Friday, November 27, 2015

December 16, 2014

What Psychology Says About Materialism and the Holidays

Six questions for materialism expert Tim Kasser, PhD

Reporters/editors/producers note: The following feature was produced by the American Psychological Association. You may reprint it in its entirety or in part. We only request that you credit APA as the source. We also have a photograph of Kasser for reprinting. 

Would the holidays be the same without some materialism in the mix? In today’s consumer society, what does it mean to be materialistic, and is that necessarily a bad thing? Psychologists have conducted research that has helped answer those questions and many more.

Tim Kasser, PhD

APA recently asked Kasser the following questions:  

APA: What does it mean to be materialistic and why is it generally viewed in a negative light? Why are some people materialistic and others not?

Read more at

Thursday, November 26, 2015

How Do You Tell the Biblical Story? A Proposal

Everything in the life of the church starts, ends, and depends every step of the way on identity, God’s identity. And from that flows the church’s identity.

God’s identity is confirmed in Consummation, adumbrated in Creation, and fully revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.  

1.    In creation, God inaugurated the realization of his dream – a community of humans to call his people and with whom he could live forever in loving fellowship on the creation.

2.    Humanity’s rebellion trashed that dream and put humanity and creation in mortal disarray.

Good established order – rebellious trashed disorder: the original revolution.

3.    The rightful king, now the ruler in exile, begins a counter-revolutionary campaign of reclamation and restoration to subvert what humanity has become and demonstrate what God always wanted.

In reclamation and restoration, God is a subversive counter-revolutionary.

4.    In covenant with Abraham and Sarah God calls them to be his subversive counter-revolutionary people (universal family).

5.    In covenant with Moses God provides the way of life and content of his subversive counter-revolution (demonstrating God’s life intended for humanity).

6.    In covenant with David God promises his own subversive counter-revolutionary rule through a Davidic king forever (divine rule).

7.    In new covenant God promises intimate presence and communion with his people.

Covenant brings and sustains God’s people as a subversive counter-revolutionary movement.

8.    In, with, through, and as Jesus of Nazareth God comes as the subversive counter-revolutionary par excellence announcing and enacting the rule of creations rightful King (God’s Kingdom).

9.    His resurrection is the victory of God’s Kingdom, the dawn of new creation – all things have been set right by him.

10. His followers, filled at Pentecost with his Spirit, continue to be his subversive-counter-revolutionary movement implementing and extending his victory throughout the world and await his return to finally and fully establish God’s Kingdom, the rightful rule of creation’s rightful King.

Jesus embodies and enacts God’s subversive counter-revolutionary activity that reclaims and restores humanity to its primal dignity and vocation, redeems and renews creation, and he returns and ratifies that God has kept all his promises and achieved his creation dream.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Memory, Forgetting, and Hope


A biblical call to remember must be written in the future tense.

Appears in Winter 2015 Issue: Remembering Forward

December 1st, 2015

One of the saddest books of the modern world is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything—not because the plot is heartbreaking (it’s a cookbook) or because it documents the ravages of hunger. What’s sad is that we need it: it’s a cookbook for a society that forgot how to cook.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rites of the Stadium

by Peter J. Leithart 11 . 19 . 15 

Modern sports are not simple competition between the two teams. If they were only about physical competition, games would be shorter, less glitzy, less energetic.
Sports are ritualized events, liturgies. The crowd’s behavior is deliberately intensified with ritual elements – with mascots who emblemize the team, with fight songs that energize and bind the fans into a single singing unit, with the moments of drama like the team’s bursting through the paper barrier as they come onto the field from the lockerrom for the first time, halftime entertainments.
At higher levels, the ritual gets more complex. The Super Bowl is the great annual rite of America’s athletic-military-entertainment complex. The game is integrated into the American dream not only by the singing of the national anthem, but by the F16 flyover. Halftime is extended to make room for popular celebrity singers to perform to raucous crowds. You don’t have to be at the game to participate: You can have your Super Bowl party and enjoy what the live spectators cannot, the Super Bowl commercials.

Read more at:

The Life of Faith, as Best as I Understand It or The Grammar of Faith

          Our relationship to God occurs in at least three grammatical moods. First, is the indicative mood. Faith in this mood is declarative, stating what is true, usually with a fairly high degree of certainty. Fundamentalists of all stripes (right, left, center) can be found here. Intellectual assent is the key virtue in this mood.

          Secondly, we have the imperative mood. Here demand is the main thing. The rules are there and they must be kept. Purity cultures (again, of all stripes) thrive on this imperative mood. Taboo subjects like sex are high profile here. Performance is the key.

          Thirdly, we have the subjunctive mood. Here we find the “perhaps, maybes, hopes, doubts, perplexities” of faith. This is the mood we all live in much of the time if we’re honest. The rough edges and loose ends of life are where this mood thrives. And most of life is lived in this mood. If the first two moods are “summery” where all is bright and clear, the subjunctive mood is more “wintery.” It is a hortatory mood where experience and faith collide as much as or more than they cohere.

