It’s the end of the world as I know it…and I feel fine.

I am, most days, fairly reasonable. I enjoy a good conversation, a good and lively debate, differing opinions and view points. None of that means that I do not have view points of my own, but I do enjoy others. I like diversity. I enjoy most when the “educated” and “uneducated” can actually swap ideas and share things with each other. I think both have perspectives valuable in the search for truth. Ultimately I believe in people. I believe in them so much, that one of my sources of contact with them will come to an end. The decision is mine, it does not feel forced nor is it some plea for attention. It is simply what I need to do in order to continue to be able to believe the best of people. This swan song, if you will, is a final attempt on my part to try to shed light to online community and why it matters, how it helps, and how it hurts.

I believe that social media can be an amazing tool for community. I believe that online groups and rooms, church services and teachings, blogs, and networks, all constitute community. I believe that when you choose to “like” a post, comment upon a blog or story, etc. that you are voluntarily engaging in that community. The potential is amazing! The ability to exchange thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and lives has never been more available. The ability to interact with strangers never more ready, the ability to influence others never more important. Unfortunately never more abused.

To often I find myself in discussions that turn ugly, accusatory and just plain mean. To often people, myself included, end up saying things hurtful, vulgar, unnecessary. To often there is verbal bullying and abuse. To often the idea that we are essentially anonymous allows our sinful nature to speak before the nature we have in rebirth can come to the forefront.  To often we are so convinced that we are right that we can not allow a second to pass before we start to type so as to disagree. To often we, the people of God, rip off own arms and legs with a keyboard and a computer screen. We are indeed one body and make no doubt, when you are mean, nasty, hurtful toward your brothers and sisters, even online, you have in effect ripped off your arm. If we should speak in love, it means we should type in love also. We all to often are not. I all to often am not.

This boils down to me feeling entirely to much hurt and pain when I or others say harmful things to people. When we insist that someone is not able to receive grace for whatever the reason. When we start talking about the “right way” to do church. It is a selfish choice because I choose to not allow myself to continue in that hurt. This does not require comment to me as I will not respond, but please feel free to use this as a discussion starter as to how this is true. Perhaps it is not at all true and I am a lunatic. This is possible as well. In this great digital age, we have such potential to reach people for the gospel more than ever and we spend our time fighting over the very tool we have to advance the Kingdom. For me that will no longer happen. I will read my news sites, and the like. I will of course use my email. I will not disengage from the information available, but I will disengage from interacting online via social media. God has given us this great and wonderful tool for connecting with each other and for forming a new and expanding community. I have contributed far to much in its misuse to continue. I hope that you who may read this learn from my bad example and use this tool to instead begin building the Kingdom instead of tearing it down. Peace.

A confession

I am having an issue with forgiveness lately. Not with those I know and love but with those I do not know and struggle to love. Mostly media figures, sports figures and today, again, a company known as Urban Outfitters. So many people and groups have been apologizing over the last few weeks and I can not seem to be able to bring myself to find it sincere. “I’m sorry that I punched my girlfriend, now wife, in the face and knocked her out”, “I am sorry that I caused the legs back and scrotum of my son to bleed while I was beating him with a stick, I didn’t notice at first and once I did, I felt bad”, “We are sorry we sold a sweatshirt celebrating the shootings at Kent State, we did not intend any offense…again, just like with the swastikas and the other stuff…”. I have such a hard time buying it. It is funny because I didn’t realize that there was a problem with it until I read my pastor’s blog this afternoon. I tried to brush it to the side, went to my bible reading and found myself in Ephesians reading this in particular “Eph 4:23 However, you were taught to have a new attitude. ” The translation is not the most faithful admittedly, but for the day it was exactly the jolt I did not at all want, and obviously needed. I think that a lot of other people are having a hard time with this too.

I have become the worst sort of cynic, the kind that is convinced everyone acts of self interest and that is all, not the philosophical school founded by Antisthenes that is sort of fun to read. Even with the realization of this, I can not find it in me to believe that they are indeed sorry. I can not bring myself to think that they are actually apologetic. I think it is just damage control in a society that expects an apology, but does not require it’s sincerity. I am having such a difficult time thinking the best of these people and companies. I think that a lot of us are struggling with this exact same thing in truth. It is a problem.

