Sunday, November 25, 2007

Just be You

Do you know what doesn't impress people? Talking all spiritual. Seriously, people aren't impressed when we talk about how God led us to do something, at some time, in some way. Especially people who don't see things as we do.

Kinda like "name dropping", it just reflects poorly. It isn't any different when you name drop, oh say... "Jehovah".

i found myself in a very awkward position the other day when a friend arrived at a gathering and started doing this spiritual, name dropping talk. We were mixed with people from all different belief systems whom i try as hard as possible just to be normal around, especially since it's already awkward enough for them that i'm a "pastor". That alone makes people wonder what you think about them.

So when the conversation started turning toward God's divine intervention concerning a job, i began to squirm, because it just sounded, well, loony. i could tell the person was trying very hard to be "a witness" and not to be "ashamed" of their faith, but i was all shades of embarrassed and wanted to go hide under the couch.

Being socially awkward doesn't make for a good "witness". Talking about the voices in your head also is a bit deterring. Let's practice being normal, nice, empathetic, compassionate, good listeners, helpful, loving, available, supportive, encouraging, and level headed. These are attractive behaviors.

The best thing to be is yourself. i learned this lesson from a "They Might Be Giants" song once. Check it out:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christianity without Gimmicks

When did Christianity become an infomercial? Bible Codes, secrets to financial success, health, and gimmicks for raising your kids according to "what the Bible clearly teaches" are all suspect. Truth is, the Bible says very little about raising children. Ancient Near Eastern culture, even in the Bible, typically under appreciates youth. You have fathers offering up their daughters to be raped, maimed, sacrificed or sold into slavery. Not exactly a "how to" manual for "raising up your kids in the way they should go". Mostly, it calls us to give discipline in love and be a model our children can follow.

Let's be careful not to make Christianity into the latest fad or technique. No, it doesn't tell us which herbs to use as medical cures, or who will be president in 2040, or how to pray for specific molecules of the body to bring about divine healing, or why Evangelicals should support anything and everything Israel does, or who the anti-Christ is, or what stocks to choose, movies to watch or music to listen to, candidates to vote for, or any other pet item on our agenda. It does not serve us, but calls us to serve others.

Making a fad or gimmick out of Christianity strikes me like a forwarded e-mail from Microsoft.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

ONE: On The Record


Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. Oscar Wilde

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fulfilled Prophecy

ok, i don't want to say "i told you so", but i did. The end of the Christian political party is at hand. It is now seen for what it has clearly been all along...a duping of Christians by a group who just wants votes. i want to thank Pat Robertson for finally putting the icing on the cake.

i hold no ill will against Pat. But do let me say, i've always openly rejected him as my spokesperson or Jesus' for that matter (and i've got the blogs to prove it).

i do think this is one of the funniest shows since Seinfeld.
Guest Post:

Robertson for Rudy (by Jim Wallis)

Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for president is simply astonishing. Robertson - the television preacher who founded the 700 Club and once ran for president himself - has made opposition to abortion and same sex marriage his political north star and has been a relentless champion of traditional marriage and family values.

Remember Robertson's merciless attacks on President Bill Clinton's lapses of sexual morality with Monica Lewinsky? Or his comments about how the 9/11 attacks were the result of America's tolerance for homosexuals and abortion?

Now Robertson is for Rudy, a thrice married adulterous husband, who is estranged from his own children and is both pro-choice and pro-gay rights. According to Pat Robertson's twisted moral logic, forgiving the social conservative shortcomings of Republicans is a Christian virtue, so long as the same virtue is never applied to Democrats. But Pat thinks Rudy can beat Hillary, and Pat really cares about winning for the Republicans.

What exactly goes on in Pat Robertson's head has puzzled many of us for a long time. This endorsement ranks as one of the most unprincipled in recent political memory. Maybe principles never mattered much to Pat Robertson after all. Perhaps the pro-business economic conservatism of the Republican Party was always more important to the televangelist than saving unborn lives. Robertson's longstanding support of murderous Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and his diamond investments thanks to Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko speak louder than words when it comes to Robertson's ethic of life. And that's not to mention the more than $400 million Robertson's empire made when he sold his International Family Network to Rupert Murdoch, after building it on tax deductible contributions of thousands of CBN donors, many of modest means. He has been putting profits over principles for years.

Richard Land, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, has taken a more consistent position. Land has clearly said that he won't support Giuliani if he becomes the Republican nominee, explaining in a recent Newsweek interview, "I'm not willing or able to violate my moral conscience. It would be like asking an African American to choose between Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, or asking Abe Lincoln to vote for a pro-slavery candidate. I personally can't do it." Land predicts that many social conservatives will just sit out this election if the Republicans decide to run Rudy. That's called standing for principle.

