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Forward: Bono once wrote a song called The Wanderer. He didn’t sing it on the record because he thought it would sound pretentious if he did. Instead, he had Johnny Cash sing it. No pretense there. I don’t have Johnny Cash to write this post and remove all the pretense. Forgive me, please, in advance, if this sounds pretentious.

I do not know Rachel Held Evans except that some of the other writers here frequent her blog. I don’t know how involved they are except that every now and again we will talk privately about one of her posts. I do want you understand, however, that I am not writing this as a personal attack on Ms. Evans. Maybe it is unsolicited advice. Maybe it’s a parable. Maybe I’m just thinking aloud. That said, I am going to write.

I am sure that Ms Evans has had a difficult experience in the church (with a little ‘c’). I can tell after reading her post 15 Reasons I Left the Church. She cites a few others who have also written about their own reasons for leaving the church including someone who wrote an entire book about why people 18-29 have left the church. 18-29 is a tough age for anyone, but I suppose it is especially so for church folk who are looking for just the right place to call church-home. (It seriously does not require a book to expound the reasons why.)

I do not for a minute doubt the sincerity of Ms Evans’ post, but I confess it is a terribly depressing lot of reasons she gives for rejecting the local body of believers. She wrote, with what I presume to be as much angst as a 30-something can muster up, the following:

I left the church when I was twenty-seven. I am now thirty, and after trying unsuccessfully to start a house church, my husband and I are struggling to find a faith community in which we feel we belong.

There’s a lot of first person pronouns in that explanation.

As I am now 41, not so far removed from 30-something angst, allow me to say: Good luck!

I’d like to tell a story. Nearly 3 solid years ago, I was unceremoniously removed from the congregation I had loved and served for nearly 10 years. I was finishing a week of church camp with my beloved Junior High students from several area churches. It was Friday night, parents were picking up children, I was waiting on everyone to leave so that I, too, could go home and prepare for the sermon I was to preach two days later. It was in the midst of all this that I received a call from, not one of the elders nor one of the deacons, but from one of the church trustees–a man whom I baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He informed me that I needed to be at a meeting the following day.

At the meeting the next day, I was given an ultimatum: stay and we will fire you, give you two weeks’ salary; leave and we will give you six weeks’ salary. Ah, congregations know the way to a preacher’s heart. Of course I took the money. I have regretted it every day since July 12, 2009.

After the meeting, that same trustee informed me: “It’s nothing personal.” Seriously.

Making the matter more compelling is that less than a year before all this happened in July 2009, my wife and I, after 17.5 years of marriage, and 10 years with the same congregation, bought our first house. That six week’s worth of salary was not going to go far. Ah, churches, blessing upon blessing. (I will spare the details of what this episode did for the faith of my sons and my wife.)

Don’t get me wrong. Of the 15 reasons that Ms Evans gives in her post, I actually believe that six of them are solid complaints–serious problems that need to be addressed in the american version of the church, complaints that I, too, would have no problem echoing. Not least among them is her complaint about churches being involved in the politics of the world. I cannot tell you how sick to death I am of hearing preachers and christians staking the course of the christian faith upon the outcome of some god forsaken election. It makes me think that most christians put more faith in the election of conservative politicians than they do in the Lord Jesus. We christians place so much faith in the democratic way of electing leaders that Jesus could no longer say to Pilate, “You would have no power if not given to you from above.”

Pshaw!

OK, I’m off track…my point is that churches, in general, are full of nasty people. I have met them up close and personal–I can give you names, addresses, birthdays–the church is full of ugly things, ugly thoughts, ugly words, and ugly sinners. It’s a nightmare and when a preacher calls them on the fact that it has been so for the better part of their 40 year existence, he is summarily dismissed without so much as a farewell tea or carry-in dinner.

That is, churches are full of people like me. I know that.

For all the bitterness I have masticated the past three years, I also know that for the better part of 10 years I loved and was loved (at least by most). I don’t think we should fly by Ms Evans reason #10 too quickly.

Oh, there was this one time, when I was still in college, that I was filling the pulpit in a church somewhere in the Northwestern part of the state of Ohio. It took probably 4 hours to get there from Lansing, MI, and when I was done preaching, I was given a whopping $30 honorarium. Another time while doing pulpit supply in a church near Detroit, my wife accidentally sat in some old woman’s pew seat. You would have thought we killed her kittens and burned them before her eyes while feeding live bunnies to wolves. I’m serious. In my first church after college, I served for about a year and a half before the church decided that the money given to them by the atheist next door neighbor was more important than hearing the truth on Sundays.

