Archive for the ‘Christian living’ Category

ImageOffended by this picture?  Put God and money in the same headline, and you’ll get unwanted attention.  Of course, a chrome-domed financial guru like David Ramsey can take little flack.  Gurus like him assume a fundamental axiom: one’s habits/choices determine one’s financial well being.  Recently, Ramsey posted a list (not of his own making) of the habits of the poor versus the habits of the wealthy.

In reaction, a trio of Bloggers from Her.meneutics (Caryn Rivadeneira, Rachel Marie Stone, and Marlena Graves) denounced his list.  They implied that the list showed a contempt for the poor, did not apply to the third world, and rightly said that it is not easy (and maybe not possible) for the 1st world poor to follow the “rich” people habits.

Rachel Held Evans hit the nail on the head when she wrote:

One need not be a student of logic to observe that Corley and Ramsey have confused correlation with causation here by suggesting that these habits make people rich or poor.

Overall, the fair criticism raised important questions.  Marlena Graves acknowledged in her twitter feed that Ramsey helped people.  RHE did the same in her article.  By far, the best point made was that correlation does not imply causation.  What does mean?  It means that the first time you read that list, you might think that regular gym time will help you get rich.  But what if it’s the other way around?  What if it’s your 85k a year job that provides a nice gym? It’s the one of the building’s first floor.  The one you go to before you commute home elsewhere in Silicon Valley. Also, Marlena Graves is right that many of these habits will simply be impractical for the bus-riding, two-job working, members of society to follow.  Who can encourage their kids to read or volunteer if both parents are working 60+ hours in a week?  What is the point of networking when you have no skills?

But were these strong words as constructive as they could have been?  It’s true that nothing in this list applies outside of the first world.  But was it supposed to?  Ramsey’s niche audience in evangelicalism is the American Middle class.  He can’t be faulted for speaking primarily to their context.  Does the list show contempt for the poor?  Yes, someone who does show contempt for the poor can think these things.  But does everyone who think these things show contempt for the poor?  Finally, it’s a low blow to call Ramsey’s message part of the prosperity Gospel.  I’ll believe that Ramsey is one of them when he says that Jesus’ disciples were rich, sprinkles gold gust from his pulpit, or similar tripe.

Is Dave Ramsey’s fundamental axiom totally wrong?  I worked as teacher’s aide to an “at risk” community.  One day, I learned that many vocational programs at the school were cut.  This cut had a noble intention (“get them all to college!”), but it had the practical effect of denying those students opportunities that were available to their middle class counterparts.  So yes, there are plenty of when outside forces keep the poor, poor, in America.  At the same time (and there’s no delicate way to put this), I listened to 15-17 year old girls talk casually, candidly, and even enthusiastically about how they planned to have a baby -while still in their teens.  Can anyone really deny that this is a poor choice that is indicative of a poor lifestyle?

The most constructive approach is not to attack perceived contempt of the poor.  Neither is it to opine that such a list applies only first worlders.  It certainly is not helpful to hyperbolicly group Ramsey in with people like this:

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Did you budget for those shoes, or is that on your credit card? Stupid Tax! Stupid Tax!

The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to take the best of criticism from RHE and her.menuetics.  We should realize that correlation does not imply causation.  The habits can either help get your rich, or are things you can do when you’re already rich.  Second, take the criticism that some of these are going to be harder to do when your poor *and* that many of these can be done regardless of your net worth.

If we can find habits that people can do regardless of their net worth, than those are quite possibly the ones that should be endorsed.  I won’t go through them all, but here’s a few openers for everyone’s thoughts:

Habit 1: 1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.

If we define “junk food” as sugary snacks, pre-packaged chips, and anything loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, than this is something that does not depend on your net worth.  No matter where you live, you can pass on soda and snickers.  Gambling is very much something that is anyone’s control.   Casinos are designed to separate fools from their money, regardless of the skill or talent of the fool (yes, I realize that poker and other games are exceptions, but these are exceptions); thus it is obvious that avoiding gambling will more likely bring financial success.

Habit 5: 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor.

Does anyone think you must be financially successful before you can make a to-do list?

