Quote of the day.

A friend of a friend (my sister) sort of connection has brought me to today’s quote of the day:

“until recently, i had a “good” job. a “real” job. meaning a job that was turning me into a serious asshole, a cheater, a manipulater of people for my own “successful” ends, and a man abandoning his own wife and son for these demands that kept popping up. because, “hey, a man’s gotta eat”. i now think these thoughts and several like them about “responsibility” and “success” are lies of oppression that we should heed no longer. and in not heeding them, you will become a fool to the world to trust in your god alone to be your provider and protector.” – Jon Perez, from his “1 corinthians chapter three” post.

Viva la Revolution! Makes one wonder what the true opiate of the masses is? Was Karl right or have the we found a better drug for society, the American dream?

Karl Marx

Creating a Relevant and Distinct Culture

I don’t have the answer to this but I found myself wondering about the effect and purpose of culture in society as I read Jason Clark’s post about Cultural Neutering. Our desire to be culturally relevant is born out of a desire to reach people where they are at and to affect the culture that we find ourselves in for the better, to become a part of the society without being absorbed by it. It is an ‘in the world but not of the world” sort of thought, at least for me.

Perhaps my reading of the post is unbalanced but it appears to address the separate nature of the church subculture as a wholly negative state for the church and I simply can not agree with that. Whereas the church’s subculture needs to be reminded that it is designed to engage the culture at large there will always be a measure of healthy separation in the Christian subculture, no matter the society the church finds itself in. The Kingdom of God must be distinctive as well as relevant in order for it to have any use in this world. It’s a both/and situation in my book and should be presented as such lest as we focus on the need for change in how we engage the culture to the determent of the distinctives that the Kingdom of God offers the individuals of that culture to enter into a deeper, more meaningful and beautiful way of living.

The Kingdom of God will always offer a different way to look at the world we find ourselves in, a separate perspective and approach that should bring life into the world. If we are closing ourselves off to the world in our expression of separateness then we must change because we are in danger of loosing our saltiness, but the same would be true if we were to capitulate completely to the whims of society in our effort to be relevant.

I love the thoughts and ideas of the emergent conversation because they challenge and compel me. It has been rightly identified that the church has built up walls around itself for protection and comfort that have closed us off from the world, that is wrong and needs to be changed. I just do not want us to throw the baby out with the bathwater and distain our distinctives wholesale in response.

I would also argue that ‘to everything there is a season’, meaning, sometimes it is healthy to withdrawal into the safety of Christian community. When we are hurt and wounded, weak and tired, struggling to just keep our heads above the water, sometimes we must disengage for our health. Jesuits have a concept called the retreat, and have times every year where they separate from the world and immerse themselves in the story of Jesus, meditating on it’s meaning and effect on their life. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, originally created the retreat to be thirty days long. A whole month devoted to nothing more then getting closer to God, separating oneself from the world and examining their place in eternity.

At this point I could go into the need for a distinct Christian culture for people to retreat into for such times of healing, but I am already growing weary of typing this post so I will just throw out the idea and leave it to you for discussion.

Sleep…

sleeping beauty How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:9-11, NIV)

Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare. (Proverbs 20:12-14, NIV)

The bible tells use not to love our sleep but sleep is not a waste of time and sinful in and of itself. As I was looking for the above verses, I also ran across this one:

If GOD doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks.
If GOD doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves? (Psalm 127:1-2, MSG)
Me, I can be lazy, getting enough sleep is not an issue. I need to listen more to the first two verses then the last one. But for some of you, my friends, I am concerned. You’re always on the go, always doing something, running yourself ragged with the concerns of this life.

I started thinking about this when I read a Relevant article called ‘Sleep: It Does a Body Good’, and reminded of the topic again with a podcast from IT Conversations called Tech Nation that had an interview with sleep and dream medicine specialist, Dr Rubin Naiman.

Read the article, listen to the podcast and take heed my friends :)

Soundbites and ADD

I wonder if the youngsters today ever sit to listen to an entire album? I am not talking about the oldtime vinyl itself rather the collection of songs/tracks that make up a complete work that I affectionately call an album. Well do they? What about the older folks? Is anybody listening to whole albums anymore?

After looking at my recent last.fm plays I caught myself wondering if I was being boring because the last ten where all Don Chaffer, not only that but they were all from one album, What You Don’t Know. I actually listened to the whole thing. Granted it is background music to a busy day but still it made mean wonder if people do that anymore. In our iTunes, single download sort of world, one wonders.

