Saturday, June 11, 2011

How To Be The Church (You Tell Me!)

Vieux Montréal 1889. Église presbytérienne St.Gabriel's Church of Scotland, rue © 2009 Philippe Du Berger | more info (via: Wylio)
A few months ago Brett McCracken wrote an article for Relevant Magazine asking why so many young evangelicals are leaving the Church. Throughout the article (which he wrote in between his numerous blog posts drooling over Terrence Malick movies), McCracken basically suggests it's all because of our generation's rampant individualism. While there might be some truth to that, here's the reason why I think so many young people are leaving the Church:

We do a really crappy job of being the Church.

Let me give you an example. McCracken's right when he says there are a lot of young evangelicals who have a "me first" mentality, but that's only half of it. In my own experience I've seen whole families that treat the Church like it's only something you do for an hour every Sunday and that's it. They get into their nice little polo shirts and khaki pants (or if you're a girl, a blouse with open-toe shoes), sit in the pew, sing the songs, listen to the sermon, take communion, and then when it's over they go straight home where they eat their Sunday meal and then watch football (because nothing says "keeping the sabbath holy" like watching men grope and pulverize each other). Then it's the same thing next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, etc.

The problem is Church is more than just a Sunday ritual. In fact, if I'm reading my Bible right, it's not something you do . . . it's something you are.

It's the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5).

It's being Jesus' ambassadors to a dying world (2 Corinthians 5:20).

It's about living in community and having all thing in common (Acts 2:44).

And yes, I do a crappy job of being the Church just as much as the next Christian.

So I want to ask you, my dear readers, how you and your local faith community try to be the Church. I want to know how you try to live like an actual family rather than a bunch of individuals who only see each other once a week. I can't wait to hear your answers.

Friday, June 3, 2011

How NOT To Witness

Jesus Preachingphoto © 2011 ideacreamanuela2 | more info (via: Wylio)A few summers ago I had a job selling shoes at an under-staffed (and overpriced) department store. The only good thing about the job was it was right across the street from Subway. One evening I was walking to Subway to get some dinner when a man with sunglasses and a cheesy smile came up to me. He looked like he was trying way too hard to be Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

“Hey there buddy,” he said as he enthusiastically stuck his hand out, “I’m Steve. What’s your name?”

“Uh, Travis?” I responded.

“Awesome! So, what’s up, man?”

"Well, I’m just on my break from work.”

“That’s rad! Where do you work at, bro?” I pointed to the department store. “Do you like it there?” Steve asked.

“It’s alright,” I replied. “I mean it, like, pays the bills and stuff.”

“Well, buddy, I was like you once. I was at a dead-end job where I wasn’t getting paid anything. But then a friend told me about Network Market, and now I’m making more money than I ever dreamed of. We’re having a job fair at Holiday Inn next Saturday, and I’d love to see you there.”

“What kind of job is it?”

“It’s a network of markets. There’s the future, bro! Here, take my card.”

“Um, okay. I’ll think about it.”

“Hey, man, don’t think about it—do it! This is your opportunity. See you there!”

Needless to say, I didn’t go. It sounded too fishy.

I mention this because I think this is the way a lot Christians approach witnessing: a formula. They talk about Jesus as if He’s some amazing new product or program that will cure all the problems of the world. Don’t get me wrong; I definitely believe that Jesus gets us through tough times. But I think it is way too easy to make Him sound like a product instead of the King of kings.

Either that, or they make God sound like a sniper with his rifle aimed at you.

I once saw a video on YouTube of Todd Friel witnessing to some teenagers. He started by asking the classic evangelical opening question, “Do you think you’re a good person?”

“Yeah, I guess,” the teens reply.

“Well, the Bible says we’re not. We’ve broken God’s commandments. Have you ever told a lie?”


“Then you’re guilty before God and deserve eternal punishment. But Jesus died for your sins.”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in sugar coating sin. But from my own observations, guilt-tripping people into following Jesus.

