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The Sacredness Of Questioning Everything May 30, 2013

sacred cover

The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
– David Dark


         “This book is for everyone who quietly suspects that God is
         a whole lot bigger than the church would have us believe.”
         – Jana Riess


This is a powerful read.  Just powerful.
I’m often challenged.  I’m often stretched.  This book did both, but it did something else as well.  It “convicted” me.  I don’t much care for that word in the religious sense, but I can’t think of a better way to put it.  It made me more deeply consider the ramifications of some of my actions and attitudes.  That’s pretty much always a good thing.

So, yes, this is a book about questions.  It’s a book of questions.  Mostly, it’s a book about the very act of questioning.  We know that, according to the New Testament Gospels, Jesus very frequently answered a question with a question.  He could have always given simple, straight-forward answers, but he knew that “words in tablets of stone” (the preferred method of Pharisees) was not the way to go.  He knew the question itself, was sacred.

David Dark takes us on a wonderful journey as we sacredly question things that many would consider unquestionable.

In chapter one, we dive right into the thick of it with “Questioning God.”
We start with a fictional story of “a tiny town with a tight-knit community,” as we’re introduced to a patriarch, of sorts, named “Uncle Ben.”  Everyone talks about how wonderful Uncle Ben is, but beyond their words, something is definitely off-kilter.
Of course, what we’re really questioning in this chapter is our perception of God, and how that affects everything in our lives.  We see that “any God who is nervous, defensive, or angry in the face of questions is a false god.”  “We mus resist, in word and deed, this God (Nobodaddy) who is no God at all.”

From questioning God, we move to questioning religion.  We gain information from a variety of sources, including REM, C.S. Lewis, Michael Scott, and the children of South Park.  Chapter two helps us understand that “when religion won’t tolerate questions, objections, or differences of opinion and all it can do is threaten excommunication, violence, and hellfire, it has an unfortunate habit of producing some of the most hateful people to ever walk the earth.”

Chapter three questions our offendedness.
Thomas Aquinas, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Stephen Colbert are some of the voices adding to this section.
I remember “back in the day” as they say, how we would frequently use verses from I Corinthians 8, and Romans 14 “against” each other. “You shouldn’t do that, because that offends me!”  Talk about a misuse of scripture.  Of course, we’d give a passing glance to the passages telling us NOT to be easily offended.  But the focus was on controlling the behavior of others.  “If you’re more opposed, for instance, to what we take to be ‘bad language’ and nude scenes and films about gay people than we are to people being blown up, starved to death, deprived of life-saving medicine, or tortured, our offendedness is out of whack.  We have yet to understand the nature of real perversion.”

Questioning our passions in chapter 4, there’s talk of wasting our emotions, and how our affections can become “merely theoretical.”  We look at what real perversion is, and how most of us engage in it.  There’s a nice section on “Antichrist Television Blues,” that tackles “Christian” TV, and “the bad news that sells itself as the good news of escaping the weakness of the failure of your fellow humans by believing the right things and grabbing your copy of hell insurance.”  And we get some advise on how to “discern the difference between the voice in my head and the voice of God.”

Chico Marx helps kick off “Questioning Media” in chapter 5.  The author speaks of “manufactured realities,” and how, “fundamentally, you control the media.”  Very interesting.

The sixth chapter has up questioning language.  “Words fail to do justice to the irreducible complexity of whatever it is we think we’re talking about.”  “There’s nothing that you can say that will mean the same thing once it’s repeated.”

Close on the heals of Questioning Language, is Questioning Interpretations.  “I want to break through the mind-forged manacles that render us incapable of seeing truthfully for fear we might let in the wrong information.”  If someone can’t admit that everything(?) they see, read, hear, etc. is automatically interpreted by them, there’s not much chance of having a real, fruitful conversation.  “Jesus often refused what was in his time the reigning interpretation of scripture.”

