LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

“They can’t all be true” April 16, 2015



OK. I don’t usually just post a link to another blog.
BUT, here’s an exception for a REALLY GOOD article by Roger Wolsey:


4no3

Perspective

 

 

The Great Emergence May 20, 2014

thegreatemergenceThe Great Emergence
– Phyllis Tickle

“Every five hundred years, the church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale. Well, not exactly. But according to Phyllis Tickle, this is an accurate summary of the church’s massive transitions over time. According to the pattern, we are living in such a time of change right now.” [From the back cover.]

The subtitle is “How Christianity Is Changing and Why.”  This book originally came out in 2008, six years ago.  But, when you’re discussing events in time spans of 500 years, six years doesn’t mean the material is “dated.”  In fact, this book is extremely relevant.  I’ve seen the name Phyllis Tickle pop up again and again in other writer’s materials.  I’ve wanted to read something of hers for some time now.  I’m very glad I finally have.

Phyllis takes us back to 1st century Christianity, through The Dark Ages, The Great Schism, the time of Luther and The Great Reformation, and up to today.  She shows us the constant influence of religion on society, and society on religion.  We’re shown how the automobile radically changed community and consensual illusion.
We see the influence of Karl Marx, Einstein, Oriental Christianity, Darwinism, Gutenberg, Wycliffe, nanotechnology, family, the birth control pill, Buddhism, theology, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, orthonomy, Alcoholics Anonymous and a whole lot more.
Chapter 5 may be my favorite, and it include a great section on “Rosie the Riveter.”

This book is, for one thing, a history of the Christian church.  When you hear someone espouse a particular belief and say “Christianity has always believed this,” please, check your facts!  Truth is, there are and have been many Christianities, and Phyllis helps us sort through much of Christianity’s evolutions.  There are some nice diagrams involving the quadrants of “Liturgicals,” “Social Justice Christians,” “Renewalists,” & “Conservatives.”

Central to the whole discussion here is the question “Where now is the authority?”  The change of the base of authority has repeatedly caused great acts of violence and horror from the religious powers that be.  At one time, religious authority was in the monasteries and convents.  Roman Catholicism placed the authority in the papal system.  Luther told us the authority was not the Pope, but in sola scriptura.  Pentecostalism and Charismatic renewal, while keeping scripture as it’s base, said the authority was the “Holy Spirit” (personal experience).
Many people I know freak out at the thought of realizing the Bible is not the “end-all” in understanding God, but the real fear, the one that is always there during one of these 500 year rummage sales, is “Where now is the authority?”

Ms. Tickle takes us far into the past, brings us to where we are today, and then looks at where we are likely headed.  “The Great Emergence” is informative, entertaining and truly a delight to read.

– df

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

– Whenever there is so cataclysmic a break as is the rupture between modernity and postmodernity… there is inevitably a backlash.  Dramatic change is perceived as a threat to the status quo, primarily because it is.

– Every time the incrustations of an overly established Christianity have been broken open, the faith has spread.

– Pentecostalism’s demonstration of a Church of all classes and races and both genders became a kind of living proof text that first horrified, then unsettled, then convicted, and ultimately helped change congregational structure in the United Stats, regardless of denomination.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– No one of the member parts or connecting networks has the whole or entire “truth” of anything.

– Albert Einstein dominates every part of the twentieth century including, and more or less directly, religion.

– The question of “Where now is our authority?” is the fundamental or foundational question of all human existence.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– How can we live responsibly as devout and faithful adherents of one religion in a world of many religions? [Check out Brian McLaren’s “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?“]

– One always picks up a bit of whatever it is that one opposes simply by virtue of wrestling with it.

– Thousands and thousands of godly and devout Christians fought for the practice of slavery as being biblically permitted and accepted.

– Life on the margins has always been the most difficult and, at the same time, the one most imaginatively lived.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– [Alcoholics Anonymous] opened the floodgates to spirituality by removing the confines of organized religion.

– Eventually free time will lead most of us to increasing awareness of our internal experience.

– The case had been clearly made that the journey of the spirit did not require the baggage of religion to be a worthy and rewarding trek.

– In the hands of emergents, Christianity has grown exponentially, not only in geographic base and numbers, but also in passion and in an effecting belief in the Christian call to the brotherhood of all peoples.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

Finding Faith: A Search For What Makes Sense September 26, 2013

search

“Many people crave certainty.
They want dogma.
They want guaranteed answers.
This book is not for them.”
– Steve Chalke


This book may not be for “them,” but it is for pretty much everyone else.  So many people think they must abandon intellectual integrity in order to exercise faith.  Mr. McLaren shows, once again, that the two are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, good faith will make sense.
Brian, as a Christian, has a definite point of view, but he doesn’t discount other views, or disrespect those who differ.   He offers insights on various avenues of thought, and the logical conclusions (as he understands them) to which those avenues will lead.

Here is a book that is intentionally made so as not to be a cover-to-cover reading experience.  Brian sets up each chapter by giving a brief description of the material, and then telling us who would benefit from reading that particular chapter.  Very different.

Some of the questions addressed are, “Does it really matter what I believe?” “Can I believe in Atheism?” “Why are there so many religions?” “Aren’t all religions equally true?” “What is the relationship between faith and knowledge?” and, one of my favorites, “Don’t all paths lead to the same God?”

Early on we look at the strong difference between good faith and bad faith.  Here, McLaren states “I would rather have a wrong faith that is good than a right faith that is bad.”  So, yes, we are discussing again the importance of how you believe vs. what you believe.

In Chapter 3 (my second favorite in the book) there is an absolutely wonderful chart of “The Four Stages of Doubt.”  These can simultaneously be refereed to as “The Four Stages of Faith.”  Sadly, people often get stuck in an early stage, and never move forward.  The refusal to move forward gives rise to dangerous fundamentalism.  This includes not only Christian fundamentalism, but also that of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Atheists, et al.  (Brian gives reasons to consider that believing there is no God is, itself, a “faith” position.)

