Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Donald Miller and Some Random Reflections

Donald Miller's writing is always entertaining. His most recent blog article is a collection of thoughts about his new puppy, how simple her life is, and how we could all learn something from the blissful simplicity of her example.

I’ve been watching Lucy (the aforementioned dog) and wondered why God made her. A pet. Just a dog (chocolate lab puppy) that runs and jumps and chews things and, even though we’ve only known each other for a couple weeks, wants nothing more than to please me. She puts on no airs, which is one of the things I think we find so comforting about pets and children. There is no false motive, only the desire to eat, reproduce and play.

I think of that scripture that tells us to not think more of ourselves than we should, and not less of ourselves either. I think if Lucy could understand a hearing of that passage, she’d probably tilt her head and say “what is an I?”….all she knows is her red ball and her weasel chew toy and the fact she can dig her nose into snow to make a tunnel.

And later

I wonder what it was like for humans before the fall of man, to not think too much or too little of themselves, to enjoy play, to enjoy work, to enjoy God. I think the difference between them and us would be startling. If they could come here today and have a conversation with us, my guess is they would sniff out all our motives and wonder why it is we care about so many things that don’t matter at all.

Interesting thoughts.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An Advent Meditation by Rowan Williams

This video, which I found posted by Tony Jones, is an interesting reflection on the season of Advent.

As I continue in my faith, sacramental, liturgical presentations like this one that used to bore me, become rich and enjoyable. What are your thoughts?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Scott McKnight's Third Way

Scott McKnight is starting a series of posts regarding a Third Way:

There is a Third Way, and this post officially kicks off a series of occasional reflections about the Third Way. The Third Way approach to the orthodox Christian faith is one that gets

beyond the fighting and
between the fighters in order
to carve out a middle way.

The Third Way captures and sustains the good in both the conservative and the liberal. It is the Jesus Creed at work in the church's theology and praxis. It affirms the great traditions of the Church and seeks to embody those traditions in a new way for a new day. It is not afraid of change but has a deep desire to remain faithful.

He says later:

At the heart of our Third Way project is fashioning the gospel as robust enough to be both a "kingdom" gospel and a "salvation" gospel, a salvation that is both spiritual/personal and social. A salvation that means complete liberation. We're tired of the old-fashioned, thin gospels of both the conservatives and the liberals. It is hard to hold both sides of this debate together, but we will attempt to do so ... and I think many of you want to as well.

I'm looking forward to this series. I'm interested in a third way. What do you think?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Boyd on the Unreconciled Church

Greg Boyd has some interesting points about some of the "white evangelical" response the day after Obama won.

Several people responded to my most recent blog by contrasting what I wrote with the “hostility” and “venom” they were reading on some white conservative Christian blogs the day following the election. While most other Americans — even most opponents of Obama’s politics — were celebrating what Obama’s election means for race relations in this country, these white Christians, I was told, were enraged.

And later, regarding a study he ran into at a conference:

One of the sad but unavoidable conclusions Emerson drew from this combination of studies was that participating in a homogenous church — as the vast majority of white evangelicals do — actually makes people more prone toward racism. Folks who are strongly bound to homogenous religous groups tend to embrace racial stereotypes and be more wary of people whose ethnicity and culture is different from their own than those who don’t. As a result, participating in homogenous religious groups tends to make people less interested in, and less adept at, making progress at bridging the racial divide.

In this light, it’s not surprising that some white evangelicals were enraged over Obama’s victory while so much of the rest of the country was celebrating it. Arguably, no group in America is at one and the same time more invested in political opinions that oppose Obama and less able to appreciate the significance of his racial achievement than this group.

He concludes by saying:

This would amount to nothing more than a curious sociological observation except for one thing: white evangelicals are among those who are supposed to be demonstrating to the world the beauty of racial reconciliation! One of the reasons Jesus gave his life was to form “one new humanity” in which all racial, cultural and class walls have been torn down (Eph. 2:14-15; Gal. 3:26-29). Racial reconciliation isn’t some sort of “politically correct” addendum to the Gospel: it’s part of its very essence! If Jesus died to create “one new humanity,” then manifesting a community in which people of different ethnicities are learning to love, understand and do life with one another is as mandatory for the church as is preaching the forgiveness of sins, which Jesus also died for.

An interesting commentary, I thought. What do you think?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Interesting Election Facts from Barna

Here is the link to The Barna Report (as referenced on The Jesus Creed)

As was true in the past two presidential elections, two-thirds of all evangelicals who were registered to vote (65%) were aligned with the Republican Party. One out of five (21%) was Democrats and just one out of ten (10%) was registered independent of a party. That puts evangelicals at odds with the national voter profile, which shows a plurality of Democrats (42%), one-third Republican (34%) and two out of ten (20%) independent of a party affiliation.

Most remarkably, however, was the overwhelming support registered among evangelicals for Republican candidate John McCain. In total, 88% voted for Sen. McCain, compared to just 11% for Sen. Obama. The 88% is statistically identical to the 85% of evangelicals who backed George W. Bush in 2004. Surveys conducted by Barna throughout the campaign season showed that evangelicals were not enthusiastic about either candidate, but on Election Day evangelicals came through in a big way for the most conservative major candidate on the ballot.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Church Marketing Strategies for Starbucks

This is a weird but funny video about how the church must look to visitors sometimes (found on ThinkChristian).


Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Let me be among the first to congratulate Barack Obama for becoming our new president elect.

Quite a story, isn't it? The first major party minority candidate wins the election. Think about what has happened in the arena of race in the last 100 years?

Quite an historic day. Quite a day indeed.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Donald Miller's Political History

Donald Miller has posted a long but interesting political history of his life. He shares some experiences with working with the Obama campaign this year.

While in Denver I met people from the Obama Campaign. I met Joshua Dubois and Paul Monteiro, Obama’s faith-policy advisors. Paul, like me, had been a Republican until recently. He is a staunch pro-life conservative who got tired of Republicans not making enough strides on the issue and was won over by the dramatic effect economic policy has on unwanted pregnancy and the bottom-up effects of economic stimulation as opposed to the conservative, supply-side policy. And Joshua spoke to me about Senator Obama’s personal faith, his commitment to close his events in prayer, his daily morning devotions and his twenty-year history of talking openly about Jesus. I didn’t need to be won over. I’d started a mentoring foundation in Portland two years before and was attracted to Obama’s message on responsible fatherhood (along with his backing of The Responsible Fatherhood Act.)

Elsewhere he says,

Last year I vowed I wouldn’t make decisions out of fear. And because of that I’ve had one of the greatest years of my life.

If you have a few minutes, give it a read. Donald is a great writer and always makes you think.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Question...

How much does God care about the election happening in two days?

Does he care enough to spend billions of dollars on advertising?

Does he care enough to spend millions of man (and woman) hours organizing and strategizing?

Does he care enough to see perhaps the fiercest division in four years that Americans experience between one another?

I'm not suggesting God doesn't care (though I could be wrong), but I'm willing to go out on a limb and suggest that we care more that He does.

I'm not suggesting you should not vote (though I'm open to certain situations where people feel that is the right move), but I am suggesting that if you decide to vote, that it is the least amount of involvement possible to be a participating citizen. We treat voting as if it is such a big deal, whereas it seems to me that we vote every day by what we value, what we spend money on, what we give money too, what we say to and about our neighbors. Maybe instead of just voting for the pro-environment candidate, I could challenge you that after you cast your vote on Tuesday, you could spend that evening learning to go green, recycle and pollute less? Maybe instead of just voting for the anti-abortion, I could challenge you after you cast your vote on Tuesday to find a crisis pregnancy center to which you could donate $25 or $50 a month and 5 hours a week of your time.

