Friday, December 21, 2007

Any thoughts?

I read this today in a commentary on the book of Philippians by Stephen Fowl. I suppose, in light of his statement, my perception of "the result of ecumenism" is that it is a positive thing. But, it is likely that I am missing an aspect of ecumenism that influences his thoughts. Note his use of "Catholic." I assume that by capitalizing the word he means to imply Roman Catholics and, thus, non-Roman Catholics. If Fowl is a Roman Catholic then his statement makes sense according to his tradition (he teaches at Loyola College in Maryland so there is a good chance he is Roman Catholic). To be non-Catholic, thus non-Roman Catholic, is to be outside the church. I believe, however, this point is debated in Roman Catholicism. If that is what Fowl implies, then as a member of the non-Catholic category I would disagree with this statement. I tend to think under the assumption that to be Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, especially Nazarene, is to be catholic (small "c"), as in universal. If, however, my general assumptions are what Fowl means to imply, then I would agree with his statement because if ecumenism results in the fact that catholics and non-catholics are true Christians then the end result would be universalism. Anyways. Any comments?

"The problems of a divided church as we know it today are really the result of ecumenism. The more Catholics and non-Catholics, for example, recognize each other as true Christians, the greater the problem of their division, the sharper the pain of this fracture" (74).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Golden Compass

[SPOILER ALERT: Don’t even think about reading beyond this point if you don’t want to know anything about the books or film.]

I went and watched The Golden Compass last night. If you don’t know anything about this movie, it is based on the first book in a series by Philip Pullman called His Dark Materials (which I mentioned in my last post). I really don’t feel like rehearsing the whole tension surrounding Pullman’s atheism and how he is going to bring Christianity to its demise . . . blah, blah, blah. You can Google all that, or check out a conversation over at Faith and Theology (scroll down, the conversation took place on December 4, 2007). If Pullman was going to do that he would have done so eleven or so years ago when the first book came out, not last week through a movie!

Having read the first two books and being almost half way through the third, I found the movie lacking in a lot of ways (surprise) in terms of a what makes a good movie (granted I’m not specialist). Movies tend to lack when they try to stay close to the text, but maybe not. I’m sure there are examples of successful interpretations from book to movie (anybody got one?) The movie forced the relationships and moved too quickly through some of the character development in order to get to the next action scene. To be fair, I really enjoyed watching the action scenes and comparing them to how I saw them in my mind when I read the book. This allowed me to enjoy the film only because I already knew what was going on, as if I had an insider view. But movies shouldn’t work that way. The movie critic’s were right, though. Nicole Kidman did a spectacular job playing Ms. Coulter. While, the screenplay writers didn’t quite capture the whole character Pullman created in Ms. Coulter, Kidman did a remarkable job displaying the tension between a mom torn between the Magisterium (the bad guys whom she works for) and her daughter. The very first scene in which Ms. Coulter is introduced is a dinner scene at Jordan College where Lyra (Coulter’s daughter) lives. Mind you, she is only twelve. It captures Coulter’s captivating presence among the Jordan scholars as well as how she dazzles Lyra into her confidence. I was particularly impressed with how the background music just draw’s you into the tension. This was a remarkable scene! Also, Iorek Byrnison, King of the ice bears, and the witch, Serafina Pekala, rocked! They will be fun to watch later.

In the end, however, I would save your money till the movie hits the redbox. Read the books, they're way better.

Plus, I have a feeling you won’t get the full affect of the controversy surrounding Pullman’s “agenda” unless you read the books. I just don’t think the movies will have the juevos to say what Pullman said. I might post on Pullmans ideas later, but not now.

Friday, December 07, 2007

boycotting and the bottom line

I guess it was about a month ago when I first received an email from, for the sake of broad generalizations, a concerned conservative evangelical regarding The Golden Compass, newly released in the theaters today. This movie is based on the first book in a series called His Dark Materials by author Philip Pullman. Since then I have being trying to pay attention to how this will unfold. What has sparked my interest in all of this is really nothing new and that is the reality of boycotting. Does boycotting really do anything? I wonder how much one buys into a culture that determines value based on the bottom line (i.e. money) when one boycotts? In other words, if the Church basis its witnesses in boycotting are we not affirming a worldview that determines worth based on monetary value? Think about it this ways: should one ever come across a restaurant that publicly embraces some sort of racist exclusion, perhaps a boycott would be appropriate. On the other hand, if one finds themselves on the inclusive side one might want to stop by from time to time in hopes of persuading the restaurant owner to a different perspective. If the world determines worth based on monetary value then perhaps the only language the Church has to communicate the gospel is in boycotting. If this is true, however, then boycotting is never the bottom line because it is too negative, too destructive. If the Church feels that it has actually overcome the beast based on what it boycotts then we are truly deficient in our witness. True?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

they run for the sake of running

"It takes an adult to be immature. Children are new and full of energy. With the freshness of the renewed earth, their innocence is explosive. they know no doubt. In the gratuity of their being, they run for the sake of running, and not for the sake of arriving somewhere. They are pure elan. That is why they are irresistible."