Chapter six looks at polytheism, pantheism, dualism, good monotheism, bad monotheism, and (briefly) panentheism. We also examine the role of creation in revealing God, and how that relates to an “art gallery” experience.
In the seventh chapter, Brian “addresses a number of common objections or frustrations that people have with monotheism, regarding God’s personality, gender, subtlety, and the like.”  Is God personal or impersonal?  Relational or non-relational?  Male or female (Beyond semantics / Maternal imagery)? There’s a nice bit that addresses the fallacy of a question like “Don’t you think the Creator of the Universe has bigger fish to fry than answering the prayers of children and old women?”

Chapter 8 (my personal favorite) is “Don’t All Paths Lead to the Same God?”  I would actually suggest beginning with this chapter.  Brian has clearly (as have I) made belief in Christ his faith-choice.  But he does so, as I hope I also do, with true respect for those of other faith traditions.  
No religion
owns God or has a corner on the “truth market.”  There is a simple, yet great graphic in this chapter that addresses the subject of truth.

We’ve all heard it said “It doesn’t really matter what you believe.”
The thing is, what we believe can have world-altering consequences. What we believe does matter.
If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to fly planes into towers full of people, that matters.  If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to own people because of their skin color (or any other reason), that matters.  If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to withhold rights from a group of people because they don’t love who you think they should love, that matters. If, on a positive note, you believe your God tells you to love and care for others, be respectful, and take care of the planet, well, that also matters.
We’re told that , concerning the beliefs we consider, “We need open windows, but good screens.”
We’re given 4 guiding principles, and four screening principles. These 8 principles are more than worth the book price. This chapter should be required reading for… well, for everyone.  Really, the simple approach of this section, taken seriously, would go a l-o-n-g way in creating a more peaceful world.

There are, I think, some statements and sections that could initially appear as somewhat arrogant.  But if you give Brian the benefit of the doubt in those moments, there’s a clear overall picture of a man who holds his beliefs and strong convictions with sincere humility.  It’s like Rob Bell said, “You can hold something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief, and yet, in the exact same moment say, ‘I could be wrong.'”

So, click one of the links, buy the book, pick a chapter, and dig in.
This book really is a buffet.  You can nibble, fully dine, or pig-out.
Be sure to allow time to digest, and get the full benefit of the nutrients.
Of course, you can always go back for more.

– df

Buy the book: Click Here.

[NOTE:  This is one of a pair of books.  The second (which I’ve not yet read) is “Finding Faith: The Search For What Is Real.”]

QUOTES:

* We are on a level playing field; none of us lives with absolute, unassailable certainty about anything; we all live by faith.

* The finding of faith and the growing of faith… ironically can feel like losing faith.

* [We see] Jesus’ consistent refusal to do things that would force people into believing in him.  Instead, he always allowed room for doubt and presented people with the opportunity to explore their questions.

* If you are born in India, you are probably going to “know” Hinduism is the true religion; if in America or Guatemala, it will probably be Christianity; if in an intellectual family in France, agnosticism or atheism; if in Iran, Islam; if in Israel, Judaism.  There are exceptions, but it appears clear that the majority of people choose their beliefs based on social acceptance, peer pressure, and other factors rather than on a sober independent investigation of the objective evidence.

Buy the book: Click Here.

* If a professed belief is not sufficient to promote action, then it would better be called an opinion or an idea or concept.

* As someone who deeply respects the Bible, I think we do it a disservice by implying that it can do something that no book can do.

* Isn’t conceit – the sense of certainty that I am already so right and superior that I don’t need to learn or listen –  the greatest possible barrier to faith?

* There are strong reasons for making a faith commitment to the atheist position.

* Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. [Thomas Jefferson]

* Monotheism has apparent downsides too… crusades, holy wars, jihads, division, controversy, bigotry, confusion, contradiction, overwhelming complexity.

* We aren’t proving anything here; we are simply suggesting that if human beings have a seemingly incurable, innate, cor hunger and thirst for spiritual meaning, that that is at least evidence – though certainly not proof – that there may be a reality corresponding to the desire.

* It is wise not the close the door too fast on theism.


Buy the book: Click Here.

—————-


the four stages

For a better understanding of the chart, and an overall great read,
buy “Finding Faith: A Search for What Makes Sense.” Click HERE.

 

Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed July 7, 2013

faith_doubt

FAITH, DOUBT, AND OTHER LINES I’VE CROSSED:
        WALKING WITH THE UNKNOWN GOD
– Jay Bakker with Andy Meisenheimer

———

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book.  Very readable.  Both thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

This is my second read from Jay Bakker, my first being “Fall to Grace.”  (You can read that review by clicking Here.

This new book, written with Andy Meisenheimer, is such a huge encouragement.  It’s what I’d call a very “real” writing.  And for me, it’s easily relatable on so many counts.
There’s a lot discussed here; doubt, God, the Bible, heaven and hell, atonement, love, grace, relationships, society, church, theology.
We look at faith vs. certainty, reading the Bible differently, getting a new take on dying and rising with Christ, recasting eternity, rediscovering grace, standing for the oppressed, a self-centered view of God, and so much more. This is one of those books that, if taken seriously, has life-changing potential.

One of my favorite parts is in chapter one where we read about Paul in the book of Acts.  This is when he’s in Athens, and finds an alter with the inscription, “To an unknown god.”  Paul goes on to tell them that this unknown god is the God that Jesus came to tell us about.  Many Christians are familiar with this story, and the kinds of expositions usually given.  Here, our minds are expanded to a new possible understanding of this incident.  In part 12 (each chapter has numbered parts) we’re hit with what I found to be a beautiful revelation.  I won’t spoil it here.
Also in this chapter, I’m reminded of the times when what we read in our scriptures are quotes from other sources, as is the case with “in God we live and move and have out being.”  Here, Paul was quoting a Cretan philosopher named Epimenides.

In chapter two, we look at “Doubting Faith.”  Paul Tillich “believes that fanaticism and pharisaism are the symptoms of repressed doubt,” and that “doubt is overcome not by repression, but by the courage to embrace it.”  Jay says, as have I many times, “The more you find out, the less you know.”  “They don’t prepare you for this when you’re a Christian kid.”