Habit 13: 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor.

In the her.menutics article, TV was almost lauded as one of the few leisure’s of the poor, which is maybe why they can’t not watch a week long Honey Boo Boo marathon or other poverty porn.  I strongly disagree with this.

The list will go on.  Go ahead and read it and ask: which habits can you do, no matter how much money you have in the bank?

It’s Holy Weekend and I am enjoying myself.

Let me confess something first.  Today on this Holy Saturday I did yoga in the park, brought a latte at indie cafe, and came home to eat a vegetarian, Indian, meal.  None of this appropiate for a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) and is actually more fitting for a WUCNA (White, upper-class, new ager).  I’m still pretty relaxed though, and Yoga is pretty harmless.  Meat before idols and all that.

Last night though, was Good Friday.  I enjoy Good Friday liturgies because they challenge the “think positive” culture that permeates a lot of Christianity.  I feel sometimes that the tragedy of the crucifixion is skipped over so we can get to something nice and happy like the Resurrection.  On the first Good Friday, all the disciples, -sans John- ran scared.  While we can understand people running for their lives, can we really understand well-off, first world Christians, ignoring Jesus’ crucifixion, or treating like a optimistic pre-event for Easter?

When I think about the original Good Friday, and when I think about John watching Jesus die, Peter denying him, and Judas betraying him, it seems to me that feeling “good” at the end of good Friday is probably not appropiate.  It’s like having a tap dance at your grandmother’s funeral.

We love Jesus enough to go to church when it feels happy, hopeful, and optimistic.  Do we love Jesus enough to worship when worship causes us to mourn?

Our liturgy last night was written by members of our church.  There was no sermon and other than the musicians, there was no one “on stage.”  We had several readers who read as the rest of listened.  Here are few standouts:

Father, we are so obsessed with getting that we hardly recognize a gift—even when he stares us in the face. Father, we are so obsessed with going to heaven that we hardly notice that when Jesus calls us, he bids us, “Come and die!” Father, we are so obsessed with the logic of profit and loss that we think that following Jesus is a smart investment. Father, we are so obsessed with upward mobility that we think that Christians are better than other people. Send your Holy Spirit, Father, so that we may hear the word that you speak to us on this Good Friday, so that we may recognize Jesus when we see him—among the outcasts of this world.

Here’s another one:

Reader 5: Jesus proclaims and performs the forgiveness both of sins and of monetary debts, the free gift of mercy and of property, the abandonment of self-centeredness and of self-defense, the exaltation of the humiliated and the humiliation of the exalted, reconciliation with God and with our enemies, love for all those who hate us and wish us harm.

Finally towards the end:

Father, send your Spirit this night to remind us that we, too, are sent to the bad people of this world. Remind us that to find them we need not look down. We need only look to our right or to our left—or into a mirror. Father, send your Spirit this night to remind us that, wherever we stand or sit or lie down, we cannot be separated from the people next to us. Remind us that, despite what we have been trained to believe, we are our neighbors. Remind us, too, that you command us to love them in the way you love us.

Further highlights abound, but the communal prayers spoke more than a hundred sermons.  The message I got out of the whole liturgy was that we repent, recognize Jesus death, and realize that call to Evangelism will probably look like that.  No, this kind of message doesn’t make me feel good.  It doesn’t exactly make me happy.  It doesn’t even make hopeful.  There is no room for positive-think self-help sermons on a night like this, yet it is part of the Gospel.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to Easter.

The kickstarter Documentary <a href=http://givemesexjesus.com/?>Jesus, don’t let me die before I’ve had sex</a> is now fully funded with a day to spare.

Estimated release is mid 2013.  I’m looking forward to it.  Hurrah.

Anyway, I suppose it is worth adding a little bit of personal reflection on this.

I did not date in high school nor to much or my early twenties.  There were a lot of reasons for this, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunity.  It wasn’t even for lack of attention or interest.  It was largely because I didn’t know how.  I did not even know that it was a skill to be learned.

