Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Thursday, February 4, 2016

"In God I Trust and No Other." So Then, "Who Is This God We Trust?" Part 2/2

"In God I Trust and No Other." So Then, "Who Is This God We Trust?"

"The words of Jesus tend to “comfort the afflicted
and afflict the comfortable.” - Rev. Saturnia

"The cross is the end to God’s affirmation of man's power structures through
the installation of God’s chosen Son. The cross is the beginning of a power
that can only-and-always look like weakness. It can only look like defeat. It
is almost possible to say that if we want to be sure to know where God is not,
then we should look not to the one wearing the victor’s crown, [the Roman
crown of victory, but the Jesus crown of shame, of ministry to the despised,
to the powerless, to the oppressed.]" - JRDK / [RES]

Yesterday I asked when people say that they "trust in God" just what kind of God do they trust in? More specifically we are hearing politicians proclaiming God's favor by rallying our nation to a violent, un-Jesus-like gospel. Since when does God favor a nation committed to killing their enemies? I know, I know, we've been preaching a violent bible and a violent end to history (known as end-time eschatology) for centuries. As such, these "good" politicians and their followers are simply following a Bible they have been taught and believe in.

But what if I said we've got it all backwards and inside out? Well, it'd be a scandal right? Many would respond by saying that a God who controls everything by using the means of divine (or angelic) wrath, judgment, and condemnation as His major tools towards obedience, is the right and proper view of Scripture. And yet, for many Christians they are questioning these extremist interpretive dogmas by saying, "Not so!"

Rather than describing God as a controlling God many are now re-describing Him as a non-controlling God. And rather than a God of violence He is being thought of as a very-patient, merciful God who acted very unlike what we humans would have done when challenging violence when sacrificing His own earthly life at the Cross. In beholding God in this way these post-Christians are re-interpreting a violent (OT) Jewish bible through Jesus' presence-filled New Testament acts of charity to the oppressed, despised, and pagan teachings of men and women both then and now.

Perhaps then we must ask if whether Israel had correctly interpreted "God's response to force by using force" in the administration of their kingdom? Perhaps this God they proclaimed was actually their own conscious wish to have an all powerful God full of just fury made in their own image, rather than God's true image?

If so, many Christians today see God through a Jesus-lens and not a so-called "bible-lens." (Thus, instead of reading the bible in a flat, literal fashion it is being read using a more rounded, existential or literary, anthropology. One that is still both narrative as well as instructive.) So then Jesus is the lens which is used to portray God by His life's testimony correcting all our pagan, idolatrous, and mimetic images of Himself. Otherwise this (un)biblical (non-Jesus) G/god was a type of God whom Israel needed in order to 'do to their neighbor the evil in their own hearts" (otherwise known as self-righteousness; the prophet/judge Samson would probably be a good picture of this).

So then, the post-Christian portrait of God is One who is Almighty but who also comes to mankind in humility, weakness, and presence (for those looking for a traditional interpretation here it is... an old interpretation with a new spin). But a God who refuses to control us, or our lives, wishing instead to partner with us in the fullness of His Spirit (again, more traditional teachings but this time given a slant toward "Open and Relational Theism" which is more Arminian based than Calvisinistic). A God who seeks just-justice without implementing a discriminating violent justice.

And if this is so, than our presidential candidates, along with the American nation we live in, must come to terms with which God they wish to follow. If choosing the more violent, unjust God than we may expect to sow what we weep (reap). If a more Jesus-like God than perhaps we as a nation might usher in the very Kingdom of God we have all yearned for throughout our lives. Amen.

R.E. Slater
February 3, 2016

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ted Cruz delivering his victory speech after the Iowa caucus | Screenshot from YouTube, ABC News

Iowa, Ted Cruz, and the Evangelical Identity Crisis

February 2, 2016

Ted Cruz ended last night with a yuuuuge victory over Donald Trump in Iowa. (Sorry, had to do it!) Religion played a big role in Cruz’s victory. The New York Times reports that Cruz’s victory was “powered by a surge of support from evangelical Christians.”

For his part, Cruz reaffirmed his connection with his evangelical supporters by invoking divine favor upon his victory. “God bless the great state of Iowa! Let me first say, to God be the glory.”

But I can’t help but feel uneasy about the God proclaimed by Cruz and his evangelical supporters. That’s because, when it comes to their evangelical faith, they have an identity crisis.

The word “evangelical” has a specific meaning and history. It comes from the Greek word evangelion, which means “good news.”

Evangelical has become a distinctively Christian term, but during the first century it was used predominantly by the Roman Empire. In fact, when Caesar sent his armies off to conquer new land in the name of Roman peace, Roman soldiers would announce military strength as the “Gospel according to Caesar.” Rome waged peace through violence. In his book Jesus and Empire, Richard Horsley states that,

In the Roman world, the “gospel” was the good news of Caesar’s having established peace and security for the world. Caesar was the “savior” who had brought “salvation” to the whole world. The peoples of the empire were therefore to have “faith” (pistis/fides) in their “lord” the emperor. Moreover, Caesar the lord and savior was to be honored and celebrate by the “assemblies” (ekklesiai) of cities such as Philippi, Corinth, and Ephesus.

Now, a good Bible believing evangelical will instantly recognize the politically subversive language of the New Testament. In the face of Roman military that brought the good news of “peace” by the sword, the early Christians delivered an alternative message of good news that claimed “those who live by the sword die by the sword.” Make no mistake, their evangelical message was political. They sought to reorder the world, not through Caesar’s military strength, but through Christ’s nonviolent love.

The early Christians subverted Roman violence through their use of language and their actions. They claimed that the good news was found not in Caesar, but in Christ. Christ, not Caesar, was the “savior” who brought “salvation” to the world. People were to have “faith” in him as their “lord.” Jesus was to be honored and celebrates at assemblies, which would become known as churches.

