The "Recent Comments" functionality is not currently working with Blogger. It's a "known issue." I really wish I was savvier. I would try to switch hosts. This is pissing me off...

Checking in...

It's been a few days since I've posted, and I'm feeling guilty for it. It's the holidays though, right?

I've been reading a lot of Wendell Berry (I adore him and wish I was a farmer) and some original Sherlock Holmes stories after watching the new movie.

I've been thinking a lot about the issue of advocacy, and what's actually meaningful, as it continues to come up here and elsewhere on the blogosphere: "is this really helping anything?!"

I'll be exploring that a little bit, soon.

Also, my good friend Adele is coming to visit. Maybe I can convince her to do a little video-blogging with me!!!

Talk to you soon,

Merry Christmas!

There's snow on the ground in Eastern Oregon. It's cold and crisp and I'm thankful for life.

Merry Christmas,

Avatar pt. 2: Video Review

I know, I know, I already blogged about this, but I recorded this right after seeing the movie. It takes a long time to edit the footage down, so I hated to toss it all out just because of the write up. I just finished editing...

Christmas: As I was saying...

"Anonymous" posted this comment today on my "Christ in Christmas" post, and I just couldn't resist sharing:

you must be a god damn idiot.

its CHRISTmas, why shouln't jesus be in it?

go to hell

As I was saying. Let's stretch ourselves a little...


Avatar: I see blue cat people...

Just finished the three hour tour that is James Cameron's Avatar and being a HUGE sci-fi geek I must say I have... mixed feelings.

Beyond the shameless, co-opted caricatures of tribal Native American, African and Aboriginal cultures, I think there is something deeply problematic in the way moviegoers are invited to participate in our own entertainment by sympathizing with the marginalized (as we clearly should, and must) - and then feel good about ourselves for being so sensitive.

The Empire outrages us when helpless savages (or natives, or pagans, or immigrants, or peasants, or "Rebel scum," or Bajorans - that's right, I went there...) are abused, attacked, and hopelessly outnumbered.

Here's the problem: nothing ever changes.

This may not be the fault of the filmmaker. Clearly, James Cameron has good intentions. Good 350 million dollar intentions (so there's a question of how funds might best be used...) but filmmaking makes a big spectacle, makes us clap and cheer, and then gives us PERMISSION to go back to our comfortable lives. Unchanged. Truly, unconvicted. At least, not for very long.

So I teared up when the blue cat people were getting blown to smithereens (yeah, I actually did) but that doesn't matter. And I'd bet what's worse is that I'm crying over a stolen story: this story played out here on U.S. soil, and involved tens of millions, instead of a few thousand.

When we're encouraged to sympathize with the "least of these" (be they human OR alien) and then get off the hook, habitual permission to go back to our lives unchanged, then it doesn't matter if you call it art or entertainment - it's destructive. How do we break the habit of caring enough to cry, but not enough to take action? We are, after all, still waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And ready to do so, elsewhere. The same script plays out in Braveheart and The Last Samurai, and dozens of fabulous, captivating "epics." And they all teach us to care about the RIGHT things. But not to care too much.

As an aside, I do love sci-fi, and Avatar created one of the most vivid worlds I've ever seen on film. After 45 minutes, I even got used to the douchey-looking cat people. It was an experience as much as something to merely watch. I want to give credit where credit is due, and it's an impressive spectacle. I simply cannot divorce my viewing experience from this feeling that makes my stomach more than a little unsettled.

God made truth a relationship, not an idea...

My wife receives e-mail meditations from Friar Richard Rohr, and sent me this one yesterday. I thought you may enjoy. Think about this: "God made truth a relationship, instead of an idea!" How powerful! God could have given Mary a set of rules and laws, like Moses on the mountain. Instead, God gave Mary a baby. There's nothing messier or more subjective than a human being - especially starting as an infant. THAT perilous choice is God's modus operandi.

On retreat I once wrote in my journal, “How good of you, God, to make truth a relationship instead of an idea. Now there is room between you and me for growth, for conversation, for exception, for the infinite understandings created by intimacy, for the possibility to give back and to give something to You—as if I could give anything back to You.