Unfortunately what filled the empty space in my mind was not practical, secular -yes secular– wisdom but fundamentalist folk teaching that was taught to by an amalgamation of church camps and bible bookstore best sellers.  All of it kept the party line of abstinence, seeking God first, praying for your future spouse, and not wasting time dating but courting -whatever the fuck that is.  I feel overall that the teaching was relationships were to be delayed until God brought a spouse to you and that romance was to be disconnected of sexuality.

The church “just guy times”-at least when it came to sexuality and relationships- were pretty much condemnation fests.  There was a lot of emphasis placed on not lusting with your eyes, even though physical attraction was okay.  So basically we were allowed to be physically, but not sexually attracted, to anyone.  Additionally, we were taught, that way-ward women would (as my friend cleverly put it once) “steal our souls with their vaginas.”  Risk and vulnerability were also things to avoid.  A friend of mine once told me that he didn’t want to give his future wife “a scarred up heart.”  Never mind that God still loves a scarred up heart.  Also that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Most of the guys who were teaching us to repent of our sexuality were married and with kids.  I.e. they were “successful.” so most of us clueless 15-18 year old guys believed them.  Sadly, those moral paragons turned out to have feet of clay.  How else can you describe it though when what is alleged to be “biblical teaching” is little more than a social convention? It is  only “right” because of how often it is repeated and taught.  In fact, I’m fairly well read Christian, but I had to read something written by a pyscho-balls atheist woman before coming across a very thoughtful affirmation of male sexuality.

The biggest irony of all this is that most of that dogma actually caused me to sin.  Not that I blame it, per se, but the dogma certainly did not help me with handling relationships very well.  How?  Well getting into a relationship is a little bit like water flowing down a hill.  The evangelical dogma is like a overly complicated system of dams, buckets, and pipes to ensure that the water flows down the hill exactly as its supposed too.  Also, if you’re taught that a “scarred up heart” will fuck-up your relationship with your divinely appointed future spouse, what does that say about every casual date?  In Azusa Pacific’s student newspaper, year’s ago, there was an article written by a girl encouraging (borderline begging?) guys to be more open to casual dating.  On behalf of all guys who didn’t know better, I apologize.

I repented of that behavior in the most literal sense -changing of the mind- long ago.  Things have been a lot better over the last several years.  Specifics will of course, not be listed here.  I am not concerned about the evangelical dogmas these days, although they still show up in blogs like this one.  Now,  some might say, “oh, but if you don’t date the Christian way you’ll never have a nice upstanding Christian girl to marry and put babies into.”  The subtext there is that “Christian” actually means “Evangelical.”  To those nay-sayers I reply that it’s a good thing that I feel comfortable with high-church Protestants, Catholics, and outright pagans.

Thanks for reading.

Hateful preachers are like cassette tapes. Why do people still listen to them?

A few years ago, I criticized Pastor Mark Driscoll’s angry, self-righteous, antics. At the time, I had only read praises of his popularity, and thought I was one of the few critics. Turns out I am far from alone. The entire zeitgeist of Christian blogs is starting to turn on this guy. Examples include Rachel Held Evans and sojouners magazine. Free speech and the internet topple tyrants: whether they rule Middle Eastern countries or Seattle area churches.

Is it over the top to call Driscoll a tyrant?

You can judge it for yourself if you read the story of “Andrew” in part one and part two. Please read through it in its entirety, but here’s the skinny if your in a rush. A young guy named Andrew attended Mars Hill. He became engaged to one of the elder’s daughters, but then fell into sexual sin with another girl. He confessed to his fiance, his small group leader, and others of his own volition. The reaction was not positive. They demanded that he sign and agree to a contract, in which he would have to share -in detail- his sins and was forbidden to date. Andrew felt that this was both invasive, creepy, and voyeuristic. He decided to leave Mars Hill. When he announced this, a letter was circulated to the Mars Hill community, detailing his “lack” of repentance. It detailed instructions on how members of Mars Hill were to treat him. According to Matthew 18:17.

Here is the verse:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But he does not listen to you take one or two more with you so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every face may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. -Matthew 18:15-18 NASB

Now, Driscoll thinks that last verse means that you should shun someone from your community and publicly shame them. I ask you though, how did Jesus treat gentiles and tax collectors?

