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Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Church Is My Mistress

It is perfectly possible to imagine a Church in which every single individual personally rejects the religious view of God while being protected from the psychological impact of this rejection through the rituals and liturgical practice they engage in: affirming the power of the deus ex machina, not through their words, but through commitment to certain concrete practices. – Peter Rollins, “Insurrection”

The Church Today

What do you mean the church isn’t all about me?!  You create programs for me, you take care of my kids, you sing the type of songs I want to hear, you make it cool with bright lights and fog machines, you create different environments and genres of “worship spaces” at different times on Sundays and even different days for me, you built this nice big building for me with super comfortable chairs or if I want to go old school there are pews a few doors down, you make it possible for me to watch at home in case I don’t want to come to this super big building, you preach sermons that make me feel good, you help me by saying things that make me feel separate and different from those sermons out in the big, bad world, wait, I don’t like what you just said…you better rethink what you’re telling me. You know what? Forget it. I’m going to take my family to the new church down the street. They have an espresso cafe.

This is happening all across America. Does it sound familiar? Do you see the irony? And please don’t think that I’m saying that all of that is necessarily bad, but we try to tell people the church they attend is not about them, it’s about God (well, sometimes we tell them it’s about God) but we confuse the message most of the time by telling them indirectly how special they are to be part of “the chosen” (even if we don’t believe in the elect 144,000). We turn them into consumers by catering to their every need…or even what they don’t need…so we seem “in touch” with hip, new, church trends and they can come and go as they please. And while the church is trying to gain traction with its congregants it’s losing traction in being in touch with the wider world (or as some might call it, the “secular world” – I don’t like that word (sacred vs secular)When people come to church some want to be entertained, leave and come back…well, they might come back or they might not come back, but we’ll never know because they have no strings attached. We need to change this. While we can’t force people to take ownership of the church and be involved we reinforce the “it’s all about me” mentality by the sermons we preach on Sundays and continuing to cater to them. The church is my mistress. The second the church doesn’t cater to them they’re gone, but they’re satisfied just in the fact they went to church. Welcome to church today in the United States. You might be laughing and thinking “I’m glad that’s not my church.”, but in reality, it’s happening at so many different churches everywhere and maybe it is your church, but you just don’t see it.

Why is this happening?

Well,  I’ll share what might be considered part of the issue. This post will be more of a “what” the issue is and again, in the following posts I’ll talk about the “why” behind this issue and I’ll intersperse how we can curb some of these prevailing attitudes and practices in church to hopefully move us to somewhere away from the Christian ghetto and back out into the wider world.

What follows is part of an email conversation I recently had with a friend.  In a previous conversation with him there was a pretty packed sentence I had written that wasn’t exactly clear to my friend, so I followed it up with an explanation of the sentence.

This particular snippet is solely what I wrote in the email and I have edited the conversation a little for readability and to omit any non-public information. The entire sentence is in bold and then below that divided out with my explanation in between parts of the sentence. I hope that makes sense:  entire sentence -> intro -> part of sentence -> explanation -> part of sentence -> explanation -> remainder of email to my friend. The sentence was, if viewed by my 3rd grade teacher, a grammatically-tragic sentence – and forgive the unprofessional writing style…my degree is in political science not grammar. 😉

~ my email to him ~

This http://bit.ly/xOUuz3  (a podcast link that I had sent him) is the type of teaching I wish {this church} focused on, but instead the teaching each week at {this church} focuses on “me”, which, don’t get me wrong is necessary for personal growth and discipleship but it seems to be the main vein (focusing on the individual and not the collective world) each and every week which can create (and I believe has created) a culture of “I am more important than others” which then turns into consumerism at best and isolationism/Christian ghetto at worst.

You’re right that was a sentence with a lot of meaning so what I’ll do is parcel it out to unpack what I meant by it. Now please understand the comment is meant as “let’s right the ship and make things better in the church”. One of my favorite authors says, “It’s easier to criticize without constructing an alternative.”, so when I make a criticism of something I’m part of I always try to offer a solution of a possible way to make things better.

Ok, right from the start I’ll let you know this is going to be a LONG explanation and I’ll do my best to make it cogent. 🙂

So alot of that sentence is from the past 10 years of reading (pic below of some of the most influential books to me), mentoring, and teaching all about this information from some phenomenal “godly men” (I’m not a big fan of that term, b/c we’re all creations of God and have bits of God in us – everyone, not just Christians) so know that this is not just me flying off the handle about {this church} – this happens worldwide and has been written about by many many many people and about how it needs to change now. But also I see this teaching each week at {this church} and it is very disconcerting. If it was one or two sermons that’d be one thing, but I’ve been going there for about a year and a half and it’s been about the same each week.  I get virtually nothing from the sermons and have to find ways to entertain myself without blatantly opening up a book to read.

