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A Generous Orthodoxy March 22, 2012


A Generous Orthodoxy:
Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.


Wow.  That’s one l-o-n-g book title.  But that pretty much tells you the general material that’s covered in the pages of this book.
Rather than rejecting the various branches on the tree of “Christianity,” Brian McLaren looks for the good that each has contributed to our understanding of, and relationship with God.

This, my 5th McLaren book, was hard for me to get into, at first.  I had started to read it many months ago.  I ended up putting it back on the shelf and reading other books instead.  That difficulty was, I’m convinced, due mainly to all the reading before you ever get to “Chapter One.”  There are TWO forwards, an introduction, and what’s called “Chapter 0,” all before you start the first chapter of the book!  Anyway, once I committed to reading it, I found it fascinating, very interesting, and quite educational.

Indeed, Brian is generous in these pages.  Probably more so than I would have been.
That’s a good thing.
He acknowledges this generosity in discussing the “good”, but admits that much could be said regarding the  “bad and the ugly.”
But the focus here is what we can take with us as the journey and growth process continue.
Just as the ancient world emerged from the prehistoric world, and the medieval from the ancient, and the modern from the medieval, we are now emerging from the modern to the post-modern (which will likely be re-named by future generations).

With this emergence comes, as it always has, new understanding; new ways of thinking; new ways of being.  This includes a growth and expansion of how we perceive and relate to God.
When we grow up within a particular religious culture, we tend to believe that what we have is that which has been handed down “since the beginning.”
We have it “right,” and those other branches just missed it somewhere.

Well, this book helps us realize there has been a vast variety of “Christianities” throughout the ages.
The first chapter, titled “The 7 Jesuses I Have Known,” sets the stage for our journey of enlightenment through the potpourri of beliefs held by those who have sought to follow the leading of Christ.

There is rich, nuanced history here, of which I was predominantly unaware. I came away with a new understanding of many of the branches named in the expanded title of this book.
Without doubt, there’s enough bad “sap” in those branches (including those I was involved in) that I would not consider being a part of them, but I have a respect for the good in those traditions, as well as those who engage in them.

“A Generous Orthodoxy” is another great adventure in literature. It’s an exposition of where we’ve been, and a look at where, with God’s grace, we are heading.
– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

——

McLaren has worked to knock down barriers between Christians of different theological backgrounds by preaching that none of us has a handle on the whole truth.  Christianity is much broader than American Evangelicalism. Sometimes this is hard to grasp in a country where Evangelical has become synonymous with Christian.
– Matt Benzing

——

McLaren argues that all of the theological hair splitting misses the core message of Jesus.  I would challenge those like me in the evangelical circles to read this… not to confirm what we already believe… there are lots of books to do that… but to understand arguments outside our collective comfort zone. Whether you adopt McLaren’s conclusions or not, understanding the thought process can be a helpful exercise.
–  Paul Mullen
——

McLaren has given the church a gift- a way to think about theology that actually brings Christians together again, rather than forever splitting into smaller and smaller and smaller groups. Read it and see if you don’t find yourself challenged, taught and humbled.
– Bob Hyatt

Buy the book.  Click HERE.
——

From the back cover:

Whether you find yourself inside, outside, or somewhere on the fringe of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy draws you toward a way of living that looks beyond the “us/them” paradigm to the blessed and ancient paradox of “we.”

————

SOME QUOTES:

* The word God itself was reimagined through the experience of encountering Jesus.

* We’re here on a mission to join God in bringing blessing to our needy world.

* [We must] study not only the history of the church, but also the history of writing the church’s history.

* Anabaptist Christians, not unlike liberal Protestants, find the heart of the gospel in the teaching of Jesus. [They] focus on living out Jesus’ teachings about how we are to conduct our daily lives, especially in relation to our neighbors.

* I had met too many certified tongues-speaking Christians who were consistently dishonest, weird, unhealthy, and mean-spirited. Any understanding of being “Spirit-filled” that didn’t include helping people to become healthy, Christlike, and kind didn’t seem to be worth much.

* Most Christians kind of bottom-line everything to heaven or hell, and that makes life feel kind of cheap.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The Jesus Movement, especially in its early days, was a truly wonderful thing. But all too soon [it] was co-opted. It was to a different Jesus that I was gradually converted.

* Yes, you can follow Jesus without identifying yourself as a Christian.

