December 31, 2009

Desiring the Kingdom, James K.A. Smith - A Book Review

Why is it that the everydayness of many Western Christians' lifestyles often reflect the values of their culture instead of Christ? How do our ways of engaging and teaching discipleship often leave our actions thin but our heads heavy? What is it that our actions betray our words or beliefs so that we proclaim God as highest but pay homage to the other gods of entertainment, consumerism, or nationalism? James K.A. Smith's newest reflection on education at its core is a reflection on discipleship. In this quest, he gives a fuller and more correct understanding of humans as affective, desiring animals in able to work towards a deeper discipleship, but fails to go beyond classical liturgical practices. This book is valuable to many: students, teachers, Sunday Schools, professors, preachers, and academics.

While I'll hold off on a full review I will say that he takes off better than he lands. Part I of the book is devoted to constructing a deeper philosophical anthropology than the anthropology modernity or romanticism. The core argument of Desiring the Kingdom is that humans at their core are not thinking or even believing animals, but rather are precognitive, pre-rationalist lovers. We are what we love, we are what we worship. Furthermore, the first part of the book reflects upon the power of "secular" liturgies that form and shape human desire and love, so that our love is misdirected. Much of my aggravation from my own as well the discipleship of the Western church, is that the true formative practices of our daily lives come less from the church than the mall, White House, flag, Jerry World (the newest Mecca of entertainment and competition: the Dallas Cowboys Stadium). While these things are not evil in themselves, they should not be the focus of our desire as they tend to claim.

Overall, the power of Part I is Smith's aim is to unveil the truth that behind every pedagogy or practice for teaching is a philosophical anthropology, or understanding of human existence. I fully appreciate Smith's understanding of human anthropology: "loving, desiring, affective, liturgical animals who, for the most part, don't inhabit the world as thinkers or cognitive machines."
So, instead of being pushed by our beliefs, we are "pulled by a telos that we desire."

Part II builds off of the anthropology of humans as "fundamentally and primordially- lovers," to instill worship as the creation of habits that "constitute the fulcrum of our desires." Smith claims rightly that instead of focusing on changing beliefs or worldviews, the church or particularly the Christian university must inculcate habits that counter the cultural practices that are "thick"- or powerful enough to (mis)guide human desire. The final section of Desiring the Kingdom reflects on the worship practices in the Christian tradition that are "formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life." Possibly the most important piece in this section for myself is Smith's argument that the imago die is basically the participation of humans in the missio dei, but not in those words.

This is where Smith gets closest to being right. The practices that will ultimately guide human desire lie with and beyond the Sunday morning worship service. "[T]he image of God is a task, a mission," writes Smith. Thus, beyond classical liturgical practices found in "worship," the church must create an ethos and ethic of participation in the mission of God. It is only by moving from doing mission and worship, to being mission and worship through ministering, living among, and fighting for caught up in God's mission of redemptive love that the church will claim once again the hearts of the church with "thick" practices. Counter-formation must occur beyond the walls of Sunday morning.

December 10, 2009

Sermon: Hope and Advent

Text:Revelation 21:22-22:5

If you had asked me when I first became a Christian, moving from atheism to Christianity, what THE Christian hope was…I’d probably have said something along the lines of “heaven.” Jesus died on the cross for me, so that when I die I’ll go to heaven. As Charlotte my wife likes to recount, when we first started dating, I was often quoted as saying such things as “I think only the right Baptists are going to heaven” and other things like “this world is not my home.”

See, I had met the grace of God in the muck of a legalistic tradition, a tradition that taught me all the right words and gave me all the right answers.

So at odds with my introduction to faith, a few summers back I went on a pilgrimage to India…the land of openness and difference. Landing first in the Western capitalist landscape of Hong Kong, I decided everything was up for grabs. The question I needed answered for myself was…

so what am I hoping for, what do I place my hope in? Do I believe in Jesus so I can go to heaven? So I can be a nice or good person? Do I believe in Jesus because I was born in the USA had no other choice?

Certainly my earlier faith had outlined it simply enough: Believe in Jesus, get to heaven. My hope was not of this world. But this was no longer enough.

The final book in our sacred Scriptures, the Book of Revelation may be the most popular book in all of the Bible…at least, the most popular to misinterpret and misread. Certainly much of my own shortsighted hope, my fire insurance Jesus, came from a different emphases found in Revelation.

Revelation I was taught, gives us a picture of what the last days, the end times will be like. Ultimately the picture I was given was one of separation: people like me and with my beliefs on the inside, those without my beliefs on the outside.

Here is where hope is often confused. We oftentimes confuse hope, with anticipation. We’ve all anticipated something: anticipation means an expectation within the realm of possibilities, anticipating what we can already see and know, what we can enact and bring about. Anticipation- centers on our human activity, and because of that anticipation often reflects human belief.

“God created man in his image and then man returned the favor.” Reflected Voltaire.

Anticipation is the creation of God in our own image, created by our own expectations and wishes. Even in my early stages of faith, my anticipation of the afterlife was a wish to be free from the cares of this world and to be separated from all those I disliked: all the sinners, drinkers, smokers, etc.

But the Christian hope weaved throughout the narrative of Genesis to Revelation, is a radically different hope: the hope of resurrection.

Unlike expecting something within the realm of possibilities, within what I can do as a human…hope is something new, hope creates new possibilities within my realm because it relies on God’s coming to us.

Many have written off the historical possibility of Christ’s Resurrection or the idea that God came down as a baby as ill-logical…not fitting within the realm of rational possibilities.

But this misses the point of resurrection and incarnation: this is God’s action toward us, this is a new possibility in the realm of possibilities. And so we see in this final picture of Revelation, a restored creation, everything resurrected and made new. The hope laying not in some ethereal heaven, but the hope laying in God’s newly created world, where those whom Christ has died for gather to worship.

To be honest, I still struggle with this idea of hope at times. I remember standing in the halls of an amazing Hindu temple, irreverently gawking at statue after statue of Krishna, Ganesh, Ram, and many more in the form of their avatars: elephants, turtles, boars, and many more.

And while as an outsider I cannot pretend to value or understand the truth of Hinduism or any other culture or religion, I encountered God in the streets of India more than it’s majestic temples. I experienced God more in the lives of men and women who devoted their lives to serving the HIV positive, considered dalits and untouchables in that culture, and in the lives of the sisters at Mother Teresa’s home of the dying.

And the place I learned to see God among the untouchables, the experience that gave me eyes to see and ears to hear God among the cast out and nameless, was in the unique person of Jesus Christ. And while I consider the conversation of world religions, universalism, pluralism, truth, and God in many forms valuable, and there’s certainly not sufficient time to cover that subject tonight, I walked away from the land of difference and otherness with a fresh grasp on Resurrection: hope: the person of Jesus Christ.

So what I learned from the sisters who served the poor in the streets of Calcutta, what I’ve learned from people in our church that adopt and work with the homeless in our own city is that Christ died, as NT Wright likes to say:

To give - Hope for life before death, not life after death.
And this for me is what changes. What is Christian hope, what does it mean to put your hope in Christ.

It is significant that the author of revelation ties the new creation to the city of Jerusalem, and certainly this a metaphorical city pertaining not to the actual city, but rather it could be any city where God resides.

Aristotle once wrote that “people come together in the city to live; they remain there in order to live the good life.”

Hope is a learned activity, and the question is, who is teaching us? We find throughout the world cities that capture the imagination in their ability to transcend time and space, their ability to be more than national, but international. Cities like Hong Kong, London, New York, and possibly even Austin.

It’s now the cities that are informing rural youth how to live and dress, college students what to dream for and where to live. Billboards, flashing lights, and larger than life ads distract us into what to hope for…the good life.

Thus, we are taught the good life, lies in the realm of human possibilities, that we can act and achieve happiness if we live right, get the best education, reside in the best part of town, drive the newest car, own the newest device, wear the hippest clothes…hope becomes the anticipation of the good life.

The Christian season of Advent is a season pregnant with hope, as sacred and sacred as the virgin Mary. The Incarnation, God with us points us to the reality that God is active and working in the world and the Resurrection is teaching hope for the good life.

What will give the church, Christians the ability to resist the manipulation by the international city, in hopes of God’s resurrected city? The same thing that gave Mother Teresa and the many nameless sisters serving the nameless the ability to live in poverty, the same thing that gave Martin Luther King strength and endurance as he nonviolently worked toward racial reconciliation, and the same thing that gives people all throughout the world the ability to suffer for another’s sake: the hope of the good life.

