Friday, November 30, 2007

Suck On That, Oh Ye Of Little Faith!

OK...perhaps that's a slight paraphrase.... :)
To all the people who come on my blog and question the validity of my faith, you can put down your pitch forks and flaming torches, because I have concrete proof that I am not a heretic! I took an online quiz that measures "heresy-ness" and I passed, so there! :) To be honest, I don't know what half of the labels below even mean, but the quiz concluded that I am as orthodox as they come....phew! So, no worries!

Are you a heretic?
created with
You scored as Chalcedon compliant

You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Monday, November 26, 2007

The Upside Down Kingdom

Don't let the recent phenomenon of The Da Vinci Code color your interpretation of the title of this book. Brian McLaren's, "The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything," is no fanciful creation of a conspiracy junkie, but a revolutionary exploration of the radical teachings of Jesus and the contexts in which they originally emerged: socially, religiously, politically, and historically and what it means for us today.

McLaren examines how the church throughout history has defended itself against the teachings of Jesus...keeping them at arms length, constructing practical qualifiers and rationalizations to tame the wildness of His message, control its controversial core, neutralize its radical nature and implications, and to "wisen up" its foolishness.

This book explores the multi-dimensional content, contexts, and crux of Jesus' message ("The Kingdom of God is at hand..."), the style in which the message was delivered, and what that message means for our beliefs and strategies for evangelism, social reform, politics, war, church, eschatology, epistemology, and relationships.

Chapter 17: "The Peaceable Kingdom of God" was an absolute Godsend for me because it dealt with the topics of violence and war. I severely wrestle with the validity of war for a Christian, so it was extremely beneficial to explore the various perspectives adhered to throughout our 2,000 year history of faith and the biblical interpretations those perspectives arose from.

I was thoroughly challenged by this book and it's commitment to rediscovering the heart of Jesus' message and finding ways to truly live it out. I HIGHLY recommend this book, especially for group settings, such as book clubs, bible studies or home groups. You may not agree with everything, but you will be forced to reexamine your assumptions and preconceived notions, dig deeper into the scriptures, challenge the prevailing values of the status quo, and ponder the ways in which we are called to live and BUILD Jesus' upside-down kingdom.

Postponed Thankfulness

I haven't been in a "bloggy" mood as of late. I've been dealing with some personal issues, finishing up term papers for school and picking up extra shifts at work in preparation for the holidays. But I did want to give thanks for the myriad of spectacular gifts in my life. So here is the abridged list of the people, things, and situations I am grateful for.

1. A God who is patient, kind, slow to anger, and who embraces doubtful honesty over pretend certainty.

2. My husband, without whom, I would be lying in a ditch somewhere. :) He is the love of my life, who was well worth the wait (13 friggin years!) and who is worth the time, energy, and *fight* it takes to be in a marriage that grows its members closer to each other and God. I love you now and forever!

3. My mother and grandmother. They are my heroes. They sacrificed SO much and did their best in very difficult situations.

4. Good friends.. (you know who you are) I've been really fortunate to form lifelong friendships with unique individuals that stand by me through thick and thin and challenge me to be better.

5. My puppums. They are an entirely different *breed* of companionship, without which, my life would be less fulfilled.

6. Good music. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has challenged me to THINK, QUESTION, and ACT, as well as inspired me to hope, love, understand, and create like the art and language of music. Music possesses the unique ability to stir the soul, exposing all that is there and all that is not.

7. I am thankful for the many mentors over the years that have challenged me to go "farther up and further in" (Chronicles of Narnia fans understand what that means): Uncle Mark, Dante, C.S. Lewis, Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Henri Nouwen, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., etc.

The list could go on forever of all, but since 7 is the number of completion, I'll stop there! And thanks to all the people who come by to visit my crazy blog!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To Emerge or Not To Emerge?