And since I am on the preacher side of things, I could tell you about the ministries of several other preacher friends who have suffered the same or worse at the hands of power hungry elders (or their wives), tool-like trustees, or unhappy people who simply enjoyed eating preachers and their families for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and second dinner.You think it’s tough being a parishioner? Trying being a preacher. Try listening to the reasons why church members leave churches.

Yet I still belong to the church (with a little c). The church we worship with is anything but perfect. The people are sometimes as unfriendly to me as I am to them. Sometimes there is an air of conservative politics pervading the worship and overwhelming the presence of the Spirit. And worst of all, the pastor is a man! (Gasp!) I hold fast to the thought that american christians really have no clue how to define suffering. But, for all my complaints, I believe Jesus is among those people. I can tell because while they were losing their building to the Episcopal church, they were giving themselves away in ministry to local people. They could have took; instead they gave.

What I have learned is that no church is perfect and that, really, it takes faith to belong to the church with a little ‘c.’ It takes a lot of humility–something I confess I lack. It takes a lot of courage–especially when that church doesn’t always line up with your theological or political or biological expectations. It takes a lot of love–especially for gossipy old ladies whose favorite pastime is running down the preacher while getting their hair done and gossipy old men who do the same at McDonalds over coffee. It takes a lot of grace–after all, Jesus showed us that same grace when he welcomed us into his church, the church of which he is the charter member and the head. It’s not just that Jesus has something to do with the church, it’s that Jesus has never left the church. All these years. All that sin. All this ugliness. All the politics and compromise with the culture. Jesus is still here. With us. With the church.

Sometimes I think God allows the church to be as imperfect as it is precisely because there are people like me who have so many problems with the church, who have been mercilessly crushed time and time again by the church, who have been spoon fed to the devils and sifted in the wind, people like me who need to be humbled, and taught what grace really is. In other words, old ladies will always be old ladies, and never mothers, until I humble myself, forgive them, and love them as Jesus has loved me.

I’m not saying church is perfect.* I’m not saying there are never reasons to leave the church. I’m not saying I have it all figured out all the time. I’m not saying I haven’t been the reason other people have left the church. I’m certainly not saying that I am any better than Ms Evans; our lists are just different. I’m just saying that I am still there and that is so for one reason: Jesus is still there.

And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man…’ (Revelation 1:12-13a).

*Thanks to JM and BWW for crushing me one day with the problem I wasn’t seeing: I.

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[Note: I originally published this at my personal blog. I'm reposting here because I'm vain like that.]

I can still remember the day, back in 1988, when I was encouraged–along with my entire Senior government class–to register for the vote. There was an election that year. It was George H. W. Bush (R) versus Michael Dukakis (D). Our government teacher, Miss Lynch (and I have great respect for her, so this is not to disparage her in any way), helped us to get registered so we could vote in the primary. I was certain I would be voting Democrat. If I recall correctly, Jesse Jackson was also a Democrat primary candidate. I was loud enough in class to assure our teacher that I would vote for Jackson in the primary. I don’t remember if I voted in that primary or not (I graduated when I was 17 and I just do not remember.)

Several months later, there would be a presidential election. I was at Parris Island South Carolina, completing my training as a recruit in the USMC. I was one of two recruits during basic training who received absentee ballots. I recall very the very distinct and piercing voice of SSgt Aronhalt telling us, “If you still want to be allowed to carry a gun, you better vote for Bush.” I voted for Dukakis. Probably just to spite SSgt.

Here I am now, twenty some years later, and it is time for another presidential election. This past Sunday I was at worship. We were invited, as we are every Sunday, and as we are commanded in Scripture, to pray for our nation’s leaders. Someone prayed something to the effect of, “Lord, please send us the right candidates.” It struck a raw nerve with me. It’s one thing to pray for leaders, generically; it is quite something else to pray for the ‘right candidates.’ I gnashed my teeth. I have no right to feel that way about someone else’s prayer to God. But I did, and I do. Four days later, that prayer is still bothering me.

