Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ebony & Ivory

i was as shocked as most last week at seeing Michael Richards (Kramer) go on a terrible rant of racial slurs and threats. i really didn't think there were but a few arrogant people left who thought like that. i know Richards apologized and said he really isn't racist, but i think he's in denial. It would have been better if he had said "i didn't realize i suffered from racism."

Recently i attended a two-day seminar called the "Institute for Healing Racism." My eyes were opened to how differently minorities in America experience life. We did a little exercise where the moderator would say, "If you can look at a magazine rack and be confident you'll see people who look like you on the cover of the magazines, take a step forward. If you can go into a store and easily find a doll for your child who is the same skin color as you, step forward. If you are treated poorly at the check out but can usually be confident that it doesn't have to do with the color of your skin, then step forward..." The only time i didn't step forward was when i reached the other side of the room and a wall stopped me from advancing any further.

There is still a lot of racial tension. i don't often see what i consider to be blatant racism, but i definitely see the effects of it. i work at a locked facility where teens are sent by the court system to be treated for substance abuse problems. There are lots of "expectations" in place to help habilitate kids. One of these expectations sets times for when kids need to be in their rooms with the lights out. Tonight i told a client that he had two minutes to turn out his light (he was already an hour-and-fifteen minutes past time). He immediately gave me attitude, to which i reminded him that he was well passed time and i was actually giving him a couple extra minutes to finish up what he was doing. He continued to give me attitude and made me well aware that he was going to do what he wanted. i was firm, but appropriate. i let the door shut as i left to go on to check the next room. The client interpreted this as "slamming his door" and "disrespecting" him. He then came out of his room and threatened to break my jaw. i was rather baffled by his outrageous response to some expectations he's had to follow for the last few months. It was when he started going off about how "this white guy thinks he's gonna come up in this fu--ing place and tell me what to do", that i began to realize there was something more behind this. Something i've seen a lot, though not usually directed at me.

We still suffer from racism and it's effects. i was reading another blog about Affirmative Action recently. It spoke of how we are deceiving ourselves if we think legislation is the way to deal with the problem of racism. Due to the last vote in Michigan, there is no more Affirmative Action. i voted to keep it in place, but i really didn't know what was best. i do agree though, it is not the answer to healing and equality. This has to happen on a much deeper and personal level. i am glad to see many churches making this a priority, though it has not caught on at a secular or national level (that i've noticed). Maybe the church will be a forerunner in this area.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Seeing through the Fog

i first came across Mark Driscoll on itunes, where the "Desiring God" conference made some video podcasts available. Some of the subjects were relevant, such as missional and relational Christianity. The conference was headed up by John Piper, so i knew that some of these "emerging topics" actually were meant to redirect the emerging movement back to a modern movement that seemed to have a postmodern-Christian edge. i wouldn't go to the conference, but i found some of the short clips useful.

Mark, the pastor of Mars Hill Church Seattle, has recently come to my attention again. As much as he desires to be relevant and conversant with culture, his true identity and intentions as a fundamentalist can't help but to seep through. His latest blogs "Episcopalians and Male Testosterone Show Corresponding Decline" and "Evangelical Leader Quits Amid Allegations of Gay Sex and Drug Use" revealed his real attitude about the relationship between men and women. What he calls a "complimentarian" view is clearly a male "elititiarian" view. He's so stoked on testosterone that he can't see his own biases and superioristic attitude.

i believe there is such a thing as a "complimentarian" view, but Driscoll does not hold it. His teachings and rhetoric reveal something of a much different spirit. Unfortunately, this pastor who teaches others how to interact in a non-offensive manner within secular culture seems unable to keep from seeming abrasive to many a believer in his own congregation. People Against Fundamentalism (a Christian site which seems to have started in response to Mark Driscoll) is organizing a public protest against him for December 3rd.

Rose Swetman, a pastor of vineyard Community Church in Shoreline WA wrote an open letter to Driscoll, confronting his latest comments. It's one thing to hold a view you believe to be biblical, but entirely another to use the bible as a defense for an attitude of superiority and discrimination. Again, i'm not saying the complimentarian view does this. i am saying that many people hold to a view they call the complimentarian view, but it is indeed an elititarian view.

Click here to test your testosterone level:

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Complicated Matter

“Why do you think church people get so tense, so inflexible? I mean, they don’t start out that way.”

“I gave up trying to figure that one out, my friend. What do you think?” he said.

“I guess…I guess they get to feeling like I felt when I blew up at you. I guess they come to religion for some certainty, some clarity, some simplicity. I guess they react when the thing they’re counting on for stability starts shaking them up instead of consoling them, calming them.” This was all dawning on me just as I said it. I went on: “I think a lot of them are afraid, just like I was, and actually, to be fair, they have some legitimate concerns. They’re afraid of heresy and sin creeping into the camp. So they want to keep everything safe, sanitized.”

Neo said, “You’re making a lot of sense today, Dan. Keep talking.”

“It really is a legitimate concern, you know. It’s a real struggle for me, and for my church. How do we remain open and accepting of people, without compromising and condoning sin? We really struggle with that,” I said.