In fact, I don't think the Bible has any "how to witness" formulas. As many times as I've read the Bible, I've never seen Jesus walk up to a random person and ask, "Do you think you're a good person?" Neither is there anywhere in the Bible when, after some one asks, "What must I do to be saved?", Jesus says, "Repeat after me. 'Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner . . . '"

Charles Spurgeon once said soul-winning "should be the main pursuit of every true believer." While I definitely believe it should be at least one of our main pursuits (the others being feeding the poor, caring for the planet, speaking up for justice, etc.), sometimes I think we need better ways to win souls. And I'm not talking about making Jesus "relevant" by putting Him on a skateboard, or something hokey like that. I mean I think we should preach Christ in a way that He becomes something real, something beautiful, something that will make the soul leap for joy.

How do you do that? I don't know, yet. I'm still figuring that out.

How do you share your faith with others?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why Bother With Harold Camping?

Harold-Camping-Failphoto © 2011 youngmoigle | more info (via: Wylio)Well, looks like Harold Camping was wrong. The May 21st Rapture that Camping spent all of his energy on never happened. He's reportedly shocked, but everyone else isn't.

And if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I had a field day making fun of Camping all day Saturday!

I think at one point I even compared him to Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the Heaven's Gate cult.

My friend and Something Beautiful co-host Jonathan at one point said, "You're not gonna give that guy a break are you?" To be honest, I wasn't.

And that's because I've suffered a lot of anxiety attacks in the past believing that the world was going the end at any minute.

First there was Mrs. Nash (not her real name) in 11th grade who mixed Y2K paranoia with the Book of Revelation, and regularly told us in class that the devil was unleashed from his pit after his thousand-year imprisonment. And this was in a public school, too! Of course January 1, 2000 came and went, and nothing happened.

And then that summer while working at the Surratts-Clinton library, I came across some books about Nostradamus, The Bible Code, and the Left Behind series. I spent that entire summer in paralyzing fear, worrying that something bad was going to happen in the next year or two. It got so bad that I was sent to a therapist after I scratched my arms up with a sewing needle. Fortunately things got better than fall when I started following Jesus. His Word comforted me and told me that no matter what would happen, God would always be there.

Flash forward to the summer of 2006 when I skim through the book The Bible Code and suddenly start preparing for the big nuclear holocaust it predicted for that August. I couldn't eat, and whatever I did eat I couldn't keep down. Nothing made me happy. All I could do was look at the horizon and imagine a big nuclear blast coming my way. It got so bad that I had to go on Effexor (which I still take). Of course 2006 came and went, and I realized how much time I wasted.

So when I read about a mother killing her children and then herself to avoid the Tribulation, or all the people who gave up their entire lives to preach Camping's message, I immediately remember all the time I wasted throughout my life being scared to death. This isn't the Gospel! Jesus came to give us peace, not fear. Eschatology is supposed to inspire us to participate in God's restoration of the world. But why do that when you can scare people out of their money and lives?

Take it from me, folks, when Jesus says no one but God knows when the world will end, you better believe it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Farewell Letter

I set this to go live at 6:30pm local time, May 21. Since the world didn't end, I removed it, but am pasting it here today:

Greetings Sinner(s),

If you are reading this, you are obviously confused by all the clothes in the street. The first thing you need to know is what you are experiencing right now is deep sadness--never again will you see a Kirk Cameron movie. Let that sink in.

Don't be to sad about things. There is still much to look forward to…including, but not limited to:

*I hear that guy from Creed is cutting a new album about being reborn after realizing he missed the end--it's going to be great!
*Smurfs 3D.
*You get to find out whose replacing Michael on the Office.
*CNN's live coverage of world in complete chaos is going to be amazing!
*You get to make fun of all the people who claimed to be Christians, but got left behind.

Don't worry about the homeless not getting their allotted charity--Christians weren't helping them anyway. They'll be fine.

For those who need money, my pin # is 1234. I don't need it now anyway. But I doubt US currency will be good anymore--now that China is the leader of the free world.

