Archive for category Culture/Ideas
This is a powerful indictment on the contemporary church and our superficial level of commitment to the cause of being part of community-on-mission to reach our world. I’m praying that true communitas – a deeper togetherness formed around a shared mission or struggle — will characterized MainStreet in the days to come. Here’s Paul De Neui’s conclusion in his essay,
“Christian Communitas In The Missio Dei: Living Faithfully in the Tension between Cultural Osmosis and Alienation“
“Connecting with the missio Dei, partnering with a cause greater than oneself, and experiencing communitas would appear to be a natural fit for the church. Christian communitas and its byproduct of Christian community is at least an ideal, if not a reality in most churches. Would not the opportunity to partner in God’s greater mission and to deepen relation with God, with each other, and the world be attractive? In his book A World Waiting to Be Born M. Scott Peck shares his experience when he developed the Foundation for Community Encouragement (FCE), an organization dedicated to promoting his version of genuine transformative community.
When we began FCE, we assumed that the church would be a natural market for its services. Christians generally knew that the early church seemed to have had an extraordinary amount of community. . . . Many clergy and laypeople bemoaned the lack of community within their churches. . . . What organization could possibly be more interested in welcoming the presence of God into its midst?
The results within the church were disappointing. Churches showed virtually no interest in building a deeper sense of commitment to each other or their surrounding culture. After analyzing possible reasons for this resistance, Peck concludes:
Community requires a great deal of time and work. The workplace is the center of most people’s lives. Next comes the family. Church, if it comes in at all, is usually a poor third or fourth. Most churchgoers simply do not have the time to “do” community at church. Nor do they want to do the painful work of emotionally stretching at church that community requires. The few whomake attempts to actualize the church as a place of the Kingdom of God on earth may find themselves silenced by the congregation with an enormously powerful, subtle effectiveness. Read the rest of this entry »
The annual call for exercise has been issued. The new year sales flyers feature equipment of all kinds that will reduce our middle and tone our muscles. The “Y”, Snap Fitness and other workout businesses are offering their “first month free” deals. News shows are featuring the latest home workout gadgets and dietitians galore are encouraging us to eat properly along with that healthy exercise regimen.
I am left to wonder why this has become an annual rite of post-holiday indulgence. It has been going on for years. Obesity in our nation continues to increase. Workout shops can be found in every small community. People must be buying the equipment. But things don’t seem to be getting better.
Lisa suggested to me that we live in a culture of obesity. Not only in body, but also in mind and spirit.
So I succumbed this week to the smart phone. I have argued that I am dumb enough already, I don’t need a smart phone to point out even more of my ignorance! But my “basic” 2005 model is on its last microchip and an i-phone 4 was free. I think about the times in the last month where I have been hanging out with people with smart phones and when a question has come up, we had an answer in seconds. The world truly is at our fingertips. The world’s knowledge is at our fingertips. But are we any smarter? Are we any wiser? Is anyone any closer to solving the major problems that face us…making our culture of violence more peaceful, growing out of debt and into prosperity, learning satisfaction and sharing in a culture of plenty? I would suggest that we are so obese in mind that we miss the simple answers and solutions to the complexities of our lives. It seems to me that common sense has been lost in the fat cells of too much information. Read the rest of this entry »
What do you think of Greg’s approach to churches addressing this issue? If you have time, watch the video, too.
Here is a word I a shared this last weekend with Woodland Hills Church (where I’m senior pastor) in response to numerous questions I’ve received over the last several months. People have asked me why the leadership of WHC refuses to jump on the bandwagon of evangelical churches in the Twin Cities who rally their congregations to get out and vote “yes” for the marriage amendment currently on our ballot in Minnesota. Others have asked for clarification on WHC ‘s view of homosexuality, especially in light of the fact that we host a vibrant LGBT support group (called “Sacred Space”) that accepts people where they’re at, regardless of how they personally integrate their faith with their sexual orientation.
Many progressive, evangelical Christians like myself face something of a conundrum regarding these sorts of questions. On the one hand, we believe the Bible is God’s Word and we can’t with integrity deny that it teaches that sex outside the parameters of a monogamous, life-long, marriage covenant is sin, whether it is sex with a person of a different gender or sex with a person of the same gender. We find the arguments of those who try to argue that Rom.1:24-28-, I Cor. 6:9 and I Tim. 1:10 don’t apply to monogamous gay relationships simply aren’t very persuasive. On the other hand, we sense that something is “off” with the stance of the church throughout history, and the stance of most evangelical churches today, toward gay people. Read the rest of this entry »
The “most influential work of popular theology published this century…” What is it? I disagree with Ross Douthat’s answer (in his book Bad Religion) to this question because I don’t think that book has been influential even if it has been wildly popular. The issue here is how to define “influential.”
