Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Whizzing in the Spirit

The following is a hysterical quote from from the radio show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl. It reflects the strange and occasionally circular way people discuss "new movements of the Spirit":

What if I told you that you should come with me to a church that has a brand new work of the Spirit? You say, what is it? I say, when the Spirit moves us, we stand in a circle and urinate into a big tub. We pee in a pot. We call it "whizzing in the Spirit." You say, Koukl, that's bizarre. I say, there are no verses against it. Find a verse against it. In fact, I've got a proof text: "From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." There it is! Works for me! After all, you can't put God in a box, can you? God can do whatever He wants, can't He? So who are you to judge Him?
You gotta admit...that's pretty damn funny.

Grace & Peace

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Defending Luke (or, "Quirinius, we still love you!")

I am undoubtedly among the worst of our merry band to enter a discussion on historical issues. So, I will merely offer a few timely observations as we approach the Christmas season. (Anti-Blog, this is mostly for you.)

The Problem:
Luke 2:1-2 states that Quirinius was the Roman governor of Syria when Jesus was born. This statement occasionally puzzles historians because Quirinius was appointed governor of Syria in 6AD, and Luke dates the birth of Jesus to the reign of Herod the Great (1:5), who, according to Josephus (Ant. 17.7.1 191), Strabo, and Tacitus, died in 4 BC. This appears to render Luke's account historically irreconciliable.

Possible Solutions:
That Augustus issued a census decree is both reasonable and plausible. Augustus' propensity to count and tax is well known. According to the Acts of Augustus (see #8 therein), Augustus ordered three censuses (censi?) during his reign (27BC-14AD). Interestingly, an Antioch manuscript exists with an inscription describing a soldier who was 'legate of Syria' twice during this time frame. There are two common interpretations: one is that it refers to Q. Varus, and the other that it refers to Quirinius himself. The New Bible Dictionary (IVP:1996) says this (s.v. "Quirinius"):
The possibility that Quirinius may have been governor of Syria on an earlier occasion... has found confirmation in the eyes of a number of scholars (especially W. M. Ramsay) from the testimony of the Lapis Tiburtinus (CIL, 14. 3613). This inscription, recording the career of a distinguished Roman officer, is unfortunately mutilated, so that the officer’s name is missing, but from the details that survive he could very well be Quirinius. It contains a statement that when he became imperial legate of Syria he entered upon that office ‘for the second time’ (Lat. iterum). The question is: did he become imperial legate of Syria for the second time, or did he simply receive an imperial legateship for the second time, having governed another province in that capacity on the earlier occasion?...The wording is ambiguous. Ramsay held that he was appointed an additional legate of Syria between 10 and 7 bc, for the purpose of conducting the Homanadensian war, while the civil administration of the province was in the hands of other governors, including Sentius Saturninus (8-6 bc), under whom, according to Tertullian (Adv. Marc. 4. 19), the census of Lk. 2:1ff. was held.
Perhaps Luke 2:2, "This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria" is saying that there was second census that Quirinius oversaw. Josephus documents a census taken early in Quirinius' term of office (Antiquities 18.1.1 1). In fact, Luke also mentions a second census himself in Acts 5:37.

E.M. Blaiklock, writing for Zondervan's Biblical Encyclopedia believes that Quirinius was in Syria for an earlier tour of duty, not as governor but in some other leadership capacity (s.v. "Quirinius"). It is notable that term Luke uses for Quirinius' is the general term hegemon, which in Greek can apply to prefects, provincial governors, and even Caesar himself. Even in the Testament it applies to procurators--pilate, festus, felix--and to general 'rulers' (Mt 2.6). The New Intl. Dict. of New Test. Theology gives 'leader, commander, chief' (vol 1.270) as among the possible range of meanings. Of course, this term would have applied to Quirinius at several points in his career. In the proper sense, there might also be several individuals so addressed at the same time. Justin Martyr specifically refers to Quirinius as 'procurator' in Apology 1:34.

However, even if Quirinius is not the referred legate, Grammatical Insights into the New Testament (pgs 23-24) implies that Luke 2:2 "prote" can (should?) be translated 'before the census of Quirinius' instead of the usual 'first census of Quirinius.' This potentially solves the problem without requiring two terms of office for Quirinius at all.

Either way, if we admit the weakness of the historical record (Joesphus himself is often confused about dates and numbers), it appears that Luke's case, as articulated in chapter 2, has serious potential to be correct as it was originally written.

This post is the result of a few days of simple research and not a lifetime of careful analysis. Obviously, there is much more than can be said. I'm not even going to attempt to go beyond the simple issue of Quirinius here. That would just take too long. But, I hope this proves that these are still live issues worthy of examination and discussion, and that a more 'traditional' read is not outside the realm of intellectual honesty.

Grace & Peace

Monday, December 05, 2005

Props to the SJV

I'm passing out props to my people in the San Joaquin Valley - according to a yearly study by Men's Fitness Magazine, two (2!) SJV cities rank among America's fittest! My old stomping grounds, "the Fres-yes," tops out as the 14th fittest city in the U.S.ofA. How about that for unexpected?! A lot of people make fun of Fresno, and my family moved to the outlying community of Clovis (30m Northeast) when I was 8, but at least it is among the healthiest places to live. I also give out major props to the people of Sacramento, the 7th fittest city in America.

The complete results of the 2005 study are here.

Now, I'm not trying to say anything in particular to my non-Cali friends, but did any of you notice how many of the fittest cities in America are in California?! (hint: the answer is 7). Yup, that's what I thought...ya'll best step back an' recognize! (*grin*)

Grace & Peace Out!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Waiting for the Revolution

What is it that you're waiting for?

I am waiting for the Revolution to begin. I am waiting for nuclear fission to start: when all the elements are in place, the chemicals are in sufficient quantity, when the energy thresholds have been overcome and the critical mass is present. I am waiting for that uncontrolled chain-reaction that will spread out from the detonation point, igniting somthing far beyond my wildest expectations! I am waiting for the Revolution.

Did you know that Lenin was first arrested in 1895? He spent more than a year in prison, and didn't see the Soviet Revolution until 1917. More than 20 years later. I have been talking about the Revolution since 2000. I remember standing in Dwight, talking with Anti-Blog about the impending Revolution. But it never really materialized. Then 2001-2002 was supposed to be the year. Porterhouse was our critical mass - but it never spread beyond the walls. By 2003, we were moving out. People were leaving, and the spirit of revolution with it.

