Showing posts from February, 2015

The Bible Is Biased - Do You Share It Bias?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Most of political and church history has been controlled and written by people on the Right, because they, more than those on the Left, have the access, the power, and the education to write books and get them published. One of the few subversive texts in history, believe it or not, is the Bible! The Bible is most extraordinary because it repeatedly and invariably legitimizes the people on the bottom, and not the people on the top. The rejected son, the barren woman, the sinner, the leper, or the outsider is always the one chosen of God! Please do not take my word on this, check it out. It is rather obvious, but for some reason the obvious needs to be pointed out to us. In every case, we are presented with some form of powerlessness--and from that situation God creates a new kind of power. This is the constant pattern, hidden in plain sight.

So many barren women are mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures that you begin to wonder if there was a problem with t…

The Last Testament of a Beheaded Christian

Image On February 20, 2015 by

The Last Testament of a Beheaded Christian
Brian Zahnd

Christian de Chergé was a French Catholic monk and the Trappist prior of the Tibhirine monastery in Algeria. With the rise of radical Islam in 1993, Father Chergé knew that his life was in danger. But instead of leaving Algeria, Father Chergé chose to stay and continue his witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. On May 24, 1996 Father Chergé was beheaded by Muslim radicals. Anticipating his death, Father Chergé had left a testament with his family to be read upon the event of his murder. The testament in part reads:

“If it should happen one day — and it could be today — that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of a…

The “Bob,” the Byrds, and Our “Back Pages” - A Lenten Anthem?

I’ve been intrigued of late by the reflection entwined in the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s 1964 song “My Back Pages.” Prophet of protest for my generation, the “Bob” marked our national transition to or trauma of what many call postmodernism. It was a time of political sloganeering and intellectual certainty of all sides of what appeared to all as the unraveling of America. Dylan was the poster boy on the left for all this.

Yet, in “My Back Pages,” the “Bob” takes a self-reflective look at what was happening around him and in some measure through him. The title “My Back Pages” signals the mood.The great front-and-center balladeer puts himself on the “back page” where he believes he belongs because, as the song’s refrain has it, he was “older then, but I’m younger than that now.”

The Byrd’s cover of “My Back Pages” is the version of the song most of us know, and, incidentally, was that group’s last hit. Here are its lyrics.

Crimson flames tied through my years
Rollin' high and mighty trappe…

Rob Bell and Oprah aside, marriage wasn’t designed to solve loneliness

Branson Parler02/20/15

In a recent appearance on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday to promote his latest book, The Zimzum of Love,  Rob Bell made remarks on marriage that are causing consternation among some and receiving applause from others. In the interview, the Pastor Emeritus of Mars Hill Bible Church expressed his sentiments that the church is “moments away” from affirming same-sex marriage, following the broader cultural consensus along those lines.

Here’s part of Bell’s rationale for his position: “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness. …Loneliness is not good for the world. And so, whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want somebody to go through life with. It's central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.”

I think he’s right on here. As relational beings who image the Trinitarian God, w…

Alexander Schmemann – Lent is a Time of Slowing Down

February 18, 2015 by 0 Comments

This passage by the renowned Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann resonated with me when I read it recently, an appropriate reflection for Ash Wednesday…
Lent is a Time of Slowing Down
Alexander Schmemann HOW CAN WE KEEP GREAT LENT?
It is obviously impossible for us to go to Church every day. And since we cannot keep the Lent liturgically, the question arises: what is our participation in Lent, how can we spiritually profit by it? The Church calls us to deepen our religious conscience, to increase and strengthen the spiritual contents of our life, to follow her in her pilgrimage towards renewal and rededication to God.

And, last but not least: there must be an effort and a decision to slow down our life, to put in as much quiet, silence, contemplation, meditation.Radio, TV, newspapers, social gatherings—all these things, however excellent and profitable in themselves, must be cut down to a real minimum. Not because they are bad, but b…

How Lent Can Make a Difference in Your Relationship with God?