I grew up idolizing my grandfather. He had strong political ideas that mostly revolved around Democrat politics. He was a politician and perhaps could have done more with his political ambitions had he not also had ideas that mostly revolved around Miller beer. I knew, from a very early age, that Democrat was the only way that I would ever vote. Die-Hard Democrat: “Democrats stand for the working people; Republicans for the Rich” was the story he told me. With wide, saucer-like eyes, I listened in awe. Of course I voted for Dukakis–as much out of respect for my grandfather as to spite Ssgt Senior Drill Instructor Aronhalt.

I never missed an election cycle–local, state, federal for twenty years. Ever since Miss Lynch encouraged us to register. Voting was my right, responsibility, and privilege. People had ‘died so that I could vote’ or ‘voting freely is what makes America great and unique’ are the mantras I grew up listening to in classrooms and around cans of beer.

Here I am twenty years later and I just do not care any more. My conviction is born out of a heart that has come to the conclusion that it simply does not matter what I do inside that small curtained room. It’s like there’s a giant floating head hovering above us, clothed with smoke and fire, shouting to the candidates, “Don’t pay any attention to that man behind the curtain.” Word. That’s how I feel every time I go to the church building where the polling stations are set up. Ironic, I know, but true nonetheless.

Frankly, I think my conviction is born mostly out of my faith. On the one hand, I have no faith in the ’system’ (I wish I never had any to begin with, but that’s another story) any longer–I’m not so young and naive any longer; my grandfather is dead; I haven’t seen SSgt Aronhalt since November 9, 1988; and Miss Lynch can no longer issue me a detention slip. On the other hand, my faith compels me to neglect the handing of power to the power brokers, power mongers, power feeders, power graspers, power (insert favorite verb)  of this world. Since voting no longer matters, and since I no longer care, I’m not doing it again this year. Not one of those people running for office speaks for me, represents my view, or hopes to accomplish things in the way they should be accomplished. All they can do is throw more money at problems. They do not have in mind the Kingdom of God; they have in mind power: “The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over their subjects.” Indeed.

In every way imaginable, in every conceivable way, government is the antithesis of the Kingdom of God whose King Jesus is.

My conviction is that I will live with those who are chosen to lead, but I will have no part whatsoever in pushing them into power. I will not live in fear of those whose political opinions are diametrically opposed to mine and I will not worship at the throne of those who happen to share similar views. This is faith: that politics carries as much weight as we give them and I refuse to give politics any credibility at all. I refuse to invest my time in their power–it’s bad enough they get my money. I will endeavor to do my best to ignore them, their promises, their threats, their speeches about hope and unity and a ‘better America,’ or, worse, ‘a better tomorrow.’ Frankly, I do not want the sort of hope that is provided by politicians and government. Their hope is no hope at all. They can keep it, and I’ll keep my vote, my money, and myself.

But the worst part of all this? I know when I go to worship on Sunday I will hear something about this insipid political game we play every couple of years–does anyone ever even consider how much damage politics have done, how it destroys the unity of the body of Christ–and precisely because we are invited to pray for our leaders? (Prayers are never so unbiased as to avoid a short sermon or two in between thanking God for our daily bread and delivering us from evil.) I’m waiting for that one sermon that reminds me of what politicians are really like, what they are really about, and what they really hope to accomplish with their power: “But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison” (Luke 3:19-20).

Politicians do not have the best interests of anyone in mind but themselves. Their life and their work is to preserve the continuity of power in the hands of a few. I will no longer play a nice part in the perpetuation and consolidation of power. The Scripture says, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). So if Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities, what on earth could compel me to pick up those arms and willingly hand them back to the power-hungry leaders of this world?

I think the most Christian thing I can do in America right now is NOT vote in the upcoming presidential election.

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Recently a friend of mine messaged me to ask me what I thought about this article.

Things got a little out of control so I decided to post it since I’d spent so much time on it.

Let me begin by saying that I don’t believe the scriptures endorse any economic system, and I believe a case could be made that it rejects all of them in some sense.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but I’m a little stunned at how terrible this article is. The author’s bio seems to indicate he’s a Jewish Rabbi who has lead congregations but I feel like this level of misunderstanding of scriptures is usually one seen only in publications that are overtly secular, with no understanding of scripture outside of a few verses casually read. Take for example, his use of the scripture “six days ye shall work”. The claim made is that this is an affirmation “that on a day-to-day basis work is the engine that brings about man’s inner state of personal responsibility”. However, this is the opposite intent of that scripture. Now, I don’t know precisely which scripture the author is referencing because that phrase is used approximately 9 times in the Torah. They are the commands concerning the Sabbath. And generally they go something like this: “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working. This gives your ox and your donkey a chance to rest. It also allows your slaves and the foreigners living among you to be refreshed.”