Somehow we were harvested back, well most of us anyway. The agony of those lost grieves me. But our Colony appears yet more promising - stronger, more mature, wiser - and I believe that the Revolution may yet break out. I am waiting, time is passing, sparks are flying and the heat is simmering. Still I am waiting...for the sparks to catch; for flame to take hold; for the reaction to begin that will sweep outward and I'll gaze in awe, throwing my strength into the fire and my back to the work, barely able to hang on because it won't come from me when it comes. From He who calls these elements together, I don't want to lose any more.

I am ready for the Revolution.

Grace & Peace

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Shameless personal plug

I feel slightly famous and desire to share this with anyone interested. I preached my first official "sermon" this past Sunday at the New Haven Vineyard. As part of my internship there this year, I will preach two sermons to the congregation. I'll probably preach again in the Spring. It was pretty nerve-wracking, even for someone used to being up on stage! In all honesty, I don't remember a lot about the actual event - I think I was worried about getting through without making mistakes, making sure my points were intelligible, and hoping that it all made sense - but I got a lot of positive feedback, for which I am incredibly appreciative.

So...if you want to hear my first attempt in crystal clear, .mp3 audio, the link is here! You can listen to this sermon, and several others, at:

If you want, just save the file to your computer and listen to it whenever you have time. I hope you enjoy!

Grace & Peace
Currently Spinning
"Copland: The Music of America"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Weekly Battles

It’s not a bad place really. The AIDS center feels like something between a hospital ward and a nursing home. It always smells vaguely of cleaning chemicals, medicine, and bodies that don’t stay as clean as the rest of us. But it’s not a bad place. There is plenty of light, fun things to do, and the staff are friendly and competent.

I don’t know how long he’s been here. But visiting him is the cornerstone of my trip each week. Usually there are three of us that go and visit the folks living there. He’s probably in his early 60’s. An African-American man, who says that he used to be 6’3”, 235lbs, but a recent stroke has deprived him of the use of his arm and consistent use of his right leg, so he’s wheelchair bound. Most of the time he just lies in bed. What little body he has left is protruding with tubes beneath the sheets of his bed.

I get the impression that other folks don’t like him much. I don’t think he’s really a “good neighbor.” Although there are brightly colored paintings on the outside of the door – paintings he has created but look like a child’s – he is not very friendly with the other patients, the staff, or many other visitors. For some reason he just seems to like us. No one really knows why.

We always come about the same time in the afternoon. And like clockwork we talk to him about his week, about baseball (he’s a diehard Red Sox fan) and about how he is feeling – all while Jerry Springer plays on the t.v. above his bed. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to concentrate on a conversation while Jerry Springer-style fights rage above your head, but it is not easy. The interesting thing about him, and about most of the patients there, is that they never talk about their HIV or AIDS. When you ask them how they are doing, they’ll say “doing alright. But my arm is hurting this week.” Or, “better this week, but I can’t get rid of this cough.” If they ever do mention it, it is ‘the virus,’ or ‘my condition,’ - but they almost never do.

This week, after 15 minutes of visiting with him, we asked if we could pray, and what we should pray for. Like always he asked for prayer for increased mobility in his arm and leg. I don’t even know if he believes in God. “Dear Heavenly Father…” and the three of us began to pray. He never prays aloud with us – just closes his eyes there on the hospital bed and listens, while Jerry Springer plays in the background. We implore God to come and heal his leg and arm, “God, you are a God who heals. Come and touch this man – make his body strong again.” I know that the three of us are all praying for ‘the virus’ in our heads, but none of us mentions it aloud. I believe that God does heal, that God can supernaturally transform this man just like Jesus did at the Bethesda pool. But after weeks of prayer, calm and orderly, usually lasting about 5 minutes, I realize that I’m not sure if I believe it for him anymore. Oh, it’s not that I lose the faith in my head, but somewhere in my heart I realize that I have begun saying the words, and even believing the concept, without really expecting anything to happen.

As I stand there beside the bed, I rationalize that there are lots of reasons why God doesn’t choose to heal through my prayers. I’m not a very good Christian sometimes. I snapped at someone the other day. I haven’t been regular in my personal devotions. But I can dismiss those in my head as quickly as they appear. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe them somewhere. As we finish our prayer, he smiles and shakes hands with the three of us. We smile and talk about the upcoming basketball season, something sure to lift his spirits after a disappointing Red Sox season. And all the while I am left in my own head, wondering why I even bother to pray. Is it for this man’s sake – this person who I don’t even know believes in God? Am I trying to accomplish something else? What good is prayer if I’m not sure that I really expect God to do anything? Maybe I should be praying for something else entirely…and we turn in our visitor badges. And the three of us walk out the door – talking about the World Series.

Grace & Peace

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Pity, We Were Such A Good Invention

A poem, by Yehuda Amichai

They amputated
your thighs off my hips.
As far as I'm concerned
They are all surgeons. All of them.

They dismantled us
Each from the other.
As far as I am concerned
They are all engineers. All of them.

A pity. We were such a good
And loving invention.
An aeroplane made from a man and wife.
Wings and everything.
We hovered a little above the earth.

We even flew a little.

Grace & Peace

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Which theologian are you?

Here are my results from the "Which theologian are you?" test. Pretty fun. I am happy with most of this analysis. I even think Anselm kind of looks like me! Or, wait...
You scored as Anselm. Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period. He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'



Karl Barth


John Calvin


Jonathan Edwards


Charles Finney


Friedrich Schleiermacher


Martin Luther






Paul Tillich


Which theologian are you?
created with

Saturday, October 15, 2005

the old guard

After discussing my previous post with several people, I though a demonstration of the quintessential Vineyard style of some of the original leaders might be in order. See if you don't think I'm right:

Pictures of the "Yale School" are forthcoming.

Grace & Peace

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

hairbrained schemes

Something interesting is happening in the church where I work. It's not a theological shift, nor a religious awakening. We're not changing staff. We're not building a new wing. In fact, most people wouldn't notice it at all. We're simply changing...hairstyles.

Actually, it's a little more complicated than that.

For a long time I have joked that all the early Vineyard leaders appear so much alike! If you could see pictures of many of the early pastors, you would notice this strange convergence of styles. It's a particular "look:" casually dressed, slightly overweight, balding but with straight, sandy-colored hair changing to silver. And all of them have beards - John Wimber, Kenn Gulliksen, Bert Waggoner, even my pastor Bill Elander. It is somewhat uncanny.