What is Ash Wednesday? What is Ash Wednesday? For most of my life, I didn’t ask this question, nor did I care about the answer. I, along, with most evangelical Christians in America, didn’t give Ash Wednesday a thought.
But then, in 2004, Ash Wednesday loomed large in American Protestant consciousness. Why? Because on that day Mel Gibson released what was to become his epic blockbuster, The Passion of the Christ. For the first time in history, the phrase “Ash Wednesday” was on the lips of millions of evangelical Christians, not just Catholics and other “high church” Protestants, as we anticipated the official release of The Passion. Every since 2004, many who never wondered about Ash Wednesday have been asking: What is Ash Wednesday? How do we observe it? Why should we observe it?
I grew up with only a vague notion of Ash Wednesday. To me, it was some Catholic holy day that I, as an evangelical Protestant, didn’t have to worry about, thanks be to God. In my view, all of “that religiou…

The God Who Looks Like Us: A Liberating, Male-and-Female, #TrulyHuman Imago Dei

January 22, 2015 | By: Larry Eubanks1 Comment
What do you think?
God is spirit and has no physical form except in the incarnation of Jesus. This truth has led us to understand the imago dei in purely non-physical ways. Being made in the image of God, it is said, means that among the rest of creation only humans have souls.+
Or that humans have free will and can act beyond mere instinct.+
Or that only humans have the capacity to have dominion over the rest of creation.+
Or that humans have an intellectual capacity far above any other animal.+
Or some such.+
While I don’t deny that any or all of these things may be true, I think that when interpreting Genesis 1:26-27, we jump to the spiritual too quickly and miss the most obvious meaning.+
We look like God. Or, perhaps more to the point, God looks like us.+ Elohim looks like a human. He doesn’t look like a bull. The Canaanites envisioned El as a bull, and there is some conjecture that the etymology of name Marduk, the chief Babylonian go…

Pornography Is What the End of the World Looks Like’

Posted on Feb 15, 2015
By Chris Hedges

BOSTON—“Fifty Shades of Grey,” the book and the movie, is a celebration of the sadism that dominates nearly every aspect of American culture and lies at the core of pornography and global capitalism. It glorifies our dehumanization of women. It champions a world devoid of compassion, empathy and love. It eroticizes hypermasculine power that carries out the abuse, degradation, humiliation and torture of women whose personalities have been removed, whose only desire is to debase themselves in the service of male lust. The film, like “American Sniper,” unquestioningly accepts a predatory world where the weak and the vulnerable are objects to exploit while the powerful are narcissistic and violent demigods. It blesses this capitalist hell as natural and good.
“Pornography,” Robert Jensen writes, “is what the end of the world looks like.”

We are blinded by self-destructive fantasy. An array of amusements and spectacles, including TV “reality” shows, huge…

Same-Sex Attraction in Real Life

Posted by Nick Roen

The great evangelical preacher Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “You can be so interested in great theological and intellectual and philosophical problems that you tend to forget that you are going to die.” At the heart of this admonition is, I think, a reminder that ideas and issues and controversies are only relevant as they relate to people, human beings with real lives and real souls.
Nowhere is this reminder more needed in our day than within the Christian conversation regarding same-sex attraction and homosexuality. It is so easy to discuss the “issue” of homosexuality in our culture while forgetting that gay people aren’t simply an “issue” to be sorted out. Furthermore, when we quarantine the conversation to the theoretical realm divorced from the lived experience of folks with SSA, the conversation inevitably becomes blurry, ambiguous, lacking in clarity. This is no knock on philosophy or theory; these things are needed and helpful. But pushing our musings f…

Mardi Gras Is Meaningless without Ash Wednesday

Posted on February 12, 2015 by No Comments » I’m not very good at feasting. That’s not to say I can’t put down a few drinks or eat a lot of rich food. I’m not very good at feasting because I’m not very good at fasting, and I’m even worse at ordinary, everyday eating. Feasting is an art in contrast. We can’t have steak every night or a big bowl of ice cream (at least we shouldn’t). Steak is special because it is not an everyday meal; it is expensive because it is limited (there are only a few steaks per cow.) Ice cream is special because, like cigars, it’s okay to have one every now and then. But as an every-day affair it will kill you.
Still, too often I want steak on Tuesday and ice cream on Wednesday, and while there is a great deal worth celebrating, too much special makes nothing special.