By now you may wonder what book he had in mind and if you guessed Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now you would be right. We’re only twelve years into the century, so there’s not much to go by … but still, no one can doubt that 4 million sales, plus all the stuff around it, says something about (bad) religion in America.
If you could offer a better theology to proponents of prosperity theology, what would it look like? How does an economic theory work into your critique or your offer?
America’s premier heresy is the Health and Wealth gospel, and Douthat probes here and there in what has to be seen as a violent disregard of major themes in the Bible. But more of that later in this post. Osteen “comes as close to Billy Graham’s level of popularity” and his “cultural empire is arguably larger” and more than “200 million people around the globe tune in to his broadcasts” (182, 183). Comparing him to Billy Graham, Douthat observes Osteen’s message is “considerably more upbeat” and that his “God gives without demanding, forgives without threatening to judge, and hands out His rewards in this life rather than in the next” (183).
Overall, this approach is about “the refashioning of Christianity to suit an age of abundance” and a “marriage of God and Mammon” (183). It’s attractive to many: “millions of believers reconcile their religious faith with the nation’s seemingly unbiblical wealth and un-Christian consumer culture” (183).
I heard a commercial on the radio this morning for The Cremation Society. It said something like only 4% chose cremation back in 1960, increasing slightly to about 8% in 1980. Then they proudly announced that today over 50% are choosing cremation over traditional burial!
So, what? What’s the big deal? Does it matter one way or another? Isn’t it just a matter of personal preference?
Well, I think there is a deep, significant reason underlying this shift from traditional burial to cremation. This is a perfect case study in the significance of worldview, and our culture’s continuing slide away from the Bible as our value-shaping story, and our culture’s embrace of a different controlling story (worldview) now shaping our values and decisions.
Most people I run into have never considered this a topic of spiritual reflection or even religious devotion. It’s more of a matter of practical necessity and economic frugality. What’s the cheapest and most convenient way of handling our loved one’s body? More on this below.
Our lack of deeper reflection on this is strange, since this decision involves discussion about such ultimate matters — eternity, life and death, the sacredness of the body, memorializing a loved one, etc. Of all the decisions we face in life, you would think that our funeral preparations and wishes would be somewhere on the list — well above this week’s laundry or bills we need to pay. Certainly, one factor is that our culture is notoriously in denial about the reality of death, and most of us would rather not spend anytime thinking about it.
This was not so with our ancient ancestors in the Hebrew and Christian tradition. Read the rest of this entry »
Have you seen this? What do you think? The middle part on Consumption is especially timely considering this season of hyper-consumption around Black Friday and the holiday shopping. What is the unique ‘Kingdom perspective’ Jesus followers ought to take on this polarizing, hotly politicized topic?
Jen Floyd Engel’s article at FoxSports.com on Tebow is worthy of consideration:
What if Tim Tebow were a Muslim?
Imagine for a second, the Denver Broncosquarterback is a devout follower of Islam, sincere and principled in his beliefs and thus bowed toward Mecca to celebrate touchdowns. Now imagine if Detroit Lionsplayers Stephen Tulloch and Tony Schefflermockingly bowed toward Mecca, too, after tackling him for a loss or scoring a touchdown, just like what happened Sunday.
I know what would happen. All hell would break loose…..
What this whole repeating cycle of Tebow — rip his game, mock his faith, rise to his defense, repeat — has revealed about religious discourse in America is ugly. We have become so enamored of politically correct dogma that we protect every minority from even the slightest blush of insensitivity while letting the very institutions that the majority holds dear to be ridiculed. And this defense that Tebow invites such scrutiny with his willingness to publicly live as he privately believes calls into question what exactly it is we value…. Read the rest of this entry »
I want to commend David Mathis’ challenge to Christians as we approach Halloween this year. Thanks, Nancy, for sending me this.
What if a crisp October wind blew through “the way we’ve always done things” at Halloween? What if the Spirit stirred in us a new perspective on October 31? What if dads led their households in a fresh approach to Halloween as Christians on mission?
What if spreading a passion for God’s supremacy in all things included Halloween—that amalgamation of wickedness now the second-largest commercial holiday in the West?
Loving Others and Extending Grace
What if we didn’t think of ourselves as “in the world, but not of it,” but rather, as Jesus says in John 17, “not of the world, but sent into it”?