Confessions of an MPR junky.

Actually, this post has little to do with Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) other then it is my source for world news and current events. This morning alone I have heard reported

1. twelve days of rioting in France by the marginalized immigrant population in that country
2. another defense attorney for the senior ex-Bath party officials in Iraq has been murdered
3. a short history of the fifty plus year struggle for the Kashmir province between India and Pakistan and it’s role in delaying relief aid getting to the victims of that massive earthquake
4. two explosions in busy marketplaces in India a few days back, attributed to the Kashmir separatists

I hear all this in the span of the twenty minutes that it takes for me to get to work in the morning. Events that are happening today, as I type, if you will, but have there roots in decades, if not centuries, of human history.

Top all this with the report of a friend who is in the Sudan, or near it, I am not certain, about this poor fellow who worked for an NGO in the area getting shot right in front of his pregnant wife and children and their car being torched. This one has not made the news. How many other events like this never make the news?

What’s my point? I don’t know. It is just that this is the world that we find ourselves in and I find myself asking the reflection in the mirror, “What are you going to do about it?” I can’t change the world but maybe, just maybe, being more aware of the injustice and suffering going on around the world can, at least, act as a catalyst for me act more justly and love mercy in the little part of it that i find myself in.

No specifics here, no answers, just reflections.

The church and our place in it.

(This was meant to be posted this last week. Oops.)

I love this statement that I read today made on this post by messy Christian:

“…we’ve put our emphasis on the wrong place. It should be on people, not on a place. The place should be a tool to bring people together … funny how we’ve made “going to that place” more important somehow.”

It is really interesting that she makes this statement as part of a broader discussion on her choice to “take a break from church� for a few weeks. I think messy Christian is talking about taking a break from her congregation, moreover her congregation within the confines of the building that they meet on Sunday, when she says that she is taking a break from “church�. She is taking a break from all the pressures and responsibilities that are attached to being a part the whole process of making a Sunday service happen, and the confines and strictures that go with it.

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To Dream is to Hope for a Brighter Future

I wrote this comment to a friend’s posting. This opinion so clearly reflects a deeply held worldview and offers up insight into my character that I want to be a part of this blog also. Apologizes to Stephen for the trackback and comment of duplicate information.

The comment:

At their best, movies remind us how to dream and tell us of the possibility of life. At their worst, they fill our heads with impossible drivel that keep the dreamer from living life.

To dream of something more then this “quiet desperation” can give one hope. I think it is because we are creatures that require hope to survive that we must dream, we must hope for something more.

I do not fear the problems and error that can come from allowing oneself to dream as much as I do the slow death of a hopeless surrender.

It is in daring to dream that we contend on the battlefield of the mind against our fear of failure and rejection. Without these fears we can all dare great things, live more honestly before our fellows and give out some of that agape love that God has poured into us.

Perhaps I am being a romantic in this approach but I find it less of a denial of the reality that I find myself in and more of a railing against the definition of that reality that I am boxed into. Whether by my own biase and fears or that of other’s, i find that my definition of reality always has room for growth.

For some reason 1 Corinthians 13 is in my mind, specificly verses 4 through 7, and I am reminded that love “hopes” all things. Also Romans 5, were we are told that “…tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…”

Perhaps I bind hope and dreaming too closely together.

Polarization rant aside…

The Jollyblogger, David Wayne, has self-admittedly had “a bit of a hostile tone toward” Emergent in some of his blog posts. I followed a trackback to his comments on a conversation that has been going on between Mike Horton and Andrew Jones, and it is all so dang encouraging.

People can disagree and still be civil, even develop healthy, growing relationships! I do not know if we are ready for a big’ol love-in just yet but, man, I think it is great that people who embrace more traditional and modern forms or understandings of our common faith are starting to realize that they can have a voice in this emergent conversation and they will be listened to and not attacked.

The more perspectives the better, I say. It goes right with another thing that I have been finding myself saying a lot lately, been quoting it actually, “There is wisdom in the multitude of counsel”.

Oh, I also like, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”, and, “We find these truths to be self-edivent, that all men are created equal”, oh yeah, and, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” :)

Polarization.