To be able to dream and end when all will gather and worship God, when every person, no matter of color or creed will have enough to eat, have choices beyond menial tasks, and been given a place at the table of dignity- the good life of resurrection, the good life found in the counter-cultural Resurrection and Incarnation of God.

So while our cities of glitz and glamor, celebrity and wealth may capture our eyes…it’s the hope of new life for all, worshiping the true God that gives us the ability to here and now embrace an alternative future. For what we do now, whether painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, caring for the earth, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself- will last into God’s future.

So the invitation this Advent is to reflect resurrection, to work alongside God who is here and now in the midst of our busy lives, and bring the future hope into the present.

December 7, 2009

My Second Sunday AM to Preach

Well, I recently had the opportunity to preach my 2nd Sunday morning worship service at First Baptist. While I definitely felt more comfortable in the pulpit, I wasn't overly excited about the sermon itself. If you want, here's a link to listen to it here and click on 2009-11-29 or click here for the Itunes link.

Here's the sermon:

I’m very fortunate in that my sister and I have almost always had a good relationship. Separated by 3 years in age, and probably 6 years in maturity levels we hardly ever fought, only because I knew who would win…and I hated to lose. The only fight I may have ever won was well, do you remember the hot-wheels airplanes? Unlike the hot-wheels cars, these little planes were akin to weapons, in that their wings were very pointy. And in the intensity of an argument, I chunked one at her face. She still wears the scars of that battle.

Besides those few fights, we mostly played, colored, and laughed together. Certainly one of our favorite times of the year was Christmas. Not having a grown up in the church, this time of the year held a certain mysticism, it was a magical time. Every December, we’d load up as a family in my dad’s old, Ford pickup and drive down to the Rotary Club Tree Lot and spend about hour finding the right tree. Then we’d toss it in the back of the yellow truck, drive home, and with Alvin and the Chipmunks playing on 13” vinyl, we’d adorn the house and tree in glitter and gold…all in anticipation of Christmas morning.

Slowly over the next few weeks, we’d watch as the Christmas tree’s skirt filled with gifts of all shapes and sizes, waiting for mom and dad to leave the room so we could shake and hold the wrapped gifts guessing and hoping for what lay inside.

But one year, I noticed that the house adorned and lit, filled with a decorated tree …was missing on element: gifts. Unlike all my previous experience with Christmas, no presents magically appeared under the tree, the few gifts were to be found were for aunts and uncles, but where were my family’s gifts? more importantly, where were my gifts?

Unbeknownst to me, my parents decided to hide them a few weeks longer seeing that my sister and I..mostly me…would shake and really try to figure out all the presents. By the time the last week before Christmas came, I was getting nervous. How would I celebrate Christmas morning with nothing under the tree for me?

Distinctly I remember one night my father had returned from work and all of us were sitting in the living room, I began to inquire about the lack of what obviously we all had known. And so I just asked, innocently and nicely, “But where are my gifts?”

You have to understand, my dad has always been a bit of a prankster, so his quip back to us was, “well, this year things are different. Since you’re sister got braces just a few months ago, we weren’t able to get you anything. Maybe next year.” I forgot to mention, but sister had just gotten braces.

I didn’t know what to think…“Maybe next year…nothing” I remember being dumbfounded, certainly my dad was mistaken…could we get a refund on all that metal in my sisters mouth…my sister…it’s her fault. So I turned to my sister, who to this day says that was the meanest look she has ever received from anyone, even more than the time she had a toy airplane thrown at her face and scowled.

Once my dad realized how well I was taking to this joke, he sprung up and left the room into the garage. I was sure we had checked all the hiding places in the house, but I guess we hadn’t discovered the garage. And within seconds, there standing in the living room was my dad with a big box of presents with my sister’s and my name on them.

Well, we are once again into this time of year we call Christmas. Unlike my childhood anxiety and angst over what I would or wouldn’t get under the tree, my anticipation of this Holiday has greatly changed in the last 5 years or so.

This morning is the first morning in something I never knew existed growing up: the Christian season of Advent: the intentional weeks leading up to and preparing us for the most radical interruption in human life and history: the Incarnation: God with us.

The Gospel reading from Luke paints for us a picture. He begins with a name, Herod, King of Judea, or Herod, King of the Jews. It’s easy to overlook this name and go straight into the story, but Luke makes sure Herod’s name stands at the top of story, as his name often stood at the top of Jewish life.

Herod’s job, procured at the hands of Roman authority was first and foremost to keep the peace for Rome. Thus, for 34 years he ruled Israel, manipulating everyone from Rome, to the many Jewish insurrectionists.

Everyone in Israel knew the name, and many shuttered with detest for his unscrupulous ways, murdering his favorite wife, his uncle, mother-in-law, and at least 3 of his sons as well as countless slaves.

Yet many in the area couldn’t help but be in awe.

For Herod’s way of creating and sustaining peace occurred through captivating the imagination with large building projects, structures strewn throughout major cities-amphitheaters, hippodromes, palaces, shrines, fortifications, aqueducts, forums, roads, new and restored cities, foundations, and of course his pinnacle of success…the rebuilt Jerusalem temple. It was as if Herod was trying to out-Rome, Rome. At every turn in Israel, one found reminders of the “King of the Jews.”

What captures our imaginations as a collective group of people, as Americans, as Christians, as mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons? As the church? Certainly as a church in downtown it’s not hard to see the pinnacles of architecture meant to grab at our attention and inform us who’s in charge or who really matters. We know what matters according to our culture: it’s easy to label those things: money, power, sex, influence, and fame.

But what is your imagination held captive to, what does your life reflect? This may be as simple as looking into your checkbooks…looking at your computer’s history or bookmarks…reflecting upon time spent or not spent with loved ones, hurting ones, and forgotten ones.

What is holding your imagination captive as to prevent you from asking those around you hard questions, or keeping your children or spouse accountable? What’s keeping you from having deep and meaningful relationships? Where do you spend your life?

Ivan Illich was once asked, how do you change the world? Revolution or gradual reform?

After thinking for a few seconds, he replied neither, you must change the world by telling a alternative story.

At face value this story of Zachariah and Elizabeth’s visitation and pregnancy seems simple enough, but Luke is a master storyteller, interweaving the thick narrative of God’s history found in the Jewish Scriptures.

Luke writing to a predominantly gentile, non-Jewish audience, and probably a gentile himself sets out to write a history of Jesus’ birth…therefore he makes the story very Jewish. I’m not sure if he expected his audience to know the history and stories from the Law, the Prophets, and Apocalyptic literature, but we see in this story several flashbacks to these things. Did you catch them all?

There’s the obvious illusion to the elderly barren couple: Abraham and Sarah. The couple that God gave the promise to bless the entire world through. The couple with whom God’s mission of love and movement toward humanity found its inception.

Then there’s a hint in Luke’s writing to another couple: Elkanah and Hannah- parents of Samuel, the last judge, the pre-cursor to Saul, the King. Samuel, debatably the best ruler and judge of the OT.

And finally, with the appearance of the angel Gabriel, Luke’s technique becomes more dominant. He not only ties the story he is writing to the Law and Prophets represented by Abraham and Samuel, he’s ties it to the last part of the Jewish Scriptures: the writings. The book of Daniel mentions Gabriel, the angel of the end times.

So as you can see, Luke is very purposefully writing in such a way to say that God is once again acting in continuation this story, but at the same time this is new and unique.

For every good Jew knew what the end times in biblical history meant, and it’s not the oft-portrayed destruction of apocalyptic movies like 2012 or the Day after Tomorrow. Rather, the eschatological end time meant that God would act in a new way, and this new age would be an age of mission, where every nation would gather in praise to God’s kingdom. Where the promise conceived in Abraham would be born into the world.

Thus for Luke, this age of mission began long ago with God’s promise to Abraham, but would be enacted in a promise to this elderly, barren couple: righteous before God, but without child…a curse in that culture.


And so I hope the foolishness of the story is obvious: on one hand there is this very powerful and fertile man who holds everyone in Israel captive with pomp: Herod who has built the magnificent temple, the place where God dwells. And instead of talking to Herod, God’s messenger comes down and gives a promise to Zachariah and Elizabeth, nobody’s in the grand scheme of things: righteous and holy, but impotent and barren.


From my understanding, the church is this couple. We stand before God’s promise, chosen to be the parents of the one who prepares the way for God Incarnate. Not the hope itself, but to be witnesses to the Hope of the world.