It seems to me that if everyone who voted (which is typically in the upper 40's of percent) spent significant time and energy living out the values they vote for, we would have a revolution on our hands. Imagine if on Tuesday, half the nation left their respective polling places and vowed to live differently. What might that mean?

It seems to me that God is much more concerned with how we live and who we are becoming than he is with how we vote.

Lord, start with me.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Boyd and Kimball on "Religulous"

As you may have heard, Bill Maher has made a movie bashing religion that is now out. I have not seen the movie myself (not yet anyway), but several good thinkers and church leaders have. I thought I'd share some of their thoughts and posts.

Dan Kimball wrote the first response I read about it here. Dan says:

The film was really well done, and it went by very fast. Bill Maher is trying to show how "religion" in general is messed up and even very damaging (which it can be). He tries to make his point in a very, very humorous way. But it also was very predictable in what it covered. I have either listened to or read most of the arguments he made in the film, so what was in the film itself wasn't really new information.

But Bill raised good and legitimate questions but he didn't get good answers from the people he interviewed (again, at least how they edited the film). People in the theater laughed (including me) at how the responses generally came across from Christians to his questions.

He does have some criticisms about the film, however.

Although it was a humorous film, and although it raised great questions which need to be asked - it only showed a very one-sided perspective. Thus, to me it was a poor film journalistically as it misrepresented Christianity by only showing the extremes of it.

Greg Boyd also wrote a review of the film here.

I also have to say that I found myself in agreement with much of Maher’s commentary. While many Christians seem to feel the need to defend religion – at least the Christian religion – from the sort of criticism Maher raises, I think its imperative for followers of Jesus to side with these sorts of criticisms. For the undeniable truth is that religion – including the Christian religion — is often irrational and extremely dangerous.

Fortunately, the kingdom Jesus inaugurated has got nothing to do with religion. Indeed, Jesus’ main opposition came from the guardians of religion, and religion continues to be a main obstacle to the advancement of his kingdom. (For more on this, see my Repenting of Religion). If Maher’s documentary does anything to help people get free of religion, it’s done humanity and the kingdom a great service, in my opinion.

In critique, Greg says:

First, Religulous is utterly devoid of nuances and objectivity. Maher lumps all religion in the same silly and dangerous bucket while never bothering to tell his audience what he means by the term “religion.” One gets the impression that humanity can be divided up into two well defined groups: on the one side you have rational humane people who have no religious beliefs and who simply want to make the world a better place; on the other side you have irrational misanthropic people who have “religious” beliefs and who inhibit progress and threaten the world.

and later...

This brings me to my second, more specific, criticism. Maher provides absolutely no evidence to support his remarkable claim that the Jesus story is a variation of the Horus myth. To his credit, Maher did interview Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome project, about the Gospels (the only educated “religious” person included in the documentary by the way). But Francis Collins is unfortunately an expert in biology, not biblical history. It’s hardly fair to call on him to give a robust defense of the historicity of the Gospels or refutation of the Horus-Jesus theory. (Yet, for all we know, he provided one that was edited out).

The truth is that there are many compelling reasons to conclude that the Gospels are substantially rooted in history, not legend or myth. Paul Eddy and I provide these reasons and argue against all the major Jesus-legend or Jesus-myth theories in The Jesus Legend (Baker, 2007) and (in a much more popular format) in Lord or Legend? (Baker, 2007). Had Maher seriously interacted with this material his documentary would have been much more informative. But it also would have undermined the objective of the film, which was to entertain audiences by making all religion (including faith in Jesus) look silly and dangerous.

What do you think? Have any of you seen the movie? Other than these two blog reviews (on blogs I read regularly) I haven't heard much about it. Has there been a surge against it by the religious right?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Abortion Facts

As it is nearly election time, the hot topic of abortion is in the air (which only seems to be a big deal in election years, interesting). I thought I'd share some interesting facts a ran across about abortion in the US. I'll leave the analysis to you. (Read the original post here).

Abortion Facts

Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended.

Almost half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion.

The most frequent reasons given by women seeking an abortion are that a child would limit ability to meet current responsibilities and that they cannot afford a child at this point in their lives.

Unintended pregnancy has increased by 29% among poor women while decreasing 20% among higher-income women.

Women below the federal poverty level have abortion rates almost four times those of higher-income women.

Between 1996 and 2000, while abortion rates for all other groups fell, abortion rates among poor and low-income women increased.

The majority of women having abortions are in their 20s or younger.

Overturning Roe Vs. Wade Will Not End Abortion in America

Overturning Roe Vs. Wade, a long time goal of the pro-life movement, would not end abortion in the United States, it would simply send the decision to the states.

If states with more than 45% "pro-life" sentiment chose to outlaw abortion, this would only impact 16 states accounting for 10% of abortions nationwide, or less than 100,000 abortions a year.

Women in these 16 states would still be able to travel to seek an abortion in another state, or seek an illegal abortion, making the impact likely less than a 10% reduction in abortions nation-wide.

States with the highest abortion rates in the country, like California and New York, would be unlikely to outlaw abortion in their states.

Studies Show that Economic Support for Women and Families Reduces Abortion

In a recent study released by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good finds that social and economic supports such as benefits for pregnant women and mothers and economic assistance to low-income families have contributed significantly to reducing the number of abortions in the United States over the past twenty years.

Economic assistance to low income families is correlated with a 20% lower abortion rate. Across the entire United States, this translates into 200,000 fewer abortions.

In the 1990s, states with more generous grants to women, infants and children under the age of five as provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program had a 37% lower abortion rate.

Higher male employment in the 1990s was associated with a 29% lower abortion rate.

The abortion rate has declined most rapidly from 1990-1996 when there was an economic boom under President Clinton. While rates have continued to decrease, they have declined less rapidly in recent years when poverty rates have been climbing.

Legal Status of Abortion Does Not Necessarily Impact Abortion Rates

Nearly half of all abortions in the world are performed in countries that have made abortion illegal.

The lowest abortion rates in the world - less than 10 per 1,000 women of reproductive age - are in Europe, where abortion is legal and available.

By contrast, in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, where abortion law is most restrictive, the regional rates are 29 and 31 per 1,000 women, respectively.

These countries are also much poorer than the U.S. and provide fewer social services; and a larger proportion of their population lives in poverty.

In Western European countries, in contrast, where more social services are provided and fewer women live in poverty, the abortion rates are consistently the lowest rates in the world.

Source: Joseph Wright and Michael Bailey, "Reducing Abortion in America : The Effect of Economic and Social Supports" (Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good) and The Guttmacher Institute "An Overview of Abortion in The United States"

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Letter to the Church in the United States

Here is a letter, apparently written by a group of leaders from the southern part of the world to9 American church. What do you think? (HT Brian McLaren)

August, 2008


As the Church of the Lord in what is known as the "Southern" part of the world, moved by the Holy Spirit to fight for the abundant life that Jesus Christ offers, we address our Christian family in the United States, a Church of the same covenant, faith and love. Grace and Peace to all of our brothers and sisters.

We know your works of love; these works have allowed millions of human beings for many generations in our countries in the South to receive the gospel, the Grace of Jesus Christ and the power of His Salvation. The U.S. church's untiring missionary effort planted in our lands Hope in Him who came to reconcile EVERYTHING.

Nevertheless, the political, social and economic situation in the places where this hope has been announced is increasingly distressing. Millions of people in the global South are dying of hunger, violence and injustice. These situations of poverty and pain are not simply the product of the internal functions of our countries; rather they are the results of the international policies of the governments that wield global power.