You offer me the possibility to undo, to please, to apologize, to change, to surrender, and to grow. There’s room for stages and for suffering, for mutual passion and mutual pity. There’s room for mutual everything.” This is good religion, worthy of free, intelligent, and mature people!

From Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality p. 67

response to: Everyone's got a Crusade...

Please read the post below this one for context...

Everyone's Got a Crusade... Me? I'm a Sponge.

Having a crusade (please forgive the violent medieval connotations) is an important and even precious part of being human: being passionate. There are so many things worth taking up as a cause. It seems all of my friends have a cause, and I find I have a tendency to take up those causes with them, on their behalf (I'm a passion-sponge) because I think it's ALL so important! For example...

  • Women's issues are my wife's crusade. Most of what she hears and reads and experiences is translated through a feminist lens, and evaluated via her passionate critique of misogyny and its expansive impact on society. She lives with the ongoing compulsion to do something productive about it. I'm incredibly inspired by this, and Jen has opened my eyes to so much I have taken for granted, assuming it was normative rather than symptomatic.
  • Queer issues are my good friend Adele's crusade. After coming out a few years ago, she has passionately advocated for equality, social justice, tolerance and respectful religious dialogue. Adele, too, has helped me become aware of so many issues of prejudice and injustice that would have never occurred to me in my own tunnel-vision-reality! (maybe I'm just slow...)
  • One of my professors is a zealot for Green Theology! His own view of God has radically evolved as he has explored the connections and synapses between stewardship and earth-keeping, and God and spirituality. It's a fascinating area that a lot of Evangelicals are [finally] getting excited about. Perhaps just in time...

For me, though, I don't feel like there's one definitive subject I am particularly passionate about. The Emergent Conversation was my "thing" for a couple of years, beginning in 2004 when I started writing about evolving faith and progressive cultural and philosophic ethos. Hence this URL. And I haven't stopped caring about Christian emergence... it's just that emergence is the process. A lot of us thought it was the answer. It was just the path to more (and bigger) questions about God and society and spirituality and the world.

So Emergent really can't be "my thing," because it isn't a thing (sheepishly, I believe Brian McLaren, Doug Paggit and Tony Jones have been saying that from the beginning). Worse, the folks who have made Emergent their permanent "thing" are really just mainstream Evangelicals - who aren't particularly different from typical Americans - finding a "style" (a superficial change of clothes and language) and sticking with it for way too long. Worse, they (we?/!) come to it very late (like Christian boy bands or Gospel Rap) and think it's the NEXT BIG THING... instead of last year's big thing.

Now some well-intentioned Christian idealists might like to say, "but JESUS is my crusade/passion/cause." And you might THINK that. And it sounds nice. But none of us manages to follow Jesus without bringing in all sorts of personal preferences and prejudices along the way.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS's... contemporary Christian music.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS... as he fits into the social circles at work.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS... as he's communicated by their charismatic pastor.
  • Someone might be passionate about JESUS's... social justice.
  • Or JESUS'... kindness toward women/the poor/the marginalized.
  • OR JESUS'... supernatural healing and miracles.

And honestly, none of those are bad. Not even the cynical first three. They are simply the reality of what human beings [with needs and wants] do with God. We make God in our image. Or the image of our ideals. And religion follows.

The biggest thing for me is realizing I AM a sponge for causes. Tell me yours, and I might jump on board! That's not because I'm so naive (which I might be) but because I just get so darned-excited about what God is doing in and through other people. And I'd like to stay that way. Academia (as much as I enjoy it) is centered on being a comprehensive expert on one very narrow field of interest. I'd rather stay casually informed about dozens of topics, stay excited about all of them, and find ways that their aims and priorities overlap and complement one another.

Glad I'm a sponge...

Makes you want to change your life...

So without too much detail, my wife and I had a health-scare over the last couple of weeks. The sort of thing that forces you to contemplate the rest of your life and deal seriously with the realities of mortality.

Lots of tears... A few moments of terror...

And the tests come back clean, and just as suddenly we're reintroduced into life-as-usual. Sort of.

How do you deal with life-and-death wake-up calls? I recently read an article in a business magazine that said 90 percent of people who go through major, "life changing" crisis situations revert BACK to their old way of living within two weeks of the situation resolving. Are we so unchangeable? So caught in our ways?

