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 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

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

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Podcast: The Political Gains and Lost Faith of Evangelical Identity




A Quick Note to those who have struggled
with conservative Christianity

Like LeCrae, I too went through a dark period of "faith" loss when realizing a decade ago  (around 2009) that the faith I held was a distinctly different kind of faith than what my church fellowship and religious identity group was speaking nationwide and interpersonally with one another. But rather than losing Jesus I was lead by the Lord to refind Jesus and to speak this Jesus out louder and clearer than the messaging my church fellowship was giving towards science, religion, and it's political messaging as it tried to drown out authentic Christian faith for the surreal and modernal secularisms it sought to cling too.

Consequently, I was led by the Lord to remove the foundations of conflict from my faith which conservative Christianity had sincerely, but errantly, created, and to replace those seedy foundations with a more rigorous philosophical theology than I once had held. Which had grown old. And out-of-date. And out-of-sync with the pseudo-reality my church fellowship was mistakenly reading into their bibles.

A bible rearranged over time, and through the generations, to speak conservative religious values into, rather than God's loving values wholly at war with evangelical doctrine. A conservative fellowship arguing with a science it never understood but argued against anyway, condemning and denying. And a religious culture which could not settle down and be at ease with black lives, minority groups, ethnic races, or outside religions, all who yearned for the same love and freedom conservative Christians yearned for too (but often could not advocate for those it overlooked and overran in its messaging).

For many church goers steeped in bible study, having avidly ministered for Jesus, and sacrificing much, we have lost our voices to this latest iteration of discordant Christians who do not speak for Jesus but stand in the pulpit saying they do while speaking bile and bull of their fellow sisters and brothers.

I can say, as many have been saying, that we are done with this kind of conservatism and its self-righteous evangelical outlooks. However, we are not done with God, nor with His Son Jesus, nor with His Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Holy Godhead will not let us go. God has determined we wake up and speak out.

We know then where our faith lies - and it does not lie in political identity messaging, nor in the aberrant alt-Christian values which devalues humanity and earthcare, nor in faith hypocrisy, Phariseeism, or dogmatics.

To all my brothers and sisters out there of another color, gender, race, or creed, we feel you. We pray for you. Ane we send our love in Jesus.

R.E. Slater
July 17, 2021


Political masterminds spent decades establishing evangelicals as a powerful conservative voting bloc. But the muddling of politics and faith caused many, including the successful Christian artist Lecrae, to question where they belonged. (Karsten Winegeart / Unsplash)

Podcast: The Political Gains and Lost Faith of Evangelical Identity

https://www.theatlantic.com/podcasts/archive/2021/05/evangelical-politics-lost-faith/618909/

Lecrae, a major Christian rapper, found his religion in a culture where evangelicalism and politics were tightly tied. When he realized he couldn’t live with that anymore, the consequences were devastating.

MAY 20, 2021

Listen and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts

Lecrae Moore came up in a Christian culture deeply entwined with politics: Evangelicals were Republicans, and Republicans were evangelicals. As a Black college student, he found a sense of belonging in Bible study. His mentors and community were predominantly white and very conservative, but that didn’t really bother him. He found success as an artist and built a career in the white evangelical world.

Over time, though, he began to notice how much politics influenced his church culture. He was inspired by Barack Obama’s election, but felt unable to share that with his evangelical audiences. He was disturbed by the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, but faced backlash on social media for saying so. He started writing lyrics about race and the hypocrisy he saw among Christians, who he felt paid lip service to diversity but didn’t form substantive relationships with other communities. When he saw how strongly the evangelical world was going to champion Donald Trump, he decided to speak out. He lost money and fans, friends and mentors. And he almost lost his faith.

White evangelicals have arguably never been more powerful as a political force in America than they are now, but political victory has a human cost. People of all kinds of backgrounds have felt gutted by Christian support for Trump. Among Christians, the Trump era’s legacy might be fracture, not unity.

This week on The Experiment: the story of an evangelical artist who found his voice and lost his church.

