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Explanation/Excommunication Part II – The Excommunication

The Excommunication 

Why is there a (very much delayed) second (and third) part to this post? Well, this is a follow-up to my first post and is what actually happened to me (and my wife), and in the next part I’ll examine “why” it happened. I will bring up some ideas/thoughts of why what happened in our community group actually happened. Make sense? In essence, I am going to look at the reason behind the reason.

What happened 

Earlier this year…well actually, earlier last year (2012), my wife and I were asked to leave our community group. Over 2 1/2 years ago my wife and I had joined this community group through the church we used to attend, and we had been part of this community group since the beginning of our marriage. The reason two of the guys were asking us to leave was that in their opinion, and in their words, I was bitter, and divisive with my opinions of their church, and also that I was posting negative thoughts (on social media) about their church that made them feel defensive. They told me I could remain in the community group if I stopped posting the things I had been posting, and that I had 48 hours to decide if I would comply with their demands…I mean their desires. 😉

Rush to Judgment

First of all, their accusations were completely off-base. Unless there is something completely egregious done by a specific church I don’t post about any one specific church. I post about the “church at large”. I did have one blog post about a year ago from a sermon I heard at our former church that really irked me, but in all other examples I posted in generalities about “the church at large”. I guess somehow they had a bit of narcissism built into the things I post where they thought everything I talked about was about their church. On their last complaint it almost brought me to the point of laughter, is that one of them went so far as to say that he felt uncomfortable with what I post because he believed people would associate what I would post as representing his thoughts and views. WTF?!?! Wow. That comment totally blew me away. That type of attitude is full-fledged narcissism. But now the whole “excommunication” has had time to blow over; in a way can still be a bit irksome (not sure if that is really a word) but in actuality it’s just simply comical and laughable. What happened in that community group is no way representative of true community. My wife and I now just laugh at the whole situation. While she doesn’t always condone what I post…and truth be told she sometimes cringes when I proudly proclaim, “I blogged!”, she overall respects and supports my beliefs and supports the avenues in which I express them. I love my wife!

Me and Wifey

Me and the Wifey

Now I will admit, none of this would have happened if I knew how to keep my fat, pie-hole shut about things that the church (at large) does that upsets me. (if you need a reminder of why I post what I post see my last post: The Explanation) But please understand what I am saying: the things that I posted & tweeted, that the guys were upset about, (which were not anything over the top or crazy!) are the the things where I feel the church has missed the mark on and missed the reason the church is in existence. In fact, I’m more discouraged with them as Christians in their beliefs and most of all their handling of the situation that they tried to squash what I had to say. And I honestly feel so strong about how much the church has bastardized its mission and how neglectful the church is being towards those who need assistance that I can’t keep my feelings to myself. Spending millions of dollars on audio/video equipment (which many churches do) while people in our streets go hungry is merely one example. When I post/talk about these issues I don’t bring them up in a spiteful manner; I speak from the heart for why it upsets me. I can handle less than perfect acoustics in a church if it means others can have food to eat, or healthcare for their illness. A while back my wife and I visited a church that was a beautiful church building with concrete floors, grandiose vaulted ceilings, and a sound system that by the looks of it might have cost $10,000. Were the acoustics the best? Not by any means, but I can honestly say I had a more worshipful experience that Sunday than at any other church here in Little Rock. (We also got a pretty good aerobic workout because it was an anglican church which meant we were doing a lot of up, down, kneel, up, down, kneel, up, down, kneel. I digress…)

Thou has committed a grave sin! “Say What?!”

The manner in which these two guys “confronted” me about their issues with me, and also in the weeks leading up to it (they never responded to emails and texts that I had sent to both of them with honest questions and concerns), and also the way they kept me in the dark with their feelings towards what I posted and never voiced any disapproval until they gave me their ultimatum of “stop posting or get out”, and the fact that they gave me such a ridiculous ultimatum, it was very clear to me and my wife that we would not remain in that community group. And I ended up letting them know our decision just right before their 48 hour deadline expired (I wanted to create a little soap-opera-esque drama 😉  The way they handled the entire situation honestly almost felt like I had committed some huge sin and they were enacting “church discipline” on me. In no way whatsoever was what went down in this situation a reflection of good, true, meaningful community. Again, it was just absolutely 100% absurd.

