According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Freedom Isn't Free: U2 Tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi "Walk On"

Aung San Suu Kyi: A triumph of the spirit

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-triumph-of-the-spirit-2299748.html

June 19, 2011

A film of Aung San Suu Kyi, commissioned by U2 and smuggled out of Burma, has gone with them on a world tour which reaches Glastonbury on Friday. Martin Wroe had a clandestine meeting with her in Rangoon.

'We don't think we will fail, and we are not afraid of trying, the effort in itself is a triumph,' says Aung San Suu Kyi
GETTY IMAGES
'We don't think we will fail, and we are not afraid
of trying, the effort in itself is a triumph,'
says Aung San Suu Kyi
Behind the high fence on an anonymous Rangoon road, an old colonial house sits in slightly faded grandeur. Somewhere inside Aung San Suu Kyi is playing the piano. It is a daily ritual, developed while spending most of the past 21 years in detention as the leader of the movement to bring democracy to military-ruled Burma.

"During my years of house arrest I've often wished that I were a composer because then I could have spent my time composing," she says. "Music is much more universal than words."

It is also a way to assert her freedom in the face of her captors, who, despite making a great show of lifting her house arrest after widely discredited elections last November, continue to monitor her communications and travel, so that she rarely leaves the house except to visit the offices of her political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

"I don't feel any freer," she explains. "Because I never felt unfree. I never felt I was not free in all these years, so the fact that I am no longer under house arrest does not make me feel any freer." She adds, with a smile, "I am a lot busier."

Today she is busy because she has agreed to meet me and two colleagues commissioned by the rock band U2 to shoot a short film for their world tour. By the time U2, who headline the Glastonbury Festival this Friday, finish their 3600 Tour next month, seven million people will have seen them play in 30 countries. If any are unfamiliar with Burma or its Nobel laureate, by the time the band perform their hit song "Walk On", written for her, they will know who she is and what she stands for. Many will sign up to join Amnesty International or the Free Burma Campaign.

When Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest was lifted, it was Bono's idea secretly to shoot a film to promote the cause of the thousands of prisoners of conscience who remain in Burmese jails. Like something from a spy novel, a covert line of communication was set up, and after several false starts we flew into Thailand to fill our cameras with holiday shots for our "cover story". Securing tourist visas in Bangkok, we took off for Rangoon, where our mobiles no longer work, where emails are monitored and caution is advised in case "someone is watching".

The NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won 82 per cent of the seats in the 1990 elections, but the military has always refused to transfer power. After decades of dictatorship, the country has become the poorest in south-east Asia and also the most paranoid – there are countless stories of people being arrested for saying the wrong thing in the wrong place.

As Aung San Suu Kyi's communications are censored and often fail to arrive, it wasn't entirely surprising that at the gate to her house the duty team was not expecting us ... and were unfamiliar with the U2 back catalogue. Fortunately, our credentials were rapidly established and a makeshift studio set up in the living room, including a green bedsheet taped to the wall to create a "green screen", for post-production graphics.

"After many years, I am finally able to speak to you." Fluent, articulate and graceful, Daw Suu, as everyone calls her, is a natural and charismatic presence in front of the camera, retaining her striking good looks in her 66th year.

"You who across such distances sent support to Burma, we thank you. Students, teachers, workers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, music fans – U2 fans like me. When you raise your voices we hear them, they are louder than any rock band, than any army."


An hour later, filming done, she sits beneath a huge screen print of her father, General Aung San, the man who led Burma to independence before being assassinated in 1947, when she was just two years old. She is encouraged to hear news of the popular uprisings in North Africa. "When I see people in the Arab countries doing the same kind of things that our young people did in 1988, showing the same kind of needs and the same kind of courage and determination to change their lives, then I feel that we are all one, and this warms my heart."

It was in 1988 that she arrived back in Burma to visit her sick mother, leaving her British husband and two children in the UK. She never returned, realising she had to stand alongside the saffron-clad monks as they led thousands of ordinary people trying to overthrow the military. Three thousand protesters were killed and 10,000 imprisoned, and despite further popular uprisings, notably in 2007, the generals still retain their grip on power.