But for the early Christians, words weren’t enough. They took Jesus’ command to follow him seriously. Jesus didn’t lift the sword to defend himself against the violence that killed him, and neither did his disciples lift their swords. Rather, they continued to challenge the Roman Empire’s “good news” of achieving peace through violence. The disciples claimed that true peace could only be achieved by following the nonviolent way of Jesus, whose evangelical message commanded that his follower love everyone, included their enemies, including those who sought to persecute them. In following Jesus their Lord, the disciples were murdered, just like their Lord and Savior.

Jump ahead about 2,000 years to last night in Iowa and we discover that Ted Cruz and his evangelical supporters have an identity crisis. They claim that Jesus is their Lord with words, but not in action. Cruz promises to “carpet bomb” America’s enemies. He promises to beef up the American military, a military that spends roughly the same amount as “the next nine largest military budgets around the world, combined.” The U.S. military is already the strongest military that the world has ever seen.

René Girard wrote in his apocalyptic book Battling to the End that Christians must make a decision about violence because Christ has left us with a choice, “either believe in violence, or not; Christianity is non-belief.”

Christianity is non-belief in violence because it believes in the one true God who on the cross responded to violence not with more violence, but with nonviolent love and forgiveness.

“To God be the glory,” a victorious Cruz proclaimed to a cheering crowd in Iowa. But I can’t help but wonder – what God is Ted Cruz and his evangelical supporters talking about? Because “Hey! Good News! We just carpet bombed the hell out of you,” sounds a lot more like the gods of ancient Rome than the God of Jesus Christ.

As long as evangelicals proclaim faith in Jesus as their Lord, but continue to believe in violence as the way to peace and security for the United States, they will suffer from an identity crisis. And rightfully so, because that combination is not the Good News.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"In God I Trust and No Other." So Then, "Who Is This God We Trust?" Part 1/2

To say "we trust in God" is a nice sentiment but then again what kind of G/god is meant by this declaration? For example, Presidential nominee Ted Cruz says he trusts in God but I would not trust in his God. His is a God of violence. Businessman and presidential nominee Donald Trump also says he trusts God but then again this G/god seems to be graven out of Trump's own image.

Lutherans trust God, so do Mennonites and Anabaptists. Christian Reformed and Baptists trust God. But each of these (doctrinal) pictures of God contain something that expresses that religious group's societal values which may or may not be biblical.

The KKK trusts G/god but would you trust this G/god? I wouldn't. Neither did the blacks whom they oppressed and murdered.

The atheist has no G/god to trust but perhaps s/he is being led on a faith path to discover the real G/god and not a mimetic image of an intolerable G/god the conservative church speaks so often of? A God of wrath and judgment both in this life and its hellish outcome should you not be part of the "chosen elect." Certainly this is no God of mine.

So the, let's ask the question again. It's not whether "we trust God" but what kind of God we are trusting in. I'm always glad to hear the faithful expressing trust in God. But there must always be room in the faithful's lectionary to examine what kind of G/god they have graven. Especially during political seasons where politians love mom, babies, apple pie, and G/god.

More simply said, that God must picture Jesus. Anything less is not a biblical G/god but a G/god that is a mimetic image of ourselves. Or of a bible we have distorted and abused.

R.E. Slater
February 2, 2016

* * * * * * * *

Donald Trump and a Tale of Two Gospels

by Rachel Held Evans
January 28, 2016

As Rev. Saturnia said, the words of Jesus tend to
“comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

As it becomes clear Donald Trump’s candidacy for president will be more than a sideshow this year, the probable Republican nominee is making his pitch to Christian voters. 

You would think it would be a hard sell given the fact that the real estate mogul and reality star has boasted about his extramarital affairs, profited off casinos and strip clubs, said he doesn’t need to ask God for forgiveness, called for targeting innocent civilians in war, mocked a reporter with a disability, threatened the religious liberty of minority groups in the U.S., and gained wide support among white nationalists for consistently lying about and demeaning blacks, Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and Syrian refugees. 

But polls show that despite all of this, Trump remains favored among evangelical voters. After speaking at Liberty University last week, Trump scored an important endorsement from Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent leader of the Religious Right who, to the applause of thousands, compared Trump to Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Despite what the polls say, I personally don’t know a single evangelical Christian who considers Trump a model Christian. His scant church attendance and clumsiness at citing Scripture have not gone unnoticed here in the Bible Belt. Russell Moore of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has been an outspoken voice against evangelical alignment with Trump, and I’ve found his righteous incredulity over Trump’s religious pandering refreshing. 

Yet Falwell’s support is hardly isolated, and I suspect if Trump is the nominee, he will continue to find even more of it from the Religious Right (which I designate as a subset of a broader and more diverse evangelicalism). Despite about a million think-pieces on the topic, the reasons are not that mysterious. Racism and xenophobia remain powerful forces in our country, as does celebrity worship, and white Christians aren't as immune from these influences as they like to think.

Indeed, a quick study of history shows the origins of Liberty University and the Religious Right lie not in their opposition to abortion (that came later), but rather in their opposition to racial integration. Trump’s message mirrors several postures that have characterized the Religious Right from the beginning: 1) a glorified nostalgia for the past (“make America great again!” “America was once a Christian nation!”) that minimizes the historical suffering of women and minority groups in this country, 2) an overwrought persecution complex that confuses sharing civil rights with others with being persecuted by them, and 3) a persistent fear of the perceived “other”—Muslims, LGBT people, immigrants, refugees, etc.—that results in culture wars meant to “take back” the public square. Trump’s promise that “everyone will say Merry Christmas” when he’s president appeals to those who think being wished “happy holidays” by a store clerk is a form of religious oppression (and who apparently remain unconcerned about how Trump's mandate will be enforced upon those of other faiths). Both the Trump campaign and the Religious Right movement begin with the assumption that things were better in this country when the culture was dominated by white Christian men and that things will get better if white Christian men are freed from the burden of “political correctness” and restored to dominance once again. 

