February 29, 2008

February 28, 2008

the Whole Church Should Get Drunk


Please READ...

There is nothing like religion, politics, and parenting to bring out people's ignorance. I'll admit, in reverse order to the above list, I am ignorant. But something I have learned is to listen. When my brother and sister-in-law talk about parenting, I listen. When my pastor talks about church, I listen. When the media talks about politics, I listen. And here is the rub, I disagree with all three of the mediums I justed listed in certain respects.

So I ask you whether or not your values line up with mine, or your beliefs about religion line up with mine, please just listen. For the first time in my life, I have really been involved and tried to learn about our presidential hopefuls. I in no way declare political allegiance, because my allegiance lies elsewhere.

But, this race is clouded by ignorance especially concerning Barack Obama. I've received enough emails to publish a small book declaring "Don't vote for Obama, He's a Muslim!!!" This my friends and family is trash. Any Christian who passes this email is in desperate need of repentance, because I can think of no clearer case of slander and unwholesome talk.

I'm just going to say this once, Obama is in no way a Muslim. To refute this is to reveal your ignorance, so please stop. Here's his church, which by the way, is pastored by one of Ebony magazine's best 15 US pastors, oh and yes the church is confessionally black, but not "black nationalist" (if you react against this statement, then yes you are more racist than you realize). And yes, white folks do go and are welcomed in this community.

But what about these alleged and fallacious claims that Obama is tied to the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in Chicago (Obama's home)? Or his upbringing in a Muslim home attending the madrassa Muslim school? REALITY is is that Obama talks about coming from an AGNOSTIC home and while working alongside Christian churches in Chicago doing community development. As he relates in The Audacity of Hope, Obama retells how he walked the aisle and personally gave his life to Christ. And he has constantly tried to separate himself from Farrakan. "I live in Chicago. He lives in Chicago. I've been very clear, in terms of me believing that what he has said is reprehensible and inappropriate. And I have consistently distanced myself from him," Obama relates.

I do not write this as a political piece in order to promote or even endorse Obama. I write this as a Christian who believes that we are called to live above reproach and purity, and to speak with wholesome, pure, and truthful words. As write this as a brother in Christ who hopes this will be a step in removing the log in our own eyes, before pointing out the splinters in everyone else's.

Inspired by Jim Wallis, a CHRISTIAN political leader who recently defended Obama.

February 26, 2008

Like Hope, But Different

Akin to Obama's "Yes We Can" video, here's a great video featuring McCain:

February 25, 2008

Updated Blog

As you can tell, I've updated my blog which has been long overdue. I was quite tired of the last template and I really like this one. I was just about ready to give up on Blogger when my first template totally screwed up and wouldn't work after working on it for hours.

The header is a great picture of my journey last summer to Christ in the Desert Monastery in the desert of New Mexico where I prayed the hours with a the monks. The trip was refreshing, but at the same time brought up the questions of how we may this life accessible to everyday people, what seems like the colliding of two worlds.

The painting on the right was hijacked from Flickr, which is a public photo sharing community so I hope its legal even though the painting is copy righted. Check out the artists other works. The name of the piece is LABYRINTH: Maybe I am Crazy. I chose it because after searching unsuccessfully for a good Kaleidoscope picture, I came across this one and it expresses well my faith journey. As the blog is titled, my faith has been a collision of sorts resulting in myriad shapes, forms, and colors in my life. In my head these are the things I want so much to bring together: faith, life, culture, community, nature, the world, and Christ; but I have such a difficult time doing. When these various pieces amalgamate the effect is often a crash resulting in the perspective I call collideOscope.

Is the Gospel Startling?

I recently came across this post. It's more or less a midrash on John 4, the story of the Jesus in Samaria and the woman at the well. I've posted the Scripture midrash in its entirety because, well, it's just that good.

"Jesus Talks With A Gay Man - (John 4:1-33, 39-42 - more or less...)

1 In late July, the Metro Chicago Synod heard that Jesus was attracting more first-time visitors and baptizing more adults than any other ELCA pastor in the city, 2 although in fact it was not really Jesus who had baptized them, but his irregularly-commisioned staff of unordained lay ministers. 3 Now when Jesus learned of this, he left the seminary community in Hyde Park and went back once more toward the ELCA headquarters on Higgins Road.

4 Now to get there, he had to go through an area just north of downtown called Boystown. 5 So he came to a part of Boystown called Northhalsted, not far from the plot of ground where Emperor Mayor Daley had ordained that the Chicago Cubs should play baseball. 6 Cub's Stadium was near there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey on the Red Line, sat down at a sidewalk café table outside the bar called Hydrate. It was just about lunch-time, and though the rainbow flags were fluttering in the breeze and the music inside the bar was pumping, there weren't many people around (because it's often hot and miserable outside, at mid-day in late July, in Chicago).

7 A waiter came to the table, wearing a bright pink "His+His" t-shirt and a "Silence=Death" armband, and raised one eyebrow at the man seated at the table in front of him in the "Come Follow Me" t-shirt. Jesus said to him, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 (All the lay ministers had gone down the street to pick up Subway sandwiches for the rest of the journey.)