Therefore, we have this against you, brothers and sisters, that along with this powerful announcing of the Gospel, the Church from the United States has not also raised its voice in protest against the injustices that powerful governments and institutions are inflicting on the global South - injustices that afflict the lives and ecosystems of millions of people who, centuries after the proclamation of the Gospel, still have not seen the sweat of their brow turned into bread.

The worsening inequality and poverty in the South is alarming. Seven years since the United States and 191 other nations publicly promised to cut extreme global poverty in half by the year 2015 through the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), your country has made only a little progress towards fulfilling its commitments.

The MDGs should stir us to action because they echo the calls of the biblical prophets for justice and equity. Further, they are achievable and measurable markers on the roadmap to end extreme global poverty.

And so we ask you as sisters and brothers, citizens of the wealthiest most powerful nation on earth, to publicly challenge your candidates and political leaders - now and after the elections are over - to lead the world in the struggle to cut global poverty in half by 2015. If you who know the Truth will not speak for us who will?

The Church in the United States has the opportunity today to be faithful to the Hope that it preaches. We urge you to remember that the Hope to which you were called as a messenger demands that you seek first the Kingdom of God and God's justice.

Out of love for us, the global Church, in holiness, use your citizenship responsibly for the benefit of the entire world; it is for this very reason that the Lord poured out His life on the Cross.

All who have ears, let them hear what the Lord says to His Church.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Doug Pagitt on "Emerging Church" vs "Emergence"

Doug Pagitt has posted this interesting commentary video on the buzz that has been being made about the terms "Emergent Church" and others like it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Brian McLaren on Being Missional, Part 2

This is my favorite segment of this presentation.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Brian McLaren on Being Missional

Here is an interesting video of Brian McLaren teaching on what it means to be missional. More of this to come.

Donald Miller on "The Culture War"

Donald Miller has posted some interesting musings on his blog about media and tension and spin. There was one part I found fascinating.

Watching Hurricane Ike come in (the storm went over my home and family in Houston) you would have thought it was the end of the world. The city of Galveston sent out an alert saying all those who did not evacuate the island faced certain death. More than twenty-thousand people stayed, and nobody died. There were six deaths in Texas related to the storm, which was a decrease from how many people would have died that night were there to have been no storm. All those cars off the streets proved safer than a storm serge and one-hundred-mile-per-hour winds. (This is not to invalidate the devastation caused by the storm, which was severe and tragic) But the media ran with the story because, perhaps, tension keeps us watching. And now that the country can be called to help out in Galveston, the media has moved on to other areas in which it can create tension and sell more advertising.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Brian McLaren on September 11th

Since 7 years ago today was when the terroristic events happened against the World Trade Center and other buildings, I thought this video was a good way to remember and to re-calibrate our minds as to how we treat our Muslim neighbors as we move forward. This video was first posted at Emergent Village.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

One Issue Voting and Abortion vs Slavery, Part 2

Yesterday I tried to draw a clear distinction between the issue of slavery 150 years ago and abortion today, and point out the flaw of right wing fundamentalists equating the two issues as equally clear. Today I want to make some general comments about the abortion issue in politics.

1. Nobody is Pro-Abortion

Let's be clear on that. Certain candidates may be for protecting women's right in this area, but abortion is always seen as less than ideal, for liberals and conservatives alike. Even if you take a stance that abortion hold no moral significance at all, the fact remains that a procedure is necessary that is unnatural and includes some health risks (though about the same or less than going full term). That is why everyone is for reducing abortions. Right wingers would due well to realize this, and attempt to work together.

2. There is some very interesting information about reducing abortions

For example, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good commissioned a study about the factors that contribute to abortion rates rising and falling.

This study is an attempt to estimate how socioeconomic factors and state abortion laws affect the abortion rate. We have found the following measures to be associated with sharp reductions in the abortion rate: WIC benefits, increased male employment, and economic assistance to low-income families. For example, states that spent $1,350 more per person living in poverty showed a 20% decrease in abortion. To put this dollar figure in context, $1,350 per person in poverty is about $47 billion dollars,22 which is equivalent to the amount tax payers spent on only 18 weeks of funding for the Iraq war in 2007.23 The data show that women respond to robust economic supports by being more likely to carry pregnancies to term. Furthermore, this study finds that a family cap for families receiving government assistance increases the number of abortions. This study also examines the effect of state abortion laws on the abortion rate. While this study finds that state laws such as informed and parental consent have not had a significant effect on abortion rates, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good continues to support such measures as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce the rate of abortion in the United States.

Here we have a pro-life organization commissioning a study that says laws do very little to deter abortions, but social factors, like government benefits, play a significant role.

It has also been estimated by the Guttmacher Institute shows that if Medicaid coverage was to include contraception for low income women, 200,000 abortions of unwanted pregnancies could be prevented.

But, unfortunately we don't see right wingers working as ferociously to change our country into a place where abortions don't need to happen as they do on getting Roe v. Wade overturned.

3. There are non Roe v. Wade attempts to reduce abortion

For example, consider the 95-10 Initiative.

A comprehensive plan that will reduce the number of abortions by 95% in the next 10 years by promoting abstinence, personal responsibility, adoptions and support for women and families who are facing unplanned pregnancy.

The 95-10 Initiative seeks to reduce the number of abortions in America through Federal, state and local efforts as well as support and encouragement to volunteers and dedicated people on the front lines helping pregnant women. Much attention has been given to ending abortion or keeping it legal. We believe that we must do more to reduce the abortion rate by helping and supporting pregnant women.

Will there be a day when the left and the right can work together to make abortions minimal? That is what I am hoping for.

May we see beyond the false dichotomy that is created by comparing abortion to slavery. May we stand up for the life of the unborn, but not at the expense of the many other issues that involve protecting life (war, poverty, the death penalty). And may we continue to love and seek the kingdom of God in the way of Jesus as we prepare for the election coming up, remembering that the important question is not "how should we vote," but "how should we live."


Monday, September 08, 2008

One Issue Voting and Abortion vs Slavery

As is normal in an election year, many fundamentalist and evangelicals are spreading very strong talk about how you have to vote for McCain if you really believe the Bible/are a true Christian/care about what God cares about/have a brain and on and on. I had really hoped that we were beginning to move past all this, but apparently we are not. I think voting is good and that voters should have good, well thought out reasons for voting the way they vote. I have no problem with blogs talking about the issues and discussing reasons (Biblical or otherwise) for taking a certain stance on a certain issue. The problem comes when people crusade against anyone who disagrees with them.

But I'm getting a bit off track. There are pretty much two major critiques that come from the right wing conservative evangelical/fundamentalist camp at those supporting Obama/Biden (or any Democrat for that matter). These issues are abortion and gay unions (though it is often reduced to just abortion). Obama is for upholding Roe v. Wade and for civil unions. McCain is for overturning Roe v. Wade and, though he had been for civil unions in the past, he says on his website that he will protect marriage between one man and one woman, but does not weigh in on civil unions. He may be wording it in the way he is as to not upset his conservative base. But maybe not.

Again, getting a bit off track. Usually the Christians on the right critique the Christians on the left by saying "how could you vote for a candidate that does not want to make abortion illegal?" The response by the Christian could be a number of things (after 6 years of Bush and Republican house and senate nothing has been done, outlawing it is not going to solve the problem, protecting a woman's right to choose etc.). The most common critique from the left back to the right is to say "I'm not a one issue voter." The right sometimes responds by saying that a 150 years ago one issue voters ended slavery because that issue was so obvious. They reason that the modern day situation is the same, that we simply need to stand once and for all and get Roe v. Wade overturned, just like Lincoln and the north did with slavery.

But I think it is important to draw a clear distinction between slavery 150 years ago and abortion today. I can think of at least two pretty important reasons.