But as I've met the younger generation, especially folks interested in diving into the Vineyard from a historical or theological angle, I notice that a lot of us have a particular style too. Maybe someday we'll be called the "Yale School" of Vineyard thought. We all tend to be casually dressed too, but instead of sandals and hawaiian shirt, we have the relaxed look of postmodern graduate students. Most of us are tall and thin, occasionally scruffy with dark shaggy hair. I can't tell you how many times I get confused for Matt Croasmun, a friend and fellow YDS student who also works at my church.

Okay, so maybe what I'm describing is simply the "grad student" aesthetic. Maybe we're not that unique. We dress comfortably because we're students, we don't shave because we were up till 1am studying. We don't get haircuts becuase we cannot afford it. Maybe we're all skinny because we don't eat well. Of course, I'm not pretending to be a social scientist in my analysis, just note something of interest that never ceases to make me laugh. But who knows? Maybe someday people will joke about those "old Vineyard guys" that all look alike. It's funny how that seems to happen.

Grace & Peace

Sunday, October 09, 2005

How Rhenquist Screwed the Pooch

For his many years of service to the nation, William Rhenquist deserves our greatful admiration. He was undoubtedly a capable and beloved Chief Justice - leading the court through its conservative 'renaissnance' of the past 25 years.

But Rhenquist really screwed the pooch.

When he first became ill with cancer, Chief Justice Rhenquist should have retired. The US currently has a Republican administration committed to nominating justices in the mold of Clarence Thomans or Antonin Scalia - folks Rhenquist would have been proud of. Instead he decided to stay on at the Supreme Court until his death, and made the selection process much more difficult for the President. Now Pres. Bush is in a tough fight selling his nominee, Harriet Miers, not only to Democrats, but to conservative Republicans as well, who question not only her judicial and constitutional philosophy, but her credentials to serve as well.

But imagine if Rhenquist had resigned back in early 2005.

Initially, things might have seemed more difficult. It was certainly a tough time for the President, putting things back together after a difficult election campaign. Even in the wake of victory, there was a fragility to the national political conscience, and increasing worry about the fate of Iraq and the global War on Terror. An all-out fight over a Supreme Court nominee might have seemed a risky endeavor.

But the President would have had many tools at his disposal that he no longer has. For example, if Chief Justice Rhenquist had retired, Pres. Bush could have chosen a woman to take his place. A strong conservative in the mold of Maura Corrigan, Alice Batchelder, Edith Jones, Priscilla Owen, or Janice Rogers Brown. While these would have been a tough sell to liberal Democrats, the President would have had the added political benefit of nominating a women to fill a man's seat (thus increasing the representation of women on the court) and inviting this woman to be our nation's first female Chief Justice.

Assuming the success of such a nomination, the President would have exchanged one solidly conservative Justice with another of even greater political gain. This would have left someone like John Roberts available to fill the seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Conner. Of course, Justice Roberts was initially tapped to fill Justice O'Conner's seat, and while it would certainly have been a difficult nomination process, the benefit of not having to nominations back to back would certainly help, and Justice Roberts seemed like such a strong candidate from the beginning that he was destined to succeed.

Thus, by refusing to retire early enough, the late Chief Justice Rhenquist has unwittingly made Pres. Bush's task much more difficult, and potentially robbed the President of the ability to enact the conservative shift on the court that so many have so long desired.

So, Mr. Chief Justice, may you rest in peace...but gosh, if you haven't made things difficult!

Grace & Peace

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Danish Air Force Compensates Santa

The Danish airforce are compensating Santa Claus for the unintended death of one of his raindeer. No, I'm not all about it here.

Grace & Peace

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

think about it...

Monday, September 19, 2005

the least I can do

I use Biblegateway all the time. It is perhaps the most useful site on the web for direct access to Scripture. The only downside is that NCC won't let Biblegateway use the NRSV on their site. But after all the use I've gotten out of Biblegateway, I figure that the least I can do is send a little linkage their way. Feel free to use this, copy the code, or use it yourself. It's pretty handy

Grace & Peace

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Monday, September 12, 2005

J'ai soif

Preacher and author Andrew Murray once wrote, "Wherever there is life, there is a continual interchange of taking in and giving out...The one depends on the other - the giving out ever increases the power of taking in...It is only in the emptiness that comes from the parting with what we have, that the divine fullness can flow in."

Several colleagues have recently expressed concern to me about the common analogy of the Christian as a "conduit" of God's love - directed from God to us and then out into the world. Their concern, it seems, is that this idea reduces the Christian to very little as a person - reducing his/her identity to something like a pipe and no more. "Where," they argue, "is the affirmation of the Christian's identity as a beloved child of God?"

I admit that this is something I had not considered, and am currently wrestling with...this notion of individual identity and our loving interaction with others around us. The "conduit analogy" was common in my spiritual upbringing, and I have found it useful tool in both personal reflection and apologetic discourse at various points in my life. Reflexively, I'm simply not quite ready to give it up.

There seems to be tension in Scripture as to whether we find our identity "in Christ alone" (thus implicitly subsuming our identity or possibly losing it completely), or if it is precisely Christ's message of redemption and restoration is exactly what validates us as 'individuals' (in the theological, and not socio-political sense) and calls us to be 'priests' and 'children of God.' Both analogies are frequently employed and implicitly assumed and many points, and it's not immediately apparent how these ideas are to work together.

A recent sermon on the need to serve others reminded me again of this idea. It was brought home during a moment of prayer when I Corinthians 13:3 jumped out to me as clear as day: "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." I want to think more about why we love, where love comes from, and what our reasons and obligations are as it regards this love. C.S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, discusses whether or not earthly love is actually love only insofar as it participates in the divine Love (an admittedly Platonic idea, but one that bears considering) or if love is somehow independent in each of us, and therefore succeptible to perversion and decay while still properly remaining love.

Is love ultimately something we possess or something we merely channel? Can we (really) love others as God loves us, or rather because God loves us? Can we love someone with implicit or even explicitly selfish motives (..."but have not love, I gain nothing)?

to be continued...

Grace & Peace

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The way we see it...

Embrace this right now life while it's dripping, while the flavors are excellently woesome. Take your bites with bravery and boldness since the learning and the growing are here in these times, these exact right nows. Capture these times. Hold and kiss them because it will soon be very different.

--Jill Scott

Currently Reading
By Dana Glover

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

In other news...

According to a recent survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the public's impression of the Democratic Party has changed in the last year.

Only 29 percent of respondents said they viewed Democrats as being "friendly toward religion," down from 40 percent in August of 2004. Meanwhile, 55 percent said the Republican Party was friendly toward religion.

The poll of 2,000 adults was conducted July 7-17 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Well, I'll be darned...

interesting...creationism is quite popular

In a poll conducted last month by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution altogether with creationism.

