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
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Friday, December 16, 2011

On Idols, Happiness and Personal Meaning

Who Stole My Happiness?

by Peter Rollins
posted 12/12/11

One of the first problems that we are confronted with concerning the “Thing” which we imagine will bring us fulfilment (money, fame, health, relationship etc.) is, of course, that we can’t seem to ever get our hands on it. If we do reach out and grasp we open our hands and find out that it isn’t actually the “Thing” after all (because it has not satisfied in the way we fantasised). This is not to say that a form of happiness and satisfaction is beyond us, just that the imagined fulfilment of desire is an impossible dream (that would turn out to be a nightmare were it ever possible). The belief in something that can fulfil us (in theological terms “the idol”) is then oppressive because it always seems out of reach, robbing our current situation of meaning.

This is, of course, a rather mundane and well-documented phenomenon. However what is reflected on less is the way that we imagine others having the “Thing” and how this affects the way we relate to them.

Take the example of a minister standing in front of his congregation preaching against the sexual sins of the world. Let us imagine him working himself into a sweat about the orgies, sex parties and deviant behaviour going on just beyond the walls of the church. One of the striking things about this is the way that all of his pent up emotion and moral indignation often seems like nothing more than a thin veil hiding the truth that he is jealous of all the fun they are having. They are having so much pleasure while he is not, they have the “Thing” that he doesn’t.

To approach this from a different angle I recently talked with a woman who broke up with someone and subsequently felt bad because she knew that he was very unhappy as a result of the split. She told me of how, a couple of months later, she found out from a friend that he was much better and in a new relationship. When she heard the news she expressed joy to her friend. However she admitted to me, and herself, that the initial “sorrow” she felt at him being unhappy actually contained a form of hidden pleasure while the “pleasure” she had at thinking he was happy veiled a sorrow.

Her feelings had nothing to do with her disliking the man or not wanting him to prosper; it was rather connected to her (implicit) belief in the "Thing."

This is also seen to play out when someone breaks up with us. It is not uncommon to imagine that the other person is out partying all the time, meeting new people and generally having a ball. All the while we are unhappy, unstable and unable to leave the house. They appear to have the pleasure that we lack and we resent them for it, even wishing them harm. More than this we are willing to hurt ourselves in order to rob them of their pleasure (the most extreme form being suicide – where we will end our own life to rob them of the "Thing").

The point of these brief comments is to draw out how our belief that there is something which can satisfy our desire and render us whole, [which] is not only oppressive because (i) we can never seem to grasp it, but also is oppressive because (ii) of the way that we think others have. When we are truly able to see the other as being just as riven with desire and lack as we are then reconciliation becomes more possible.*

This is a subject that I go into in much more depth in my next book (due out October 2012).


* * * * * * * * * *  * * *


*If I might attempt to complete Peter's thought, we might imagine ourselves no less fulfilled or happy than another person similarly plague by personal thoughts of unfulfillment and unhappiness. Each of us have our own personal "idols and meaning" issues. Each of us are just as torn as the other. But in different ways. This is a sin issue. Rather than being content with life's many little perfections of beauty around us we always want more from God. Our pride and ego would drive us to lust and discontent. These are different than dreams and passions which would drive us to God's re-purposing of our lives. One is an idol. The other is worship.

R.E. Slater
December 15, 2011





How (not) to Honor Christmas

Blessed are the entitled? (*Reposted from December 8, 2010)
http://rachelheldevans.com/blessed-are-the-entitled

by Rachel Held Evans
December 8, 2011
An Expert Pouterphoto © 2007 Sharon Mollerus | more info (via: Wylio)
“Christmas survived the Roman Empire,
I think it can handle the renaming of the Tulsa parade.”

- Jon Stewart (watch the video)

Ever witness a kid digress into complete meltdown mode after his parents refused to buy him that new video game?

“But I want it! It’s mine! Give it to me!”

Entitlement can get ugly, especially around Christmastime.

And the only thing more embarrassing than watching a little kid throw a fit is watching a grownup throw one.

“If you don’t play religious music at your store, we’ll boycott it!”

“We demand that manger scenes be placed in front of all government buildings!”

“How dare you say ‘happy holidays’ to me? I want to speak with the manager!”

“I want it! It’s mine! Give it to me!”

I’m not sure when or why it happened, but in some circles, entitlement has been declared December's Christian virtue. Suddenly it’s not enough that Americans spend millions of dollars each year marking the birth of Jesus. Now we’ve got to have a “Merry Christmas” banner in front of every parade and an inflatable manger scene outside of every courthouse... or else we’ll make a big stink about it in the name of Jesus. Having opened the gift of the incarnation—of God with us—we’ve peered inside and shrieked, “This is not enough! Where are the accessories? We want more!”

This is a strange way to honor Jesus, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…but made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” (Philippians 2:8)

Jesus didn’t arrive with a parade. He arrived in a barn.

