Pigeon John in Portland

On Saturday night I went up to Portland with Alex, a buddy of mine, to watch Pigeon John and Flynn Adams (a.k.a. "Rootbeer") perform at a local venue - the Someday Lounge.


It was a fantastic show. Someday is a great little space - very intimate, probably only 150 people. It's so laid back that the artists and emcees just hang out in front before the shows start. Alex and I got our giggles standing next to Pigeon while he smoked a cigarette with a flock of ladies shamelessly crowded around him.

I've written about my love of hip hop before, but I have to reiterate how important this music genre is to me. Why? I don't entirely know, except that it resonates somewhere in my gut in a way that other music doesn't. And it shows me a part of the world that isn't congruent with my comfortable, sheltered, middle-class life. That's important to me - to understand the world I live in. To hear other voices...

And to feel cool when I'm cruising in my Buick Regal, bumping the crisp beats of De La Soul. Or Mos Def. Or Pigeon John.

Pigeon is a wonderfully entertaining performer. His facial expressions are like a cartoon character in-the-flesh. He dances around on stage with reckless abandon. And his lyrical skills are fast and sharp. As Rootbeer, with Flynn Adams at his side, Pigeon throws back to old school, early 90s, pop So-Cal beats. Lots of fun.

I know I'm still a silly white kid, but if you're in Portland sometime, follow me to the Someday Lounge and we'll catch Braille or Ohmega Watts. If you know of some other good spots, hit me up - tell me about it.

Process Theology: James Said...

Regarding Process Theology, my friend James commented:



The problem that develops for me is that, if who God becomes is dependent on what humanity does, doesn't that make God kind of the unwitting evolutionary outcome of the whims of humanity? It takes the actions of humanity and elevates them to the role of creator. In the end this becomes not about a relational God but a God who exists to be formed by humanity.
Great thoughts, James. I agree that it's dangerous to allow God to be too-easily formed by our own whims, needs, opinions, etc... But doesn't that pre-suppose that we HAVEN'T already done that in the first place? In fact, every time we approach God, talk or think about God, aren’t we conforming God to our own expectations?

I'm not saying that because we do it already, we should just embrace the fact, without attempting to struggle beyond it. But I think it's overly idealistic (and maybe naive) to suggest we aren't doing that very thing already. I think Process Theology recognizes this and for better or worse, attempts to practically incorporate it into its framework and praxis.

James also said:


"The beauty of Process Theology is that it doesn't exist in isolation" - is that really possible? I think that most theological frameworks would strive to say that they do not exist in isolation but aren't frameworks in and of themselves isolating?

It's interesting you took that angle, because I've thought about that issue as well, but from the opposite angle: I would say, in fact, that it is isolation that is not possible. Everything we do exists in an interdependent matrix - everything we think and believe is borrowed and/or shared with other organisms - both individual and corporate.

I think to say that Process Theology's beauty is its lack of isolation is overly-congratulatory. No theology exists in isolation. I would restate it as: the beauty of Process theology is that it doesn't pretend to live in isolation.

I don't think frameworks are isolating. Idealistic elitism is isolating. Saying "everyone else is wrong, and we've got it" is isolating. And even then, such attitudes aren't effectively isolating. They're just ideologically so. Because frameworks cannot be built outside of the paradigms of other frameworks. That's why it's silly to attempt to posit postmodernism as "anti-modernism." Postmodernism is directly connected to modernism. Without modernity, "postmodernity" doesn't mean anything. Reminds me of all the "non-denominational" churches I grew up in. They always claimed to "read the Bible at face value" (which I don't believe is possible - we don't have such objectivity in this skin) and to have abandoned whatever "bad theology" they came from. But I continue to find that most "non-denominational" theology is directly informed by whatever that particular group came out of: Baptist, Pentecostal, Mennonite, whatever...

What is Process Theology?

www.TransformingTheology.org



I'm continuing to blog on various publications for a project Tripp Fuller is in on.

This pamphet is entitled: WHAT IS PROCESS THEOLOGY?

A Conversation with Marjorie

by Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki


* * *

In a nutshell, what is Process Theology?

"Process theologies are relational ways of thinking about the dynamism of life and faith. Process-relational theologians integrate implications of a thoroughly interdependent universe into how we live and epxress our faith. We are convinced that everything is dynamically interconnected; that everything matters; that everything has an effect." (p.2)


How do Scripture and tradition function in Process Theology?