Let me finish by saying this: when you are looting my house, please feed my cats. They are hungry and thirsty. I've been so busy getting ready to leave, I forgot to leave them a little extra.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rev. James Manning - Still Crazy After All These Years

As you may of already know, Wednesday President Barack Obama released his long form birth certificate to get the idiots to shut up prove that he is a U.S. citizen. Of course there are still some racist buffoons people who are still not convinced. One of them is our dear old friend Rev. James D(umbass) Manning:

Apparently Mr. Manning is not satisfied unless Obama releases his college transcript, his Social Security card, his shoe size, etc. He's also says that the term "birther" hurts his widdle feewings (you have to read those last two words in a little kid's voice). He also thinks that him and his friends Orly Taitz (who definitely isn't from America!) and Donald Trump represent 45% of the Republican party.

I think it's safe to say that Rev. Manning's tin foil hat is a little too tight.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why The Cross Matters

The Crucifixion With Scenes of Martyrdom of the Apostlesphoto © 2010 David Brewster | more info (via: Wylio)
(Originally posted on my blog.)

A few weeks ago I read John Piper's book The Passion of Jesus Christ. He wrote it around the time Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ came out (can't blame a guy for wanting the cash in!). In the book, Piper gives 50 reasons why Jesus had to die. I'm pretty sure he wrote it for people unfamiliar with Christianity, because it's basically Penal Substitutionary Atonement 101. It's not a bad book, mind you; I just think Piper could have gone a little bit deeper.

I like to think that the atonement is like a puzzle: you have to put all the pieces together to get the full picture. If you focus only on one specific atonement theory--Penal Substitutionary, Christus Victor, Ransom, etc.--then you're only looking one little corner of the picture. From what I read of the Bible, the cross is way too big to be crammed inside our neat and tidy little theological explanations.

So why did Jesus have to die? Why does the cross matter so much? I'm only an amateur theologian at best, but here are some reasons why I think the cross still matters:

-Because on the cross Jesus paid the debt of our sin. Paul writes in the book of Romans that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Because of early mankind's disobedience, we all suffer death. Thankfully "just as one trespass [Adam's sin] resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act [the cross] resulted in justification and life for all people" (5:18). God Himself became a (hu)man to experience the pains of death so that we may have life.

-Because the cross defeats worldly and demonic powers. Jesus began His ministry by reading from Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners" (61:1, emphasis mine). Okay, so what are we prisoners of? According to Jesus, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). He had to become captive to the worldly and demonic powers so that we, like Barabbas the violent radical, could go free.

-Because the cross puts to death our old selves. Paul says that "our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6). In other words, the part of you that wanted to the do the opposite of what God wanted, the part of you full of malice, greed, hatred, apathy, etc? That part is now dead. No, not weakened . . . DEAD!

The cross changes everything. And yet, it's still not the end of the story.

What does the cross mean for you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

John Galt - He's Not the Messiah!

Who is John Galtphoto © 2009 Matthew Oliphant | more info (via: Wylio)
To the delight of Tea Party activists everywhere, a movie version of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged is finally seeing the light of day. It'll be a trilogy that will try to be as faithful to the original book as possible. Part One comes out today . . . Tax Day.

With it's strong emphasis on capitalism and individual freedom, Atlas Shrugged could be seen as holy scripture for the Tea Party movement (next to the Bible and the U.S. Constitution). If you go to any Tea Party protest, no doubt you'll see many references to John Galt, referring to the hero of the book who leads the people to revolution. While I have not read Atlas Shrugged, I've read little bits here and here about Rand's philosophy. To be quite honest, I don't understand why a lot the Tea Party activists would embrace the teachings of both Jesus and Rand, because they seem like two completely different gospels.

First, Rand was an atheist who believed that religion was a threat to personal freedom. Faith, according to Rand, was "the exact antithesis and enemy of thought." In Atlas Shrugged when John Galt is giving his 70-page speech (which, one might say, is Galt's version of the Sermon on the Mount), he says:

"For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors - between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and the good is to live it."

Which brings us to my second point: the key concept of Rand's philosophy. Jesus sums up the entire Law of Moses with just two commandments: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' . . . And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Matthew 22:37, 39) Galt, on the other hand, sums up his philosophy with this: "I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." One says the self must decrease and the other must increase; the other says the exact opposite.