What was unusual about this command was not the command to work, as the author claims, but rather the day of rest. The ancient world in which the scriptures were birthed wasn’t really filled with lazy people. For example, the Romans had a five day week, and you worked all five days. The command to take a day off each week was extraordinary. So extraordinary that in Exodus 31.17 God tells his people that this day off each week is “a permanent sign of my covenant with the people of Israel” Not only was this an act pointing to God as creator, but also as provider. It was an acknowledgement that even when it would benefit survival to work all the time their faith in God is such that they will take a day off out of every seven for worship and rest, and God will provide for them. The claim that this command is an endorsement of work misses the point of one of the central commands of God to his people. Coming from a Jewish source I can’t believe this came from ignorance or only casual familiarity with scripture. I suppose I’ll have to be gracious and believe that it comes from being blinded by his commitment to an economic theory over and above his religious commitments.

You probably overlooked this statement (or I should say I overlooked it the first two times reading through): “Regarding mankind, no theme is more salient in the Bible than the morality of personal responsibility.” Frankly, this is such a misjudging of the scriptures its breathtaking. The story of the scriptures is of God working to free his people. From stories like God sending home most of Gideon’s army, to David defeating Goliath, to the work of Christ himself the theme is that God is powerful and God saves his people. A Bible that is thematically about personal responsibility is a Bible in which everyone is abandoned by God.

Let’s shift focus to the author’s view of money and power. The author takes as an assumption that the accumulation of money and power are desirable. Look at his endorsement of a powerful military, as well as the assumption that the best economic system is the one that produces the highest GNP. These assumptions are easy ones to make in our present day, however, they were also easy ones to make when Jesus burst on the scene. That was, after all, precisely what the Jewish people were waiting for. A king, a military commander who would make the streets run red with Roman blood, and bring about a larger GNP for the chosen people. We see this expectation run into the buzz saw of Christ’s goals in John 6.14-15:

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

What Christ continually teaches is that he came to establish an entirely new order. One that was based on servanthood, and denial of self, rather than building up the self as glorious, and powerful. What the Jewish people wanted was to out Roman the Romans. What Christ wanted was to be the anti-Caesar of a new Kingdom that would be the anti-Rome. In Matthew 20 Jesus teaches explicitly about it: “But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In light of this teaching, is it faithful to the scriptures to say that an economic system should be evaluated by the light of scriptures based solely on its ability to garner GNP, and produce a military capable of shattering rivals?

The author also makes a claim that capitalism is obviously Judeo-Christian because Judeo-Christians created the US, and the US is capitalistic. This paragraph is the one I refer to: “No country has achieved such broad-based prosperity as has America, or invented as many useful things, or seen as many people achieve personal promise. This is not an accident. It is the direct result of centuries lived by the free-market ethos embodied in the Judeo-Christian outlook.”

Is the Judeo-Christian outlook also overtly racist? You know where I’m going with this just by that question. The reality is that America has been a racist country from its outset. And the less Christian it has become overall, the less racist it has become. I would, personally, deny that racism and the scriptures go hand in hand, but if you accept that the state of America defines what is Judeo-Christian as the author does when it comes to capitalism, then it is consistent to reason in the same way when it comes to things like race.

While I agree that being made in God’s image means we are creative, and that work is good, I disagree with his characterization of entrepreneurial creativity as the norm for capitalism. Obviously, there has been some of that as we have things like sweet little coffee shops, Findley Market, Etsy, and a variety of other such endeavors. But the norm has been to treat humans as labor units. Coal miners, factory workers, assembly lines, and other such machines of economic activity all were focused on humans as labor units and nothing else. It took government involvement such as anti-trust legislation and the NLRB to get anything resembling fair treatment of workers. And, I would add, this has continued as much of what we laud as creative enterprise such as Apple is only made possible by viewing a massive Chinese workforce as units of labor and nothing more.