"We have to work for change all the time," she says. "There may be times when we feel that what we have done has not really achieved great results, sometimes there may be regressions, but that doesn't matter. The world is not a static place, it shouldn't be static.

"We should be moving all the time, moving to bring about better change, instead of just sitting there and letting things happen the way other people who are not so desirous of good change wish them to happen."

"Freedom Isn't Free"
9/11 Memorial, Naperville, Illinois

No one alive today is a more recognisable symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of obdurate tyranny, and her passion for non-violent revolution is the more remarkable given the suffering of the Burmese people and the imprisonment of so many pro-democracy leaders. But her luminous conviction that working for the common good is our best calling is undimmed by any passing doubts. She wishes younger people were more politically active, even if some consider it "rather boring".

"I don't think it's boring to work for other people. I don't think its boring to think about how you might improve the lives of other people. I don't think altruism is boring. I don't think faith in freedom is boring. I would like young people to understand that: that these things are not boring at all, that these are the things that make this world the kind of place where you can shape your own destiny.'

She shaped her own destiny most profoundly when she defiantly chose not to leave Burma, knowing she would not have been allowed to return if she did. It makes her uniquely qualified to talk about freedom, the subject of her two Reith Lectures, recorded by a BBC team on a subsequent clandestine mission. Broadcast later this month, they explore how freedom can be won in her own country and what it means for the Arab Spring. In conversation, it is evident that she chooses gracefully to evade the categories imposed upon her by her captors.
"I have tried to explain to people who ask about how very constrained we feel in Burma," she says. "I always say that we feel free, those of us who have followed our own conscience – that is the greatest freedom.

"We don't think we will fail and we are not afraid of trying. The effort in itself is a triumph, the fact that we've been going on for more than 20 years, that many of our people have gone through such terrible times and yet we are still doing it, we are continuing. That in itself is a triumph, a triumph of the spirit."

And freedom will not be long coming to Burma, she predicts, inviting U2 to visit and perform "a great big concert to celebrate democracy". Musicians and artists are powerful agents for social change, a point dramatically underlined when another NLD activist, Htin Kyaw, interrupts in halting English, to recall his own 14-year imprisonment. In 2004 his wife smuggled a copy of Time magazine to him, which featured a story about U2 and "Walk On". "I was so pleased and I shed my tears," he says, eyes welling up. "I asked my younger daughter to send the lyrics in writing, but I don't know the notes so I do not sing ... but still we are walking on!"

One of the sayings for which Aung San Suu Kyi is most famous is her exhortation to "use your freedom to promote ours". Struck by Htin Kyaw's story, her face lights up in explaining that those in the West who campaign for freedom rarely realise the power they wield.

"You don't know how much it means when [people] are cut off from the rest of the world, when they have this sense that really they are still remembered, that people know that they are there."

In her youth, she laughs, all celebrities had to do was "have themselves talked about in the gossip columns". Today, she senses they understand that they can harness their fame for good.

"Bono is one of the people who really started this movement of artists getting involved in human rights issues and political issues, which is very good. I really think that he is at the head of this movement, and that now more and more artists and singers are getting involved in humanitarian concerns. Music and art in general have the power to change people, and people have the power to change history. I think that's how it goes."

With multiple copies made of our recordings and various obscure hiding places identified to get them out of the house and then the country, we come to the end of our conversation. Our practical inconveniences are trivial next to the ongoing trials of the people of Burma, and she is keen to underline the solidarity she shares with all who work for freedom. She points to the other NLD members now returning her living room to its conventional use.

"Most of the people around here have spent time in prison," she says. "But, well, here they are. That in itself is a triumph."










Suffering Changes Everything


By Rob Bell, Special to CNN
February 13, 2011

Editor's Note: Rob Bell is the Founding Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His latest book and DVD are called Drops Like Stars.

One Friday evening in the fall of my senior year of college I got a headache.