Wyclef Jean, Nazarenes, and Amy Grant

I read this in the current Rolling Stone magazine.

Rolling Stone: As a hip-hop kid from Haiti, how did you get into rock music?"

Wyclef Jean: My father was a Nazarene preacher, and his English wasn't too good. He went all over America as a missionary, and one day he comes back with a cassette by a rock band called Petra, this Christian rock band. I'll never forget it. We started listening to Christian rock: Petra, Stryper.

RS: Stryper? Really?

WJ: Yeah, of course! I also had, like, Amy Grant. That was part of our church culture. Then I was like, "You, man, we got to start listening to some other shit." So we started listening to Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Pink Floyd. And my dad would accept it because he couldn't speak English. If I was listening to Metallica, he would say "What's that?" And I would say, "It's Christian rock!"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The Office" quote of the week

"You expect to get screwed by your company. You never expect to get screwed by your girlfriend." -Michael Scott (yesh).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Regina Spektor

Katie and I went to a Regina Spektor concert this past Sunday at the Uptown theatre here in Kansas City. I bought these tickets as a gift for Katie’s birthday. At the time I was mildly interested in her, but after this show I am a full-fledged fan. What an awesome show! I heard a few of the songs I was familiar with: “Fidelity,” “Better,” “Sampson,” and “On The Radio.” We were most amazed at her ability to be a fantastic songwriter, a gifted musician, and creative performer all at the same time. Check out these music videos here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"The Office" quote of the week ... belated

Michael: "I declare BANKRUPTCY!"

Oscar: "Hey, I just wanted you to know that you can't just say the word bankruptcy and expect anything to happen."

Michael: "I didn't say it, I declared it."

even for the brevity of a smile

If Only for Once it were Still
By Rainer Maria Rilke
from Rilke's Book of Hours

If only for once it were still.
If the not quite right and the why this
could be muted, and the neighbor’s laughter,
and the static my senses make –
if all of it didn’t keep me from coming awake –

Then in one vast thousandfold thought
I could think you up to where thinking ends.

I could possess you,
even for the brevity of a smile,
to offer you
to all that lives,
in gladness.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"I wear the facade of pseudo peace"

Our Church went on its bi-annual Church retreat this weekend. This year we stayed overnight at a monastery in Atchison, Kansas. What a beautiful time. Our treat was centered around a Henri Nouwen artice. During this weekend I came across a publication the Benedictine Sisters put, which is where I came across this poem that I wanted to share. I am drawn particularly to the part that says, "I wear the facade of pseudo peace, unaware of burgeoning new life pushing through worn-out securities." Anyways, check out the links and enjoy the poem.

Befriending Chaos
By Barbara Mayer, OSB
Atchison, Kansas

I hide chaos in the closets of
my mind,
fearing to reveal my inner
turmoil,
my lack of order, my inability
to control
the frayed edges of my
anxieties.
When confusion and
turbulence
upset the smooth tempo of my
life
I wear the facade of pseudo
peace,
unaware of burgeoning new
life
pushing through worn-out securities

Just as the universe evolves
with both
order and turbulence, I too
must embrace
the tsunamic upheavals of my
life,
knowing they contain
unlimited
opportunities for transformation.

"The Office" quote of the week

"It appears that the website has become alive. This happens to computers and robots sometimes. Am I scared of a stupid computer? Please! The computer should be scared of me. I have been salesman of the month for thirteen of the last twelve months. You head me right. I did so well last February corporate gave me two plaques in lieu of a pay raise." - Dwight K. Schrute

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"When the rich wage war it's the poor who die"

Here's a new Linkin Park song. Pretty good social critique at some points.