Third, let's take a look at the symbols used to represent both worldviews. Christianity is symbolized by the cross: an ancient Roman device used for capital punishment. For John Galt, Rand uses the dollar sign: a symbol of wealth and prosperity. So basically Christianity is about losing the self, and Rand's philosophy is about gaining treasures for the self.

So just who is John Galt? To quote Monty Python, "He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy!"

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Attention Writers: The Not Alone Project

First, let me apologize for not writing anything yesterday. I've been in a weird place mentally, so any prayers will be appreciated.

Which leads me to my next point. My friend Alise at Alise . . . Write is collecting personal essays about depression for a book project called Not Alone. Here she is giving an update on the project:

So let's recap:

-Seventeen submissions so far, but looking for a total of forty.
-Click here for more information (formatting, word count, etc.)
-Deadline: May 24, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

Grace Wins (A Review of Jay Bakker's "Fall To Grace")

(ANNOYING YET NECESSARY DISCLAIMER: The fine folks at Faith Words gave me an advance copy of this book to review for free. And by "for free," I mean neither of us had to pay the other. Also, this review is on my regular blog as well as here.)

If fundamentlist Christians refer to Rob Bell's Love Wins as "the book that denies Hell" (even though from what I've heard that's not what Bell actually says), then Jay Bakker's latest book Fall to Grace is "the book that says gay is okay." While a good quarter of Fall to Grace deals with homosexuality (including a chapter that challenges the infamous 'clobber passages'), the book is much more than that. It's a reminder of God's unbelievable, incredible, and available grace.

The book begins with Bakker (with the help of Martin Edlund) retelling the story of his parents' fall from grace. Anyone who grew up during the '80s and '90s will certainly remember Jim and Tammy Faye's swan dive from televangelist superstars to symbols of everything that's wrong with evangelicalism. It was rough for Jim and Tammy Faye, but worse for Jay! Jay tried to destroy himself with drugs and alcohol, thinking that God would never want anything to do with him. But once Jay discovered God's grace, everything changed.

The rest of the book is a meditation on the book of Galatians, Paul's wonderful book about grace. Jay illustrates Paul's wonderful book about grace with stories from his friends and his own journey . . . including his work with the LGBT community. When his best friend from childhood Eric came out of the closet, Jay didn't take the news very well. But after a conversation with his mother, Jay learned that nothing changed about Eric. He was still the same kid Jay knew and loved since childhood.

Although the writing could go deeper in some parts, overall it's a great reminder that there is no one too far from God's reach.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Send Us Your Stories!

Love what you read here at Disturbed Christians? Want to contribute? Well then go right ahead! We're always looking for new writers who can make us both laugh and think at the same time. If you can tell a good story, then feel drop send us some of your stuff.

You can email me at travismamone83[at]gmail[dot]com (I guess it's safer to write your email address that way), and we'll take a look at your stories.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Greetings from Rome

March 16. That was the day that we “should have” left for Tokyo, Japan. Obviously, we didn’t, and you will know why if you haven’t been living in a cave this past month.

In the days that followed some of our conversations resembled the kind of selfish and insensitive antics from Seinfeld. It’s a trip we had been planning for over a year and while we have the deepest sympathy for the entire nation of Japan, the situation for us still felt lousy.

We were offered a voucher to fly somewhere else and we picked Rome. The hardest part of this vacation is enjoying it knowing an entire nation is in pain.

It’s really times and acts such as this that make you say, why?

If there’s a God, then why did this happen? That is a question millions in Japan are asking, I’m sure. Surely God could have stopped it—so why didn’t he? For the pure pleasure in seeing pain and suffering?

I personally believe that God stopped us from going to Tokyo through a series of stumbling blocks that happened even before the earthquake happened—way too many to list here. I’ve heard other people tell of similar stories. You could say God willed people away from the country—or you could call it coincidence.

That’s nice for us, but what of the thousands not so lucky? Those dead or missing. God couldn’t have willed them from danger?