Today, and for many days in the future, I am going to be praying that God breaks this part of me so that it can be mended in accordance with His desires instead of my cynicism. I am going to be praying that God does the same for anyone else struggling with this. I am not going to do it because I think all these people are genuinely sorry, I am going to do it on faith that God knows better than I. I am going to do it with the belief that the world needs more forgiveness and mercy instead of condemnation. I am going to do it because if we, the body of Christ, can not see even the most depraved with heaven’s eyes, then who else will?

 

Creation Ministries and Oscar Pistorius

Many of you wont know about Oscar Pistorius, you can read up on him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Pistorius

Its been a quite interesting case with many experts giving evidence. What’s also quite interesting is an article on creation.com where they detail the various kinds of evidence and some of the issues with it. The crux of their argument being that even experts disagree on evidence, which they are able to reproduce, and measure scientifically.

 

The problem is that whilst the CMI might consider themselves experts, they are not. They are “people who have an interest in firing guns” and not “ballistic experts”. When they DO employ “ballistic experts” they only employ ones who agree with their perspective on how they should interpret the evidence.

 

This is completely contrary to to facts, and good “Science”. Most of us study the texts to determine what they are for, what was intended to be said, its socio-historical context, its theological context, its historical theological context, etc. The “Science” involved in interpreting scripture is called Hermeneutics. This is what you do BEFORE you start making any scientific conclusions about creation. In fact, once you do this, you realise that any scientific conclusions you make about creation have very little bearing on what Genesis says at all.

 

They say this:

Further, with the lure of prestige, fame and fortune accompanying evolutionary ‘discoveries’ in academia today, and with most universities firmly ensconced within the reigning materialist paradigm, one would have to be naïve not to believe that much of the evolutionary interpretation is also influenced by the rewards that come with telling the ‘right’ stories.

Apparently evolutionary studies are not based on science, but because scientists are being bribed to manipulate the evidence. Its beside the point because the bible does not have anything to do with the study of evolution, other than the God who ordered the universe also made it possible for science to be done. Either that or all science is a lie.

I liked this article which popped up today on the subject: http://agreatercourage.blogspot.co.nz/2014/09/more-pannenberg-on-genesis-1-2.html

Then:

… when it comes to the past, an objective, reliable eyewitness account of events carries the most weight. When it comes to origins, the claimed evolution from the Big Bang onward had no eyewitnesses and has never been observed in the field or repeated in a laboratory

Of course we know this to be true. However, scientists can measure and observe, then draw a line backwards and get some idea of what happened. However, this same criticism is true of Genesis, because the author of Genesis was not present at creation either. Worse, the author did not ever intend the text to be understood as an explanation of WHAT (the scientific detail) but rather, the WHY (the theological implications of a God who orders the universe), and HOW (this God is the one God who is above all other gods, and understandings).

They go on to say:

By contrast, creation had the ultimate, most reliable and truthful eyewitness possible, the eternal Creator God Himself. And He has given us an account of that supernatural, six-day, once-off event—primarily in the book of Genesis, but confirmed by many other passages of the inspired Word of God. Noah and his family were eyewitnesses of the Flood judgment about 1650 years after creation, and God (and possibly Noah himself) ensured that the account was also recorded for us in the Bible. As in a court of law, let us take the objective, unbiased account of the ultimate eyewitness at His plain meaning when evaluating the evidence for where this wonderful universe, including mice and men, has come from. When we do so, we will find that all of the ‘forensic’ evidence available to humanity as made in God’s image makes perfect sense when interpreted in the light of that record.

God did not WRITE the Bible, he INSPIRED it. There is a huge difference, and the author of the passage in question was not recounting, as I said, the details of what happened, he was not there, he did not know. He was INSPIRED to write about why things are the way they are. He also was not present at the flood, and did not know NOAH.

These people have stolen what it really means to believe in creation, and the name “creationist” and perverted it into some perverted shadow of the truth.

Its time to claim it back.