Further reading: The Unofficial Racism Consultants to the White Evangelical WorldHow Trump Lost an Evangelical StalwartThe Tiny Blond Bible Teacher Taking On the Evangelical Political Machine


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

This episode was produced by Katherine Wells and Alvin Melathe, with reporting by Emma Green. Editing by Julia Longoria and Emily Botein. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman. Transcription by Caleb Codding.

Music by Ob (“Mog” and “Wold”), water feature (“richard iii (duke of gloucester”), Keyboard (“My Atelier”), Laundry (“Lawn Feeling”), Norvis Junior (“Overworld 7636” and (“Grim Reapers Groove 94”), and Nelson Bandela (“311 Howard Ave 25 5740” and “Auddi Sun 09 Lop Lop 722”), provided by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance. Additional music performed by Lecrae, courtesy of Reach Records, arranged by The Orchard (“Dirty Water” and “Take Me as I Am”). Additional audio from Real Life With Jack HibbsMatthew PhanC-SPANABC News, and Roland S. Martin.


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Ralph Reid Podcast one week earlier on The Atlantic


* * * * * * * *

For Further reading:

Evangelical Has Lost Its Meaning

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/the-end-of-evangelical/598423/

A term that once described a vital tradition within
the Christian faith now means something else entirely.

by Alan Jacobs





The Chosen: Seasons 1-2 + Review


Christian America's Must-See TV Show

Take it from a Christian and a critic: "The Chosen" is as well made and entertaining as many network dramas. But its relative invisibility to secular audiences is no surprise.


Vidangel Studios


JUNE 27, 2021

Updated at 10:05 a.m. ET on June 28, 2021.

Have you heard about the hit Jesus TV show? The one that launched with a more than $10 million crowdfunding drive? And that streams for free from its own app, where the view counter has surpassed 194 million as of this writing? And that is honestly much better than I expected?

By the standards of independent media, The Chosen is a success. On Easter Sunday, 750,000 people tuned in to live-stream the Season 2 premiere; for comparison, the first episode of HBO’s Mare of Easttown attracted 1 million viewers that same month. Yet The Chosen—which presents the life of Jesus Christ and his disciples as a multi-season drama with imaginative character backstories and interpersonal conflicts—has been a largely underground phenomenon. Until its appearance on NBC’s Peacock earlier this year, The Chosen wasn’t on a major cable network or TV streaming service. Most mainstream publications have not reviewed it, though scattered reports mention its crowdfunding drives (in sum, the largest ever for a media project). You could pay close attention to the television industry and not know The Chosen exists. That’s because the show’s success so far has arrived not in spite of its insularity, but because of it.

Even many Christians are skeptical of faith-based entertainment. The Chosen’s showrunner, Dallas Jenkins, when I spoke with him recently, compared the people who spread the word about his show to the story of Christ’s disciple Philip telling his friend Nathanael that the messiah is from the backwater town of Nazareth. (“Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael famously replied.) So can a biblical series made by a production company from the founders of VidAngel—a service that allowed viewers to filter out nudity, profanity, and graphic violence from TV and movies, then was sold after a multimillion-dollar copyright-infringement lawsuit—actually be worth watching?

Take it from a critic and a Christian with an aversion to Christian entertainment: The show is good. I’d stop short of calling The Chosen a prestige drama, but it looks and feels downright secular. Despite a wonky accent here and there, the acting is as strong as you’d see on a mainstream network series such as Friday Night Lights or This Is Us. A tracking shot lasting more than 13 minutes opened one recent episode—a typical technique for a filmmaker to flex their skills. The storytelling even inspired me to comply with the show’s promotional hashtag and (ugh) #BingeJesus.

The Chosen has caught on with Christians in part because of scarcity. Faith-based streaming services such as PureFlix overflow with solemn dramatizations of Bible stories, though finding one with much depth or entertainment value is rare. Meanwhile, subversive Hollywood takes such as Noah or The Last Temptation of Christ turn off Christians who prize the authority of scripture. The more straightforward 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ was by far the highest-grossing Christian film of all time, and the last one to make a dent in secular pop culture. Yet it was hyper-focused on the last few hours of Jesus’s life, and its fixation on the gory details of his crucifixion was no one’s idea of fun.