The 3rd chapter is about reading the Bible.  It brings me memories of “Velvet Elvis,” and “A New Kind of Christianity.”  We read that “when we turn the Bible into an answer book, we miss out on the real story, the depth of all that the Bible has to offer.”  There’s a good bit on the writings of Paul, some material by Peter Rollins, and some quotes from Rob Bell.  We see that, for many, an “illiterate reading of scripture becomes God’s truth.”

Part of what we discover in chapter four is “Jesus’ version of fulfilling the law, in practice.”  Often, he “fulfilled the law by breaking it.”  There’s more insights into the “torn curtain” of the temple, during the crucifixion.  This is really good!
We also look at atonement theories, somewhat in the vein of Wm. P. Young, and some quotes from Sharon Baker’s book “Razing Hell.”  When we look at some of the teachings we grew up with, we have to ask “Does God practice what Jesus teaches?”  If so, we’ve gotten a lot of things wrong.

Chapter 5 is about eternity, and it opens with a Pete Rollins quote.  We also hear from Martin Luther King Jr., as well as James, Paul and Jesus.  In this chapter, concerning his alcoholism, Mr. Bakker says, “That’s when I finally got sober.  After I found out that I was accepted.”
I can so relate to that statement.  It was in the middle of a drug-induced stupor, when I was dangerously sexually promiscuous, possibly at the most irresponsible point I’ve ever been in my life, when I somehow realized that right there, right then, with or without any change in my life, I was totally accepted by God.  That doesn’t mean my actions were approved, but I, as I was, was both loved AND accepted by God.  No fear of rejection by God. Not even fear of death! THAT’S when things in my life started to turn around.
Yes, Jay Bakker, I really do get it.
Admittedly, there certainly was fear of the mortal consequences of my actions, here in this life. But I realized that would not be God “punishing” me. It would just be “sowing and reaping.” I thank the Lord that karma isn’t always the bitch she’s made out to be. 🙂
It’s truly a miracle (or multiple miracles) that I’m not dead or back in prison.
[And now, back to our review.]
There’s also some interesting material about when Jesus was reading Isaiah’s “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” scripture.  What Jesus doesn’t say speaks volumes.

In chapter six we look at grace:  Wild, outrageous, vulgar grace.  We see how “we cheapen grace when we make it temporary, a ticket to an afterlife.”   “When we really understand it, we will always find grace offensive.”

The seventh chapter has us “Speaking Up for the Marginalized.”  We see, as many are painfully aware, how the “church” has so often been on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of civil liberties, and the wrong side of… well, just the wrong side all around.  We’re told that it wasn’t until 1967 that a non-white person could marry a white person in every state.  Much of “christianity” believed, as Bob Jones preached, that “segregation was preserving God’s plan for the different races according to the Bible.”  We look to the Bible to see how the church in Antioch was treating the “minority,” and how one believer (Paul) had to confront another believer (Peter) over his two-faced hypocrisy.
Here’s a good quote from this chapter:
“Separate but equal.  Remaining a pure people.  Not mixing seeds.  We look back now and think, That’s crazy.  Who could support that?  Who could possible think the Bible could be used to justify a ban on interracial dating?
The answer is – we did.
Christians.
Are we doing the same thing now?”
So, yes, we discuss LGBTQ equality in this chapter.

We re-discover some of the Bible’s parables in chapter 8.  The lost coin.  The lost sheep.  The lost son. Here again, of course, we step back and see things from a new perspective.  This is good stuff, people!

In the ninth chapter we look at what we call “the church service.”  Jay purposes that this is “an unnatural experience of God, just like the art gallery is an unnatural experience of art.”  “It’s amazing how quickly you lose touch if you’re always in a Bible study and everybody’s always talking about Jesus and Christianity.  When we hear mega-church preachers say something that seems out of touch with reality, we have to understand that they don’t live in the real world.  Christians live in a false world, one without the people that Jesus cared about.”

M. Night Shyamalan offers up some great food for thought in chapter 10.  We also learn from the example of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as the 18th chapter of Matthew.

Chapter 11 addresses, among other things, death, suffering, grief, hope and hopelessness.  I think of all the cliches and platitudes that are frequently offered to those experiencing grief.  I know people may be trying to be helpful, but  “Death is a tragedy.  It’s important to walk through that grief without being bombarded with assurances that everything is okay.”  It’s important to say “This is horrible and awful.  It wasn’t God’s plan or God’s opportunity to make something good.  It was simply a tragedy.”

“Losing Belief, Finding Faith” is the title of chapter 12.  Here we compare and contrast faith and belief.  We discuss the “appeal of certainty.”  It’s easy to see why so many fall for fundamentalism.  But “certainty helps us cover up our brokenness and fears.”  It “allows God to become our alibi for hate and judgement.”  It causes “theologians and pastors [to] become lawyers, arguing nuances and loopholes that the original writers would never have imagined.”
“The freedom to have faith instead of beliefs is, to me, one of the most beautiful things about following Christ.”
We also look at the dangerous idea of “all or nothing.”  This is an idea that I’ve found destructive in most areas of life. (Check out “Do One Green Thing,” by Mindy Pennybacker.)

In the conclusion, we read the familiar story of Mary and Martha, again gaining a fresh perspective.  We take another look at bibliolatry, and the anti-Christ damage it continues to cause.
Then Jay wraps up this outing by looking at that which is of “infinite, ultimate concern,” and how our lives can truly be transformed.

In these pages, we walk with Jay as he discovers “something deeper and more lasting than the evangelical framework [he] inherited from [his] family and church.”  The story is both universal, and quite personal.  We touch on his relationship with his famous parents, including the deep pain of losing his mother at the end of her 11-year battle with cancer.

This really is an amazing read.  Interesting stories, and life-giving perceptions.
Don’t pass on this one.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

—————–

Seriously, you should read this book, wherever you are on the spectrum of belief or unbelief. Give it to friends and family. Start conversations around it. Then, tell Jay how much you love it. As a real shepherd of real people, Jay needs our encouragement.
– Rob Davis: an atheist’s review of Jay Bakker’s new book

—————–

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Doubt keeps me from thinking I’ve got a handle on God.

* I’ve found peace in the mystery.