But perhaps the most tantalizing of Trump’s pitches to the Religious Right, and the one with broadest appeal, is his promise to protect their power.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” he told a crowd in Sioux Center, Iowa, “I get elected president, we’re going to be saying ‘merry Christmas’ again…And by the way, Christianity will have power…because if I’m there, you’re going to have somebody representing you very, very well.”

This is the gospel of Donald Trump, his “good news” to Christian voters: Stick with me and you’ll be a winner. Stick with me and I’ll give you power, protection, prestige. 

It’s also the very thing Satan promised Jesus when he tempted him in the desert.

“I will give you power and authority over all the kingdoms of the world,” Satan said, “it has been given to me and I can give it to anyone I want to.” 

While Jesus resisted the allure of power and privilege, it has long been a snare to his followers, and the Religious Right sold its soul long ago. Its support of Trump proves once again it will do anything to protect its power, even if it means baptizing as anointed a candidate whose rhetoric and actions contradict any sane understanding of what Christianity is about. 

Trump’s sloppy citations of Scripture are accepted by many at Liberty University because, as an arm of the Religious Right, the school’s primary function is political, not religious. The Bible is harvested for a few conservative sound bites, Jesus reduced to an object of veneration whose death saves but whose life and teachings remain inconsequential. When power is the end game, faithfulness bows to political expediency.

Another Gospel…

After his pep rally at Liberty, Trump was flying high, claiming with his usual hyperbolic flourish that Christians just LOVE him.

…And then he made the critical mistake of actually walking into a church.

Last Sunday, Trump took a break from the campaign trail to surprise the congregation of First Presbyterian Church in Muscatine, Iowa with a visit to their regular morning service. 

Now understand, as a liturgical Mainline Protestant congregation, First Presbyterian Church follows the Revised Common Lectionary, which means the Scriptural passages for the service and sermon are determined years in advance. Had Trump wandered into my church—St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee—that morning, he would have encountered the very same texts. Thousands of congregations around the world—from Lutherans to Anglicans, to Presbyterians, to members of the United Church of Christ and other denominations—stick with this calendar as a way of pulling the days’ focus around a common theme. Nothing about the service would have changed just because Trump walked through the door...(well except maybe the tension in the room!)

The first Scripture reading that morning came from 1 Corinthians 12, and at First Presbyterian Church Muscatine, was read from the The Message, an idiomatic translation by Eugene Peterson:

“But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting
blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only
because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t
be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its
proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you
imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling  Foot,
“You’re fired; your job has been phased out”?… - 1 Cor. 12

Then came the sermon, which was based on one of the most important passages of the New Testament, the one where Jesus teaches at the synagogue in Nazareth and explains exactly what his ministry is all about: 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring
good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim
the year of the Lord’s favor.” - Luke 4

This passage from Luke 4 is a declaration of the nature and aim of the gospel—the good news—and as the next verse reveals, it nearly got Jesus thrown off a cliff. As it turns out, the kind of people Donald Trump and the Religious Right deem acceptable collateral damage in their quest for power—the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the hated minorities—are the very people Jesus prioritized. His life and ministry started with them and his kingdom will ultimately be realized through them. The gospel isn't about protecting power and privilege, but rather about surrendering them until God's vision of justice is fulfilled. 

As Rev. Dr. Pam Saturnia put it, “Jesus has come to proclaim freedom and healing to those who are the most unloved, who are the most discriminated against, the most forgotten in our community and in our world. Jesus has come to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor on the teenagers who are homeless, on the Syrian refugees, on the Mexican migrants, and the people who find themselves prisoners of addiction and their families, on the poorest of the poor in Haiti — Jesus has come for them.” 

After the service, Trump seemed a little defensive, wondering aloud to the press if the Corinthians passage was directed at him, (“I have more humility than people think,” he said), and arguing, “I want to take care of all people but with Syrians, we just can’t do it here.”

But contrary to Trump’s prevailing worldview, this event had not in fact been orchestrated around him. The man had simply stepped into a big ole’ pile of actual gospel and immediately realized it contradicted everything he stands for. 

In contrast to Liberty University's convocation service, this church was a place where Scripture was quoted at length and in context, where the words of Jesus were honored and heeded, and where the vanities of a racist billionaire were challenged rather than coddled for the sake of financial and political gain. Kudos to Rev. Saturnia for sticking with the prophetic word God had given for that day and not cowering or compromising because it might offend one of the most powerful men in the world. 

Donald Trump had an encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ and rather than propping him up, it made him uncomfortable…as tends to happen with anyone who is actually paying attention, myself included. 

When I left evangelicalism for a Mainline church, I was teased by some evangelicals who informed me I’d picked the losing team. They reminded me that Mainline churches like my Episcopal church in Tennessee and First Presbyterian Church in Mascatine, Iowa, are losing members at faster rates than evangelical churches are losing them. I’d jumped the evangelical ship, the said, for nothing but a capsizing lifeboat.

They aren’t entirely wrong. We Mainliners don’t fill many mega-church buildings these days, and our pastors don’t typically write bestselling “biblical diet” books or get quoted on CNN. But what these critics fail to understand is I don’t go to church to be with a bunch of “winners." I go to church to be with the people of God, people transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Sure, the “good news” of safety, popularity, and political power is more appealing to the masses, but it’s not the good news Jesus preached. Not by a long shot. No one ever said the fruit of the Spirit is money, success, or political power. Rather, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control - qualities that can be found in all types of communities be they conservative or liberal, evangelical or Mainline Protestant, big or small. Getting lots of people to go to church (or to attend a convocation/ political rally) isn’t the same as making disciples of Jesus Christ, and Christian leaders would do well to remember the difference. 

As Rev. Saturnia said, the words of Jesus tend to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” 

Last Sunday, those words were enough to make one of the most powerful men in the country squirm. How’s that for being politically incorrect?