The Chosen’s Jonathan Roumie plays Jesus as someone you’d actually like to hang out with, projecting divine gravity accented with easygoing warmth. He cracks jokes; he dances at parties. “What The Chosen has done well is give us kind of a robust portrait of a highly relatable Jesus that moves beyond some of the holier-than-thou, untouchable, unapproachable portraits of Jesus in the past,” says Terence Berry, the COO of the Wedgwood Circle, an investment group that finances faith-based media. (A Wedgwood member backed Silence—Martin Scorsese’s sparse and serious 2016 movie starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson as 17th-century Jesuit missionaries.)

Rather than merely reciting Jesus’s greatest hits, Jenkins and his writers linger with characters in their daily lives—marital and professional conflicts, financial struggles, campfire gatherings. When the audience sees climactic moments from the Gospels, such as Jesus’s miraculous healing of a leper, the events register as disruptions of the status quo.

Although The Chosen stays faithful to the broad trajectory of the Christian Bible, it also creates some speculative backstories. Scripture mentions Jesus exorcising a demon from Mary Magdalene as almost a passing detail; The Chosen centers it in a tale that explains her subsequent devotion to Christ. Jews who collected taxes for Rome were considered traitors, so the show’s writers depict Matthew the tax collector as on the autism spectrum, reasoning that a social outcast might gravitate toward a profitable but thankless job. The account of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding might be well known, but in the show, the miracle also saves the bride’s working-class parents from embarrassing the groom’s wealthy father.

The goal, Jenkins told me, was to come up with plausible scenarios that still jibe with the holy book. “We’re not trying to contradict the Bible,” he said. “We’re just trying to build a show around the Bible and tell stories that we think are compelling.” As a viewer who grew up attending church and has made studying scripture a central part of my adult life, I’ve found this approach consistently rewarding. Watching The Chosen is no substitute for reading the Bible—a disclaimer at the start of Season 1 even says “viewers are encouraged to read the Gospel.” But by putting another layer of human perspective between its viewers and its source material, The Chosen performs some of the functions of a good Bible teacher, providing cultural context for ancient events and probing viewers to empathize with the characters.

Some viewers are less enthusiastic. “Every day, I’m told that I’m blaspheming or that I’m a heretic or that I’m violating the Bible,” Jenkins said. But the show’s success suggests that there’s a market for faith-based content that takes creative liberties while maintaining a reverence for scripture. Christianity’s foundational claims naturally center on Jesus: Was he just a singularly wise man or the son of God? What did he accomplish by dying on the cross? Did he actually rise from the dead? Christians who take a literal view of the Bible’s events surely appreciate that The Chosen aligns with their beliefs on these questions. The Chosen does not offer natural explanations for Christ’s miracles, present him as a misunderstood martyr, or imply that he was gay or married. Although the show is still seasons away from the crucifixion, Jesus is already hinting that he is on Earth for a greater purpose—an allusion to his future death as a sacrifice for human sin. As long as Jenkins maintains orthodoxy on key points such as these, the show’s fan base seems likely to give him leeway to color around the margins of his Bible.

The Chosen, whose first season aired in 2019, is now raising money for its third season of a planned seven. Its popularity with a preexisting Christian audience is assured. But it hasn’t appeared to connect with many of the nonreligious. A tension between outreach and insularity has long persisted within the faith-based entertainment industry. Typically, biblical stories don’t permeate the secular mainstream without a star such as Charlton Heston or Mel Gibson attached, and modern American culture has never been less Christian than it is now. Yet Christian musical artists of all genres have been selling out arenas for decades, including Amy Grant, Lecrae, and NEEDTOBREATHE. Theaters see a steady flow of Christian films both confrontational (God’s Not Dead) and inspirational (Heaven Is for Real). Left Behind, the rapture-themed book series co-created by Jenkins’s father, Jerry, sold more than 80 million copies. The religious-media ecosystem encompasses cartoons, video games, and talk shows. Historically, it is also largely self-contained. “There was a creation of an entire subculture that produced its own versions of things and its own stations, and really was talking to itself,” says Michael Wear, who ran faith outreach for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign and worked as a consultant for TV projects such as The Bible. “And now I think this next generation of Christian communicators [is] trying to break out of that.”