* That any of us act like moral giants is pretty insane. We all add to suffering, and we ignore it. We know that our chocolate is picked by child laborers, diamonds are mined for slave wages, iPhones are assembled in inhumane working conditions. We can ignore all that, but we freak out when someone sleeps with their secretary.

* You would think that relationships would be more important than theology.

* The only difference between you and me and the “scandalous outsider” is nothing more than the labels we use to separate us from them.

* The type of inclusion Jesus practiced gets you in trouble.  This type of inclusion gets you killed.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* “I-think-my-God-is-the-God” idolatry.  This is true idolatry.

* Somewhere along the way, we got focused on who does what with their genitals and forgot about love.

* I didn’t want theology to ever become more important than people.

* Our rejection of those who don’t fit without our clear-cut worldview is destroying people. Jesus said we would be known by our love, but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are known by our uncomfortable silence, our fight against their civil right to marry, our moral outrage, our discrimination, and our stereotyping.

* When you don’t know what to say [to a grieving person], cliches are the first things that come to your mind.  It’s our way of saying, “Holy shit, I don’t know what just happened.”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Rather than being humbled and baffled by grace, we draw lines around who is in and who is out. [If we’re going to get angry], let’s get angry at how undiscriminating grace is.

* Jesus talked with all sorts of people without confronting them about their sin and demanding repentance.

* I can see the appeal of certainty. It promises that you’ll never have to rethink things or be confronted with a reality that you can’t understand. With God, you don’t get certainty.

* I’m going to work to free people from hell on earth.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The idea of heaven didn’t work for me when my mom died.  I felt certain she was in heaven… but all I could think about was never being able to see her, call her, talk to her, for the rest of my life.

* “Hope that is seen is not hope,” Paul says.  Hope comes from a place of doubt.

* We need to give people permission to embrace death, tragedy, the meaninglessness of life.

* I am no longer concerned with an afterlife, though I am concerned with eternity.

* I’m not trying to save anyone from hell or win people to Jesus.  I’m just trying to follow Jesus myself, and help people find grace and peace and acceptance in their lives.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Also check out www.JAYBAKKER.com, and www.REVOLUTIONnyc.com

 

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.



 

Hellbound? May 24, 2013

If the only way to get rid of evil is to get rid of evil people, who among us would be left?
– Kevin Miller

hellbound

This is a very educational documentary.
The New York Times calls this film “substantive and even handed.”
Whether you believe in Universalism, Annihilationism, or Eternal Punishment,
your views will be represented here.
Whether you believe in Universalism, Annihilationism, or Eternal Punishment,
your views will be challenged here.
As Nicholas Ahern said, “Preterism. Atonement. Soteriology. Gehenna. Free will. It’s all here.”

The gamut of my emotions were brought to bear.
Sometimes I wanted to stand and scream “Yes! Hallelujah! Praise God!”
Sometimes I was almost moved to tears.
Sometimes I was just really, really pissed off and wanted to smack some of the people talking.
(OK. I probably wouldn’t really smack anyone, but I sure felt like it.)

A wide (and I mean very wide) variety of individuals, both famous and not, were interviewed. Some “regular” people, and some quite scholarly. The breadth of opinion and interpretation should help give us all pause in our statements and declarations of “fact”.

Most of the positions are well-argued (or well-presented), including those with which I disagree.  There are a couple of strong exceptions.
The friendly folks of WBC are so far off the map that I truly consider them mentally ill.
Also, famous atheist Robert McKee rambles on without making a lick of sense.  Here’s a man who doesn’t believe in God or hell, but is very angry with Christians who don’t believe in conscious eternal torment.  He calls them “wussys” who are trying to make God a nice guy.  Mind you, he doesn’t believe in God, but he believes that if you DO believe in God, you must believe in an angry, mean-spirited god.  He doesn’t come off sounding like a “true” atheist, but as a spoiled little boy trying make his daddy angry.

We get to clearly see the hate and the love of various theologies, and the definite impact those beliefs have on those who hold them, as well as the impact that our beliefs have on the rest of the world.
No matter what your eschatology, or lack thereof, I highly recommend this movie.

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

[You can rent it for as low as $2.99!!!  Well worth it.]


To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.
Does hell exist? If so, who ends up there, and why? Featuring an eclectic group of authors, theologians, pastors, social commentators and musicians, HELLBOUND? is a provocative, feature-length documentary that looks at why we are so bound to the idea of hell and how our beliefs about hell affect the world we are creating today.

Cast: Mark Driscoll, Jonathan Phelps & Margie Phelps, William Paul Young, Brian McLaren, Hank Hanegraaff, Justin Taylor, Franky Schaeffer, Gregory Boyd, Mike Bickle, Oderus Urungus, Necrobutcher, Glen Benton, David Vincent, Ole Luger La’Fay Walsh, Ray Comfort, Kevin DeYoung, Brad Jersak, Robin Parry, Kevin Miller, Jamie Clark-Soles, Sharon Baker, Michael Hardin, David Bruce, Chad Holtz, Bob Larson, Robert McKee, Lazar Puhalo, Peter Kreeft, Jerry Walls, Ron Dart
————————-

By narrowing its range of voices to Christian leaders, thinkers and writers, Kevin Miller’s sober, stimulating documentary on the hot topic of eternal damnation necessarily limits its audience, but achieves a level of rhetorical eloquence that would theoretically appeal to open-minded viewers of any religious stripe.
– Justin Chang
Gave each view a fair hearing (including views I strongly disagree with!) Like the first time I watched “An Inconvenient Truth”, it’s left me really wishing everyone around me, both religious & non-religious, could watch it & share the experience.
– Alex
A rich, thoughtful conversation-starter about changing notions of religious damnation, Hellbound? invades notoriously touchy territory with an open mind, steady focus and civil disposition.
– Brent Simon
An engaging, accessible documentary that explores the (truly) eternal questions, “Does hell exist? If so, who ends up there, and why?”
– Kerry Lengel
[It gives] the little-served Christian market a thought-provoking alternative to smarmy features like “Fireproof.”
– Neil Genzlinger
Any admirer of good talk will be impressed by the scholasticism and pulpit-trained oratory here, as well as some choice fighting words: “Evangelicism in America is what the pharisees were to ancient Egypt.”
– Nick Pinkerton
Warning: side effects may include critical thinking and paradigm shifting.
– Paul Pinos

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

From the documentary, here’s a chart with a list of Scripture references which, at face value, seem to support each of those positions.