Why are we so quick to eliminate and/or paint people as miscreants when they hold a different point of view than what we hold? It seems like Christians have no tolerance whatsoever.

I Must Break You…But In Case I Can’t Please Just Go Away.

 

Of all religions, the Christian is without doubt 

the one which should inspire tolerance most, 

although up to now the Christians 

have been the most intolerant of all men.

– Voltaire

The longer you are removed, chronologically, 

from your conversion the more likely it is 

that you’re going to struggle with self-righteousness.

– Darrin Patrick

Spiritual security comes when we stop being anxious about others and begin to watch after ourselves. 

– Teresa of Avila

Faith afraid to think is unbelief masked in piety. 

Unbelief afraid to think is pseudo-faith 

with Enlightenment trimmings. 

– G. Ebeling tweeted by @trippfuller

Do the hard work of questioning your doubts, 

not just the easy work of raising them. 

– @Jonathan_Dodson

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! 

– Lamentations 3:40

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy,

as cause for withdrawing from a friend. – Thomas Jefferson 

“Humility is born when we acknowledge our biases and the limitations of our perspectives. … An important part of life is learning to see things from different perspectives rather than simply judging those who don’t agree. I am a person of faith. I believe we are supposed to cooperate with each other instead of comparing ourselves to one another. I believe that each person on this planet is unique and different – a Masterpiece. The hues of melanin add beauty and the myriad of philosophies and perspectives make me consider and evaluate what I most deeply believe. Faith is supposed to encourage me to courageously explore all of life, not to fear the unknown. Faith is supposed to teach me to trust that God is with me wherever I go, not to rely on sight alone. This means that there are times when the perspectives and schemas I’ve developed to process life must be completely torn down and rebuilt when new and challenging viewpoints are presented.” 

– Ethan D. Bryan, “Run Home & Take a Bow, Stories of Life, Faith And a Season With The Kansas City Royals”

Building off of Ethan’s great quote (from his book which I highly recommend!!)…as Yoda would say…

“You must unlearn what you have learned”, pretty wise teaching from Jedi master Yoda. We must be willing to not rush in so quickly to judge people, but instead see what we can learn from others…but I’ll delve more into that in part 3.

So after going through all of this ridiculousness over the past 6 months it got me thinking about how some Christians treat other people (and yes, even how some Christians treat other Christians), and how some people deal with others who who hold different views. It’s honestly a bit discouraging when you think about it.

Eliminate?

Acclimate?

Tolerate?

What is the right way to handle those who have different belief-systems? It seems simple when you think about, but what we believe we should do and what we actually do are sometimes two entirely different things. The ole “ought/is” debate. It’s always fun. 🙂

1) Why we treat some people the way we do, 2) a glimpse of what should’ve happened in my community group, and 3) what can be learned from the whole crazy situation, are topics I’ll dive into in part III. (I promise it won’t be as long of a time-frame to post part III. 😉

 

 

 

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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in community, culture, spiritual, theology

 

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“Graphic Novel pt. 8”

This is a post from one of my mentors, Mike Metzger, from when I lived in Kansas City. I think it does a great job of showing how we can speak past each other when not realizing that in the conversation we are coming at it grounded in two different points of view – let confusion commence! It also illustrates the importance of institutions as what corporately defines our reality. Our hyper-individualism is why there is such a push-back to institutions from our culture today – we want to define reality on our own terms – this is also partly why the church has veered off course today…but that’s in my next post. More on that below.

Be sure to read the comment/response section because there are good questions in there…and there is also one tragically ignorant statement. You can’t fix stupid.

Graphic Novel part 8

I’m going to try to have a new post (my own “quasi”-original thoughts) up before I leave for Colorado, but we’ll see if that happens. I can tell you that my next post is going to make me a lot of friends within the church community (sarcasm intended). It touches on one of the reasons why I have left the church for the time being. I am still a Christian and I fully believe in the church but have not found one in Little Rock which wholly (or as best as possible) encompasses what I feel the church should represent. I’ll explain more in the post.

Cheers!

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in culture, theology

 

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Moses the Power Broker

I’ll be posting the next part of ‘Ship Christians Only Can Say? soon, but I read this short post from Mike Metzger and had to post it.

Why institutions matter. Everything that follows is from Mike Metzger. Enjoy!