"To study the history of any faith tradition is to see how that faith adapts to the common sense of its particular time and place. Tradition is like a flowing river that continuously carves out new paths... tradition is much richer than any single period! It is constantly moving, and we who are a part of that tradition are responsible for knowing how it has developed, and for contributing to its contemporary flow." (p.3)

"The same is true of biblical understanding. The text are given, but how they are interpreted varies enormously from age to age... how we draw from Scripture is also an adventure. Scriptural understanding blends studies of the actual texts together with the history of the way those texts have been interpreted in the tradition. Scripture may look like a steady state sort of thing, but it is actually a dynamic story of varying interpretations and applications throughout history." (p.4)

What is Process Philosophy?
"Process is relational philosophy." In the past, "most philosphers talked as if the ideal thing should be something solid that doesn't depend on anything beyond itself... in the 20th Century we began to see that the ability to relate to one another wasn't just a happenstance of the way things are, but is the core of the way things are. To exist is to be in relation. Does God exist? If you say yes, then God must also be in relation. To whom? To everyone and everything!"

Some More Process Food For Thought

  • In relational categories of process thought, God creates with the world.

  • God creates through persuasive power, rather than coercive power.

  • There are three powers of creation: power of the past (what has been), power of God (power of the future) and the power of self (our own actions and abilities).


* * *

I like the idea of God using persuasive, vs. coercive, power. The analogy is used of Wind and Sun fighting over which one could remove the coat of the man "down there," walking on the road. The wind blows and blows, but the man just clings more tightly to his jacket. Then the sun simply beamed warm, gentle rays down on the man until he was forced to remove his coat. The greater force was persuasive, not coercive.

In the 2nd question (p.3) above, suggests that the history of faith is a history of faith adapting to the "common sense of the time." Really? Faith adapting to common sense? Isn't faith, and the traditions it often brings with it, REGULARLY countercultural? Isn't the wisdom of God foolishness to humankind? (1 Corinthians 1) To suggest that all human faith is doing is chasing common sense seems - to me - to be a discredit and even a little patronizing. As people of faith, we simply validate ourselves by aligning with popular notions of the time...

Yes, yes, yes, I know if you read this blog and think I (and the rest of "pomoEmergianity") are just a bunch of culture-worshipping hipsters, then you're probably saying: "aha! Aha! There it is: he admits the danger of cultural alignment."

Well, yes and no. I believe that the underlying movement in faith-evolution involves a convergence between Holy Spirit and humankind. Humankind usually gets it wrong - a lot wrong - but the Holy Spirit is persistent enough to keep pushing us toward a greater redemptive truth.

The problem with accusing emerging strains of Christianity of being culturally-biased or culturally-compromised is that it assumes a slightly older model of Christianity isn't culturally-biased or compromised.


I don't think "common sense" is a bad thing. I think it's helpful, and often it's absolutely true. But common sense isn't everything. Neither is intuition, or "gut-feeling," or emotion/spiritual experience, or even historical trends. It's an... aha... an interdependent confluence of all these factors (and more) that reveals inklings of God's truth. Truth for today. Truth-basis for tomorrow.

The beauty of Process Theology is that it doesn't exist in isolation - relational, spiritual or ideological.

Nate said: "Scripture Too Elevated..."

In response to the last post, my friend Nate said:

I find Scripture to be elevated to heights far too lofty in Christian - namely protestant - circles. We expect the Bible to be self authenticating, but in Scripture, this idea is never found...what a circular argument.

Other ideas are circular... Sola Scriptura, the authority of Scripture.

Christ never spoke the words, "the books of the New Testament are going to be Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, etc...," nor did he ever say, "The words that will someday fill the canon are to be your sole authority for interpreting right from wrong."

I am sure Christ foresaw the slow changes that would take place in language and culture over 2,000 years... changes that would cause ineptness in understanding Scripture...

So, what do you think? Is Nate right? I find his comment refreshing - even freeing - but what do we do with some of these verses (among others):

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness...

Matthew 22:29
Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God."

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.


What was the historical/cultural context of these words? What was the understanding of the speakers or writers? Obviously, New Testament figures and writers did not see their letters as "Canonical Scripture." Jesus clearly meant to refer back to the Jewish OT. And David was bipolar, probably manic when he wrote Psalm 119. So who knows what he was thinking ;)

In Phyllis Tickle's The Great Emergence, she reminds us that in many ways, Christians traded a human Pope for a "paper Pope" during the Protestant Reformation. We over-elevated Scripture in response to over-elevating a man.