* Some Protestants seem to let Jesus be Savior, but promote Paul to lord and teacher.

* The emerging church has the potential of being to North American Christianity what Reformation Protestantism was to European Christianity. – Phyllis Tickle

* Jesus needs to be saved from Christians…
Can we trust Jesus to save himself from the mess we’ve made of his name, and in so doing, save Christianity?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Christians are not the end users of the gospel

* Scripture is always a factor, but it is never sola. [It] is always in dialogue with tradition, reason, and experience.

* When the scripture talks about itself, it doesn’t use words like authority, inerrancy, infallibility, revelation, objective, absolute, and literal. Hardly anyone notices the irony of resorting to the authority of extrabiblical words and concepts to justify one’s belief in the Bible’s ultimate authority.

* The Bible is a story, and just because it recounts what happened, that doesn’t mean it tells what should always happen or even what should have happened.

* We must accept the coexistence of different faiths in our world willingly, not begrudgingly.

* We constantly emerge from what we were and are into what we can become – not just as individuals, but as participants in the emerging realities of families, communities, cultures, and worlds.

* To be in this creatio continua, this ongoing and emerging creation, in front of all this beauty and glory, meants that there can be no last word.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.


 

Do One Green Thing March 14, 2012




Do One Green Thing:
Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices
– Mindy Pennybacker

You want to make healthier eating choices.  You know buying organic clothing and fair-trade coffee, along with smarter choices for personal products is a good thing.  You know recycling is good for people and the planet we share.
BUT, it’s just all so overwhelming!  Too many claims.  Too many choices.  Too much research.  And it seems to cost more to “do the right thing.”
So, since you can’t “do it all,” you may feel you’re left with doing nothing.

NOT TRUE!

Too many people (including myself) sometimes get locked in an all-or-nothing mentality.  In “Do One Green Thing,” Mindy Pennybacker shows us how to make one simple choice in a variety of areas of everyday living.  One simple choice that can make a difference.
Plus, she sifts through the information, does the research, and give us the bottom line data we need to make the small changes that make a BIG impact.
She also names Brands and items!  Now, it is easy being green.

This would be a great reference book to keep in your car and take shopping with you.
“Do One Green Thing” is a great and very, very practical book that can help us all be better stewards of God’s gift of creation.

– df

Buy “Do One Green Thing”.  Click HERE.

“One green thing: It’s so simple.  This book takes the pressure off by giving you one easy but effective choice to make in each basic area of your life. And it’s written by a trusted voice in environmental health reporting: Mindy Pennybacker.
– Meryl Streep

“The eco-friendly world is a bitch to navigate.  Do One Green Thing makes it simple, but not simplistic.”
– Donna Bulesco, In Style magazine

“From foreword to index, the succinct book is fewer than 300 pages, but Pennybacker manages to cover a broad range of everyday questions.”
– The Daily Green

Buy “Do One Green Thing”.  Click HERE.

———-

Related Quotes:

“If you think ‘Going Green’ is something new, take a look at your Bible.  There is verse after verse about caring for the environment and all of God’s creation. So, being a good steward over God’s creation is not something new, but instead a responsibility we must all undertake.”
– Kelli Mahoney

“All of God’s creation—nature, animals, and humanity—are inextricably linked to one another. As creation cares for us, we too are called to care for creation and engage in the work of healing and sustaining it. ”
– from the preface of  “The Green Bible.”

Recycling one aluminum can saves enough electricity to power a TV for three hours.

Buy “Do One Green Thing”.  Click HERE.

Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees, 2 barrels of oil,  4,100 kilowatts of energy, 3.2 cubic  yards of landfill space and 60 pounds of air pollution.

If the entire world lived like the average American, we’d need 5 planets to provide enough resources.

Buy “Do One Green Thing”.  Click HERE.

 

Slippery Slope January 31, 2012



THIS IS JUST TOO GOOD TO NOT SHARE WITH AS
MANY PEOPLE AS I CAN.
It’s from the blog of Rachel Held Evans, and I can truly identify.
—————–

They said that if I questioned a 6,000-year-old earth, I would question whether other parts of Scripture should be read scientifically and historically.

They were right. I did.

They said that if I entertained the hope that those without access to the gospel might still be loved and saved by God, I would fall prey to the dangerous idea that God loves everyone, that there is nothing God won’t do to reconcile all things to Himself.

They were right. I have.