It is not enough

10670191_10152756368903185_6436640874602357279_nThis is a day when we remember a tragedy and it is good and right that we do so. It is a day to respect the dead and to remember those who were misguided enough to cause those deaths. It is a day that we pray for the peace that only Christ can bring so that instances such as this will not be repeated. It is a solemn day for those we lost and a day of rejoicing in those who survived. All of this is good and right…and it is not enough. We have built memorials and have memorials. There are moments of silence and moving tributes to those who died. There are television specials and the news shows do their best to make certain that we remember. All of this is good and right…but it is not enough.

It is not enough to just remember, we must remember with hope that the future holds a better day, not with the fear of the inevitability of this happening again. Those who will killed, died because of fear. If we are to remember, let us remember in hope, The Blessed Hope, that one day the world will be conformed to His image. If we remember those who have died in fear, we remember only the death, but when we remember in hope, we remember in the power of Resurrection, we remember not in a spirit of fear, but in a spirit of love and power and a sound mind. It was good advice from Paul many years ago and it is good advice now. We are not people of fear, we are a people of love, of a sound mind and of the power of God. It is not enough to remember, we must remember properly.

It is not enough to build memorials and hold memorial services. It is not enough to have moments of solemn silence for those who have past. It is not enough because the lives that were lost this day and in the events that followed did not die for moments of silence, or for mortar monuments, they died for the idea that there would be a better day. They died for the idea that there would be a better world. They died for the idea that not only could we be better people, that we would actively pursue being better people. The memorial that they need is our lives better reflecting the mission of Christ. The bible says that greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friend. Make no mistake, many lives were laid down for us. I say that greater honor and respect has no man than this, that he live a live worth the sacrifice. It is not enough to have a memorial, we must be the memorial.

Christians do not behead

Dr. Jerry Falwell (en, d. 2007), the founder o...

Dr. Jerry Falwell (en, d. 2007), the founder of Liberty University (en), was a Christian pastor and televangelist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have seen the pictures and videos (or, preferably, read the headlines) about the horrible atrocities committed by ISIS and other Islamic fundamentalist groups (plenty of Muslims oppose ISIS). They do so to appease their god and to keep the land/movement holy. They do so because the believe in the wrath of their malformed god.

Christians long ago gave up beheading for crimes. Indeed, the last major spate of beheadings occurred during the French Revolution. Many of us consider the death penalty wrong. Some do not. Many Christians in those two various camps, however, believe in caring for the poor, healing the sick, and extending a hand of mercy to the downtrodden.

However, there are some Christians who believe every great sign of misfortune is the Wrath of God. These are closeted Supralapsarianists; these are fatalists. For Pat Robertson, every time the wind destroys his combover, he is sure it is because of the LGBT community. For others, such as Jerry Falwell, diseases such as HIV/AIDS are sent by God to destroy this or that demographic and even those who support those demographics! Indeed, because of Falwell’s influence, the United States was slow and failed to help contain the AIDS epidemic that brought death to gays and straights. We are left to wonder how much of our foreign policy is set not by what is best for the country, but because some believe the end of the world is near.

Such is this plague theology; such is fatalism.

Christians still have to answer for it even while other Christians side with the likes of Westboro Baptist Church (albeit with a slightly less vengeful tone). The internet is littered with tombstones of statements and a graveyard of blog posts from these two camps — one begging for mercy, compassion, and a scientific understanding while the other demands vengeance, death, and laughs at the terrible plight of victims. Both claim Christ.

Today, the world watches in horror as the Ebola virus spreads, nearly past the point of containment, on the African continent. When we go to help, the Christian pundits are there to rain heaps of coal upon our head. Doctors Candida Moss and Joel Baden have tried to assuage this wave of hate, but the internet is once again becoming a dark place where Christians get to laugh while many die.

In Congress, however, the Republican Party is deciding right now (or has decided) to gut the President’s request for funding to fight and contain Ebola. Led by Hal Rogers, the committee will cut more than half of the funding request. He is known as the “Prince of Pork,” so why doesn’t he support this bill? We do know he is unfriendly to any paradigm shift in the American cultural landscape and supports religious exemptions to Obamacare.