What makes the Driscoll method of church discipline so horrid is not that it is a bit cult like, but that Andrew was doing the right thing. No, not that he cheated on his fiance and lied about, but that he actually had the courage to come out and confess it. So is this how confession is supposed to work? That we should muster courage to confess, and then become chastised for it?

I’ve already discussed what I think confession could look like for evangelical protestants and why it directs us to what people already want their churches to be. Here though, is the Book of Common Prayer. The church leader responds to someone like Andrew with this statement:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has left power to his Church to absolve all sinnerrs who truly repent and believe in him of his great mercy forgive you all your offense; and by his authority committed to me, I absolve you from all your sins: in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, if a Lutheran minister says something like this after a prayer of public confession:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us and for the sake of the sufferings, death, and resurrection of his dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, fogives us all our sins. As a Minister of the Church of Christ and by his authority, I therefore declare unto you who do truly repent and believe in him, the entire forgiveness of all your sins: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

In both cases, the reference to “authority” is an allusion to Matthew 18:18 (“whatever you bind on earth…”). Leaders, ministers, and lay people are given an “authority.” We are given the authority to represent Christ to penitent sinners like Andrew. How should we represent him?

Andrew confessed his sin. He confessed because the Holy Spirit convicted him. There was no “finding out” and no coercion. He confessed it to the person most hurt by it. He went further confessed it to leaders. Mark Driscoll does not seem to think this enough “true repentance.” Forgiveness must be earned. Sign the fuckin’ contract, or we’ll shame you.

How would you do it?

I will admit, I have heard only a few confessions in my life. Many people reading this have probably heard more. I have never been involved in a addiction recovery group. I am completely ignorant of how church discipline is handled in charismatic circles. Neither am I a pastor or official leader. Of course, you don’t have to be to hear a confession. I’d like to know though, how would you react to Andrew? What is your church’s policy? How would your leaders react to some dark secret a member shared with them?

In closing, I am happy that Andrew had the courage to not only confess, but to leave a church that he felt abused by. That could not have been easy, since he is several states away from home and family. If he ever wants to, he could do what many evangelical diaspora do. He could check out a local Lutheran, Episcopalian, or otherwise “liberal” protestant church.

We’re a pretty fun bunch, actually.

Yes, I am posing this as a question for everyone here to contribute.  However, please understand this is a question of whether Christians debate over Harry Potter, but at this point the question is why?!

We all know what the debate is.  When Harry Potter first became popular concerned parents started wondering if it was the devil’s work because their kids enjoyed it, but did not get it from the Bible book store.  This is a common recurrence.  It is the same semi-fundie to completely fundie mentality that raised issues over things like He-man, Pokemon, The Smurfs (the Smurfs?!), and Dungeons and Dragons.

Is Harry Potter the Devil’s work?  Well, no quite the opposite.  Harry Potter is Christian literature in the same tradition as Tolkien and Lewis, which the concerned parents typically praise!  The debate really should end with this quote from the Christian Post:

J.K. Rowling wrapped up the final book in the seven-volume series, and finally spoke openly in several interviews about her Christian faith.

She went so far as to say she had hesitated to talk about her faith previously because it would have made the series’ conclusion too obvious to discerning readers.

We know the authors intentions now.  That should close things right?  John Granger has also written a few papers on the Christian themes of the Harry Potter series.

In fact, many of the themes are fairly obvious.  A friend of mine once said that if people simply read the books, they’d see the Christian themes in them.  Perhaps though, prejudice and lack of aesthetic sense prevents people from doing so.

Nonetheless, this blog is for readers of Harry Potter who did notice Christians themes in the book.  Share what you saw in the books that were Christian themes.  Re-post it on facebook.  Share with everyone example after example of Christianity in the Harry Potter series because only when the opposition looks silly enough to be silent.  Let everybody know that this debate needs to be closed.  Be as specific as possible, and cite the books if you have them.