The Emergent Church. It's a diverse movement of Christians that has both been a Godsend to the many questioning the current state and role of "traditional church" and a repellent to many traditionalists wary of open-ended questions, embracing of mystery, and call to change. Some call it a necessary and healthy progression of active faith, reaching out to our very own culture, time, and place. Others deem it a dangerous faction spiraling downward the slippery slope of universalism and moral relativism. The fact is, because The Emergent Church has an affinity for mystery and grey areas, refuses to settle for pat answers concerning the more complex dilemmas of life, encourages questions and ongoing conversations between diverse viewpoints about faith, the bible, and how a Christian should live out his or her life, it is tough to nail down a precise black and white creed of must-have beliefs. This frustrates some and encourages others.

I committed the ultimate critical-thinking sin and listened to the criticism of outsiders of the Emergent Church, before finding out about the Emergent Church from those in it, developing it, and living it. Recently I've interacted with quite a few Emergents and experienced how faithful and committed they are to furthering the kingdom of God and how very similar their beliefs are to my own. That's why I read this book, "An Emergent Manifesto of Hope," to give a fair listen to a group of Christians that yearn to transform the world through the foolishness of the cross: with love, humility, and sacrifice.

Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, two prominent leaders of the Emergent Movement, compiled a variety of short essays on various topics from key leaders in the Emergent community. Contributing writers include: Brian Mclaren, Dan Kimball, Sally Morgenthaler, Will Samson, Tim Keel, Barry Taylor, Samir Selmanovic, Karen Sloan, and Ryan Bolger. Topics covered in this book include: importance of community and relationships, personal experiences of becoming emergent, parenting, postmodernism, existing church and emergent church matrix, social justice, environmentalism, how the biblical ideal of hope translates to today, and biblical interpretation.

One of the main tenets of the Emergent Church is to go out among the people and be the hands and feet of Jesus in one's own community. The old structure of getting the people to come to "church" is scrapped, and Emergents seem to be dedicated to go out to the people, meeting their needs on their turf. The concepts of "missional living," "the Kingdom of God," and "incarnational lifestyles" are cornerstones of the Emergent perspective.

Chapter sixteen: "The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness: Finding our God in the other" is an imperative chapter that expresses some of the fundamental differences between the mindset of traditionalists and emergents concerning the differences between Christianity the religion and the kingdom of God. It gave me MUCH to think about.

Regardless of what conclusions you arrive at about the Emergent Church, give Emergents an honest chance to explain and live out their viewpoint of faith in Christ and what it means to be His follower in the context of the time we live in.

This is a great intro to the Emergent Movement and the various viewpoints within it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Good Morals Only Matter for the Opposing Side

"Hypocrisy: prejudice with a halo."
--Ambrose Bierce

There's been a lot of buzz this week about Pat Robertson, host of the 700 Club, deciding to endorse Rudy Giuliani for President. Now, I like Giuliani and thought he was a superb mayor of NYC and efficiently cleaned up the city. But their is an entire slue of reasons of why I will not be voting for him for President, but alas, that will have to be the topic of another post.

Pat Robertson, whose extreme Zionism, war-mongering, and fire and brimstone antics both scare and embarrass me, is proving my point that Republicanism is TOO intertwined with evangelical Christianity. Even though Giuliani does not line up with any of Robertson's moral agendas (some legit and some bizarre), except possibly bombing some Muslim countries, Robertson is supporting him. This bugs me for a few reasons. Mostly because if Giuliani was a democrat, Robertson would most certainly be publicly praying for lightening to strike him down lest judgment be poured out on us know how that spiel goes. Just imagine one of the democratic candidates had Giuliani's background and political stances: married three times, committed adultery, cross-dressed (which I thought was funny by the way), was pro-choice, believed in gay equality, and gun control. I guarantee Robertson would not only refuse support, but would regularly denounce him.. But fortunately for Robertson's warped sense logic, Giuliani is a Republican, and politically-tarnished evangelical leaders only hold the opposing team (democrats) accountable for their moral faux pas. As Christians, we should extend grace, forgiveness and discretion for both republicans and democrats. But if one is going to take the route moral blasting, then don't be a hypocrite about it, and hold EVERYONE to the SAME standard.