“Thank God you have that struggle,” Neo said, “That’s the kind of struggle every church should have, because it means you’re dealing with real people, real issues. Everyone isn’t just pretending to have it all together.”

Associating with Sinners?

Just before mid-terms i received a mailing which showed a picture of the two MI candidates for governor, Grandholm (dem) and Devos (rep). Above their pictures was the question: Who do you want to be associated with?

Next to Devos’ name: James Dobson (and other “conservatives”)

Next to Granholm’s name: Madonna (and other “liberals”)

i don’t know how Granholm started hanging out with Madonna, but that’s pretty cool. i always thought Granholm to be a bit of a prude. Guess i was wrong.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day liked to point out that he hung out with questionable sorts too. In fact, the folks he hung with gave Madonna a run for her money. Prostitutes, money swindlers, people of different ethnic groups (imagine), untouchables (once he even ate dinner at the home of a leper named Simon), and a bunch of blue collar workers.

Now i don’t know that Granholm rubbed off on Madonna in positive ways, but i do find it uncanny that since they started hanging together Madonna went and adopted a baby boy from Malawi. Now i know you think this was just a publicity stunt, but i don’t think we should be too quick to judge. Celebrities have been doing a lot of good in the world these days. And if Angelina happened to give Madonna a good idea, then good for her for acting on it. i hope we all catch on.

Hey, here’s a Madonna video you probably haven’t seen before. i don’t know what i think about it, but at the very least, it’s interesting. Enjoy (viewer discretion advised [some butt shots]:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Known for Grace?

There's a lot to say about the recent discovery of Ted Haggard's inconsistent lifestyle. i was sorely disappointed by his initial denials. In fact, he denied the allegations so concretely that i truly thought it was a ploy to undermine the proposal for banning civil unions. It certainly "came out" at a questionable time.

i was wrong of course. Well, the timing may have been planned appropriately, yet the allegations held some truth. How much truth doesn't really matter. The fact that there was truth to it at all was enough.

Ted Haggard and his wife both wrote some admirable letters to their church. Ted's letter would have been more admirable if it had come without the initial denials, and even more so if it was of his own initiative, rather than as a response to allegations. i felt Ted did a good job of (now) owning up to his responsibility (he didn't make excuses), and his wife struck me as amazing in her continued support and desire to now continue as an example of living what she believes.

Haggard said this could be used as an opportunity for the Church to demonstrate their grace and forgiveness for the fallen. i think he's right. Yet it made me think about the Church's response to those who do not profess the Christian faith; who feel chastised for their choices, which they live openly.

i believe that Church discipline is always about restoration. Yet i fear that this response may be percieved differently by those outside the Church. Could it possibly look as though the Church likes to talk about grace and forgiveness when their own are caught in hypocrisy, but fail to extend that same mannerism to those outside the Church? Could Christians be viewed as coming down hard on those who are openly gay, but soft on those who hide it and speak out against it? How can the Church demonstrate love, long-suffering, compassion, understanding, and support for those "outside" the Faith? It's important that we not only be seen as loving and forgiving our own. This will serve to add to the perception that we are hypocritical.

Did you know that to those outside the Church it looks bad when we condemn them for their sexual preferences while asking them to view our "fallen heroes" as exceptions and the victims of Satanic attacks that seek to undermine our credibility.

Of course we need to extend grace and seek Ted's restoration. When i say restoration, i am not speaking of his ministerial position, but his integrity, faithfulness, and spiritual wholeness. i am only saying that before we ask the world to show grace and not judge the Church based on these types of incidents, we really must consider why the world feels judged by us.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Changing Worldviews

...Neo stepped away from the projector and walked down an aisle so that he stood in the middle of the lecture hall. [He spoke:] "To really get the impact of how different the medieval model was, we could imagine what would happen if we could take two of you students--let's say you, there, and you, over there-and send you back into the fifteenth century. Nobody could possibly believe that you could be Christians. Of course, first there would be the obvious cultural issues--for example, even a medieval prostitute wouldn't have been seen in public dressed like you"--there was a ripple of laughter here--"and your fine haircut would have made people either laugh at you or fear you were a witch so of some sort"--even more laughter erupted here. "But on a deeper level, if you told them you didn't believe in the pope and you didn't accept that kings ruled by divine right and you didn't believe that God created a universe consisting of concentric spheres of ascending perfection, and if you let it slip that you agreed with Copernicus that the earth rotated around the sun, you would surely be tried as heretics and perhaps burned at the stake."

Neo walked slowly back to the front of the room. There wasn't a sound except for his black leather wing tips scuffing the dusty tile floor. Then he continued, "Now take a moment and let this really sink in. To the Christian culture of medieval Europe, none of you today could be considered real Christians. True, you might say that you believe in Jesus and that you follow the Bible--but that would sound like nonsense to them if at the same time you denied what to them was essential for any reasonable person to accept: the medieval worldview, which was the context for their faith."

"That brings me to an important question for you to think about: Is it possible that we as moderns have similarly intertwined a different but equally contingent worldview with our eternal faith? And another question: What if we live at the end of the modern period, at a time when our modern worldview is crumbling, just as the medieval one began to do in the sixteenth century?"

Taken from McLaren's "A New Kind of Christian"