On Tuesday we celebrate Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday. It is a day to feast, but it only makes sense if we follow it by the fast of Ash Wednesday. Without Ash Wednesday, …

The One-Dimensional Humanity of ‘Downton Abbey’

by February 5, 2015
It is a truth universally acknowledged that winter in New England, where I live, can be cold and long and dark. This is why, for the last four Januaries, I have looked forward to the return of Downton Abbeywith the same level of anticipation that I imagine my ancestors brought to the lighting of an oil lamp on winter evenings: a bright spot of warmth and light to ward off the cold, dark night.
The misery outside my window is mitigated by the televised images of attractive people in custom-made Edwardian clothes milling about a beautiful—and massive—English country house in Yorkshire. From inside my climate-controlled 21st century house, I peer at the relics of a way of life, now a century past, that have retreated from memory into fantasy. I’m not alone in my love of costume dramas, generally, and in my fascination with Downton Abbey, specifically. The show has been a critical and commercial smash hit for PBS, a combination unheard of until D…

brief Bible thought: is there resurrection from the dead in the Old Testament?

February 9, 2015 by 0 Comments

Is there resurrection from the dead in the Old Testament?

No. Not really. Well, sort of. O.K., yes, but it depends on how you look at it.

Resurrection is pretty central to the New Testament, in case you haven’t noticed. Yet searching for that kind of resurrection it in the Old Testament makes you come up basically empty-handed.
We do have one lengthy passage, Daniel 12, which is an important text for understanding the development of Jewish faith later in the Second Temple period (in the second century BCE) when “resurrection” of individuals was in the air generally within Judaism (more below).

2 Maccabees is another example of a text from roughly the same period and which mentions the future resurrection of the dead as if no one needs it explained to them (e.g., see 2 Maccabees 7:9)
Neither Isaiah 25:7 (the Lord will “swallow up death forever”) or 26:19 (“Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise”) seem to be “resurrection from the dead” t…

Getting Caught Up In Telling Stories

February 06, 2015 3:38 PM ET
NBC News anchor Brian Williams with his daughter, actress Allison Williams, and his wife Jane Williams at HBO's "Girls" fourth season premiere party in New York. Evan Agostini/AP  A lot of folks are trying to make sense of what would drive Brian Williams, a reporter, the face of NBC news, to make up easily fact-checkable stories about his experiences as a reporter embedded with troops during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. His apology has only made things worse.

He says he made a "mistake." But it just isn't plausible that a mistake of memory could have led him to believe that he'd been in a helicopter shot down over enemy territory. No, he lied about it. The question is, why? Ego? Self-aggrandizement? Trying to make himself seem better, braver, tougher, more experienced than he really is?

I have a slightly different hypothesis: Brian Williams is a storyteller and storytellers can&…

Conflict and Ego

FEB. 6, 2015David Brooks If you read the online versions of newspaper columns you can click over to the reader comments, which are often critical, vituperative and insulting. I’ve found that I can only deal with these comments by following the adage, “Love your enemy.” It’s too psychologically damaging to read these comments as evaluations of my intelligence, morals or professional skill. But if I read them with the (possibly delusional) attitude that these are treasured friends bringing me lovely gifts of perspective, then my eye slides over the insults and I can usually learn something. The key is to get the question of my self-worth out of the way — which is actually possible unless the insulter is really creative. It’s not only newspaper columnists who face this kind of problem. Everybody who is on the Internet is subject to insult, trolling, hating and cruelty. Most of these online assaults are dominance plays. They are attempts by the insulter to assert his or her own superior …