They said that if I looked for Jesus beyond the party line, I could end up voting for liberals.

They were right. I do (sometimes).

They said that if I listened to my gay and lesbian neighbors, if I made room for them in my church and in my life, I could let grace get out of hand.

They were right. It has.

They told me that this slippery slope would lead me away from God, that it would bring a swift end to my faith journey, that I’d be lost forever.

But with that one, they were wrong.

————

[Read this rest of this, and other writings by Rachel Held Evans. Click HERE.]

[AND buy and read her wonderful book
“Evolving In Monkey Town.” Click HERE.]

 

A Time To Embrace July 1, 2011

A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics
By William Stacy Johnson

First of all, let me say this is not what I consider a “casual” read. I could easily think of this as a text-book for some introductory college course on politics and religion.  Still, it’s a course worth taking.

At the end, there are 74 pages of end-notes, an index of names, an index of subjects, PLUS an index packed with scripture references!  All in all a well researched and very well documented book.
This book has two major sections, with a number of sub-sections.
The first portion deals with religion. The second covers both law and politics.

Religion:  There are 7 main theological viewpoints concerning same-gender relationships that are presented. Yeah, seven.
With all the “us vs. them” shouting matches going on, we may presume there are only two, diametrically opposed views. This is simply not true. There are those who will say “I only care about ONE viewpoint, and that’s what the BIBLE says!”

The realization from looking at this variety of viewpoints is that they all have some basis in scripture. So one of the best things about this book is that it helps us understand what others believe and why they believe what they do. This is especially important when dealing with opposing views by those whom all believe that they are honoring God.
(Certainly, they are not all actually doing so. Flying planes into buildings, bombing clinics, hanging men because they’re black, defending slavery, burning heretics, beating gay youths to death, and denying others their basic rights have all been done to “honor” God.
I assure you, God was not honored.)
Moving on.

Each of the 7 views discussed are approached from three additional perspectives:  That of Creation, of Reconciliation, and that of Redemption.
Then, each view is also approached in the light of the often quoted Pauline writings to the Romans. Since these texts are frequently brought up in discussions and debates, looking at each view in light of these scriptures is of extreme importance. As the author states, his list of religious views and approaches are not exhaustive, but there is an awful lot of ground covered!
Whatever your view, it’s probably expounded upon here.

This whole section on religion can help foster real discussion, not just debate. Debate rarely changes anyone’s mind, or moves us closer to any kind of unity (not to be confused with “uniformity”).

I’m so very, very tired of people just spouting out dogmatic beliefs while never truly having examined the issues and evidence; both biblical and extra-biblical. Reading this book is a good first step toward better understanding, and better communication.

I will say, Mr. Johnson is far more religious than I am or care to be. His emphasis on baptism is, to me, almost obsessive. But I suppose it is this dedication to tradition that could help his writings be considered by those who may not normally read anything substantive on the issue of marriage equality.

Part Two:  Law and politics.

This is a great “mini-course” on our legal system. We look at a lot of actual case law, and the evolving nature of the laws themselves. Most of us have probably heard of old laws, still on the books, that we laugh at and wonder why they’re still there. From this we should see that laws MUST change and adapt as society changes.

It’s essential here to realize that although some of our founding fathers were theists, this country is not, nor has it ever been, a “Christian” nation.
Nor should it be. This county was born, in part, to get out from under “church” control. Our religious beliefs will certainly influence our political system, but must never control it. (Read “The Myth of a Christian Nation“)

Anyway, we see that a “democracy” is not the same as “majority rule.” In fact, democracy can often be in direct opposition to majority rule. Johnson points out that one of the main functions of a true democracy is to assure that the majority doesn’t “ride roughshod over the rights of the minority.” The courts can, and must at times, go against the wishes of the majority. This should be evident from our own history of slavery, racism, and sexism. Some things should not be simply presented to the masses for a vote.

We learn about how the Supreme Court applies “minimal, intermediate, and strict scrutiny” when deciding issues of equality.  We examine the six basic features of a “deliberative democracy.”
We look at the particulars of both equality and marriage from a strictly legal perspective.  We see that “Marriage in the United States is a civil institution.  There is no requirement in law that marriage be approved by the church or any other religious community.
There is nothing inherent in the structure or content of marriage that should bar gay couples from getting married.”  One interesting side-light is that it was the Protestant church itself that demanded marriage be controlled by the secular state!