* * * * * * * *

Photo: screenshot from TedCruz.org 

God Is Not on Cruz Control

February 2, 2016

"The cross is the end to God’s supposed affirmation of our power structures through the
installation of God’s chosen within them. The cross is the beginning of a power that can
only and always look like weakness. It can only look like defeat. It is almost possible to say
that if we want to be sure we know where God is not, then we should look to the one
wearing the victor’s crown, [the Roman crown of victory, not the Jesus crown of shame,
of ministry to the despised, to the powerless, the oppressed.]" - JRDK / [RES]

Blogsphere confessional: despite my thick skin when it comes to what some might consider infringing on the holiness of God, I turned off my T.V. last night. I was terrified by the blasphemy that was reaching my daughter’s ears.

Perhaps the only thing more incongruous to the identity of God than a pro athlete giving all the credit to God for a victory is a politician affixing God’s divine providence to a political victory. “To God be the glory,” proclaimed Cruz. A sentiment that I can get behind–for all the great things that God has done.

But the blasphemous coincidence of God’s glorious action and Cruz’s garnering a plurality of the vote in Iowa must never be our song of praise.

Getting the Story Wrong

At the risk of overgeneralizing, here is my basic assessment of American politicians who attempt to infuse their campaigns with divinity:

"The glory that they see coming to them from God’s hand, and the glory they see as
God’s shiny reflection in an exceptional America, are completely antithetical to the
identity  of God as made known in the story of Jesus Christ." - JRKK

The greatest trap in which Christians become ensnared is the trap of thinking that the God whose power gives us all life is the same god whose power is reflected in earthly measures of greatness.

We have a primal instinct to look for God by looking “up.” We look up to the pastors and assume that they are closer to God. In earlier generations we constructed great chains of being through which we looked up to the kings and angels who stood between us and God. We look up to the country in power (if it’s our own!) and assume that here, if anywhere, rests the hand of the Almighty.

We hear the powerful sermon and assume that the gifted rhetoric is the gift of preaching. We learn of a doctoral degree and assume that academic attainment reflects the gift of knowledge.

We assume, in other words, that the power structures of our world are instituted to tell the divine story and reflect the divine glory.

And when we give ourselves to these assumptions (as we all have at times), we deny the gospel story and the God who is made known through it.

The story of Jesus makes known to us the identity of the Christian God. If you’re not Christian, that’s fine, your G/god can have some other identity. But for those of us who proclaim that the Lord over all is none other than the Crucified, it is blasphemous to align God with the worldly glory of political victory.

In 1 Corinthians Paul is dealing with a similar problem: people being drawn to the wise and powerful. And so he retells the story of the cross: Christ crucified is weakness to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek. The glory of God, in other words, is hidden in suffering and death.

Whereas every fiber of our being yearns to see God by looking “up,” the cross of Christ teaches us that the only way to see God is by looking “down.” Down to the pierced and trampled. Down to the loser.

The wisdom of God is not the wisdom of the rulers of this age. If the rulers of this age understood the wisdom of God, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

In the dark and shameful history of the church we have sinned at times by so associating the Jews with Jesus’ death that they have been labeled “Christ killers.” Perhaps it would be better for us to affix this label to every ruler, every king, every president, every senator. These are the embodiments of the rule of the rulers of this age. These are the ones who “crucified the Lord of glory.”

Indeed, Cruz himself rested his victory on the most powerful force we have: not the hand of God, but the clamor of the people. The crowds. (NB: at this point one returns to the Gospel stories to see how well things turn out if we follow the whims of the crowds. Spoiler: I think we end up chanting at the seat of Pontius Pilate.)

So yes, to God be the glory–and that is a glory that comes when the Ted Cruzes and Hillary Clintons and Donald Trumps and Barak Obamas and Bernie Sanderses have their work exposed as the glory of the darkness that the shining light overcomes, the glorying in death that gets shown up for shame when resurrection life triumphs.

Not God’s Messiah

The point in Cruz’s speech where I threw up in my mouth a little bit was when he cited Psalm 30:5 (with a King James lisp for good measure): “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

That was his promise. For those who have been sore oppressed by eight long years of Obama’s presidency. The millions who are now covered by insurance “suffering” due to the current administration have hope! God will rescue! God will deliver!

Ted Cruz is the messiah?

This script has been played out before. Or, rather, the hope that such a script would play out has quickened the hearts of many–including Jesus’ earliest followers.

They, too, knew themselves to be the beleaguered victims of years of malfeasance.

They, too, knew themselves to have had their freedoms and rights curtailed by years of distant, federalized rule that made no allowances for what was rightfully theirs.

They, too, knew themselves to be the rightful recipients of God’s promised deliverance–the morning of joy after the long night of weeping.

But the disciples’ yearnings were thwarted. Not the true, deepest longings for redemption. But the longings for a new political day. A new political deliverer. A new power to match and displace the powers of the earth by taking their place here on earth.

Rather than a glorious victor, they were given a crucified Christ.

Rather than a revolt they were given the way of the cross.

Rather than seats of honor at Jesus’ right hand and left they were left looking at cruciform thrones on either side of Jesus as he slowly bled out.

It’s not that they, or we, or the people of Iowa, are wrong to name our grievances. It’s that the expectation of a divine deliverance that looks like the exertions of the political power of the world will not be matched in the Jesus story.

The cross is the end to God’s supposed affirmation of our power structures through the installation of God’s chosen within them. The cross is the beginning of a power that can only and always look like weakness. It can only look like defeat. It is almost possible to say that if we want to be sure we know where God is not then we should look to the one wearing the victor’s crown.

Not Without Hope

Cruz is not God’s man to save us from this hour. Neither is Ben Carson, despite the YouTube video singing his praises as such. Neither was Barak Obama. Neither is Bernie Sanders.

What, then, are we to make of our presidents within this biblical narrative of upside down power?

First, any resemblance that their policies or persons bear to the coming reign of God will be a happy accident for which we should be grateful. But it can never be one and the same. Any resemblance is God’s gracious manifestation of life out of a culture of death.

Second, most of what gains praise and accolades and votes likely requires forgiveness. Yes, it is great that we are a secure people with relatively little upsetting our peace and tranquility. And this is bought at the high price of drone strikes that kill “collateral” as indiscriminately as they kill the targeted suspects. The “peace president” is a source of terror so that we might sleep soundly.