Chapter 8: Questioning History.  I’m amazed at how much our history was “sanitized” and “Americanized” when I went to school.  I’ve heard it said that history is written by the winners.  That, itself, helps explain much of the perspective in the Old Testament.  In this chapter we read about, among other things, “Crimes against humanity undertaken in the name of Christ and Manifest Destiny.”  It truly is overwhelming “to try to want to know what I don’t want to know,” rather than being “blissfully ignorant.”  This, of course, isn’t just true of Christians.  It’s true of the “Islamic, Buddhist, Native American, African or Confucian.”

As we, in chapter 9, question governments we discuss faith, violence, civil disobedience, infinite justice, self-justification, war, bloodshed, illegals, enemy combatants, and power structures.  Jesus, Leonard Cohen, Ziggy Marley, Ghandhi, Tolstoy, MLK, and U2 help us open our eyes to the realities of our “allegiance.”  I really like the quote, “Iraqi Christians… publicly pray that American Christians might consider more deeply their understanding of the body of Christ.”

Finally, we question the future.  We look at patriotism, Shakespeare, “No Country for Old Men,” Bono, and (obligatorily) the Biblical book of Revelation.
We come full-circle and again consider the one referred to early in the book as “Nobodaddy.”  “The false god who authorized and underwrites environmental devastation, antipersonnel weapons, and cutthroat economies.

“The Sacredness of Questioning Everything” is packed solid, cover to cover, with valid and, dare I say, vital information.  There’s a lot to think about here.  Not in a scratch-your-head, stare-into-space, let me figure this out kind of way that a book by, oh… say Peter Rollins has.  (A comparison like that is really an “apples to oranges” kind of thing anyway.)  David Dark’s work here is more of a “stare-into-your-own-heart” thing.  This book will help put you on a track deep into your own soul.
All aboard!

– df

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

Quotes:

– People sometimes try to make the Bible seem like a book full of easy answers, but it isn’t.  It’s a bunch of voices from the past that ask us a lot of questions.

– What the pundits call wishy-washiness, the Bible calls repentance.

– We’re mad to think we’ve got hold of truth like nobody else or that we want it more or that our relationship to the Almighty trumps everyone else’s.

– Proclaiming the kingdom of God does not include shouting down anyone who finds your proclamation unconvincing.

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

– When we think of a person primarily as a problem… we’re reducing them to the tiny sphere of our stunted attention span.  There’s always more to a person than we know.”

– Of absolute truth, none of us are knowers.  And we often aren’t especially good with the truth we do know.

– God is not made angry and insecure by an archaeological dig, a scientific discovery, an ancient manuscript, or a good film about homosexual cowboys.

– To label entire populations — or even sections of the globe — as “enemy” is bad theology, and no government that does so can claim to be operating in any mindful way “under” God.

– Your eschatology is what you’re waiting for and where you’re headed or think you’re headed. It cuts to the heart of politics, your religion, your sense of what matters.

– The word of the living God is never less than an ethical summons, a call to take care, to gather up and strengthen the life that remains, to reorder, redeem and remember.

Buy The Book. Click HERE.



 

Lincoln’s Anguish February 11, 2012

You can feel Lincoln’s anguish as he describes the irony of soldiers from North and South killing one another.
“Both read the same Bible,” he said, “and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other.”

Nothing has changed. The culture war being waged at this very moment is a war between Americans who pray to the same God and invoke God’s aid against the other. The fundamentalist Christians pray daily that they will succeed in superimposing their liter biblical view of homosexuality on the nation.
I pray daily that they will fail.

President Lincoln fought that terrible civil war to make things equal for those who suffered inequality; to end bigotry, intolerance, and discrimination.

Have we learned nothing? Will it take another civil war to guarantee the civil rights of all Americans? It will unless we decide that fundamentalist Christianity is a real threat to this democracy and that the only way we can confront that threat without bloodshed, resolve our differences, and reconcile with our fundamentalist neighbors is to rediscover the power of relentless nonviolent resistance demonstrated in the the twentieth century by Gandhi in south African and India and by Martin Luther King, Jr., in America.

[Taken from “Religion Gone Bad” by Mel White. Book review coming later.]