Eschatology Chart

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

Some quotes:

– By eliminating hell, these people are sucking the meaning out of life. The notion that there really is no hell is simply a wussy effort to make God a nice guy.
Robert McKee (an Atheist!)
– Without hell, there’s no need for salvation.
Hank Hanegraaff
– Belief in hell is a primary factor for being a Christian. God, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.
Mark Driscoll

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

– Nowhere in scripture is belief in hell primary to salvation.
Chad Holtz
– The irony is that you have a teacher that you follow called “Jesus,” and then essentially side with his enemies in behavior. The Pharisees and the rule-keepers and the theologically correct people were the people he battled all his life, and they wound up killing him.
Frank Schaeffer
– Our whole theological system has been boiled down to “hell avoidance.” We see that Jesus is not teaching “hell,” but un-teaching hell.
Brian McLaren

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

– You never get away from the subjective element, so why not just be honest about it? The irony is that you have a teacher that you follow called “Jesus,” and then essentially side with his enemies in behavior. The Pharisees and the rule-keepers and the theologically correct people were the people he battled all his life, and they wound up killing him.`
Frank Schaeffer
– Every doctrine of hell presuposes a view about God.
Robin Parry
– By the time [in history] that we get to Jesus, Jesus essentially is seeking to remove the notion of retribution from the concept of divinity.
Michael Hardin
– Were halfway to heaven when we rise to someone else’s suffering. When we inflict suffering on other people in the name of morality, we’re three-quarters of the way to hell.
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

 

What We Talk About When We Talk About God April 10, 2013

what we talk about

“There’s something in the air, we’re in the midst of a massive rethink. A moment in history is in the making. An entire mode of understanding and talking about God [is] dying as something new is being birthed.”
– Rob Bell


This is a book by Rob Bell.”
OK.
That’s probably all I really need to say.  (But I’ll go on.)


By now, everyone who actually reads books about Christianity and/or Spirituality has heard of Rob Bell.
Many who don’t read such books have still heard of Rob Bell.
For the most part, people either really, really like his work, or they think he’s a heretic.
They think of him as a prophet, or a demon.

In case you don’t already know,
I really,
really
like
his
work.

This particular book is my favorite of Rob’s since the potentially life-changing “Velvet Elvis.”  Mr. Bell is one of the handful of authors that have forever changed my life.

In this new work, Rob incorporates bits and pieces from some of his other works (both written and video).  That makes this book a great read for those who have not read his previous writings.  It can be a quick read, or a very slow one.  As someone else has said, Rob’s writings are as simple or as deep as you want them to be.
“With,” “Ahead,” “Open,” and “For” are just some of the chapter titles.

Mr. Bell has us look at our language.  At how it both helps and hinders us.  We see very easily that, even within Christianity, people can be using the same word, “God,” and be talking about radically different things.  (We also saw this on Jeff Chu’s cross-country journeys in “Does Jesus Really Love Me“.).  Of course, how we think about our God directly affects everything else in our lives, not the least of which is the way we deal with and treat others and our environment.

The chapter “Open” is filled with scientific musings.  There’s talk of the universe, the big-bang, neutron stars, the elasticity of time, matter, energy, atoms, sub-atomic particles, bosons, leptons, quarks and quantum theory (which “is responsible for everything from X-rays and MRI machines, to fiber optics and transistors).   We consider that “the line between matter and spirit may not be a line at all.”

As is often the case, talking about what it is we talk about when we talk about God leads to looking at “the church,” and the Bible.  Here we get more of a Rob Bell standard I so much enjoy:  Looking at scripture in the cultural and historical context in which it was written.  We examine “the arc, the story” of this wonderful library of holy writ.  We begin to understand how “radically progressive” the books of the Bible were; that they were “ahead of their time.”  Unfortunately, “it’s possible to take something that was a step forward at one point and still be clinging to it later on in the story, to the point where it becomes a step backward.”

“What We Talk About When We Talk About God” moves us, drawing us to (and into) the very Divine that we’re talking about.
We look at a God that is with us, for us, and calling us ahead.
What are the consequences of our talk of God?
What does it mean in the real flesh-and-blood world we live in?
How does my “faith” interact with others and with all of creation?

These and other issues are wonderfully explored within the pages of this very thought-provoking book.

At the end, after the “Acknowledgements” and the rest of the “End Notes,” Rob Bell does something that is just so,
so Rob Bell that when I told my wife, we both laughed out loud.
When you’re reading a Bell book, never stop at “The End.”

– df


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

QUOTES:

– First, I’m a Christian, and so Jesus is how I understand God.

How you believe and what you believe are two different things.

– What I experienced, over a long period of time, was a gradual awakening to new perspectives on God — specifically, the God Jesus talked about.  [Yeah.  Me, too. – df]

– We are waking up in new ways to the God who’s been here the whole time.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Words and images point us to God; they help us understand the divine, but they are not God.

– Imagine that — religious people quoting the Bible to defend actions that were the exact opposite of the intent and purpose of those very same scriptures. [e.g. “an eye for an eye.”]

– Fundamentalism shouldn’t surprise us.  Certainty is easier, faster, [and] awesome for fundraising.

– Choosing to trust that this life matters and we’re all connected and this is all headed somewhere has made my life way, way better.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Science does an excellent job of telling me why I don’t have a tail, but it can’t explain why I find that interesting.

– When we talk about God, we often find ourselves in the middle of one paradox after another.

– What we say about God always rests within the larger reality of what we can’t say.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Like a mirror, God appears to be more and more a reflection of whoever it is that happens to be talking about God at the moment.

– Love and care and compassion shown to others is love for [God].

– It’s one thing to stand there in a lab coat with a clipboard, recording data about lips.  It’s another thing to be kissed.

– the ruach of God.

– the reverence humming in us.

– the entire ball of God wax

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Here’s the video promo.




.