Third, figuring out in this context how to faithfully integrate our faith with our politics is a big mess. It’s well and good to think that the Bible tells us that we should welcome the stranger. But why should that be public policy? It’s well and good to believe that we are called to turn the other cheek, but will that protect the people of this nation?

Fourth, I think I am starting to accept that the reasons I might have for being in favor of a public policy are not necessarily the reasons our nation should do something. We might need to start owning up to the difference between the reasons of religious conviction and the reasons of our faith. And then we can start to get clear on how our religious convictions can or can’t, should or shouldn’t, influence the political direction of our country.

But however we attempt this messy, awkward dance of being a country of faith-filled people and a nation led by politics, we who name Jesus as Lord have a responsibility to get our story straight.

And that begins by recognizing that ours is the story of the cross. It is the story of upside down power. It is the story of the mustard seed and of the whispered secret.

If the glory we claim in the name of Jesus is recognizable as glory to the clamoring crowds, that’s our most sure sign that the story we’re living has little to do with the Story we proclaim. That will always be the story of the crucified Christ, of the shamed crowds, and the wagging heads of mocking power.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Peter Enns - The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our "Correct" Beliefs

The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our "Correct" Beliefs
by Peter Enns (Author)

Publication Date - April 5, 2016

Product Details
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (April 5, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006227208X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062272089

Book Description

The controversial evangelical Bible scholar and author of The Bible Tells Me So explains how Christians mistake “certainty” and “correct belief” for faith when what God really desires is trust and intimacy.

With compelling and often humorous stories from his own life, Bible scholar Peter Enns offers a fresh look at how Christian life truly works, answering questions that cannot be addressed by the idealized traditional doctrine of “once for all delivered to the saints.”

Enns offers a model of vibrant faith that views skepticism not as a loss of belief, but as an opportunity to deepen religious conviction with courage and confidence. This is not just an intellectual conviction, he contends, but a more profound kind of knowing that only true faith can provide.

Combining Enns’ reflections of his own spiritual journey with an examination of Scripture, The Sin of Certainty models an acceptance of mystery and paradox that all believers can follow and why God prefers this path because it is only this way by which we can become mature disciples who truly trust God. It gives Christians who have known only the demand for certainty permission to view faith on their own flawed, uncertain, yet heartfelt, terms.

About the Author

Peter Enns is Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has taught courses at several other institutions, including Harvard University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary.

Enns is a frequent contributor to journals and encyclopedias and is the author of several books, including Inspiration and Incarnation and The Evolution of Adam. His popular blog The Bible for Normal People can be found at www.peteenns.com.

Buidling a Gospel Ministry on the "Sermon on the Mount" while Allowing Questions of Doctrine to be Wisely Asked, Debated, or Reflected Upon

I found the accompanying article quite interesting and felt a pain in my heart for the struggles people go through. Who must suffer the "slings and aarows" from others who are less thoughtful and more sure of their conservative dogmas. Who do not understand the passion that drives these individuals. 

Who reminded me of my own pastor's more recent journey in 2012, Rob Bell, who was much younger than myself when I began listening to him Sunday after Sunday. To a young man full of passion and zeal wishing to be heard. Who taught or preached in beautiful, soaring rhetoric, full of the wind of the Holy Spirit pleading in his voice to be heard and understood.

In many ways there will always be zealots or passionate evangelists whose message comes before the people they wish to reach. Full of hardened conviction they preach or conduct their message in such a way as to be continually in confrontation with some person, entity, or institution. Usually they have strong personalities and find it difficult, if not impossible, to back down, unless suffering from a physical malady like depression or overwhelming circumstances leading to a nervous breakdown of sorts.

And so it is with a plea that we patiently learn to listen to these disciples of God, Spirit sent in wind and fire, words and duty, preaching a bible or a gospel that might help us as the church of God better understand how to temper our words, conducts, or behaviours before the Lord and to the world of mankind.

Like Rob Bell, I hold to a progressive doctrine but not in every jot-and-title of Rob's speech or beliefs. And like the author, John Suk, who would describe himself as a weak theist, or his subject, Gretta Vosper, as a soft atheist, I need to listen to their differences with my own kind of "progressive theism." A theism which wishes to embrace, without excluding, as many as I might by mine own teachings, conducts, and actions, while attempting some kind of fellowship or solidarity with the world of the faithful, both lost and found.

Some of my dear friends, or friends I have known in other life pursuits and ministries, have been remitted from their duties as lectors, pastors, theologians, and board parishioners for speaking a gospel foreign to the church group they once had elected to fellowship with. This is ok. People change. So do institutions and traditions. And when done, to consider these times as blessings in disguise while attempting to move on to some kind of healing or resolution.

There can be personal damage in firings, excommunications, and disbandment, but also feelings of betrayal, abandonment and personal hurt. As the poet says, "These are the times that try men's souls" and in these times we must use them to crucially examine ourselves, our motives, our fears, and ghosts by the Spirit of God.

In mine own case God was mute. He spoke nothing to me for nearly nine months of dark blackness. And yet in my heart, or my spirit, I do not know which, His divinely-led assurance was there by His hand towards a new direction He was leading me towards. One that was good and full of the promise land (not unlike Abraham leaving Ur I suppose).

And so, yes, I had great confusion, uncertainty, disillusionment, doubt, and feelings of abandonment. Yet this was also a time of great healing. Gentle, Spirit-led nourishment. And finally, a letting go by the hounds of heaven to pursue my next path no other could have instructed me towards because I was the first in my tribe to begin its long journey.

After that time of deep darkness came an unfathomable burden offering irresistable direction, vision, and the deep passion to bear the yoke I had been given. And so I am sure, as many others may be able to attest, that these remarkably hard times sometimes have a greater end in sight than we can ever know.

