Archive for November, 2009

I was in a fun conversation recently. We were talking about counseling. The other guy wasn’t so sure he saw the value in it. I told him that I thought there was tremendous value in it. One of the greatest questions we have as humans is, “Am I Being Heard?” He agreed but then he said the statement that made me cough.

He said,

“Oh you’re right, people want to be heard. The problem is that’s all they want. Most people just want to talk, don’t ever disagree with them. That’s the worst thing you can do.  If you disagree they’ll have a conniption and get angry.  You know who the worst offenders for that are?”

I told him that I did not, and he continued.

The worst offenders are pastors! You ever known a pastor that said he was your friend until you disagreed with him.

I answered in the affirmative that I had but that was true of other professions as well.

He responded by saying,

“yeah but pastors are the worst, especially youth pastors. Question them at all about their programming and they get all riled up, and defensive. Most don’t have kids but figure they can tell you how to raise your own and the one’s that do have kids usually have younger ones. It’s never a youth pastor’s position to tell my kids to disobey me or that I stink as a parent.”

He went on to explain the situation to me. It appears that he and his son disagreed about a major life decision. The YP agreed with the son and told him that he thought the mom and dad were bad parents. When the man asked him about it the YP told him that he knew what he was doing  (apparently a theme with the YP whenever he was questioned) and told the guy that he was a pastor and his authority.  As near as I can tell by my friend who introduced us the man and his wife are excellent parents. Now, here’s my question, what do you think about his assertion that the youth pastor should never tell the kid to disobey or that his parents were bad parents?

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I think I know what the problem is when it comes to Genesis, creation, and my faith. The difference between myself and others is that I’m not static in my understanding and I’m not afraid to explore the possibilities presented by alternate points of view and interpretation. I’m not afraid to be challenged even if I happen to put up a good fight along the way. I blog because I want to learn not because I believe I have anything particularly thoughtful or original to say. I’m writing this post not as a lesson on creation or origins or hermeneutics (even though I know some will invariably go that direction and thereby miss the greater point); I am writing this post as a thought or two about faith.

“We know in part,” Paul wrote, “then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

I know what I believe; I do not know completely what I do not believe. The possibilities are endless, but I also recognize that a large part of my problem is that I graduated from Bible college nearly fifteen years ago and, to a large extent, I never quite treating the Bible like a textbook. I know how I feel about textbooks—they disseminate information, present information on beautifully illustrated pages, and give us enough giddy-up in our heads that we can create pie-charts, graphs, and systematic manuals all day long, all night long, till we are puking out information to our classmates or writing blog posts or research papers just to get it out of our minds.

One of my classes is Introduction to Special Education (ESE 500). Every week we have a 20 question test over the chapter material. Maybe we feel that way about the Bible sometimes—like there’s going to be a test at the end and if we do not get all the answers right then we will not get the credit we feel we so richly deserve after having diligently studied for the test, read the chapter, and memorized countless charts, graphs, and graphic organizers. I’m not a test taker so if there is a test, an entrance exam, I’m out for sure. I’d rather write a paper.

Scripture is not a textbook; it is a story.

I hate charts, graphs, and graphic organizers. Even in Special Education, how can I justify my making a person’s disability into a spread sheet? People are not pie charts; furthermore, passing a test is not necessarily an indicator of whether or not I know the material or whether I can do the job or whether or not I care. Conversely, the Bible is not a textbook that we should study as if there will be an exam. Nor, for that matter, is our particular knowledge or understanding of the Bible the badge determining whether or not we ‘can do the job’ (live by faith), love God (in Jesus), or love our neighbors as ourselves.

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It is not uncommon to hear the argument against [insert favorite ODM whipping boy here] that s/he is popular with or respected by the “world”.  Conversely, disdain by the “world” is seen as a stamp of godliness.

Now certainly, Jesus did warn His disciples that if He was getting persecution, they definitely would.  But one of His disciples also noted that sometimes we suffer simply because we’re booger-heads (1 Peter 2:20).  As with many things there is a distinction made here, and “A” does not always imply “B”.

John Calvin wrote about this distinction, and Tim Keller quotes him and expounds on the thought.  Keller (citing Calvin) notes the danger of missing the distinction, and suggests that those that miss it are acting not out of courage, but out of pride.

A good, quick read.  I recommend it to you.

