To Be Or Not To Be: Dreaming of Kingdom, Comfort, Or...


For nearly five years, we have been living in a humble, 500 square foot apartment in a small, liberal college town.  We love it here, but have often agonized watching home prices.  A local "starter home" is $210,000 - $220,000, which is a range we simply cannot afford at this time.

In a way, there is something noble-sounding about renting: we remain "unattached," free of ownership constraints.  That means if we feel called to relocate, to change vocations, to go do humanitarian work, to find a university where Jen can pursue her PhD, there is little to stop us.  Noble-"sounding," because I'm not sure my own intentions are pure...

While my wife has been away for the last week, I have been exploring homes for sale.  I feel myself letting go of the fantasy of being able to afford living here, locally.  Just 10 miles down the highway, there are lovely homes we could absolutely afford.  The problem is, it's the town I grew up in.  And, close as it is, my ego screams: "you can't live in your home town!  Your friends are in L.A. and Seattle and New York and Washington DC!"  As if geography indicates some sort of success (I have written here about my struggle with this dangerous problem of perception, before).

Moreover, we'd be leaving a community that - by and large - shares our social values.  That's comfortable.  Elsewhere, we may be surrounded by conservatism.  Horror of horrors!  Sound elitist?  Sure.  I'm guilty, but I'm convicted, too.

Is home ownership good, bad, or indifferent?  In so many ways, it represents The American Dream.  But do I have a right to pursue this dream when my convictions are so critical of it?

Is it the financially smart thing to do?  And if it is, is that reason enough?  It's certainly more comfortable living in a home.  Is that reason enough?  This is where my idealism's rubber meets the road, trapping me by my own reasoning.

Is it really noble to remain available to do some "greater good," if that - in itself - feeds my ego or helps me feel morally validated?  Or helps me excuse the fact that I haven't "settled down"?  (I say "I" here because I don't want to implicate my wife in my own hubris and narcissism - her ruminations are her own)  And are my dreams of ministry, servanthood, advocacy or whatever else coming from pure motives - or do I just want to avoid what I might shamefully label "mediocrity"?

Fed up with me, yet?  Or maybe you hear yourself in this.

I can morally justify any option.  I can validate any of them.  But I can also find my own vulgar, impure motivation pulling from each direction.  Whatever I do, or don't do, can be articulated idealistically if I want  you to think I'm a good person or a responsible person or a mature person.

Am I entitled to do what I want to do, or does servanthood in the Kingdom of God mean complete rejection of creature comforts and stability (trappings of the Empire, I might accuse)?  There are, afterall, child soldiers dying in Darfur today.  I'm not doing anything for those children now, though... I didn't fly to New Orleans to help clean up after Katrina, either.

Have any of you run into this dilemma?  Is it narcissism to even blog about it?  Someone recently told me that blogging itself is a practice in narcissism - believing one's thoughts are worth sharing - and that might be very true.

"Where would Jesus live?"  That's a dangerous question, because we know how he lived.

Warren Buffett told Fortune Magazine that he was giving 99% of his wealth to charity.  Most of us can't survive on 1%.  But Jesus died, which is more like 100%, so that's something else...

What did you do?  I'm not trying to preach here - I have nowhere to point but at myself.  How did you decide?  How do you feel, now?  Regrets?  Insights?  Would Jesus be okay with 1400 square feet, but balk at 2000?  And what about the car I'm driving?  I've heard people say, "It's not about what you have, it's about what you do with it that counts," but when I heard a Christian Amway salesman say the same thing while showing me pictures of yachts and mansions, I decided that argument was bullshit.

I've been here before, but things get amplified when the price tag goes up...



EVOLVING IN MONKEY TOWN!

It's one thing to meet established authors after reading their books.  Very exciting (the cult of celebrity is powerful, no matter how we/I disparage it)!  It's been equally exciting, in a very different way, to watch as friends begin to establish themselves and make headway in the very difficult world of published writing!