Are the current, modern Evangelical approaches to Scripture and Biblical authority inherently circular? "Neo-magical" superstitions? Misplaced (misdirected) faith?

What Can We Believe About the Bible?

www.TransformingTheology.org

I mentioned on Monday that I'm blogging on various publications (books, articles, pamphlets, etc...) for a project that Tripp Fuller (www.homebrewedchristianity.com) is helping run.

The first pamphet is entitled:

WHAT CAN WE BELIEVE ABOUT THE BIBLE?
A Program of the Center for Process Studies
by Judith Boice Casanova
John B. Cobb, Jr.
William A. Beardslee
& Joseph A. Deegan

The pamphlet opens with "Two reactions to the Bible," first: It All Has to Be True. This view posits a rather stereotypical stance on literalists (or inerrantists). We get a brief story about a kid named Phil, who doesn't get anything from his college professors, and found "the meaning of life" in the Bible, alone in his room. He doesn't have to ask himself tough questions or wonder what to think: the Bible lays it all out, plain and simple. "I don't have to worry about Science!"

Second view: One Book Amoung Many? This is embodied in "Marilyn," who learned how to think freely in college, and came to see the Bible as one book among man ancient books that represents human wisdom. Over time, after exploring avenues of philosophy, history and self-help, Marilyn began gravitating back to the Bible. She says, "I don't expect it to be true all the way, and I don't expect it to agree with modern science..." but Jesus, she says, is the core of the Bible. Jesus is an absolute truth, despite her altered understanding of the Bible.

Phil accepts biblical authoritarianism.

Marilyn manages to find a core of truth in the Bible.

These highlight two overarching views: LITERAL and LIBERAL.

You can guess at the general content of these identifiers.

Next we read about The Bible as a Book of Liberation:



"The most important way of hearing the Bible today is to let it speak as a record of the struggle of God and human beings for liberation. This is important because it is what poor, oppressed people are finding in it."

Hmmm... is that identifying another overarching view of Scripture? Or is the pamphlet itself making an argument for liberation? It continues:


Most of the readers of this booklet will not be from among the poor and oppressed... if we see ourselves in the story of liberation which the Bible tells, we shall have to ask ourselves how we can live differently, so as to take part in the story of the liberation of life to which the Bible orients us. (p. 10)

I have a deep appreciation for Liberation Theology. Understanding the needs, priorities and perspectives of oppressed and marginalized people groups is a huge necessity of recognizing Jesus' own context and set of priorities. But Liberation Theology doesn't seem to be the core of this pamphlet (the reader is merely teased with a brief treatment). It seems that the pamphlet really comes to a sort of conclusion on page 14: A PROCESS POINT OF VIEW ON THE BIBLE.

The process view does not "settle the question of how" to view Scripture, but it attempts to give us guidelines to intelligently and honestly approach the question(s).

Things we must consider in "process thinking" (which inevitably becomes "Process Theology")...

  • Investigate the role of the past - historical, cultural, political and even geopgraphic contexts and settings...
  • Discern the leading of God - process theologians believe God is a part of everything that happens. Is God being trusted? Believed? Are some getting in God's way? Role of the Holy Spirit...
  • Understand the influences of 'creatures' - Worldly influence and human decision affect everything that happens, as well...
  • Recognize the fallibility of human efforts - Only God is infallible. Humans who claim inerrancy are refusing to "let God be God" and refuse to acknowledge the limitations of "creaturehood"...
  • Interest means more than accuracy - More important than accurate information is how we are impacted, drawn in, and opened in understanding and insight to the world around us...
  • Biblical authority - Process theologians do not approach the Bible just as any other book or ancient document. They relate to it in the same way we relate to our own lives and pasts - personally, intimiately. The whole of Biblical witness is important, even those thought to be innacurate, because they reveal the whole spectrum of human understanding and interaction with scripture...

One major idea this pamphlet's conclusion tackles is the idea of God's "all-inclusive, unilateral power." It asks: doesn't unilateral power automatically (by its nature) cancel out other powers? Does it make sense to suggest that God's ultimate power subsequently disempowers us, completely? Which would take away free will, among other things (like tangible reality, percievable cause-and-effect, etc...) and render humans inconsequential.

God's creative (cooperative?) power is then related to proceses like evolution - emerging complexity in organisms, leading to more power allowed toward the autonomy of the created thing.

I liked the way the pamphlet ends: "one thing that is particularly remarkable about this book is that again and again it exposes human pretenses and especially the pretenses of those who claim a special relation to God. It does not absolutize itself..."