This http://bit.ly/xOUuz3 is the type of teaching I wish {this church} focused on, but instead the teaching each week at {this church} focuses on “me”, which don’t get me wrong is necessary for personal growth and discipleship but it seems to be the main vein (the individual and not the collective world) each and every week which can create (and I believe has created) a culture of “I am more important than others” which then turns into consumerism at best…”

In the podcast Jon alludes to alot of what I meant by typing that sentence in the first email so I think the podcast will also help you understand my primary criticism(s) of {this church} and the church-at-large’s teaching (sermons) today. I think it’s a bad form for pastors (anywhere) to teach putting the focus on “me” b/c it bifurcates “sacred” and “secular”. It makes the attenders to respond with “fill me, entertain me, I may or may not throw some money your way, and let me go on my way and maybe I’ll be back next week but I’ve got a tough job so make this worth my while”.  Like Jon says in the podcast (especially starting in minute 36) I think we (christians and the culture-at-large) have a fragmented world view that the church is where you go to “fill your tank” and get you ready for the work which christians believe is meaningless and has nothing to do with God (unless you work at the church or some other vocational ministry) – the conventional although indirect thought is that Jesus is not in our work he is only at church. And thus the pastors feel they have a responsibility to teach about the people and it turns into how to survive in the woeful world.  But what about how Jesus taught us to pray?  Do we accidentally forget what he said?  Or maybe we’re ignoring it b/c we’ve been taught otherwise for so long.  I’m talking about Matthew 6:10…thy kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven. “On Earth”. hmmm…this confuses Joe-christian b/c he thought the world didn’t matter unless he’s vehemently preaching a “turn or burn” sermon at it? So Joe-christian ignores it and goes about his way and reverts back to, “I need to feel good about myself on Sundays”. This is consumerism.

“…and isolationism/christian ghetto at worst.”

I went golfing with Dallas last week and unfortunately we waited until the 18th tee to talk about something I had asked him about a couple weeks ago. Starting the conversation on the 18th tee didn’t give us near enough time to really talk about it.  I had asked him about the theology/intent behind a sign in {this church} that says, “Unexpected places: Where does God find you?”. At face-value the phrase seems like a nice little thought, but when I thought about it a bit more I think it can be easily misconstrued towards guilt in implying that everything you need to do needs to be “church-related and remember that each week you only find Jesus at things at church or in your community group, so be sure to do those things and only those things – don’t let God find you in some naughty place you shouldn’t be”. So then, what happens is we construct an “us vs them” mentality (a sacred vs secular paradigm) where we avoid anything not done or directly hosted by the church, christian authors, christian musicians, christian film-makers – this is the christian ghetto – which in my opinion is very bad. Christians are withdrawing from the culture at large and creating a sub-culture where all they see is the church around them and think that’s good. Well, then we wonder why our culture is so screwed up…it’s because the church withdrew from being a major player in our culture about a couple hundred years ago!!  Remember when we all had CDs? Or maybe a better example are our books – look at those. How are they ordered in your bookshelf? I’m pretty anal so I’ve always ordered them in some fashion and back in the day when I was engulfed in the christian ghetto I had them separated as christian (sacred) authors/bands and secular authors/bands.  These are all ways we isolate ourselves from the world at large. Isolationism/christian ghetto.

Today, I’m still very anal in how things like my books and CDs are ordered, so now they’re ordered by genre like philosophy, political, fiction, etc, I don’t arrange things by “christian” or “secular” authors or musicians because I think we can find God in everything – and if God is in everything then everything is sacred! People ask, “you can find Jesus in the Beastie Boys?  Yep!  Metallica?  You betcha!  The communist/marxist Karl Marx?  Absolutely! (and he could teach us some things about community and we could teach him some things about God 🙂 Well, what about that heretic Rob Bell who some think he said there is no hell? Definitely!  (And he didn’t say there’s no hell; and he happens to be one of my favorite authors.) Surely not Nietzsche? Even Nietzsche. Every author and every band.

So instead how about changing up the sign to say…

“Unexpected places: where do you find God?”  Maybe if we do that then it might help to start to see value (see God) in every area of our lives. Business, leisure, sports, relationships, yard-work, the arts, family-time…everything we do. “…Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Amen.

So all of that are my four half-pennies.