 

God As Idol February 5, 2012



Like the people of Israel who created a golden calf to represent God while Moses way away, fundamentalist Christians have built their own idols to represent God until Jesus returns.  The religion of fundamentalism is idolatry.

The god [they call] to bless [their] antigay campaign is an idol that [they] have created from a string of unrelated biblical verses read literally to sanction their prejudice and consolidate their power.

We’ve seen this demigod before.  The Roman Catholic Church called upon him to bless their bloody inquisitions and crusades.  Fiery frontier preachers called upon him to bless their war against Native Americans.  White Southern Christians called upon him to bless their efforts to preserve slavery and segregation.  White Northern Christians called upon him to bless their efforts to prevent women’s suffrage and obstruct child labor laws.

These same fundamentalists who persecute my brothers and sisters wear bracelets that read “What Would Jesus Do?”  If only they would take that question seriously.
A Christian understands who God is by looking closely at Jesus.  Any lesser god is an idol, and anyone who worships that lesser god is an idolater in God’s eyes.

[Taken from “Religion Gone Bad” by Mel White.]

 

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot July 12, 2011

Anyone offended by the book’s title should remember that Rush made his career out of insults. That is the great irony.
He once told his audience the the Clintons not only had a family cat, they also had a family dog. He then showed a picture of Chelsea.
So no, I have no problem with the title.
As with “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” and “The Truth (With Jokes),” this book is filled with biting sarcasm, laugh-out-loud humor, and lots of verifiable truth that Al’s targets wish you would just ignore.

There is SO VERY much worth reading here.  True stories, insights, and well researched facts delivered in a way that will make you laugh while your stomach turns at the hypocrisy, stupidity, and outright willful deception perpetuated by so many on the masses.

If you only read one Al Franken book, PLEASE read  “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”  That’s the one, thanks to my daughter-in-law, that I started with.  But, if you like that one, and want more “insider information” as to the workings of our political system, and some of our media stars,  Check out “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.”  Don’t let the name fool you.  Not all the truth in this book is that obvious.
— df

Buy the book.  CLICK HERE.

Amazon.com Review:
Rush Limbaugh claims his talent is on loan. With this book, Franken demonstrates that he owns his. The frankly Democratic author’s shtick reminds us how much of a free ride conservatives have gotten in the mainstream media. For instance, he really drives home the weirdness of the conservatives’ preachiness about “family values” in light of Newt Gingrich’s and Bob Dole’s first marriages, and Rush Limbaugh’s first, second and third marriages.
Buy the book.  CLICK HERE

Other Reviews:

I like this book because it is hysterically funny and quite entertaining. Al’s wit is dry and sometimes vicious. I laughed to tears when I read the chapter about Phil Gramm (“I own more guns than I need, but not as many as I want.”)

He lampoons the right wing, and I think he does it well. If you are a conservative with no sense of humor, you will not like this book.

Buy the book.  CLICK HERE

 

Christianity for People Who Don’t Like Christianity July 10, 2011


by Rev. Roger Wolsey.

I’m a Christian. But I probably shouldn’t be. If you’re a young adult in America, you probably shouldn’t be either. The odds are increasingly against it. Few friends who went to high school or college with me, and even fewer of my more recent friends and acquaintances, identify themselves as being Christian. Many of my peers who were raised in the church have shifted away from Christianity toward other religions — or increasingly, to no religion.

A few years ago, the Barna Research Group conducted a study of young people asking them what they think of when they hear the word “Christian.” The top three answers were, “anti-gay,” “exclusive,” and “judgmental.”


If that’s what Christianity were all about, I wouldn’t want any part of it either.

Happily, it isn’t. Over the past 20 years, there has been a growing movement to reclaim Christianity from those who’ve distorted it into something that Jesus and his earliest followers wouldn’t easily recognize — conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism. The movement has emerged on two fronts, roughly simultaneously. One wing comes from the mainline Protestant and Catholic Churches that, due to the shift from modern era mindsets into postmodern ones, have shifted from liberal theology to “progressive” Christianity. The other wing comes from young people within the Evangelical communities who are questioning and redefining their tradition and is known as “emergent” Christianity. Combined, these movements are a new Reformation.