But like Zachariah and Elizabeth, we must learn to listen in silence and wait until our hope is born.

This Advent, as we move toward Christ’s coming to us to redeem and make the entire creation new; let us wait and listen. In these two practices we will find that God equips us to Incarnate Hope in the midst of alternative stories, even in the Temple itself.

As Zachariah’s ourselves, it’s important to see that God placed a silence over him, so he wasn’t able to speak until he worshipped God at the birth of his Son, John.

The study of linguistics, how we communicate, reveals that we communicate more in silence than we do in words. Confucious says language is like a wheel: spokes centralize it, but the spaces make the wheel.

Anyone who has ever learned to speak a foreign language knows that it takes much more delicate understanding and listening to learn the silence of a language than its words.

First, we must become silenced in order to open ourselves to God’s conception of hope. We must be deep listener’s of God’s movement in us and around us. It’s easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in the Herodian structures and influences surrounding us, so we laugh at God’s way of working: coming down in human flesh, among the weak and forgotten, using the barren and impotent.

Of course, There is a silence that threatens true listening: this is a silence of apathy. The silence of a wife who tunes out her husband, the silence of a father who would prefer not intervene and correct his child, the silence of a friend who would rather let you hurt then hear the truth. This is the silence of someone who comes to church week in and week out, never committing to anything, as if perfection or conversion has been reached. This is the silence that allows for anger in the home to dwell, giving importance to the trivial matters of this world. This is the silence that moves people toward isolation and loneliness.

True silence, silence that opens one person to another for listening is never easy. It’s even harder when a greater difference in relationship exists: such as between a busy working father and a homeless mother, or a confused parent and hurting child. –but the greater the distance, the greater the sign of love and opportunity for God to work… for it’s much more difficult to listen someone’s deep passions than to talk about football or TV, or whatever we are comfortable talking about.

This silent listening must not only be practiced among those whom we are different from and called to love; but must also occur in prayer for no greater difference occurs than in the relationship between a person and God.

Only in silence is Zachariah prepared to make the faithful proclamation, and in silence we will learn to listen to and prepare ourselves to Incarnate hope.


After the silence of conception, allowing ourselves to become aware of others’ needs and God’s action; comes the silence of nurture. This is silently waiting for the right moment for hope to be born into the word; not forcing ourselves into situations, but working with God.

But this silence of acting in the right moment is threatened by our busy lives.

It’s ironic that there may not be a harder time in the year to make room for others and act patiently then the Christmas time. We run about shopping, cooking, decorating, working longer hours to pay for things unneeded, filling our hours with busyness.

We also jump past this prudence of acting with God, by short-circuiting his ways for the sake of our own efficiency, and speed.

G.k. Chesterton, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century wrote this about our his time, which is a greater reflection upon our own:

“the chief mark of our time is a profound laziness and fatigue; and the fact is that the real laziness is the cause of the apparent bustle. Take one quite external case; the streets are noisy with taxicabs and motorcars; but this is not due to human activity but to human repose…Our world would be more silent if it were more strenuous.”

All those years ago, God acted in one of the most strenuous of human activities to bring hope ..real hope ..the very definition of hope: new life…into the world not by acting according to the measures and expectations laid out by Rome or Herod; but rather by giving new life to an old, barren couple.

The church in the United States, Texas, and Austin is in the midst of change, we are finding ourselves less and less relevant or important to the pomp and power of our culture.

Much like this couple, the church, we at FBC have been given a promise and mission: to give our lives to the service of God acting in the world.

God is acting in the streets of Austin…are you listening?

God is alive in the conversations with your children…are you listening?

God is working on the hearts of your neighbors, coworkers, and family…are you listening?

God is calling you to listen…are you listening?

This Advent, make room for God in the world by setting aside time and energy to be silent and listen, nurturing the hard labor of hope, and getting out of the way, so God can get in the way.

Pastoral Blessing:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships,

so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,

so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war,

so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world,

so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

November 6, 2009

I should like to make a remark to him...

Soren Kierkegaard

One sticks one's finger into the soil to tell by the smell in what land one is: I stick my finger in existence---it smells of nothing.

Where am I?
Who am I?
How came I here?
What is this thing called the world?
What does this world mean?
Who is it that has lured me into the world?
Why was I not consulted, why not made acquainted with its manners and customs instead of throwing me into the ranks, as if I had been bought by a kidnapper, a dealer in souls?
How did I obtain an interest in this big enterprise they call reality?
Why should I have an interest in it?
Is it not a voluntary concern?
And if I am to be compelled to take part in it, where is the director?
I should like to make a remark to him.


October 27, 2009

The Long Silence

It's been mighty silent over here, I know. I have some many thoughts rolling around in my head I'd love to write about and talk about even more. But, as some of you know, I preparing to transition into a new phase of life. My residency at First Baptist Austin ends this May and so deadlines are rearing their ugly heads. Immediate goals are two fold and coalesce into what I'd love to do next. The most time consuming suck on my life right as of the last month and will continue until Nov. 23rd at 8am is preparation for the GRE. The reason...well, to apply to doctoral programs at various schools focusing mostly on political theology, ethics, missional theology, ecclesiology, economics, and the like. PhD app's to the schools I'm looking at are Dec. 15 and Jan. 15. Thus, trying to prepare for the GRE as well as research the schools and applications, has taken most of my blogging time.

Also, some exciting opportunities are happening around my residency come November. Besides the loathed aforementioned test, I am sharing my formation story with my church community Nov. 8th Agape meal, where we gather to eat together and worship Christ in our presence. Also, on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29 I am preaching. The lectionary Gospel text is apocalyptic, and since I like a good challenge, I think I'm sticking with it, Luke 21:25-36. If I can manage to make the sermon accessible, I'll title it, "Living Violently in a Peaceful World," but we'll see.

So, I promise I'll return to this place for some rejoinder on the relationship to faith and science, on epistemological humility, Zizek, Bonhoeffer, politics, and maybe even why I'd title a sermon, "Living Violently in a Peaceful World."

Religious Flowchart

I thought this was too good not to share. Enjoy:


October 21, 2009

The World Exhausts its Rage

This love of God for the world does not withdraw from reality into noble souls detached from the world, but experiences and suffers the reality of the world at its worst. The world exhausts its rage on the body of Jesus Christ.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics.

October 18, 2009

Evangelical & Mainline Culture Shock

Here's a funny look at the culture shock, from both sides in ways that's a little snarky but light hearted, on the divide between evangelicals and mainlines. What would you add? via Tribal Church.

•Even though they love the environmental aspects of the screen, they might break out into a bit of a cold sweat when they see it in the sanctuary.

•They might bring their Bibles to church. Do not be alarmed when you see the book. Try not to stare. And don’t worry. They will figure out quickly that they’re not supposed to bring it.

•Their personal Bible in their pew does give them a little comfort because they can’t immediately tell the difference between hymnal, prayer book, and Bible in the pew. They will pick up the wrong one. At least until they figure out that no one else really follows along with the readings, because they are the only ones who know how to look them up.

•If they’re particularly moved by a solo, they will clap following it. Once. Until they figure out that it’s not okay. Then they will die a little bit inside.

•They never missed a Sunday at church growing up, but they don’t know the Apostle’s Creed. They are the ones mumbling “watermelon” when the rest of the congregation is proudly articulating every word.

•They might say “Amen” after the pastor says it. It’s just a reflex. And don’t laugh at them if they use “just” in their prayers. At least they know how to pray in public.

•They are the people who would rather leave their right arm than leave their email address.

•They may not have been going to church for the last ten years, because they were afraid that they couldn’t afford it.

•If they happen into a denominational church during Stewardship Sunday, they may never come back. Only because, in their mind, asking for money is what church is about every Sunday.

•If they hear how much your church is involved with helping the homeless and poor, then they will start to breathe. And they might be able to leave something in the offering.

•If you mention that your church supports LGBTs, then the muscles in their neck will loosen. They will be utterly confused, but very relieved.

•They are confused by communion. They might not have even ever participated in communion before.

•If someone tries to hug during the passing of the peace, they will have finely-developed defense mechanisms in order to shield themselves from the Holy Spirit chest crunch.

•If the pastor learns their name after a couple of weeks, they just might faint dead away.

•If the church has a discussion about having a “contemporary” worship service in order to reach out to more people, they will assume that you’re trying to get their parents to come to your church.