One example comes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  While in the forest, Harry Potter sees a figure suck blood from the body of a slain unicorn.  It is one of the first truly scary scenes in the book.  A centaur, Firenze, comes upon the scene after the dark figure has escaped.  Firenze shares this insight with Harry Potter:

“It is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn,” said Firenze.  “only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime.  The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price.  You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.” -Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Immediately after reading this, the first thing that came to my mind was a passage from 1 Corinthians:

Therefore whoever east the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if does not judge the body rightly.  For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.  But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the World. – 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 NASB

This association is reinforced by John Granger’s observation that a unicorn symbolized Christ in medieval artwork.  This was a remarkably subtle connection to the Bible and a passage that is very important to many Christians in high church traditions.

So what did you notice in Harry Potter that struck you as distinctly Christian?  What in the book looked like symbol for Christ or anything else from scripture?  What symbols did Rowling use that the Bible also uses?  The longer conversatinos like this get, the better the position will be.  Please comment as much as you like, and remember to subscribe for future comments and discussion.

In wonderful little book I learned that people often make choices based on their <i>identity.</i>  This leads to the phenomenon of the “Identity Vote” in which a candidate presents themselves as member of a demographic.  The powers of social proof (what we called “peer-pressure” in high school) compel all members of that particular demographic to vote for that candidate.  It works like this: are you a Hispanic?  Vote for the” Hispanic” candidate.  Are you a family orientated?  Vote for the “family” candidate.  Are you an educator?  Vote for the “education” candidate.

And if you are a Christian, vote for the Christian candidate.

This blog seldom discuss politics.  However, I thought I’d break the silence because of election tim.  I am sure that a lot of Christians are busy thinking about who to vote for, so why not?  NPR had a segment on Michelle Bachmann.  The Christian post also covered her Christian views.   Now it is time to see if she matches your identity as a Christian and my identity as a Christian.

Francis Schaeffer seems to be the sticking point on this issue.  Since Bachmann has cited Schaeffer, we should probably look at his views.  Lets figure out what he believes.  In a way this is not a question of just Bachmann, but the entire Christian right in this country.  How then should we live?  Should we live like Schaeffer tells us to?

Schaeffer’s famous book and video series is difficult to sum up.    The series “How Shall we then Live” covers thinkers, artists, and culture from the Roman era to the present.  (feel free to look it up on youtube if you like) He has plenty of good things to say and a few not so good things.  Here are some highlights.  First, secular philosophy is really bad.  Now, this this almost sounds redundant, because the impression from Schaeffer is that philosophy is just what man does when he gets away from the Bible.  For Schaeffer, the influence of philosophy is simply reprobate.  His presents a polar opposition of “humanist” or “Christian.”  If someone begins thinking the wrong way, they’ve been infected by something that leads to humanism.  Thomas Aquinas is his example of this.  Secondly, there is a general tenor of fear in the documentary.  The idea is this, follow (Scheaffer’s) Christianity or descend into chaos and/or elitist dystopianism.  He lists off of a few things that sound like modern conspiracy theories to support this.   Without Christianity we will have non-Christian values imposed on the world or anarchy flowing from excessive freedom.

There are several ways that theologians believes that Christianity relates to the culture around it.  One way is that Christianity must change the culture around it, even if that be via political power.  Schaeffer seems to take that position very seriously.  Schaeffer believes, and presumably Bachmann with him, that Christians must vote their values, and fill as many seats as government as possible.

Schaeffer is Bachmann’s teacher.  He is her Aristotle and she is his Alexander.  So does Bachmann match your Christian identity?  Well ask yourself a few questions.  I will present two.  The first is abstract and theoretical and the second is a little bit more concrete and practical.

First, Is the world polarized into dim-thinking humanists and good clear thinking Christians?  Well have you ever once learned anything from a non-Christian?  I know I have.  So it is hard for me to understand why we should throw people into to binary groups.  In fact this kind of thinking tends to lead towards a “Christian Ghetto” mentality -if you’re not a Christian than you are wrong already.  Conversely, something said by a Christian is right, always.  This doesn’t seem to make sense because Christians have both strongly supported and vigilantly opposed slavery in the 19th century.  Schaeffer’s polarization -which I have noticed in other member’s of the Christian right- is just silly.  It turns any political discussion into ad hominem.  “You’re not a Christian.  You’re against God and the Bible.  Me and my people believe the Bible…”

Besides (and this really needs to be emphasized) Schaeffer is selective in the historical personalities he presents.  He cites Kant, Rosseau, and Hegel as the “bad guys” of the Enlightenment.  He however excludes John Locke and several other Christians who were part of that era and who influenced our modern world in a positive way.  If you not sure how, ask yourself this question: when was the last time there was religious war in the West?  When has anyone been arrested for changing their denomination?  The world is not divided into humanists and Christians.  That’s Schaeffer’s intellectual myopia.  I hope Bachmann understands the history of Christianity and philosophy better.