I will admit - this is a surprise...even to me.

Read the NYTimes article here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

das evangelische kirke?

Anyone who has studied American Religious History knows that defining "evangelical" is a particularly tricky business. Fortunately, Wheaton College's Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals provides an especially useful way of delineating references to contemporary American Evangelicalism.

According to the ISAE, there are three senses in which the term "evangelical" is used today:
  1. All Christians who affirm a few key doctrines and practical emphases. From British historian David Bebbington, a more concise (and probably accurate) rendering of Alister McGrath's six points: conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
  2. An organic group of movements denoting a "style" as much as a set of beliefs. Groups as disparate as black Baptists and Dutch Reformed Churches, Mennonites and Pentecostals, Catholic charismatics and Southern Baptists all come under the evangelical umbrella.<
  3. The self-ascribed label for a coalition that arose during the Second World War. This group came into being as a reaction against the perceived anti-intellectual, separates and belligerent nature of the fundamentalist movement in the 1920s and 1930s. Importantly, its core personalities (like Carl Henry and Billy Graham), institutions (Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College), and organizations (such as the National Association of Evangelicals and Youth for Christ) have played a pivotal role in giving the wider movement a sense of cohesion that extends beyond "card-carrying" evangelicals.
As the coordinator for the YDS Evangelical Fellowship, I wonder which of these elements I am supposed to represent. Certainly there is some overlap, but our mission statement is heavy on definition one, and this seems to encourage certain people (particularly theological conservatives at odds with their denomiation) to get involved. However, midwestern and western evangelicals at YDS are often more interested in things like praise-and-worship nights, which seems to emphasize definition two. This, of course, makes all the evangelical Anglican's roll their's a difficult balancing act.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Really? (Part II)

In the business of the summer, I never recounted the content of my conversation in which I noted a striking connection between Christianity and sex. Actually, in retrospect, I should note that the connection is more between the Christian Life and sex than with Christianity per se.

The controlling metaphor that links the two is the recognition that while both are beneficial/pleasurable for the individual, the moment that it becomes "all about you," you miss the best of what they have to offer.

The Christian life and sex are ultimately 'other centered' least, in their best moments. Both can (and often are) pursued for personal or selfish reasons, but doing so misses out on the true and lasting benefits inherent in each. The more other-focued we become, the more we recognize that extravagent love stems not from our own pleasure/benefit, but in the recognition of the other as a worthy participant in the same.

Grace & Peace

Sunday, August 21, 2005

What is it all for?

The end of another summer - 2005 - and the start of yet another academic year, and I'm following the trend of 'taking stock of my life.' Not in the grand, existential sense, though I just realized that I have been preparing for school every Fall for the past 21 years of my life save 3 (Falls of '01, '03 and technically '04). I am simply thinking about what this blog is 'for,' and why I should keep it around.

I've been at this for nearly a year (with some admittedly extended gaps), and my life has changed pretty dramatically in that time (see posts here and here). Now, a few of my friends are considering dropping off the blog bandwagon (here), leaving our little corner of the blogosphere, but I don't think I am ready to do that just yet. Part of my determination to stick it out, as it were, is the desire to not be a "bandwagon" person. I don't need to enjoy the 'flavor of the month' because that is what everyone else is doing, and then move on the next month. I have no need for podcast and no interest in starting one...

Frankly, my blog has always been (or should have been) more about me than about readers (not that there ever were many). Blogs have many stiles, purposes and intended audiences. For some, it's all about the 'dialogue,' and success or interest is measured in the amount of comments and heated exchanges that a post generates. I'll admit I never get many comments. But as I stated in my very first post, this space is meant to be something of an 'intellectual diary' for me, a place to vent the thoughts in my head and see how they look on paper. Less personal than a diary, but requiring less editing than a 'paper.' In the end, this blog should serve as something of an intellectual timetable for the ideas that I wrestle with. Going back through it as I have this morning, it does a pretty good job of that.

I know that I have not posted in a long time...but that's the way diaries are sometimes. This summer has been amazing and challenging and has blessed me in many ways. For those that actually read this or care, I hope to share that with you soon. But working at a camp 14 hours a day, 6 1/2 days a week with limited internet access made the time, energy and means for blogging difficult. Introspective and ongoing works are all about second chances. And third chances...and fourth. So, with a renewed sense of I go again...

"It's never too late to be what you might. have been." —George Eliot, British novelist (1819-1880)

Monday, July 04, 2005


I just finished an hour-long conversation about why Christianity is a lot like sex. Now, I will note that this is not a typical conversation for me, although both topics hold a certain allure - as I'm sure they do for most of us. Actually...come to think of it, maybe this is a typical conversation after all.

I will not divulge all the interesting analogies that I found illuminating in the discussion, but suffice it to say that I will ponder their similarities and post later. I think I just need time now to let it all...percolate. Hmmmmm

Graced & Peace

Currently Reading
"The Untamed God"
By Jay Wesley Richards

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Three Degrees to Kirk Cameron

The small size of the Christian community in the United States - particularly the evangelical community - never ceases to amaze me.

If you're a 20-something evangelical, chances are I know someone you know. I'd bet on it. I've had this conversation with several friends, and whether we are from Chicago, California, or Connecticut, it invariably takes less than three degrees to find someone we know in common. This is especially true when the smaller "Christian college network" is invoked. All you need is a friend who went to Wheaton, Gordon, Seattle Pacific, Messiah, or Westmont and you've got an interlaced evangelical network that stretches from sea to shining sea.

This wasn't as true as an undergrad, when most of us came straight from our family's homes to college. But as we have moved, started working or gone on to graduate school, it is becoming more frequent. This is increasingly true for the evangelical colleges as their academic rigor has increased, and they are now have graduates attending top schools all across the country.

A few pertinent (though continually surprising) examples:
  • my good friend from Yale (who grew up in Chicago) has recently become quite close with a "friend of a friend" from my public high school in California. The connection? Princeton Seminary and Seattle Pacific.
  • Another friend working in Washington, DC randomly met a girl I attended summer camp with in high school while both girls attended Westmont.
  • In the past 3 months, I have become friends with a girl from Gordon, and another from Westmont, all through a connection at Yale Divinity School. Turns out that this Westmont girl TA'd my brother while he was there!
  • I got an e-mail yesterday from a Wheaton girl getting ready to attend YDS. She is looking to take part in a group that I lead there, was directed to me by a close mutual friend.
Though these connections are becoming frequent, they never cease to amaze me! They are even more common as my social circle begins to narrow to the Seminary and Religious Studies types, who often come from this small network of schools, or from this close community.