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Here’s an example of the sort of stupidity I am talking about in my original post. From the AFA. Note how they ‘claim victory’ with the phrase: “Your actions make a difference!” and follow it up with this line of garbage:

According to Bill Chandler, vice-president of Gap corporate communications, Gap’s Old Navy division will launch a new television commercial this weekend which “has a very strong Christmas theme.”

Chandler responded to AFA last Friday, after a poll showed 90% of AFA supporters wanted to continue the boycott as a result of Gap’s initial “holiday” ad that mingled Christmas with the pagan “Winter Solstice” holiday.

Gap says the new ad will include the popular Supermodelquins proudly cheering “Merry Christmas”, and features Christmas trees, lights and ornaments as well.

In good faith, AFA is suspending the Gap boycott until it has an opportunity to view the new commercial this weekend.

As a result of your dedicated actions, we believe Gap is beginning to realize that Christmas is not just another “holiday” and will begin to advertise in a way that is respectful to Christians and Christmas shoppers.

Why does the AFA care if Jesus is associated with the Gap? Do they really think Jesus cares? I did notice, however, that you can spend $82 and get your own ‘merry christmas’ packs from the AFA. Here’s another fun page that tells us which stores do and do not say ‘merry christmas’.

Is this seriously what Jesus wants us doing with our time? Does Jesus really care if the person at Starbucks says ‘merry christmas’ or not? Seriously?!?! I’m going to purposely visit these stores that don’t say merry christmas and boycott the ones who cave into this asininity.

I’m taking Christ out of Christmas because I don’t want the Jesus I follow to be mocked any longer. Merry X-mas!

In order to provide for my family while I am in graduate school, I was provided, and accepted, a job at Blockbuster video. I believe that to an extent it was providential that I was hired at the store and I joyfully, dutifully and excellently do the work. I was hired as assistant store manager nearly to the day that I received my last severance check from my former church, the store works around my school and part-time job schedule, and I get along well with the employees I work with each day. The job is fun, I do the job well, and I am able to see a lot of people from the community every day. I am thankful, to be sure, that I was provided a job.

But the job has opened my eyes to something that they needed opened to. What I have seen is ugly, cumbersome, and frightening. I have seen American Capitalism in its fullest manifestation.

__________________

Today is ‘Black Friday.’ Today is the official beginning of the ‘Christ’mas season. Today is the day that everyone on Wal-Street looks forward to in order, and in hope, to bring to an end another year of economic worry, turmoil and disappointment.

Today is a day that the world has made, let us rejoice and spend in it.

Today is black Friday and, I don’t suppose, there is a more apropos name in the lexicon. Today is the day when all of America, joined together in a mass celebration of capitalism and freedom, will do her best to resurrect what billions in stimulus dollars, tax refund checks, and unemployment extensions have not been able to do: Drag our collective capitalist asses out of the dire misery of financial ‘suffering’ and ‘having to make cut-backs and/or do withoutness’ we have had to endure since…well, for a long time.

Today is black Friday.

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just because we have changed the primary focus of our blog does not mean that we won’t “slum it” every once in a while and see what the buzz is on our favorite odm sites.  it’s the same fascination that allows me to argue the nuances of justification AND watch shows about people driving badly… or buildings collapsing…

over at crosstalk they are offering this commentary:

Evangelical Church Tattoos Woman on Altar

In the you-just-can’t-make-this-up department, a Seattle church decided to tattoo volunteers during the “live tattoo final” to a sermon series. I predicted tattoo parlors in church some time ago and was jeered at for doing so. I was wrong. They aren’t building parlors to tattoo anyone in church. They’re doing it on the altar. Read more from the Seattle Times.

i particularly like the angst of “They’re doing it on the altar” – complete with shock value and double entendre.

our church has had artists creating works as a form of worship while a pastor delivers a sermon, but we have never had a human as the canvas.  and i’m not sure we would – but that is not the point. the point is the interesting use of the term altar, the use of a sexual double entendre, and the appeal to the slippery slope of sin.

i am not sure why crosstalk uses the term “altar” – particularly since evangelical churches usually do not have them – they do not need them.  and crosstalk ignores a great opportunity for a jab since the linked article uses the term “stage.”   i have a hunch it is used for shock value, and to make an illusion to paganism.