Ultimately, I found the caricature-based introduction of the pamphlet a little pretentious and condescending. Of course, in my experience, most religious pamphlets come off this way. I can picture dozens of Baptist and Assemblies of God "evangelism" brochures meant to convey a theological or salvific truth.

Can we really convey the depth and complexity of salvation (much less Biblical Authority or Process Theology) in 20 short pages? I would answer, 'no' (I've got little room to talk about depth: I write a blog).

On the other hand, this could be a useful discussion tool, especially for small groups dealing with particular subjects. The final page offers questions for discussion and then directs the reader to five books I assume expand on some of the pamphlet's central ideas.

Ultimately, what I found important was the reminder that there are more "options" than this or that: conservative or liberal. However, the "Liberal" view of Christianity was not well-differentiated from the "Process" view. In fact, as a recovering fundimentalist, I can see all sorts of reasons I could have thrown out the whole brochure as liberal, itself. But maybe that's a danger, no matter what. If some folks are unwilling to consider expanded views of Scripture, then even the most tactful arguments can fall flat.

More generally, I think that easy stereotypes (yes, I'm guilty of using them) are as dangerous as shortened, fast-food versions of deeper truths, philosophies and theories. We have to tread very carefully when condensing truths into small, portable, bite-sized pieces.

On the other hand, I have a few more of these pamphlets to discuss in the coming days, and I think I like a few of them better...

NBC Series: Kings

I'm really captivated by the concept of this new TV Series Kings. When I first began commercial previews of the show, I assumed a Shakespearean parallel. The look and feel, and even some of the dialogue, seemed to echo Richard III or King Lear or something.



Instead, the show's premise is based on the Biblical saga of David and King Saul. I was especially excited when I learned this. Early in the pilot episode, David fixes the car of "Reverend Samuels," pastor to the King. He receives a blessing (in the form of a broken gold watch). There's a gorgeous shot where a flock of butterflies alight on the young David's head ("David Shepherd" - ha! I love it) indicating God's annointing. King Silas Benjamin (a.k.a. Saul the Benjamite) watches this supernatural display.

Anyway, I'm enjoying it so far.








Neti Pot?

Have you heard of this? I hadn't until recently.

I get chronic migraines, and someone recently suggested I try using a "neti pot." You use a little ceramic teapot-looking thing, and pour warm saltwater up one nostril. It apparently fills your frontal sinus cavities and then empties out your other nostril.

Hindus have been doing it for millenia to aid in yoga breathing techniques. I can't say that it's changed my life, but it's definitely an interesting sensation - a little bit "refreshing" - if that's the right word.

Just thought I'd share another personal oddity.

Monday: Catching up...

It's been too long since I've written - since Wednesday! Time flies.

I've got a series of booklets I want to introduce to you. I signed on recently with Trip Fuller at www.homebrewedchristianity.com with dozens of other bloggers, to tackle new theological publications through a project called Transforming Theology (www.transformingtheology.org).

But I won't go there quite yet. Last night I had a great conversation with a college buddy, one of my best friends - Portland actor Chris Murray. We were talking about my blog and he said, "You know, I could give a f*ck about the theologians you quote. That's all way over my head. But when you break it down and talk about what you think about it, that's what I always look for. I want to hear your voice."

I appreciated the comment, and know that for the last week or so I haven't taken as much time to articulate why I'm posting some of the things I am (e.g. a quotation from the Buddha, or N.T. Wright on Biblical Authority, etc...). There are so many theologians and academics who are light years beyond me. One of the things I really try to do here is put philophical, theological and spiritual ideas into common, accessible language. Sometimes my attempts are sorry, lazy, hasty or just plain ignorant. But how do we synthesize and digest without conversation? Thanks for the reminder, Chris.

Earlier in the weekend, on Friday night (before I drank too much wine and killed myself with a headache the next day... hadn't done that in awhile... won't again anytime soon) Jen and I had dinner with two couples I've met through my day job. All of them are middle aged, fantastically intelligent, wildly liberal, and "spiritual, but not religious." In fact, one of the reasons I think they have wanted to get to know Jen and me is because they find Christianity in any form beyond conservative evangelicalism to be a curious oddity. Knowning we are both in seminary intrigued them.

Over the course of the night, we endeavored through a wide range of subject matter, but one thing I heard articulated by everyone there at one time or another was, "I'm spiritual, but not religious." With a brief testimonial why.