For me personally, one of the most powerful stories in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 12:7-10—the thorn in Paul’s flesh. Paul doesn’t say why (or what) pain was given to him—but grace, he says, was sufficient because of it. In other words, pain brought him closer to God—making him remember why he needed God’s presence.

What happened (and is happening) in Japan is horrible—cruel—and completely unfair. But people cling to families in times like this—it makes you appreciate your time more—it makes you stop—love—rejoice.

It’s in tragedy that you really can see the face of God. I can’t say why it happened, but I can say this is the time that you can really feel that God is with us.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Martin Bashir: Apologist or Jerk?

I haven't read Rob Bell's new book Love Wins yet, so I can't say anything yet about Bell's supposed heresy. But I do want to talk about this interview Martin Bashir did with Bell on MSNBC this past Tuesday:

Like most people, when I first saw this my immediate reaction was, "Oh snap, Bashir carried you, young!" (And I consider myself a Bell fan, too.) But then the more I thought about, the more I realized something just wasn't quite right.

For starters, Bashir asks Bell about God's providence: is God all-powerful but doesn't care about us, or does God care but isn't all-powerful? For a high respected journalist like Bashir, this is basically the equivalent of Barbara Walters asking Katherine Hepburn, "If you could be any tree, what would you be?" Bell tries to explain to Bashir that neither choice applies to God, but Bashir seems to want a definite either/or.

Second, I only took one journalism course in college so my knowledge might be a little rusty, but I thought journalists weren't supposed to interject their opinion. Actually, now that I think about it, Walter Cronkite spoke out against the Vietnam War, so I think in certain situations a journalist can speak his/her mind. But when Bashir outright says Bell is deliberately twisting Scripture to suit his own needs, it doesn't really give Bell enough room to defend himself. Bashir could be right, but he made the interview more like a witch trial than a real interview.

What do you think?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why I Hate Religion

I've Turned My Back on © 2010 Casey Muir-Taylor | more info (via: Wylio)

(I wrote this on my blog last week when I was still mad at the whole Rob Bell-John Piper fiasco. I've eased up since then, but most of this is still true.)

One of my all-time favorite comedians is George Carlin. He’s one of the few stand-up comedians that could make you both laugh and think at the same time. One of his most famous routines is “Religion is Bullsh*t” where he makes his case for atheism. Here’s how Carlin sums up religion:

“Think about it, religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible in the sky...who watches every thing you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten special things that he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he will send to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry for ever and ever 'til the end of time...but he loves you!”

On one hand, it’s a bit of an exaggeration. But on the other hand, I think Carlin was right on the proverbial money.

I can’t count how many times preachers have described the holy and sovereign God as a dictator sitting in his high chair watching over everything we do, say, and think, ready to get his smite on whenever some one makes the slightest mistake. This is why I cringe whenever God is described as holy and sovereign. It’s not because I don’t believe God isn’t holy or sovereign. I do, very much so. It’s just that often when preachers describe God as holy and sovereign, what they really mean is, “God’s gonna seriously eff you up!”

And that’s why I hate religion.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not an atheist. Neither am I rejecting Jesus or the Bible or the Church. I still follow Christ. I just don’t follow religion anymore. Religion is what happens when people twist the Gospel to make it fit their own agendas.

Religion is motivated by fear.

Faith is motivated by love.

Religion’s main driving force is rules.

Faith’s main driving force is God.

Religion has all the answers wrapped up in neat and tidy boxes.

Faith isn’t afraid to live the questions.

I also hope no one thinks I’m suggesting universalism. Believe me, I’m not a universalist (and apparently neither is Rob Bell). I believe that on Judgment Day we’ll all stand before God. However, when I read the Bible I can’t help but notice that the Gospel is so much bigger than a Get Out of Hell Free card.

It’s about God restoring the world through Jesus.

It’s about freedom from sin and bondage.

It’s about reconciliation with both God and each other.

