Sunday, August 2, 2015

Evangelical Christianity’s Love Affair With Ronda Rousey Reveals Its Hypocrisy


Feb 18, 2015; Glendale, CA, USA;  Ronda Rousey talks about her upcoming championship fight during media day for UFC 184 at Glendale Fighting Club. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-221624 ORIG FILE ID:  20150218_gma_aj4_027.jpg

For a while now, I’ve witnessed my Evangelical Christian brothers and sisters bowing at the sacred altar of Ronda Rousey.

I’ve watched them genuflect in reverence at her growing legacy of domination in her field.

I’ve seen their breathless adoration and effusive social media praise as they speak of her now-expected savage dispatch of her latest opponent.

I’ve watched their enthusiastic public invitations to pay-per-view church parties where Rousey and others will do the work of beating and bruising one another into submission.

And this week I’ve once again witnessed their giddy exhilaration in the wake of another of her brutal displays of physical dominance over another woman.

I’m always surprised (and entertained) at how out of character this is for these fanboys and girls, since I know them so very well.

You see, these are many of the same folks who spend the rest of their daily lives as the self-ordained Morality Police; always lifting up the “authority of Scripture” and leveling great consternation and judgment at those whose choices they’ve decided are morally corrupt.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Becoming Personal


“Person” is among the most difficult words in the classical Christian vocabulary. It is difficult on the one hand because the word has a common meaning in modern parlance that is not the same meaning as its classical one. And it is difficult on the other hand even when all of its later meanings and associations are stripped away – because what it seeks to express is simply a very difficult concept.
 Most of what the world understands as “person” is either a description of the “ego” or of a legal concept. But Person (I will capitalize it for use in its classical form) is not at all the same thing as the ego. In the ego, we describe a set of feelings, choices, memory, desires, etc. that are unique. It is, in its most true form, turned in on itself. The ego is “me for myself.”
For many people, when they think of life after death, they imagine some continuation of the ego. Indeed, many of our thoughts about heaven seem problematic precisely because they seem to contradict the needs of the ego.
“Will there be golf in heaven?” The joke begins.
“Well, there’s good news and bad news,” the angel answers. “The good news is that there is indeed golf in heaven and the courses are beyond description. The bad news is that your tee time is tomorrow at two.”
Such jokes could easily be multiplied – for we imagine heaven (and life after death) to be somehow the fulfillment of our desires and wishes. An existence organized around our wishes, desires and memories is not, however, the meaning of Person.
Person is an “organizing principle,” the center around which and by which our existence is defined. But its character is strikingly contrary to the ego.

The Dones, Rob Bell, and the Future of Progressive (and Evangelical) Christianity


Photo: Brett Thatcher, Creative Commons 4.0 via #InstaBLAM
Photo: Brett Thatcher, Creative Commons 4.0 via #InstaBLAM
A few days ago I wrote a piece on my personal blog about “Graduating.”
It was partly a reflection on the story of Rob Bell and how it resonates with my own. It was also about the “Dones” and “post-church” category and how I identify not with the category itself, but with certain elements of the category even as I carve out my own path ahead.

I am “done” – with evangelical church as usual. I’m done with any ministry obligation to that category and identity. I can’t do it anymore, and neither can my family.
In that sense, I am graduating.
That said, there is a flip side to the equation, and one that makes this promotion an emotional and spiritual move up rather than merely an ideological move left. Really, I find myself just as disinterested in being a good progressive as I am in being a good evangelical. This is a moving forward in that strange lane sometimes called the messy middle.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Seven Things You May Think Are True About Christianity But Are NOT.

1.    Jesus is NOT your “personal Lord and Savior.”

He is Lord and Savior but he is not yours. You are his. His mission to reclaim and restore God’s wayward creatures and damaged creation is much bigger than any individual. Better to say that what Jesus is up to is not about us, but we have graciously been included in what he is doing.

2.    You will NOT spend eternity in heaven with God.

Heaven is a way station for whatever happens to us after death. Resurrection to a new body and life together with God on the new earth is our eternal destiny (“life after life after death” as N.T. Wright cleverly puts it”).

3.    You will NOT spend eternity as a quasi-angelic choir member strumming harps and singing praise to God.

Not that God isn’t worthy of praise but he seems more interested in us doing something else: reigning (Rev.22:5). Or in other words, we will spend eternity doing what humans were created to do – represent and reflect God’s character and will and nurturing creation to its full flourishing.

4.    Human beings are NOT billiard balls but molecules.

Though our culture teaches us to think of ourselves as self-contained, self-sufficient beings (billiard ball), Christian faith teaches us that we are like molecules, various elements related in particular ways that make us what we are. We might say that we are our relationships.

5.    Human beings are NOT first and foremost sinners, even forgiven sinners.

That is what we have become. What we are by God’s creation and grace divine image-bearers, which means we are royal priests in his temple-creation. The gospel primarily invites us to take up anew and for the first time this primal dignity and vocation for which the announcement of forgiveness prepares the way.

6.    God does NOT consider creation (physicality, materiality) less important or good than the inner, invisible, non-corporeal part of us we call “spirituality.”

This is Plato not Moses, Jesus, or Paul. And this belief that creation is somehow inferior or even a hindrance to spiritual growth, is extremely destructive. Creation is the “theater of God’s glory” on which humanity plays its role in God’s purpose. Redemption does not diminish or undo creation, rather creation is redeemed as the eternal habitation of God and his people. Creation care is as much about loving God and one another as any other aspect of discipleship. In fact, there is no genuine Christian spirituality that does not prize and draw close to creation.

