The Last Supper

On my way to Koinonia for the first time, I was scared. I was an agnostic who disliked the idea of organized religion yet, I knew Christianity had a way of spiritually inspiring and uplifting me.  As I mentioned in my first blog, Christianity has a shameful history of lies, inequalities amongst people, and ill-motivated leaders; all of which has shunned me away from the religion and made me despise its followers. So when I walked through the doors of Rosa parks center to my first Koinonia meeting, I masked my frightened mind state with confidence (even arrogance) that I was above them.

As weeks went by, I experienced extraordinary episodes of coincidence that I could only articulate as supernatural (I’ll spare you the details).  These incidents frightened me at first, almost to the point of depression. “I am a smart, atheist-like college student who now wants to believe in Jesus ?!” These type of ideas were at the forefront of my thoughts for weeks. But instead of trying to fight it, I went along with it. I moved past doing an ethnographic study on Koinonia by fully embracing Christianity all in effort to save two birds with one stone: study elements of masculinity (my topic in the group) and answer this aching question regarding my own spirituality.

After weeks of studying the church (I went to multiple) and Koinonia. I could spot the similarities between them. Although Koinonia was more open to serving people from different religions and spiritual ideologies, both the church and Koinonia shared an overall atmosphere of love and communion and the desire to help people. However, I also spotted the similarities in masculine dominance and covert distaste from the group for different people (non-Christians).

Overall, this was very uplifting for me. I had fortunately revitalized my religion and my relationship with God. I was extremely thankful and happy I chose to deepen my ethnographic study as it had changed me.

Yet.

During the next couple weeks, my connection with the religion dwindled ironically as I stopped attending these services. No matter how much it humiliated me, I continued to pray and ask that Jesus be in my life but felt nothing. I began to wonder if I was overlooking the aforementioned coincidences or involving myself too deeply in the study. Yet as I am writing this very word, I am realizing that there could be no such thing as over-involving myself in the study. I became a part of the group despite their acceptance of me. I allowed the group to change me. Thus allowing myself to change. As professor Johnson mentioned in class, Culture is constantly changing form and position. Maybe I temporarily experienced being a part of the culture again. A solar eclipse between my personal life and my spirituality had occurred through the intervention of an ethnographic study of Koinonia. Hmm

 

Thank you Koinonia.

 

A solar eclipse…

 

Losing Access…DAMN.

I can’t seem to break through to the women in Koinonia. When I do, I feel that I am invading the culture. They are always hesitant to talk to me. Every time I start a conversation with a female member, I feel the eyes of male members watching my every move.

I’m having a hard time getting access into the club (i.e. meetings, Course 101, scheduling interviews, getting to know the women members). One of my group members informed me that a Koinonia member was not happy that I was scheduling interviews with other members. Ironically, a lot of people I am supposed to interview have recently bailed out. As I mentioned last week, I was actually kicked out of a Koinonia class. And the week before, I was asked to leave a bible study group.

Is this because they don’t want external exposure? If Koinonia stands for fellowship and communion, how come I sometimes feel excluded and not wanted? Although this club is open and welcoming, an exclusive inner club definitely seems to exists.

Maybe this is a consequence for not truthfully revealing my reason for coming there.

Maybe I am a strong Black Male who challenges their power structure.

Maybe I simply am not felt “in the hood” because I’m not there enough.

But I am losing access. I can feel it … DAMN.

I feel excluded, as if I am not all the way included in the Koinonia circle. Pic available here
I can’t seem to break through to female Koinonia members. Pic available here
This album has been on repeat today. I feel like it relates to my experience with Koinonia because, like kendrick, I feel alone. Like an outcast. Pic available here

Third Meeting

The third meeting started off terrible. Despite making a new friend and establishing an interview with him, I did not feel welcomed in the meeting. Koinonia was not present.

Outside my handful of friends in the group, I felt a cloud of bitterness from the others as if I did not belong or was invading their space. This was not a new feeling however. I felt this from first encounters with most Koinonia members. This feeling of alienation was most present when I was asked to leave Course 101 because it was “not a good week.”

Koinonia is a predominately Asian club. So, at times I want to associate being alienated as a racial matter. Yet, as a college educated African American, I know to throw my race cards with confidence and surety.

Despite that, the rest of the meeting was amazing! We read about Jesus’s Prayer (John 17:1-19). After having a bible discussion, I was as spiritually moved as I had been in years. For a small moment, I felt as I once had as a Christian in a church. I felt unifying peace and content amongst every one present in the room.