1. There is no ambiguity when it comes to slavery.

When we talk about slavery, there are some pretty clear cut realities. There is a slave owner, owning and mistreating another human being as property. There was of course talk in the day that people of a different color were not as valuable as white people (and horrifyingly, some Christian denominations even used scriptural support to defend this idea). But, pretty soon it became clear to the majority that a human being owning and torturing another was wrong.

Compare that with today. In the mind of a fundamentalist/evangelical on the right, there is no ambiguity in abortion. A mother is torturing and murdering her own child. But to a non biased person who is taking an honest look at the issue, it is not so clear. It was Augustine who first said that the soul is created at conception. But, in the case with twins, the zygote separates after conception. In this case, do the twins share a soul? Or does one twin have a soul and the other not? At what point does the fetus become a full person? Is the morning after pill as bad as partial birth abortions? If abortion became illegal, should women who have abortions be punished as severely as people who murder children or adults? If a lab caught on fire, and you had the choice to save an infant or a petri dish with five fertilized embryos, which should you save? To what extent should the government make these decisions as opposed to letting each woman decide for herself?

Whereas slavery is very clear, the abortion issue raises a whole host of questions that may not have clear cut, obvious answers. It doesn't seem right, then, to equate the two.

2. Unlike abortion, slavery does not effect the health and body of the mother/owner

This is the lesser of the two points, but the fact remains: the domain of the issue we are discussing is inside a woman's body. That is not true for slavery. There are some very real questions that we need to ask about what rights a woman has over what to do with her body and what goes on inside her body. Regardless of how we decide this plays into the abortion issue, the fact remains that this clearly distinguishes this issue from slavery.

I will post more about this tomorrow, but until then, may we continue to think deeply on these issues and be fair and loving to those who disagree with us.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Doug Pagitt on ACWB, Videos 6 and 7

It has been a while since I posted one of these, but here are the next two in this series of videos that Doug is using to promote his book. Doug listed these as videos 7 and 8, but I'm pretty sure they are numbers 6 and 7. The topics are "Jesus" and "Heaven".

Video 6

Video 7

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Historical Perspective on the Economy

Sorry that the posts have been so political lately. But, when in Rome, right?

Scott McKnight linked to a very interesting article that looks historically (since WW2) at how the economy has done under Republicans vs Democrats. What would you guess the results are?

The article rates the parties on two categories: 1) average annual gross national product (i.e. what percentage more does the average person make after a year) and the second is 2) a look at the effect on income inequality (i.e. the rich get richer and the poor get poorer).

The stark contrast between the whiz-bang Clinton years and the dreary Bush years is familiar because it is so recent. But while it is extreme, it is not atypical. Data for the whole period from 1948 to 2007, during which Republicans occupied the White House for 34 years and Democrats for 26, show average annual growth of real gross national product of 1.64 percent per capita under Republican presidents versus 2.78 percent under Democrats.

That 1.14-point difference, if maintained for eight years, would yield 9.33 percent more income per person, which is a lot more than almost anyone can expect from a tax cut.

Pretty significant.

It is well known that income inequality in the United States has been on the rise for about 30 years now — an unsettling development that has finally touched the public consciousness. But Professor Bartels unearths a stunning statistical regularity: Over the entire 60-year period, income inequality trended substantially upward under Republican presidents but slightly downward under Democrats, thus accounting for the widening income gaps over all. And the bad news for America’s poor is that Republicans have won five of the seven elections going back to 1980.

Thus, it seems from the evidence that the economy sees greater health and fruit when a Democrat is in office than when a Republican is.

Here is where I want to go with this: I have a friend who anytime we talk about the thriving economy under Clinton and the struggling economy under Bush, he attributes Clinton's success to Regan's work and Bush's failure to Clinton. He, of course, is extremely Republican. This study seems to refute that thinking, doesn't it? I mean a patters on "misattribution" could not continue for 70 years, could it?


Doug Pagitt on Sarah Palin's Speech

Here is an interesting and funny perspective on Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention by Doug Pagitt. You can find more stuff like this at Doug's blog.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Voting for the President

A reader on Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog sent in a letter asking about the upcoming election. He admitted he was torn on who to vote for. Among other things, he says:

Does placing “no confidence in redemption by way of politics” justify a least-of-two-evils vote in November? Does voting for a candidate who I know will support immoral policies not implicate me with those policies? Would it be better to conscientiously abstain from voting? Or is that simply a moralistic cop-out? Should I perhaps consider voting for one of the “protest candidates” like Ron Paul, who I know won’t win but still allows me to do my “duty” to vote?

Scot responded saying a number of things. Here is a taste.

On November 4 I will vote; in the evening Kris and I will watch the TV as it enters into the lather of not only reporting news but making the news.

More importantly, on November 5 I will get up and go about my business no matter who gets elected. There will be people who need to hear about Jesus; there will be people who are suffering from systemic injustices; there will be people abusing power; there will be good reasons to drink coffee and eat lunch with colleagues and prepare dinner and go for a walk with Kris before supper. Changing Presidents will not end those needs and those problems and those parts of my life. So, my task as a Christian is to follow Jesus by loving God and loving others as well as I can. Changing Presidents won’t change that one bit. I don’t see that either candidate has the intent of depriving us of these things.

He goes on to say:

Now one more way of saying this: my eschatology, or my hope, is not in who will be the next President. I hope in the power of the gospel that flows from God’s good graces toward us humans. I hope in the God who designs that gospel; I hope in the Christ who embodies that gospel; and I hope in the Spirit who empowers that gospel. And I hope also in the Church whose task it is daily to live out the gospel and draw all into its saving graces. I don’t hope in the next President. I think that is idolatrous. In fact, hoping in the next President is the first step toward idolizing empire.

So my friend, I approach this election as a Christian who finds it important, significant, and incredibly fascinating, but who also finds it not as important as the task Jesus has given to us as his followers.

I think he makes some good points. I think voting is good, and I plan too. But may we remember that our hope does not lie in whomever gets elected on November 4th. The reason this is important is because many in our nation pretend that the future of our civilization depends on this election (as they do for all elections). May we strike a good balance of seeing voting as a good right, but not as our hope for the future.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Thoughts On Politics

Well, both candidates have selected their running mates. With the Democratic National Convention over and the Republican National Convention going on this week, we are about to move into the final few months of this race. Everything is becoming more charged up politically. I usually stay a bit removed from politics here at Nick's Musings, other than a video here or there to make you think. But I thought I would take this opportunity to share some general thoughts about this election. Here we go:

1. Neither Candidate is a Savior. We are starting to hear this from both sides. "Obama is the hope for America" or "McCain is a true American Hero." Both are loaded marketing ploys. Neither are true. We see this marketing strategy happen every election though: convince the voters that there is something to be lost if your candidate is not elected. Create fear. The truth is, neither candidate is going to save us or our nation. I don't want to downplay change too much, because I believe whoever gets elected can make change, but our salvation or the future of our nation does not depend on it. Which leads me to my second point.

2. Neither Candidate is the Anti-Christ. The mud slinging is about to reach a fever pitch. I honestly think the candidates in this election respect one another, so we are seeing less from them disrespecting each other. They seem to be attacking each others voting records and connections than their character, which is a positive. But even thought these candidates are treating each other with more respect (and perhaps because), there is a ton of mud slinging going on by others. The small mindedness of the things I hear drives me crazy. Both of these guys are great men who love their country. Neither is the spawn of Satan. Neither is a communist or a Muslim. So, if you have a candidate that you like, please don't resort to childish name-calling. Don't resort to the vilification and demonization that is so common in politics today.