Here’s another question: Does God need Christian Laws and Christian legislators to work in the world?   There’s a deeper question here: can laws make people good or is God’s grace needed for that?  You probably already believe that God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit are actually required to make people good.  Perhaps God works though laws.  Such a thing might be true, but I have found no Bible verse or good exegesis that tells us that.  Maybe putting our morality into law books is how we honor God.  I am skeptical about this, because it takes a lot of energy to do so.  The collective energy, time, and money, of all Christians might be better spent elsewhere.

This leads us to the question of how the Christianity relates to culture.  The way of Schaeffer, Bachmann and the rest of the Christian right is not the only way.  Christians are not necessarily obligated to try to “take over” lest the barbarians at the gate do so.  Many Christians believe that we simply need to radically separate from a corrupt political culture and reprobate society, while at the same time inspiring it to conversion.  Monastic groups did this.  So did the Amish.  Others, like Luther, said that we must live in a paradox and trust God’s providence to work through worldly means in addition to Christian ones.  E.G., yes we know that we need to love our enemies, but we still have to find a way to stop the Mongols.  The “Christians take over” method is not the only method.

The point of this blog is not to say that Bachmann is insincere or not Christian.  The point is what kind of Christianity is she representing?  Bachmann’s Christian identity is quite dissimilar to my own.  There are many others out there who feel the same way.  We are all Christians, but we are not members of the Christian right.  My hope with this blog is that people will think very carefully about the two questions presented in this blog before they support Bachmann et al merely on the identity vote.  We must all make up our minds and not let preachers and politicians use fear to do it for us.

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“The hope for the world is not in Washington” -Erwin McManus during the 2008 elections

Today is the first week in the season of Lent. A time when Christians prepare ourselves to receive God’s coming as the pilgrims in Jerusalem did on the first “Palm Sunday.” This is a time when people often fast from one thing or another in order to examine conscience.

Here’s an interesting thought, why not deepen one’s spiritual life by giving up political news media? Forty days, isn’t really that long.

It may seem like a strange recommendation, and what fast you choose is always what is best for you. It might be consistent with the Gospel, though. Chaplin Mike at Internet Monk wrote a great piece -that could be good sermon- on “repenting” of the political mindset. This does not mean repenting of being a republican, a democrat, or changing some stance. It means, it seems to me, repenting of the belief that the hope for the world is somehow ‘in’ our often hateful political system.

This is in fact, what a large part of Jesus’ call to discipleship meant. During his time there were plenty of angry, oppressed, Jewish peasantry who had one way or another to get their vision of the world accomplished. Some wanted a violent overthrow of Rome. Others wanted a peaceful co-existence until God vindicated them. Many “sold-out” to Roman political power. A few decided to go off into the wilderness and ignore the “apostates.” To all these people Jesus said, “drop your political agendas, and sign on for the Kingdom of God.” If Jesus was here today, would he encourage us to stay-tuned to Glenn Beck, Rachael Maddow, or even the Daily Show? What if all such is building political towers of babel?

There is a second thing, and this is where it hits me the hardest. I used to enjoy talk radio and political blogs quite a bit. Then, as I grew older I began to realize something. Much of the political talk -and I don’t mean just radio personalities- is … rage porn.. Many pundits exist not to inform you, but to get you angry. Anger is actually addictive, and you’ll probably tune in a bit more for the adrenaline rush. I think this is actually worse when it is on TV because most of your cognitive functions shut down when you’re watching the zombie-glow of the plasma screen. I personally count anger as almost always a sin, and try avoid people who are making me so on purpose.