this latter reference, of pagan altars, plays into the use of the sexual double entendre, which i find mildly hypocritical from folks that find this abhorrent when used by others.  remember, christians should not talk about sex in public.  this is a deliberate sexual reference, i believe, because of the popularity of the  “so and so’s do it…” jokes/bumper stickers/etc….  clearly this has not eluded the editors.

the inuendo was clearly seen by truthinator who posted the follow-up comment:

First coffee shops and now tattoo parlors… can the temple prostitutes be far behind…?

i find this appeal to a slippery slope interesting for its sheer grade of the slope; from coffee to church sanctioned prostitution in three simple steps (emphasis on simple).  it seems to slip the mind of truthinator that coffee and tattoos are neither illegal, immoral, nor biblically prohibited (and only quote leviticus 19:28 if you also obey 19:13a, 16-18, 19c, and 27.)

finally, what really mystifies me is why crosstalk (and truthinato) even cares what this church in seattle does – since what they did violated no biblical injunction.  i have a hunch that it is just another objection against folks doing things different – it’s probably not coffee that is objectionable… it’s that it’s not served the way we do it.

[UPDATE: it was pointed out that the newspaper article opened with the use of "altar" - this explains crosswalk's use of the term. i should have seen this in my reading.]

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This video pretty much speaks for itself, but I have to say that Wright’s phrase “cultural masturbation” cracked me up…

http://www.vimeo.com/5682808

NT Wright on Blogging/Social Media from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo

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They like Jesus but Not the Church, by Dan Kimball, is based on the premise that we live in a post-Christendom culture. To be sure the States are not nearly as post-Christendom as Europe and Australia, yet you can hardly deny “The American culture no longer props up the church the way it did, no longer automatically accepts the church as a player at the table in public life, and can be downright hostile to the church’s presence” (pg. 18).

Dan Kimball bases his impression, not on the details and analyzed data of a Barna-esque survey. Instead he got out of his office and started studying in coffee shops. There he met and befriended non-Christians and as he interacted with them discovered that they had a mostly favorable view of Jesus, but an unfavorable view of Christians and the church. The list of charges against the church became the outline for the chapters of the book. According to Kimball, emerging generations think the church pushes a political agenda, is judgmental and negative, oppresses females, and is homophobic. The church is arrogant in its claim that other religions are wrong and is full of fundamentalists who take the Bible literally.

Speaking in generalities (not taking the list point by point) the issue is that of perception and image. Kimball “repeatedly heard in all the interviews for this book that we are people who pick out all of the negative things of the world and then protest them” (pg. 98). To be sure, there are negative things to be protested, but Kimball’s point is that Christians are known more for what we oppose (often politically) than what we stand for spiritually. One online review of this book illustrated this point famously by pointing out that one of those he interviewed was a lesbian – since none of those he used as case studies were believers one wonders why this is relevant. Well, we all know why it was relevant to the reviewer, and that proves Kimball’s point.

Kimball does point out that the positive impression of Jesus held by those he interviewed is often based on partial knowledge. He calls this the Pop Culture Jesus. “This Jesus is a friend who stands up for the poor and needy and is a revolutionary for the oppressed. This Jesus focuses his message on love not hate” (pg 55). These impressions are true as far as they go. But as Kimball points out they are biblically lacking – and while he’s at it, Kimball gives his impressions on how many Christian groups also misrepresent Jesus.

As his solution Kimball modifies the classic Bridge Illustration. In the original there is a massive gap between God on one side and a man on the other. The gap is sin and can only be bridged by Christ. Kimball’s theology at this point is thoroughly orthodox so he is in no way messing with the “gap of sin” nor the method for crossing it. He does modify the familiar tool by adding another chasm, another gap. This time the gap separates a man and the church and the gap is our Christian subculture and projected misconceptions. In this sense there is an additional step, a step that the early church or even the Apostle Paul never faced. This step requires that we must overcome people’s negative connotations (whether correct or otherwise) before they will be willing to consider the other gap. Or as Miroslav Volf put it (although his brother-in-law Peter Kuzmic claim Miroslav got this from him) – “Sometimes we must start by washing the face of Jesus.”

This is a good book. And although I do not track with everything Kimball professes, he’s on track as he gives examples of how to interact with the emerging generations without compromising the truth. If you are interested in connecting with the emerging generation I recommend this book.

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Love matters.

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