Saturday, January 31, 2009

Putting someone in a lose-lose situation

Growing up, I was a steadfast republican. I was certain that democrats were demonic liberals out to destroy the foundations of our society. The Rush Limbaugh program had told me so.

Some chinks started to form in my secure armor during my early 20's. I started to notice the lose-lose position we always put the opposition in. If they went up, they should have gone down. Forward? It should have been backward.

It really struck home one night with a reaction Bob Dole had to Clinton during the primaries. Kim Jung Il's father had died and President Clinton sent his condolences. Dole lashed out, stating that Clinton had no business offering condolences given the history of North Korea. It occurred to me that I had formed my judgment of Clinton based on the opinions of people for whom he could do no right. Though I was backing Dole, I realized that his view of the proper response was conditional - based on which path Clinton selected.

I knew then that what I was observing was a game about winning, not being truthful. All is fair in politics.

This revelation affected my religious views as well. All is fair in religion it seemed. I began to notice how often certain religious persuasions would put the "opposing" camp in lose-lose scenarios. It is ironic that those who put others in lose-lose situations the most often also happened to be the ones who crowed loudest about "truth".

I was reminded of this yesterday as I read an article over at Mormon Coffee. Though this was not the main point of the article, the argument below is regularly made by folks who have made converting Mormons a focus of their lives.

Basically, Mormons are chastised for certain temple ceremonies in their history where Protestant/Catholic priests are depicted as servants of Satan. Admittedly, probably not the best thing to be teaching if you have any hope for inter-faith relations (but given the history between Mormons and other churches that was probably not a high priority at the time).

By 1990, this language was pretty much removed from the ceremony. Forward movement, right?? Wrong! Mormons are now charged by the same voices as being duplicitous and hiding how they really think. Lose-Lose. They are wrong for having it.... they are wrong for removing it.

I believe that every time we put someone in a lose-lose situation, kindness dies, a part of our soul withers, and the heart of God sighs - while looking forward to the day when his children will love each other.

Friday, January 30, 2009

25 Facts About Me

This little exercise is making its way across my corner of Facebook. It took a while to type, so I thought I would post it here too.

1. I spent 6 weeks backpacking around Israel when I was 16 (still amazed that my parents let me do that). While there I was baptized in the Jordan River and attended a sunrise service at the Garden Tomb Easter morning.

2. While in Israel, a Bedouin chief took me and a friend on a camel safari into the Negev desert. On the second day (we spent the night camped under the open sky around a fire), some army officials came in a jeep to get the chief because they needed his tracking skills (How they found us in the middle of the desert I have no idea). In broken English, the chief assured us that the camels knew the way home. I was pretty sure we were going to bake and die. However, about 6 hours later, we arrived back at the kibbutz.

3. I lived at Last Days Ministries (Keith Green's place) for 6 months when I was 18.

4. While at Last Days, the building I was in was hit by a tornado. I didn't realize it was a tornado at the time, I just knew the ceiling, walls, and floor were caving in and rattling like crazy. I was an invincible 18 year old who didn't know enough to be scared.

5. Due to years of bible quizzing as a teen, I can quote most of the New Testament. I have always found it interesting that over the years the epistles stayed with me whereas story books like Acts pretty much went bye-bye. Weird how the brain works.

6. I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh and I was a dittohead. I saw him on his Rush to Excellence tour in Detroit. Now I can hardly listen to his rabid ideological shtick.

7. I shook hands with President Regan in 1984.

8. I am lucky to be here, I can think of at least 6 times in my life when I probably should have died.

9. I recently appeared in the play Peter Pan with my daughter. I have decided I really like community theater.

10. I moved out to Utah 5 years ago after living in Michigan for 35 years. I love living out West!!

11. If a movie has great dialogue, I do not think there is a limit to how many times I can happily enjoy watching it.

12. I believe good books need to be read multiple times.

13. I have probably read "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis at least a dozen times.

14. I believe most strong religious and political views are rooted in a need to be right. I believe there is amazing freedom in recognizing and uprooting this need.