October 12, 2009

Columbus Day, a Hard Pill to Swallow

From the journal of Christopher Columbus:

In all the world, there is no better people nor better country. They love their neighbors as themselves, and they have the sweetest talk in the world, and are gentle and are always laughing.

They… brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned … They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance … They would make fine servants … With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

As an explorer, Columbus was not the first to reach the Western Hemisphere. Native Americans had been here for 10,000-20,000 years, and Vikings and Chinese are among those others who hold prior claims. Even after four attempts, Columbus never realized his goal of finding a western ocean route to Asia. As a “founding father type figure” he never set foot in what is now considered America but landed in the present day Bahamas, Cuba, and Haiti. As a Christian example he enacted terrible cruelties to friendly natives: assuming unlawful rights of authority; robbing and subjugating whole nations of their freedom and entire capital; allowing his men to rape, murder and pillage at will; and deliberately leading the way for the genocide of millions, considered by many to be the worst demographic catastrophe in recorded history.

So why do Americans celebrate Columbus Day?

Read the rest.

For a fuller history lesson on Columbus and the atrocities committed by him and his voyagers, see Eliacin's blog for a longer passage from a A People' History of The United States.

October 6, 2009

Everything is OK

Interesting indirect communication, I liked it.

October 1, 2009

Some Banksy Animations

Pete Rollins posted these over at this blog, and I found his reflection true. The true power and beauty of Banksy, a Christian anarchist, is his anti-celebrity, his anonymity, and his powerful artwork...which is more powerful because of the first two things. To quote Rollins:
In a world where, to quote Kierkegaard, leadership so often reflects the tyrant (the one who leads from their ego) it is rare to find leaders who are martyrs (who have laid down their ego and are driven by something greater).

Pass this on!

September 28, 2009

Torturing Reality

Since switching over to Netflix from Blockbuster I've only received one movie through the mail, a movie every American should watch: Taxi to the Dark Side. My first reactions were the feeling of being crushed, angered, and a desire to change change the status quo for politics. Often I get so frustrated with my fellow compatriots and myself for our short memory. With a new president to distract us, all the talk about torture and these secret war prisons have in the least subsided to a whisper.

Torture is disgusting in every form and should be regarded as an enemy of humanity, an unnecessary evil. It transforms our imaginations as US citizens (35% of the population sanctioned torture AFTER seeing pic's from Gitmo).

Politics has become a matter of using and manipulating language to create a reality so that people remain ignorant about reality. As I've mentioned before, I believe the most patriotic act a person can do in this climate of phobia and manipulated reality is to call awareness and repentance to our country's ills and brokenness. Torture is a crime against all of humanity, even the perpetrators.

Something I've been wrestling with since I've began to understand Political theology and Slavoj Zizek is the pressing question, how do you bring about a new political order within the old politic? As the documentary I just watched points to, the Cheney/Bush administration seems to have done this in eight years to an extent. Under this administration the US defied the Geneva Convention and the USA Constitution by (re)defining the terms and at other times propping security and safety over against "the self-evident truth that all men are created equal."

So is this the best way to bring in a new political order? Having a powerful administration that manipulates the people through false records and ambiguous language?

I would hope that this isn't the only answer. It could be the real solution is found in the cross, in the broken body of Christ that recreates humans in the image of a given and estranged God, uniting the isolated and creating a body given to all. The church is a political body by its very existence, thus it must be first faithful to its calling to serve and suffer, while bending reality toward God's love and justice.

Pirates, Orthodox Heretics, & the Betrayal of Betrayal

Probably the most interesting conversation on the emerging church/theology blogosphere right now: Pirates, Orthodox Heretics, and the Betrayal of Betrayal (thanks Kester for rounding up all the links).

September 24, 2009

Moltmann & Homosexuality: A Bit Disappointing & Not in that Way

From everything I've read, I don't think Moltmann explicitly addresses homoseuality. I've had lots of theoretical conversations and hypothesis on what he "might" say about it, even at the Emergent Conversation over lunch. Over at the Moltmann Yahoo group, there was a discussion on what Moltmann would say about it, but since it was merely speculative it shows that he doesn't talk about it in his works clearly or directly.

So when at the Emergent Moltmann Conversation when Tony Jones put the questin to him, I was excited. Yet, I found his answer rather disappointing. Moltmann answered, "The church in Germany doesn't struggle with the problem (referring to the schismatic nature of ordaining homosexuals or blessing partnerships in the USA), because we are about the Gospel and not about sex. We believe in justification by God's work, not human work."

Some other things he said that I thought were provoking were that gay or straight can be ordained to ministry. Also, he wouldn't say (and this is what I thought most interesting) that a gay partnership is equal to marriage between a man and woman, since "marriage is to further children." Yet he would have no problems blessing such a partnership, "why not bless a partnership? Homosexuality is neither a sin or a crime, like near-sightedness is neither a sin or crime. I don't understand the schism or heat of the debate."

For such a deeper thinker, I was somewhat surprised how surface level and simplistic his answer was even though it was simply a conversational format. Yet, to say that Germany is worried about the Gospel and the church in the USA is not is overly simplistic and not a valid depiction of cultural realities. Germany carried(ies) a national guilt so intense that Moltmann himself says many of his comrades in POW camps didn't survive the shame. It makes sense that Since WWII, Germany would be intentional, even overly intentional to be very inclusive and not prejudice. America doesn't have this cultural history, but a very different story. So, I felt like this statement was simply unfair and unrealistic.

Also, he's okay with ordaining gay ministers and blessing partnerships, but he never called the partnerships marriages and actually compared homosexuality to a physical defect. Obviously he sees homosexuality as being less than a healthy (read: normal) human. Will the resurrection, the New Creation where all physical defects will be healed have homosexuals? Why not if this is truly who they are? Is homosexuality simply a distortion of the created order? Is homosexuality an illness, sickness, or defect that should be "fixed" by genetics manipulation if possible? This is where I find his words to lead.

Furthermore, since marriage is intended to further children and for that reason homosexual partnership is less valuable or "not equal," does that make a marriage between a man and woman with no children less than equal to a marriage with children?

Is marriage simply about furthering children, or is this a proof text from Israel's creation story that is irresponsible in a world of almost 7 billion people?

Overall, I was excited to hear Moltmann's thoughts about this issue that has become so divisive in the USA and across the world in many denominations, but I left disappointed and unchallenged. What do you think about Moltmann's assessment and thoughts?

September 19, 2009

How about something funny

80's video dating montage...or "yay for self (lack of) awareness"

September 18, 2009

I'm Twittering, or Tweeting, or whatever's hip

So I haven't necessarily "given" in to twitter as if I was actively trying to stay away from it, but it has been on my mind for some time now. Of course Lucas introduced me to it and has had an account for some time, so I didn't want to follow suit too soon. But at the Emerging/Moltmann Conference twitter was really integrated into the conversation, so I decided to create an account.

So follow me, if you dare... @joebumbulis

Constantine's Christianity & POW's

For my second reflection I want to mix two things Moltmann said. One of them is his beautiful story as a POW as a youth, overwhelmed with grief and shame, and the grace he received at the hands the British.

The second is a quote in reference to the cross, where Moltmann said that there are two crosses in Christianity, the cross of Golgotha and the cross of Constantine's dream. One is about resisting the polity of society for the horizon of hope. The other is based upon a sword, power, and is what we call Christendom.

While I agree that the usurpation of the cross and Christianity by the Romans was a tragedy and since then we have had a very imperial form of Christianity in the West, I think Moltmann's story itself reveals the tragedy and irony between these two crosses. First, we must approach Moltmann's story.

Understanding Moltmann really helps to understand his theology, because instead of a system he is creating reflections and contributions based on his life journey and conversation with those he encounters along the way. Moltmann's theology didn't in his home where he was born into a secularist family reading Goethe and Nietzsche. At 16, Moltmann unwittingly joined the Hitler Youth Movement and went to war, the front lines I believe at age 17.

Moltmann never once fired a shot, but when the opportunity came he surrendered himself to the Ally forces. His life in Germany was surrounded by firestorms, bombings, and death. The question for him became not so much "Where is God," but "Why am I still alive and not dead like the others." Or, "is there any meaning to life?"

As a prisoner in war camps in the UK, Moltmann found that no only was his body, but his very soul was imprisoned. Like I said before, Moltmann had no idea what was happening pertaining to the concentration camps. In prison, pictures were posted in their stalls so as to realize what was happening in Germany under Hitler. Moltmann says his life was almost suffocated with the guilt of his people and nation. Many Germans in POW camps didn't recover hope or the will to live after learning about such shameful acts under Nazi Germany.