As Christians, we've sort of made a stereotype about the "secular world" (there's a misnomer if there ever was!) being "spiritual but not religious." We've laughed it off as lazy or ambivalent heretical or downright dangerous. But it isn't just a seeker-sensitive cliche. We live in a world where "spiritual but not religious" is the dominant paradigm. In fact, I think I would argue that most of Gen-X and Gen-Y Christians in our churches today are "spiritual but not religious," and just don't know it yet.

I think this matters when it comes to how the church looks at self-differentiation, conversion, salvation, ritual, and membership/affiliation. Not that any of those things are necessarily wrong, but that we keep using the same words out of religious-habit, but they don't mean the same things anymore. In fact, they can't mean the same things anymore - the old, 18th-mid-19th-Century meanings don't resonate today. Like so many things we've talked about here, the answer (in my view) is not trying to get BACK to what those old meanings were (grasping at a Past already out of reach) but instead pushing FORWARD (bravely) to understand how meanings may evolve in new (current/emerging/future) contexts.

Here's what I feel convicted of, and it may be counterintuitive: I want to be MORE religious, as I become more spiritual. I want to be religious in a way that matters - and in a way that feeds me. I want rituals and liturgies that feed my soul (not my nostalgia). I haven't read Brian McLaren's Finding Our Way Again but from what I've read about it, I think this is the track he's on...

A few days ago my friend's wife went on a Native American sweat house retreat. For hours, in blistering humidity, they meditated on Creator, self, spirit and earth. These practices fill a sacred need some corners of Christianity once knew how to feed.

N.T. Wright on Biblical Authority...

My friend Bo pointed me toward a great essay on N.T. Wright's website, regarding Biblical Authority. A beautiful (and exhilarating) piece.

Here's an excerpt...

Evangelicals and Biblical Authority
It seems to be that evangelicalism has flirted with, and frequently held long-running love affairs with all of these different methods of using the Bible, all of these attempts to put into practice what turns out to be quite an inarticulate sense that it is somehow the real locus of authority. And that has produced what one can now see in many so-called scriptural churches around the world—not least in North America. It seems to be the case that the more that you insist that you are based on the Bible, the more fissiparous you become; the church splits up into more and more little groups, each thinking that they have got biblical truth right. And in my experience of teaching theological students I find that very often those from a conservative evangelical background opt for one such view as the safe one, the one with which they will privately stick, from which they will criticize the others. Failing that, they lapse into the regrettable (though sometimes comprehensible) attitude of temporary book-learning followed by regained positivism: we will learn for a while the sort of things that the scholars write about, then we shall get back to using the Bible straight. There may be places and times where that approach is the only possible one, but I am quite sure that the Christian world of 1989 is not among them. There is a time to grow up in reading the Bible as in everything else. There is a time to take the doctrine of inspiration seriously. And my contention here is that evangelicalism has usually done no better than those it sometimes attacks in taking inspiration seriously. Methodologically, evangelical handling of scripture has fallen into the same traps as most other movements, even if we have found ways of appearing to extricate ourselves.

Click here to read more...

Wisdom in Common...

The thought manifests as the word;

The word manifests as the deed;

The deed develops into habit;

And habit hardens into character.

So watch the thought and its ways with care,

And let it spring from love

Born out of concern for all beings.

- The Buddha

Northwest no longer "least religious"

Hooray, we finally beat out those godless New Englanders, with their clam chowder, their rocky scenic coasts, and their atheism!


Pacific Northwest no longer "least religious"
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that Northern New England has surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious part of the country.

Click here to read more.

"Let Us Pray" - God-as-'IT'...

Our church recently conducted a survey regarding its "contemporary" late service on Sunday mornings. We asked what was working, what wasn't, highlights, perceived needs, etc...

We received quite a few comments about the overly-male pronouns referencing God in many of the worship songs. This didn't surprise me at all - at a liberal Mainline church, it's been surprising to me how many Top-40 Christian radio songs find their way into our worship music. Point of Grace, Newsboys, etc...

Our pastors rarely refer to "he" or "Father" for God - except in reciting liturgies - so the Christian pop is by no means subtle.

Yesterday morning we sang a classic Steven Curtis Chapman song: Let Us Pray. The words on the overhead were altered slightly to avoid conveying an overly-masculine God:

Let us pray, let us pray
Everywhere and every way
Every moment of the day
it is the right time.

For the Maker above
Is listening with love
And wants to answer us
So let us pray.

Maker replaced Father from the original lyrics, and "he" was removed from the two subsequent lines. But those removals created a syllabic void that required a muted downbeat (I'm not a musician, not sure if that explains it properly).