I shouldn’t do it and I know I shouldn’t, but much like the allure of the possibility of seeing a wreck at a NASCAR event, I read emergent blog comments well after the posting turns into an us-vs.-them argument.

For example, in a resent posting by Emergent, called “Our Response to Critics of Emergent” someone said in regards to the tone of the message that the response was “…PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE. This statement is no different than everything heard before. The underlying sentiment is that the critics are narrow-minded, selective legalists and misguided dinosaurs. Nice try, Slippery, Slimey Emergent! You fool only those entranced by your poetically smiley luster. Soothsayers!”

Now, can someone tell me how this is suppose to convince me of Herold’s point of view. It seems that he has nothing but contempt for those in the emergent “camp”(divisive terminology), to the point that one feels like Herold is communicating that we who identify ourselves as emergent are all just lost, minions of the dark one, and deserve nothing from true Christians but contempt. Perhaps I am reading too much into his retort, but terms like “legalist”, “misguided” “slimey” and “soothsayers” make me feel attacked and that he sees me as his enemy, as if I am someone to be fought and destroyed rather then someone created in the image of God who God loves dearly.

Of course biases is cemented when another responses, “Very, very well said and stated, Emergent fellows…very, very, very sad words from the “other” side professing Jesus as Lord…when will so-called followers of Jesus ever learn that their vitriolic responses, their “name withheld” e-mail boxes, and their weak theological stances simply do nothing more than betray their supposed allegiances to Jesus, the Risen One?”

In my mind this is an attacking statement also. The “other side” and “supposed allegiances to Jesus”? How do divisive statements like that do anything but widen riffs between people? Hiding venom in an academic sounding response does nothing to but threaten people and send them seeking for protection in numbers. We end up huddling amidst likeminded people that affirm our beliefs but do not call into account our understandings and convictions, creating this “other side” mentality.

Maybe I am being too harsh here but is there not room in the body of Christ for discussion of these differing points of view that could lead to better understanding of each other as well as of God, whom we both serve? Is there no room for civil behavior in an open conversation? Is there no room for choosing our words so as not to purposely wound? Is there no room to receive wisdom in the multitude on counsel or to speak the truth in love? Is there no room to assume the earnest conviction of another point of view rather then the assumption that these ideas are purposely misleading, steeped in deception and narrow-mindedness?

If “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things*”, then what right do we have not to be generous in our conversation?

If I say that I have come to believe that full-water emersion baptism of the adult professing believer is something that God calls all Christians to do, some would say that I think, in turn, that those who disagree with me are less biblically literate, not able to understand what is written in the bible as well as I, are not guided in interpretation by the Holy Spirit as closely as I am, and/or are perhaps even deceived or practicing deception. Why cannot I just have a conviction based on the evidence as I see it without having to make all these other base assumptions about people that hold a differing view? Even if I have considered other lines of thinking on the matter and have decided not embrace them, why must it mean that I have to reject individuals that do? If we truly have the same Spirit in us then, by faith in God, our doctrines should work themselves out. Mostly though, it seems in arguments like these we are more likely to assume the worst about someone who disagrees with us on a point rather then give them the benefit of a doubt.

Is it because our faith feels more grounded if we can convince others of the truth of it? If so, where is the root of our faith, in God or in the people that we can convince to believe the same?

Is it because we have come to love our doctrines and expressions of faith over God Himself? It is not unheard of for people to embrace this processes that God has given to bring us closer to Him as an idol.

Is it that we just find it easier to believe in what we are told by those we trust rather then learning the truth of it for ourselves? I have done this myself, looking to someone to teach me in the way of God and totally forgetting and disregarding that God can instruct me Himself by the Holy Spirit. Come to think of it, I have done the opposite also.

Perhaps we need to examine this compelling need to be right and what it is that is within us to attack those who disagree with those items that we have a compelling need to be right in. Do we fight so strongly for our convictions because we are champions of truth or is there something dark in us that cannot stand the thought of being perceived by others as being wrong?

What set this all off for me was that term passive-aggressive as it was used by Herold. As if trying to take into consideration another person’s feelings when forming and argument is simply just another way to attack that person without sounding like it is cynical beyond defense.

I think we need a lot more civility, honest reflection and, yes, even open-mindedness in the church if we ever truly going to live up the high calling that Jesus prayed for us, “The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind — Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are — I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me.**”

* 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 (NASB)
** John 17:21-23 (NASB)