And what if that led us to move beyond our squabbles about whether or not we’re free to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve, and the main issue became whether our enjoyment of Jesus and his victory over Satan and the powers of darkness might incline us to think less about our private enjoyments and more about how we might love others? What if we took Halloween captive—along with “every thought” (2 Corinthians 10:5)—as an opportunity for gospel advance and bringing true joy to the unbelieving?
And what if those of us taking this fresh approach to Halloween recognized that Christians hold a variety of views about Halloween, and we gave grace to those who see the day differently than we do?
Without Naiveté or Retreat
What if we didn’t merely go with the societal flow and unwittingly float with the cultural tide into and out of yet another Halloween? What if we didn’t observe the day with the same naïveté as our unbelieving neighbors and coworkers?
And what if we didn’t overreact to such nonchalance by simply withdrawing? What if Halloween wasn’t a night when Christians retreated in disapproval, but an occasion for storming the gates of hell?
A very well-balanced, must read article on Evangelical Christianity and the influence of the late Rev. John Stott by New York Times by Nicholas Kristof. He begins:
IN these polarized times, few words conjure as much distaste in liberal circles as “evangelical Christian.”
Earlier, Mr. Falwell opined that AIDS was “God’s judgment on promiscuity.” That kind of religious smugness allowed the AIDS virus to spread and constituted a greater immorality than anything that occurred in gay bathhouses.
Partly because of such self-righteousness, the entire evangelical movement often has been pilloried among progressives as reactionary, myopic, anti-intellectual and, if anything, immoral.
Yet that casual dismissal is profoundly unfair of the movement as a whole. It reflects a kind of reverse intolerance, sometimes a reverse bigotry, directed at tens of millions of people who have actually become increasingly engaged in issues of global poverty and justice.
This compassionate strain of evangelicalism was powerfully shaped by the Rev. John Stott, a gentle British scholar who had far more impact on Christianity than media stars like Mr. Robertson or Mr. Falwell. Mr. Stott, who died a few days ago at the age of 90, was named one of the globe’s 100 most influential people by Time, and in stature he was sometimes described as the equivalent of the pope among the world’s evangelicals.
Mr. Stott didn’t preach fire and brimstone on a Christian television network. He was a humble scholar whose 50-odd books counseled Christians to emulate the life of Jesus — especially his concern for the poor and oppressed — and confront social ills like racial oppression and environmental pollution. Read the rest of this entry »
1. Are you in danger of neglecting evangelism in your passion for social justice?
2. Are you in danger of abandoning an affirmation of moral and intellectual truth?
3. Will you honor your marriage vows?
4. As you seek to respect the dignity of gay/lesbian people, have you wrestled carefully with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality?
Many would consider Dr. Ron Sider the father of the modern Christian social justice movement. He released his seminal book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, in 1977 after observing racism and poverty in inner-city Philadelphia. Since then, Sider has written nearly two dozen books and more than 100 articles on social injustice and biblical discipleship, including Completely Pro-Life, which ushered in a new “holistic” thinking on what it means to affirm life in areas beyond abortion opposition, such as capital punishment, nuclear weapons and severe poverty. Here, Sider considers his legacy and the legacy of his peers as he challenges a new generation of “young, radical evangelists” in how they approach justice, relativism, marriage and homosexuality. He offers four questions, the answers to which he believes will inform Christianity in the 21st century.
For a long time, people called me a “young evangelical.” Actually, the adjectives were sometimes less gracious: “radical,” or “leftist” or “Marxist.” (My response to the “Marxist” label was simple: “I’m a Mennonite farm boy, for Pete’s sake. Have you ever met a Mennonite farmer who wants the government to own his land?”)
So I used to be a “radical, young evangelical.” But I was born in 1939, so, however reluctantly, I have long since had to abandon the label “young.” Hence this open letter to a younger generation, many of whom are 40 years younger than I am.
I have no desire to lecture you or “set you straight.” I have enormous appreciation for this generation. Forty years ago, when some of my friends and I started talking about social justice, racial justice, God’s special concern for the poor, and holistic mission that combined evangelism and social action, we were considered radical.
Much is different today. Not all older Christians “get it,” but you younger ones certainly do. A special concern for the poor and oppressed is part of your DNA. Caring for creation and transcending racial prejudice is simply who you are. You cannot imagine an evangelism that only cares about people’s “souls.” You just assume, without any need for argument, that biblical Christians should love the whole person the way Jesus did, offering both spiritual and material transformation. You want to engage the whole culture—art, music, literature, politics—rather than withdraw into some isolated ghetto. For all of this and much more, I shout, “Hallelujah!”
But there are four areas where I would love to have a dialogue. Read the rest of this entry »