I wish I had more insight into this strange phenomenon - something pithy to say or some great social observation to make. Instead I'm merely reporting what I see, and asking you for your comments. Do you have any stories like this? Why do you think this is happening? Am I merely on crack? (don't rule it out) As always, I await your response...

Grace & Peace

Monday, May 02, 2005

An Improper Relationship With God

Turmoil rocked Heaven this morning as allegations arose that God had an "improper relationship" with a former worshipper. The scandal broke when a 21 year old woman, known only as Mary, claimed that she had given birth to God's "only son" last week in a barn in the hamlet of Bethlehem. Sources close to Mary claim that she "had loved God for a long time", that she was constantly talking about her relationship with God and that she was "thrilled to have had his child".

In a press conference this morning, God issued a vehement denial, saying that "No sexual relationship existed", and that "the facts of this story will come out in time, verily". Independent counsel Beelzebub immediately filed a brief with the Justice Department to expand his investigation to cover questions of whether any commandments may have been broken and whether God had illegally funnelled laundered money to his illegitimate child through three foreign operatives know only as the "Wise Men". Beelzebub has issued subpoenas to several angels who are rumoured to have acted as go-betweens in the affair.

Critics have pointed out that these allegations have little to do with the charges that Beelzebub was originally appointed to investigate that God had created large-scale flooding in order to cover up evidence of a failed land deal. In recent months, Beelzebub's investigation has already been expanded to cover questions surrounding the large number of locusts that plagued God's political opponents in the last election, as well as to claims that the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was to divert attention away from a scandal involving whether the giveaway of a parcel of public land in Promised County to a Jewish special interest group was quid pro quo for political contributions.

If these allegations prove to be true, this will be a big blow to God's career, much of which has been spent crusading for stricter moral standards and harsher punishments for wrongdoers. Indeed, God recently outlined a "tough-on-crime" plan consisting of a series of 10 "Commandments", which has been introduced in Congress in a bill by Representative Moses. Critics of the bill have pointed out that it lacks any provisions for the rehabilitation of criminals, and lawyers for the ACLU are planning to fight the "Name in Vain" Commandment as being an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

Monday, April 11, 2005

pondering Sabbatical

While numerous thoughts plague my mind and urge me write, the weight of words bids me take feel their weight and confirm their worth. And as logistics press forcefully on this inopportune time of year, and blossoms beckon after many dark days of fitful slumber, I contemplate a brief sabbatical from my dear weblog. To allow my ideas to percolate and distill, and to indulge my procrastination not in front of my computer but in front of creation. If I am temporarily silent, do not mistake my absence for lack of love. I shall return.

Grace & Peace

Sunday, April 03, 2005


"The ascetic character of the person, derived as it is from the eucharistic form of the ecclesial hypostasis, expresses the authentic person precisely when it does not deny eros and the body but hypostasizes them in an ecclesial manner."

-John Zizioulas, 'Being as Communion' (pg. 63)

The Anti-blog

The Anti-blog has a new post, which happens rarely enough that it's worth mentioning. Not as profound (perhaps) as his last, but here's to him deciding to continue...

Grace & Peace

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Non impediti ratione cogitationis?

(Or, It takes an Man to make a Woman feel like a Woman.)

On a recent transatlantic flight, a plane passes through a severe storm. The turbulence is awful, and things go from bad to worse when one wing is struck by lightning. One woman in particular loses it. Screaming, she stands up in the front of the plane. "I'm too young to die," she wails.

Then she yells, "Well, if I'm going to die, I want my last minutes on earth to be memorable! Is there ANYONE on this plane who can make me feel like a WOMAN?"

For a moment there is silence. Everyone has forgotten their own peril. They all stared, riveted, at the desperate woman in the front of the plane. Then an Italian man stands up in the rear of the plane. He is gorgeous--tall, well built, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. He starts to walk slowly up the aisle, unbuttoning
his button at a time.

........No one moves.

He removes his shirt.

.......Muscles ripple across his chest.

.......She gasps...

.......He whispers:

"Iron this, and get me something to eat..."

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Joyeuse Paques

Happy Easter everyone. For many reason, this is my favorite holiday of the year. May your time with friends and family be blessed by the knowledge that Christ is alive, and that the power of the cross is that it is empty.

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Grace & Peace

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Ready, Fire, Aim...

Taking inspiration from a friend (whom I recently discovered is a fantastic narrative writer), I have become enamored with the idea of serial posts - periodic thoughts in a related vein addressed under a common title. These are not to be confused with posts that take a few iterations to complete (like our community's thoughts on worship), or mutiple posts in a similar theme that lack the conscious coherence of a serial post (e.g. many politically oriented posts close to last year's election).

I currently have two serial posts: "who's your grandma?!" a serial including random thoughts and fun news items, and "Non impediti ratione cogitationis?" a new serial of my thoughts on the fairer sex.

At the risk of overkill, I'd like to kick-start another serial entitled "who we are" (no linkage yet for obvious reasons), that examines and reveals things about myself that I often find surprising. I consider this post to be a proto-iteration of this serial.

As with all serials, I will link the current post to its previous iteration, and welcome your thoughts and comments, especially stream-of-consciousness thoughts that will inevitably spark me to look deeper at my reflections.

Grace & Peace

Currently Spinning
"Kind of Blue"
By Miles Davis

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Non impediti ratione cogitationis?

(or, my thoughts on women)

A post of this magnitude certainly entails more layers than I can ever imagine uncovering. Plus, I have precious few thoughts I dare categorize as "conclusions." But in a spirit of profound humility (dare I say reverance?), I would like to make this a periodic post of my thoughts on the fairer sex.

The following poem you may find distressing, humorous, profoundly beautiful, or perhaps deserved, depending on your perspective. I hold these in tension:

I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body's weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity, --let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.
Edna St. Vincent Millay

In a complimentary, or perhaps contradictory spirit, to what degree do we think that men and women need each other? This may be taken in many ways, and I consciously imply all of them, but anticipate a response predicated on the likely impression of one element over the others.

Don't second guess yourself too much. We're all smart enough to play devil's advocate with ourselves. But stream of consciousness is far more answer to follow.
Grace & Peace

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Tale of Ernest Christian (Explained)

Several people have wondered at my posting The Tale of Ernest Christian. Given its relevance, I think it is worth returning (in brief) to this story, and what I find powerful about the questions it raises: Why does this happen? Is this inevitable? How might it be prevented?