Now, I don't want to see Giuliani's personal affairs dragged out into public and scrutinized, because I don't think it is anyone's business. But political evangelicals are SO willing do it with democrats and yet gloss over members of their own political party. That's why it bugs me. Once again, Christian ideals and principles have been exchanged for the tenets of republicanism by one of the most famous evangelical leaders in the U.S. When will we find a third way?

Article from Fox News on why Robertson chose Giuliani

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Indifference Be Gone!

Indifference. The subtle strangler of passion and creativity. The novocaine that numbs crusades for moral revolution and the pursuit of social justice. The seductive adulterer that defiles our marriage with hope and compassion. Indifference and her sisters, cynicism and complacency, cloud our visions for change and idealism. We live in a world that worships at the altar of indifference. I've knelt before that altar from time to time. I've fallen asleep in the comforts of my freedom. I wrestle with indifference and I'm sure most people do, too, so I thought I'd post some famous quotes on the subject.

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.

--Elie Wiesel

Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man's business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked; ''Am I my brother's keeper?'' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.

Yes, I am my brother's keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality but by the higher duty I owe myself. What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death.

--Eugene V. Debs:

Indifference is the strongest force in the universe. It makes everything it touches meaningless. Love and hate don't stand a chance against it.
--Joan Vinge

First they came for the Jews. I was silent. I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists. I was silent. I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists. I was silent. I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me. There was no one left to speak for me.
--Martin Niemöller

Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
--Paulo Freire

The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.
--Robert M. Hutchins

“Love will find a way. Indifference will find an excuse.”

“The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
--Haile Selassie

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How Do You Interpret The Bible?

"It will greatly help you to understand scripture if you note – not only what is spoken and written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows."

--Miles Coverdale

I would venture to say that there are as many interpretations of the bible as there are readers of the bible. Everyone who reads the bible, interprets it, no matter how "objectively" they approach it. I've never met anyone who holds the EXACT same understanding of the Bible. There are many schools of thought on how to interpret the bible: literally, figuratively, culturally, or historically, (i.e. flawed humans sincerely wrote down a testament to or of God's truth, but still were subject to err). Many readers combine a variety of methods to interpret biblical texts. Even the most staunch literalists admit to figurative aspects of scripture, such as Jesus' parables or instances when makes statements like: "...Drink my blood and eat my flesh..." Obviously Jesus in not literally telling us to drink blood and eat flesh, He's using a metaphor to symbolize the nature of salvation and the importance of His sacrifice.

Lately, I have been reading books written by scholars who hold different views of the bible and how it should be interpreted, from conservative evangelicals all the way to agnostic unbelievers. It's very important to me to challenge my beliefs by honestly listening to the views of others, not just automatically dismissing any notion that runs contrary to my beliefs and assumptions. The latest book I finished reading on the subject of bible interpretation is:

"How To Read The Bible: History, Prophecy, Literature--Why Modern Readers Need To know the Difference and What It Means For Faith Today," written by Steven L. McKenzie, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.

McKenzie explores the notion of genres in the bible. He claims that certain books within the bible are of different genres and therefore have different purposes, contexts, and methods to convey truth. Some are literal, others are figurative, some satirical, others poetic, some prophetic, and others historic. He also elaborates on the ancient concepts of prophecy, history and literature and how they differ from modern understanding. I learned greatly from this book, although I did not agree with many of its conclusions. But the most important thing to be gained from books like these is this: Literalists often accuse nonliteralists (or partly literalists) of not taking the bible seriously or randomly picking and choosing which parts to take literally or not. I am finding that many people who hold alternative views DO indeed take the bible seriously, more seriously than I have, if I am being honest. They take it SO seriously that they have learned the original languages fluently to read and compare the earliest manuscripts of the bible and have mastered the histories and cultures from which bible texts emerged to better understand the context, language, purpose, and style.