3. You are starting to see Christianity at its absolute worst. I don't know why, but Evangelical Christians wait until election time to rear their true ugliness. I understand believing in a cause, and believing strongly, but since when did it become Jesus-like to hurl insults at anyone who disagrees, question their salvation, and act in a spirit of hate? That is not the Jesus I read about. What happened to loving your enemies? So what happens is this group of activists works themselves up into a huff, demonizes the candidate they don't like and anybody who considers what that candidate has to say, all the while it becomes clear to all those outside that Christianity (at least the version we have some to see in 21st century Cmerica) is not about love. In the mean time, the homeless do not get homes, the starving do not get food, and why? Because we have an election to win, right?

If you do feel it necessary to make this election a significant part of your life this year, please do those three things: Don't think one candidate is the savior, or that another is the Anti-Christ, and (if you're a Christian) don't become an embarrassment to Jesus in the way that you carry yourself in these next couple months. Lastly, and most importantly, remember the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not the conservatives or the liberals, America or another country, black or white, male or female. The Kingdom of God is about loving God and loving people. May we keep that in our minds and hearts as we continue forward to see what these next few months bring us.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Donald Miller, the politician

This is a video interview done with Donald Miller by Christianity Today a few minutes before he gave the benediction at the Democratic National Convention. He is offering his opinions on the current state of politics, the Democratic party, abortion, and other issues as well.

I largely agree with what he has to say. Your thoughts and responses?

PS: If you want to keep going, here is another interview he did with Christianity today. He covers some of the same ground, but new ground as well.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Donald Miller, Again

You may know that Donald Miller offered the closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention last night. Here is a video of the prayer, followed by the transcript.

"Father God,

This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.

We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.

We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.

Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.

Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.

Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.

Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.

Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.

Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.

We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.

Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world.

A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.

Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world.

Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.

Lastly, father, unify us.

Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.

And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.

God we know that you are good.

Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.

I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.

Let Him be our example.


Donald Miller's Blog

Donald Miller officially has a blog site now. He had had a website, where you could order his books and he would leave notes and stuff. But this new blog is more interactive, where readers are able to leave comments. His first entry is sharing a series of emails he exchanged with Barrack Obama which is some crazy funny stuff. Check it out.

How did you get my e-mail address? I signed up on a clip board a cute hippie handed me, did you get my address from her? Do you know her? Can you ask her to call me? Anyway, no biggie, just cool that you wrote.

I wanted to talk to you after the rally but the guy with the curly earphones said you were busy. As for your e-mail, I don’t remember saying “the time has come to get beyond the same old tactics that divide and distract us,” but that’s exactly how I feel. I say a lot of things I don’t remember. My roommate Jordan said I said he could eat my leftover calzone from Pizzicatta but I don’t remember saying that and I know I was planning on having it for breakfast the next day.

There is a lot more, and all of Don's responses are in the classic Donald Miller smart aleck form. Quite a way to talk to a presidential candidate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Podcast #2: Scripture As Art

Well friends, the podcast a friend and I started recording recently is up and can be accessed here. Don't forget to check out the first one as well.

In this episode, Josh and I discuss worship gatherings, the role of art (namely images) in worship gatherings, the nature of scripture, the Ten Commandments and more. Check it out and join the conversation by posting a comment.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Blue Parakeet: A Much Needed Lesson on Reading the Bible

Scot McKnight has written a new book due out in November called The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. I read an advance copy this week, and let me say this: I can't say it is Scot's best book, but it is definitely the best one that I've read.

The title of the book is a metaphor based on an actual experience that Scot had while bird-watching in his back yard. A "Blue Parakeet" is, in my own words, something that is outside one's bandwidth, outside his or her paradigm or worldview. To be specific, Scot says that there are certain biblical passages that many of us miss because they don't fit within our theological systems. Most of us either ignore them completely ("I never knew THAT was in the Bible") or we dismiss them for another reason ("that verse REALLY means..."). Scot argues that in order to be good students of scripture and faithful readers of the text, we need to examine and deal with the "Blue Parakeet" passages. This is the metaphor that drives the book.

This is such a needed indictment! How many of us claim to purely and objectively read the Bible (yeah right!), when in reality there are entire streams of faith that are clearly addressed in scripture that we do not pay attention to because they are outside of our theological spectrum? On one occasion several years ago, a colleague of mine was asked how a bigger church in our area could do so well while ignoring a certain practice that "our church" stressed. His response was "I guess they just think they can ignore that part of the Bible." It hit me like a ton of bricks. I wanted to shout "We all do that! We all ignore parts! We are just as guilty as they are!" And that is the point, isn't it? We all have blind spots in our theology. Scot's book does a great job of making us see this.

The book starts off by Scot explaining his faith background and spiritual upbringing, followed by the story behind the title (chapters 1 and 2, which serve as introductions). Both are great. He says, "I began to see that Christians read the Bible differently and I began to see that no one group seemed to get it all right." (pg 18). Next, Scot begins to unpack how Christians read the Bible, starting with the wrong ways (inkblot method, puzzle method etc.). He then moves to explaining what the Bible is (a wiki-story). This section, where he is explaining what the Bible is and is not, in my opinion, is the best part of the book. Scot is drawing on his experience of working with college students and diagnosing the inappropriate reading habits of those who read the Bible. As he says, "We need twenty-first-century Christians living out the biblical gospel in twenty-first-century ways" (pg 28).

From here, he moves on to sections titled "Listening: What Do I Do With the Bible?" and "Discerning: How Do I Benefit From the Bible?". Here Scot lays out his method for reading, interpreting, and relating to both God and the Bible. "The biblical way is the ongoing adoption of the past and adaptation to new conditions and to do this in a way that is consistent with and faithful to the Bible" (pg 29), he says. That would be, in its simplest form, Scot method: adopt and adapt. He continues later, saying, "We dare not ignore what God has said to the church through the ages...nor dare we fossilize past interpretations into traditionalism" (pg 34). The highlight for me in these sections was chapter 10 titled "Finding the Pattern of Discernment," and, specifically pages 131-144 where Scot gives a number of examples of putting the interpretation into practice, including circumcision, tongues, and divorce.

Scot finishes the book with five chapters of practical application, using the example of women in ministry as way to demonstrate how to appropriately interpret scripture. It is helpful to have this practical example at the end, with significant space alloted to it, even if you have already dealt with and come to terms with the issue he is addressing.

The Blue Parakeet is definitely one to put on your must read list. Whether you know it or not, you have blind spots, and we could all use a friendly diagnosis from Dr. Scot. But as you read, remember that all of our reading and studying is worthless if it does not lead us closer to God and help us live more like Jesus. As Scot says, "Any reading and any interpretation that does not lead to good works, both as the practical application and as the behavioral result, aborts what the Bible is designed to produce" (pg 111).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Brian McLaren and Richard Land in Conversation

This is a great conversation between Brian McLaren, progressive, emergent thinker and writer, and Richard Land, conservative, author, and Southern Baptist leader. I have been a fan of McLaren for a long time. He is one of my favorite authors and thinkers within the Emergent movement. I appreciate the grace he has for those who disagree with him. I have to confess, I was expecting not to like Richard Land. I guess a little prejudice against Southern Baptists was exposed in my heart. But as it turned out, I loved Richard Land. Like McLaren he had the same grace and the same disgust with the system that has pitted liberals and conservatives against each other. So, give it a list, and feel free to comment.

May we continue to dialogue with those who are different than us.

Monday, August 18, 2008

NOOMA Video "She" Available Online for 48 hours

Rob Bell's newest NOOMA video is out. It is titled "She" and is available for preview online for 48 hours (ending Wednesday, 8-20 at noon). The focus of this video is the balance between the male and female images of God in the Bible, as well as the role of women. It really is an amazing episode.