And that’s why I can’t embrace Carlin’s atheism: the Gospel is so much bigger than what religion has made it out to be.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Question the Answers

Question the Answersphoto © 2009 walknboston | more info (via: Wylio)
(Originally posted on my blog)

I'm not a Buddhist, but I like to read about Buddhism from time to time. I think as a philosopher and a teacher, the Buddha had a lot of deeply profound things to say. Here's one that I've been thinking about a lot lately:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. . . . Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

I don't know about you, but it's much easier for me to automatically believe whatever the "experts" say is true or "orthodox" (notice the quotation marks). I'm afraid to ask questions because I'm afraid of what the answer might be. What if everything I've ever been taught is a lie? But when I finally do ask the questions, I'm always pleasantly surprised by the answer.

For example, last year when I nudged my way into the emerging church conversation, I was introduced to all these new ideas about the Gospel, the Bible, the Cross, and eschatology. I was also reading a lot about the New Calvinism movement and their theology. With all the different voices and ideas coming at me, though, I no longer knew what to believe. Was Christus Victor the right atonement theory, or was it Penal Substitutionary Atonement? Was God still angry at everyone? But I just kept going through the motions of doing church because I didn't want to lose my faith. The problem was, I was my faith! So finally I started asking questions and investigating my beliefs. I emptied out everything that I had been taught about Jesus, and re-read all four gospels.

And when I did, the strangest thing happened. I regained my faith in Jesus! I studied His teachings and found out He was right all along!

Questioning what you've been taught is scary, but it's necessary for growth. If we stop asking questions, we stop learning, and therefore we stop growing. Besides, I think Jesus is big enough to handle our questions. He even said, "Ask and you shall receive."

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Night At the Oscars

A few years ago, I went to the mall with someone who had never seen a mall--they were from a land quite primitive; when the first saw the huge parking long, they wanted to know if we were shopping for a car. They couldn’t imagine so many people being in one place, so a used car lot was the only thing that made sense.

When I watched the Oscars last night, I could help but wonder what they would say about it; what would someone who doesn’t even own a TV--or know English for that matter--what would they have to say?

Perhaps they would comment on the clothes that sparkled and wonder why they would wear things with lights? They might laugh at the animated behavior of some presenters? They’d probably wonder why anyone was watching it?

It would seem odd to me that they would think these things, but I would have to admire their innocence.

A part of me is a bit ashamed that the Oscars (or anything on TV) is not foreign to me; shamefully, I’m too worldly for it all to seem normal...

That’s all I have to say so enjoy two mildly amusing Christian inspired movie moments below...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Why I Make a Lousy Evangelical and a Lousy Progressive

Originally posted on my own personal blog.

My friend Rachel Held Evans recently wrote how she is both a lousy evangelical and a lousy progressive. I'm pretty sure Rachel is my long lost sister, because I don't fit in fully with either the evangelical label or the progressive label either! Here's why . . .

I'm a Lousy Evangelical Because:

1. I believe the world is billion years old.

2. While I haven't read The Origin of Species yet, I think there's some truth to Darwin.

3. Even though I believe the Bible is true and inspired by God, I have questions about the inerrancy part.

4. I do NOT watch Fox News!

5. I don't believe in Just War theory.

6. I've never "kissed dating goodbye."

7. I'm actually happy that Maryland is considering legalizing gay marriage.

I'm a Lousy Progressive Because:

1. I'm not a universalist.

2. I talk a lot about creation care and radical inclusivity, but I"m not very good at either one.

3. I think Paul was an alright guy.

4. I believe Jesus really did physically rise from the grave.

5. And I believe His mom was a virgin.

6. Sometimes I get tired of deconstructing theology and questioning orthodoxy.

7. Even though I won't be joining the GOP any time soon, I don't have much faith in the Democrats either.

But you know what? I actually like being somewhere in between an evangelical and a progressive. Makes me feel . . . unique.

Friday, February 18, 2011

When a Juggalo Finds Faith

Back in high school, me and my boys used to crank up Insane Clown Posse on our little portable CD players during lunch. Things have changed since "Chicken Huntin'" and "The Great Milenko," though. ICP isn't rapping about killing rednecks anymore; they're not rapping about . . . faith?