I've had the pleasure, over the last couple of years, to get acquainted with Rachel Held Evans, a blogger at rachelheldevans.com/blog.  I think, when we met online, Rachel already had a book deal with Zondervan, but her experience reminds me of what a long process it can be, even after the "deal" is done.

I just received a copy of Rachel's book, Evolving in Monkey Town: How a girl who knew all the answers learned to ask the questions.  I haven't had a chance to do more than browse the cover and the first few pages of reviews, but I'll get cracking soon and follow with a review.

Have I mentioned that anything with the words "Monkey Town" in the title has already won me over?  I really dig monkeys.  Bravo on the title, Rachel!  And nice work on getting your first book out there!

David Lynch, Transcendentalism, Crazy Stuff... Enjoy the ride!

I recently read that bizarre director David Lynch is an ex-Episcopal who practices transcendental meditation.  I've always been simultaneously fascinated, baffled, disgusted, and terribly annoyed with Lynch's films.  They twist and spiral in narratives that seem to have no beginning and no end.  Events repeat themselves, characters change identities.

In The Lost Highway (which has an incredible soundtrack, by the way), Bill Pullman's character whispers to himself from the future: "Dick Laurent is dead."  He hears it in the past and has no idea who he is hearing.  And who is Dick Laurent?  No idea.  But he's in there somewhere...

The first Lynch film I watched was Mulholland Drive (which came out after Highway).  I was so angered by its lack of cohesion or narrative flow, I stewed over it for days.  Actually, the night I viewed it, I couldn't sleep.  Dark stuff.  And I wanted to like it, but I couldn't.  It didn't go anywhere.  I watched it again, after reading some reviews.  Ebert basically said, "it's okay, it isn't supposed to make sense, just enjoy the ride."

And I did.

Lynch isn't the type of material I'd necessarily watch for leisure.  It's brooding and unsettling.  There's a scene in Inland Empire with this family of rabbits (people in suits with huge rabbit heads) walking around, speaking very plainly and without emotion, while a cold, lifeless laugh track bellows every few seconds.  It's terribly unnerving - almost nightmarish.

What a case I've made for Lynch, eh?   Don't get me wrong: I'm not really suggesting you watch these Lynch films.  They really are disturbing.  I guess the stretch I'm making here is that life is often dark, unsettling, has little resolution, and can even be wildly nonsensical.  We want to make sense of it.  We want to force it to obey our expectations and laws and equations.  It doesn't fit.  Ebert's advice still rings true: it's okay, it isn't supposed to make sense, just enjoy the ride. 


Of course, I might add: there is a conspiracy of goodness flowing beneath all the chaos.  I believe that.

61% Of Northwest Residents Support Xenophobia?

I am thankful to be in dialogue with a new online friend, Jennifer - a Latina in Arizona.  She's been talking about the pain, hardship and frustration within her community with recent Arizona immigration legislation, and more broadly, throughout her entire life.  It's always been hard there...


I imagine, it's always been hard, everywhere... especially with a very sad report recently through Oregon Public Broadcasting: apparently 61% of Oregonians agree with Arizona's immigration law (http://news.opb.org/article/7619-61-northwest-residents-support-arizona-immigration-law).  


I was completely shocked!  


I think of Oregon as generally progressive, politically Democratic, and liberal.  But Oregon is far from diverse.  I recently had a woman told me about her brother who owns an orchard: "with all the laws they have protecting migrant workers, the housing they require makes it nicer than than our own homes!"   Umm... that's right: having functional plumbing, electricity and insulation means your brother's migrant workers are living better than he is.


Really?


In states like Oregon, white liberals love to talk the talk about acceptance, compassion and multiculturalism.  But we get very uncomfortable when that starts to hit our own homogenous neighborhoods.  The "novelty" of diversity rapidly becomes a "problem."  Very sad.

What IS "Masculinity"

I generally really enjoy the daily meditations I receive from Fr. Richard Rohr.  Today's was a little challenging, and I'm still processing it:


MASCULINE SPIRITUALITY

Question of the Day:
How can a man befriend
both the boy and the old man within him?