Your prayers change when death is unexpectedly knocking at the door. God becomes nearer, because God has to be nearer. And that's not a God-thing. Either God is a complex set of emotional responses based on cultural conditioning, or we simply don't allow God to break through, into the reality of our lives, in any meaningful way until crises break down all our cynicism, stress, forced-productivity and fragmented loyalties.

How many times have you told yourself or a loved one, "we've got to change the way we live" and gone right back to status quo?

I'm not even sure I'm capable of rejecting the way I've habitually (compulsively?) lived for 30 years. But it's in times like the last few weeks that I'm acutely aware: we've got to change the way we live. Now, how do I go about being a part of that 10th percentile that actually lives out its renewed awareness? God has been faithful. How do I return the favor?

In Exodus 9, God speaks to an aching, battered, enslaved people, desperate for liberation: "But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."

I'm enslaved by nothing less and nothing more than myself, and the safeties and securities I have constructed around me. I'm coming to believe that the definition of true power is only manifested in power's own surrender or sharing with those who do not have it. Thus the power of God is never demonstrated by demonstrable power, but by power acquiesced to the marginalized, the weak and the "least."

Public Service Announcement: Urinal Etiquette 101

I'm not trying to be divisive or hurt anyone. But some things need addressing...

Won't you join with me to help spread the word?


Conspiracy theories are fun, aren't they?

I don't want to sound like a sycophant - and I'm not especially happy when President Obama gives a pro-war speech (balanced, sensible and eloquent, though it was) that is subsequently praised by BOTH Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich... I think that's a red flag. Nonetheless, Obama talked about "the politics of fear" during his campaign, and that message deeply resonated with me. It carries particular meaning for me in dealing with "THE CHRISTIANITIES OF FEAR." 1 John 4:18 reads, "Perfect love casts out fear. He who fears is not made perfect in love." I make sarcastic jokes, but the truth is I'm saddened and continually shocked by the fearful stuff I keep hearing...

Uganda, Executing Queers, "The Family"...

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Some of you may be aware that there has been an aggressive bill in Uganda to make homosexuality not only a crime, but one punishable by execution.

One of the leading supporters of the bill there is an African pastor who is close friends with Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren. Warren has invited this pastor to speak many times at Saddleback.

"As an American pastor," Warren said in his statement, "it is not my role to interfere with the politics of other nations, but it is my role to speak out on moral issues." He told the Ugandan pastors that the bill was "unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals." The bill's requirement that Ugandans report any meeting with homosexuals to authorities, he said, would hinder the ministry of the church and force homosexuals who are HIV positive underground. He also defended the timing of his denunciation. "Because I didn't rush to make a public statement," he said, "some erroneously concluded that I supported this terrible bill, and some even claimed I was a sponsor of the bill. You in Uganda know that this is untrue." He added, "I oppose the criminalization of homosexuality."

Thankfully, after pressure and public outcry (worldwide) execution has been removed from the bill. However, it continues to move forward in an only slightly less virulent form. This is still unacceptable, and American voices need to speak out and continue condemning this outrageous bill and its insidious, subversive American supporters.

"Keeping Christ in Christmas..." Really?

Why do we fight so hard to hang on to some sort of meaningless cultural dominance? I was reading an article the other night at school, and it got to me. Here's my rant...

Speaking of Native/First Nations issues: Twiss & Woodley

Speaking of Native/First Nations issues, I think you'll really like Richard Twiss' humor and insight in this video...

And Randy Woodley is an adjunct professor at George Fox Seminary, teaching on Native American History and Native American Spirituality.

You should check out his blog at Sojourner's...

Kim: On Discussion on Native American Genocide...

I wanted to highlight Kim's recent comment here:

I think it is imperative that everyone in America and Canada learn ALL sides of their history. In America, we are not taught American Indian history in school. Only the so-called victors’ side of history is acknowledged. I will bet that Native history isn’t taught in Canada either. Even, myself, as a member of an Oklahoma tribe did not learn about my tribal, Oklahoma, and American Indian history in general until my own personal recent in-depth study. Like I mentioned, I have written a picture book about the destruction of my tribe. I am in a few writing critique groups. When one of the groups (all Caucasians) read my story, they asked me if they could read about this information in the library. I told them it was all there. They actually wanted to know more!