—   —  —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —  —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —

It’s stunning that while Christians understand marriage as an institution established by God, most evangelical Christians are anti-institutional. They imagine institutions as cold, calculating corporations. This explains why evangelical Christianity is often so powerless to affect real change in the world. It has become, as Theodore Roszak, a Professor of History at California State University memorably put it, “socially irrelevant, even if privately engaging.” The proper exercise of power requires a proper understanding of institutions.

Power is translating authority into action. Having authority is having dominion. Jesus said all authority has been given to him. He has delegated authority to Christians (what is known as the Great Commission). We don’t have authority over all creation, but do have it over spheres of creation, such as a local business or school. Power is the capacity to translate wherever we have authority into action. Without this power, our faith is socially irrelevant, even if privately engaging. This power comes internally from the Spirit of God and instrumentally from institutions.

The best book on this – other than the Bible – is Robert A Caro’s masterful tome on Robert Moses, called “The Power Broker.” In studying the life and impact of Moses, Caro learned about the power of institutions. It began with an “epiphany about power” in the early ’60s. Moses got approval for a bridge from Rye, N.Y., across Long Island Sound to Oyster Bay – a bridge so atrociously big that it would disrupt tides. Caro never imagined Moses getting approval. He had been incredibly naïve. “I got in the car and drove home to Long Island, and I kept thinking to myself: ‘Everything you’ve been doing is baloney. You’ve been writing under the belief that power in a democracy comes from the ballot box. But here’s a guy who has never been elected to anything, who has enough power to turn the entire state around, and you don’t have the slightest idea how he got it.’ ”

Moses got his power by heading, or sitting on the boards of, most of the most influential institutions in the city. I’ll be telling you more about this in an upcoming column. But this does raise a few questions.

Questions to ask:

  • Does your church know which are the most influential institutions in your city?
  • Does your church have a plan to head, or sit on the boards of, most of the most influential institutions in your city?
 
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Posted by on April 22, 2012 in culture, theology

 

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‘Ship Christians Only Can Say? Part II (Yoda and Bill Clinton make an appearance)

What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. 

It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so. 

– Mark Twain

(disclaimer – in all of the scenarios and examples I create and illustrate in this post, please know they do not represent my own views or the views of anybody else in particular. They are merely examples that have been plucked out from scenarios I have seen from people throughout all of my history with the church.)

Ok, where were we? We were talking about the bifurcation (or fragmentation) that we do in our lives (i.e. sacred vs secular, private vs public, etc) to help us avoid the fear of the other or the unknown. I don’t want to focus on the fear of the unknown too much; it definitely fuels the bifurcation, but it’s not the sole reason behind why we bifurcate. But I do think the fear of the unknown is still worth exploring a little bit.

Continuing on.

Fear of the unknown 

Please hear me out on this next illustration. When some of you read the name of who proffered this analogy, which was Rob Bell, you will turn your brain off because sadly many people have ignorantly thrown the baby out with the bathwater (post coming on that topic soon) in valuable take-aways because of his most recent book, “Love Wins”. But I think this is an excellent illustration of why the fear of the unknown is so powerful. Rob Bell explains it like this: imagine all your beliefs are individual bricks in a wall and this wall is your faith – the trinity is a brick, the virgin birth is a brick, abortion is a brick, alcohol is evil, Jesus was a republican is a brick, homosexuality is a sin is a brick, strict creationism is a brick, the earth was created in 6 literal 24 hour days is a brick, the Bible being read literally is a brick, Jonah being swallowed by a fish is a brick, Jesus’s miracles are all bricks, the rapture is a brick, etc, etc.

Imagine that below is that brick wall I was talking about. The bricks are a rusty red and they are all stacked on top of each other.

the trinity the virgin birth abortion
jesus was a republican homosexuality is a sin young earth
the world and culture is evil alcohol is evil literal translation of the bible
the rapture hell is real & eternal torment jesus is the only way
the bible is inerrant god will destroy the earth evolution is wrong
God is a man original sin the resurrection
us vs them obama is the antichrist don’t question the church

You take all of these bricks, stack them on top of each other and build a strong, sturdy wall. But each of these bricks are interdependent of one another. What happens if you start to discuss one of your core truths which in effect is wiggling a brick? Or what if one of your truths is disproven somehow and you have to completely remove a brick? The structural integrity of the wall will be compromised and it is very possible it will crumble. If you build and construct your faith this way your faith might start to crumble. What’s on the other side of a deconstructed belief-system? The unknown. Can I trust God? Can I even still believe in God? Can I survive without a religion?