I believe in every man there are two basic archetypes and they are most simple:  the young boy and the old man.  In many of our lives, one or the other totally dominates, some men never grow up and others never grow down. The ideal is when the two become friends and meet somewhere in the middle.  That is the “grand” father that we all love and need.
...
Our native peoples said that “the young man who cannot weep is a savage and the old man who cannot laugh is a fool.”  That is now the motto of our men’s work worldwide (M.A.L.Es, Men as Learners and Elders).
Mantra:
Liberate men to be truly masculine.
The body text sounds right on, but I have to admit, the "mantra" at the end makes me nervous.  "Liberate men to be truly masculine."  What exactly does "truly masculine" mean?  And is what's truly masculine for one man truly masculine for another?  And is that "truth" inherently differentiated from true femininity, or is it true "humanity" we're really talking about?  True adulthood?  True self-awareness?  Perhaps, true self-actualization?

Talking about masculinity makes me nervous for a number of reasons.  First, I've never been a particularly macho guy.  Christian Youth Culture was always awkward for me growing up, because I wasn't an athlete, and so much of the activities focused around athletics.  Second, I have always been emotional.  I'm the guy crying in the theater at the romantic comedy, not my wife.  Third, I have gay friends.  Where does "true" masculinity fit for them?  Finally, I don't think it's legitimate to talk about masculinity in a theoretical vacuum: to explore masculinity is to explore femininity, and we need to be careful that statements we make about one are not in any way exclusive.

Sensitivity is a feminine trait.  Sensitivity is a masculine trait.
Aggression is a masculine trait.  Aggression is a feminine trait.
Nurturing is a feminine role.  Nurturing is a masculine role.

I checked out Fr. Rohr's M.A.L.Es site.  It reads:
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM has been exploring issues of male spirituality since 1987.  From this work Richard observed that men in our western culture were lacking in their experience and understanding of the transcendent power of God.  He has established Rites of Passage programs to help guide men through a formal initiation process that they may have missed during their critical developmental period as young men.

This premise rings really true for me: there is a lack of awareness in our culture when it comes to becoming a "grown up."  I assume the same is true both for men and women.  We see a fictional reality portrayed in incongruent, contradictory simultaneity on television.  We watch our parents or teachers, coaches or pastors - all imperfect and well-intentioned - but there is little ritual left in our society.  There is little to mark our passing into adulthood.  There is little to guide us into a deeper sense of self...

And so we take on these broken, warped pop-archetypes of gender and act out what we have observed, hoping it fits.  And we make a mess - men and women - and we hurt ourselves and each other because nobody ever said, "Peter, this is how to be a man..." and certainly not in a way that transcends cheap, damaging stereotypes, completely out of date and inappropriate to an egalitarian society.

So I appreciate what I assume is the heart behind Fr. Rohr's program.  It's just that mantra that gets me: "liberate men to be truly masculine."  More often than not, it isn't men most in need of liberation.  But we do need liberation.  And perhaps, we need liberation from the de facto role of oppressor.

I'm reminded of a program a friend of mine, Doug, told me about some time ago:
The ManKind Project
http://mankindproject.org/

What are your thoughts and experiences on gender?  How have gender labels helped or hindered you?  What wounds or blessings have you encountered relating to the process of understanding gender?

Supreme Court: Waging Peace = Terrorism

Earlier this year the US Supreme Court made a devastating decision to allow corporations the same rights as voting citizens when it comes to political speech and contributions.  

Now, in another ruling that flies in the face of democratic values, common sense, progressive populism, and the ethos of a free society, the Supreme Court has ruled via Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project that "urging a terrorist group to put down its arms in favor of using lawful, peaceful means to achieve political goals" is illegal, material support of terrorism itself.


Better start worrying if you catch your weird neighbor turning swords into ploughshares in that old shed in his backyard... sounds like a job for homeland security.


The politics of peace are always suspicious to the sensibilities of empire.


Click here to read more.

I am a Liberal Evangelical


Several months ago I was talking with a friend about faith and religion.  I asserted that, despite my liberalism, and despite attending a Mainline church, I am still an Evangelical.