For the Father above
-He- is listening with love
And -he- wants to answer us
So let us pray.

It wasn't all that awkward, and everyone seemed to be getting it just fine. Except for the vocal leader on stage. She kept singing:


For the Maker above
It is listening with love,
And it wants to answer us,
So let us pray.
She couldn't avoid inserting a pronoun into those lines, so she choice a gender-neutral "it."

But "it" describes a thing, not a person. And God is a person. And if we remove God's personhood, then not only is God gender-neutral, but God is a distant object that seems... well... "unalive."

My wife Jen said, "When I heard that I thought of the cow-God-thing from South Park."

She meant this, the depiction of God, Jesus' father on South Park:



Yup. That's God. "Abba-It." And I'd say, "that's just about right." That's what I'd think of too, with God as an "it."

I'm all for rethinking our hyper-masculinized conception of God. I have no problem thinking of God as Father AND Mother. But "it?" I guess it seems like we're trying so hard that we end up killing the very concept we're trying to salvage.

Frog Jesus...

My friend Brandon (dude, where'd your blog go??) showed me this. Totally bizarre. A perfectly awkward non-ending...

Corpus Christi: Are You Pissed Off?

I got an angry e-mail in bolded red text recently.


The movie Corpus Christi is due to be released this June to August. This disgusting film set to appear in America later this year and it depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals!

As a play, this has already been in theatres for a while. It's called Corpus Christi which means "The Christ Body."

It's a revolting mockery of our Lord. But, we can make a difference. That's why I am sending this e-mail to you. If you do send this around, we may be able to prevent this film from showing in America and South Africa. Apparently, some regions in Europe have already banned the film. We need lot of prayers and a lot of e-mails. As a Christian, I want to take a stand in what I believe in and stop the mockery of Jesus Christ our Savior.

At the risk of a bit of inconvenience, I'm forwarding this to all I think would appreciate it. Please help us prevent such offenses against our Lord. It will take you less than 2 minutes! If you are not interested, and do not have the 2 minutes it will take to do this, please don't complain when God does not have time for you, because He is far busier than we are. Remember, Jesus said "Deny Me on earth and I'll deny you before my Father."


Really? If I don't forward this e-mail, God won't have the time for me?

Does Jesus Christ really need my defense? Can't Jesus Christ, who is God, handle himself in a knockdown dragout? No? He needs Pete Walker from suburban Oregon to back him up? Wow, Jesus is really stretched for friends...

The truth is, if we think God needs our defense - and MILITANCE - when someone is taking artistic liberties - then we aren't really Christians at all. We're Jihadists. No offense to Muslims, but we've created a Christian incarnation of a fundamentalist Allah.

In John 4, when Jesus sits at the well with the Samaritan woman, we forget what - exactly - is transpiring: a Samaritan woman (looked down upon by Jewish society) with a bad reputation (wasn't hard to get one in the 1st Century) was sitting alone with a single Jewish man. And they were talking. Intimately.

Someone may have thought they were flirting.

Someone may have assumed even more.

Someone might have made a musical about it.

Who cares what people want to suggest or explore about the nature, humanity, godhood, history, divinity, complexity, or mystery of Jesus of Nazareth. Back in the 70s a bunch of folks got angry about a movie by Martin Scorsese. The movie was based on a book by a Greek guy named Nikos Kazantzakis. And his book is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read - even if it doesn't align with my view of Christ.

Christians: stop being so angry! We don't have a RIGHT to be pissed off! WE have been the empire in the Western World for the last 1,700 years. Let's try reading about meekness, gentleness, kindness, love, patience, long-suffering... hmmm... the sorts of things that taste like a certain kind of fruit.

There's also a city in Texas called Corpus Christi. I'll bet some sinners live there.

FYI: there IS no Corpus Christi movie. Yes, there's a major music. But the movie is a falsehood, meant to keep pissing Christians off because the picket-sign industry is having a tough time in this recession. www.Snopes.com points out that this particular petition has been circulating and then surfing the web since 1984.

Christians, we've got to find something better to do with our time...

Post-Christendom (and post-religion) - It's here...

(CNN) -- America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago, and Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether, a survey published Monday found.

Survey finds percentage of of Americans identifying themselves as Christian has fallen over two decades.

Three out of four Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was closer to nine out of 10 -- 86 percent.

At the same time there has been an increase in the number of people expressing no religious affiliation.