Now, that doesn't mean that every conclusion nonliteralists/partly-literalists arrive at is the end all be all, it just means that accusing them of haphazardly picking the parts of the bible that suits their tastes to be taken literally is just not the case. I was guilty of making that accusation as a teenager. Now, I realize there is a very in depth process of sifting through biblical text and uncovering their genre, intent, and meaning. Agree or disagree with the conclusions, but give credit where credit is due. McKenzie, in particular, holds the Bible in VERY HIGH REGARD and asserts that there is nothing wrong with the bible, but only people's understanding of it. The debate is not about IF the bible is truth, but which form truth takes in each book of the Bible. His analysis of the book of Jonah was absolutely astounding. I will forever read the book of Jonah with new eyes because of it.
Strengths: It's thought-provoking and challenging and will introduce you to the world of textual criticisms and biblical interpretation.
Weaknesses: McKenzie, like a true scholar, tends to be a bit tedious and repetitive in explaining textual jargon.

Read, if you dare. :)

"The Bible is a harp with a thousand strings. Play on one to the exclusion of its relationship to the others, and you will develop discord. Play on all of them, keeping them in their places in the divine scale, and you will hear heavenly music all the time."
--William P. White

Sunday, November 4, 2007

When Justice is SO Sweet

"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."

--Jonathon Swift.

This week, the wacko-fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church, pastored by Fred Phelps, lost in court and was ordered to pay up $11 Million dollars to the father of a fallen soldier, who was killed in Iraq. Members of the Topeka Kansas based congregation have traveled around the country for decades protesting concerts, political gatherings, parades, and even other churches. In the last few years they began to get quite a bit of media attention because they started protesting at military funerals. That's right, while parents and loved ones grieved over and buried their dead children, The Westboro church bombarded them with signs and shouts of:

"Thank God For Dead Soldiers"
"God Hates You"
"God Hates Fags"
"God Hates Fag Enablers"
"Thank God for 9/11"
"Don't Worship The Dead"
"God Hates America"
"God Killed Your Children,"
"Thank God for IEDs"

Members of Westboro Baptist identify themselves as 5-point Calvinists (extreme belief in predestination), who "preach," not so people will repent and convert, but to rub in the unstoppable coming judgments of God upon all those who God hates and has destined for hell...

The reasoning, and I use that word loosely, behind these cruel protests is that America is too tolerant of gay people (because we don't stone them) and therefore, if you serve in America's military, God hates you and will judge you by killing you. According to these fanatics, all the victims of 9/11, Katrina, school shootings, and the war all deserve it, and we should be rejoicing in their deaths. So, much for the good news of the gospel, eh? This is without a doubt the most reprehensible and disgusting perversion of the gospel I have ever seen.

And then justice comes in....

One of the fathers who had to endure Westboro's vile protests while burying his son who was killed in Iraq sued them and was awarded 11 million dollars! Obviously, he'll never see all the money, but it will cripple Westboro Baptist and strip them of their resources to conduct their hate-demonstrations around the country. 42 states have passed laws setting a certain number of feet away protests must be held from funeral services as a result of such insensitive, cruel protests. I'm all for free speech, even ugly free speech, but infringing on other people's rights (such as interrupting funeral services) while exercising free speech is unconstitutional and should be restricted.

But alas, overwhelming outcry against the methods and teachings of Westboro Baptist Church do not phase its congregation whatsoever. They use the old "The world hated Jesus, so they will hate us, too" line. So, in their minds, THEY are the victims and the persecuted ones! Not to be crass, but that whole thing about the world hating Christians because they hated Jesus doesn't count if you are being an inhumane douchebag. :) People don't like douchebags either, and that has nothing to do with Jesus.

Below is a segment from 20/20 about the Westboro Baptist Church. The sickest part is the children that are being indoctrinated with this filth.