The author sneaks into his writing the idea that only a capitalistic society believes people should work. He spends a lot of time linking the idea of work to scripture and then through scripture to capitalism. However, a survey of collectivist oriented cultures would demonstrate that’s just not true. The only difference is the motivation. Working for family, city, and country is the motivation rather than for self through earning money is found throughout collective thinking cultures, many of which are found in the east and so are not Judeo-Christian in addition to not being capitalist.

One final point that I think caps off the view that this author has allowed his idealization of capitalism to overwhelm all other views, obligations, and scripture itself. The author states: “More than any other nation, the United States was founded on broad themes of morality rooted in a specific religious perspective.”

Really? So all those countries that rose to power and political independence in the wake of the Reformation like Germany, France, England and Spain are all less founded on broad themes of morality rooted in a specific religious perspective? Countries founded with state churches, where the churches wielded actual political power weren’t founded with morality with a specific religious perspective above and beyond that of the United States? The more I think about this the more absurd it gets. I can’t not think of countries that were founded with morality with a specific religious perspective.

There are certainly cases that can be made for an individuals’ participation in capitalism, but this isn’t a source for those arguments, in fact, I’m not really sure what this is a source for other than misguided application of scripture.

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I want to start a discussion on what it means to live as a disciple of Christ. To get it started here’s a comment I made in a discussion on my facebook page.

I really don’t see any kind of radical difference in the church. I mean really, living out the resurrection of Christ means you don’t cuss? Seriously? You don’t go to rated R movies? Or does it mean you reject things that most people take for granted. Like the great many careers that are lucrative, but anti-Christ, or the basic premise that acquiring stuff is a good thing (again, like Lloyd this is a tough one for me, but one that God has really smacked me around with for the last year), or the treatment of aliens.

Let me put it this way. While James might be able to debt collect in a Christ-like way (I find it hard to believe you could last long in that industry doing so, but I could be wrong on that), how was that debt incurred? Most Christians I’ve read and talked to assume that its legitimate debt that was incurred by irresponsible people who are deadbeats, who should be dragged into court and have their children sold to pay off the debt. But the flip side of it is that there is a vicious, anti-Christ system that created that debt. You’ve got various credit extending institutions that target people for the use of their instruments, including the naive like college students, who bury their terms in the fine print, and generally squeeze as hard as they can to the extent that they’ve been recently smacked down by congress. On the consumer side of things you’ve got companies aggressively marketing their products, high pressure sales pretty much everywhere (speaking from retail experience here), and extremely shady practices on every level.

So who’s to blame? The answer is: it doesn’t matter. The entire system is anti-Christ, but instead of refusing to participate in it, the American church has generally been approving of it, denouncing those who have been victimized by it instead of denouncing the core of the sin.

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I have an iPad. It’s a great tool for a counselor. There are so many ways it has helped me in my practice. An added bonus is that my kids have a “computer” to play with that is pretty easy for me to monitor. The drawback of this arrangement is that they have figured out how to take pictures and make movies on it.

I mean literally thousands of pictures and videos.  One daughter took 189 pictures of just her right hand. It’s kind of fun to scroll through them.  Many of the pictures are too distorted to actually be of any value. Of course, if you and I are facebook friends, you’ve had the opportunity to see some of the videos.

Today, as I was preparing for my daily sessions I hooked the iPad upto my computer and began to look at the new pictures. Some made me laugh. Some I couldn’t quite figure out.

One made me stop dead in my tracks and swallow really hard. There was a picture of my daughter and my friend’s daughter. My baby didn’t look like a baby anymore. She looked entirely too grown up.

Lately, I’ve been more aware of this truth. My girls are growing up.  The day is probably coming when they won’t want to spend as much time with me as they do now. I want them to stay this small longer. I want them to need me longer.

Of course, I really don’t. That’s not actually the answer. That’s a recipe for emotionally stunted adults who don’t know how to function.

What I want is to soak up every minute I have with them. To gaze on each smile, and catch the glint in each eye. What I need to do is be present every moment that I am with them.

My time with them is limited. Today I will see very little of them. There isn’t much that I can do about that. Tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to make them a part of my entire day. They can help me weed the garden, mow the grass (mostly just riding in the wagon behind me) and I can play with them. Or I can choose to do other things that need to be done. I can be distracted by the pressures of life.

Here’s hoping I choose to be present with my girls. In fifteen years, I doubt I will remember the chore that I didn’t get done today. I doubt that I will remember the stress of today.