9 The gay man said to him, "Hey...you tell me. After all, you appear to be a straight Christian, and I'm a gay man. Let's face it - we don't get many religious folks in Boystown, let alone places like this. And I'm not only a gay man, but I'm a Muslim gay man. So where does a guy like you get off asking someone like me for a drink?" (For Christians do not associate with gays, nor with Muslims if they can help it.)

10 Jesus answered him, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

11 "Hey, mister," the gay man said, "I'm the waiter here. I don't see you with an order pad or a serving tray, and it's tough for customers to even get close to our fountain-drink station, let alone our bar. So how are you going to get anything for me to drink, let alone 'living water'? Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you somehow greater than the folks who own this place, who let us drink have free water and soda (and snitch the occasional mixed drink) whenever we want?"

13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks your water, or your soda, or your beer will get thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

15 The gay man said to him, "Yeah? Mister...you know what, I have no idea who you really are, or even what the heck you're talking about. But you're the first Christian man in 20 years that hasn't spit on me, or called me 'an abomination' to my face. Somehow, I think I want some of what you're offering. Give me some of this water you keep talking about, so I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to get something to drink."

16 Jesus told the man, "OK - just call your wife and come back here, and we'll talk."

17 "Who are you kidding?" the gay man said. "Don't you know where you are? You're in Boystown, for cryin' out loud. I don't have a wife, or a girlfriend. Heck, right now I don't even have a boyfriend," he replied.

Jesus said to her, "You're right when you say you have no boyfriend. The fact is, you've had five boyfriends, and the guy you're living with now isn't even your boyfriend. He's just a guy you picked up in the club - some guy who doesn't even know your real last name."

19 Whoah, buddy," the gay man said, "that's pretty intense! How'd you know that about me?" Jesus was silent. "OK...I get it. Maybe you're one of those folks who can see right through people - maybe one of those guys with 'second sight.' Maybe you're one of those folks who 'have the Spirit,' like those televangelists say. 20 I don't know anything about that. My family - my people (the ones who are observant, anyway) - think that you have to pray five times a day to Allah to get that kind of power. The rest of the people I know don't even bother with that spiritual mumbo-jumbo...they just think you have to work out a lot, look good, live fast, die hard and leave a good-looking corpse. And all the Christians I've met think that I have to pray their way, and start living life their way, or I'm 'going to hell.' Either way, my day-to-day life is so empty, I'm not convinced that I'm not already in hell. What's a guy supposed to believe?"

21 Jesus said, "Believe me, my friend, a time is coming when you won't worship God in Mecca, or in the gym, or in the club, or in a church sanctuary. 22 You and your friends worship what you think you know, but do not know. Christians worship what they do know, for salvation is promised in Scripture. 23 Yet a time is coming - and has now come - when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

25 The gay man said, "I know that the church folks say that their Savior is coming. Maybe when he finally gets here, he will explain everything to us."

26 Then Jesus declared, "Then wait no longer. I'm the one they're waiting for."

The Irregularly-Commissioned Lay Ministers Rejoin Jesus

27 Just then the lay ministers returned and were more than a little surprised to find Jesus apparently talking with a gay man - one who appeared to be Middle-Eastern in origin, to boot. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with him?"

28 Then, leaving his tray and his order pad behind at the table, the gay man went back to the bar, and even next door to the gym and to the other clubs, and said to the people, 29 "You gotta come and see this... come see a guy who told me everything I ever did, and didn't run away or act disgusted. Could this possibly be 'the Christ' all those religious folks keep talking about?" 30 People came out of the gym, and out of the bars and clubs, and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile the lay ministers (the ones who considered themselves Jesus' disciples) kept saying, "Hey, padré, you may walk on water, but come on - even Michael Jordan's gotta eat something." 32 But Jesus said to them, "I have a source of energy that you know nothing about."

33 Then his disciples said to each other, "Did someone slip him some Mrs. Field's cookies while we weren't looking?"
Many Gays and Lesbians Believe

39 Many of the gays and lesbians who gathered from all around Boystown believed in Jesus because of what the waiter said: "You gotta come and see this... come see a guy who told me everything I ever did, and didn't run away or act disgusted." 40 So when the people of that area - gay men, lesbians, bisexuals (even people in civil unions from Vermont and Episcopalians visiting from New Hampshire) came to him, they urged Jesus to stay with them. So rather than continuing the ride out to Higgins Road, the irregularly consecrated lay ministers found some rooms at a nearby bed-&-breakfast, and he stayed in Boystown - amidst the people with whom most Christians would not associate - for two days. 41 And because of what Jesus spoke to the men and women there, many more became believers.

42 The people who heard Jesus said to the gay man who first encountered him, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."
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Yes, Virginia - yes indeed...the Gospel really IS that shocking."

February 22, 2008

Presidential Hopefuls God-O-Meter

Follow this link to find where your presidential hopeful lands on the God-O-Meter.