Witness "Miracles." (Video contains profanity)

As crazy as it sounds, I kinda miss the old misogynistic, violent, drugged out ICP!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Another Rapping White Evangelical

Remember a few months ago when I said white evangelicals should not rap? Well, here's another reason why . . .

Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against rap. I just think this girl should the rapping up to Lecrae.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Greatest Prayer

(Disclaimer: HarperOne gave me a copy of this book for free to review. No one is paying me for this review . . . unfortunately.)

I assume that most of the people reading this blog are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. Some of us recite it every Sunday at church, some during weddings, and some have it framed on our wall. There is even a special cross you can order that, when you look through it, you can read the Lord’s Prayer in it’s entirety. However, could it be that the prayer is more than just a comforting prayer of devotion? Have we overlooked the prayer's more radical aspects?

According to biblical scholar/historian John Dominic Crossan, the answer is yes.

In his latest book, The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord's Prayer, Crossan uses history and scripture to uncover the more social/political aspects of the Lord's Prayer. According to Crossan, since God is referred to as "Father," this signifies that God is the Divine Householder who makes sure that everyone in the household have enough. And as heirs to God and joint heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17), it's our job, as Christians, to be "stewards of a world that we must maintain in justice and equality." (p. 182) As children of God, we get to participate in His Great Divine Cleanup of the World, which is God's way of setting the wrong things right.

While some passages are a bit slow-moving, overall Crossan does a great job getting his (or perhaps its really God's) message across. Even though he can be a bit unorthodox (like his colleague Marcus Borg, Crossan also doubts that the tomb really ways empty), I think he doesn't stray far from biblical teaching (or at least how I understand what the Bible teaches). As I've been exploring my faith during the past year, I've discovered that personal salvation and stewardship for God's creation (meaning both nature and mankind) are both facets of the Gospel. You can't have one without the other.

Final score: 4 out 5 stars.

Friday, January 28, 2011

All Men Will Hate You Because Of Me

“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

I’m sure you’ve heard pastors quote this passage numerous times. I know I certainly have. In fact, I’ve heard a couple of Christians suggest that if you don’t have enemies, then you’re doing something wrong. But what does Jesus mean when He says the world will hate us Christians because of Him?

The answer you are most likely to hear is it’s because the message of the Gospel goes against the pluralistic message of the world. The world says, “All paths lead to the same destination,” but the Bible says, “there is no other name under heaven [other than Jesus] given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) The world also says, “Do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anybody,” but the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Certainly that’s why Jesus said the world will hate us, right?

Well, I think that’s part of the reason, but not the whole reason.

If we look at Matthew chapter 10 in its entirety, we see that Jesus gives the twelve disciples that warning before sending them out to spread the message of the Kingdom of God throughout Israel. And while that message does include repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:46-47), there’s also a social/political nature to the Gospel, which is:

1). Jesus is Lord, not Casar (or any other worldly emperor)
2). “Seek justice. Defend the oppressed.” (Isaiah 1:17)
3). The meek will inherit the earth, and the peacemakers will be called children of God (Matthew 5:5,9)
4). People “will beat their swords into plowshares . . . and will not train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

Now if that’s not a threatening message for the powers of this world, I don’t know what is!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Resist the Green Dragon!!!

My friend Peter over at Emerging Christian recently posted this video of a DVD series produced by an ultra-conservative Christian group about resisting radical environmentalism, otherwise known as "The Green Dragon."

I don't know where to start!

1. I thought "green dragon" was what my friends used to call weed back in high school.

2. One of the so-called "experts" they interview is Bryan Fischer, a notorious ultra-right-winged fundamentalist who claims that:

* Muslims should be banned from the U.S. Army.

* The U.S. Military has become "feminized."

* Repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell is lead to "mandatory cross-dressing."

I would go on, but I think you get the picture.

3. Who exactly do they consider to be "radical environmentalists?" Do they mean eco-terrorists who often resort to violence, like the Animal Liberation Front? Or do they mean peaceful activists who challenge the way we consume and use the planet, like Wendell Berry? Something tells me this group is lumping both Berry and the eco-terrorists together.