There are a mixture of two events that recovered Moltmann's will to life. The first was a blooming cherry blossom tree where he was overwhelmed for the "blooming of life." This gave him some hope for new life. But in the camp, his old affection for Goethe and Schilling waned as he didn't find words for his experience. Rather, his captures treated him with grace. One day a young minister gave him a Bible where he began to read it and found the words for his experience in the Psalms of Lament (esp. Ps. 39) and the words of Christ in Mark, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

The crucified and forsaken Christ resonated with Moltmann. "Christ found me in the dark pit of my soul," forsaken behind the barbed wire of the camp. Moltmann was later given more grace upon grace by his captors, being transferred to a YMCA camp, trained in Greek and Hebrew while a prisoner, and read his first theological book: the Nature and Destiny of Man by Niebuhr.

So here's the amazing part of this entire story. 10 years after the war, Moltmann and some others returned to their place of imprisonment to the astonishment of the British. Who goes back to their place of imprisonment, especially during a time of war? For Moltmann and many others, they received so much grace at the hand of their captures, that grace was their salvation. They returned because of the amazing gift of grace they received while imprisoned.

Of course in reference to this gift of grace at the hands of the British soldiers..."the enemy, Moltmann quipped prompted by a question that he cannot understand the atrocities of the US prison camps like Abu Grahb, etc. "It's more convincing to love your enemy than to hate and kill your enemy. so what happened in the prisons in Iraq is outrageous and I cannot understand an administration that allows that to happen. To give grace is wiser policy than so called enemies."

Now, if you are still following me, here's the point I wanted to make: the irony of Christendom is that grace and God worked and work within it. It has become normative to run from, critique, and vehemently oppose anything attached to Christianity under Christendom. The "holy era" was the first 3 centuries of Christianity, the rest has some bright spots but for the most part is covered in blood and a church co-opted for imperialism.

In no way do I want to defend the Christendom church, but I do think it's important to embrace the ironies here. It was under Christendom Christianity that Nazi Germany and concentration camps happened, but it was also under this same Christianity that British soldiers treated their enemies with so much grace that is was salvation for them, so much so that one of the greatest theologians of our time was born out of their gift. There is no broad and simple divide between Christendom= bad; everything Christian= good. The two bleed into one another and it is not fair to only treat Christian history in light of the imperialism, sword, and death.

Moltmann was saved under the shadow of the cross of Constantine's dream, or was that simply the cross of Golgotha breaking through the dream? What do you think? Is it realistic to bifurcate the cross, imperial Christianity and suffering Christianity? Do they mix like water and oil, or more like milk and chocolate?

September 17, 2009

Closing the book on the Bush Legacy

"Thursday's annual Census Bureau report on income, poverty and access to health care-the Bureau's principal report card on the well-being of average Americans-closes the books on the economic record of George W. Bush.

It's not a record many Republicans are likely to point to with pride.

On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush's two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country's condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton's two terms, often substantially."


September 16, 2009

Science...based on faith

Dan Brown, author of the Da Vince Code thinks so,

Are you religious?
I was raised Episcopalian, and I was very religious as a kid. Then, in eighth or ninth grade, I studied astronomy, cosmology, and the origins of the universe. I remember saying to a minister, "I don't get it. I read a book that said there was an explosion known as the Big Bang, but here it says God created heaven and Earth and the animals in seven days. Which is right?" Unfortunately, the response I got was, "Nice boys don't ask that question." A light went off, and I said, "The Bible doesn't make sense. Science makes much more sense to me." And I just gravitated away from religion.

Where are you now?
The irony is that I've really come full circle. The more science I studied, the more I saw that physics becomes metaphysics and numbers become imaginary numbers. The farther you go into science, the mushier the ground gets. You start to say, "Oh, there is an order and a spiritual aspect to science."
via the Parade interview.

I don't believe Science does what it presupposes it does. I believe as much as religion is a value system, science too is a value system and not merely as objective as it claims. Yet, I don't believe the world is 3000 or 4000 thousand years old, nor that it was created in 6 days. I'm neither against science (creationists) nor for science (Dawkins, Harris, etc). Science has a role, yet it is reductionistic and faults when it doesn't admit that it is by nature limiting and reductionistic.

Top 10 Reasons Men Shouldn't be Ordained

I love this.

10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.

7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

September 14, 2009

Whose Right(s)?

I'm offering some reflections on the Moltmann conversation an Emergent gathering held by JoPa. Moltmann in many ways has given me hope and grace for the journey, especially when I was in need of reconstructing my faith in seminary. I've several of his works and often return to his books for centering.

My first reflection comes from a mixture of statements from Moltmann:

In a "lightning round" Moltmann had to sum up a person in one sentence, ie "John Paul II"..."Good Pope."

In reference to Derrida, Moltmann only stopped after one paragraph saying, "Postmodernism is another form of modernity. Universal dangers exist toward humaity that we must meet united; so we cannot split up and everyone go in relative direction. whether we live in big or small narratives we all live under the threat of atomic bombs, ecolocial crisis; so extinciton of all is a possibility for all. So I don't see why we have to up universal questions or problems."

Also, in reference to the question of universal human rights, whether they exist or are unicorns; Moltmann answered in the affirmative. They are true, "this is good, for the growing world community based in human rights- or there will be no world community at all."

One of the things I truly appreciate about Moltmann's theology is that it is grounded in reality. His focus is less about the ontological reality of inalienable rights, but rather the need for justice and human dignity. Moltmann does not want people in any cirucmstance to suffer under the hands of dictators (his story is good cause...serving ignorantly under Hitler's Youth).

But, I am not sold on the modern idea of universal human rights, nor their ability to bring justice to peoples, nations, or even individuals. Instead of give my arguments, I thought I'd start with this issue because a good debate is already taking place online. Ben Myers argues against them here, Cynthia R. Nielsen responds, before Ben answers.

So, while I immensely respect Moltmann's theology and understanding of the world, it seems he is still conditioned to to embrace very modern ideals that simply don't exist and can't prove what they contend to prove: that apart from community humans have innate rights. I'm not sure I'm ready to locate universal realities outside of human reality, for then can be used as imperial weapons.

Some more blogs with reflections from the Moltmann Convo: TheSuburbanPastor and TwoEmptyHands. And Julie Clawson has her second reflection up.

Powerful, Pointed reflection on 9/11

As today, is September 11th, I thought I would engage in a bit of remembering — it is, after all, important to recall moments of our history, for this is the story in which we live.

On this day in 1973, Augusto Pinochet’s American-backed coup overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. This resulted in seventeen years of torture, terror, and disappearances in Chile, and (according to people like Milton Friedman, who saw Chile as a textbook example of the type of world he wished to create) set a precedent for the way in which the United States acted in Latin America (particularly in the ’70s and ’80s… although they are at it again, as Obama’s government backed the Honduran coup which overthrew the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya in June of this year).

Sponsoring terror, imposing military rule, depriving local populations of their rights, their food, their land, their livelihood, their health, their children and their lives… this is the way that the US continues to engage with the world at large. It is enough to make some people want to fly planes into buildings. Which, not altogether surprisingly, is what happened on another September 11th.

from Dan at powerorprophet.

September 13, 2009

Listening to the Victims in a Recession's Racial Dvide

One of the greatest perversities growing out of our recent economic collapse and recession has been this ever growing sense of reverse racism. This idea that blacks voted Obama into office as some sort of savior, to rid the USA of white power and replace it with black power, and open the gates to illegal immigrants by providing them a free ride on the backs of white business and money. One naturally thinks of the republican congressman Joe Wilson's outburst last Thursday during Obama's health care reform speech when Obama stated that no illegal immigrants would be provided coverage under the bills in question.

Well, since this recession that inevitably happened under a black president, many Americans who have held power in this country ever since their distant family stripped (read: raped) the natives of it have felt threatened. What's at stake for white culture is the false dream and comfort of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" given to them (us) by powerful corporations with little to no disregard for human life. Wealth built off the backs of others, just like the olden days...but exported of course.

In a NYTimes op-ed piece writers Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad named The Recession's Racial Divide, illuminate the reality behind the fear that the black community has won a "dictator and, in one image circulated among the anti-tax, anti-health reform “tea parties,” he is depicted as a befeathered African witch doctor with little tusks coming out of his nostrils. When you’re going down, as the white middle class has been doing for several years now, it’s all too easy to imagine that it’s because someone else is climbing up over your back."