The survey also found that "born-again" or "evangelical" Christianity is on the rise, while the percentage who belong to "mainline" congregations such as the Episcopal or Lutheran churches has fallen.

One in three Americans consider themselves evangelical, and the number of people associated with mega-churches has skyrocketed from less than 200,000 in 1990 to more than 8 million in the latest survey.

The rise in evangelical Christianity is contributing to the rejection of religion altogether by some Americans, said Mark Silk of Trinity College.

"In the 1990s, it really sunk in on the American public generally that there was a long-lasting 'religious right' connected to a political party, and that turned a lot of people the other way," he said of the link between the Republican Party and groups such as the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family.
...
...

Other findings include:
  • The percentage of Catholics in the United States has remained steady at about one in four since 1990, while the percentage of other Christians has plummeted from 60 percent to 50 percent.
  • The percentage of Muslims has doubled since 1990, but remains statistically very small, only 0.3 percent in the original survey and 0.6 percent today.
  • Mormons have remained steady as a percentage of the population, even as the number of people in the United States has grown. They make up 1.4 percent of the population.
  • The number of Jews in the United States is falling if the category includes only those who define themselves as Jews religiously, but has remained the same if the category includes people who consider themselves ethnically Jewish.

Click here to read the full article!

Theories of Emergence | Intersections With the Church

Tony Jones has been dialoguing with an emergence theorist, Dr. Philip Clayton, at Jones' blog - The New Christians. I believe that the theories of emergent biology Clayton references are exactly why folks like Brian McLaren began using "Emergent" in the first place. It's fantastic to hear some of those dots connected from a scientific perspective, though. If all the emerging church does is re-brand its evangelical language to match the vocabulary of cutting edge science, then nothing has really changed. We're 6-day literalists trying to appeal to a scholarly crowd.

BUT if - as Clayton suggests - there really are theological ramifications for a new approach to understanding biological/ecological systems, then it doesn't just make our language more "relevant" - IT CHANGES EVERYTHING!



Click here for more dialogue between Jones and Dr. Clayton. Really fun stuff!

Pass the Matthew Shepard Act

My friend Adele passed this information along to me. Regardless of how you feel theologically about homosexuality, I think compassion is a non-negotiable for a follower of Jesus.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people often fear for their lives and safety. I can personally attest to this: as a straight guy, I have dealt with threats, harrassment and name-calling for much of my life. "Fag," "homo," "queer." I've had plenty of guys want to kick my ass, simply because they assumed I was gay.

I guess homophobes don't like dudes who enjoy the arts. Or dress better than they do.

Did you know that one in six hate crimes are committed because of sexual orientation or gender identity – and that's on the rise? Racism is still a real and rampant problem in America. But homophobia and hatred over gender identity is a rapidly-growing problem.

Two years after George W. Bush's veto threat blocked it, the Matthew Shepard Act is back and has a real shot of becoming the law of the land.

Not to "demonize," but let's be real: right-wing fundamentalist groups are using fear, stereotypes, lies and distortion to defeat this important bill, once again. If we're silent, they could bring lawmakers who are on the fence over to their side. More importantly, if the Body of Christ is silent, then the world hears a very clear message about who Jesus is - and WHO JESUS LOVES (as if that's a limited pool of names).

Please send your message to Congress today. Tell them we need the Matthew Shepard Act to help ensure safety and security for ALL people. Tell them love, goodness, and human compassion demands it.

Click here.

Mike Jones on Gay Marriage...

On a recent post concerning a NY Times editorial on gay marriage, Mike Jones commented:

Good thoughts. After reading through these postings, I thought I would share my perspective.

The primary focus of our non-profit counseling office, Corduroy Stone, is to address the subjects of homosexuality and heterosexuality from a biblical perspective. Thus I have put considerable thought to the questions and concepts surrounding civil unions, marriage, and gay marriage. I often write that if we could first separate the legal construct of marriage from the Christian concept of marriage, and then separate the function of using churches and having pastors officiate marriages when both parties are not Christians, from Christian marriages whether in church buildings or not, we would go a long way in understanding the complexities of the thrust of civil unions and the value of Christian marriage that is differentiated from gay marriages that are proposed by supportive social and pro-gay Christian components of society. I am in support of civil unions, including those where people are heterosexual and don't want to bring in a Christian concept of marriage into their legal definition of being together in the society.

I don't support gay marriage from my theological perspective on marriage, but I think people who are committed to be together, (maybe for more or less years than the typical heterosexual marriage today), should have the same social rights as people who are in a Christian marriage, where the state honors that as a legal union. It feels like we don't address the negative components of Christian marriage in our culture when we address the subject of civil unions and gay marriage.