Pat Robertson clearly has taken another position. His endorsement of Rudy Giuliani will seem to many to be unprincipled hypocrisy.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Clean Hands, Dirty Conscience

Something has been bothering me about our faith based initiatives in church. We're doing some good things, like sending Christmas boxes full of useful and playful things to poverty stricken kids overseas. We're collecting non-perishable food for the local soup kitchen. We drop it off, someone delivers it, and everyone feels better. Someone suggested we begin collecting toys for the kids of prisoners. All good stuff.

The problem: No relationship. True social justice occurs when people become equal and enter into relationship with others. This is the same for true "ministry". Here's a good summary of what's happening:

Faith-based nonprofits can too easily be the mirror image of secular organizations, maintaining the same hierarchies of power and separation between rich and poor. They can too easily merely facilitate the exchange of goods and services, putting plenty of professionals in the middle to guarantee that the rich do not have to face the poor and that power does not shift. Rich and poor are kept in separate worlds, and inequality is carefully managed but not dismantled.
When the church becomes a place of brokerage rather than an organic community, she ceases to be alive. She ceases to be something we are, the living bride of Christ. The church becomes a distribution center, a place where the poor come to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get clothed and fed), but no one leaves transformed.
Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Is Jesus too Radical for Christians?

i really enjoyed this post by Greg Boyd

Friday, November 02, 2007

Guest Post: Darfur Update

Last night i watched "The Devil Came on Horseback" which is a documentary of the happenings in Darfur. i am astonished by the worlds inaction. They say that those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it. But what do we make of knowing our history and repeating it anyway?

Broken Promises on Darfur (by Jim Wallis)

One year ago, I worked with Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Commission and others to create Evangelicals for Darfur – an effort to bring evangelicals from across the spectrum together to urge President Bush to take strong action to stop the genocide in Darfur. We ran a national ad campaign and met on several occasions with high White House Africa staff. I wrote that they " assured us of the president's commitment on this issue, and readily agreed that much more needs to be done."

It's a year later, and not much has changed. Ceasefires are announced and then violated, peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebel groups begin and end, U.N. resolutions are passed – but the terror, rapes, and killing goon.

This week, Michael Abramowitz of The Washington Post wrote a long piece on how the U.S. Promises on Darfur Don't Match Actions. His conclusion?

Many of those who have tracked the conflict over the years, including some in his own administration, say Bush has not matched his words with action, allowing initiatives to drop because of inertia or failure to follow up, while proving unable to mobilize either his bureaucracy or the international community.

He documents that, despite the president's strong passion, internal problems of a turnover of top administration staff on Darfur, covert and overt opposition by officials throughout the bureaucracy, and a lack of follow-through on decisions made have prevented stronger action.

Three international factors have also played a role:

Bush has complained privately that his hands are tied on Darfur because, with the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, he cannot be seen as "invading another Muslim country."

Some U.S. officials saw another reason for the reluctance to get involved: preserving a burgeoning intelligence relationship with Khartoum, which had begun sharing critical information about al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists.

The Sudanese government has resisted cooperation at every step in the saga and has been shielded at the United Nations by China, its main international protector.

The biblical injunction we cited in our ad last year still calls us to "rescue those being led away to death." (Proverbs 24:11) The president should put his faith and commitment into action by demanding that the people who work for him stand up to China, press for strong and effective sanctions, and prioritize lives over intelligence information.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Greed: The Fuel of Capitalism

i got into a small debate with my father-in-law concerning politics the other day. He always had his suspicions about me. i've been a bit of a closet swing voter. But little things i've mentioned here-and-there made him wonder about my right wing commitments. Like the time i mentioned in a sermon that we had a biblical mandate to care for the basic needs of the immigrant, legal or illegal...and other little comments like that i guess.

i find that a lot of Christians confuse Capitalism with Christianity. Both words begin with "C" but shouldn't be considered synonyms. In Christianity we see Christ giving all he has for those who didn't even realize they had a need. We then are called to help meet the needs of others whenever possible, in-as-much as it is truly beneficial for them and we have the capability. Capitalism on the other hand gives only out of necessity, to pay its workers only what it needs to make a profit. Profit is the bottom line, while giving is incidental and only done as absolutely necessary to generate profit. Therefore, giving is motivated by greed, which is the fuel of capitalism. It is the best system to date.

My father-in-law says we need to separate the responsibility of the church and the government (which means cut taxes for big business). i agree to an extent, in that we should never fail in our own personal obligations to carry out this task. Yet Scripture records God as judging nations that failed to care adequately for it's people, and sometimes for failing to care for other nations. My question to him was, "When have you ever seen God judge a nation for taking care of it's poor, marginalized, or exploited?"

We can argue all day about whether it's the governments obligation to care for the basic needs of it's people, but you'll be hard pressed to present a case that suggests God would be displeased by it.