I am not speaking of Christians who identify with the libertarian spectrum, as they have a philosophical stance against government involvement. Rather, I am speaking about those Christians who would rather support the military-industrial complex than help those they believe are under the judgment of God. Their goal, seemingly, is death.

While Christians do not behead our enemies — rather, we do not behead those we believe suffer under or cause God’s wrath — we have other ways to allow for their death. Christians get elected as Republicans, or Tea Party members, and move to block funding to prevent diseases in some way. Indeed, while Christians no longer behead, we have found a perfectly easy way to reach the same goal. We just let them die and call it God.

While these Christians are doing this, Churches like the United Methodist Church and other mainline denominations are mustering their resources and specially trained teams to fight the crisis.

Dear #UMC, let’s reclaim our confessional heritage

English: "John Wesley," by the Engli...

Come on y’all, I was the one who wrote the Shorter Catechism. Why ain’t you using it?

Just a short post on a quick idea…

The UMC is held to be non-confessional. I’m generally okay with that, except we have such wide ranging views there may in fact already exist numerous UMC denominations without the larger one. I am now ready to admit that. I do not think, however, schism is healthy, biblical, or going to happen.

What remains is for us to relearn our Wesleyan and Evangelical Brethren heritage. To do so would require us to reclaim several pieces of doctrine left out of the Doctrinal Standards. From the EB side, we should add the Heidelberg Catechism. From Wesley, we should reclaim the Shorter Catechism which was reworked by Wesley to remove overly Calvinistic parts while retaining several elements of the Reformed Tradition. Granted, both could use an update on language unless there is no chief end of woman.

While the UMC is non-confessional is most ways, our Wesleyan heritage does not completely exclude Confessions of Faith. Indeed, Wesley worked up such a one. Perhaps we should seek to reclaim it.

Thoughts?

Random annoyance for the day.

The above is a link to a Huffington Post piece about racist phrases. Some of what is said here is valid, some is not. The problem is that it is sloppy, and makes things which have no racial connotation, or do not have an origin in or about racism, racist. Some of the phrases here are just plain wrong. Before I continue, I want to make clear that yes, I am aware that racism exists. No, I do not look for it under every rock or phrase. None of us should. Here we go on some of the inaccuracies in the piece.

  1. “For example, did you know that Hip hip hooray! used to be a Nazi war cry used to invade the Jewish ghettos during the Holocaust?” This is blatantly false. The phrase hip hip hooray was used as an expression of praise and admiration for someone. Thomas Moore used this phrase in the 18th century far predating Nazi attacks on those who are Jewish. I can only assume that the author seriously confused this phrase for the Germans who did indeed used to chant ‘hep hep’ in reference to the Bavarian riots against ethnically German Jews in 1819. While many claims have been made linking the two phrases, there is no credible evidence or documentation that there is a link. A phrase for admiration and praise is now sullied in nonexistent racist origins irresponsibly.

  2. “The word “gyp” now means “to cheat or swindle.” It is essentially a condensing of the word “gypsies,” who throughout history have been stereotyped as a group that cheats and swindles people.” Again, an accusation of a word with no credible evidence. There is no known link between these words at all. Is it possible, yes it is possible that this began as a slur regarding the gypsies, but it is somewhat unlikely actually. The first known usage of gyp was in 1750 and it was used to refer to a British college student. Hardly a derogatory term. The current usage of the word as in to cheat or to swindle has it’s origins distinctly in America, seemingly odd for a racial slur about a group not known for having a significant presence in America.  The origin of the word the word gypsy or gipsy itself was given to itinerants in Britain when they arrived from continental Europe in the sixteenth century; the word is a contracted form of Egyptian by a process called aphesis. It was thought that those itenerants were from Egypt, which was not true. Nothing in the word origins of gypsy actually refers to the Roma, as they call themselves. More likely the word stems from the obsolete gippo, a menial kitchen servant. If anything it is disparaging of fast workers, not a racial group. Further more it is unlikely at best that anyone using the word gyp in this day and age has any intention of connecting it as disparaging to the Romani people.