But to walk those journeys one must start. And the starting point can be hard, evil, unwanted. So that in the great lostness of one's life there may be a great foundness unlike no other. Praise God for His gracious presence during these times of horror. Even when like Job we heard Him not God was there listening to the advice of our worthless friends come to tramp upon a broken heart with coy deprecations, slanders, and toxic words of misunderstanding.

So then, above all else, as both members of the family of God, the church, and believers in Jesus Christ, let us learn not to offend when differing with one another but seek to understand how to part graciously and live tolerably with one another. To grant people the space they need to work out the difficulties in their own heart. To listen rather than speak. To pray rather than judge. Even as John Suk would later say, in his estimation lawsuits such as the one examined today should be released and a church dispute solved in a different manner. One that might be conciliatory filled with blessings, cautions, and wisdom.

As always, dear reader, I wish you peace in the grace and mercy of our great God,

R.E. Slater
February 1, 2016

* * * * * * * * * *

"The kind of house I’d like to build... is one that is a sanctuary for people with challenges:
parents struggling with special needs kids, or poverty, or students struggling to figure out
what sexual morality is all about. The kind of house I’d like to build... is one where people
who are lonely, who are dying, who are angry, or who are confused will be embraced, and
who will in turn embrace others. The kind of house I’d like to build... is one where all
present are allowed to be unsure about God while being focused on being better people."
                                                                                     - John Suk

When it comes to the issue of post-theism or soft atheism or weak theism or even
fundamentalism, we ought to keep in mind that most of us have logs in our eyes
when it  comes to almost everything in the Sermon on the Mount.   - John Suk

Not Sure

by John Suk
January 31, 2016

Faith isn't sight, and so it can be hard to be sure. In this blog John Suk thinks aloud
about the joys, difficulties, uncertainties and ironies of faith in Jesus.

What Do We Do about Gretta Vosper?

I just preached a sermon about the Gretta Vosper controversy in the United Church of Canada. She's been in the news, a lot, lately, for her "soft atheist" beliefs. I sat down with her for a cup of coffee last week, and this is what I think, riffing off Luke 6:37-39, just a bit.

I just finished reading The Illegal, by Canadian author Lawrence Hill, who also wrote the acclaimed Book of Negroes. It’s about a black illegal immigrant, Keita Ali, in a rich white country.

The book is a terrific read. I won’t give away Keita’s story. But I do want to describe one of the book’s central characters—John.

John is a good but irritating person. For his high school graduation project, John decides to film a documentary about life in AfricTown, the slum where he, as well as many illegal immigrants, live.

John is irritating because he is incredibly smart and cocksure about it. He never asks permission. His devotion to his project is so single-minded that people get hurt along the way and he doesn’t seem to care. For example, at one point he hides himself in a closet in order to secretly film what it is like to be a prostitute in AfricTown. He accidentally films a tryst between the white Minister of Immigration, who is trying to deport all the illegals and a black prostitute. Worse, when John is discovered, the prostitute—who is a citizen—is secretly deported anyway.

This setback doesn’t slow John down. For the rest of the book John follows the Minister of Immigration everywhere, which the minister finds very threatening. In fact, everyone who encounters John feels irritated by him, even though, in the end, he turns out to be a hero.

We all know people like John—people so devoted to their vision, and so good at getting that vision “out there” that they get under our skin. Gretta Vosper is like that. She’s a United Church minister just east of here, in Scarborough, and she’s an atheist—or as she likes to say, “a soft atheist.” Soft atheism is a lot like the post-theism that Ken Gallinger used to preach from this pulpit. Gretta doesn’t believe in a God who, when asked through prayer, intervenes in our lives. She thinks that the god-stories in the Bible are myths—important, insightful, but not factual. What matters to Gretta is not the God of tradition but more the lifestyle Jesus taught through his words and actions.

This irritates a lot of people. Some people in the United Church—important people, mind you—would like to remove her from the ministry. Whether they succeed or not, the whole process looks heavy handed and coercive to anyone who isn’t a Christian; and it has created a lot of negative controversy within the United Church too.

Now, this is where it all gets a bit personal for me. I’ve had my own struggles trying to be a minister in a denomination I didn’t agree with. I tried, for several years, to stay in that denomination, papering over differences and conflicts. I eventually realized that I couldn’t do it. So I sought sanctuary in the United Church. And, I have to say, I’ve found a home here.

In the United Church I’ve come to experience doctrine not as a rigid set of required beliefs, but as a playground, as an imaginative and inspiring conversation about the meaning of life and how God fits into that—or doesn’t. Unlike Gretta Vosper or Ken Gallinger, I’m a theist—a "weak theist" in the mold of John Caputo, I’d add—though that is a discussion for another time. Still, my experience of doctrine as a playground is enhanced by Gretta’s questions and perspective. I came to the United Church for just this sort of openness and play, and I’ve found it.

In anticipation of this sermon, I sat down for a coffee with Gretta last week. We talked about her journey, how it has caused both conflict and growth in her local congregation, and a little bit about her vision for what a church should be. I enjoyed our conversation. Gretta listens well, she’s interesting, and she’s smart. Along the way I learned that her legal costs will be considerable. The Toronto Conference of the United Church—in spite of the denomination’s current financial crisis—is probably paying a lot too. Not much of a playground—this is an intense conflict. I’m really sad about that. And I could tell from my conversation with Gretta that it is taking a severe toll on her, too.

But, in all fairness, I also see that there is something about Gretta that is really irritating too, in the same way that John was irritating with his gung-ho filming. I think the root of it is that Gretta sometimes sounds less like she’s interested in a conversation and more like she’s an evangelist or proselytizer. Sometimes, in interviews or on her blog, she seems disdainful of those of us who disagree with her. For example, last year she wrote an open letter to the United Church’s moderator at that time, Gary Patterson, after the horrific [2015] Paris terrorist attacks.