– D

small portion of influential books in my life

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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in culture, theology

 

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“Hello Rob Bell”

20120223-165353.jpg

This is a sign in Searcy. This type of “evangelism” (I use that word very loosely here) is very annoying to me.

I’m still working on finishing the other blogs that are very close to being done – hopefully at least one will be done tomorrow. But for now whet your appetite with this great interview with Rob Bell (link below, interview done by Out of Ur, not by me). If you have a preconceived opinion of Rob Bell please try to read this with an open mind…there’s nothing heretical in this interview. And if you do think there is something heretical in this I would really enjoy grabbing a beer with you and hearing why you think so…ummm…you can have a sprite if you think drinking beer is a sin. 😉

Hello Rob Bell

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in theology

 

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“N.T. Wright on Genesis 1…Literally”

This isn’t one of the two posts I had planned on today – those are still coming, later today. But I just viewed this  video and it was too good not to link to.

I’m a stickler for using words in their most accurate intended form and in this video post N.T. Wright (an author I greatly admire and I highly recommend his book Surprised By Hope) he briefly examines the use of the word “literal” and gives his opinion on whether or not we should take Genesis 1 “literally”. If you have four and a half minutes to spare check it out.

“Ur Video: N.T. Wright on Genesis 1…Literally”

And as always, please share your thoughts…that’s why it’s Dialogo de Derek (Derek’s Dialogue), and not a monologue. 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Robin Hood’s Tax

Friday night at the private opening of Maduro Cigar Lounge (http://www.facebook.com/MaduroLounge)  I had a very enjoyable talk with two well-respected and well-known gentlemen of Arkansas – they were also father and son. One of the topics we talked about was the lottery in AR. During the conversation the phrase of it being a “tax on the poor” was used.  This blog-post isn’t about my feelings on the lottery – I’m absolutely ok with it; but instead this post is how I have a bit of a problem with the phrase “the lottery is a tax on the poor”.

Again, you can agree or disagree with what I am about to say – obviously everybody is entitled to their opinion…but I hope that we can be people who at the very least can understand each other’s perspective. Understanding ≠ agreement.

Now, my friend used the phrase, “tax on the poor”, but by no means is it only him who uses this phrase, I have heard it used countless times. When people choose to use the phrase, “tax on the poor” they are trying to convey the point that the lottery preys on the poor and gets them to buy the lottery tickets when they have a hard enough time just rubbing two nickels together.  I can understand completely what they mean when they say this, but I think it’s a stretch to phrase it like this. Actually, check that, I think it’s a complete bastardization of the word “tax” and manipulation of words chosen solely to prey on our heart-strings.

Tax in its rudimentary form has been around for centuries – probably since the beginning of time when people were exchanging something of value for something else. I’m not an expert on taxes – in fact I hate taxes. I’ve been working on my taxes this weekend and I want less taxes. A friend of mine said that if we want tax reform we would have everybody write a check each month for their taxes instead of having them automatically deducted out of their paycheck – it’s a big eye opener when you pay your tax that way…and that’s a rabbit-trail I might chase in another post but for now it’s not the main point.

The word tax, obviously has a couple definitions. One definition refers to if something is taxing then that means it’s burdensome or tiresome. The other definition is the more common understanding – a tax is a monetary payment levied by a government on its people or businesses. Taxes can be collected on a number of things: income, sales, property, etc. I believe the latter definition is the or definition, or implied meaning, that is being used for this phrase.

Ok, now the main reason for this post…

The fact is, I have the ability to choose whether or not I will buy a lottery ticket – I am in no way whatsoever forced to buy a lottery ticket. And the good news is, everybody else has this same ability to choose on their own. Now…taxes are a different matter. If I choose to not pay my income tax a certain group of people in the IRS might object to my choice. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t have the ability to choose whether or not I will pay my taxes – it is automatically included in to everything you and I buy and automatically deducted out of your paycheck*. When you buy your groceries does the checker ask you, “Would you like to pay sales tax on your bread, butter, and apple juice?” No, that choice is not given – it’s automatically included in to your total.

If I choose to not pay my income tax I have the very real possibility of going to jail for being a tax evader. If I choose to not buy a lottery ticket well…there’s no penalty. And because of this I think it is woefully incorrect to call it a “tax on the poor”.

Finally, you might be thinking, this is just an issue of semantics. Well, actually, yes, it kind of is. Semantics is looking at the meaning behind words and phrases and that’s pretty much what I just did. I think we need to avoid being lazy with our words and instead be more intentional with our words, and the implied messages we send. Saying it’s a “tax on the poor” might tug on the heartstrings but it is categorically incorrect. Furthermore, I think we need to be more responsible with the words we choose. Responsible = able to give a response.  Hopefully we can be more cognizant and intentional of the words and phrases we choose instead of merely just provoking a reaction.