They were all shocked to find out that the land run (that our state celebrates each year through reenactments in our public schools etc.) actually stole land away from tribes. Yes, Oklahoma was formed on land thievery. Oklahoma schools even celebrate this. My son’s third grade class dressed up in European attire and had a land run reenactment. I wrote a letter to the school telling them that he would not be attending that day to celebrate the stealing of our tribal land. We celebrated our Native history instead with a trip to the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko, Oklahoma. The interesting thing is as I child I participated in the land run reenactment at school as my own parents did not know the history. My dad’s family was from Anadarko, Oklahoma and my great-grandfather wanted a better life for his kids and moved them to the city (Oklahoma City). My dad then went to an all white school and pretty much did what was passed down -- forgot he was Indian. We are all reclaiming that part of ourselves and it is like coming home.

Here is an interesting article regarding the history of the Oklahoma land run…

Click here

I know that the Trail of Tears story is taught in schools, but did you know that tribes like my own tribe which is actually aboriginal to Oklahoma already owned the land in Oklahoma? My tribe is one of those “uncivilized” tribes. Only the tribes that adopted the white lifestyle like owning slaves were considered civilized by the way.

Also, many people do not realize that the worse genocidal efforts were not of the Holocaust against Jews. It was the American Indian genocide that happened right here in America. Did you know that the U.S. government sterilized thousands of Native women, in many cases, without their consent?
Click here, on forced sterilization...

I’m not sure how we can get schools to teach the truth about American Indian history in schools. That is one of the reasons why I wrote my picture book. All I can do is pray, write about Native topics and teach my own children the truth. I told them the true story of Columbus and Thanksgiving. As for my own journey of repentance and reconciliation, I am honestly still working on that. God is slowly healing my soul. He has ignited a passion in me for writing the truth about history for children. I have a journalism background, but have finally found my calling.

Kim, I passionately sympathize, though I confess the solution is far beyond my comprehension. I'm sure there are many solutions, and none of them can undo, solve or remedy that damage that's been done. Americans of European descent are living on stolen land with - as you said - the blood of millions on our hands, staining our family trees.

Jake Page's In the Hands of the Great Spirit references Henry Dobyns, who estimates there were 18 million American Indians present at first contact with Western Europeans. He also suggested that in 1492 there were likely 112 million native peoples in the hemisphere, the majority in Mexico and Central America. These estimates are shockingly higher than earlier [placating] numbers that tend toward numbers closer to 1 million, total in North America.

If the high numbers are true, then the truth of your genocide comment is almost too horrible to imagine, Kim.

Page writes:

By the early part of the twentieth century, there were only some 250,000 American Indians alive, their lowest ebb since millennia ago. Their population had been reduced in the four hundred years of recorded history by as much as 95 percent... [p. 105]

Liberation, Boff, and Cheesy Webcast...

So I'm playing around with iMovie and trying to develop webcast components to accompany some of my writing. Please don't judge too harshly - I'm just a few years late in the YouTube game. Hopefully I'll get better...

Respectful Dialogue: Kim and Al...

I'm just really enjoying the exchange taking place between Kim and my friend Al, regarding the abuses and atrocities committed against First Nations peoples in North America. It's important to emphasize that the impact of those abuses unquestionably continues to directly wound, oppress, marginalize and even to culturally (and economically) enslave our brothers and sisters of Native decent.

Click here and scroll to the bottom of the comments section to really see a beautiful kind of dialogue between stranges of very different backgrounds. It's a level of conversation I strive for (and often fail to attain).

Kim offered some links for further interest:

Also a book by Richard Twiss, an incredibly important voice in Native conversations...

Al, Kim, thank you both for your example.

2Pac and the Vatican...

This affirms my belief that there is order and meaning in the universe. I've been advocating for 2Pac Shakur's sainthood since 1997...

(CNN) -- Music from late rapper Tupac Shakur has been included as part of the Vatican's official MySpace Music playlist.