I am quite certain I will miss my girls. Tomorrow I will have the memories that we create today.

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“Frightened people were great believers in guilt by association.”
- Under the Dome, p. 510

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I just finished Love Wins. The first 3/4 bored me. As Bell points out, nothing he’s writing is revolutionary, its re-hashed, and any familiarity with Christian belief outside of modern day American protestantism is likely to render this into yesterday’s news. So why are so many criticizing this work, kicking Bell out of Christianity, and in general having a fit over some warmed over theology? I believe the answer is in the last quarter of the book, where Bell takes aim at some sacred cows (reference to Hinduism intentional, as these holy bovines are wholly outside of anything approaching Christianity).

A quote that cuts to the heart of the matter:

When people use the world “Jesus” it’s important for us to ask who they’re talking about. Are they referring to a token of tribal membership, a tamed domesticated Jesus who waves the flag and promotes whatever values they have decided their nation needs to return to? Are they referring to the supposed source of the imperial impulse of their group, which wants to conquer other groups “in the name of Jesus”? Are they referring to the logo or slogan of their political, economic, or military system through which they santify their greed and lust for power?

Love wins on the eternal timeline. But in the present day, culture is winning.

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I’m currently employed by the Catholic Church.

For those of you who know me, you know this is quite a change. Don’t worry, though. I’ve not swam the Tiber, I’ve only changed professions. I’m not going to go into the details, but I will say that this has been a very good change, though it didn’t feel like it at the time.

In the past year or so I’ve read two books that have opened my eyes to the situation of the poor. The first is Under the Overpass. The author writes from a perspective within the church, and walks a couple of miles in homeless shoes as he lives as a homeless person for months. In this book are many observations that touched my heart, and also many observations that made for easy ways a church could care for people who find themselves homeless. For example, like me when you think homeless you probably think food. The authors observed that basic hygiene such as showers, teeth brushing and deodorant were just as needed and often overlooked. How hard is that to provide?

The second book I read is Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. This book is similar to the first in that an author infiltrated a sub-culture in order to write about it. In this case, the author, who has a PhD in biology took on jobs close to minimum wage in order to see if it were possible to get by on those types of jobs. What she found was a lot of indignity and expense. More expense than if she were well off. And again, though this book was written by someone outside of the church, I found a perspective in which a church could minister if it so chose. The needs are more expensive than the homeless, but would it really be impossible for a church to, in some way, provide day care for working single mothers, or work with local landlords to provide a deposit for poor working families who otherwise are left paying weekly for hotels/motels that ultimately are more expensive than an actual apartment.

Recently, I’ve been conversing with what was once a very close friend, but we’ve grown apart through time and distance. We’ve been discussing Rob Bell. One of the things he’s disturbs by is when Bell says or writes things like the resurrection or the fall or some other piece of theology isn’t just a historical event, but something that happens now, in our lives.

I understand Bell entirely.

At one point, one of my fellow pastors in the town I lived and served had founded a soup kitchen to serve low income and homeless families and people of our community. The thing is, that we had problems recruiting enough people to serve this weekly soup kitchen. We needed around 5 people per week to provide the volunteer help. While they had to do all the work of providing the meal, they didn’t have to pay for it themselves. He served a church of 150, I served a church of 250 (this was attendance on a weekend, not the total number of “members” on the book). That means roughly 60% of our church attendees would have had to volunteer and every single week would be covered. The thing is, we couldn’t come up with enough volunteers from every single church in our city. Not just our two churches, but every church in the city.

So when Bell admonishes the church that the resurrection is something that should be lived now, that the Kingdom of God is something ongoing, I get it.

And so, now the Pope pays me roughly 1/2 of what a Protestant church was paying me. I get to go home at night knowing, instead of hoping, I made a difference in the lives of the poor, and powerless. And through all this change, and difficulty I can state definitively that the American church doesn’t have a belief problem, it has a doing the belief the problem. Because I’ve run into far more people that have a problem with Rob Bell than have no problem with serving in a soup kitchen.

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Is it weird that I’m offended by chocolate crosses, but would at least consider buying a chocolate empty tomb?

I’m not sure why this is.

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“We have become a culture of cultural critics and a church of church critics. Perhaps more of us need to be quick to convert our concern about the moral failures of others into body pleading for them instead of public words against them.” (Fasting, 42)

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