Linkin Park
“Hands Held High”

Turn my mike up louder I got to say something
Light weights step to the side when we come in
Feel it in your chest the syllables get pumping
People on the street they panic and start running
Words on loose leaf sheet complete coming
I jump in my mind and summon the rhyme, I'm dumping
Healing the blind I promise to let the sun in
Sick of the dark ways we march to the drum and
Jump when they tell us that they wanna see jumping
Fuck that I wanna see some fists pumping
Risk something, take back what's yours
Say something that you know they might attack you for
Cause I'm sick of being treated like I have before
Like it's stupid standing for what I'm standing for
Like this war's really just a different brand of war
Like it doesn't cater the rich and abandon poor
Like they understand you in the back of the jet
When you can't put gas in your tank
These fuckers are laughing their way to the bank and cashing the check
Asking you to have compassion and have some respect
For a leader so nervous in an obvious way
Stuttering and mumbling for nightly news to replay
And the rest of the world watching at the end of the day
In their living room laughing like "what did he say?"

Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen

In my living room watching but I am not laughing
Cause when it gets tense I know what might happen
World is cold the bold men take action
Have to react or get blown into fractions
Ten years old it's something to see
Another kid my age drugged under a jeep
Taken and bound and found later under a tree
I wonder if he had thought the next one could be me
Do you see the soldiers they're out today
They brush the dust from bullet proof vests away
It's ironic at times like this you pray
But a bomb blew the mosque up yesterday
There's bombs in the buses, bikes, roads
Inside your market, your shops, your clothes
My dad he's got a lot of fear I know
But enough pride inside not to let that show
My brother had a book he would hold with pride
A little red cover with a broken spine
On the back, he hand-wrote a quote inside
When the rich wage war it's the poor who die
Meanwhile, the leader just talks away
Stuttering and mumbling for nightly news to replay
And the rest of the world watching at the end of the day
both scared and angry like "what did he say?"

Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen

With hands held high into a sky so blue
as the ocean opens up to swallow you.

Monday, October 08, 2007

holiness: habit and attitude

It’s a rare occasion (I suppose unfortunately) when work, church, discipleship, school, and outside reading all come together in the form of common theme. I call it the perfect storm. I suppose it would be most helpful if I began with a story about something that happened to me at work as a sort of catalyst.

Mr. Jones rolled up onto the valet ramp to check into the hotel. As a very large man, he was unable to walk on his own, thus requiring the assistance of a wheel chair. He is also one of those people who have become very comfortable with asking for help when he needs it, which was quite often as many things about coming to a hotel were difficult for him (elevators, etc). After about fifteen minutes, and with the help of myself and his two friends, we were able to get his luggage onto a bell cart and Mr. Jones into a wheel chair. We proceeded into the lobby to get him checked in. I was then instructed that I would have to assist him up to the room first and then come back down and take up his luggage, an unusual two step process. When I got to the room I had to adjust some of the furniture so that he could maneuver his wheel chair. At one point he asked if I might untie his shoes. When I left he took about five minutes to commend to hotel regarding its handicap accessibility. He wanted a manager to call up to his room so that he could personally say how happy he was. All of this took about a half hour.

Let me shift gears. I seem to always come back to G. Simon Harak’s Virtuous Passions. Harak’s argument is that we are morally responsibility for our passions (how we feel; our affections; our desires). He says that many often neglect to consider that an aspect of virtue ethics is the formation of our desires. In as much as we are to act rightly, we are to desire rightly.

Back to my story, and you might intuit where I am going with all this. As far as my actions go, I did everything Mr. Jones asked. Thus, I acted rightly in assisting him. However, as far as my passions, my desires went, I did all of his requests with the wrong attitude. I didn’t want to help him and, in fact, became quite frustrated with the whole scenario. Of course, realizing this about myself, I then became frustrated with how I was feeling; angry that I would ever not want to help someone who needed it, particularly one such as Mr. Jones. To top the whole situation off, he tipped me two dollars. So, now I am frustrated about receiving such a small tip, to which, of course, I am then more frustrated with myself about feeling that way about a tip. Do you see where I am going with this?

All of this happened the day before our pastor preached a sermon on entire sanctification, which has everything to do with habit and attitude. Entire Sanctification or Christian perfection, is about having our habits and attitudes rightly ordered toward our good and true end in God (Revelation 4). Also interesting was that in our discipleship hour in Church we talked about James 4. Read it for yourself.

In the end, I was reminded through Mr. Jones that holiness has everything to do with habit and attitude; a good reminder that I am indeed a long way off but steadily moving toward to a good and true end in God.

Friday, October 05, 2007

'The Office' quote of the night

“Everyone always wants new things. Everybody likes new inventions, new technology. People will never be replaced by machines. In the end, life and business are about human connections and computers are about trying to murder you in a lake. And to me the choice is easy.” - Michael Scott

Thursday, October 04, 2007

"I hate so much about the things you choose to be"

I was commenting to someone just a few days ago that working at a hotel has made me a bit more cynical and definitely more sarcastic. (Don’t worry; I’m not going off the deep end). However, I have realized that there are a few things the people say and do that drives me absolutely insane.