His question to me was: how, exactly, does one remain an Evangelical after leaving behind the Evangelical church?

It’s over-harsh for me to say I have “left behind” the Evangelical Church.  I wasn't "raptured" out of it.  In fact, I still have a very warm place in my heart for Evangelicalism in many ways.  There are also parts of me that are wounded and sour over the Evangelical worldview/Godview.  But I want to discuss what it means for me to be a Liberal Evangelical…

There’s a website called www.LiberalEvangelical.org that “aims to empower Christians who see themselves as radical moderates and to offer resources to Christian congregations who intend to be both Christ-centered and creatively inclusive. These Christians and congregations have both liberal and evangelical instincts…”

One of the directors is a member of the United Church of Christ.  That doesn't sound too Evangelical to me.  The other two directors do not name their affiliation.  All have theological doctorates.  I have looked through the site several times, trying to find what it means by “Evangelical,” and for the life of me, I can’t.  I don’t want to disparage these guys at all – I agree with their worldview (although they talk about being “moderate,” and Jesus was no moderate) –  I may even end up UCC or Episcopal or something terribly "high church," as I proceed.  But I want to know what “Evangelical” means to them, in the context of their site.  I'm not getting much of a cultural understanding from them.

What Evangelical means and what Evangelical means to me are two very different things.  Wikipedia says:

Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian theological stream which began in Great Britain in the 1730s.  Most adherents consider its key characteristics to be:
·       A belief in the need for personal conversion (or being "born again")
·       Some expression of the gospel in "effort"
·       A high regard for biblical authority
·       An emphasis on teachings that proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus.
David Bebbington has termed these four distinctive aspects conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism, noting, "Together they form a quadrilateral of priorities that is the basis of Evangelicalism.”
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelicalism)

Hmmm… well, I do believe in conversion, but I don’t think of it in the way it’s commonly used.  “Conversion” should literally be about “converting” someone to a new way of being (not only a new way of believing).  In this way, I'd like to convert you.  I'd like to convert my atheist and agnostic neighbors.  I'd also like to convert my Christian neighbors.  And I'd like to be converted, myselfongoing...  Typically, however, “conversion” is generally identified by getting into heaven; getting out of hell; avoiding select sins that conflict with particular cultural-religious mores; behaving in certain outwardly-pious ways (e.g. raising hands to worship, closing eyes to sing, epitomizing conservative, middle-class, nuclear “family values,” and using language interspersed with words like “blessed,” “hallelujah,” “founding fathers.”  The term "Buddy Jesus" is a subcultural joke, but it's all-too-accurate: "Jesus is a friend of mine" (and he is).

I see conversion as not only a spiritual event (which I still think it is: an awakening to God’s presence in our lives) but also as the beginning of personal conversion from the “principalities and powers” of this world: becoming aware of social and economic oppression, the gluttonous traps of consumerism and materialism, the distracting allure of nationalism and patriotism, the social evils of prejudice, fear, hate, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, classism and misogyny.

When I "met Jesus," I was seven.  I can't tell you what changed in me - probably nothing at seven years old (I became an asshole later).  But as I have gotten to know Jesus, a lot has changed, and a lot keeps changing.  Because Jesus isn't a set of principles, Jesus Christ is a person – a living being – who I am in relationship with; who pushes me to keep growing, changing, and seeing old things in new ways.  "Behold, I am making all things new!" (Revelation 21) 

This, to me, is the concept of the "Gospel in effort."  The Gospel is Good News In-Process.  When Christianity is not good news, it is not the Gospel.  In those scenarios, Christianity becomes a hindrance to the Gospel – a systemic perversion of Christ's teaching.

Now: regarding Biblical Authority (listed above) - I admit to you, as a liberal Evangelical: I am still learning what "Biblical authority" means to me.