What’s next?

 
I am not God and I can not create him in my image

Hope is next. If we acknowledge we are not God.

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.

Isaiah 55: 8, 9

It will mean that my understanding of the truth must be constantly open to revision and correction, but – and this is the crucial point – only and always within the irreversible commitment to Jesus Christ. – Lesslie Newbigin

Hold to Christ, and for the rest be totally uncommitted. – Herbert Butterfield 

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! – Lamentations 3: 40

We have to be careful about what we do with our assumptions about God that we are constructing as core immovable truths. So the fear in this instance is the effect that if one truth is disproven your faith will crumble and fall apart, and you don’t know what will happen if your belief-system falls apart or what needs to be done to rebuild it. Maybe we put too much faith in our beliefs and derivations about God, and not enough faith in allowing God to be bigger than what we think we know.

If you know what God knows, or have God all figured out your God is not big enough.

Sacred vs Secular and Filling the Void

So, how does all of this tie back into my original problem with what the pastor said? The problem is that he is teaching from the pulpit that it is ok to view things as sacred and secular which is what propagates the us vs them mentality and puts Christians at odds against the culture. If two issues, which seem in conflict, actually meet we won’t know how we’ll deal with it or if we’ll be able to process it. We don’t know what’s on the other side of our rationally-based faith. We have this basic need where things have to make sense to us. So in order to do this we compartmentalize the conflicting things – we keep them in their place. We conjure up belief (read: coping) mechanisms to make it seem to ourself that our made-up belief is in fact believable and copacetic.

It’s easy to convince us to believe because we want certainty.

We have a deep-seated longing to confirm our desire

for an ordered universe: a universe that makes sense,

a universe in which we are special, valued, and eternal.

And on top of it all, like the child who rationalizes her behavior,

we have a deep desire to convince ourselves

that we believe for reasons other than mere psychological need.

Hence we will often seek out evidence 

to support the already existing belief

and then pretend that our belief 

arose from the evidence.” 

– Peter Rollins

Sometimes we become conflicted with our own rationale; we feel that we have to recognize science because it truly helps society move forward…but we are not going to recognize all of it, or at least not the evolution part of it – that conflicts with my faith. We have to have a government because otherwise we’ll have anarchy, but we can’t let our faith or morals play into making laws because we don’t want to impinge un-commonly held beliefs if your party is not in power. And damnit, Petrino is a coach, not a pope, he’s not a role model, it doesn’t matter if he’s a man of integrity – just let him coach.

What’s on the other side?

Is holding a fragmented worldview the right thing to do in every circumstance? I would say definitely not in regards to what the pastor said regarding “fellowship” being solely a Christian word. The tendency to fragment or compartmentalize different things in our lives so they don’t cross over to certain other areas will cause confusion when there are true signs of God interwoven in our culture. How can we recognize truth found in our culture, if we can’t discern what truth actually is and compute that the two can peaceably coexist within each other?

There is more than just the bifurcation of words that Christians can only say vs words the world can say that cuts to the root of the problem. I think alot of times when we fragment things we tend to place a sense of value on these things and when value is involved then hierarchy and exclusiveness can occur. When hierarchy and exclusiveness occur then we place a high value on what we know, and that I know I’m right, and if you’re different then you’re wrong. Fear of the unknown can cause inert distrust and a sense of self-righteousness.

“To lose that which grounds us and provides us with meaning

 involves nothing less than losing the God of religion

 in whatever form it manifests itself in our life.” 

– Peter Rollins

What’s next?

What can be on the other side? For me, I found freedom. Freedom from the notion that my beliefs had to be bundled up and make sense with a pretty bow on top. With things that might not sit well with me I can hear the cognitive dissonance and on top of that hear the beautifully layered harmony.

note – language in the video

In my next post I’ll be continuing this series and touch on the reason behind why we have this fragmented worldview and how we can reshape our lenses.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in culture, theology

 

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’Ship Christians Only Can Say?: How Bobby Petrino, Yoda, and Bill Clinton Tie-in Together

They (questions) offer us a unique opportunity

to rethink what it means to be the Church,

not merely critiquing the presently existing church 

for failing to live up to its ideals,

but rather for espousing the wrong ideals. 

