Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Poem by Adrian Mitchell

Quite Apart From The Holy Ghost

I remember God as an eccentric millionaire,
Locked in his workshop, beard a cloud of foggy-coloured hair,
Making the stones all different, each flower and disease,
Putting the Laps in Lapland, making China for the Chinese,
Laying down the Lake of Lucerne as smooth as blue-grey lino,
Wearily inventing the appendix and the rhino,
Making the fine fur for the mink, fine women for the fur,
Man’s brain a gun, his heart a bomb, his conscience – a blur.

Christ I can see much better from here,
And Christ upon the Cross is clear.
Jesus is stretched like the skin of a kite
Over the cross, he seems in flight
Sometimes. At times it seems more true
That he is meat nailed up alive and pain all through.
But it’s hard to see Christ for priests. That happens when
A poet engenders generations of advertising men.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Good Thoughts from New Anglican Bishop Todd Hunter

Todd Hunter, recently made a bishop in the new ACNA, was interviewed in this month's issue of Christianity Today. I really liked what he had to say. Here's what I like the most:

I'm working mostly with the de-churched—people who had been in church and had some kind of bad experience. Here's my real vision: I feel I really understand the postmodern, post-Christian angst of the 16- to 29-year-olds. I know people this age who are sleeping with whomever they want and are vaguely spiritual but not sure they want to be religious. I have a vision of them praying the prayer of confession week after week, and me doing spiritual formation with them, not saying, "Bad dog, you can't sleep with him or her," but saying, "Why don't you come to church every week and just pray this prayer, and then come back and see me in a month?"

Some of these people honestly don't know what they can believe. I have a vision of saying to them, "Don't worry about it. I want you to come to church every week for six months. Just say the Creed, and let's connect every few weeks over coffee." And we'll ask, "So, what are you stumbling over?"

I have a vision of liturgy as a tool for evangelism and discipleship, a tool that is grounded in Scripture.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Youth Pastor Parody

This is hilarious. A send up of "hip" styles of ministry. The guy in the video is a youth pastor, but he's an incarnation of the kind of ministry used for all age groups and demographics. Best quote: "The Word of God... is living... and active... it is powerful... it is more... than I... can deal with... at this stage... of my life..." The video offers a pretty concise critique of some of the problems in the consumerist, market-driven, emotionally manipulative, expression of evangelical Christianity today. No prayer lattes for me!

Must read: Mark Galli in Christianity Today

I was floored when I read Mark Galli's recent blog post. Galli is the Senior Managing Editor of Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of the evangelical world. And in a day when most Christians--from pulpit to pew, liberal to conservative--present the religion of Jesus as one mostly about what you do and your self-driven improvement, Galli tells the truth: The Gospel is about what God does, not what we do. And he tells the truth about the widespread myth among Christians that we believers have "something different" about is. Read what Galli says. Think about it. Agree? Disagree? Either way, you have to respond to the points he raises. The future of the church will be largely determined by how people respond to this issue.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Silly Atheists

I've been a reader of outspoken atheist Chris Hitchens for a long time. I actually like his wit and his contrarian spirit. But his atheism is long on self-righteous pride and short on understanding. I have often felt like the Christianity he condemns is nothing like what I understand Christianity to be. The same could be said for the writings of the other Super Atheist out there, Richard Dawkins.

Thomas Hibbs, in a fantastic article in First Things, reviews Terry Eagleton's new book, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate. Eagleton says the views of Dawkins and Hitchins are so similar, you can just lump them together into an entity he calls "Ditchkens."

Here's my favorite part:

From Ditchkens, one would never know that there are forms of Christianity reducible neither to fundamentalism nor to effete Unitarianism. There has been a sustained Christian tradition of scriptural commentary that acknowledges the autonomy of science and is quite self-conscious about its own hermeneutics. Ditchkens reduces God to a sort of Loch Ness Monster for whose existence there is no convincing evidence. As Eagleton clarifies with help from Thomas Aquinas and contemporary interpreters such as Herbert McCabe, God is not the big, bad daddy in the sky, “the largest and most powerful creature.” Neither is theology intended to explain the operations of nature. But it does respond to questions concerning “why there is anything in the first place, or why what we do have is actually intelligible to us.”

Of course, some contemporary Christians are easy targets for Ditchkens. They are not spared Eagleton’s wrath: the comic irrationality of the “young earth” movement; the theological despair of those who care more about securing a religious America than about their own religion; and the advocates of a Gospel of Success that skips Good Friday and turns Easter Sunday into a shopping spree at an upscale mall. By contrast, what Eagleton sees in the gospels are a persistent reminder that the “truth of history” is a “mutilated body” of a “tortured innocent.” There is “no self-fulfillment that is not a self-divestment.”

Basically, Eagleton does two things: he reveals the shallowness of Ditchken's attack on a Christian strawman and, second, he points out why Christians' entanglement with politics and bad theology have exposed themselves to widespread discrediting.

Personally, I long for a day when people can hear the message of Jesus absent hot-button political debates and cultural stereotypes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Money, God, and Kids

I found this little comic strip in the New York Times this morning (an "op-art" piece) quite touching. It's an autobiographical look at how one family copes with the economic pressures of life. There is a lot here to comment on--the reality of suffering, the ways couples fight, playing the "religion card" in arguments, and the sheer terror of not having enough money. Overall, it's a picture of a cruciform life. Most people are fed a theology of glory--whether religious or secular. Work hard, play your cards right, and things will always get better. What the New Testament shows us (and life confirms) is that the real world is cross-shaped. In other words, do your best, and you will be slaughtered. Dark, I know. But the life of Christ and the teaching of the New Testament shows that life only comes through death. As St. Paul said, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." In contrast to this, many Christians have a victory mentality. Theologically, this is called an over-realized eschatology. That is, they don't realize we're still in the in-between time--Christ has reconciled people to God, but the world is still very broken. Victory theology only works in times of plenty. Now, in the midst of this recession, I have a feeling God is turning many theologians of glory into theologians of the cross.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Jesus walks into a bar..."

So, part of my job is running Anchor, a community for people in their 20s and 30s at St. Stephen's Church. This week, we begin a three-week series called Theology on Tap at Pizza Roma. The idea is simple:
1. Meet great people.
2. Get dinner and grab a beer.
3. Hear a great speaker talk about issues of faith and life (this week: the Fabulous Vicar of Grace Anglican Church, Slippery Rock, the Rev. Ethan Magness).
4. Discuss.
5. Go home enlightened.

For those of you in the Pittsburgh area, check out the info here.
See you there!

That'll preach!

The radio show "This American Life" is one of my all-time faves. I subscribe to the free podcast and listen each week. (If you see me walking around, headphones in, laughing to myself, it's probably because I'm listening to the show.) Each week, the host, Ira Glass, picks a topic or theme and then explores it through amazing personal stories and interviews. A recent show, called "The Devil in Me," talked about people battling personal demons. The whole show is worth a listen, but Act Two, "Vox Diaboli," will knock your socks off. Talk about amazing insight into the brokenness of the human condition! As we say at the church where I work, "That'll preach!"
To listen, go here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!

Oct 31 is not only Halloween, but also Reformation Day. Thanks to my friend Jacob for these awesome clips. The first is a cartoon that uses song to tell the story of the Reformation. It begins with the famous hymn written by Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." The second clip adds a so-bad-it's-awesome rap to clips from Luther, the biopic starring Joseph Fiennes.