Most Americans, in my humble opinion, feel that there is something wrong with pundits, sensationalism, and rage-porn. As Christians, we might just have an added call on top of that: abandon your political projects, and sign up with the Kingdom of God.

What steps can Christians take do so this Lenten season?

>Hello again, my fellow Christian Hipsters. Thanks everyone who responded to my previous post on this subject. You make me glad when you post comments. Today, I hope to continue this conversation on the important phenomena of Christian Hipsterism -whether you are at Mosaic, Mars Hill, or any other church.

I’m sure everyone already knows that this is not the first wave of “Christian Cool” or however you want to term it. Years ago, in the sixties and the seventies, there were people who also wanted to be hip, follow Jesus, and avoid the established Christian culture. They too, wanted a more authentic version of Christianity that did not simply mirror the culturally conservative, suburban, nuclear family, consumerist, American life-style.

They were called “Jesus People.”

Now, they Jesus People have cut their hair. They traded their sandals for dress shoes. They have beat their VW vans into SUVs. They now puchase the veggie-tales videos for their kids. They help run Calvary Chapel. The patronize the Christian book stores. They vote republican. In other words, they became the Christian establishment.

So if the previous generation of edgy, Christian cool, eventually another nominally Christian establishment, what will stop the current trend from becoming the same thing? It does not have to be. The mistakes of the past do not need to be repeated.

There is another important question for a good discussion. I can’t put it any words better than Brett McCraken himself. He wonders, have Christian hipsters simply traded one way of conforming to the world for another way of conforming to the world? This is a quote from the end of the Christainity Today Article:

Isn’t Christianity supposed to be distinguishable and set apart from the world? Christian hipsters are rebelling against a mainstream Christianity that they see as too indistinguishable from secular mainstream culture (i.e. consumerist, numbers-driven Fox News-watching, immigrant-hating, SUV-driving), but their corrective may not turn out much better. Some hipster Christianity is as indistinguishable from its secular hipster counterpart as yesterday’s megachurch Christianity was indistinguishable from secular soccer-mom suburbia.

Finally, he puts down an important challenge

The challenge for hipster Christians is to figure out what it means, in their cultural context, to put on a new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). We are new creations, and the old has passed away (2 Cor 5:17). How does that mesh with the Pabst-guzzling, Parliament smoking nonchalant image that seems important to many hipsters?

So here are two questions everyone can answer in the comments:
1) How might the current trend in millennial Christian hipsterism, avoid the mistakes of the baby boomer Christian hipster-ism of the 60s and 70s? Specifically, how do we not simply turn into the next generation of SUV-driving suberbanites?
2) How can we be certain that we are really fulfilling Eph 4:24 and 2 Cor 5:17? How can be certain we are not simply conforming to the sub-cultural values of wider “hipsterisms”?

Thanks for reading… and for commenting!!

>Internetmonk.com has a had a few blogs on individualism lately. There are particurlarly angry words against individualistic autonomy which is rightly contrasted with extremely communal living of some Christian traditions.

As Americans, individualism is the water that we swim in. We might not actually know what it is. If we do know what it is, we are used to praising it. I myself, am a incurable individualist at times. I do not think that individualism is bad per se, but it certainly affects Christianity in the United States. Pictures, however, are worth a thousand words. Here are some images I dug up when googling “Worship.”



Notice a pattern? The images are always of the lone person communing with the God up on high. That individual worships God all by himself, with no one around. Such an emphasis on the individualistic Christian worship is so strong that it was lampooned at Saddleback church

I didn’t stop there. If you have ever been through a Bible bookstore you have also seen images of individualism. Like these:




Like the images of worship, these book covers privilege a spirituality that is “me and God.” It is a belief in sola ego with sola scriptura. The Osteen book even has it in the title: …a better you. Again, individualism shows itself better through images than words can express.