– Peter Rollins

Several weeks ago I was sitting in church, probably just surfing on my phone, and the pastor made a comment that made my head snap up like a yo-yo being yanked upward. I was fully focused on listening to how he was going to explain what he had just said.

Before I jump in, please trust me, I am writing this not to solely criticize his statement/attitude; but I do believe what he said is bad theology and also a prevailing thought shared by many in the Church (the church-at-large); if not always explicit in word (although in this instance it was) it is most certainly implicit in actions. Overall, I want to try to make our church culture in Arkansas (and elsewhere) better.

Here’s the story:

The pastor was telling a story about how one afternoon he was just cruising around on the internet and saw an advertisement of a gathering for single adults that said, “Come and have some fellowship with us.”

{This next paragraph was his explanation of his gripe with that particular internet ad. When I started to write this post I listened to the podcast of the sermon when it was posted online to accurately quote what he said.}

“Man, don’t use our word! That’s not “fellowship”! “Fellowship” is not any casual human interaction that we have. “Fellowship” is not two christian guys getting together talking about how great the razorback basketball game was or how all their hunting exploits have been, that’s not “fellowship”. “Fellowship” is a lot deeper than that. “Fellowship” is not two people just getting together and working on something. It’s not you calling a friend and saying “hey, why don’t you come over and let’s do scrapbooks together and have fellowship. Well, maybe you will maybe you won’t. You say, “{Pastor} (name withheld), why are you talking about this?” Because there is incredible joy, listen friends, in genuine “fellowship”. Genuine “fellowship”. And “fellowship” is not some kind of mere friendship, “fellowship” is much deeper than that. It’s not a group of Christians getting together and having a potluck together. It’s so much bigger and deeper and wider than that.”

He went on to explain, in his opinion, what Paul teaches is required to have “genuine Fellowship”.

Deep breath…ok, I’m better. Let’s dive in.

So what’s the big deal? Why am I getting so picky about a word? First of all, even though “fellowship” isn’t used in our everyday vocabulary, I completely disagree with his definition of the word “fellowship”. I believe every situation he listed can be an excellent example of fellowship and yes, even worship, but overall that’s not what this post is about. It’s not the specific word that was used that is the problem. The false-ownership of a word is a problem, but the main issue is the problem behind the problem that I want to focus on. Some people in the Church (again, the Church-at-large) try to separate themselves from the culture in many different areas of life because they believe culture is bad and out to get to them. They isolate themselves and deem there are Christian words, watch only Christian movies, read only Christian books, and condone or criticize things under the banner of “God”, “Jesus”, or “the gospel”, when I wonder if God would want his name attached to some of those things. Yes, I’ll go as far to say this isolation and bifurcation is bad theology. I believe it portrays and creates a fragmented worldview and also creates an “us vs them” mentality. God called us to redeem (reclaim) his creation – this includes culture, but if Christians are separating themselves from culture and simply saying, “Come quickly Lord Jesus”…well, that’s the problem. So how does this “us vs them” mentality form?

Even in society as a whole (Christians and Non-Christians) we tend to hold a fragmented view of certain ideological issues in our lives: sacred vs secular; public lives vs private lives; and church vs state are just a few examples. Some Christians interpret the Bible as proffering this separation (which is borderline Gnosticism), they believe this bifurcation of sacred things and secular things (I don’t like the word “secular”) as acceptable to God. In this post and the next I’m going to hash out and explain a little more why this is not what God desires as our worldview.

{Yes, you can probably think of examples where the fragmentation isn’t a bad thing.  A boys bathroom and a girls bathroom – yes, that’s a good thing. But when the fragmentation does occur in the wrong instances it often leads to an undesired end.}

A bifurcated worldview tries to eradicate the fear of the unknown. And the fear of the unknown can cause us to do some childish things.

Here are two quick examples of a bifurcated worldview and also the fear of the unknown –

(quick note – part of this was written before the firing of Bobby Petrino and I am very impressed with the integral approach Jeff Long took in this situation.)