  3. Technically, the current definition of “ghetto” (noun) is “a part of a city in which members of a particular group or race live usually in poor conditions.” Whether intended or not, the user is essentially implying that minorities are low class.” Maybe, or maybe it is a descriptive word. I am a Caucasian Anglo Saxon protestant male. I live in the ghetto. This is not offensive, it is a descriptive term that is understood to mean a poorer section of town. Yes, there is a connotation of this being forced by economic pressure, but this does not at all imply that a minority is somehow inferior, it does however state fairly bluntly that there is a poor section in town. If you want to be outraged about the ghetto, be outraged that it exists at all and that there is poverty in the world, don’t obsess over how it is somehow offensive to give a name to the neighborhood. ghetto is no more racist that suburbia. Just so you know, that is not offensive either, just descriptive.

  4. “Peanut galleries” (which now means “a source for hecklers,” usually used in a joking manner) were the upper balconies that African-American people sat in in segregated theaters.” The peanut gallery originated in the days of vaudeville and was a nickname for the cheapest (and ostensibly rowdiest) seats in the theater. Nothing more. The peanut gallery now is used as a term for those who would heckle. Neither the origin of the word, or the common usage of the word, has anything to do with racism…just the cheap seats and I hope that all of us have sat there before.

5.”The word “uppity,” a word beloved by conservative news pundits, originated as a word used by Southerners in reference to African-Americans that they deemed didn’t know their place in society.” This is quite frankly bull excrement. The word uppity originated, according to Merriam Webster (the dictionary used for other definitions in this piece) in or around 1880 and had nothing at all to do with race. It had everything to do with those interested in social climbing and not knowing your proper station in society. It was used most often in reference to Caucasians incidentally.

So what is the point you ask? Whomever put together the article for the Huffington Post did not do a lot of research, but did make a lot of accusations about common phrases that can not be substantiated. It is my belief…notice the belief…that they were looking for racism. We have allowed a culture to form where  the possibility of offence is treated more seriously than evidence of actual offence. Here is what I learned in Sunday school a long time ago. God has promised that if we seek Him we will find Him. Maybe we all should stop looking for offense and start looking for Him. I do believe that we will find that which we seek, so let’s seek something that is worthy of the time instead of trying to seek offense at every opportunity.

that time I visited Joel & Victoria Osteen’s church

English: Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church, Houst...

English: Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A lot of folks are sharing that Al Mohler article rebuking Victoria Osteen for her and her husband’s bad theology. We can go on and criticize the Osteen’s “consumeristic theology” and say ne’r a critical word about Christians marrying capitalism to Christianity as Mohler and the SBC have done. I have taken the Prosperity Gospel to task, and I will continue to do so, but let us not kid ourselve here, just as Mohler impugns the Osteens’ for claiming that “mere happiness” cannot “bear the weight of the gospel” neither can the fearmongering of total depravity Neo-Calvinism of the SBC.

For what it is worth, the Osteens’ come close to talking about God’s goodness as the impetus of being in relationship with God. I have actually visited Lakewood Church, and it is a multicultural setting. The center of the service itself is NOT THE PREACHING OR THE PASTOR OR THE SERMONS; the locus of the theology of the church (which is conservative evangelical) is the music ministry itself. They play contemporary Christian and Contemporary Gospel songs. Also, Lakewood Church does discipleship through small groups. Discipleship, ever heard of it, NeoCals? I don’t think I can stress this enough. Analysis such as Mohler’s lack #TrueNuance ,and at the same time, the Neo-Calvinist perspective lacks any form of self-criticism when it comes to bashing other Christians for manipulating people’s emotions. That’s the sword they die on.

For more on my experience at Lakewood Church, see here: visiting Joel Osteen’s church

Billy Graham comes out

I like this Billy rather than the previous Billy.

But the really shocking revelation, that will confirm the worst fears of critics among the fundamentalists at Bob Jones University and elsewhere, is that Graham told one reporter that if he was starting over again he would be ‘an evangelical Anglican’.

via Shocking Revelations |.

I usually don’t post snippets anymore, but this is indeed something to consider… who we are now, even the most famous of us, may not be who we really are (or who we will be) if we give it major reflection…