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Friday, March 30, 2007

More Relevant or More Palitable?

My pastor sent this to me.
It's a pretty nice powerpoint that directs the viewer to focus on the goodness of life. It encourages the viewer to open his or her eyes and heart to the wondrous goodness in the world and to realize that the world is, for the most part a good place.

I like it.

It did call me back to the exchange about language. This presentation is free of insider language. Does that make it less religious? Less holy? It might. Goodness is not really a synonym for God. (Although, we have certainly used lesser metaphors.)

Christianity needs some Spring cleaning. We have crusty phrases and rotting ideas gunking up the system. I enjoy presentations like this because they respond to that. Of course, this requires us to examine what is essential. What are we trying to reveal by clearing away the dust and grime?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fred Thompson Not Christian Enough

It turns out you are supposed to pray in the public square. James Dobson says that Fred Thompson is not a good enough Christian for the Christian Right because he doesn't talk about it enough.


I know that Jesus said not to be boastful about your faith. I know that Jesus said it was the son who worked in the field and not the one who said he would work in the field that was the better son. These kind of suggest that faith is about how you act and not what you say. I wonder what James Dobson knows that I don't.

UPDATE: “In his conversation with Mr. Gilgoff, Dr. Dobson was attempting to highlight that to the best of his knowledge, Sen. Thompson hadn’t clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him. Dr. Dobson told Mr. Gilgoff he had never met Sen. Thompson and wasn’t certain that his understanding of the former senator’s religious convictions was accurate. Unfortunately, these qualifiers weren’t reported by Mr. Gilgoff. We were, however, pleased to learn from his spokesperson that Sen. Thompson professes to be a believer."


Fred Thompson paid James Dobson the respect he was due, and now James Dobson will sign off on Fred Thompson for the time being.

Remember that one time when Jesus picked out which of the Romans should serve in the Senate? Oh you don't? Me neither.

What's the difference?

I don't know if anyone is reading, but I think I'll encourage my Sunday School class to post. The question is: What's the difference between Christianity and the Church of the Flying Speghetti Monster, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster.

Here's a news story:


So, what's the difference? FSM is a satire. Is the only difference that people believe in Christianity?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


I just got back from the Learned Hand Luncheon. One of the men honored was Noel Fidel. Appellate Court Judge, and Vice Dean of the Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law.


I took Torts from him my first year of law school. He overheard some students complaining that legal writing was too constraining to allow creativity. The next class he read "Shall I prepare thee to a summer's day?," and remarked, "Fourteen lines, ten syllables each, don't think for a minute that constraining the form constrains creativity." He could have as easily been a professional trumpet player as a lawyer.

Today, after receiving his award he did the standard thanking of people. Then he talked about how reluctantly he came to the law. He said, almost off-handedly it seemed, "I didn't love the law. [mild laughter from the crowd] I know that some do love the law. But I could never love an institution that has brought about so much injustice." Then he provided words of condemnation and warning, reminding us of the horrors brought by the law in this country and abroad. Finally, he turned us to our current national legal tragedy: Immigration. Whatever the answer is, it is not what we're doing now. And like the master he is, he closed quoting these words from Arlo Guthrie:

We died in your hills,
we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river,
we died just the same.

From Deportee

Language: Sensativity or Surrender

I was at a dinner last night and someone cringed at my use of the pejorative, "Old Testament." Proper terminology would be First Testament, or Hebrew Testament. At Chalice, we don't have an Evangelism Committee but a Good News Team. Many churches no longer have Constitutions, but a Design.

Helpful? I'm not sure. I think there are two issue to consider, one is accessibility to the newcomer. The second is using accurate language.

Regarding accessibility, I believe we should avoid church-ese. So, I think it makes sense to say the front of the church instead of the narthax. I suppose program instead of bulletin is fine. And so on. To the extent we rename things to be more accessible great. But sometimes renaming has the opposite affect.

First Testament instead of Old Testament is unfamiliar. The same with Design instead of Constitution. In fact, it is insider language among the insiders. So, we should only adopt this sort of thing if there is another compelling reason.

That would be accuracy. So, I am fully in favor of gender inclusive language. God is not a man or a male. It is foolishly limiting to think of God that way. It is idolatry to make God Almighty into Zeus. So, taking the effort to avoid excessive use of male imagery and pronouns is very important.

On the other hand, calling your constitution a design, is not more accurate. And if you look at the Disciples of Christ's Design, http://www.disciples.org/TheDesign.pdf, it is in fact a constitution. It has a preamble and rights & responsibilities. And Old Testament? Is it derogatory for a book to be old? I don't think so.

And the worst trend of all is to run from words like Salvation, Faith, and Evangelism. I know people have some bad ideas about these words. But we should not stop using the words! When someone asks me, "Are you saved?" I could say, "Yeah, my church doesn't really look at things that way," or I could say, "What do you mean by that? My life has been transformed by my faith, so I think Jesus has saved me from an ordinary and unexamined life. Is that what you mean?"

When push comes to shove, I can live with First Testament and Church Design, but I can't live with giving up making a statement about what Salvation means to us. I can't live with giving up what Faith and Evangelism mean to us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


The book of Jeremiah is full of stuff like this, "'Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,' declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty" [Notice, God doesn't say God will punish them, but their wickedness will punish them. Hmm.]

It's a real downer, and Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. I'm tempted to come to a modern day version of Jeremiah some times. When I see how divided the country has become, even on what is happening. We've created conservative news, and now a few liberal news outlets. There is a conservative version of Wikipedia. There are conservative scientists. And, they are conservative versions. The other folks didn't set out to be liberal, they were doing their jobs and found to be too liberal. How can we fix a country so divided on ideology that it is dividing on facts and objective truths?

I think about too much of the church standing by while Ronald Reagan vilified the poor: Welfare Queens. I think about some of church standing by while Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship with a girl more than a generation his junior. We were wrong to stand by. I was wrong to stand by.

For those who believe Reagan won the Cold War or Clinton created a peaceful and prosperous country, I don't mean you can't support these guys politically. What I mean is, as Christians we should have cried out more at their abuses.

And as we stand so divided, willing to destroy our personal liberties, blame the victims, misuse our scriptures, spend without restraint or concern for those exploited for our benefit and preach hate in our churches, I'm afraid that only something dramatically bad can bring us back. Sometimes abundance brings out the worst in us. I really fear that abundance is about to be taken away. Perhaps that will end up being a good thing. A hard thing, but a good thing.