If you want a good biblical argument for environmentalism, I suggest you read Jonathan Merritt's Green Like God, which cuts through the political rhetoric and goes straight to the Bible.

As for this DVD series, well let's say these guys must have been smoking some of that green dragon when they thought of this!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Painting Calvinists With Broad Strokes

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a tendency to stereotype people. I take a group of people, pick out three of four loonies out of the bunch, and claim that those loonies represent that entire group of people. Past stereotyped groups include Republicans, Southern Baptists, feminists, jocks, potheads, country music fans, and Pentecostals. The latest group I find myself stereotyping is the Calvinists.

Last year when all the papers said it was hip to be Reformed, I naturally wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I read everything I could about Calvinism. I listened to Mark Driscoll’s sermons, read John Piper’s Desiring God blog, and even re-read Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” While I never considered myself a Calvinist (I could never get into the whole Limited Atonement thing), I was fascinated and influenced by the Reformed tradition. Calvinism reminded me that God is bigger than my brokenness.

And then something went wrong. The more I listened to Driscoll, Paul Washer, and Charles Spurgeon (not his actual voice, though, but people quoting him), the more I felt guilty. There was so much talk about sin and damnation and total depravity that I wondered, “What happened to ‘saved by grace?’ Are my sins really forgiven? Because this sounds like I’m still guilty!” It all sounded like the bully god I tried to run away from in high school. After a while I became disillusioned with Calvinism, and thought that Calvinists were just all about fire and brimstone.

(For clarification, I’m NOT saying that we stop talking about sin in order for people to feel comfortable, like Joel Osteen. I’m just saying that when you’re constantly told that you should have been on that cross--no matter how true it may be--you start feeling like crap.)

Then last night while I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about all the different church traditions I’ve experienced when I thought about the Presbyterian Church Amy attends. As I thought about my experiences attending worship with my fiance Amy, I suddenly realized that out of all the times I’ve been to that church, I’ve never once left the church feeling guilty. Yes, they preach about sin, Hell, and judgment--but that’s not the primary focus. The message all boils down to the grace, beauty, and majesty of God. Then I realized maybe I was wrong.

For a guy who’s always talking about getting rid of the “us vs. them” mentality, I sure thrive on conflict. Hopefully some day I’ll learn to stop seeing people as either “for me” or “against me,” and remember that everyone is in the same boat no matter what their theological position is.

(For the record, though, those Pentecostals are still weird.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Borg and Biblical Literalism

I'm currently reading Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. At first I wasn't sure what to make it of, having recently been disappointed by his novel Putting Away Childish Things. But this book is a hundred times better than I expected. In fact, it brings up a good question: should the Bible be interpreted literally?

According to Borg, contrary to what many Christians believe, the Bible is mostly a human product; mankind wrote it in response to real experiences with God. However, that doesn't mean the Bible does not hold any spiritual significance. On the contrary, the Bible is a sacrament as much as the bread and wine. God uses the Bible to communicate with us.

So then how should we read the Bible? According to Borg, it should be read through a historical-metaphorical lens. The Biblical writers often used memories and metaphors to explain their experiences with God. For example, while God may not have literally parted the Red Sea, Borg believes that that passage shows how God liberates His people from oppression.

Since I wasn't there when the Bible was being written, I can't say how much of it was written by God and how much by man. But I will say this: I do believe we shouldn't stress out about whether or not certain events in the Bible really happened or not. Instead, I think the number one thing we should ask ourselves is, "What is this telling me about God?" For example, we all know about the endless creationism vs. evolution debate. There are those who swear up and down that God created heaven and earth less than 10,000 years ago and in six twenty-four hour periods just like it says in Genesis. Others say that the creation account in Genesis should be taken metaphorically. Me, since I wasn't there when the world began, I can't say who is wrong and who is right. Instead, I focus on the message of the first three chapters of Genesis: how God made the world, and how mankind rebelled against Him.

What do you think? Should the Bible be interpreted literally? Does it really matter?