In the past I've written: What do you do when Scripture makes contradictory statements? Conservative churches have traditionally taken the most patriarchal, oppressive stance. A surprising choice, given that Christianity is supposedly founded on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Nonetheless, it's important to recognize and admit that right or wrong, it IS a choice being made by Christians. There ARE opposing statements being made. We don't get to reconcile them (of course there are lots of valid "contextual" readings that do help soften some of the harshest language). Ultimately, either Paul is right when he says there is no male or female in Christ, and recognizes women as "apostles," or Paul is right when he says, "women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says." (really, Paul? You're suddenly back to the Law?)  So which do you choose? I mean, really! What's worth fighting for? "Keeping women in their place"? Or freedom?

This example briefly sums up my general thoughts about Scripture, which I revere as ancient, sacred writings, reverently chronicling the history of humanity's interpretation of God's interaction with humankind.  These are stories about a God whom I love, so I am moved and humbled.  But I am not convicted to read literalism where it does not belong.

In the end, being an Evangelical is not about my subscription to a set of ideologies.  It is about my personal history, and my familial commitments.  I was born an American and I will always be an American – despite my frustrations and misgivings about American imperialism and militarism.  There is nothing I have personally done to choose or earn my status as a citizen.  In the same way, I will always be an Evangelical.  I was born an Evangelical.  I was raised one.  I met Jesus Christ as an Evangelical.  I was "born again."  I AM
born-again (not as bad as it sounds).  My life is new and being renewed through Christ.  The God I know is the God of "Buddy Jesus," for better AND for worse: God is near.  I can feel God.  I can hear God.  I cannot escape the presence (even when I want to).  It is a relationship both casual, as a friend, and humbly distant, as a subject to a King.  I don't seek to justify any of these paradigms, but only to acknowledge that they are at the heart of my relationship with God and my understanding of who God is.

God is someone I raise my hands for when I worship, even in a liturgical Mainline church.  God is someone I whisper wordless mutters to, even when Pentecostalism is worlds-away/

Liberal Mainline Christians want to know why their churches are shrinking – why they aren't growing like conservative Evangelical churches.  There are two reasons – one that should remain foreign; one that should inspire us to grow:
  • The first reason is fear.  Fear drives the growth of so, so many Evangelical churches.  It's a tragedy that defines God as Disappointed Judge and us as hell-bound mistakes, groveling for mercy.  This paradigm prizes groupthink: normative belief is the requirement.  Eternal punishment is the price of divergence.
  • The second reason is passion for God!  A lot has been written about the lack of ideological difference between secular liberals and Christian liberals: Both advocate for peace, civil rights, love, mutual understanding and tolerance, egalitarianism,  kindness, earthkeeping and communal responsibility for mutual welfare/well-being. Hell, both even revere the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  I can get behind all of that!

    "So why do I need to be a Christian if I can believe all of the same things you do?

But what about God?!  What about Jesus, not only as teacher, but as "Master"?  As Cosmic Christ?  As mother, father, priest, friend, guru and lover?

I am a liberal Evangelical because I believe that an intimate, literal, humble, supernatural, MYSTICAL
relationship with Jesus Christ is the foundation of Christianity.  The teachings of Jesus are beautiful, transcendent and eternal.  And iterations of those teachings can be found in all sorts of places – from all sorts of sources.  And that's fine.  I'm not threatened by that.  But if liberal Christians want their churches to do something other than shrink, we have to embrace a spirituality that sets us apart in some way.  That is absolutely NOT in an elitist way, or in a manner of superiority: I do not think those who reject Christianity are doomed to hell.  But it is in a way that uniquely recognizes the joy and spiritual awakening offered through Christian praxis.  As Christians, we do not only subscribe to ideologies – we practice a way of existing.  This is good news.  This is earth-changing.  This is the soft/hard indwelling/exuding power of Jesus Christ.

Lurid Fantasies About "Perfect Churches"...

I have a confession: for the last six months or so, I have not been going to church with any regularity.  SHOCKING!  I know.  It's not that I haven't gone to church at all... but the lack of regularity, along with the lack of consistency in where I have gone, has contributed to an increasing feeling of disconnect.

For some time, my seminary classes helped blunt this feeling: I do experience fellowship in school, so during the semester, I could experience connection to a sort of faith community.  Now that I've been out for several weeks, churchlessness is starting to sink in.