I took some aspirin, laid on the couch, and waited for it to go away. But it didn't; it got worse. By midnight I was in agony, and by 3 a.m. I was wondering if I was going to die.

As the sun rose, my roommate drove me to the hospital where I learned that I had viral meningitis. A neurologist explained to me that the fluid around my brain had become infected and was essentially squeezing my brain against the walls of my skull.

So that's what that was.

The doctor informed me that it would take a number of weeks in bed to recover.

This didn't fit with my plan.

I was in a band at the time. We'd been playing shows in the Chicago area for a while and had just landed our biggest club dates yet in the city - all of them scheduled over the next several weeks.

We had to cancel all of them.

As this reality hit me, laying there in that hospital bed miles from home with a brain infection, I distinctly remember asking no one in particular "Now what?"

I was devastated. This was not how it was supposed to go. The band was my life, my future, my singular focus. We had just canceled our biggest gigs ever. Eventually I recovered enough to return to school but things weren't the same. Whatever had been driving us in the band wasn't there like it had been before and so we came to the mutual conclusion that it had been great while it lasted and now it was time for the band to come to an end.

I don't think I'd ever felt more lost. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had all this energy and passion and I wanted desperately to give myself to something that mattered, but I had no plan.

I would walk around campus in a daze, muttering the same prayer over and over, which took the form of "Now what?"

Do you know that feeling when you're playing soccer and you lunge for the ball but you aren't fast enough and the player on the other team has already kicked it quite hard and the ball travels with ferocious velocity and force into your groin region and you keel over, gasping for breath, your voice several octaves higher?

It was like the existential version of that.

And then, things took a strange, beautiful turn.

In the days and weeks following the band's breakup, people I barely knew would stop me out of the blue and say things like, "Have you thought about being a pastor?" Friends I hadn't talked to in months would contact me and say, "For some reason I think you're going to be a pastor."

Me, a pastor? Seriously?

The idea began to get a hold of me and it wouldn't let go. A calling welled up within me, a direction, something I could give myself to.

I tell you this story about what happened to me 19 years ago because I assume you're like me - really good at making plans and plotting and scheming and devising just how to make your life go how it's "supposed" to go.

We are masters of this. We know exactly how things are supposed to turn out.

And then we suffer. There's a disruption - death, disease, job loss, heartbreak, betrayal or bankruptcy.

The tomorrow we were expecting disappears. And we have no other plan.

Suffering is traumatic and awful and we get angry and we shake our fists at the heavens and we vent and rage and weep. But in the process we discover a new tomorrow, one we never would have imagined otherwise.

I have interacted with countless people over the years who, when asked to identify key moments, turning points, and milestones in their lives, usually talk about terribly difficult, painful things. And they usually say something along the lines of "I never would have imagined that would happen to me."
Imagined is a significant word here. Suffering, it turns out, demands profound imagination. A new future has to be conjured up because the old future isn't there anymore.

Now I realize that what happened to me - the fluid around my brain swelling up and squeezing it against the walls of my skull – is nothing compared to the pain and tragedy many people live with every day.

But that experience irrevocably altered my life. Nothing was ever the same again. My plans fell apart, which opened me up to entirely new future.

This truth, about the latent seeds of creativity being planted in the midst of suffering, takes us deep into the heart of the Christian faith. We are invited to trust that in the moments when we are most inclined to despair, when all appears lost and we can't imagine any way forward - that it is precisely in those moments when something new may be about to be birthed.

Jesus hangs naked and bloody on a cross, alone and abandoned by his students, scorned by the crowd, and yet defiant, confident, insistent that God is present in his agony, bringing about a whole new world, right here in the midst of this one.

This is a mystery, and one we are wise to reflect on it, because of the countless disruptions we experience all the time.

God is in those moments, grieving with us, shedding tears with us, feeling that pain and turmoil with us, and then inviting to trust that something good can come from even this.