In the letter she objects to a prayer for peace on the United Church website, because she blames faith in God for the Paris attacks. She argues that such faith is idolatrous, and we need to be freed from it. She further argues that our religious values have no place in the public square, and that we need to be freed from them. In this letter, she’s not content to be an atheist minister who offers her congregation an atheist model for being a church; no, Gretta insists that her brand of atheism is the one way. It comes off as more confrontational than conversational.

What is more, the thesis of Gretta’s letter is too simple. She wants to condemn all people who believe in God, and keep their values and beliefs out of the public square, because the terrorists believed in God.

But the terrorists also had political beliefs and values. Should all political beliefs and values also be excluded from the public square, then, since political beliefs and values are also held by terrorists? Of course not.

The problem is not “faith in God,” or “faith in a political ideology.” No, the issue is what you believe about God or what you believe about politics—the theological or political values that guide you.

It is impossible to avoid the fact that everyone’s actions are always going to be rooted in personal experience and learning and values—and so why should, or how could, theism be somehow uniquely excluded from playing its part, while political ideologies or economic realities are not sanctioned?

In any case, atheism unavoidably comes with its own values too.

Finally, the letter also ignores the scholarly consensus here, well argued by Karen Armstrong in her book Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. Armstrong makes the point that it is only very rarely that religion or belief in God leads to violence. Rather, Armstrong argues that political powers use religion—as they use race or weapons or economics—to get their way. In fact, at root, most religions are decidedly not violent however individual adherents sometimes act.

The bottom line is that Gretta’s letter irritated people. It seemed to step beyond the, “let’s talk about this,” circle into the, “I’m right and you’re badly mistaken,” circle. Irritating—even threatening.

So what do we do about Gretta Vosper?

Nothing, I think. With respect to her letter to the moderator, I’d say that every minister stirs the pot about something or other, once in a while. Even playgrounds can get a bit rough sometimes. And when they do it is time for the adults in the park to help us kids step back, cool off, and start the game over. It isn’t time to shut the playground down. What do we do about Greta Vosper?

Nothing, I hope, unless it is to offer her pastoral support and to ask the United Church hierarchy to stand down.

Why nothing? For a few reasons, but they are deeply imbedded in the attitude of our text. For starters, Jesus says: “Do not judge,” and I think I could make a case for leaving Gretta alone—and perhaps for Gretta not writing her letter the way she did—on the basis of those words. When it comes to the issue of post-theism or soft atheism or weak theism or even fundamentalism, we ought to keep in mind that most of us have logs in our eyes when it comes to almost everything in the Sermon on the Mount.

But what really sings for me in today’s passage is its central concern with doing right rather than believing right. Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” And he goes on to explain that anyone who hear his words but does not do them is like someone who builds a house without a foundation, so that when the floods come, it is swept away.

For Jesus, in other words, calling him or God “Lord, Lord,” isn’t the main thing. An orthodox Doctrine of God isn’t what saves the house—the church. Not at all. Rather, trying to put Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount action priorities into play is what Jesus really wants.

So the kind of house I’d like to build here at LPCC is a Sermon on the Mount House. Our house should be refuge for all, especially during storms that threaten us: racism directed against First Nations or immigrants comes to mind. The kind of house I’d like to build here at Lawrence Park is one that is a sanctuary for people with challenges: parents struggling with special needs kids, or poverty, or students struggling to figure out what sexual morality is all about. The kind of house I’d like to build here at Lawrence Park is one where people who are lonely, who are dying, who are angry, or who are confused will be embraced, and who will in turn embrace others. The kind of house I’d like to build here at Lawrence Park is one where all present are allowed to be unsure about God while being focused on being better people.

If you want to make the ideals and values of the Sermon on the Mount, which transcend any single religion but are firmly rooted in our faith too, then you are welcome here—whether you say, “Lord, Lord,” or not.

Listen, I’ve left a lot unsaid in this sermon, even if I’ve preached on such themes at other times. For example, I have not explained, today, my own theistic views on God. I have not explored the practical skills we need to enjoy and benefit from each other’s company at Lawrence Park, even if we have large doctrinal disagreements amongst ourselves. And I have not explored here what we are to make of scripture, or its presumption that there is a God, if some of us don't think that scripture is right on that score. Gretta has written tons of stuff and it would take a year of sermons to go through it all and we can’t do that today or even this year.

But this much I know. Even if Gretta isn’t crying out, “Lord, Lord,” she is trying to follow the best of the program that Jesus laid out. Like us, she’s doing so imperfectly. I won’t –can’t—judge her for that. But as long as she’s trying like I’m trying to do what Jesus did, I’d like to keep her and her friends in the playground. I hope that in the end, the United Church agrees, and remains a sanctuary for both of us.

Being Loved - "Things Someone Who Loved You Should Have Told You"

Things Someone Who Loved You Should Have Told You

by John Pavlovitz
February 1, 2016

Words can do incredible damage, but they can’t hold a candle to silence.

Often it is those words that have been withheld which leave the greatest scars upon us. It is in that terrible absence that we are dealt the harshest blow by those who claim to love us.

Somewhere along the line you were denied something you needed to live; something destination-altering and hope-giving that you deserved.

At some point on your path, someone should have encouraged you, but refrained.
  • They should have defended you, but did not.
  • They should have released you, but chose not to.
  • They should have said something—instead of nothing.
Someone should have told you that you were beautiful far beneath the surface, so that you didn’t grow up believing that you were defined by your waistline or by the scale or by the affection of someone else who may have cared far too little for you.

Someone should have told you that you were more than your worst mistake, so that you weren’t still imprisoned there in the spot of that momentary failure so long after it; still stuck trying to undo something that could never be undone and believing it made you less than.

Someone should have told you that God was not angry with you, so that your faith was allowed safe passage to grow and fearlessly move toward the One who made you and adores you without caveat or condition; the One who delights in you as you are.

Someone should have told you that it wasn’t your fault, so that you were relieved of the wasteful, crushing burden of what you were never meant to carry or deserve to still be saddled with; all the guilt and regret that unfairly declare you culpable.