1) Bobby Petrino. Now, try to take off the razorback-red colored blinders for a second…  I can’t tell you how many times during this whole shameful incident I heard or read somebody say something along the lines of, “He’s our coach, he’s not the pope.”, and “We don’t care what he does on his own time, we just want him to win ball games.” That’s a clear bifurcation of his public life (his job) and his private life (his affair). And below even the waterline of people bifurcating his job from his actions, people have also bifurcated their treatment of a winning coach vs a losing coach. What I mean is, would Arkansans still be holding rallies and fighting for his job if he had an average record as a coach then had the affair, paid the woman and lied to his boss about the accident? Doubtful. Should we just care about wins and losses and not the way he carries himself in the community? Or should we value what the coach does wholly? So why all the angst from Razorback fans? Because Bobby Petrino is a damn good coach – he had won 21 games in the past 2 years and had them in the hunt for an SEC title this year which automatically put them in the hunt for the national title. Well the angst might be from what my favorite KC sports radio host likes to ask, “If not him then who?” Now that Petrino has been fired, what’s on the other side? A possible fear of the unknown. Arkansans don’t know for sure what’s on the other side since there is a coaching search just now starting, but Jeff Long did a damn good job in showing that overall integrity matters and he will attempt to make the appropriate hire. Fear of the unknown: greatly diminished.

2) Now, an example for my Jayhawk brethren on the fear of the unknown. We don’t have to think back too long ago to have a similar example. Roy Williams was our coach from 1989-2003. While on the job for 15 years at KU, Roy racked up – 4 final fours, 2 championship game appearances, several Big8/Big 12 titles, and won 81% of his games – a staggering clip. In 2000, the University of North Carolina’s coach Bill Guthridge retired and UNC (chiefly, Dean Smith) tried to coerce Roy to “come home to North Carolina” to be their coach. Roy graduated from North Carolina and was an assistant to Dean Smith their hall of fame coach. After deliberation Roy declined by saying, “I’m staying.”

Later on in the same press conference Roy also said, “The next time I have a press conference is when I’m fired, or I retire.”

What does that say to you? To KU fans it meant he was never leaving, that he would retire at KU. In 2003, UNC fired Matt Doherty, and came after Roy…again. What?! He already told us he’d never leave. Well, he left and we all felt betrayed. Now, we weren’t worried about attracting a top flight coach – we are one of the top 4/5 programs of all-time in college basketball – James Naismith (inventor of the game coached at KU), Phog Allen (grandfather of coaching, coached at KU and has our Fieldhouse named after him), Adolph Rupp (from KU, played under Allen, and coached at UK), Dean Smith (from KU, played under Allen, coach at University of North Carolina), Larry Brown, Wilt Chamberlain (player), JoJo White, Paul Pierce, (and many more of course) #2 school in all-time victories, 14 final fours, 5 national titles, countless all-americans etc, etc…but still there was the fear of the unknown. Who would we have as our coach, and would he do as good as Roy? If not Roy, then who? That thought was running wild through our minds when Roy left. Yes, I was bitter at Roy. He told us he’d never leave. I took my “Benedict Williams” t-shirt to the 2005 Final Four and was crushed to watch him when his first national championship. Enter Bill Self to replace Roy. Now, if you would have told us when Roy left that Bill would win 8 straight Big 12 titles, make it to 2 Final Fours in his first 9 years, have several all-americans, win at a better percentage than Roy (Self’s win % is 85% – ridiculous!), and that Bill would beat North Carolina the two times he’s faced them to this point, then the fear of the unknown would’ve been eased quite a bit. But absolutely 100% of the bitterness was erased in 2008 when Bill got to his first Final Four and beat UNC in the national semifinals, and also won the national championship in his 5th year as our coach that year. Fear of the unknown with Bill: 100% gone.

So what do I mean by the fear of the unknown? When we have fear of new ground that we’re approaching maybe it’s not the specific thing standing in front of us that is feared, but it’s actually the effect, or fallout, of what might happen that is feared…or maybe it’s a bit of both.

I’m not afraid of falling…it’s the landing that worries me.  

Make sense? If not, sit back and think about it for a second…look at the things you might bifurcate. I’ll try to pull it all in tomorrow with the second part (of 3 or maybe 4 parts) of this post. And remember this is all tying back to a bifurcated (fragmented) worldview that some Christians carry of “us vs them”. Tomorrow we’ll also hear from Yoda and Bill Clinton.

“Man, don’t use our word.” Man, I hope I never hear that again.

 

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in culture, theology

 

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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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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.”

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“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”

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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.

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“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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