So keep your eyes and your heart open. Be quick to listen and slow to make rash judgments about how it's "all going to turn out," because you never know when you'll find yourself miles from home, laying in a hospital bed with a bad case of brain squeeze, all of your plans crashing down around you, wondering how it all went wrong, only to discover that a whole new life is just beginning.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rob Bell




The Bible and Books About Dinosaurs

Guest Post: The Bible and Books About Dinosaurs

by Rachel Held Evans
September 17, 2011

62 Comments

masonToday’s guest post comes to us from one of my favorite bloggers. Mason Slater is an MA student at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, a freelance writer, and a publishing consultant. I had the pleasure of meeting Mason and his lovely wife Melinda when I was in Grand Rapids for the Festival of Faith and Writing. I love how this guy thinks! He’s smart, thoughtful, humble, and wise.

Mason blogs at MasonSlater.com, where he writes about the latest news in theology, Christian living, and publishing. I’ve been following for several years now, and am always interested in the conversation there. Mason recently moved his blog, so be sure to re-subscribe!

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The Bible and Books About Dinosaurs

by Mason Slater

After years of research, and quite a bit of agonizing, I’m finally able to offer this small pronouncement.

I no longer believe that there is any inherent conflict between the Scriptures and the scientific account of human origins, by which of course I mean evolution.

Admittedly, that someone you’ve probably never met is able to affirm a scientific theory which most of the Western world takes for granted may not seem like that big of a deal.

But it is for me, and I imagine my story is not all that unlike many of yours.

I grew up in a conservative evangelical home. As best I can remember my parents never made a point to bring up Creationism or Evolution, but they didn’t have to – the subculture did it for them.

Over time a young boy who loved dinosaurs and fossils began to sense those things were dirty, that the books he was reading were looked on with suspicion. At first I wasn’t sure why, but soon I learned that these books taught things about the world that disagreed with the Bible.

Because I loved the Bible more than my books about dinosaurs, it wasn’t long before those books found themselves gathering dust on my bookshelf.

That evolutionary science and Christian faith were incompatible seemed as apparent as that every autumn would lead to another cold Michigan winter. With that assumption firmly implanted, my young self was one day faced with a crisis. While talking with my mom she made some passing mention that my father believed in evolution.

I was shocked, terrified even.

Terrified because I thought this meant dad might not be saved. So, after arriving home from a long day at work, my father was confronted by his twelve-year-old son who proceeded to try and convince him how important it was that he believed what the Bible said about God making the world.

I’m sure I was not a terribly convincing young theologian at that point, but I’m also sure dad could see what it meant to me, so he agreed with me and the issue was never raised again.

Though it wasn’t long before I made my peace with Evolution not being an issue of salvation, these crisis moments ensured that I would wrestle for many years with the ways my faith seemed to clash with science.

By the time I graduated from high school I had read many Creationist books and had the debates time after time, and was no doubt obnoxiously sure of myself.

Then college hit, and the more widely I read the less sure I became of my easy answers.

A Biblical Studies major as an undergrad, I expected to find theologians offering a thorough repudiation of godless Darwinism, what I found was quite the opposite. There were of course theologians who were outspoken Creationists, but plenty of theologians who I had come to deeply respect saw absolutely no contradiction between biblical faithfulness and the science of evolution.

This was exciting, freeing even, but also deeply frustrating.

See, I still cared more for the Bible than my books about dinosaurs. And, try as I might, I just couldn’t see how to make the two compatible without doing violence to the Scriptures I valued so highly.

lost-worldAs I continued to research I could see more and more massive holes in the Young Earth Creationism I had grown up on, but with no better option I became essentially agnostic. I knew I was no long a traditional Creationist, but I couldn’t really bring myself to throw in with any other position either.

Enter John Walton.

Last winter I read Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One and it changed everything. Or, rather, I knew that it could. I also knew I wanted to believe what he was saying, so I was a bit suspicious of my motives for embracing his argument. It made perfect sense, but did I just think that because of all sorts of subconscious motivations?

So I took some time to ponder it, and this summer I re-read The Lost World of Genesis One and had the chance to hear Walton speak about his argument in the book. This led to this post, and a follow up.