The seat of the Catholic Church released a list of 12 songs onto the social networking Web site's streaming music service this week when the site launched in the United Kingdom. Among selections from Mozart, Muse and Dame Shirley Bassey is the slain rapper's song "Changes," which was released two years after his shooting death on a greatest hits album in 1998.
"The genres are very different from each other, but all these artists share the aim to reach the heart of good minded people," the Vatican wrote on its official MySpace Music page. As of Thursday night, "Changes" had been played more than 4.6 million times on the Web site. The list was compiled by Father Giulio Neroni, artistic director of church publisher St Paul's Multimedia. He was also responsible for compiling the Vatican's recent Alma Mater album, which combined Gregorian chants and prayers with classical music and the voice of Pope Benedict XVI speaking in five

... The lyrics of "Changes" describe Shakur's desire to change a grim life of drugs, crime and violence on the streets. Lyrics of the song, which is labeled as "explicit," include 'Is life worth living, should I blast myself?" "Give the crack to the kids, who the hell cares, one less hungry mouth on the welfare," and "My stomach hurts, so I'm looking for a purse to snatch."At another point, Tupac sings: "Cause both black and white are smokin' crack tonight..."

Ha! I love it. Now, as a feminist, I probably shouldn't celebrate 2Pac's veneration without some qualifiers. He was a deeply flawed young man. But he was a very young man, and his music was transcendent and conscious as often as (or more so) it was ignorant and vicious. 2Pac certainly wasn't any more misogynystic than St. Augustine or Tertullian.

So I celebrate with this bizarre olive branch extended by the Roman Catholic Church, to hip hop culture and those racially and economically marginalized.

2Pac meditated, "I wonder if heaven got a ghetto..." Maybe this move reflects the grace, complexity and strange juxtaposition inherent in the truth of that answer: "In contrast, the playlist also contains selections from the album "Music of the Vatican" such as "Advocata Nostra" and "Causa Nostrae Laetitiae." (CNN)

Hot Evangelical Sex!

In class several weeks ago, we were talking about the Trinity and the use of sexuality as a metaphor for God, for the Trinity, and even for our relationship to God. A few students in class really had a problem with the sort of marriage-centricity (got a better word?) that such language reveals.

I think that talking about the Trinity and the spiritual life in terms of sexuality is a little bit like Ted Haggard claiming in 2005 that "Evangelicals have the best sex lives." And not only because Ted Haggard was a closet-homosexual, but because there's nothing about Evangelical culture that could legitimately claim to foster healthy sexuality. We shame and condemn young people for temptation, experimentation, exploration or even for frank discussion - until they're married. And then we expect years of repression to magically melt away because the couple said "I do" in front of a pastor. The one thing Evangelicals are more uncomfortable with than sexuality is homosexuality. So when the question legitimately comes up in class, "why is marriage posited as the ultimately picture of spirituality?" (or however it was worded) my first answer is: latent homophobia. If you're single, you might be gay. If you're married, you've at least managed to convince everyone you're straight.

When I volunteered in youth and drama ministries at a large Pentecostal church several years ago (before I was married), a pastor took me out to dinner and asked me if I "struggled with homosexuality." I was shocked. At the time, I was even a little offended. The pastor explained, "Some of the pastoral staff have been talking. The last guy to be so involved with drama and music ministry was gay..." Yup. I know about the one that got away... At the time, rather than deeply questioning the ethos of a church that would function in such an overtly homophobic way, I simply worked at making my dating a lot more public. I dragged girls to church to erase any doubt (but I still listened to Depeche Mode).

Secondly (and directly connected) is that Evangelical culture values assimilation, more than secular culture at large does. It informs everything we do. When someone breaks that mold - chooses to live differently (i.e. celibate, ascetic, starving artist, anarchist, queer...) and still identifies with our religious narrative, it leads to all sorts of questions we aren't prepared for: "what if we're wrong?" "What if I need to change?" "What if I have to invite the OTHER over for dinner?" Assimilation (and the "advertising spirit" of Evangelicalism) is also what would make Ted Haggard's claim at least partly true: Evangelicals HAVE to say they have the best sex lives, because to admit otherwise might undermine our marketing strategy, our inspirational literature, and our positive, encouraging music.

I still love the idea of using sexual concepts and imagery in relation to spirituality - in a way that is respectful and inclusive of other models. But in every way I've seen it discussed or promoted within my Christianity-of-origin, it comes off forced and disingenuous. I hope our churches get a little braver about welcoming alternative ways of being Christian and being human, even if it stretches our own comforts and sensibilities.

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