The Tale of Ernest Christian is not about me per se. The strength of this story is the degree to which it reflects every divinity student after a time. I have been back at YDS only a few months, but I sense the cynicism and rigor mortis all around me. Given the variety of people that I know, we are certainly not alone. While some aspects of the Tale will resonate more with some than with others, each of us sees a reflection of our unique spiritual struggle in this simple story.

Like our reflection in the story itself, the answers we glean are unique to each individual. This is why I posted the Tale. Not merely to reveal something about me, but to reveal something about you. That's not to say that thinking about these questions resists systematic analysis completely, but that the power of reflection is greatest when each person encounters him/herself in the story, and wrestles with the answers that are unique to the individual. A long hard look in the mirror is rarely a fruitless endeavor.

For myself, I anticipate the approaching storm, and would like to ensure (to the best of my ability) that I am attached firmly to the Rock, no matter now strong the winds may blow.
Grace & Peace

Monday, March 14, 2005

heard on the trail

During a weeklong excursion on the AT, the following quotes became anthems for our merry band of YDS travelers:
  • "Bring the motherfuckin ruckus!"
  • "Bitches best believe that hype!"
  • "Zero degrees? Ten inches of snow? Ha, ha bitches!"

You just gotta love divinity students...

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Tale of Ernest Christian

"Ernest Christian was converted as a high school senior. He went to college and studied computer science; but he also worked hard at his church and enjoyed effective ministry in the local Inter-Varsity group. His prayer times were warm and frequent. Despite occasional dearth, he often felt when he read his Bible as if the Lord were speaking to him directly. Still, there was so much of the Bible that he did not understand. As he began to reach the settled conviction that he should pursue full-time Christian ministry, his local congregation confirmed him in his sense of gifts and calling. Deeply aware of his limitations, he headed off to seminary with all the eagerness of a new recruit.

After Ernest has been six months at seminary, the picture is very different. Ernest is spending many hours a day memorizing Greek morphology and learning the details of the itinerary of Paul's second missionary journey. Ernest has also begun to write exegetical papers; but by the time he has finished his lexical study, his syntactical diagram, his survey of critical opinions, and his evaluation of conflicting evidence, somehow the Bible does not feel as alive to him as it once did. Ernest is troubled by this; he finds it more difficult to pray and witness than he did before he came to seminary. He is not sure why this is so: he does not sense the fault to be in the lecturers, most of whom seem to be godly, knowledgeable, and mature believers.

More time elapses. Ernest Christian may do one of several things. He may retreat into a defensive pietism that boisterously denounces the arid intellectualism he sees all around him; or he may be sucked into the vortex of a kind of intellectual commitment that squeezes out worship, prayer, witness, and meditative reading of Scripture; or he may stagger along until he is rescued by graduation and returns to the real world. But is there a better way? And are such experiences a necessary component of seminary life?"

D.A. Carson, "Exegetical Fallacies." Pg. 23.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

μενοῦμαι, Article I

(in which I am simultaneously intellectually pompous and existentially alienated)

μενῶ, ὦ φίλε μου, μενῶ....

Currently Playing
By Damien Rice

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

waiting for the light to shine

Because I am opposed to the idea of "Blog as journal" (for myself), I tend to wait for inspiration to strike. But it has not done so for over a week, and I'm not sure why. Like many people, I tend to work in creative bursts, and all my creative juices have apparently been flowing toward scholarly projects due this week.

I did, however, run across the following quote which I think is quite brilliant (in a dry, British sort of way):

"You do not have to be a fundamentalist to admit that it is unlikely that the Holy Spirit supports guiding the Church into denying His existence." --Prudence Dailey, of the Oxford diocese

Monday, February 07, 2005

feels like home

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

just when you thought it was safe...

Soooo...for those of you who thought that Iraq might not be GWB's Vietnam after all, there's this reminder of President Johnson's response to the 1967 South Vietnamese elections. It could have been pulled from the the front page of Monday's national newspapers.
Spooky, indeed.

(Edited to add) You can purchase the entire article from the NYTimes here.

thinking out loud

I do a great amount of my intellectual processing and "working out" my thoughts out loud, espeically in dialogue with others. This is my latest stab at the same:

In a recent conversation, M reiterated his belief that there is little in the way of "Truth claims" that we can firmly stand on in the context of the Biblical text by itself. (See this post for a more comprehensive articulation). He has also expressed support for the well-worn - though often not properly analyzed - assumption that people do not come to faith on the basis of the historical truth of the Bible, or words on a page, but on the basis of a heart transformation as the result of such a God encounter. Taken together, I believe these conclusions amount to something of an intellectual copout and leave Christians vulernable to the critiques of several groups we ought to be evangelizing with confidence. Thus I offer the following observations/critiques:
  1. If an "encounter with the divine" is both the telos of Scripture and it's illuminating light, then the encounter preceeds Scripture in importance and becomes it's Judge. This model has no independant resource to judge those who claim to have "experienced God" and then set out to interpret Scripture in an entirely unbiblical manner (think Heaven's Gate or Jonestown here). Since human experience of the divine is undeniably unreliable, Scripture must act as the foundation and judge of our experience of the divine. We must seek Truth in Scripture so that we are not led astray by our own interpretation or the faulty interpretations of others, and more importatly, set limits on what is an acceptable reading with a clear understanding of what the text says.
  2. On a similar note, we become impotent to articulate the Gospel to members of other religions (think Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, etc). Each tradition claims to have encounters with the divine, and without an appeal to a verifiable Scripture, we can only counter by somehow claiming that our experiences are "more true," or by lamely restating that Christ is somehow unique in a way that can only be "experienced" and not verified.
  3. While it may be true that people will not believe on the basis of rational, historical or logical arguments, I think it is often true that people will disbelieve on the basis of such arguments (think atheist/agnostic here). I personally know several people for whom this is true. If Scripture can't stand up to intellecutal scrutiny, they won't give it a second look. While we may not win converts with articulations of historical truth, by doing so we remove obstacles for the skeptic and allow the Spirit to soften the hearts of those that would otherwise disbelieve. If the truth of Scripture is not itself sufficient, neither should it be proven false.
  4. Lastly, simply claiming that the truth of Scripture is unknowable and appealing to a subjective encounter with the divine amounts to an intellectual copout. I realize this is a controversial point, but if the material cannot stand up to tough scrutiny, then we should honestly recognize that and reject it. We would expect the same of members of other religions (the Mormons, for example) or in any other area of life (science, politics, history). Our desire to hold on to what we cannot understand on the basis of subjective experience is admirable, but foolhardy. We feebly claim that this Christianity cannot make sense, or it would lose the mysterious or we try to hold on to the trappings and symbols of Christianity for the sake of our heritage or personal comfort, but we have lost the foundation on which all else is built.
I invite your response - loud and angry denial though it may be.
Grace & Peace

Monday, January 31, 2005

You ain't seen nothing yet


It is the dreaded "4th week of semester," when all of my lofty academic goals start falling apart and inevitably collapse into the chaos that defines academic life. This is when I start just trying to keep my head above water.