There is also another way to notice individualism in our churches and worship. Listen closely to words used in worship songs. Do they emphasis the singular pronouns (I/me) or the plural pronouns (We/us)? The former emphasizes individualism. For sake of contrast here are the lyrics from two songs. First an old hymn:

A mighty fortress is our God.
A bulwark never failing.
Our helper he a mid the flood,
of mortal ills prevailing.
-A Mighty Fortress

here is a more contemporary song:

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise
-I will Rise by Chris Tomlin

Notice the pronouns I highlighted. The contemporary song uses individualistic language (“I will rise”), while the older hymn uses communal language (“our God”). Also, try reading both of the lyrics as if they were sentences in your second grade English class. If your teacher said “please underline the subject of this sentence,” what would you underline in each of those songs?

Now again, I am not saying that individualism is bad per se, but it does affect American Christianity. This is something we need to be aware of, and evaluate our practices accordingly.

So what do “you” think? 😉

>

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” -Hosea 3:1

Authenticity is a good. The practice of confessing leads us to this and other goals. I think that most Christians would be willing to be a bit more authentic. So what stops this from happening? I suspect this does not happen because there are few who are willing to listen, not because there are few who are willing to speak.

I entitled this blog the “Charity of the Listener (aka the Confessor).” By charity, I do not mean that the listener gives away money or something. I mean it terms of Christian Charity, which is Love that surpasses our conventional thinking of love. Christian Love goes beyond loving what is similar and good in order to love what is alien and ugly. It loves that which normally unloveable. A Biblical example is the symbolic marriage of Hosea to a prostitute. God loves Israel like Hosea loves his wife. God loves that which is alien and ugly, so Christians must be willing to do the same. We have to love sinful people -most of all sinful Christians.

Hearing, and really listening, to someone accuse themselves of sin is an act of Christian charity. It means not responding with judgment and not with quick fixes. However, this act of charity begins long before a friend comes to you and says, “I have sinned.” We need the reputation as the loving listener long before because who would think to come to us otherwise? I have decided that I want to be the kind of Christian who listens. I want to have a reputation of patience and charity. This is reputation that will be hard earned. The first step to do so is to avoid harsh “tough-love” rhetoric. Judging is easy, but graciousness is hard.

Before you think of commenting on what I have said so far, please do this thought experiment with me. Before you start, try to be in a private environment and take a few moments of introspection. If you’re ready, please try this with me: think of one of your worst sins. Think back to a time when you did something or thought something that made you feel ashamed, guilty, and filled with regret. This might be a moment of envy of someone else good blessing. It might also be failure to look out for the needy. Maybe you lost your temper and became hateful. I am not asking you to tell me or anyone else what it is, but think about. Then think about how it made you feel after you realized it was sin.

With that in your heart, imagine meeting a pastor or another Christian who had this to say in a sermon:

Some of you guys are a total joke. I have no respect for you at all. You can’t get a job, keep a job, you can’t keep your hands off a girl, you can’t stop downloading porn… (source)

Or barring that, how about a message like this?

Have you ever thought that there are people who go to hell today that never thought they’d go there? You indulge in your favorite sin…You don’t want to be like God. You just want people to back off when they reprove the thing that you are in love with! (source)

Now do these approaches make you feel like being more open about your sin, or hide it more? If you are anything like most people, these are likely to make you defensive, frustrated, and possibly even a little bitter. If it makes you feel more open, what motivates you to serve God? Fear of reprisal? Guilt? Need for an authority’s approval? How long will such appeals remain effective?

What kind of approach would make you feel comfortable in being open about your sin?

I admit, There was a point in my Christian life were such rhetoric and language really made sense to me. Think though, of how it made you feel. I know I no longer have a positive reaction to this kind of stuff. If I did not have a good reaction to this than likely most other people did not either. I realized that I could not stomach this kind of thing much longer, and decided that I would repent –yes repent– of such behavior and make a conscious effort to do the opposite. I would rather be the kind of person who reminds people of God’s forgiveness, than the one who accuses them of sin.

Christian Charity means a few things. We must put our love and compassion for a sinner above a zealous tendency to renounce sin. We have to replace open contempt with patience. We must drop petty justifications for harboring resentment towards (other) sinners. We must learn to be like God who loves things that are ugly. As God listens the prayers of sinful people, so might he make us able to be listen to them too.

Now it is time for your comments…

…or the start of the series.