Jenkins doesn’t seem that concerned about whether non-Christians see his series. Besides Season 1 of The Chosen getting added to Peacock this spring, the show already streams on YouTube and Facebook, making it more and more accessible for the nonreligious. But the slew of faith-based cable networks that have begun syndicating the show within the past year—BYUtv, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, UPtv—more accurately reflect its promotional efforts. Jenkins acknowledges that most of the feedback he gets is from the Christians whom the show is heavily marketed to, and specialized trailers are designed to appeal to various denominations. His focus remains making episodes for his dedicated patrons, who are in some cases literally invested, thanks to the equity-crowdfunding provision of the JOBS Act, which allows financial backers to own a stake in the projects they support. The Chosen could pursue a production deal with Netflix, where executives are hungry for target-marketed programming and offer creative freedom, Wear says. Or it could follow the established web-series-to-legacy-cable path of shows such as Broad City and High Maintenance, says Craig Detweiler, the president of the Wedgwood Circle. Yet Jenkins’s hesitation to do this so far is easy to understand: The financial and creative autonomy of a self-funded hit, where all your production costs are paid for up front, is tremendous.

Jenkins can live outside the traditional media landscape by exclusively serving his existing fans—just like the writers and live-streamers on platforms such as Substack and Patreon do. Berry, from the Wedgwood Circle, points out that The Wingfeather Saga, a series of youth fantasy novels by the Christian musician Andrew Peterson, is now being adapted into a cartoon TV series after a $5 million equity-crowdfunding drive through The Chosen’s production company, Angel Studios. As much as he’s eager to see whether The Chosen can cross over to secular viewers, he’s equally if not more curious about whether its crowdfunded success can be repeated by other faith-based programs.

What’s happened with The Chosen represents what Mark Sayers, the senior leader of Red Church in Melbourne and a co-host of the Christian podcast This Cultural Moment, says is a shift toward a more “networked culture.” Today, a show doesn’t have to reach Breaking Bad levels of ubiquity to make an impact; it simply has to reach specific communities through personal connections. The Chosen will expand its footprint not by reaching secular audiences, but by finding Christians in every city with reliable internet. “People in Australia are watching,” Sayers says. “There’s huge Christian markets who speak English in places like Nigeria and beyond.”

This might sound counterintuitive: Evangelicalism is theoretically premised on spreading the “good news” about Jesus to as many nonbelievers as possible. Sayers thinks that The Chosen could be effective for starting spiritual conversations with skeptical friends, and I’m sure that some Christians have used the show that way. Still, for the most part, the series seems to be finding its fans among the converted. A secular audience might not have heard of The Chosen, simply because it was never who the show was trying to speak to. If The Chosen represents the next phase of Christian television, that future might include crisp production and nuanced storytelling. But it also seems familiarly destined to remain lodged within one of popular media’s oldest echo chambers.

Chris DeVille is a journalist based in Ohio.

* * * * * * * * * *


The Chosen Season One: Episodes 1 & 2
Mar 30, 2021



The Chosen Season One: Episodes 3 & 4
Mar 31, 2021



The Chosen Season One: Episodes 5 & 6
Apr 1, 2021



The Chosen Season One: Episodes 7 & 8
Apr 2, 2021



The Chosen Global Live Event: Season Two Premiere
Apr 4, 2021



The Chosen Global Live Event: Season Two, Episode 2 and 3
Apr 13, 2021



The Chosen Season 2 Episode 4
Jul 16, 2021



With apologies either search on YouTube, go to "The Chosen" Cable Channel
or search on NBC "Peacock" Network for the remaining episodes of Season 2
and any future episodes to come. This is a free production with no fees. - re slater