7.    Evangelism, sharing the “good news” of the gospel, is NOT about how Jesus forgives your sins.

It is about announcing that Jesus has conquered the powers that have damaged, disordered, and derailed God’s creation and plan and restored creature and creation to their creational design. Evangelism is the call and invitation for each of us to embrace what God has done for us in Christ and enlist in his renewal movement today.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Postmodern, Post-Christendom…Postcommuter?

Our culture has once again begun to realize the significance of the local, of place, of being rooted. In contrast,
Enlightenment thinkers subsumed particular “place” to universal “space.” At least this is the argument made by phenomenologists like Martin Heidegger, who believed that Truth could be revealed only by carefully attending to the things and people nearest to us. The philosophical recovery of particularity converged nicely with a late-modern cultural nostalgia for the local, a concept lost amid the big box stores and MacDonaldized franchises now homogenizing every square inch of the United States.[1]
There is increasing evidence in our communities of this “late-modern cultural nostalgia for the local” which I believe is much more than nostalgia, even as we wrestle with conflicting values and structures in its pursuit.[2] As one couple in our Neighbourhood Life missional community reflected, “We’ve learned the importance of proximity especially with our move. It’s really hard to keep up with former neighbours. We need a neighbourhood where you can go for coffee at your neighbours’ in your pajamas.” 


Thursday, July 16, 2015

How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform


It's bad enough that the banks strangled the Dodd-Frank law. Even worse is the way they did it - with a big assist from Congress and the White House.

dodd frank
President Barack Obama signs the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act alongside members of Congress in 2010. ROD LAMKEY JR/AFP/Getty Images
Two years ago, when he signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, President Barack Obama bragged that he'd dealt a crushing blow to the extravagant financial corruption that had caused the global economic crash in 2008. "These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history," the president told an adoring crowd in downtown D.C. on July 21st, 2010. "In history."

This was supposed to be the big one. At 2,300 pages, the new law ostensibly rewrote the rules for Wall Street. It was going to put an end to predatory lending in the mortgage markets, crack down on hidden fees and penalties in credit contracts, and create a powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to safeguard ordinary consumers. Big banks would be banned from gambling with taxpayer money, and a new set of rules would limit speculators from making the kind of crazy-ass bets that cause wild spikes in the price of food and energy. There would be no more AIGs, and the world would never again face a financial apocalypse when a bank like Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.

Most importantly, even if any of that fiendish crap ever did happen again, Dodd-Frank guaranteed we wouldn't be expected to pay for it. "The American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes," Obama promised. "There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period."

Two years later, Dodd-Frank is groaning on its deathbed. The giant reform bill turned out to be like the fish reeled in by Hemingway's Old Man – no sooner caught than set upon by sharks that strip it to nothing long before it ever reaches the shore. In a furious below-the-radar effort at gutting the law – roundly despised by Washington's Wall Street paymasters – a troop of water-carrying Eric Cantor Republicans are speeding nine separate bills through the House, all designed to roll back the few genuinely toothy portions left in Dodd-Frank. With the Quislingian covert assistance of Democrats, both in Congress and in the White House, those bills could pass through the House and the Senate with little or no debate, with simple floor votes – by a process usually reserved for things like the renaming of post offices or a nonbinding resolution celebrating Amelia Earhart's birthday.

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Rethinking the Rethinking of Transcendence


In his recent article “Rethinking Transcendence,” Greg Boyd invites us to reconsider our understanding of divinity in light of God’s self-revelation in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ:
Consider, would it ever occur to anyone to think that God is “above” experiencing things sequentially, or that God is “above” experiencing any kind of change, if they anchored all their reflections about God in the Word who became flesh (Jn 1:14) and who then offered himself up on our behalf? And would it ever occur to anyone to imagine that God is “above” being affected by others and “above” experiencing passionate emotions or suffering if their thinking about God was consistently oriented around the one who suffered humiliation and death at the hands of wicked humans and fallen powers? I, for one, do not see how. The revelation of God on the cross runs directly counter to the divine attributes of the classical philosophical conception of God.
I used to preach along similar lines not too many years ago. I drank deeply at the theological wells of Robert W. Jenson, J├╝rgen Moltmann, and Wolfhart Pannenberg. I learned from them that an irresolvable conflict exists between the God of the Bible and the omnipotent, impassible, immutable deity of hellenistic philosophy. I learned from them that the Church Fathers, the very Fathers who taught us the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation, allowed their philosophical apprehension of divinity to corrupt the clear teaching of the Scriptures. And I learned from them that the right preaching of the Crucified demands that we allow the biblical narrative to inform and radically transform our inherited notions of divinity. We must return to the purity of the gospel. I found it all quite compelling.

But over the past decade I have begun to critically reassess the de-hellenization project. Robert Sokolowski, Herbert McCabe, and David B. Hart have been particularly influential here, as well as my rediscovery of the early books of Eric L. Mascall. And then, of course, there has been my reading of the Church Fathers themselves. In their writings one sees brilliant theologians and preachers struggling to articulate a faithful understanding of the God made known in Jesus Christ. The more I read the Fathers, the less compelling I find the hellenization thesis of Jenson, Moltmann, and Pannenberg. The reality is more complex.