If you have never seen a NOOMA video, do yourself a favor and watch this one. In fact, go to the website and order a few. You won't be sorry. "Rain", "Bullhorn", "Rich", and "Open" are a few of my favorites.


What do you think of "She"?

What are your favorite NOOMA videos?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I am Currently Reading...

...several books that you may be interested in hearing about.

1. The Fire That Consumes is a historic work written in the 1970's dealing with the doctrine of final punishment. I have posted previously about conditionalism and have even communicated with the author, Edward W. Fudge, a bit. This is the mammoth work on conditionalism (the idea that immortality is conditional, the righteous go onto everlasting life, whereas the wicked parish and are no more). This work deal with every passage, Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha, Pseudopigrapha, Early Church and more that talks about final punishment. I'm about 200 pages through the 500 page work and loving it.

2. Preaching Re-Imagined is another of Doug Pagitt's books. In it he shares a new vision for what the "word" or simply the communication element in communities of faith. He distinguishes between "speeching", which is one voice doing all the talking, and preaching, which he thinks should involve many voices. I'm not too far into it, but so far it is classic Doug Pagitt: insightful and controversial.

3. A is for Abductive is written as an "A-to-Z" manual on the terms used in postmodern, emerging culture. Really though, it is a book about the transition between modernity and postmodernity, which is perhaps my favorite topic to read about right now. If I was writing a dissertation, that would be central to the topic. i'm about halfway through and already it seems brilliant. It offers great commentary on postmodern terms like abductive (i.e. the form of preaching that is story and narrative based), deconstruction, and others.

4. The Blue Parakeet is the book that put the other three on hold. This is a book that Scot McKnight and Zondervan gave me an advance copy to review for you here on Nick's Musings. When something like that happens, you give it priority. I'm only through the introduction, but so far I'm impressed. You can expect a full review in the next week or so.

So, what are you reading?

A Commission to Students

Tyler Priest of the Priesthood and Emergent Village have posted A Blessing and Commission for Students. I always liked August and September in student ministry. Though the students were always dreading school starting back up and the summer coming to an end, there was great energy that came with the fall. We were always able to launch fun new series'. Our programming was high. Our attendance was high. It was a fun time! It is perhaps unfortunate the the lives of adults can't have more scheduled ups and downs. Anyway, without further ado, for all of the students out there, or any of us adults who have a soft spot in our hearts for students, here is a commission.

as you start this new year of school, we send you out with our blessings. we want you to know that along with God, we are walking with you. you are not alone. you belong to God, and we belong to each other.

when you walk down the halls, remember that we are on mission together with Jesus. in the midst of friendships, classes, games, performances, and events, may you remember that we are sent to bring heaven to earth, to be salt that heals and light that pierces darkness.

so go out, befriend the lonely and hurting, give hope to the hopeless, rise above the popularity contests that have trapped so many. give your best effort in the classroom, always seek the truth, ask hard questions, and never settle for easy answers. take every though captive and make it obedient to the way of Christ.

go and have fun. live lightly and enjoy this year. don’t spend too much time looking forward to next semester or next year or even next week. live in the now. do not worry. because of Christ, you are free to be your true self, the self you were created to be.

when you’re tempted, remember that there is always a way out. don’t crumble to peer pressure. instead, may you find that nothing will satisfy you—absolutely nothing will satisfy you—unless it is a gift from God. so may you have the wisdom to discern that which is from God and that which is not. and may you have the courage to live out that wisdom.

we send you out with the prayer that as you move about campus, you will carry deep in your heart the undying fire for our King and his kingdom. in this school year, may it be the kingdom that you seek first, that you hope for, and work for, above everything else. amen.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Podcast #1: Discussion

Well, it's up! Josh and I recorded and posted our first podcast episode. If you enjoy what you see on this site, I invite you to tune in and check us out. The title of our podcast is Peidalion (pronounced PAY-DOLL-EE-ON) and it is the greek word for rudder, like the rudder of a ship, one of the comparisons used in the book of James for the tongue. But, we explain all of that in the first podcast. We welcome any and all feedback and invite you to join the discussion!

Click here to go to the podcast.

We hope to be in the iTunes store soon, so I will let you know.


UPDATE: We are now officially up on the iTunes store. You can fine us by searching for Peidalion in the iTunes store and subscribe there. Our next podcast should be out in the next week. Shalom!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Dog Days of Summer Mean Few Posts

Blogging has been slow around Nicks Musings as of late. Will you allow me this opportunity to apologize for applying merely a thin coat of the topics that have become regular? Should I offer as a defense the business of the summer months, or a bit of a drop in inspiration as my reading decreases in the summer, or that it appears most blogs, at least the ones I frequent have all seemed to follow the same trend of sporadic posting recently? Of course this does not apply to Scot McKnight, who even in the summer posts 3X a day. But then again, Scot is the Michael Jordan of biblioblogging.

But, regardless of whether you accept my lame excuses, let me give you an update of some of the new things in my life.

1. Community: In June of this year, Angela and I had a friend move into our apartment with us. He is a friend we both went to college with and have remained close friends for years. We started talking about the idea of living in community a few years ago, and then kind of dropped it, but picked it up again earlier this year. So, you must be thinking "Why would a married couple want to have another person live with them?" Good question. We feel that hospitality is a blessing to all (both the guest and the host) and that life in community is a beautiful thing. We enjoy sharing experiences in community. If that does not make sense to you, it's okay. We have certainly gotten a collection of weird looks as we explain this to people. Some seem to treat us as if we are joining a cult or something. But, when we do something that is countercultural and even anti-American (contrary to the American pattern of independence and isolation), we should expect to get some weird looks, yes?

2. Podcast: Josh (the friend living with us) happens to be a student of theology like me, and since we have such great and challenging conversations, the idea came to me a few weeks ago to start doing a podcast. We are in the process of producing a regular podcast that will deal with similar issues as this blog, and are currently wrestling with hosting issues and how much it will cost us. so, if you know much about this or can point me to any good sites with affordable hosting, I'd appreciate it. More on the podcast to come.

3. House Hunt: With the real estate market being in the dumps as it is, it has meant hardship for millions of American families facing foreclosure. As sad as that is, if you wanted to see a silver lining, and there are probably several, one is that it is a great time to buy.. Angela and I started looking at houses seriously a few months ago. We put in an offer a few weeks ago that got shot down, and anther on a different property on which we are waiting to hear back. So, literally any day we could hear that we have had an offer accepted on a house. These are exciting-though sometimes frustrating-times. We will keep you posted.

4. Grad School: I am now only about 6 weeks away from the start of the Masters of Divinity program at Bethel Seminary. It seems it was so long ago that I applied and was accepted, and now it is getting close! It will mean all the joys (and pains) of reading textbooks, writing papers, discussing in class (my favey!), and better managing time. I can't wait!

5. Lost: Josh has gotten me into the show Lost. I had only seen one episode ever, so recently I started from the beginning and am now about a third of the way into season three. I have to say, it is an amazing show. The brilliance comes from the number and depth of the characters. Any other Lost fans out there? If so, feel free to comment, but don't post spoilers!!!

6. Ink: I got another tattoo a few weeks ago. You may remember my first about a year ago. If so, you may know that I am into tattoos having great meaning, rather than just being trendy. This latest one is Numbers 6:26 "May Yahweh lift his face towards you and give you peace" in Hebrew on my left arm. It turned out great!!!

That will do for now. Thanks for tuning in. I hope the posting will get more frequent soon enough.