As a struggling atheist, this both scared and thrilled me. Yet, it also showed me a glimpse of how powerful, nerve wrecking and life changing ethnographic work can become.

The constant struggle between science and religion. Some food for my conflicted brain… Pic available here

This is a trailer for a movie that Koinonia will see tonight. It is about an atheist columnist from Chicago who eventually, after trying to write stories to disprove Christianity, becomes a Christian . Link for tailor available here

About Us

Koinonia. The Definition according to Merriam Webster .com is “the Christian fellowship or body of believers.” Their second definition is “intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.”

In contrast, the SFSU Koinonia welcomes non-Christians and even people from other religions in their spiritual communion.

On the SFSU Koinonia website, in the “About Us” tab they describe Koinonia as Greek for “fellowship.” Their goal is to create a fellowship with God and people with the intent to show his relevance in students’ lives.  

This webpage has a section called “What You Might Expect,” which displays the following sub sections:

Seeking God

Making Life Long Friends

Having Fun

In the “Seeking God” section they believe that people coming to Koinonia should be curious about Christianity or actively seeking god. They expect that you can do so through bible studies, Small Group discussions and Course 101.

The “Making Life Long Friends” section they express their hope that you may establish lifelong friendships through small group dinners and large group outings in Koinonia.

Koinonia makes sure that you are “Having Fun.” Through games, outings, camping, potlucks and conversation, they create exciting opportunities for college students to engage in. Hell I was invited to play laser tag on my first day there!

 

Works Cited:

“About Us.” Koinonia Christian Fellowship at SFSU. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <http://www.sfsukoinonia.org/about/#whattoexpect&gt;.

“Koinonia.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/koinonia&gt;.

Meeting # 2

This week I attended another KOINONIA meeting. When I walked in the lobby of Rosa Parks Center, I was immediately greeted by Faith and her husband, the eldest members of the group. Although I am not clear about their roles, they don’t seem to be regular members. During bible studies and Course 101 seminars they stroll around the different classrooms observing the discussions taking place. They seem to be the guardians or overseers of the entire KOINONIA group.

One of the verses we read in Bible study. Available here 

Already an hour late, I arrived in the middle of a bible study in the main room, awkwardly looking for David. As I was searching, I noticed the social dynamic of the study groups were the same as the week before, segregated by gender. Eventually Faith asked me to join a group nearby of all males. They were not as welcoming as other people in KOINONIA had been. After about five minutes they suggested that I work with David’s group since they “were not meeting next week.” Confused and somewhat relieved, I left the group, found David and began to read the bible verse: John 11.

 

After the bible discussion, we concluded the meeting talking about Christianity and our relationships with God. Afterwards, Johnny, a friend I made from the previous meeting, came to talk with me and Allen (one of my COMM 663 group members). As Johnny and I caught up, Julian, another group member I befriended, sparked a conversation with me. As we were conversing, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on Allen and Johnny’s conversation. Allen was talking about our COMM 663 class and the reason we were coming to KOINONIA. I could sense confusion and distaste from Johnny’s reaction, as I had failed to accurately inform him of my presence there the week prior. I felt ashamed and that I had breached our newly established trust.

As I was walking out of Rosa Parks Center, I began to gauge how masculinity shaped that KOINONIA meeting. The groups were once again separated by sex. The speakers were all male. I was assigned to male group. And after the meeting, only males interacted with me. Additionally, there seemed to be a pecking order of superiority based on age. The oldest members of the group gave the orders and the younger members followed.

Separation of gender in Christianity. Picture Available here 

I personally don’t agree with their arrangement of male dominated leadership in KOINONIA or Christianity. However, instead of comparing it to my ideals, I will try to except and honor it while in their space.

 

 

 

 

Works cited:

“John 11:35.” Re-Ver(sing) Verses. N.p., 05 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.

“Christian Guys.” Pinterest. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.