At the Moltmann/Emergent conversation I just came back from one of the quotes that has stuck with me was something like, "those guilty of oppression, but want to enter into the truth of life must listen to their victims, because they can tell you who you truly are."

Never mind the fact the loan offices were encouraged by certain lending institutions to persuade black preachers to hold wealth seminars by providing a small donation to churches who did so, never mind that these same employees often referred to subprime loans as "ghetto loans" and minority customers as "mud people." We could talk about how it was the white culture that sold the black culture a false bill of goods, or that black unemployment is 8.2% higher than white unemployment.

Instead hear the words of the oppressed who have fallen on inexcusably hard time:

“There is no middle class anymore,” ... “just a top and a bottom.”

It’s not easy to get people to talk about their subprime experiences. There’s the humiliation of having been “played” by distant, mysterious forces. “I don’t feel very good about myself,” says the teacher in “American Casino.” “I kind of feel like a failure.”

The conclusion is poignant yet lacking:

So despite the right-wing perception of black power grabs, this recession is on track to leave blacks even more economically disadvantaged than they were. Does a black president who is inclined toward bipartisanship dare address this destruction of the black middle class? Probably not. But if Americans of all races don’t get some economic relief soon, the pain will only increase and with it, perversely, the unfounded sense of white racial grievance.
Is all this article is is a call for economic relief? While this is an important and worthwhile conversation what we need is call away from fear politics and a culture obsessed with power, driven by bigotry, and that has no place for real, constructive dialogue. What we need is to confront this unfounded sense of racial grievance and quit scapegoating Obama, the poor, and the "other."

What we very well need is a call to the cross, to suffer and give up our American dreams of power and wealth for American dreams of a society of care and responsibility for one another, a society of real democracy and pluralism, and society founded in the reality that "truth is found in unhindered dialogue (Moltmann)."

September 12, 2009

Until Reflection Come

In the following days I'll be posting some reflections up of the Moltmann/Emergent Conversation. I hope the live blog notes are helpful. I'm somewhat familiar with Moltmann having read 8 of his works and returning very often to them to reorient myself in the "Spirit of Life." My hope with the notes was to help those who couldn't physically be at the Conversation and to give those who were there something to refer back to and read or check their notes against.

I'd love dialogue on any of these ideas that you don't quite "get" or may need clarification as questions and my modest attempt to answer them tend to push me to reflect and think more clearly about theology and Moltmann.

I really enjoyed getting to meet some really good folks who are willing to ask hard questions and engage ministry, church, and culture in new ways. I also was able to connect with some great people who I've followed on the blogosphere like (in no particular order, but you should check out as they post Moltmann stuff too):

Frank Emannuel
Bob Cornwall
Tim Snyder
Danielle Shroyer
Ann Pittmann (who I already knew, but blogged it too)
Tripp Fuller
JP Bohanan
Eliacin Rosario-Cruz
Tony Jones
I know I've missed a few, sorry.

I also created a Twitter because as you'll see so much of this conference was routed through twitter. Check out this link for post, comments, and even audio snippets.

So until further reflection, I've attached a few pic's from my time in Chi-town and from the conference.
Me explaining what BFF meant as Dr. Moltmann signed my book, bff:

Historic Wrigley Field

I loved the intimate feel of the park (not to mention the hot dogs).

Second City Comedy Club, hilarious.

Billy Goat Tavern, infamous.
Navy Pier.

Sears (Willis) Tower...108 Stories tall, tallest building in Western Hemisphere, second tallest in the world and first tallest structure in the world.

Chicago is a prospect city for 2012 Olympics.

View on the 103 floor of the Sears Tower.

Me standing on the clear bottom, sides, top viewing deck.

September 11, 2009

Moltmann, Session II, Day 3

Tony Jones on Moltmann:

Disability, Homosexuality, & Church in Mission (or the church only in mission)
  • from Diane, a disabled person who found language to see herself as God does in crucfed does a person with disabilities- how do they have accsss to the church in power of HS?
  • JM- a disability concerned him, b/c older bro had severe disability. I think the church must be, consistent of disabled, not abled person. congregation w/o disabled persons is a disabled congregation.
  • TJ- rational beings as humans- imago dei, but there are humans w/o ability to reason. we wouldn't say they are not created in image of God. how does disability of reason effect idea of imago dei
  • JM- imago dei- not of qualification of human, but of relationships of God toward human, which human is image, resonance of God. relationships of God to every human being, this cannot be destroyed by disability nor by sin.
  • simile tuo?- response to God, our relationship to God. life, faith, and responsibility and conformity of our life to will of god. first relationship in regard to humans, is in every human being be a Xn or muslim or atheist, every single person without qualification. so you m ust respect God in every person we meet. the second, the simile...our relationship to god, God crated all man equal, we must respect image of God in every person.
  • TJ- you bring up Constitution, who are influenced by John Locke- theory of inalienable human rights. some theo and philo (macintyre, haeurwas, etc say they are unicorns)- they say these are made up. no inalienable rights. we determine the rights, but there is no such thing as transcendence universal inalienable right. what do you think about universal rights?
  • JM- praise doc of independence for saying this. 1978- wrote doc- God's rights and Human rights. adopted by denom bodies.
  • Unfortunately, dictatorial gov't denied citizens human rights according to the same line of thought. But every person has inalienable rights. you can commit crimes against humanity. there is an implementation of human rights united nations. US didn't sign the doc for int'l trials according to human rights.
  • this is good, for the growing world community based in human rights- or there will be no world community at all.
  • So, it is true.
  • TJ- Rowan Williams- proposed b/c of growing proportion of Muslims in GB, there should be pluralization of law to reflect the Shari'a law.
  • JM- This was not good for Muslim women, who said, do we not have rights like veryone else? I do not understand Williams on this point, or the maybe the British system.
  • You cannot relative th rights of everyone, b/c no one can be brought to court. This is an impossibility.
  • TJ- you've referred to God as he and HS as she in our conversation. coming up with pronouns appropriately intimate and personal for god, but don't anthropomorphize god with gender identity, is difficult for describing god in finite language
  • JM- god it not he, she, or it. god is god. we should not use god's divinity to justify a gender role, etc.
  • image can be described as Trinity is neither Father, Son, or HS: but a community. this can be reflected in human community. need united community.