Thanks for your input Mike. It seems obvious that if more conservatively-minded Christians were able to approach this issue as you do, we'd have far fewer problems with so-called "culture wars." Far less collateral damage.

That said, I still wrestle with the theological perspective on marriage. Obviously, the Bible never says "One Man + One Woman = Marriage" or whatever the bumper sticker reads. But I acknowledge that the cultural and historical reading is implicit. Nonetheless, being in relationship with people changes the way we understand truth and context. I have a close friend who leads an "ex-Gay" ministry that seems similar to yours. I find him to be compassionate, kind, balanced, in love with Christ, and quite conservative. I have another close friend who is an "out" lesbian. She, too, is compassionate, kind, balanced, in love with Christ... but quite liberal.

As a straight (though not very macho - I used to take ballet classes) dude, do I really need to make a choice? Can I get away with literally "accepting" (dangerous word, I know!) them both?

Or is Christianity confined by a list of True/False statements which demand our subscription?

I don't take these questions lightly. I'm just not satisfied with easy answers.

But what does your label MEAN?

We all use labels. They help us identify. They keep life simpler (or try to). It's often an innate survival tactic:
us
them
in
out
good
bad
gay
straight
black
white
male
female
kind
evil
smart
stupid
Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, emerging, Emergent, Pentecostal, non-denominational, Bible-believing, Born-Again, Evangelical, Agnostic, Buddhist, Star Trek Fan...

A friend showed me a great website on both humane and green, eco-oriented certifications for consumer goods. It's a service from Consumer Reports.

It's amazing how many "claims" from companies are really unfounded, or exploitations of technicalities and loopholes.
Did you know: The "free-range" label doesn’t necessarily mean the animals ever went outdoors.

Free range (or free roaming) is a general claim that implies that a meat or poultry product, including eggs, comes from an animal that was raised in the open air or was free to roam. Its use on beef is unregulated and there is no standard definition of this term. Free range is regulated by the USDA for use on poultry only (not eggs) and USDA requires that birds have been given access to the outdoors but for an undetermined period each day. USDA considers five minutes of open-air access each day to be adequate for it to approve use of the free range claim on a poultry product. "Free range" claims on eggs are not regulated at all.

I had dinner with a friend last night who didn't know I was practicing vegetarianism (I did admit to a few exceptions I had made... ). He asked if I thought he was a bad person or would be horrified if he ordered steak. I answered, "Of course not. This is my conviction. And it took me 29 years to even begin to think I needed to make a change. I don't expect this to occur to everyone, overnight." He had the steak, which was fine. And looked tasty.

I'm glad Consumer Reports has this site. It makes me think of so many churches out there (as well as Christian books and magazines) that claim to be "progressive" or [ahem] "relevant." An editor from one of those magazines once reminded me, "You have to realize, most of our readers are fundamentalists in liberal clothing."
Point taken.

We all like to attain to something "higher" or "better" or "beyond" ourselves. That's part of following Jesus. But when we claim something that we aren't genuinely, authentically working toward (like compassion, or kindness) and just like the idea of the idea... then it's a load of B.S. and the words are meaningless. That's when labels become confusing, unhelpful, and downright deceiving.

A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage

Seems Christians are only ever willing to "play nice" when they've finally reconciled with inevitable defeat. A friend pointed me to this article in the NYTimes.

It's written by two guys from across the aisle, which I can appreciate:
David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values and the author of “The Future of Marriage,” and Jonathan Rauch, guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America.”

It begins:

In politics, as in marriage, moments come along when sensitive compromise can avert a major conflict down the road. The two of us believe that the issue of same sex marriage has reached such a point now...
Click Here to read the full article.

I suppose if every evangelical American was willing to go along with this, we'd manage to pull ourselves out of gay culture wars for the most part. Still, I'm struck that in this article, too many will Christians hear an excuse to "defend their space" - a last-ditch effort to legitimize a particular theology, validate their discomfort, perpetuate their homophobia, etc...

I realize that's not the core of this article, but I try to be careful how I talk within evangelical circles. I've had my own words twisted from underneath me, to affirm something I never intended. Does this article give evangelicals permission to dig in and further separate from culture-at-large? Is that the best solution at hand?

OR, maybe this is a very pragmatic first step, paving the way toward inevitable normalization of homosexuality in the broader culture (which then inevitably trickles down to the churches).

Thoughts?

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