Jesus wasn’t embraced by the government. He was crucified by it.

Jesus didn’t demand that his face be etched into coins or his cross be carried like a banner into war. He asked that those who follow him be willing to humble themselves to the point of death, to serve rather than be served, to give rather than receive.

What a tragedy that history’s greatest act of humility is being marked by petty acts of entitlement and pride.

Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I wonder if the best thing that could happen to this country is for Christ to be taken out of Christmas—for Advent to be made distinct from all the consumerism of the holidays and for the name of Christ to be invoked in the context of shocking forgiveness, radical hospitality, and logic-defying love. The Incarnation survived the Roman Empire, not because it was common but because it was strange, not because it was forced on people but because it captivated people.

Let’s celebrate the holidays, of course, but let’s live the incarnation. Let’s advocate for the poor, the forgotten, the lonely, and the lost. Let’s wage war against hunger and oppression and modern-day slavery.

Let’s be the kind of people who get worked up on behalf of others rather than ourselves.





And "...your daughters will prophesy"

http://rachelheldevans.com/daughters-will-prophesy

by Rachel Held Evans
December 13, 2011

'Holding hands' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

“Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. - Jesus, Matthew 10:41

Josiah became king of Israel when he was just eight years old.

Described as Israel’s last good king, he reigned for thirty-one years during a final period of peace before the Babylonian exile. About halfway through his reign, Josiah learns that the long-lost Book of the Law—the Torah— has been discovered in the temple. Upon hearing the words of the Torah read aloud, Josiah tears his robes in repentance and summons a prophet, for he sees how far Israel has strayed from God’s ways.

Contemporaries of Josiah included the famed prophets Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk—all of whom have books of the Bible named after them. But Josiah did not choose any of those men. Instead he chose Huldah, a woman and prophet who lived in Jerusalem. “Huldah is not chosen because no men were available,” writes Scot McKnight, “she is chosen because she is truly exceptional among the prophets.”

Huldah first confirms the scroll’s authenticity and then tells Josiah that the disobedience of Israel will indeed lead to its destruction, but that Josiah himself would die in peace. Thus, Huldah not only interpreted but also authorized the document that would become the core of Jewish and Christian scripture. Her prophecy was fulfilled thirty-five years later (2 Kings 22).

The Bible identifies ten such female prophets in the Old and New Testaments: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah, Isaiah’s wife, Anna, and the four daughters of Philip. In addition, women like Rachel, Hannah, Abigail, Elisabeth, and Mary are described as having prophetic visions about the future of their children, the destiny of nations, and the coming Messiah.

When the Holy Spirit descended upon the first Christians at Pentecost, Peter draws from the words of the prophet Joel to describe what has happened:

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your young men will see visions,
Your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
And they will prophesy
(Acts 2:17-18)

The breaking in of the new creation after Christ’s resurrection unleashed a cacophony of new prophetic voices, and apparently, prophesying among women was such a common activity in the early church that Paul had to remind women to cover their heads when they did it. While some may try to downplay biblical examples of female disciples, deacons, preachers, leaders and apostles, no one can deny the Bible’s long tradition of prophetic feminine vision.

I believe that right now, we need that prophetic vision more than ever.

Right now, 30,000 children die every day from preventable disease.

Right now 3 million women and girls are enslaved in the sex trade.

Right now a woman dies in childbirth every minute.

Right now, women age 15-44 are more likely to be maimed or to die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined.

Meanwhile, the evangelical church has busied itself with endless debates about the “appropriate roles” of women in the church and complaints about the supposed “feminization of the Church,” as if women are no longer needed for the Kingdom, as if we’ve stepped outside our bounds. Meanwhile, churches are spending years debating whether a female missionary should be allowed to speak on a Sunday morning, whether students older than ten should have female Sunday school teachers, whether women should be allowed to read from Scripture in a church service, whether girls should be encouraged to attend seminary, whether women should be permitted to collect the offering or write the church newsletter or make an announcement. Those of us who are perhaps most equipped to speak and act prophetically in response to the violence, poverty, and inequality that plague our sisters around the world are being silenced ourselves.

Folks who see the leadership of women like Huldah and Junia as special exceptions for times of great need are oblivious to the world in which we live. Those who think the urgency of Pentecost has passed are deluding themsleves. They “have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear.”

Women around the world need the voices of all their sisters to cry out in one accord.

I’m with Sarah on this one. We cannot afford to wait for permission to make change; women themselves must be the change.

So, ladies—speak out.

Preach.
Prophecy.
Stand with your sisters.
Change the world.

And if a man ever tries to use the Bible as a weapon against you to keep you from speaking the truth, just throw on a head covering and tell him that you’re prophesying, just like the Bible says you can do.

To those who will not accept us as preachers, we will have to become prophets.