 

 

Introducing the Space

When I walked in Rosa Parks Center, I was immediately greeted by KOINONIA members at the check-in counter. Their presence was warm and welcoming and helped ease the anxiety I had entering the space. After waiting in the lobby for the rest of my group to arrive, I decided to stroll around the main room (Rosa Parks A-C) and gauge the people in the space. As I walked through the doors, a wave of freshly prepared food wafted through the entrance. With my stomach now dancing in excitement, I awkwardly stood at the entrance deciding whether to get in line or continue observing the people in the space. After about 15 seconds of contemplation, I looked around at the KOINONIA members (half of which were looking back at me, anxious to see what brought me to their club). Then, an older member slowly approached me and introduced himself as David. He asked what brought me to KOINONIA. Still thinking about my awkward entrance, I hurried a reply “my friend told me about it, so I thought I should check it out.” Our conversation continued for another five minutes before he invited me to grab a plate of food and sit at his table.  As I waited in line, I realized the mistake I made by not giving David an honest answer about my presence at KOINONIA. I was there to study their group and I had misinformed him. Despite how inappropriate it felt, I waited until the end of the meeting to inform him of my real reason for coming to KOINONIA that night.

After I ate with David at his table, the entire group sat in the middle of the room to hear the formal welcoming from a KOINONIA leader. He gave us some recent announcements about the group and some spiritual tips to keep our faith. Then, he invited people who were interested in taking “Course 101” (an intermediate class for new members/Christians) to join another instructor in the room across the hall (Rosa Parks F). Though I probably should have went to Course 101, David and others that sat at his table insisted I stay with them in the main room where the leader would lead the remaining group in a bible study.

He assigned us to get in groups and annotate John 9, a bible scripture, which talked about a blind man who was healed and able to see after Jesus rubbed mud in his eyes. After about 20 minutes of annotation and group discussion the group came back together, and the leader gave his interpretation of the verse. He believed the man was given the ability to see again because the man had restored faith in Jesus and persevered past other’s suggestion that Jesus did not exist.

At the end of the bible study discussion, we concluded the night in a prayer and some additional spiritual tips to keep our faith. After saying goodbye to all the KOINONIA members I met that night, I left the main room and headed back to Bart.

During my time at KOINONIA, I made a few notable observations surrounding the topic of masculinity. First of all, the genders were segregated. When we were eating, no tables were integrated with both males and females. Even when we came together as a group, the rows were nearly segregated in the same fashion. Secondly, the speakers for the main lecture, the bible study and Course 101 (all leadership roles in KOINONIA) were males. Lastly, although many people kindly introduced themselves to me that night, they were all males except two (one of which was a greeter at the check in counter).

Overall, the first night with KOINONIA was insightful, extremely welcoming and friendly. Nevertheless, throughout the night, I noticed small instances of unnecessary gender separation and male dominance. I am eager to see if this dynamic continues.

 

Below are two media post surrounding masculinity in Christianity:

Pope Francis gives his stance on “women priests.” Click here for full article. 
A meme about male pastors attempting to speak on womanhood. Click here for image

My Positionality with KOINONIA

I was previously a Christian before studying at San Francisco State University. Yet, since then, I have gradually dropped my religious identification because it no longer represented my beliefs. Ironically, I am now critical of some Christian practices and ideologies because they condemn political and social values that I currently agree with (i.e. abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, religious freedom).

Additionally, I am an African American male. I cannot ignore that Christianity has been historically used as justification for people to engage in terribly immoral acts against others, such as enslavement of human beings (i.e. Africans) or execution of homosexuals.

I will have some bias entering this space on campus. However, as a college student and communications major, I feel confident in my ability to recognize when my participation is biased and/or unbeneficial to a successful ethnographic study of KOINONIA.

 

Below are two media post relating to male superiority in Christianity: 

HowGodMadeManSupToWoman
“How God made man superior to women”  Post available here

 

“Why Did God Choose Adam’s ‘Rib’ to make the ‘Woman'”  Post available here

Mankind in his own Image

Hello Everyone,

I am Tre Clayton, a member of the group studying KOINONIA, a Christian club at San Francisco State University. Because patriarchy and male superiority  are ideologies discussed in the bible and shared among Christians, my area of study will be directed at how masculinity is performed and discussed within the group.

When Violence is Your Normal

Oakland 2 Ivy

This essay is one of five first-place winners of Jopwell’s 2016 Black Student Experience Essay Grant.

I never realized I was different until I got to Yale. I thought my life experiences were normal – that everybody had to face adversity and overcome challenges. Most people did in their own ways, but then I realized their struggles weren’t like mine. Their struggles weren’t matters of life and death. Their struggles didn’t pose any threat to their physical body. I guess it was because they weren’t from Oakland, California.

Oakland has a long history of dealing with violence, and so have I. I was born to two loving parents, one with scars from multiple gunshot wounds after being shot on the streets of East Palo Alto. Even their love couldn’t shield me from the dangers of our neighborhood.

I was seven years old when, while riding my bike in the street…

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