  • TJ- filioque clause - lead to monarchical theism or trinity. rely on eastern theology.
  • Great schism brought filioque clause
  • JM- practical side- 1985- conf. in Rome. on Holy Spirit. john Pope II, read and when came to Nicene creed, read it in Greek where there is no filioque.
  • TJ- you've really made strong point of how esoteric theology has consequences for our idea of Father, Son, SPirit can serve for King ad surfs, master slave, etc. Maybe monarchial theism is supported to hold onto authority. So the filioque leads to subordination of Spirit, thus the surfs, humans, oppressed.
  • JM_ criticism of Barth- in trinity there is community of commanding father and obedient Son. So heaven is above, earth below. soul above, body below. man above, woman below.
  • SEX!
  • TJ- Paul, Augustine, all talked about sex. Sexuality is a schismatic topic and many have withdrawn from denom fights, b/c of schismatic nature. May have been filioque 1000 yrs ago, btu now it is who can be ordained
  • JM- first let me say...this is no problem in germany. no struggle about homosexuality
  • Tj why?
  • JM
  • because church in germany is about gospel not about sex.
  • we believe in justification not by human work, but by God's work.
  • homosexual, heterosexual, whoever believes in faith alone is saved and certainly abled to be ordained in community.
  • would not say that a gay partnership is equal, for a marriage between man and owmen is to further children,
  • but have no problems blessing such a partnership.
    why not bless a partnership.
  • homosexuality is neither a sin or crime, like near-sightedness is neither a sin or crime.
  • don't understand schism or heat of debate.
  • Questions:
  • TJ- eschatology and what happens after this existence. - in face of many deaths, am i right to trust community in future...jesus' saying that there will be no marriage in that experience of life.
  • JM-I don't want to get into this dispute with Jesus.
  • But i trust that those who died are not dead, they are with us, watching over us and we live in their presence and can feel occasionally their presence. according to Calvin, they are growing until they reach the destiny for which they were created. if life was cut short, God will bring what he had begun to its intended end. death cannot end God to do this, but God cannot be overcome by death. He will bring life to fruition.
  • Barth was once asked by woman- do you think we'll see beloved again. and Barth answered yes, and the others too.
  • Fuzz goes on stage.
  • TJ- church is agent of God's mission world.
  • What is the church?
  • JM- there are many perspectives on it. For a long time we've said its a body of risen Christ, after vatican II, catholics spoke of people OF god. if you say this, you must also say that God has 2 parts of his people: Israel and the church.
  • and the mission agency is not only through the church of hte people's but also Israel. so we must take care of both sides, not only looking after poor and sick, but also the Jews, elected people of God.
  • Understanding of mission of church-
  • nowadays we have dialogue everywhere but this is not good, for it has no goal. if dialogue is to convert, there is an end, a goal and you can dialogue. it is good to know other religion communities. dialogue need common ground. so we have special relatipnship- partner in mission.
  • Fuzz- church consultant, collects stories and spreading rumors of hope. indebted to Moltmann. you say in books, not so much question of what is teh church, but where is the church. where have you seen, the where is now that we havent traditionally seen in the orthodoxy of the past?
  • JM_ one hand, mission of risen Christ. who is in me, i am in him... other hand, the inviting voice of Christ. whoever visits them visits me. they- the hungry, poor, ochlos, etc in the world.
  • invitation of Christ on the outside. church must be present in special places and special way.
  • Fuzz- changing forms of inside outside, new communities ..not geographical..etc. what is future of congregation
  • JM- believe in face to face community. cyberspace may be nice for communication, but a cyber church is a church w.o the Eucharist.
  • in this new media, you can see and listen, but you cannot feel, taste, smell. only two of sense are engaged, other senses are diminished and no longer developed. make test in school, where children already have iphones, etc. let them close eyes and feel, tehy can't differentiate between wood and plastic- b/c no education of emotion, feelings.
  • baby develops first with feeling senses, then get misdeveloped with emphasis on seeing and hearing.
  • belive strongly in face to face communities, see each other, talk, eat, drink togehter and be a community of FULL senses.
  • TJ- Eucharist- seems we call it so many names. RO proposes church should live by Eucharistic rationality, center point. Zwingilian experience moves toward communion like agape meal, less sacramental, but communal gathering and foretaste of coming kingdom. you used Eucharist, do you see role of communion in church?
  • JM- hot point or most difficult ecumenical point. believes very strongly, that we dont celebrate in Lord's table in our theories. we may have different theories in the way he is present. but let's celebrate his presence first. so after the eating and drinking at lord's table, thhhen we talk about different theories. dont start with theories, or will nover come to the table. we will have an empty stomach. go to any invitation we hear the inviting words of X. I dont care where I'm at, I take it.
  • Jesus invites all those who are weary, not just Catholics or presbys, but all.
  • Fuzz- thinking eschatology- to spend eternity together, we should now each other now. SO
  • JM- transubstantiation- evil theory. we believe as Lutherans or reformed as real presence of Christ, whether is transformed, etc. what is important is that we believe in presence of Christ in both forms: bread and wine. and we reject Catholic tradition of wine for priest and bread for people.
  • Fuzz- go back to understanding of church. cyber reality is one form. but more and more as churches are more missional, the focus is in community not gathering. church attendance is less frequent in west. partly so busy, stress of time as commodity, so spending time with neighbor is more important than gathering together of worship.
  • JM- this may be true of those who have a job, but not for the unemployed. those with a job, this is a question of priority. question of whether they should go to vacation, etc or more important to be part of congregation. they have no question of priorities.
  • Fuzz- is church only church when gathered or scattered
  • JM- both sides. we gather them together and send them into teh world.
  • Fuzz- is there a weekly breathing, gathering and sending
  • JM- tradition of OT and NT-work day and divine day is good ecology. sabbath is good ecology, we move in and out of it.
  • JM- writing in ethics for concept of justice and righteousness according to biblical ideas.
  • TJ- who should we be reading?
  • what are you reading
  • JM- the BIBLE. depends on your eyes: curiosity to find new things in old book, you'll find it. but traditional understanding it may be boring. full of dangerous memories.
  • read: Volf, Phillip Clayton, tony jones, john cobb,
  • many good people coming up, so we can step down and have rest.
Afterward, they opened the floor for the crowd to reveal their gratefulness to Moltman. Several people were given the opportunity to say thank you for your work, life, thought, etc.
I was able to to stand up and give thanks to Moltmann for giving me the words in seminary to be able to keep my faith.