15. I blog regularly, though in college I would drop and change classes if I could find a class that graded by tests rather than papers. I hated writing.

16. One of my favorite things to do is to sit in a coffee house with friends and discuss theology and philosophy.

17. I have over 6000 comic books bagged, boarded, and boxed in my basement.

18. My two children have been my greatest teachers.

19. Aside from the whole impending death thing, I am enjoying growing older.

20. I had an apartment and lived in Nashville for one day when I was in my early twenties. I wonder where my life would be now if I had stayed.

21. I hate watching televised sports. If am sure for me, hell would be a place where there was nothing on the TV and radio aside from sports coverage.

22. My favorite CD of all time is "Strength" by the Violet Burning. The best circumstance under which to listen to it is with my friends Brook, Lori, and Marianne, in an apartment lit with candles and incense. My twenties were great.

23. I think it is a shame that smoking is bad for you. There are few things I enjoy more than a clove. Moving to Utah has added years to my life since they don't sell cloves here.

24. I am a Universalist Christian. In short, that means I believe that everyone is/will be reconciled to God. I think 1 Cor. 13 is not a passage about romantic love... it is a passage about God. God is patient, God is Kind, God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.

25. Since becoming a Universalist, I find I enjoy people a lot more. I suspect this is because head counting who is and is not getting into heaven has the consequence of distancing oneself from people.

26. I think time with friends and family is the most important thing in the world. It is a shame that so many sacrifice this time because "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes - working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need." (Quote courtesy of Fight Club, one of the greatest movies of all time).

27. My longest stint of consciousness occurred during a party at my friend Brook's house. I believe that party lasted for days! He has been my best friend ever since!

28. I have difficulty with list numeration.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Amazing Inauguration Pictures captured yesterday beautifully.
Go check it out here.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations President Obama!

It is a great day for the USA. It is a great day for the world. A statesman has reached the oval office and a new generation moves into its place in history.

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

"Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential."

"We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people. Yes we can."

"In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?"

"There is not a liberal America and a conservative America - there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America - there's the United States of America."

"But today I'd like to talk about the connection between religion and politics and perhaps offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often bitter arguments that we've been seeing over the last several years.
I do so because, as you all know, we can affirm the importance of poverty in the Bible; and we can raise up and pass out this Covenant for a New America. We can talk to the press, and we can discuss the religious call to address poverty and environmental stewardship all we want, but it won't have an impact unless we tackle head-on the mutual suspicion that sometimes exists between religious America and secular America."

"if we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway."

"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."

"We are the ones we have been waiting for."

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I started to feel strange about evangelism a few years ago. No matter HOW I shared my faith, there always seemed to be an ulterior motive. I had noticed varied motives in the evangelistic efforts of others in the past, but now I was turning that spotlight inward. WHY was I sharing my faith? What was really motivating me? It became exhausting.

For a while I just quit. Jesus wasn’t the problem, I was. I believe the way of Jesus is Life. But until I could figure out what was motivating me to talk about him, I couldn’t speak.

I am not even sure that I was conscious of this as it was happening. It first hit me two years ago. My theology was heading towards Christian Universalism at the time. One of the by-products of this turn is that I quit dividing people into camps. There are no longer Christians and non-Christians …. There are just people.

I show movies in my backyard. I bought a projector and a blow up screen and I invite all the neighbors over for movies every few weeks during the summer. It is a great time for people to hang out, catch up, and make new friends. Why do I do it?

I was telling a friend at church about my movie setup and he said, “What a great evangelism tool that is!” Years ago, that would have been exactly what would have motivated me to do it: evangelism.

His comment, however, bothered me… and I wasn’t even sure why. It took me some time to work though my thoughts. I finally came to the conclusion that I simply wanted to be a good neighbor… and I wanted to build up my neighborhood.

