Archive for November, 2008


How is it that from the teachings and example of Jesus people can establish this kind of lifestyle?

Arkansas seizes 21 children from evangelists

Father in the heavens, holy, separate, and unique is your name.
May your reign come, and your will be done here like it is where you dwell.
Give us today what we need to survive–nothing more,
and forgive us our selfish indiscretions and ignorance, as we do the same to others.
Let us not walk close to the precipice of self-involvement, and rescue us from the oppression and the oppressor.

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Reading Lee Camp’s Mere Discipleship for review in an upcoming edition of the Stone-Campbell Journal, and I am finding it to be great reading. Camp has a fairly keen and direct sense about what discipleship (which is basically what some people call spiritual formation and vice versa) “is” and what it “is not” and the limiting factors upon discipleship from a Western perspective. Strange that I would find any resonance. 🙂 It is an accessible book as well, this being the second edition as well as a glossary and study guide section that will help lead readers through certain difficult theological, historical, and hermeneutical struggles that might come up.

As I read this morning, this passage jumped off the page at me as it elucidated something that I had been thinking on at length a few years ago as well as some current challenges that have arisen through conversations and even more so the most recent election experience and it’s resulting thoughts and fallout. Here’s the quote in its entirety:

“Shaped by (the nationalistic mold), conformed to the ways of our self-serving world, Christians respond defensively to the notion that the church should challenge the judgments of the nation-state. Ironically, of course, it is not pacifism alone that would require Christians to question the nation-state. The just-war tradition itself requires that the Christian church challenge and weight the judgments of the authorities that call Christians to arms. Yet little to nothing is done to inclucate such moral responsibility. Instead, reflexive nationalism rears its thoughtless head: ‘if you don’t love it, leave it!’

This is the great irony of American Christianity: exalting the nation that affords us ‘freedom of religion,’ we set aside the way of Christ in order to preserve the religion we supposedly are free to practice. We kill our alleged enemies in order to ‘worship’ the God who teaches us to love our enemies.”

A stinging critique of the reciprocity that takes place when national interests and the Kingdom of God are swirled together in an unholy and uncritical mix. I wondered what your thoughts on this quote would be. By the by, it’s worth the price of the book ($18.99, Brazos Press) just to engage some of his practical illustrations, one of which precedes the second half of this quote. From your vantage point: is it paradoxical this contemporary relationship between America and Christianity? Is there even a parallel between the Biblical world’s systems of power and authority that matches the applications made by some of the New Testament to our contemporary social and cultural involvement in the West?

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Okay, so that was a pretty cheap title. I remember the slide-guitar master’s “Who do you love?” and just though it fit this post

A friend had this as the link on his Gmail profile: Church Security

My question from this is not all that complicated to ask, but I think it takes looking beyond a well-entrenched social belief system to answer. “How do we love our enemies as Jesus asked when we are so paranoid that we may come in contact with enemies?” Do we just ignore this teaching as culturally-bound and move on? “Oh Jesus never dealt with TERRORISTS. That’s totally different.” Who is your enemy? The parable of the Good Samaritan seems to say “Your neighbor is the person who used to be your enemy, and now you must love your neighbor (who used to be your enemy) as much as yourself.” When we have armed guards at worship, are we discerning enemies as neighbors and doing to them what we would want done to ourselves?

I know the “what if it was your wife/child and they were in danger, what would you do?” question is probably part of the response here, but I don’t think it’s that easy. We too easily side with protectionism, silos, and fences when the radical call of Jesus is to love those who may harm us and forgive those who will probably commit the same offense again and again. Are we forgiven any less?

Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.

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Well this post will be far less agitated and vitriolic than yesterday’s, and though they were real emotions I have found myself leveling out–shalom-ing if you will–over the whole thing. “Your will be done…”

Although I will say I’m tired of seeing Romans 13 popping up everywhere, outside of its context starting in 12:14, used as a way to placate angry mobs by pointing again to a sovereign God. Again, he was sovereign while Bush was in office, folks. But today is a different day…

clapp-1Reading Rodney Clapp’s Tortured Wonders: Christian Spirituality for People, Not Angels and I am continuing to unearth more writers and thinkers who are beginning to see the core of community as essential to whatever we might call “Christian spirituality.” Clapp admits at the beginning that he is uncomfortable with the vagueness of the word “spirituality” and claims that people really use it to describe habits and beliefs that there are already far more loaded, concrete terms for. However, here is the gem so far (okay, 20 pages so far but still…)