I don't take it lightly.  And it's not like I haven't tried.  I've visited the local United Church of Christ (Congregational) church, as well as the Lutheran (ELCA) church.  I still intend to visit the Episcopal church here in town - I've heard good things.  And from time to time, I've visited my United Methodist Church from the last few years.  It all remains different - foreign - because, by personal culture, I am an Evangelical.  I view and relate to God as an Evangelical.  I simply cannot socially or theologically be an Evangelical.  It is a hard space to inhabit.

What's my problem?  Why can't I settle?  Part of the problem is that I've never stayed at a particular church for very long.  Let me see if I an give a brief overview of my church-going experience (as far as I can remember)


  • 1979 - 1987 - Albany Calvary Chapel; various non-denominational and Pentecostal churches; house churches; etc...
  • 1988 - 1993 - Albany First Assembly of God
  • 1993 - 1997 - Albany First Church of the Nazarene
  • 1998 - 2002 - McMinnville Covenant Church
  • 2002 - 2003 - Corvallis Calvary Chapel
  • 2003 - 2005 - Albany First Assembly of God
  • 2005 - 2007 - Lebanon River Springs Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • 2007 - 2009 - Corvallis First United Methodist Church


To my knowledge, I have never been a church "member."  It's always been easy to walk away.  I believe the Church is supposed to function like a family - you don't walk away from that.  Instead, my relationship to the Church has been more like dating relationships - I enjoy the "new relationship butterflies," and when those start to fade, my eyes start to wander.  Greener grass on the other side...

I'm starting to feel convicted that the problem is clearly me: I'm looking for a "perfect fit" - a fantasy church that gives me what I need, strokes my ego, validates me, reflects a progressive social agenda, and still manages a feel-good Leave-It-To-Beaver church family environment.

I thought I had learned this lesson before.  And I'm self-aware enough not to really think (or admit out loud) that the previous paragraph is what I'm looking for.  But the dating analogy remains: we know it's immature, superficial and narcissistic to create long lists of ideal attributes for some would-be significant other.  But we still live our lives, slaves to the fantasy.  I confess, I haven't learned how to die to the lurid, exciting, captivating fantasy of the perfect church.  I don't rationally believe in it.  But I still conduct my life under the tyranny of its possibility.  An ecclesial wet dream.

This morning I played Jonah in a sketch at the United Methodists' regional meeting in downtown Salem.  It was an outdoor service, led by Robert Hoshibata, Bishop of the Oregon-Idaho conference. I felt convicted there by the passionate commitment all these folks had - commitment to the future of their church.  They genuinely want to embrace change, they genuinely want to positively impact the communities they inhabit, and they seem... well... teachable.  I didn't hear any "quick fix" or "magic pill" remedies to the fact that the United Methodist Church (along with most liturgical mainlines) is shrinking. Only passionate commitment to their "family" of origin.  I think that's a good start.

I've got to figure out who my family is, how and where I fit, and then - much harder - I've got to learn how to be a family member to them... to you.

Here comes the sun...

It's rough, coming off the tail end of a long winter in Oregon.  It's June 12, and today is one of the first really warm days this year.  Maybe the first.

Makes me really happy!

Desmond Tutu: Joyful at the World Cup, South Africa!

I confess, I'm not a huge FIFA fan - sports really aren't my thing - but Desmond Tutu!  HE'S an event to be captivated by!

I just loved his invocation at the World Cup, yesterday:


To Donald Miller: An Open Letter

Dear Donald  Miller,
I think you're probably an okay dude.  I want to believe that you have reasons for your career endeavors.

I was really moved by Blue Like Jazz, and I'd like to think you're fairly progressive, even though you attend a church that won't allow women to be pastors.

But today, in my e-mail inbox, I got this monstrosity:







This is the ultimate problem, not only with you, Donald Miller, but for the whole Emerging/gent/postmodern/hipster movement I am a shameless part of: it's run by money above all else.  Book sales.  Speaker circuit.  Books-on-CD.  Video series.  I never called you a sellout for being a New York Times Bestseller.  I never called Brian McLaren one either.  I'm glad progressive Christian writing gets out there.  I want you to be successful!