But since I am a Christian, shouldn’t I want to evangelize?

I am still working through this, but I am pretty sure that I have no interest in evangelizing anymore… at least in the way we typically use the term. If evangelism means recruiting people into my religious sect so they can adhere to our political/social standards and be part of our “in” group… then I am not interested.

But, if evangelism means that I tell people about the way of Jesus: that there are to be no divisions among us, that the poor receive justice, that the rich serve rather than exploit, that God is our Father and we are ALL brothers and sisters, and that redemption and reconciliation is only a breath away…. that is something I can freely share with no ulterior motive.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A little more Grey Bloke theology

The Grey Bloke is TOO funny!

I used to come from a similar perspective in my Christianity.... thank God those days are over.

Grey Bloke exchanges emails with a Christian

Emerging Church Conference

YAY! An event that is within Utah range!!!

The Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will be hosting the first-ever Catholic-Emergent conference, March 20-22, 2009.

According to the CAC, “The conversation about the emerging church has been attracting a broad array of Christians — progressive Evangelicals and mainline Protestants along with some Roman Catholics — but this will be the first gathering to be planned and hosted by a team of Catholic and Protestant leaders working together for the good of the church at large. There will also be a post-conference for those who want to develop vehicles for deepening and sustaining the emerging energy for Gospel-centered justice, contemplation, and community.”

The conference will feature:

  • Richard Rohr, OFM (founding director of CAC)

  • Brian McLaren

  • Alexie Torres-Fleming

  • Shane Claiborne

  • Phyllis Tickle

The conference is being called “The Emerging Church: Conversations, Convergence and Action,” and the post-conference will take place March 22-23.

Register online now

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rest in Peace Mr. Montalban

I grew up watching weekly episodes of Fantasy Island. As a Star Trek fan, I know that Ricardo Montalban arguably made The Wrath of Khan the best of the Star Trek movies. I think the most impressive part of his life was that he was married to his wife for 63 years.

May the angels guide you home.....

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lifeway Stores Are Here To Help

Oh yes... the fun continues in the Christian subculture.

I quit shopping Christian bookstores a long time ago. I simply found the "secular" book stores had a better and deeper selection of religious books. That, and the "testa-mints" at the counter often left me woozy.

Lifeway stores have recently started adding "Read with Discernment" stickers on books they consider theologically iffy (McLaren, Bell, Miller). They would like you to spend money on best-selling books like The Shack; but they want to be absolved of all responsibility for your going to Hell afterward.

I am wondering when they are going to add the "Buy Hook, Line, and Sinker" stickers to the Piper and MacArthur books, so Christians can just disengage from all thinking processes in general.

HT: Bruce

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Who is my Samaritan?

It occurs to me that many of Jesus' stories may have lost their edge over the centuries. The good Samaritan comes to mind. You probably know the story. A man gets beat up, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road. The religious and respectable leave him there, but it is a Samaritan who helps the unfortunate soul. In fact, the Samaritan did such a kind thing that we have added the adjective good to his label.

We forget how distasteful and abhorrent that story would have been to those listening. The Jewish culture of that time did not think highly of Samaritans; and the deeply religious would have seen them as deceivers and immoral heretics. Samaritans were despised by the dominate religious culture.

In today's world, how would we need to change the labels to grasp the offensiveness of this story? Whom do many of our religious groups despise most? In our case, we would probably need to substitute Samaritan with homosexual. Would Jesus' words be welcomed in our churches if he told a story of how the mega-ministry leader passed by the beaten man, but it was the homosexual who tended to his wounds?

Ultimately, I believe Jesus would have framed the story differently depending on his audience . It is likely that a Jew would have been the protagonist had Jesus told the story in Samaria.

Whoever troubles us most, whomever we despise, the people that cause us the most consternation... that is who would probably be the hero of Jesus' story. The parable puts a spotlight on our darkest corners... but only if we frame it in a context that makes us stumble.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

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