Friday, July 25, 2008

A Philosophical Review of The Dark Knight

If you have not seen the new Batman movie The Dark Knight, you really should. It is definitely worth seeing in the theater. Heath Ledger plays an outstanding Joker and steals the show from nearly the first scene.

Many have already seen and loved this movie. Among those is Greg Boyd, who offer a philosophical review of the movie. Check it out here (WARNING: Spoiler Alert!!!). You can also check out Greg's new website here. Greg's thoughts on the movie are profound.

Here's a taste.

The Dark Knight brilliantly explores the nature of order and chaos. The Joker is a Nietzscheian ubermensch (superman) who lives in a mindless, immoral, chaotic world. He believes order (e.g. societal rules, ethics) amounts to nothing more than artificial constraints cowardly people impose on reality. He exists to expose the joke of our pseudo-orderly world.

And Later.

Along the same lines, The Dark Knight ingeniously explores how easy it is to become the evil that we fight. The Chief Commissioner (Harvey) initially is an uncompromising selfless hero who wants to rid Gotham City of its criminals. But as he suffers personal losses at the hands of evil he is slowly transformed into evil. Instead of overcoming evil with good — which Batman sort of does — he is overcome by evil. He comes to agree with the Joker that anarchy is the most fundamental reality. Hence he believes all order is ultimately futile.

Give it a read and share your thoughts.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

America with a God-Directed History?

Andy over at Think Christian has a great post asking some questions about the history of America.

An article at Touchstone is raising these questions by looking back at The Light and the Glory, “one of the most widely read nonfiction Christian books of all time.” I’ve not read it, but apparently it retells the history of the United States from a “Christian view”—that is, it interprets US history as the story of God actively intervening to shape and preserve a particular nation and way of life. Christopher Columbus stumbled across North America not by luck, but at the urging of the invisible hand of providence. American victories in the Revolutionary War weren’t just the result of human cleverness or luck; they were instances of God nudging history in the right direction.

And later:

Now I really want to track down a copy of this book. Not because I think I’d agree with it—on the contrary, it honestly sounds a little alarming. It’s one thing to believe (as most Christians do) that God oversees and controls events throughout history, but there’s a certain presumptuousness in claiming to be able to recognize not just patterns, but specific points at which God stepped into human affairs and pushed things in the right direction. And then there’s the subtle implication that God’s sovereignty plays out not through a divine authority over all of human history, but through a series of brief interventions interspersed with long periods of presumed inactivity.

He hits the nail on the head at the end:

I’m interested in reading more, but I think The Light and the Glory’s approach should at the very least set off warning bells in our minds. It’s especially suspicious when your vision of providential history coincidentally casts your own country and society as the God-ordained protagonist.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Doug Pagitt on ACWB, Video 5

Greg Boyd and the Mennonites

Greg Boyd has written an interesting piece on the Mennonite Community, seen here.

There is a beautiful and powerful grassroots Kingdom movement arising all over the globe that Mennonites in particular need to notice. Millions of people are abandoning the Christendom paradigm of the traditional Christian faith in order to become more authentic followers of Jesus. From the Emergent Church movement to the Urban Monastic Movement to a thousand other independent groups and movements, people are waking up to the truth that the Kingdom of God looks like Jesus and that the heart of Christianity is simply imitating him. Millions are waking up to the truth that followers of Jesus are called to love the unlovable, serve the oppressed, live in solidarity with the poor, proclaim Good News to the lost and be willing to lay down our life for our enemies. Multitudes are waking up to the truth that the distinctive mark of the Kingdom is the complete rejection of all hatred and violence and the complete reliance on love and service of others, including our worst enemies. Masses of people are waking up to the truth that followers of Jesus aren't called to try to win the world by acquiring power over others but by exercising power under others -- the power of self-sacrificial love.

I'm considering checking out some Mennonite churches in the area. I deeply respect their values of peace, love, and acceptance. Have any of you had experience with Mennonite churches?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Donald Miller: Biking for Justice

This is a video where Donald Miller explains a project he is doing this summer to raise money for Blood:Water Mission called the Ride:Well Bike Tour.

I have been a fan and financial supporter of Blood:Water mission for a few years, a group who focuses on providing clean water for African villages by digging wells. I encourage you to check out the ministry and the bike tour.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ACWB, Video 4

Here is the 4th video that Doug Pagitt is posting to promote his new book A Christianity Worth Believing (which you can find my review of here).

We will be having an interview with Doug about the book here on Nicksmusings.com in the next couple weeks. So, stay tuned, and buy the book.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Doug Pagitt on ACWB, Video 3

Doug Pagitt has posted the third video promoting his new book A Christianity Worth Believing (which you can find my review of here). This video points to my favorite part of the book, chapter 2 titled "Passion Play", which tells the story of Doug's conversion. If you haven't ordered this book yet, you should definitely do so soon. The third video is below, or you can watch a High Definition version here.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Beware, by Don Heatley

Here is a fascinating article posted on the Emergent Village Blog about traditional churches reacting against Emergent churches in their area and warning others to stay away. Very funny and thought provoking, I thought.

[Our Church] has never used any conjugation of the verb “emerge” in any of our ads. My theory is that this fear of Vision all began in someone’s inbox. Sandwiched between warnings of hypodermic needles hidden in the coin return slots of pay phones and claims that Barack Obama is a Muslim, this person read an email claiming that different Christianity equals Emergent, and Emergent equals dangerous. Informed only by anti-emergent websites, they went looking for an “Exhibit A” and found it in my church. How ironic that Emergent, which is often criticized for not defining itself, can be so easily defined by its critics. I propose a new tag line for “this thing of ours” (to use a New Jersey term). Rather than “Emergent: A Generative Friendship,” I propose “Emergent: We’re like pornography. You know it when you see it.”

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Doug Pagitt on ACWB, Video 2

This is the second promo video for A Christianity Worth Believing by Doug Pagitt. Please consider reading the book. This promo raises the question that becomes one of the main points in the book: Is God "up and out" or "down and in"?

These videos are so well made. I love the music setting the mood. Thoughts?

Monday, May 26, 2008

On Peace and War

As it is Memorial day, I thought it might be good to do some thinking about peace and war.

I first heard this message from Brian McLaren a few months ago, and was deeply move at the thought put into it as well as the attitude of grace for all involved. It is basically Brians's attempt to write a letter/sermon to President Bush shortly before the war in Iraq broke out. Here are some quotes:

Jesus also said, though, that in our serpentine cleverness, we must remain as guileless as a dove, pure in heart as peacemakers, because the God who is real is a God of peace. Whatever clever tactics we must use to seek to prevent war, however we must bare our teeth and expose our claws to dissuade our attackers, we must reverence the harmless dove (God’s Spirit) who flies among us, within us. I have been asking myself what it means to be a true Christian in a time like this, facing war yet loving and seeking peace, wise as a serpent, yet innocent as a dove.

Whenever we talk of war, and if we must go to war, we must do so with sadness for all concerned. Jesus said we are to love our enemies, and if we love people, to see beloved enemies as the targets of bullets and bombs is a tragic thing.

In this war, Mr. President, if war must happen, I wonder if you would make history by being the first president to share the death toll of our enemy, not as a score of victory, but as another tragic cost of war? I wonder if you could teach the American people to mourn the death of Iraqi mothers’ sons along with our own? I wonder if you could, in this way, deepen our dread and hatred of war, so that if this war happens, it will bring us one war closer to the end of the nightmare, and the beginning of God’s dream for us?