But do you realize what it does to the whole damn movement when it's so clearly being run by capitalism?


  • CHRISTIANS DO NOT NEED TO BE REMINDED HOW TO LEAD A TEAM OR ORGANIZATION!
  • CHRISTIANS DO NOT NEED TO LEARN HOW TO WRITE A BETTER CAREER!
  • CHRISTIANS DO NOT NEED TO RENEW THEIR PERSONAL VISION(S)!
  • CHRISTIANS DO NOT NEED TO HEAR ANOTHER MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER A LA JOYCE MEYERS / TONY ROBBINS / JOEL OSTEEN / AMWAY INTERNATIONAL!
We're supposed to learn how to die.

We're supposed to surrender.

We're supposed to give up our own power.

I can't tell you I have done a great job of giving up my power, but for the life of me, I'm trying.  I'm quite confident that the motivational circuit is not the place to start.

Donald Miller, I still think you're probably a cool dude.  I know people who know you.  I even met you once - you seemed down-to-earth.  But is this the natural progression of your gifts?  Is this where the rest of us are headed?  Take off your headset.  There's a lot of work to be done, and fueling Christian businesspeople and the Evangelical masses with progressive-sounding fodder only feeds the beast.  Don't let the publishers define you.  Keep working to help boys without fathers.  While you're at it, try picking up the cause of women, too, invisible in Christian culture.  Maybe think about advocating for your queer friends, too. 

You can do better.  I guess we all can.  I'll still read your book when I have the chance...

My Podcast Chat With Travis Mamone

I just finished a conversation with blogger/writer/podcaster Travis Mamone at www.CoffeeChatsPodcast.com.

In listening afterward, I'm shocked at my own staccato talking flow.  Travis, forgive all the empty pauses.  I should probably do more webcasting to practice smoothing my speech.

Anyway, it was fun.  Here's the ling:  CLICK HERE.

Thanks Travis!

Post 480 - Politics, Hope, Left, Right & The Suicide Machine

Again, in reflecting on the factors that have shaped me, who I was and who I wanted to become, politics keeps coming up.  In high school I was one of the most obnoxious Republican pundits you could ever want to meet: "I'll give you 12 reasons Rush Limbaugh should be president..."  yup.

In college I had a newspaper column called "You Know I'm Right."  And I meant RIGHT.

As conversations and readings about emerging forms of Christianity grabbed my attention and helped spur my process of personal deconstruction, I realized the Democratic Party, though not perfect, embodied my personal values far more than the Republican Party.

I'd rather be a hippie, but I'm far too uptight and gentrified by this point in my life.  One can always try, however...
To the right is a silly grid from Facebook on political leanings.  Sort of sums it up.  I believe in taking care of others, even those who would abuse my generosity.  I believe in sharing my power, and even giving it up for the sake of compassion.  I believe that most of my current middle-class lifestyle is thanks not to my own efforts or cleverness, but to my luck in being born a straight, white male in a comfortable middle class family in a neighborhood with reasonably good schools and access to opportunities others do not have.  I was born during a time where I was not threatened by a military draft, or invasion from neighboring countries or imperial tyranny.  In fact, I was born into an era of such rampant wealth that gluttony, spending and consumption are socially acceptable addictions.

I am not a self-made-man.  I am a lucky man.  I am a comfortable man.

Anyway, I'm off track again... politics.  Yes.  I find myself caught up in the political game, now on the opposite end of the spectrum from where I started.  I wanted to be more of a cynic - I wanted to be neutral - A New Kind of Christian (right?) - but the temptations of principalities and powers is strong.  The charisma of politicians, and the allure of politics, is captivating.  And even quite self-consciously, I find much to admire in figures like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack Obama.  I still admire them.  I still have hope that their abilities can make a positive difference in the world - even as I am aware that they are parts of the same machine that Ron Paul, Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell and Sarah Palin are gears and cogs in.  It IS a suicide machine, that can only have its destructive effects turned down, never off.  So I guess I merely pray the machine can be turned down - which is an awfully modest, even pathetic prayer.