Someone should have told you that you were a bona-fide, freakin’ miracle; a once in history collection of atoms and color and sound, so that you never doubted for a second your inherent worth, and the beautiful mark you’ve made in the places where your feet have landed.

Someone should have told you that you were forgiven, so that you didn’t cling to a vicious grudge against yourself which pronounced you dirty; so you were not tried for the same crime again and again in the court of your own head.

Someone should have told you that your sadness wasn’t a sickness, so you could have allowed yourself to grieve fully; to feel and speak the depth and breadth of your pain, instead of daily burying it beneath a brittle facade of okayness and pretending you weren’t devastated.

Someone should have told you that your best was good enough; that the honest desires of your heart and the diligent work of your hands regardless of the results, made your efforts successful. If they had, you may not have felt failure in anything less than perfection.

Someone should have told you that you were not what people said you were. That might have emancipated you from the expectations of a million voices judging you from a distance, which you believed as gospel. You might have found your identity independent of the shouts from the crowd or the cutting words of the critics.

Someone should have told you that you were loved as you were; not because of anything you did or won or achieved or made, but simply because you were lovable. It may have saved you from so restlessly striving to earn what you already deserved.

I can’t undo the brutal omissions you endured in the past, or the time you’ve squandered or the peace you’ve surrendered as a result.

I can only give you these words now, as a firm and steady spot to plant your foot and pivot as you begin again down another road, one with far fewer demons hiding in the shadows to ambush you.

So stop to listen to the whisper in your ear, that breaks the long and heavy silence and says that you are free. Feel the lightness that only love brings.

Somewhere along the road someone close to you should have told you all this, but they didn’t.

So I am telling you.

Be encouraged.

- JP


10 Signs Your'e an Outgoing Introvert (Ambivert)


by Jenn Granneman
October 28, 2015

So you just found out you’re an introvert. Now you have a new way of understanding yourself and how you relate to the world. You can’t get enough of your new identity, so you’re reading every listicle and blog post about introverts that graces your Facebook news feed. Some articles describe you with frightening accuracy: you like spending time alone, you prefer calm environments, you often think deeply and reflect, and you’d rather text than call.

Yet other articles don’t resonate with you at all: you don’t sit home alone every weekend watching Netflix in your pajamas and you actually enjoy the occasional party. You start to wonder, am I really an introvert?

Bottom line: if you need downtime after socializing, you probably are an introvert. What you actually are is an outgoing introvert.

Introversion and extroversion are not black and white. Think of a continuum with introversion on one end and extroversion on the other. Some people fall closer to the introverted end, while others are near the middle. There’s actually a word for these middle-of-the-road people: ambiverts. An ambivert is someone who displays characteristics of both introversion and extroversion.

Are you an outgoing introvert (or an ambivert)?

Here are 10 signs that you might be:

1. Your energy level is closely tied to your environment. You’re sensitive to how your surroundings look, what kind of music is being played, how many people are present and the volume level of the room. The ambiance of a bar or restaurant can either energize or drain you, depending on if the place fits your preferences. Likewise, a loud rock concert in a crowded stadium might be overwhelming but an up-close-and-personal acoustic set at your favorite local music club relaxes you.

2. You find people to be both intriguing and exhausting. People watching? Yes. Meeting new people and hearing their life stories? Fascinating. Spending every weeknight hanging out with a different group of friends? Not a chance—as much as you enjoy people, you can only endure so much socializing before you need downtime. After a busy weekend or a long day at work, you feel the need to disappear and recharge by being alone or with just one other person (a best friend, a trusted roommate or your significant other).

3. Certain people and interactions drain you while others actually recharge you. You have a few friends who you could hang out with for practically forever. It seems like you never run out of things to talk about and being with them is just easy. You actually feel better after spending time with them, not drained. Other people eventually tire or bore you and you need to get away. Being alone is better than settling for second-rate company.

4. You can be charming but also deeply introspective and reflective. You make small talk when it’s expected of you because you know it can lead to deeper, more authentic conversation. People feel comfortable around you, and you easily get others talking and opening up about themselves. When you’re out on a Saturday night, you make sure your friends have a good time. However, most people don’t realize how “in your head” you really are. Although you appear easy-going and chatty, inside, your mind is always going.

5. When you feel rested and recharged, you reach out to others. Often you’re the one who gets all your friends together on the weekend. Or maybe you organize the weekly after-work happy hour or throw parties at your house. Playing the host allows you to socialize on your own terms. You get to set the parameters, like what time the event starts, where it will happen and who is invited. But when you’re feeling drained, like a true introvert, you go silent and hibernate at home. This is when the Netflix + pajamas thing makes sense.

6. You need time to warm up in social situations. But once you feel comfortable with someone, you have no trouble chatting. Likewise, you won’t spill your entire life story to someone within the first half hour of meeting them, but you will reveal personal details when trust is built up. The more someone gets to know you, the more your quirky personality (and your cherished inner world—the part of you that feels most authentic) comes out.

7. It actually takes less energy to say what’s on your mind than to make small talk. Introverts like talking about ideas or connecting authentically. Fake small talk bores you and drains your life force.

8. You’re selectively social. It’s hard to find people you click with, so you only have a few close friends. But you’re okay with that. You’d rather make your limited “people” energy count by investing it into relationships that are truly fulfilling.

9. You have no interest in trying to prove yourself in a crowd of strangers.“Working the room” isn’t your thing. Nor do you feel the need to draw a lot of attention to yourself. You’re content hanging out at the edges of the party, talking to just one or two people.

10. You’re often confused for an extrovert. Your friends and family don’t buy that you’re an introvert because you’re just so social. In fact, it may have taken a while for you to realize you’re an introvert because you play the extrovert so well. Now you find yourself constantly having to explain your introversion and how you get your energy, but people still don’t get it.

Keep in mind there’s no wrong way to do introversion. It’s all about understanding your needs and honoring your own style—even if that means being the life of the party one night then binge watching Netflix alone the next night.

Are you an introvert? What’s your personality type? We recommend this free, quick test from our partner Personality Hacker.