And I brought this on myself?? Wow, I can't wait till finals week. If I'm more than a lump of quivering flesh on the last day of finals, I'll consider it a victory.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

getting it on?

definitely rated PG-13. Proceed with caution.

In a special with Katie Couric, NBC reported tonite on "Teens & Sex." Focusing on teens from age 13-16, they reported that while teen pregnancy and the transmission of STDs are statistically declining (complete results here), the amount of variant forms of sexual activity (specifically "hooking up," oral sex, and "friends with benefits") are increasingly common even in this young group.

One interesting connection? Young teens who wish to avoid "having sex" will increasingly compromise with oral sex, because (duh!) teens don't consider oral sex on par with intercourse. If you're not ready to have sex, you can appease your boyfriend/girlfriend by agreeing to oral sex. Loveline hosts Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew often note that 30 years ago oral sex was "more than sex," while most teens today consider it a standard "third base."

With such a hyper-sexual society, constantly bombarded by sexual images from tv, film, radio and print advertising, why are these countervailing trends seemingly at odds? What's going on here?
Grace & Peace

Friday, January 21, 2005

Call them on it (Part II)

Note: this will make no sense if you have not read Part I, below:

Reflecting on my earlier post, I have come up with what I think might be an example of an acceptable answer (though certainly not a sufficient one), for those that are unclear exactly what I'm hoping for. I'm sure I am opening myself up to all kinds of criticism now:

The type of response we need developed is similar to the Catholic Church's understanding of the celibate priesthood. Centuries of wrestling with this issue has lead the Catholic Church to a complex theological understanding of celibacy that does not simply deny the sexuality of the priest as a human being. Though the Catholic Church has not abdicated its moral authority, (remaining firm on extra-marital intercourse) they have developed a well-articulated recognition by priests that they are, in fact, married to Christ and to His Church in a unique manner more real than a traditional male/female marriage. This special union necessitates the abdication of the right of the purely physical expression of sexual love, but focuses that energy toward the love of Christ and of the parish, instead of simply ignoring or denying it. This unique union provides special benefits of authority and uninterrupted communion with God not enjoyed by those partaking in marriage, and each diocese works to mentor and support the priest in his tasks and in this difficult calling. (See, for example, several scenes on this topic in "Keeping the Faith.")

How well this particular ethic plays out in real life is beside the point. What is significant is that this is a comprehensive understanding human sexuality outside of the context of marriage. Any comprehensive ECSS (Ethic of Christian Single Sexuality) would need to be formulated for a completely different constituency . But the possibility exists, and the theological tools are there to begin such a project. It's time to step up to the plate...
Grace & Peace

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Call them on it

NOTE: this is taken from a journal entry on 15 March 2004. Rated PG

I was listening recently to a Christian radio station in my area broadcast a program that was dealing with the issue of Christian teen sexuality. The hosts, a man and a woman, ended the program by nothing that the woman's daughter had pledged not to kiss any man until she was engaged. The finished the show by revealing conspiratorially that "many girls today are waiting to kiss until they get married," and exclaiming, "wouldn't that be great?!"

I turned off the radio, scoffing to myself and more that a little upset. Beside the fact that there are few statistics supporting the claim that "many girls" are waiting till they are engaged to kiss anyone, I found myself - a devout Christian and supporter of much of this radio station's content - angry at these commentators enthusiasm for something I considered absurd. Why was I so mad? Obviously, the route advocated by these commentators was not one I pursued myself, though sex was certainly not on my dating agenda. But I believe that my reaction was more than a case of self-righteous jealousy or indignation. In fact, I understood and even empathized with the commentator's "slippery slope" argument - each new sexual experience satisfies us, but leaves us wanting more. What I found so disturbing the complete lack of an understanding of what it means to be a sexual creature outside of the context of marriage. This is displayed by so many (married) Christian commentators that I've lost count.

In "The Most Important Year of a Woman's Life," the authors note that many people, but especially girls, find it hard to go from saying "no, no, no" with regard to their sexuality to "yes..yes...yes!" as soon as they're married. Although with the best of intentions, and important Biblical principles at hand, too many Christian leaders are, at best, simply unaware of how to articulate an ethic of healthy Christian sexuality out of the marriage context , and at worst, contributing to the sexual dysfunction of that new generation of Christian young people by refusing to develop a thoughtful model to articulate.

In their defense, this is a relatively new problem for many church leaders. For centuries, the American church tradition kept all manner of sexual discussion firmly pent up in private, reflecting their Victorian, and yes, Puritanical heritage. (Puritans were known for having sex with their clothes on in order to prevent immodesty and discourage lust.) Prior to the European Reformation, celibate Catholic priests/theologians hardly had the resources to articulate any vision of healthy sexuality, much less in the lives of today's young and single. (though I do believe that Catholic celibacy to be a viable, healthy sexual option that affords celibate priests resources of time and energy not possessed by married clergy).

It was the traumatic cultural upheavals of the 1960's and 1970's that actually encouraged Christian leaders to begin to speak openly about healthy sexuality. Thought they almost universally criticized the excesses of this era, it was the pressures of a rapidly evolving sexual society that forced many pastors to begin to talk openly about healthy sexuality at home. Today, many churches offer some form of "marriage retreat," a combination weekend-long counseling session and romantic getaway, where couples are encouraged to re-ignite passion in the bedroom as an essential key to a healthy marriage partnership. But when the subject switches to the unmarried (including, I might add, those who are engaged), these same pastors have nothing to say - preaching either implicitly or explicitly a complete "hands-off" (literally) approach to sexuality. This lack of a coherent vision is becoming an increasing problem in churches that regularly have 50-80% of their "twenty-somethings" unmarried. In a society that is maturing (physically) earlier and earlier, and marrying later and later, the Church has no comprehensive approach for dealing with often 15 years of sexual maturity and frustration beyond simplistic quips about lust and self-control.