Seemless Christianity

Kester at Signs of Emergence has an interesting post inspired by the 14 Grand Engineering Challenges of the 21st Century where he asked around seeking answers to the question: what are the 'grand challenges' for theology for the 21st Century? The multivalent answers not only reveal proclivities, but also show that this question a bit, well...dualistic? esoteric? uhm, shortsighted?

Theology as mainly an academic sort of esoteric activity of professional clergy or professors is quickly losing its relevance and for good reason. In church culture or christendom today there a seems to be a pervasive attitude within the community that theology is for the professional to produce and a commodity to be received. Simply stated, there is alot of bad theology ranging from the health and wealth gospels to myopic-soul salvation gospels. Why? Partly, but certainly not wholly because the church has become a place for the people, where people come to receive from the professionals; instead a church of the people where the school teacher, engineer, art director, construction worker, or business executive struggle with theology in life.

My humble response to the question was inspired especially by Sue Wallace's quote

There is a sense in which the biggest theological challenges will always be the ones of cultural communication, and the frustrating thing is that as soon as we have sussed out how to speak one language, the world has moved on, and we have to learn another if we are to engage in serious dialogue, and offer true hope rather than incomprehensible poetry.

The very reason this is a problem is because we have a Christian subculture that is separate from the world, always chasing after the world (irony?) trying to keep up and realize the trends thus creating secondary and often bad art, music, clothes, and books.

My response:
The task of theology will be to empower the church of the people (not professionals for the people) to imaginatively follow Christ while living in the world thus not creating a separate culture but a community of hope and love that grapples with the real problems of the world, ie: poverty, enviromentalism, nuclear weapons, war, genocide, open relationships to the "other" [for example] looking to the future hope of new creation, resurrection.

February 18, 2008

The Intimate Truth on Objective Truth, Pt. 5

Finally, I come to the conclusion of series on all things objectively true, relative, and intimately true. You can check out Part 1, 2, 3, & 4.

Simple stated, I do not believe that objective truth exists. Let me nuance that, I do not believe that we can know the Truth objectively without our frame of reference, particularities, culture, and values guiding what and how we think. I do believe there is Truth, so not I don't we're left with relativism, but to a faithful relativity. We need story, traditions, cultures, history, along with scientific reasoning to get to the truth.

Everything outside of reason though was erased from the methods of seeking truth with Kant who said that religion has to fit within the bounds of reason. Nicholas Wolterstorff, a Christian philospher, flips Kant's line on its head by saying that reason must fit within the bounds of reason.

Most people who are squeemish at the mention of nonobjectivity are those moderns who ahve bought into the idea that truth can be had apart from one's perspective. Reasoning is core and foundational to what it means to be human, and humans are seemingly by nature religious. Even if you can't admit that humans are religious by nature, I think you must admit that we cannot escape our place in life, who we are, our enculturation process.

The most important reason for myself to pull back the curtains on objectivity to realize that it truly is a bankrupt commission, is because too often religion adherents (especially Christians) claim to have THE OBJECTIVE TRUTH. Many consequences follow, but the worst that I find in my Western, white middle class context is Christians claim that the gospel is objectively true while pulling away from the church as the center of truth. So what is lost when we claim the gospel is objectively true? We lose embodied witness. Why live out the gospel when I can point to an objective truth that exists outside of reality?

God though did not find it fit to drop facts and knowledge to be known as truth, but rather God dropped a baby into the world that one day would proclaim himself as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Truth can only be known in faithful, covenant relationship. We must be in faithful relationship to ourselves in our context, to traditions, religions, cultures, histories, reasoning, philosophy, art, and most importantly God.

February 1, 2008

The Intimate Truth on Objective Truth, Pt. 4

In continuation of my series on truth, Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, and one of my reasons, today I'll try to construct how truth is understood rather than objective. Usually, when I get this far into this conversation with truth the answer suggested is that we should just strive for a more objective, objectivity or humble objectivity. Seems like a noble enough goal. But I hardly think it's an answer.

The way we understand truth is based on the way we understand the world. Ontology precedes epistemology. For example, when you understand the world as an objective reality that works like a machine we study it and make it submit to our desires. Fundamentally, we describe the world as a "watch" built by the "watchmaker." Thus, when the world is understood in materialistic terms the techniques for materialistic knowledge will be elevated above all others, "This is just the way the world is or works."

The Bible though does not talk about the world in mere materialistic and mechanistic terms, but rather the world is dynamic, personal, and a living creation with a voice. The stars witness (Ps. 19), the creation groans (Rom. 8:22), the trees sing (Ps. 96:12), the land mourns (Jer. 12:4; Hos. 4:1-3), and the rocks on the side of the road praise God (Luke 19:40).

As seen above, the metaphors that we use to describe the world around us are often telling of how we view the world (ontology). Trees can be understood as crops, products, decorations, habitats, parks, or responsive agents in God's creation.

What is needed to counter the idolatry of reason created by objectivity, is an epistemology based on relationships.