Walton’s suggestion? In the ancient world the idea of creation was not about material but function. So that, in all the ancient creation myths, the thing that is created is order, things are named and given roles and a place in the world. How the “stuff” that things are made of came into existence was simply not a concern to the ancients.

If that’s true, and Walton makes a very good case for it, here is the way it cashes out: Genesis 1 is about functional origins not material, the original audience would have understood it as being about how order was created out of chaos, not how matter came from non-matter.

So the Bible takes no particular side in the debates we have about Evolution or the age of the earth, that Story is about something else entirely.

And suddenly I don’t have to choose between the Bible and those books about dinosaurs.

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Love God with All Your...Entrails?

by Mason Slater
August 18, 2011

In the ancient world the seat of thought and emotion was not the brain, it was the heart - or more specifically the entrails.

So when the Scripture tells us to love God with our mind, it’s actually telling us to love YHWH with our entrails.

Why would the Bible say such a thing if it's not scientifically correct? Because God was not interested in correcting their physiology. It didn’t matter if they believed that they thought with their entrails, so long as they thought in ways that were holy and righteous.

Similarly, the text is quite clear that ancient Israelites held a cosmology (understanding of how the world works) quite similar to their neighbors.

They saw the earth as a disk, with the stars and sun close at hand, Sheol was underfoot along with the oceans of the deep, and the dome of the sky held back the waters of the heavens.

Interestingly, YHWH never seems interested in correcting this idea either, even though as a scientific error it goes far beyond where we imagine thought takes place.

In fact, John Walton goes so far as to suggest in The Lost World of Genesis One “Throughout the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture. No passage offers a scientific perspective that was not common to the Old World science of antiquity.”

Having heard Walton speak last night I’m still wrestling with the implications of that claim, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts -

- Can you think of a passage where God did reveal new scientific data?

- If not, does that change the way we approach the text?

Grace and peace
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Are We Missing the Point of Genesis One?
August 19, 2011


Continuing yesterday’s conversation if YHWH did not choose reveal scientific truths to the people of Israel that they would not have already known, and I’ve yet to come across a place where he does, why then do we assume Genesis 1 is a modern scientific account of creation?

Now, right away that question becomes problematic, or at least it seems to. It’s one thing for God to accommodate his speech to fit ancient ideas like thinking with your entrails, and quite another for him to fabricate an entire creation narrative that turns out to be misleading at best.

But what if it’s not a question of making Genesis 1 fit either Young Earth Creationism or Evolution?

What if the text is about something else altogether?

In The Lost World of Genesis One, John Walton makes what I find to be a quite convincing argument that we’ve imported an idea of creation into the text that was quite foreign to the ancient mind.

We, as good post-Platonic Westerners, are concerned with creation as material – the story of how there was no “stuff” and then God brought that stuff, that material, into existence.

In the Ancient Near East creation narratives were never about the creation of matter, but rather the creative act was a matter of bringing function and order to elements which were not serving their proper role. Case in point, the idea of “nonexistence” in Egyptian literature could be used to speak of the desert, which clearly exists in material terms but has not been given function or order in relation to the life of people or the gods.

{Similarly,] the story of Genesis 1 becomes the story of how the ancient world went from “formless and void” to properly ordered and given function by the God who, at the end of the story, sits down to rest and rule in his newly inaugurated temple – the cosmos.

Of course, the question behind the question for many of us will be this: if Walton’s understanding of Genesis 1 is correct, and it’s not about the creation of material, is there any biblical reason not to take up the scientific account of material origins?






New Students 2011 Convocation Message by Fuller President Richard Mouw




Rich Mouw gave a great welcome address to Fuller’s incoming students. It outlines well where Fuller came from, what “evangelical” might mean as a label for non-fundamentalist, even non-conservative Christians.



September 21, 2011

http://vimeo.com/29348644



New Students Convocation: President’s Message from Fuller Theological Seminary on Vimeo.