nonsermon #1: my religion

I am thrilled to begin a biweekly series, entitled ‘nonsermons’, with New South Journal. The first nonsermon, “my religion,” is live.

New South

by Ben Lewellyn-Taylor

In 1952, e.e. cummings was invited to Harvard for a series of what he referred to as nonlectures. From the outset, cummings clarified that he had no interest in the traditional lecture form: “Lecturing is presumably a form of teaching; and presumably a teacher is somebody who knows. I never did, and still don’t, know. What has always fascinated me is not teaching, but learning.”

I grew up in a conservative Christian home, set out to become a youth pastor in my college years, then found myself in my 20s somewhere between faithless and unsure, among friends who had similarly fallen out of love with religion, the church, God, or all of the above. Oddly, we had met years prior at a church that only a few of us now attend.

Finding ourselves lost within a story we had been a part of our entire lives, we…

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Soundtrack, 2018 (vol. 6)

Last year, I started writing for DJBooth, a publication that covers hip hop and which I deeply revere. I wrote three articles in 2017 and set a personal goal to double that in 2018. I’m now ending the year with 14 articles written for DJBooth in 2018, in addition to my first academic article on hip hop and religion going live in Black Theology: An International Journal.

That said, I am here to honor my annual tradition of sharing my favorite albums of 2018, in hopes that you might find something you like and might tell me about something I missed. This was a year marked for changes in my personal life: it was my first full year of marriage, I earned my Master’s degree, and I returned to teaching this fall. I also found my music choices transitioning, as older favorites began to disappoint and new favorites replaced them.

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Short Story & Anniversary Article

Two places you can find my writing today:

I have a short story in PIVOT Literature‘s very first issue. Years ago I started a story featuring Adam and Eve’s domestic troubles, and I gave it an update. You can read “The Hole in Everything” here.

For my tenth article with DJBooth, I had the chance to reflect on one of my all-time albums, Kanye West’s Yeezus. It turns five today, and I wrote about its creator, his followers, and his detractors. You can read “Listeners in the Hands of a Projected God” here.

As always, thanks for reading.

To Catch Up With Oneself

Almost two years ago, I made the decision to leave my role as a middle and high school teacher to pursue a Master’s in Theological Studies. It was both a difficult step to take, and also one I felt was necessary in order to follow a dream I had to research religion and music more deeply.

If I am being truthful, I regretted the decision almost immediately. As my first semester of classes began in the Fall of 2016, I found myself struggling to justify why I had left a job which had given me purpose to earn a degree that would just require another degree to get me as far as I believed I wanted to go. I started to experience the feelings I felt when I was 12 and 19, those feelings that became the days themselves and cast their long shadows over months. It didn’t make sense: I was privileged enough to study for my Master’s, something few people get to do, and I was about to propose to my then-girlfriend, whom I had loved for years.

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Soundtrack, 2017

2017 was full of personal growth and joy in the midst of a revealing and painful year for our society. The albums that provided the soundtrack to my year reflect those two poles, with much of what I listened to providing a prophetic voice for troubled times.

This is also my fifth year noting my favorite albums in a year, so I took some time to see how my past years lined up with my current view on the albums listed then. In 2013, almost every album stayed in my rotation, but in 2014, only three did. I was mostly right about 2015, and last year, in 2016, I would go back and move Solange and ScHoolboy Q up to the spots right under Frank Ocean. We’ll see how this year stacks up, but for now, here are the albums that provided the soundtrack to my year.

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Featured in AUSTERE Magazine: Trophy Kids

I have a new piece published in Dallas-based AUSTERE Magazine, a journal by very cool people doing incredible work. Check them out.

My piece, “Trophy Kids,” can be read here. You can also purchase a print edition from their online shop. You might recognize the name “Trophy Kids” from the zine I released with my album, which is available for purchase here. The name is a defense of the millennial generation, but I’ll let you see for yourself what I mean. Thanks for reading. More soon.

Walking the Talk: A Conversation With Tash

I Walk With Natasha March, Baylor University (Photograph by Marissa Elaine Photography)
I Walk With Natasha March, Baylor University (Photograph by Marissa Elaine Photography)

Since I left my teaching position last summer to pursue my Master’s in Theological Studies, I have struggled to find a new route to take with this blog. Over the course of my three years in the classroom, it slowly turned into my reflections on teaching. The intent was always to make this a space to inspire people with stories, and I’ve been thinking recently of how to do so through others’ voices, especially millenials who often receive undue criticism and baseless stereotypes that seek to degrade us while we work to become who we are in this world.

I asked Natasha (Tash) Nkhama, a former student, to share her insights about an incident that happened in her first semester at Baylor. Our conversation is below.

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