Thoughts to follow up later.

Moltmann, Session I, Day 3

Tony Jones & Jurgen Moltmann: mano y mano
  • TJ begins with a bill board- "Unless you confess, you won't be blessed." TJ uncomfortable with this idea, b/c it seems God is a non-contigent being. whether or not god forgives me, god isnt sitting around waiting to forgive me.
  • JM responds- "you cannot make conditions to god, for this makes god an object, an idol. God will bless whoever he will bless whether we confess or not. initiative is God's. Once God forgives you, then you feel free to cnfess.
  • God is god not a bargain partner for a human and your religion. This is completely heathen.
  • Religions based on the idea of doing to receive blessing- but this isnt Xn at all, this is denial of godhead of god. i'm oppsing completely with this bargaining of destiny with God. this is pure capitalism!!!
  • TJ- "if go's activity is non contingent, yet JC teaching on prayer is almost unequivocally that if you're persistent, God'' give you what you want. keep bothering god and you'll get what you want.
  • JM- These aren't the only saying about prayer. When you pray, God already knows what you need. hearing of God precedes your prayer.
  • TJ- what does that mean for God's relationship to time as we experience it. can we pray for something that has already happened in past, since ogd is lord of time.
  • JM- "what do you want to pray for?" ....there is a long tradition of prayer for the dead. Luther said pray 3 or 4 times for the dead, then head over to god, b/c they are included in prayer of X. "I think i'm praying for ht dead. b.c the dead are not dead. they died, but we cannot say they are dead not. they are sleeping until day of resurrection. they are watching and with us in own way. truth of ancestor cult in asia, dead are not dead in modern sense. not annihilate, but present. Rom 13, X is lord of living and dead.
  • TJ- Zimzum, borrowed from kabbalah Judaism- propr to creation, all there was was God. in order to create something, God withdrew self to make space, a self limiting, to make space for a relation for object to have relationship with. two ?'s: how does that lead or what relationship relate to panentheism. Is part of god's self limitation, god volunatirily bound himself to time.
  • JM- I'm not first one to take up idea of Kabbalistic thinking. It can in 300 yrs.
  • points- Before god created world, he decided to become creator. inside, not outside action...decide to become creator. contracted himself from all other possibilities to this one, to be creator of world
  • 2nd- created world in time and space, so before he created heaven and earth there must be room and place for heaven and earth to be placed. this is place of creation, due to contraction of God.
  • This is why there is freedom for all beings, there is room. example of a child, you must first take care of all things for them. then you must give space for them to develop themselves. this is very creative to retreat into yourself and let another being be. other side of creation. not just acts, but to let another being flourish is creative.
  • Zimzum- father son and HS are kenotic beings. they give and receive one another. they are a being of self giving: zimzum before zimzum? this is true essence of being. Kenosis is not just actin go fGod, but inward state of god giving self in inner trinitarian love.
  • TJ- in nature if god is timeless, but part of limitation, in this period of creation god has bound himself to time. is he experiencing time?
  • JM- yes, or he cannot he called living God. God has living relationships iwth abe, etc, Jesus, etc...these are all living relationship otherwise you have a dead God.
  • TJ- is this too hegelian, God is ismply unfolding of history? but you talk abotu cruc and res as an event in god and god as subject having relationship with reation, which is very diff from hegel.
  • JM- easy to accuse german theo hegelian. b/c all are lutheran and related to hegel
  • Hegel didnt have understanding of trinity, ut of history as autobio of god. this is not good theology. developed dialectical understanding of world history as history of god, out of self consciousness of divine subject. this has nothign to do with Jesus, father, adn HS. anotehr system. different from pannenburg on that point. Hegel had not eschatology.
  • Is this panentheistic- this terrible term brought into hegelian. means- everything, pan, is in God. but this is one sided of biblical understanding of God. for God is IN everything.
  • Shekinah- indwelling of God. God dwells in Israel, in terms of the cloud, Shekinah. Behind Covenant of God with israel, is intetnion to dweel among the Israelites. this is one sided. In NT, there is mutual indwelling. John and letters and gospel of JOhn reveal this...perichorisis: mutual indwelling. whoever remains in love remains in god and god in indwelling, so much more than panentheism.
  • John Calvin- inst. bok 1- for Calvin glory of God is already reflecting self in all things. God is indwelling in all things, but we have no eyes to see him. in trinitarian terms makes sense, but in theistic terms you may end up in panentheism. avoid abstract philo theism.
  • TJ- do you embrace EO, theosis. BUt you turned that God became man, not that man became God. using Athanasius.
  • JM- Luther- God became human beings, so we might become truly human in the community of JC. God became human to liberate us from our god complex and hubris in playing god with god, making conditions with sovereignty of God. making bargains. that is to say, you are god, i'm not and you are okay, i'm okay.
  • TJ- 3 points of biblical narrative: creation, jesus, end times that you focus on. in west we have original sin, Judaism we who adopt the story doesn't have og sin.
  • JM- these ideas of Augustine, lead to a type of gnosticism. procreating is bad, ultimate sin is AIDS, we deliver from one gen to another. so we must stop procreating og sin, and this is gnosticism. this doesn't follow OT understanding of life and joy of life. we have received life and we should give life to another gen. So og sin has nothing to do with sex and procreation. idea is more collective guilt. understanding of Luther. everyone is guilty of everything in the world, b/c everything is related to everything. dosteyesky and EO believe this, there is collective destiny. everything shares in us, we share in everything. so we need collective guilt of mankind.
  • we can follow Jewish understanding, guilt came into world through Cain and Abel. since that time, it has been one against the other, war, murder. this is more realistic.
  • TJ- so much of the way we were reared in church, connected to og sin. thus connected to forensic action of Jesus on cross, the appeasing sacrifice of the innocent son transaction. Also, in NT there is alot of sacrificial language.
  • JM- between other peopel's religion idea of gift: i give so you may give. So you sacrifice so god may give blessing. if you dont give in right way or enough then gods are angry and experience punishment. so whenever bad things happen, you look for one who didnt sacrifce and then bring right offering. Jonah and thrown out of ship, example.
  • This is all not biblical. Scapegoat is given by god, not asking from Israel btu giving to Israel so all sins may be put on scapegoat so it can take sins away to desert. God is reconciling himself to the world, doesn't need sacrifice. himself giving own son to reconcile world to self. initiative is god's initiative.
  • they used old temple language, but something completely diff is meant. love of god reconciles whole cosmos, which includes all humans.
  • TJ- that' the reformed part of theo coming out strongly. God is always protagonist. how is god, in way of overflowing love fo trinity, protagonist
  • JM- old saying, love takes ...
  • he wants to communicate the joy of his love. so he craetes creatures that can resonate this joy and love of God. so he is not in need of recreation, recreation is result of overflowing joy and love.
  • TJ- Eschatology- you are an esch theo. liberals and conservatives don't like this talk. overwhelming consensus is that 2nd coming will be bad part.
  • JM- this will not be the end, but beginning of new creation, the eternal creation. world without end. must look forward not to the end, but the beginning, which is not behind us but before us. the best is yet to come. this is true also to certain types of dispensationalism, which is not Xn idea, but Jewish idea. God created world in 7 days, so history will follow 7 dispensations. earth will grow older and older and our time is running out.
  • you can think about this w/o mentioning Christ, for dispensationalists X has only one part. so what is lacking is the new beginning experienced in resu. of X. so there is new beginning in world history, the res. of X in anticipation of the general resurrection.
  • TJ- this ? is just for me, so you all can listen in. Heidegger and Moltmann, there is esch horizon approaching us. so there is phenomenological hermeneutic, and the eschaton is when two horizons meet.
  • JM- they've met already. horizing of jc escaton is open already b/c of resurrection of Christ.
  • TJ- do you think there will be a moment in time, a pariousia. humans will experience a moment in time of JC return
  • JM- Yes. linear concept of time, future, present, past. this is time of clock. in this linear time concept, JC will not come. otherwise, we say he may come tomorrow morning at 101 5 ona train from chicago. but time keeps going on.
  • other concept of time- kairos. good opportunity. our life experiences are not according to clock time, but more like kairos. this is a good time, good chance. anticipation of eschatolgoical moment. terms of fulfilled time. in fulfilled time or life, you dont care about the clock anymore. you live in the moment. so therefore, when you come into living, you take the clock away. clock time is not very good understanding of time.
  • "you have the clock and we have time" form a swami in India at the end of interview and western interviewer must leave.
  • Daniel goes onto stage. possibly talk about atonement theory
  • TJ- cooperation with God, part of pneumatolgy adopted from JM. A truly reformed person doesn't cooperate with anything with God. but JM writes of us being cocreateors and cooperating with God, esp in ecology theology. Is there where you part with reformed theo.
  • JM- Paul talked aobut his work as cooperation with god. don't see reason for putting everything on god. this is Xn understanding of gods presence world. not that god has no hands apart from ours, but god gives us chances and opportunities to work with his will, resonate to his tune. If God is all, then reformed is right. but god may not be all and all, so he wants responsibility.
  • he wants us to come of age, not as little children where he oes everything.
  • Daniel- been at every Emergent church conversation since beginning. Herold- park street church in boston. nature's witness: how evolution can inspire faith.
  • DH- question and interest- testimony of science. brings understanding of God. talk about trintiy in creation, since nature / science portrays for us is nature is ripe with death, disease, etc. Who is God, Trinity, in creation given what science portrays?
  • JM- fundamental question of natural sciences- do you understand what you know?
  • our knowledge is duplicating everything, but do we understand what we know. we need a hermeneutic of nature with the sciences, so we can interpret signs of nature, explained by natural sciences. sciences explains, but we need understanding and interpreting what we know.
  • DH- so go ahead-
  • JM- specific example- a doctor measures your blood pressure and temp ad takes all the data he can get from body if you don't feel well. So first takes all data, then takes data as symptoms, then understands symptoms as a certain illness, then therapy can begin. similar with natural science. we must understand the symptoms and interpret the data given. for example to understand the data we get from climate research, and economic research, to put together with data we must interpret as coming natural catastrophe, then we can react. hermeneutics of nature.
  • DH- what is moltmannian herm of nature? trinity interp of nature...
  • JM-fist of all- we put what we know of nature in transcendent dimension. evolution of life, we see all belong to same family. transcendence dimension, there is no progress.
  • second- we can see the working of the HS as the immanence of transcendence in everyting complicated being forming their ...transcendence. more complex life forms are open systems, transcending themselves. there can be no self organization or...but they need transcendence. like riding a bike w.o a bike.
  • DH- Darwinian evol through theo grid. problem of decay and death, deformity. how is that manifestation of HS, is that fall out from freedom?
  • JM- you must understand the HS and energies of HS. there are many gifts of HS.
  • DH- would you say necessary organic death of evolution epic, is that redemption which makes death a bad thing; or is it a positive energy of spirit?
  • JM- start from the final end. if death will be no more, there will be creation w.o organic death. it is not just death of sinner, but all death will disappear.
  • DH- so how does creation, how we experience it, if it is radically different
  • JM- difference is found in indwelling of God. we only have anticipatory of end time, the new everlasting creation where god is in all.
  • DH- kairos time and new expeirence; it must something so radically different we cant have an experience in current life that would approximate it. it seems to me that there is dramatic change
  • JM- is this different from "everything in X is a new creation."
  • TJ- is this a radical discontinuity.
  • JM- you cannot talk about discontinuity without presupposition continuity. but we have so many anticipatory changes form the old to new, that we can understand this quite easily. for Paul it was change of name, a new identity. now, it is not me who lives, it is X who lives in me. this is true for all Xns, whether conscious of it or not.
  • DH- so for scientists, such a discontinuity would defy everything for the created reality. how would you speak of the unfathomably.
  • JM- in biological terms. either have evolution cosmos, everything
  • somethign new will emerge within infinite possibilities of this. the whole is more than sum of parts. we cannot understand the whole from the parts. parts do no lead understanding of whole.
  • DH- given that this earth as we experience, it will certainly end if physics is correct. what do you anticipate regarding existence on other side of that.
  • JM- believe in theosis idea- that in end, God will be all in all. end is not annihilation of world, but deification of the world. we have diff concepts: Luther- annihilation of world, only god, angels, and saved souls will survive in heaven. reformed: not annihilation, but transformation of world, into new creation. EO: theosis, deification of world, indwelling of God in world.
  • so expect transform of everything and indwelling of God in all.
  • "This is how much I can see it.."
  • DH- don't see science embracing theology, but theo does give to science.
  • JM- the struggle is better than mutual science.
  • DH- biologos community