What does it mean to be a sexual being in God's eyes, and why does this Bible seem to present a limited number of examples for dealing with these questions? This has more to do with the structure of ancient societies than it does with Biblical insufficiencies. Ancient societies, almost universally, have two things in common: a patriarchal structure and a low life-expectancy. The patriarchal norms means that women usually had little choice of when/who to marry, and girls - especially post-pubescent women - were often kept strictly separated from men. The low life expectancy, combined with a high mortality rate, means that women were married young, and forced quickly into childbearing and child rearing. Many girls might have been physically mature less than three years before they were "safely" married off. Much of this tradition continued right up to the recent past, when women's liberation and sexual revolution (especially the development of simple and effective birth control) finally meant that women and men can now interact together freely in the public sphere, without social pressure, and marriage and childbearing is delayed later and later for the pressures of education and career. Given these recent and dramatic changes, it is perhaps commendable that the Church has come as far as it has. Yet we are still left with a seemingly intractable problem: while previous century's theologians did not need to develop a "Christian single" sexual ethic because so few Christian singles existed, today's Christian single must wrestle through 10-15 years of sexual maturity, with little in the way of guidance from Church leaders, and virtually no understanding of what it might mean in God's eyes to be a sexual being, mentally and emotionally mature, looking for that special someone, but increasingly, not there yet.
Grace & Peace

Monday, January 17, 2005

a burning bush

or, "thinking about God"

God wakes you up during the night to tell you that he has a very important message for you. He wants to deliver it next Thursday from a burning bush near your house. Assuming that this message is from God and not last night's left-over sushi (never a good idea), you arrive at said bush and, sure enough, God delivers to you a powerful message.

Since God has promised to be there, to what degree is your encounter with the bush an encounter with God, and to what degree is your encounter with God simply an encounter with a bush?

ACHTUNG: This quetion contains epistemological overtones. Passengers should be warned that you may experience epistemological angst if you proceed.
I was speaking recently with my good friend M about the importance of Scripture. His take, grossly oversimplified, is that it is not so much the "words on the page" that are important in Scripture, but that these words lead us to an encounter with the divine. What makes the Bible so unique, in M's understanding, is the degree to which it is able to perform this function among all other elements in creation. Thus the Bible is essentially a vehicle that leads us (better than all other vehicles) to God. It's a fine distinction to make, but M iterated quite clearly that the Bible is not God, and God is not the Bible.

I believe that M is making an important observation about the nature of Scripture, and is quite right to resist the (all-too-common) urge to "deify" the Bible. Only God is God (spoken like a true theologian).

But God has also promised to animate the text of Scripture, to "breathe life" into it, and in some sense, to call these words "His Word." We are reminded in II Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed..."

Since God has promised to be there, to what degree is our encounter with Scripture an actual encounter with God, and to what degree is our encounter with God simply an encounter with words on a page?
There is a troubling extension here that I freely recognize, in the spirit of open dialogue on this issue; God has also promised, in some (analogous?) sense, to inhabit each of us (cf. Revelation 3:20). Yet we do not believe that an encounter with any Christian is a literal encounter with the divine - though we are adoptees into God's family, we are in no sense God. So there is a distinction to be made here, and I am legitimately curious where you think that distinction is.
Grace & Peace

Thursday, January 13, 2005

let's be honest...

a.k.a The Jimmy Carter syndrome

A recent expose on the Presidency of Jimmy Carter reminds me that George W. Bush is not the first President to wear his evangelical faith "on his sleeve," nor the first to justify difficult and controversial decisions in religious terms.

Democrats love to hate our current President - vilifying him is not only en vogue, it's practically assumed among the people I meet in my new residence. Democratic Christians especially seem to bristle under the religious language regularly invoked by the administration and its well-meaning supporters. Yet this was something Jimmy Carter did at least as much as the current administration, if not more so.

Interestingly, these very same Christians will not hesitate to state their own politics in decidedly religious terms! I have heard several progressive evangelicals speak of Jimmy Carter as if he were the answer to merging Liberal politics and evangelical faith - this from a Presidency considered by politicans and historians (on all sides) to be an unmitigated failure.

This type of double-speak drives me crazy, and implies to me that Christians of both political stripes have a very nasty habit of deriving political views, and then bending religion to fit politics, and not the other way around. I'm sure that I am as guilty of this as the next person, and I don't see any easy way around it. But I am highly uncomfortable with the idea that I do this...perhaps a certain self-consciousness of this habit is a step in the right (though not perhaps liberal) direction.

I also sense a lot more venom from my Liberal colleagues, though this is perhaps to be expected given the resounding losses they recently suffered. Most Republicans I know consider Democrats to be simply misinformed - "if they only understood the way things really work they would realize that Liberal policies are ineffectual." My Democratic friends, meanwhile, quite literally assume that Republican leaders get up in the morning and plan ways of decisively ruining our country and stomping on anyone they can in the process. This "assumption divide" has big implications for the possibility of productive dialog across the political aisle.

Here are a few instances of President Bush's Christian faith affecting his politics in ways in positive ways I think are worth considering:
  • A commitment to human rights abroad - especially efforts to stop sex trafficking.
  • Strong support for fighting AIDS worldwide.
  • A practical committment to securing the rights of pre-born infants.
  • The desire to see religious liberties spread to areas of the world not currently experiencing such freedoms.
  • A belief that religious charities applying for social-service grants shouldn't be discriminated against simply because they are religious.
  • White House's support for a college student who was denied a state grant because he planned to major in theology (that could have been me!).
  • The Cleveland school-choice case, defending the rights of parents to choose which school their children attend with voucher support, whether religious or secular.
I don't know. It's not an easy issue no matter how you look at it. But at least think about it.
Grace & Peace...

Sunday, January 09, 2005

spinning my wheels

As a tribute to my good friend "B," I am currently spinning the following tracks:

Radiohead - Climbing up the Walls
Hendrix - Purple Haze
Beatles - Strawberry Fields
R.E.M. - What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil
Led Zepplin - Ramble On
The Who - You Better, You Bet
Pearl Jam - Even Flow
Pink Floyd - Hey you
Grateful Dead - Casey Jones...?
Led Zepplin - When the Levy Breaks
Nirvana - All apologies.

Missed you this weekend, B.

With this level of inspiration, expect more profound posts to follow swiftly. I'm back home, people! Look out!
Grace & Peace...

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

(re)starting it up

After a long and ridiculously ardous journey, I have found myself in a new haven that will be my home for at least the next semester. Given the difficulty I seem to have relocating, I may very well stay here indefinately. I apologize for my extended absence.

I hope to have much to say in the future, including the extended remix of my trip (suffice it to say that I don't move well). I'm excited about everything in store for me this next semester, and I'm glad you will along for the ride.
Grace & Peace