Scholar Dr. Phyllis Tickle asserts that every 500 years, Christianity has experienced such renewal movements. We’re due for another one — and…


Read the rest of this short, really good article. CLICK HERE.


Mr. Wolsey’s book is called
“Kissing Fish: Christianity for People Who Don’t Like Christianity”
and can be purchased HERE.

 

If Grace Is True June 12, 2011

“I’m grateful [God] doesn’t bludgeon us with his truth but leads us there tenderly,
carefully, as we are able to hear it.” – Gulley/Mulholland



I am in whole-hearted agreement with the above statement.
That’s why life is about growth and journey, more than arrival and destination.
Anyway, talk about having my theology stretched!  This book really challenged me.
Honestly, I didn’t expect that.  Not to that degree.
This book has been on my shelf and in my queue for some time now. I planned on getting to it eventually. But because of the “rantings” of a Facebook friend about how good it was, I moved it to the “HEY! READ THIS NOW!” section. (Thanks, Cathy. :-))

Many of the people I know will probably avoid reading this book.  They will avoid reading it because it doesn’t fit their theology.
Those people will be suffering a loss.
This is supposed to be a book about universalism, written by two universalists.   OK.  It is that.  But it’s so much more.  You don’t have to agree with all the theology in this book to be blessed by the insights contained therein. I know, I’ve said that about other books. It’s just that as a former fundamentalist, I know the fear of reading “heresy.”

The authors look at the very nature of God as revealed by Jesus, and personal experience.  There’s a great deal written here about trusting our experience with God.  This contradicts much of the fundamentalist teaching I both received and taught.  They use Peter as a perfect example.  His religion taught him what was “unclean.”  His scriptures taught him what was unclean.  Now, three times, God tells him otherwise.  Peter had to choose between what his “church” and “bible” said, or what his experience with God said.  “Peter relied on his experience.”  So did Paul. Jesus, of course, also quoted scripture, and then basically said, “This is no longer valid.  We’re going in a different direction.” (Matthew 5:38,39) “Jesus challenged slavish devotion to the written word.”

Also addressed is:  How does one “reconcile stories like those of Jesus welcoming the children with stories like those of God commanding the murder of children?” So often, the religious “dance” that’s done to justify this type of contradiction is amazingly ridiculous.   Of course, you can’t usually see that while you’re still dancing. Repeatedly, I was fed the word “balance.”  That’s like balancing the kindness of Mother Teresa with the atrocities of Hitler.
Yeah, balance explains it just fine.

The authors look at how we have viewed what happened on the cross.   At how we’ve turned God into a schizophrenic “good-cop/bad cop.”  About how Jesus had to save us from God.  This is handled in more detail in “He Loves Me,” by Wayne Jacobsen; in “The Misunderstood God,” by Darin Hufford; and in a slightly different way by Brian McLaren in “A New Kind Of Christianity.”

Bottom line, Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”  Any “revelation” of God, in the Bible or out of it, must fit the revelation of God in Christ.  If it doesn’t, well we need to re-examine what we thought we knew.

We also examine (as Rob Bell often does) the nature of salvation.  This aspect of the book, like many in it, were not new teachings or concepts to me.
They just added more “amens” to my understanding of God’s love.
There are, though, some concepts in this book I’m not sure I can accept.  While I agree that “Jesus didn’t die to appease an angry God,” the writers here go a few steps farther than I’m willing to go…
yet.
I’ll let you discover those portions for yourself.
For the record, I don’t consider myself a universalist.  I’m NOT saying it’s wrong, as some might.  I’m just more of an “I-don’t-knowalist.”  I am, however, totally convinced, both from a scriptural and “experiential” viewpoint, there is no place of eternal torment.  (By “experiential,” I mean how I have experienced God.  Not that I’ve died before and seen the other side. Contrary to how I may act, I am not the reincarnation of Barney Fife.)

There is great value here for anyone who is  growing in faith.  Again I would ask people to read this book for what insight they can gain.  Not for that which with they can find fault.  The parts you may not be in agreement with, set them aside.  At least for now.