The video below is Shirley Phelps, daughter of Fred Phelps and avid protester, on Fox News' Hannity and Colmes. For those of you who know me, you are aware that I have HUGE issues with Sean Hannity, but in this case I wanted to give him (and Colmes) a big kiss for denouncing and exposing this FRINGE movement for what it really is....

Shirley Phelps on Hannity and Colmes

Friday, November 2, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr. On War

Most people associate Martin Luther King Jr. with the peaceful civil rights movement, but do not realize that he was an avid protester against the war in Vietnam. So, in one sense, he was a hippie. :) I came across this speech by MLK on the invalidity of war for the christian worldview and it challenged me. It's 22 minutes, but it is a fascinating window into another time and a relevant message in our own time. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What's the Best Way To Combat Abortion?

The following is an interesting column from Sojourner's Magazine, written by J. Christopher LaTondresse, who works in the inner-city streets of D.C., about the underlying factors that contribute to the out of control abortion rate in our country.

Tackling Abortion: The Cruel Connection (by J. Christopher LaTondresse)

There is a cruel link between poverty, race, and abortion in America. Unfortunately, many pro-life advocates fail to meaningfully address this connection.Aside from age (the abortion rate is highest among girls under the age of 15) the most predictable indicator of whether or not a woman will have an abortion is her income level and ethnic background.Before Roe vs. Wade decriminalized the procedure, many American women still had abortions, though the procedure was radically unequal in its accessibility and application. Those with available resources traveled abroad for safe procedures while low-income women relied on dangerous illegal clinics operating in the poorest neighborhoods in America.As someone who lives and works in such neighborhoods in Washington D.C., I can tell you that simply making something illegal does not keep it from happening if there is a serious demand for it – as evidenced by the rampant drug, weapons, and prostitution trades still plaguing these communities.I strongly believe in the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death; that all human beings are created in the image of God and are therefore of immeasurable worth. However, I also believe that we should spend more energy advocating policies that might actually reduce the abortion rate and spend less time challenging a judicial precedent unlikely to be overturned.

This is especially true if criminalizing the procedure does little to reduce the abortion rate and actually puts more lives at risk, as a recent study and the personal experiences of those who have lived and worked in these district neighborhoods much longer than I have would suggest.Tackling poverty, providing healthcare for all low-income women and children (especially for prenatal and postnatal care), reducing teen pregnancy by promoting abstinence and making contraceptives widely available, and increasing the child tax credit for low-income mothers and families—all represent solutions that, as part of an integrated approach, would curb unwanted pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions.

Americans on both sides of the argument have been trapped in an endless debate. Continuing liberal and conservative politicking has failed to meaningfully address the issue. Meanwhile, the abortion rate essentially stays the same.

This tired exercise continued as the entire lineup of Republican presidential hopefuls addressed the Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C., an event co-sponsored by the Family Research Council Action, Focus on the Family Action, and other conservative Christian organizations.

In a room filled with the would-be kingmakers of evangelical politics, the candidates touched on issues ranging from gay marriage to the future of federalism, but the single issue gaining the most traction with the crowd was clear. Candidates hoping to do well with this audience had to address abortion—specifically, offering their best plan to eliminate it once and for all. I was disappointed to hear the same old polarizing terms that have gotten us nowhere in the past 30 years.

Many people agree that the estimated 3,500 abortions taking place in America every day are unfitting for any caring society. Significantly reducing the number of abortions in this country—ideally to zero—should be an urgent moral priority for those of us who take the sanctity of life seriously.As we move into the 2008 presidential election cycle, let's quit demonizing each other and get to work meaningfully addressing the cruel connections underlying America's heartbreaking abortion statistics. The most important debate is not between "pro-life" and "pro-choice," but between those who will continue to be demagogues on this issue and those who will choose to pragmatically work together to save unborn lives.

J. Christopher LaTondresse is the special assistant to the CEO at Sojourners. For the most recent U.S. abortion statistics, visit: U.S. Center for Disease Control.