And third, Mr. President, if I were the one being attacked, I would wish that my enemies would spend at least two dollars to repair whatever damage each dollar of weaponry caused. Jesus talked about walking the second mile, and perhaps today he would talk about paying the second dollar. If this means raising taxes, Mr. President, I for one will pay twice the taxes to have the chance to do right to the Iraqi people after the war – if we must go to war.
This would, I realize, triple the cost of war for us. But that would not be a bad thing at all. I think you’ll agree: war should be costly, too costly. A cheap, convenient, easy war could make it easy for us to become barbarians, abusing the power and wealth which we have been given, and for which we will be held accountable as stewards. When we add the high cost of postwar rebuilding to the high cost of war to begin with, we will be more likely to seek creative alternatives to war. We may realize that it would be a bargain to be more generous, to use our money to make friends through wise generosity and humanitarian development rather than using it to make enemies through foreign war.

The full text is here.

The mp3 audio with introduction and Q&A is here. You really should listen to it, as McLaren's heart comes across better in audio than on paper.

Enjoy. All honor and peace to our veterans today, and the precious memories are with us of those who have given their lives for causes.

Doug Pagitt on ACWB

This is a great video where Doug Pagitt gives an introduction to his new book A Christianity Worth Believing. I previously reviewed the book here. You should definitely read it.

So, what do you think?

There should be more to follow.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

New Address

Alright everyone, update your bookmarks. I have purchased the domain www.nicksmusings.com and have attached it to this blog. It is much cleaner and more professional that having the tacky "blogspot" name in the address. Everything else should remain the same.

Thanks to everyone who takes a moment to read what I write.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Emergent/Reformed Conversation

There are two groups of young Christ followers that are getting some pub currently. One is a group with whom I identify, Emergent, that is seeking to communicate the message of Jesus and seek to follow after him in a pluralistic, postmodern world. The other is a group who belong to the Reformed tradition. For those who may not know, Reformed basically refers to a movement that teaches and believes in Calvinism (i.e. TULIP, predestination etc.). Where Emergents identify with Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, and Doug Pagitt, the Reformed crowd identifies with John Piper and Mark Driscoll.

A conversation too place recently between people in these two camps that was very respectful and very interesting. Each, Tony Jones and Colin Hansen, have written a book in their respective movement recently. It is in three parts, and there may be more coming. Enjoy.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Our Changing World

This is a very interesting video (HT:VC) about changes that are taking place in our world. If it is to be trusted (and it seems to be trustworthy), it provides some very interesting thoughts about our future and our children's future.

Thoughts? Any educators out there who want to weigh in?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Brian McLaren on Justice and Power

Here is another of the insightful videos filled with thoughtful wisdom from Brian McLaren.


Friday, May 02, 2008

Brian McLaren on the Kingdom of God

Here is another great video of Brian McLaren offering a different perspective on the faith.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Overused Terms Used Wrongly

Here are a pair of terms that I hear used wrongly all the time, particularly in the context of the Church. This has been bugging me for awhile, so I have to get it off my chest.


People use this term incorrectly all the time. The choices in literature or verbal communication are figurative, that is you don't mean exactly what you are saying, you are using comparisons, analogies etc. to make your point, or literal, meaning you mean exactly what you are saying.

Example. On Sunday my pastor was talking about being on the fence, obviously referring to a place of non-commitment, caution etc. At one point he made the statement, "Some of you are still on the fence, literally...". Since we were all sitting in chairs, it is pretty obvious that none of us were literally sitting on a fence! This is one of hundreds of examples I hear of this being misused. A couple others are "I was literally rolling on the floor laughing...". This actually could be true, but it very seldom is. Another: "I'm literally starving." No, you're not, and all of the children of Africa who are literally starving resent that remark.


Here is another one that is misused in the church all the time: exponential, when referring to growth or number comparisons etc. Perhaps I should be less hard on this one, because I suppose it could be exaggeration, but it just doesn't seem they mean to exaggerate when I hear people use it. In addition, some actually combine a use of "exponential" with the term "literally"!

Let me explain. If you have even a sixth grade education in math, you know how exponents work. 2 raised to the 2nd power means 2X2, which equals 4. 2 to the 3rd is 2X2X2 which is 8, and on and on. To be fair, there are fraction exponents that are less than 2 but higher than one, but, to keep it simple, we are assuming they are talking about exponents of 2 and higher. So, for a church of 100 people to add 25 people, even 100 people in a weekend is not exponential growth. Exponential growth by a church of 100 would be a minimum of 100X100, or 10,000 new people. See, so it a ridiculous exaggeration to describe growth in terms of exponential. One true example of exponential grown is the early church, where 11 disciples and a few women became the seed to a movement that added thousands every day. That is exponential growth. Doubling a small group is not.

Sorry for being cantankerous. Thanks for your grace.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Teacher Forced to Resign For Questioning

Think Christian has reported on an interesting story about a High School Bible Teacher at NorthPoint Christian school, Kent Dobson, who hosted a show on the Discovery channel that questioned some elements of the Bible.

Dobson, the 31-year-old son of retired Calvary Church pastor Ed Dobson, resigned his post as Bible teacher at NorthPointe Christian High School last week after the school board questioned his role in the March 16 special, “Jesus: The Missing History.”
On the hourlong program, Dobson questioned biblical scholars on possible contradictions between the Gospels and the historical evidence of Jesus’ life. The questions included:

Was Bethlehem Jesus’ birthplace?
Was Jesus a carpenter or a stone mason?
Was Jesus’ eviction of money changers from the temple a political or religious move?
Is there any truth in the Gnostic gospels?
In the program, which is not scheduled for rebroadcast, Dobson does not definitively answer the questions or take a position. He interviews biblical scholars who present evidence that contradicts the Bible.

Here are some excerpts of the program:

The result was a flood of letters/emails from the parents of students at the school calling for action to be taken. The result was a board hearing, and pressure to resign. In the emails was included this little gem:

We understand that this was done with unbelievers and that parts of this were edited.

The part that actually concerns me that as a Christian the Bible was questioned. The Bible is never to be questioned!

Why as a Christian would one place himself in this type of situation where we would actually be questioning the Bible. (Boldness added, but the exclamation point was original)

Sure, we should never question the Bible. In fact, we should never question anything! We should just accept everything we hear as truth and never investigate anything!

Come on. I'm exaggerating to make a point. This really saddens me. Isn't the educational experience supposed to be less about indoctrination and more about competing ideas and viewpoints? Shouldn't we trust high schoolers to think and wrestle with evidence, ideas, and claims? Isn't all truth God's truth?

Suffice it to say, I completely disagree with this decision and think it runs contrary to education, in addition to making Christians look like indoctrinators rather than educators (which is largely true, unfortunately). When I was a Christian educator (as a youth pastor in a church), my goal was to get students thinking, wrestling, and questioning. I wanted students to think for themselves, rather than accept what I tell them and regurgitate it. The latter does not produce good citizens, thinkers, or disciples, but simply status quo, toe the line young people. and, I think as we see more people in their 20's leaving the church than ever before, it should be a sign to us that indoctrination is not working.

But, there are some other factors that come into play. Regardless of how right or wrong any of us think this decision is, it is a private Christian school making the call, funded on the dollars of the tuition paying parents. If the school wanted to require all teachers to shave their heads and grow beards to their waists, they could, right? So, they technically did nothing wrong from a legal standpoint.

In addition, Kent Dobson is apparently enough of a sought after Bible Scholar that it shouldn't be hard for him to get another job. But it is still sad. It means he has to leave all of his students and colleagues. It means he probably will have to move. It means he will have this black mark (if you can call it that) on his record for the rest of his life. I wish him the best. (And, incidentally, I think I've met this guy. He looks so familiar! I've been having a deja vu moment since I watched the clip.)

What is your take on this whole situation?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thoughts On Worship

Some very interesting thoughts, no?