Buy the book. CLICK HERE.
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Quotes:

Torn between what he’d always been taught and his experience with God, Peter relied on his experience.

God wanted to destroy me, but Jesus had died for me. I found myself wishing God could be more like Jesus.

The Bible was never intended to end the conversation, but to encourage it.

Buy the book. CLICK HERE.

I no longer want anything to do with a god who punishes homosexuals by giving them a terrible disease. I want nothing to do with a god who murders children in order to maintain racial purity. This isn’t the God of Jesus.

Putting the words good and Samaritan together was as galling to the Jews of that day as putting the words homosexual and Christian together is to many today.

Just as fermenting wine causes old leather to rend and tear, my expanding view of God strained the credibility of my childhood theology.

In any culture obsessed with balanced scales, grace will seem blasphemous.

Buy the book. CLICK HERE.

Holiness is God’s ability to confront evil without being defiled. This is what it means to say God is holy — God’s love is incorruptible.

Perfection is not demonstrated by moral purity, but by extravagant love.

In the crucifixion we said no to God, but in the resurrection God rejected our rejection. This is the triumph of grace.

My fear is that if hell exists it will be populated with Christians offended by grace.

Religion that is primarily motivated by heavenly reward is flawed. It is no more admirable than a man who tells a woman he loves her simply to get her into bed.

Buy the book. CLICK HERE.

 

A Million Miles In A Thousand Years May 2, 2010

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My review of Donald Miller’s
“A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life”

.

This is the 4th book I’ve read by Mr. Miller. I’ve learned from all of his books. I found his latest by far his best work since his huge best seller “Blue Like Jazz.”

This book was birthed out of his interaction with Steve Taylor and Ben Pierson, after they approached him about making a movie based on BLJ. Steve and Ben are in much of the book, but there are also many other stories and life experiences.

This book takes a look at what goes into a good story. It looks at what it takes to make an interesting movie. It looks at what it takes to write a interesting book. It looks at what it takes to live an interesting life. Don asks us to look at the story we are in. He asks if we’re living the best stories we can live. He shares many events that are a part of his life, all the while seeing what in those events makes his story, his life, worth sharing. Sharing in a way that will interest others.

Through this process, we’re given many great insights into life. Insights into how our story affects the stories of others. Insights into how our stories are just a small part of the greater story. Of how life isn’t just about “our” story. “I’m just one tree in a story about a forest.” At the same time, each tree matters.

I found this book a very easy read, especially compared to much of the kind of reading I enjoy. But, easy doesn’t mean superficial. It certainly doesn’t mean shallow. There is some deep stuff here. This book is one I recommend. I recommend it for fans of “Blue Like Jazz.” If you’ve never read that one, check it out first. But, this book is also for fans of good story. It’s for fans of learning a little more of what life is all about. And, of course, it’s for fans of Steve Taylor.

To buy the book, or read more about it, Click HERE.
Buy the KINDLE version. Click HERE.
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Some quotes from the book:

“Life has a peculiar feel when you look back on it that it does not have when you’re living it.”

“If you use this dishwashing liquid, people will want to have sex with you.”
(NOTE: You’ll have to read the book for the context.)

“We get robbed of the glory of live because we aren’t capable of remembering how we got here…
you could easily believe life isn’t that big of a deal, that life isn’t staggering…
I think life is staggering and we’re just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given–it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm…just another child being born, just another funeral.”

“But fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living boring lives.”

“She wondered why it mattered if Jesus hung on a cross and died. Since the world went crazy anyway…
‘See,’ she prayed, ‘you created us only to let us march around in our misery. You’re supposed to be good. What are you good for?'”

“You get a feeling when you look back on life that…all God really wants from us [is] to live inside a body he made and enjoy the story and bond with us through the experience.”

“Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.”

“Life itself may be designed to change us, so that we evolve from one kind of person to another.
…humans are alive for the purpose of journey…
the point wasn’t the search but the transformation the search creates.
…we’re designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us.”

To buy the book, or read more about it, Click HERE.
Buy the KINDLE version. Click HERE.
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