 

Does Jesus Really Love Me? March 19, 2013

CHU
Does Jesus Really Love Me?
A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America
– Jeff Chu

This book is an incredible achievement.
It may be Jeff’s pilgrimage, but the stories come from many. At this time in history, this book is über-relevant, and much needed.

In his rather brave journeys, Jeff Chu has talked with/interviewed people across the nation, from various walks of life, with vastly, vastly differing opinions on the subjects of Christian faith and sexual orientation.  From Justin Lee (Gay Christian Network), to Fred Phelps (Westboro Baptist Church), to everyday people who are just trying to figure out life.
His pilgrimage was also to help him understand how people can read the same Bible, and come to such dramatically different conclusions.

Mr. Chu not only shares his story and the stories of others, but he occasionally “steps aside” and just lets people, including John Smid and Ted Haggard, tell their own stories.
Some stories are uplifting.  Some are heartbreaking. Some are damn maddening.

One of the most unusual things for me was Jeff describing the people of WBC as friendly and warm.   Jeff actually went on a protest with them!
Still, they would use words like “fag” and “whore” with the comfort and ease of saying “tall” or “brunet.”
Sounds like they have some major cognitive dissonance going on. But we also see that, except for their trademark acts of extremism, their beliefs are quite similar to most fundamentalist churches.

Of course, there are stories of being rejected by family and friends.  Of being designated as hell-bound abominations by those who should be the ones most loving and supportive.  (How anyone can think that that kind of religiously-induced hatred has anything whatsoever to do with God is beyond me.)
There’s discussion of so-called “ex-gay” organizations. We look at the difference between “hate-based” and “fear-based” anti-gay sentiments.
We learn, too, that in Nashville Tennessee (the “Protestant Vatican”), “You can’t do anything without involving the church.”
We look at mixed-orientation marriages (Chapter 7 is awesome). And we discover the special challenges of being gay in an African-American church.

I was very glad to see a chapter on the Gay Christian Network, as well as an interview with my facebook friend  Michael Bussee. Oh, and Jennifer Knapp. She’s here.

This book isn’t just for straight Christians to understand those of other orientations.  It’s for all of us to understand ourselves. It is also (and I have found this essential) for people of varying orientations to understand each other.  Even though “christianists” have honed it to an art-form, being judgmental isn’t something on which they’ve cornered the market.  I, as a so-called “spousosexual” think Jeff’s book has the potential for helping all of us to better understand the “other.”  Just because people may share the common bond of not being straight doesn’t mean they inherently share much else.  Sometimes we talk about “both sides,” as if there are only two views.  Mr. Chu’s chronicle helps us see otherwise.

Some very misinformed people see LGBT persons as inherently uninterested in the Bible, or issues of faith.  Not true.  Some are, and some are not. I don’t believe that institutional religion is usually a good thing.  So it bothers me, somewhat, that people struggle so hard to be accepted by organizations that I don’t think should exist in the first place.
Still, I understand.
Tradition and religious structure are very important to some.
Wanting love and acceptance is universal.

If I have one disagreement with the author, it’s that America is a Christian nation. I know many people think it is. Many want it to be one. I, as a “Jesus lover,” do not. I get his point, though, when he states that “Christianequse civil religion prevails in America.”

So, “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” To what conclusions did this pilgrimage lead?
Well, I have to say Jeff through me a curve. I really didn’t see some of his comments coming. I’ll just say that I smiled alot during the final chapter.

– df

I had the honor of reading and reviewing this book before it’s release.
Mega-thanks to HarperCollins AND to Jeff Chu.
Buy The Book.  Click HERE
.

Some quotes:

– This issue is about sons and daughters, friends and lovers, our neighbors, ourselves. It is also about our freedom, our faith, perhaps our salvation.
– I doubt. A lot. And yet I can’t not believe in God.
– Christian maturity is partly about living in the tension of not knowing, and it’s okay not to be sure.
– [Here’s one from Andrae Gonzalo that many of us can identify with.] I got saved every night before I went to bed.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Nearly every relationship I had in the church community virtually stopped overnight. It was like I ceased to exist. [John Hauenstein, on coming out to his church “family.”]
– The term Christian means radically different things to different people.
– [Important!] While the anger among those who have suffered because of organizations such as Exodus makes sense, to channel it as they [often] do… helps nothing, heals nothing, and draws nobody closer to God.
– Humans are expert box builders. It’s what we do to make sense of the world.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Christian leaders have a responsibility to do image management and damage control, and that leads them to a natural tendency toward Phariseeism. [Ted Haggard]
– I stopped praying, “God make me straight,” and I started praying, “God, show me what you want me to do.” [Justin Lee]
– …Those moments…when the light is so pure, so clear. It’s as if you’d never seen the world with these eyes before, and once you do, nothing can be the same.
– I run into people all the time who say, “The Bible Says…” They never say “…as it has been translated and interpreted.” There’s no hermeneutical awareness, and you shouldn’t be able to get away with that. We are all interpreting.” [Mark Tidd]
– I searched dozens of congregations in a host of denominations. What I never found was _________. (You’ll have to Buy The Book to finish that quote.)

At the highest level, I want to live a life that pleases God.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

———————

Afterthought:
I must say, I’m not fond of the title.  Yes, ultimately it’s an important question, but it’s too “Sunday school” for the complexity of Jeff’s work here.  And the sub-title…
well, nevermind.
I just think this is a great book, and the title doesn’t come close to conveying that.

———————

Really. Buy this book!

 

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road? November 16, 2012

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?
– Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World –

Brian D. McLaren


This is a very important and timely book.  Many are so tired of how Christianity has been co-opted, they’ve opted out of Christianity all together.
Others have  “watered down” their identity to the point of making it meaningless.   Brian believes we do not have to choose between a “Strong, hostile” Christianity and a “Weak, benign” Christianity.
There is a third way, he proposes, of a “Strong, benevolent” Christian identity;  one that can love, respect, and walk along side those of other faiths without needing to convert them, or be converted by them.  
He proposes that we can find common ground, since no one religion has a monopoly on God.  And we better understand the “kingdom of God,” as the commonwealth of God.”