This author is more than fair in his discussion.  More so than I would likely be.  He makes it clear that “Pronouncements of mutual condemnation do not help to move us forward.”  This echoes the “elevating the conversation” ideals of people like Andrew Marin or Brian McLaren.  We simply must be able to carry on discussions without yelling at each other.

There is much here from which to learn and grow; and to do so together.
Both pro-gay and anti-gay activists can gain tremendous insights from reading this book.
If you desire dialog; if you desire to understand the various viewpoints instead of just condemning those who have them, you
owe it to yourself and the rest of us to read this book.

There is a time for everything.  Now is the time to embrace.
Embrace God.
Embrace God by embracing equality for all of His children.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

————————————–

Some Quotes:

Remember that a generation ago, Protestant churches were arguing not over gays but over whether divorced persons should be allowed to remarry.

One of the major self-deceptions is the assertion that marriage is an institution that has remained the same for millennia.
This is simply not true.

That the early church did not foresee the full implications of [welcoming] same-gender orientation does not limit that text’s meaning for us today any more that the early church’s inability to foresee the end of slavery or the imperative of equality for women means that we should practice slavery or the subjugation of women today.

Supporting exclusively committed gay unions represents not a departure from our biblical and theological traditions, but rather a deepening of them.

[There are many who] have moral and religious reasons for favoring same-gender marriage.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

Biblical prohibitions were addressed specifically to hedonistic or exploitative forms of sexual conduct… These biblical passages are silent about mutually and exclusively committed same-gender love.

For more than a thousand years, the term “sodomy” applied to any  sexual activity that departed from heterosexual vaginal intercourse.  Thus, oral sex between a man and a woman — even between husbands and wife — was condemned and outlawed as sodomy.
[For a proper biblical definition of sodomy, read Ezekiel 16:48-50 – ed.]

Of all the decisions made in a democracy, these deeply divisive ones are the last ones we should toss out to the electorate at large.

It is not permissible for a majority to eliminate the constitutional rights of a minority.

When religious fundamentalists refuse to deliberate with others because they believe they already have a monopoly on revealed truth, political results that are welcoming to all become impossible.

There is currently no moral screening for heterosexuals before they may procure a marriage license.

The commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” is a commandment that belongs to the species as a whole, not to each individual. (Can I get a “Duh!” – ed.)

American society…appears willing to tolerate, somewhat grudgingly, the existence of lesbians and gay men — provided it does not have to put up with their happiness… [Martha Nussbaum]

Eventually, marriage equality will prevail. [Amen!]

Buy the book. Click HERE.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. [Martin Luther King Jr.]

On October 12, 1998, a twenty-one-year-old gay man named Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die hanging on a fence. Almost all gay men report having been subjected to some form of abuse or intimidation.

 

Sunday Morning Worship May 29, 2011

              

     

                              

                   

        

                           

     

                                      

          What a wildly wonderful world, God!
     You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
          made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
     Send out your Spirit and they spring to life—

               Psalm 104:24,30 (The Message)


 

Think June 17, 2010

Capital Punishment:
A consistent ethic demands that our nation end capital punishment. We should not take life to punish wrongful death. There is no evidence that it deters murder. It is easy to make fatal mistakes, as DNA testing has shown. The death penalty is biased against the poor, who cannot afford adequate legal representation, and is racially disproportionate.
– Sojourners

Gays and Lesbians:
“Regardless of what moral or theological positions churches hold regarding gay and lesbian sexual behavior, all Christians can and should unite around a commitment to defend people’s basic rights. But the church cannot in good conscience take a passive approach to this question. It is, after all, other Christians who often have taken the lead in this thinly disguised but mean-spirited assault on human dignity. Biblically based Christians who operate out of a more loving and compassionate framework must meet the challenge head-on and forcefully oppose homophobia.
– When Dignity is Assaulted by Jim Rice

But do we really want to deny a gay person’s right to be at their loved one’s deathbed in a hospital with “family restrictions”? Do we also want to deny that person a voice in the medical treatment of his or her partner? And do we really want all the worldly possessions of a deceased gay person to revert to the family who rejected them 30 years ago, instead of going to their partner of the last 20 years? ”
– Gays and Marriage: A Middle Way by Jim Wallis

“While the passing of [hate-crime] legislation that prosecutes attacks on gays and lesbians would be a good thing, it will do very little to prevent such crimes unless Christians and other people of conscience work to change the atmosphere where gays are seen as less than complete human beings with the full civil privileges of other citizens. Gays and lesbians aren’t going to go away. Nor are they going to stay away from the church, where—rumor has it—people “love their neighbors as themselves.” This is an opportunity to practice what we preach.”
— Practicing What We Preach by Aaron Gallegos

War and Peace:
Our world faces a major challenge of how to resolve conflicts, reduce violence, and defeat terrorism without preemptive war. War has become a first resort instead of the last resort. In a world with terrorists, terrorist states, unilateralist superpowers, and weapons of mass destruction, alternatives to an endless cycle of violence are needed.