Provoking a reaction isn’t the same thing as saying something significant.

– Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes

* I am an independent contractor, my income tax is not automatically deducted out of my paycheck. Uncle Sam instead allows me to smile and write a check to him each quarter to cover my portion.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in culture, politics

 

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Cigar Review: Romeo y Julieta 1875 Habana Reserve

I normally try to take notes about the cigars I smoke so I can know which ones are the most enjoyable. When you buy a cigar, especially in AR with the high taxes you don’t want to spend the money on something that you’ll not enjoy for the next hour or two. I did this review specifically for my friends at Southern Ash so it’s a little more polished than my typical, scribbled one-liner notes. Make sure you check out the blog at Southern Ash – they cover everything from cigars, drinks, how to dress dapperlydapper…ummm…real nice and much more.

 

 

I received this Romeo y Julieta 1875 Habana Reserve in my stocking from Santa; he knows what I like. A couple informational notes before I get into the actual review:

  1. I allowed it to stay in my humidor for about 6 weeks before smoking it, but it might’ve been better to wait a little longer.
  2. I paired the cigar with B&B on the rocks; one of my favorite drinks for a quality cigar.
  3. I had read several reviews on this cigar before I received it as a gift and was excited to try it. I think I was especially excited to try it because Romeo y Julieta’s Reserva Real is one of my all-time favorite cigars and I figured this one would be of similar exceptional taste and construction.

Country of Origin:

Made in Honduras. Honduran and Nicaraguan filler with a Nicaraguan wrapper.

Construction:

It had a soft spongy feel, but not overly spongy, just a little give when squeezed. The weight made it look consistent for its size – 7x 54.  Since it was a pretty good size I knew it would probably be a pretty good investment of time. The total smoke was about an hour and a half, but I tend to smoke my cigars a little faster than most others.

The initial cold draw before I lit it was similar to fresh hay along with a little sweetness and there also seemed to be a feint hint of chocolate or caramel. Tasty.

The wrapper was a little oily primarily from the dark wrapper (I prefer it when it looks a bit oily) and a good looking cigar overall. Good quality construction.

Flavors:

The flavor of the cigar was definitely a more robust take from Romeo y Julieta. Most Romeo y Julietas I’ve had are light to medium body cigars. On the initial light it was immediately medium to full body with a light leathery taste, and then a slight peppery taste on the smooth finish. It was a very short, crisp finish – it didn’t linger long at all initially. The aroma from the smoke was very pleasant, not harsh or overwhelming.  It took a little while to pinpoint the flavors – not because the cigar was complex, because it wasn’t – but just because it seemed a bit deceiving. On the initial inhale it seemed like it was going to be a nutty flavor but it kept coming right back to a clean leather taste. I had planned on breaking down the flavors by each 1/3rd through the smoke, but the flavor profile did not change much during the entire hour and a half smoke. The only variation during the smoke was that the leathery taste and peppery finish built gradually; other than that it was pretty consistent throughout.

Burn:

The burn during the whole cigar was very disappointing as it was very inconsistent and uneven.  It would be fine and then gradually start to burn unevenly but then would always correct itself not long after. It never got so out of control that I had to touch up the burn with my lighter. But it was a bit disappointing.  The ash was also an adventure – it was a very loose ash and it never got longer than about 1” inch before falling off. There was only one time where the ash made it into my ash tray because it continually fell off on it’s own, so it kept me on my toes while I was smoking it.

uneven burn throughout but would correct itself as well

Draw:

The draw itself was almost enough to make me not buy another one of these cigars. The draw was very tight – not Cuban cigar tight but too tight for my enjoyment. I even tried to recut it to open it up a bit more but that just resulted in me knocking the initial ash off.  And it stayed tight throughout the entire cigar.

Overall:

The drawbacks were the tight draw and the very loose ash, but I would still recommend this cigar to others. I think I seemed a bit deflated because I had higher hopes for it, but it’s still a good cigar. I think in most places you could find this for about $8 a stick which puts it a little more expensive than your everyday smokes.  If you’re looking for a complex cigar this won’t be your choice, but if you’re looking for a medium to full body flavorful smoke, AND if you can find it in a value pack you won’t be disappointed. But because of the draw it wouldn’t be my first choice.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in cigars

 

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A New Civil War…Minus the Civility

It is less important to ask a Christian what he or she believes about the Bible

than it is to inquire what he or she does with it. – Lesslie Newbigin

What the hell is going on in the Christian community?!