The suggestions written here are not all theory or conjecture.  Brian has put this walking-with-the-other into practice.


Early on we look at “Conflicted Religious Identity Syndrome (CRIS).”  This is where we know “there is something good and real in [our] faith,” and yet we can no longer abide the “hostility toward the cherished religions of [our] non-Christian neighbors.”  This, in part, is what caused Anne Rice to proclaim “In the name of Christ…I quit Christianity.”
We look in detail at the “Us – Them” mentality that has caused such horrors throughout history.  We see that the histories that are told, who tells them, and where they start the story, shapes our worldview.  We look at the historical realities of Christopher Columbus to illustrate the point.  Of course, in this type of discussion, there’s also no way around talking about the almost unimaginable influence of Emperor Constantine on Christianity, from which we’ve still not escaped.

In another section, an amazing section,  we imagine new ways to interpret and practice the beloved doctrines of Christianity; ways that are, in fact, more in line with the life and teachings of Jesus.
The chapter in the section on baptism was awe-inspiring.  It makes me want to get baptized again, with this new, fuller, and better understanding.

The chapters of the next section cover our liturgical practices.  We see how our liturgies can camouflage injustice, usually without our even being conscience of it.  But we also discover how we can participate in holy celebrations in ways that are loving and inclusive without giving up our own identity and convictions.
McLaren gives many good suggestions for transforming Lent, Easter, Christmas, and other Christian traditions.
And, of immense importance, we are challenged to “read and teach the Bible responsibly and ethically, following the strong and benevolent examples of Paul and Jesus.
We will pick all passages that advocate hostility, vengeance, exclusion, elitism, and superiority to remind us of where we would be if not for Christ.
And we will choose all passages that advocate reconciliation, empathy, inclusion, solidarity, and equality to remind us of where we are going and who we are called to be in Christ.”

“The Missional Challenge” portion looks at what “missions” has meant, versus the actual missions to which we are called. There is a huge, grave difference between trying to convert others to your religion, and doing the hard work of love, healing, and justice that Jesus actually taught.

Let me say, although this book is primarily directed to Christians, the principles apply to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, and, well pretty much everybody.  (One of the “recommendations” listed is from a Rabbi.)

I know many seem to think that a benevolent approach is all about compromising beliefs, being wishy-washy, etc. etc.
“It doesn’t matter what you believe,”
“All roads lead to God,” and so on.
I must admit, at one time I also thought that way.  Hey, that’s what I was taught.   This new book from Brian McLaren goes a long way toward showing that nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s like Papa said in The Shack:  “Most roads don’t lead anywhere, [but] I will travel any road to find you.”

Not everyone is comfortable with lack-of-conflict.  As Brian states, “There are few actions better guaranteed to engender conflict than proposing love and understanding for those identified as outsiders and enemies.”
But for those willing to take the chance, they will find a better Christian identity.  A truer Christian identity.  One rooted in Christ-likeness, expressing “Christ-like character, Christ-like vision, and Christ-like virtues and values,” treating others with “understanding, respect, human-kindness, [and] benevolence.”


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Quotes:

– The stronger our Christian faith, the more goodwill we will feel and show toward those of other faiths, seeking to understand and appreciate their religion from their point of view.

– I have no doubt that Jesus would actually practice the neighborliness he preached rather than follow our example of religious supremacy, hostility, fear, isolation, misinformation, exclusion, or demonization.

– Jesus himself spoke pithily and often about religious absurdity.  He surely elicited some laughs when he portrayed religious leaders as straining at gnats and swallowing camels, whitewashing tombs, scrubbing only the outside of a filthy bowl, and so on.  His whole ministry was a kind of guerrilla theatre.

– God is not a doctrine to be mastered but a mystery to be mastered by.

– We are increasingly faced with a choice, I believe, not between kindness and hostility, but between kindness and nonexistence.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– [A] gracious space of solidarity…is what Jesus called “The kingdom of God.”

– There is nothing that hurts any religion today more than it’s own establishment.

– The tensions between our conflicted religions arise not from out differences, but from one thing we all hold in common: an oppositional religious identity that derives strength from hostility.

– [We must] go through a profound rethinking of our history.

– A distorted doctrine of chosen-ness tells many sincere but misguided Christian Zionists that the Jews have been chosen by God to own certain land without concern for the well-being of their non-Jewish neighbors.  Sadly, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, for all their differences, have imitated each other again and again in misunderstanding and misapplying this doctrine of chosen-ness.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Jesus has often been presented as a weapon and a threat, more wolf of God than lamb of God, filled more with the spirit of a hawk than a dove, more avenger of heretics than friend of sinners.

– [We must be] willing to challenge violent and exclusive conceptions of God in light of the nonviolent and inclusive way of Christ.

– When this benevolent logos comes, full of grace and truth, we do not welcome him.  We reject him.  We kill him, in the name of our preferred and familiar logos of hostility and violence.

– We can understand human religions — all human religions, including our own — as imperfect human responses to our encounters with the Spirit who is present in all creation.

– [In the story we call “The Prodigal Son,”] The lost son is the older son.  He’s the one who doesn’t know who he is, where he is, or what he’s doing.  He’s the only outsider – – placed there by his own refusal to love.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– A baptism of repentance means a radical, far-reaching rethinking of everything.

– To be truly “in Christ” does not mean embracing “yet another identity,” but rather “lay(ing) down the various identities that would otherwise define us.” [McLaren with Peter Rollins]

– For Jesus, the rich man’s appathy about the poor man’s poverty was a damnable offense.

– Interpretation will always to some degree manifest the character of the interpreter.

Liberation is the best one-word synonym for salvation.

– Charity will also lead to advocacy — speaking and working on behalf of the voiceless and powerless, using the tools of local, national, and global citizenship to work for the common good.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

The Secret Message of Jesus September 28, 2012



“What if the core message of Jesus has been unintentionally misunderstood or intentionally distorted”


The Secret Message of Jesus:
Uncovering The Truth That Could Change Everything



Yet another powerhouse of insights from Brian McLaren!
Reading books like this make one amazed at how far off track “Christianity” really has become.
Reading books like this also give one hope for getting back on track.
Of course, we’ve lost much of what the original audience understood, but there was a lot that they didn’t readily understand either.
Jesus predominantly taught in parables, rather than outlines and bullet-points. And he almost always answered a question with a question. Not the best choice if your goal is to communicate facts.  It is, however, the perfect choice if the goal is interactive relationship.