Ecology:
Addressing the degradation of God’s sacred Earth is the moral assignment of our time, comparable to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, the worldwide movement to achieve equality for women, or ongoing efforts to control weapons of mass destruction in a post-Hiroshima world. — From the National Council of Churches Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States.

Put aside the Holy Scriptures for a while and read God’s first revelation—nature itself. Such was the advice offered some years ago by a profound, Christian thinker. We stress “Christian” here because this person of faith intended no offense to [the Bible], nor to us who hold [it] sacred. His point was that long before the writing of Genesis, humanity could already read God’s self-revelation in the natural world.

In the book of Genesis, the creation is simply gift, a garden made with care, and in its essence, very good. Our original place was to walk with God in the garden of life.

(All above comments are taken from “Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace.”

NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR CREATION CARE: MAY 25TH, 2010

 

A Walk In The Park April 16, 2010

We recently went to Headwaters park for a walk. It was our first time this season. We go there a lot throughout the summer. We try to hit various parks, but that’s one of our regulars.

I was enjoying the walk. Enjoying the view. I started thinking about the beauty of nature; of God’s creation. It’s easy, of course, to switch gears and start thinking about how we’ve messed up nature. Man has, with no doubt, had a negative influence on nature. We’re still messing up nature. But…

I started thinking about the park again, and how beautiful it was. I started to realize that the beauty of the park was, in part, due to man’s influence on nature. This park was created by professional landscapers. There are people who keep it mowed, trimmed, green and pristine. So, although we destroy, abuse, and trash the earth, we can, in fact, have a positive influence. This led me to recall God’s original intent for the interaction and harmony between man and the earth. And between one another.

In chapter 2 of Genesis we read, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

In Evangelical Christianity, I learned that the earth doesn’t really matter. We can treat it as we please, and God doesn’t really care. After all, it’s all gonna burn anyway, right? Part of the problem with modern Evangelicalism is the whole focus is “later.” Our lives are just a “waiting room,” and all we really want to do is leave. What a perversion of the gospel. What a perversion of what Jesus came to teach us.
As Greg X Voltz wrote in his song “Livin’ For The Bell,”
      “There’s a lot to get done before the end of the show,
       but it’s hard to get to it when you just want to go.”

I believe our lives do matter. They matter here. They matter now. I don’t think we have a clue as to how much what we do in our everyday lives will affect the rest of our eternity. I’m not talking about whether or not we “make it.” That issue is not in question for me. I’m talking about aspects of the rest of eternity that we can not yet understand. But, understand or not, I believe how we treat the planet God gave us, and put us in charge of caring for, matters.

The good thing is, it doesn’t have to be all negative. As my walk in the park helped me see, we can make it better. This applies, not just to our interaction with nature, but with each other as well. This is where the social justice of things like standing up for the oppressed and caring for the poor and needy comes in. I have a couple of friends who work with children in Haiti. They have done this long before the recent devastation happened. To me, this is a part of social justice. This is Christianity. I love that they do what they do.

I’ll probably never go to Haiti. It’s not something I’m very comfortable with. I can, though, support those who do go.
There are things I can do. We all have areas where God can use us to make things better. I don’t consider my wife and I fanatics. We don’t do everything “green,” but we do what we can. We can recycle, at least, some stuff. We can use organic and earth friendly products most of the time. We can’t give to all the needy, but we can go on the annual “Aids Walk,” and help raise funds for them. We can spend time with the lonely stranger that God has us cross paths with. And we can do this out of love, instead of seeing everyone as a “project;” as a “candidate for conversion.”

My life may not always be a walk in the park. But wherever the path leads, my walk matters. My life matters. What I do in relation to God, people, and the earth matters. This is my Life Walk.

 

 
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