But this is a very different critique from Tea Partiers and Libertarians who carry a utopian vision of an ungoverned or almost ungoverned society.  I believe history clearly reveals this ideology as a fantasy, fueled by the temptations of self-determined greed.

As I listen on the radio and read in the news of all the righteous indignation from the political right over the inadequacies of the left, I become more frustrated and disillusioned with the ability of our system to get anything right.  Because they are the same critiques that came from the left in 2006 and 2008, that for a short time REVOLUTIONIZED American politics... from Right to Left.  So now the pendulum swings back, and the masses have learned absolutely nothing.

As I've said before, I hate Matrix analogies, but it's fitting here: the machine is letting us fight ourselves to give us the illusion that we are getting somewhere.  In the end, the machine crushes us again and again and again, but every time, we thing we're playing a different game.  We thing this time will be different.  We think that if we knock on enough doors and make enough phone calls, we can make lasting change. But the machine is run by the powerful - the monied - multinational corporations, big oil, weapons and defense, the list goes on...

All right.  I'm rambling.

I will keep voting.  I will keep voting a liberal agenda - one characterized by compassion and social justice.  But I am not so naive as to think that the voting process itself changes people.

I believe LOVE is the antidote to the machine.  It is the rust that clings to its gears, that oxidizes and disintegrates its moving parts, rendering it ineffective.  I believe love moved the Civil Rights and Suffrage Movements.  I believe that movement can and must continue now.  Our hippie parents were co-opted by the numbing comfort of suburban safety - and who can blame them?  But we have to pick the torch back up.  We have to continue a movement that is countercultural and raises up the outcasts and the marginalized.  We have to fight for peace and hope and equality in a world owned by ownership; a society purchased by purchases; a culture that has sold its soul to sales.  All of these factors blind us to the Suicide Machine that poisons our ocean with oil, that robs our children of nutrition, that rapes our land of its natural state, and that allows MTV reality shows to continue on in all their horrid plasticity! 

I've got Peter, Paul & Mary's song "Light One Candle" stuck in my head:

Light one candle for the Maccabee children
Give thanks their light didn't die;
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied;
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand;
light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand!

Don't let the light go out,
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears!

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe;
Light one candle for those who are suff'ring
The pain that we learned long ago;
Light one candle for all we believe in,
That anger not tear us apart;
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our heart!

What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died?
We cry out "they've not died in vain,"
We have come this far, always believing
That justice will somehow prevail;
This is the burden and This is the promise,
This is why we will not fail! 

Closing in on 500 posts...

I'm not sure what an "impressive" number of blog posts is.  This one is #479.  I've been blogging here since 2004, and it's amazing to go way (WAY) back and look at the sort of things I was writing then.

I sometimes wonder if the Me in 2004 would be able to handle the Me of 2010.  Would I still validate my own Christianity?  Could I accept the beliefs and positions I have taken over the last few years?  Would I be scared back to conservatism, knowing the slippery slope I was on?

To be honest, I don't know.

I think I knew I was heading here.  I think I always carried a mix of unspoken anxiety and relief to be heading left...


But back to blogging: is there something monumental?  How should I commemorate?  I'm feeling maudlin, wanting to go back to the beginning of my process (as I already often do) and talk about the factors tickling at my brain and my spirit: "why do I believe this?  What COU LD I believe?"

But I don't want to be too self-indulgent (as if blogging ISN'T the epitome of self indulgence! ha!).


My recent post on vegetarianism and humane foods was part of that tugging to reapproach some of the common themes of the www.EmergingChristian.com website.  I hope that one of the key themes, however, is constant changing - flip-flopping (like John Kerry on a bender) - shifting, evolving, adapting, reconsidering, repenting, and seeking.  As I do so, I pray I am pulled by the Spirit back to a constant refocus on faith, hope and love (the greatest of these is love).

Thanks for reading

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