          Faith should, I think, be parsed in all three moods. The indicative mood is an anchor, the one or few things we are sure of and tenaciously hang on to. When everything we believe, though, becomes our anchor, we lapse into fundamentalism and deny our experience. The imperative mood expresses the behavioral correlates we consider basic to integrity or faithfulness. Again, these should be few in number with due allowance made for legitimate diversity or e devolve into a purity cult. The subjunctive mood is where we live most of the time, as I said.

          Subjunctive faith is forced upon us by our experience of life as often unpredictable, at times unfathomable, sometimes cruel, seldom fair. Beset by iniquity, inequity, and tragedy, perplexities and doubts cluster around our every attempt to make sense of things. When they threaten to overwhelm us, we hang on to our anchor, the indicative, declarative mood for dear life. Practice of our faith, the imperative, demand mood, often stabilizes us and gives us space to struggle with our doubts and questions.

          This subjunctive mood is where we interface with others. Everyone is in the same subjunctive place we are. This is where our interactions and relationships really hit the road. When we can genuinely inhabit this space, uncomfortable or unpleasant as it may be, we can connect more deeply with those around us. In the subjunctive mood, we listen better, linger longer, and learn more from them. Humanity touches humanity, challenge and change become possible.

          Fundamentalism of either the indicative or imperative moods short circuits this kind of contact. Only with subjunctive relationships with others can we genuinely share our anchors and key behaviors in ways that do shut down communication. We must hold to our anchors and the practices that define and demonstrate who we believe ourselves to be, but we must do this within the shared arena of the subjunctive that gives them their traction.

          Such, as best I can tell, is the life of faith.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Healing Our Blindness


Sunday Night Mourning

As I write, I’m sitting in my living room watching football on a Sunday evening. I just finished eating a meal made with organic tomatoes and peppers we grew in our garden this summer, and now I’m enjoying a craft beer, made not far from my home.

Tonight’s Sunday Night Football game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks begins with a moment of silence to remember the victims of the Paris terrorist attack on Friday night, followed by a slightly altered version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” When the singer reaches the line “gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,” he changes “our” to “your” in a show of solidarity with France. As the song finishes, war helicopters fly over the stadium.

As Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer narrowly avoids a sack, my mind wanders to those around the world who might have a hard time imagining my comfortable existence tonight. Shocked by the violence of Friday night, Parisians are suddenly unsure of whether they can safely walk their streets, go out for dinner, or enjoy live music. Lebanese citizens in Beirut are longing for peace after a suicide attack on Thursday killed over 40 people, while also struggling with their tragedy being overlooked by the world community. Syrians are exhausted by the brutal civil war in their country, abandoning their homes in search of refuge around the world—only to be treated as enemies upon arrival. In contrast to the excitement of American football crowds, Pakistanis hear the sound of aircraft overhead with dread, knowing that an explosion might not be far behind. Kenyans are trying to heal from terrorist attacks in their colleges and malls. Iraqis are caught in a nightmare scenario of spiraling violence, unstable infrastructure, and the deaths of at least 146,000 civilians since 2003. That’s to name only a few, but far too many.

Suddenly my seemingly normal evening seems anything but. Against a backdrop of cheering fans and jubilant announcers, it’s all I can do not to break down in mourning for the state of the world.


Stand with Paris?

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Today in Sydney the Daily Telegraph reported that the ‘merciless’ response promised by President Francois Hollande of France had begun with revenge bombings of cities in Syria. There should be no doubt that non-combatants will suffer in these attacks.

I write this with a profound sense of anxiety and personal misgiving. But I feel like I cannot not write when, as I’ll explain below, it looks to some observers as if the church I love has publicly merged its identity with that of Western capitalist democracy. Almost overnight, we have shucked off the theological practice of over a 1000 years.* At its best, the church has kept a clear distinction between itself and the state; suddenly, we have begun using words like solidarity and phrases ‘standing with Paris’. And I think that somewhere in our Spirit-led rush to the kind of compassion that has marked the church through the ages, we have forgotten that to be pastoral is also always to be theological. 

‘Stand with Paris’

Let me explain by asking this question: what is the problem with the language of ‘stand with Paris’?

Well, firstly, we should ask what this slogan means.

Some Christians say that ‘standing with Paris’ means “compassion… fellow frailty and in-need-of-Jesus-ness” or “blowing up innocent people as an act of terror is wrong and if we can help you we will,” or even, “a promise to pray.”

It seems to me that Christians seem to be the only people in the world who are in any doubt as to the meaning of ‘stand by Paris.’ The Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, had no such confusion: ‘your fight is our fight,’ he declared.

To ‘stand with’ someone is not to empathise with them, walk alongside them, pray with them or simply love them. To ‘stand with’ someone is to join them in their particular struggle and fight. It means to take their side. Ed Stetzer recently wrote, in Christianity Today, a US-based, globally distributed magazine for evangelical Christians: “We are, it is hard to disagree, in what will be a decades-long struggle with radical Islamists.” And when Christians declare that they are on the side of Paris, whilst having offered no similar identification with Beirut or Mosul, we have an enormous problem.