I have friends, in real-life, (which these days seems so passé and out of touch)…so I’m going to start over and try again…how about…

I have friends I “follow on twitter and facebook” who are conservatives, liberals, moderates, progressives (not a fan of this word), fundamentalists, emergents, emergings, atheists, creationists, evolutionists, and many other political and religious categories from the whole spectrum of people-groups. It seems that recently I see so much bitching and bickering at each other within the christian community over theological differences. I’m not talking about normal disagreements – that happens when you are deciding what pizza to order. I’m talking about disparaging, nasty attacks on theologies that people hold so dear.  It seems as if when we hear somebody has a different viewpoint we go to our phones, laptops and social media outlets to say how wrong and how stupid they are, and sometimes if they’re really different and wear dark-rimmed glasses we’ll break out the heretic label and sit back and feel comfy in our piety. We seem so focused on proving how “my theology is right and your theology is wrong”.  I just don’t get it. I mean I understand (but don’t agree necessarily) about the machismo aspect in not wanting to back down from our own beliefs; and that if I said I believe it then I have to defend myself so as not to look weak, but why do we do so at the expense of embarrassing our christian brother?

 

 

If you don’t know what I’m talking about I’m referencing some of the relatively, recent comments from John Piper to Rob Bell, from creationists towards evolutionists (and vice versa), and from the litany of emergent thinkers who spit vile towards Mark Driscoll on a number of topics.

So everybody……….stop……….take a breath……….and freaking relax.  Cue Frankie.

 

 

I am very much aware that I am as guilty of these attacks, or at the very least a similar attitude, as anyone…although I try to be an equal opportunity offender and maybe someday I can get to a point where I’m much more gracious and less offensive…although that’s also a two-way street.

Maybe in time we all can learn to relax and engage in quality, respectful conversations with each other and not passive aggressively attack each other via twitter, facebook, or other electronic outlets. In other words, can we try to go out of our way not to piss each other off?

2 Timothy 1:12 – I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.”

~~~~~

“Secondly, the phrase “until that day” reminds us that this is not a claim to possess final truth but to be on the way that leads to the fullness of truth. I do not possess the truth, so that I do not need to be open to new truth; rather, I am confident that the one in whom I have placed my trust, the one to whom I am committed, is able to bring me to the full grasp of what I now only partly understand.” Lesslie Newbigin, “Proper Confidence”

~~~~~

Ecclesiastes 7:16 – Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?

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“In our interpersonal relations, we would never make such a claim for our knowledge of another person. How absurd to make such a claim with respect to God!” Leslie Newbigin, “Proper Confidence”

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Isaiah 55:8, 9 – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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“Sometimes it (certainty) leads toe a refusal to reconsider long-held beliefs in the light of fresh reflection on the witness of Scripture.” Lesslie Newbigin “Proper Confidence”

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Galatians 4:21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?

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“But we are now entering a postmodern period, a time in which the seemingly assured assumptions we have inherited from the Enlightenment are being deconstructed.” Lesslie Newbigin, “Proper Confidence”

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Lamentations 3:40 Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.

~~~~~

“Hold to Christ, and for the rest be totally uncommitted.” Lesslie Newbigin “Proper Confidence”

Now, here’s the deal, over the next couple of months (I actually have no idea what the timeframe is) but I am re-dedicating myself to posting blogs on a more regular basis. I have about 10 posts that are in a final draft phase and just need a little touching up before I hit publish, and then I have about another 50 that are in the works so hopefully they’ll be up in a more consistent time-frame.

Disclaimer – I am probably going to post something that crosses the conservative or liberal limits of your theology and honestly, I quite possibly could cross both edges within the same blog-post as I often oscillate between diametrically-opposed camps on different topics. I will have some posts that will be humorous, insightful, dumb, profound, and maybe completely meaningless…to you.  I will have some posts that are in story form. Some of my posts will be solely about our culture (which is not divorced from being theological as some fundamentalists might think).  Some posts might be political. Some might be about sports. Some might just be about a new cigar I smoked, but what I ask is no matter if the topic is theological, political, cigar-ical or whatever, that you do not automatically discount what I say just because you think you disagree with me. Maybe somewhere in the post is a nugget that can help us progress forward to quality conversations, respectful discourse, and redeeming our Earth just as God has called us to do.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH, as it is in heaven. – Jesus

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in cigars, culture, politics, sports, theology

 

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