I’m not going to give a chapter by chapter review here, but I will tell you about a few of them.

Let me start toward the end with a “bonus chapter” called “The Prayer of the Kingdom.”
This is a wonderful exploration of what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  It really puts the words of Jesus into context, giving then a fresh vitality, and making them as relevant as ever.  It frees this prayer from being just a repetitive tradition, and helps us see its truly revolutionary nature.  Understanding the proper applications of this prayer, we see it as a crucial part of Jesus’ “secret” message.

Chapters 19 and 20 view “The Future of the Kingdom,” and “The Harvest of the Kingdom.”  We find out the true purpose of the “warnings and promises” of the prophets.  There’s talk of the book of Revelation, and how “neither the Bible nor the teachings of Jesus are intended to give us a timeline of the future.”  We also gain a new perspective of the “harvest” metaphor which Jesus employed.

Early on, we look at “The Political Message of Jesus.”  So much of Jesus’ speech used terminology to directly address and refer to the political (and religious) structure of his day.”  Brian believes that the message of Jesus “has  everything to do with public matters in general and politics in particular.”  One of the interesting tidbits here is that Roman emperors would send out messengers to announce their “good news,” and proclaim that “Cesar is Lord.”  Again, we miss so many of the pertinent references that Jesus’ audience readily understood.  We also realize that “the Jewish people probably felt about their occupiers the way Palestinians generally feel today about the Israelis.”

“The Jewish Message of Jesus” reminds us that Jesus was a Jew.  To understand his message, we must understand the Jewishness of his message.  The Jewish people said very little about any kind of afterlife.  Their concern was how we act in this life.
They did expect the Messiah to set up a kingdom here and now, in this life.  They just were not aware of the kind of kingdom he was going to establish.  It wasn’t the dominionist theocracy of church and state they expected.
Another way He tried to set them free from many of their misconceptions was through his “You’ve heard it said…But I say to you” speech.

In “The Medium of the Message” we see the power of the parable.

“The Open Secret” shows us how “the message of the Christian church became a different message entirely from the message of Jesus.”  This chapter also looks at “Christianity” vs. “Paulianity,” and whether or not there really is any substantial conflict between the two.

With “The Language of the Kingdom” we discover the urgent political, religious, and cultural electricity that charged the language Jesus spoke with.  It was then “contemporary and relevant; today, it is outdated and distant… If Jesus were alive today, I am quite certain he wouldn’t use the language of kingdom at all.”

Elsewhere in McLaren’s book we rethink the meaning of “repent.”
We observe the “sad adventure in missing the point” that the church has taken.
We learn to “abandon the bad idea that some people are ‘clergy’ and others are ‘laity.'”

All in all, the secret message of Jesus wasn’t intended to be kept secret.  It has been lost, suppressed, distorted, and misunderstood for (as we read in appendix 1) a variety of reasons.

Ultimately, we are challenged with what kind of lives shall we then live.
Will we keep the secret, or be part of the reality it was meant to bring about?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

——

From the product description:

In The Secret Message of Jesus you’ll find what’s at the center of Brian’s critique of conventional Christianity, and what’s at the heart of his expanding vision. In the process, you’ll meet a Jesus who may be altogether new to you, a Jesus who is…

Not the crusading conqueror of religious broadcasting;
Not the religious mascot of partisan religion;
Not heaven’s ticket-checker, whose words have been commandeered by the church to include and exclude, judge and stigmatize, pacify and domesticate.
——

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

SOME QUOTES:

– Each of us not only prays, “May your kingdom come,” but we also become part of the answer to that prayer in our sphere of influence.

– The secret message of Jesus has far-reaching implications for the widest range of subjects — from racism to ecology, from weapons proliferation to terrorism, from interreligious conflict to destructive entertainment, from education to economics, from sexuality to art, from politics to technology, from liturgy to contemplation.

– We are invited to begin living now the way everyone will someday live in the resurrection, in the world made new…[a future] that has in some way, through Christ’s resurrection, been made present and available now.

– God’s ultimate dream: Not the destruction of this creation, but the destruction of dominating powers that ruin creation.

– What if Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion–but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– What’s crazy is thinking, after all these millennia, that hate can conquer hate, war cure war, pride overcome pride, violence end violence, revenge stop revenge, and exclusion create cohesion.  The kingdom of God never advances by or through war or violence.
(For a really good example of the futility of revenge, and the myth of redemptive violence,  Check out “The Hatfields and McCoys.”  One top-notch mini-series.)

– The [prophet’s] purpose is not to tell the future but to change it.

– Trying to read [Revelation] without understanding its genre (Jewish apocalyptic) would be like watching Star Trek thinking it was a historical documentary.

– I think of Jesus in his parables.  He seems more interested in stirring curiosity than in completely satisfying it.

– This idea — that the kingdom of God is about our daily lives, about our way of life — may lie behind the tension people feel between the words religious and spiritual.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The Greek phrase John uses for “eternal life” literally means “life of the ages… a higher life that is centered in an interactive relationship with God and with Jesus.

– But the kingdom of God raises the level of discourse to a higher plane entirely.

– Faith that counts, then, is not the absence of doubt; it’s the presence of action.

– Church and state with their sacred theologies and ideologies, like all other human structures of this world, will – given the chance – execute God so they can run their own petty kingdoms.

– The church no longer saw the demonic as lodged in the empire, but in the empire’s enemies.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There has to be a third way that is different from permissive, naive inclusiveness and hostile, distrustful exclusion.
Purposeful inclusion [is when the kingdom of God] seeks to include all who want to participate in and contribute to it’s purpose, but it cannot include those who oppose it’s purpose. To be truly inclusive, the kingdom must exclude exclusive people; to be truly reconciling, the kingdom must not reconcile with those who refuse reconciliation, to achieve its purpose of gathering people, it must not gather those who scatter.Buy the book.  Click HERE.


 

 
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