Jeff Morton—just “Morty” to those who know him—teaches students how to paint: He comes into the studio on time (which is not true for several members of the class). He wears low-top hiking shoes with paint spots on them, loose fitting ashe colored carpenter’s pants that reinforce his sturdy build, a knit sweater, and a soft felt cap perched far back on his head.

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