“Christian spirituality is the whole person’s participation and formation in the church-Christ’s body, the Spirit’s public–which exists to entice and call the world back to its Creator, its true purpose, and its only real hope.” (18)

I would place this on par with R. Mulholland’s definition as it rounds out the necessity of the “whole person” and the “community” in the formation of Christian spirituality. He has a chapter on the “necessity of the body” in Christian spirituality, which is encouraging to me because of the history of quasi-Gnostic belief in Christian soteriology and eschatology (“Get out of this old body, off this old rock–this is Jesus’ message) that is still really heavy in contemporary churches. Clapp gives us a sense of mission again, of formation in service of mission and not an end unto itself.

And that is the key to diffusing the “psycho-spirituality” (thanks Doug) that has been a huge part of discipleship–we’re being formed to do, not formed for its own sake. We’re being formed not only to “do” in an individual sense, but to “DO/BE” in a catholic sense–a church universal sense that is radically more powerful and pervasive than government-sponsored attempts at peace, healing, reconciliation, life. Hope to offer some more insights from Clapp as I go.

I received my reading list for my next doctoral class yesterday, and I will be reviewing a book for a journal that is due in December. Blogging may suffer.

listening: “snow day” Matt Pond PA

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I voted yesterday, on an absurdly warm fall day on the prairie. I have an election hangover today, after the wall-to-wall coverage, and also from the absence of political ads and news tickers constantly bombarding me from RSS feeds, etc.

It was my 2nd presidential election vote. Likely it will be my last.

I woke up this morning and began to read the reaction from friends—people I respect, people who are intelligent and capable folks, and many of them are saying things like this:

“we need to pray EVEN HARDER today—pray for our country”
“God help us—we are an abomination”
“Prayer Warriors stand guard!”
“This is the same as the oppression in Jezebel’s time”
“We need to safeguard our Christian values”

I am baffled to hear this kind of sentiment. First of all, why is NOW the moment we need to begin to pray in desperation?

Because before Obama we loved our enemies, forgived as we have been forgiven, gave what we had to those in need, considered others better than ourselves, right? Maybe I’m with Sarah Palin—is this the real Bush doctrine?

Second, since Obama is president is it only now that we are going to become a nation in rebellion to God FOR THE FIRST TIME? Now that he is president, are we going to BEGIN alienating and ignoring the poor and marginalized? With Obama, will we now START to practice trade that forces the greater part of 3rd world countries into abject poverty and thus creates space for political and religious extremist group to recruit them for terrorist acts, and makes desperate prostitution that allows HIV and sex slavery to be commonplace? Now that Obama is at the helm, will we REALLY become the “nation of infanticide” that aborts at will with no real thought to human life, circumstances, etc? Correct me if I’m wrong, but did the abortion issue change at all in the last 8 years under a pro-life president?

And finally, if John McCain had won would there be people dancing “undignified” like David before the ark because the time would finally have come that God returned to the White House and America repented and became a Christian nation?

We are a nation built on capitalism, which functions best when some people have a lot and some people have nothing and those with a lot are encouraged to hold on to their wealth and invest it in becoming wealthier. That’s reality. Our economy works best when we are buying things we don’t need with credit we can never repay. We’ve been doing that since well before this president and will continue to do it well after. The poor have always been central to God’s heart, but have been barely noticeable to the government of the US, regardless of the affiliation or position of the commander in chief.

I have learned a lesson the hard way, something I knew in part but now see in full: the followers of Jesus cannot place their hopes and apocalyptic leanings on the man who wins a democratic election in the United States of America. If so, we’ve revealed our true allegiances and shown Caesar to be the object of our hope.

Barack Obama will not die and rise again. No he can’t.
John McCain will not subject all other powers to God. That’s the real straight talk.

Until Christians in our nation realize that following Jesus is not contingent on our political leaders. Christianity does not disappear and faith is not diminished absent a governing party that “supports” our ideals (the whole “love your enemies” thing seems difficult in a time of war, no?).

Just ask Christians in Eastern Europe, China, etc.

I’m officially resigning from Maggie’s farm. Consider this my 4-year notice.


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