Subhuman or #TrulyHuman? Finding Healing for the Sickness and Death of Sin

I had gone 40 years without ever having the flu. I had this unbelievably great healthy track record of not getting the flu until this year. My wife and I had spent a Saturday afternoon in early January installing a new back splash at my mother-in-law’s house. Our little remodeling project prompted the little arguments and multiple trips to the local hardware store common to most projects we work on together. As we were finishing up, a creeping achiness began to overtake me and when the project was complete, I sat on the floor in the kitchen leaning against the hard cabinet assuming I was just tired. Nope. The flu was just beginning to settle in. My wife and I headed home and within two hours we both were wrapped up in blankets, shivering, coughing, and feverish. With three boys it is hard enough when one of us is sick, but this scenario was worse; we were both sick, with the flu, at the exact same time.+ For the next couple of days I wandered around the house like a nomad. Wrapped …

'American Sniper' Is Almost Too Dumb to Criticize. Almost.

Bradley Cooper in 'American Sniper.' Warner BrosShareTweetShareCommentEmail I saw American Sniper last night, and hated it slightly less than I expected to. Like most Clint Eastwood movies – and I like Clint Eastwood movies for the most part – it's a simple, well-lit little fairy tale with the nutritional value of a fortune cookie that serves up a neatly-arranged helping of cheers and tears for target audiences, and panics at the thought of embracing more than one or two ideas at any time.
It's usually silly to get upset about the self-righteous way Hollywood moviemakers routinely turn serious subjects into baby food. Film-industry people angrily reject the notion that their movies have to be about anything (except things like "character" and "narrative" and "arc," subjects they can talk about endlessly).

This is the same Hollywood culture that turned th…

Ethics and prayer (part 1 of 2)

January 8, 2015 by

If we are faithful in the way we follow Jesus, then our deepest and truest desires will find their expression in godly, counter-cultural, justice-shaped prayers passionately aligned to the kingdom and mission of God. Our best prayers will be ethical prayers.

In this and my next column, I want to explore the relation of ethics to prayer – what’s distinctive about ethical prayer, and how to do it well for maximum effectiveness and social impact.

We all pray, some more intelligently and strategically and often than others.   And we include ethical considerations in our prayers, whether public or private, silent, written or spoken.

We pray for peace in place of conflicts large and small. We pray for the defeat of evil and the triumph of good. We pray for our political leaders, and for electoral and legislative processes. We pray that God will intervene and bless people suffering in the face of natural and human-induced disasters, epidemics, famine and poverty…

Ethics and prayer (part 2 of 2)

Together, the seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) express our restless discontent with the way things are in the world, in our communities, and in our hearts.  They offer a daily rhythm, challenging us to refocus on what matters most, calling us to remember the unfailing goodness and mercy of God.

As German theologian Karl Barth put it, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

The point of the sixth petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” is not so much a call to moral vigilance in the face of threats posed by the pleasures of the flesh but a general call to holiness and godliness.  This is part of the fruit of knowing God’s will – ordering our lives, our passions, our minds, so we can serve God fully and freely as genuine disciples.


Retrieving a Radical Barth: Gorringe's Reading

Posted by Recently I've been reading, marking and inwardly digesting Timothy Gorringe's excellent contextual study, Karl Barth Against Hegemony (New York, Oxford Press, 1999). Copies of this book tend to be pricey, but my wife tracked down a copy -- from somewhere across the pond, I think -- for about $30.

The book, part of the Oxford series Christian Theology in Context that Gorringe edited with Graham Ward, offers a genetic-historical overview of Barth's theological development from his student days to his final dogmatic writings in Das christliche Leben (The Christian Life). Rather than focusing on paradigm shifts in Barth's thought (as Bruce McCormack does, for example), this text book presents Barth's theological work as, on the whole, exhibiting a more or less unified trajectory. In this vein, Gorringe draws heavily, though not uncritically, from the provocative interpretation of Barth proffered in the early 1970s by the German socialist the…