First, when someone walks up to me when I am a bellman/valet and addresses me as “buddy.” Just don’t! I’m not your buddy, especially when it is quite obvious that you have ulterior motives.

Second, when someone throws their keys at me as they walk inside saying that they’ll be right back. Don’t throw your keys at me; I just might throw them back!

Third, and this is a co-worker issue. When someone leaves a note for the whole staff and signs it “thanks kids.” Serious!? All you’re doing is trying to over compensate for the fact that you’re the oldest worker on staff by being subversively condescending. No one buys it and no one likes it!

So there are just a few of the things that I have realized drive me absolutely insane. I hope you enjoyed our time together. Feel free to leave a few of your own in the comment section.

Peace,
Scott

Sunday, September 16, 2007

wonder at your ignorance

"If you wish to be a person of understanding and moderation, and not to be slave to the passion of conceit, continually search among the created things for what is hidden from your knowledge. When you find that there are vast numbers of different things that escape your notice, you will wonder at your ignorance and abase your presumption. And when you have come to know yourself, you will understand many great and wonderful things; for to think that one knows prevents one from advancing in knowledge."

St Maximos the Confessor, Third Century on Love, 81, in the Philokalia

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

recommended reading meme

There is another meme floating around. This one has to do with books you find yourself recommending to people more than others. Oddly, one can participate in this meme not by way of being tagged but out one's own free will to participate. So I am. And you should to.

Here goes:

Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, Resident Aliens – I would recommend anyone in pastoral ministry to return to this book every three years for a refresher.

Church Fathers and Mothers – I’m with Thomas. These people are beautiful.

John Wright, Telling God’s Story – This is essentially a book on preaching. However, Wrights argument for how and why we preach tackles the importance of understanding homiletics and hermeneutics. With this comes a fine critique of North American Christianity and the importance of the sermon for re-narrating our existence into the story of God.

Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World – I usually find myself recommending this book when people are talking about the Eucharist. Go figure.

Paul Jewett, Man as Male and Female – A really good book on male and female partnership in God.

Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity – This is a fantastic history of how America has evolved thus far in its life, particularly as to how rooted our current culture is in American Christianity in terms of where it came from. I wrote a paper on the influence of mass media to mobilize a religious movement. Of course now we might say the media is used to promote anyone’s interests, thus the rise of advertising as a profession. Related to this Hatch draws very insightful conclusions.

Lewis Smedes, Sex for Christians – One of my friends asked me, “well is it really that different for Christians?” I laughed and said no. It’s a great book to spark conversation. Smedes is very honest and direct about topics often neglected in the church (erotic fantasies, petting, the single life, etc). He is not justifying a sexual liberalism (although he is pretty liberal), but rather a more faithful way to talk about sex. One not rooted in the sexual guilt so prevalent in Western cultures.

G. Simon Harak, Virtuous Passions­ – Harak discusses the possibility of being morally responsible for our passions. In other words, being rightly moved with compassion (Mark 1:41). I usually find myself recommending this book in conversations where Hauerwas comes up. And in fact, Hauerwas’ talk about bodily formation is coupled nicely with Harak’s talk about our passions, which Harak mentions.

Peace ya'll,
Scott

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Nietzsche kick

So, it has been a while since I posted.

Anyways, I still have one post to catch up on. Eric tagged tagged a while back to post personal facts and habits. Stay tuned for that.

For now, I need some book help. I am taking an interest in Nietzsche as of late and wanted to see you all might suggest a good book or two or five critiquing Nietzsche's philosophy.

I know, I return to the blogosphere only to make demands. But don't worry. If Nietzsche has taught me anything thus far it is that I can only seek to add postively to your life.

Peace out,
Scott

Friday, July 13, 2007

do the shuffle

Brian has tagged me for the latest in blogger games: ipod shuffle. So, here are the first ten songs the played when I shuffled my ipod. And, like Brian, I had to go five more. You'll understand when you try it.

1. Bright Side of the Road – van Morrison
2. That I Would Be Good – Alanis Morissette
3. Gotta Serve Somebody – Bob Dylan
4. It Takes a lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry – Bob Dylan
5. I’m in the Mood – John Lee Hooker
6. Where It’s At – Beck
7. Graze – Live
8. To Ramona – Bob Dylan
9. Foot of Pride – Bob Dylan
10. Devil’s Haircut – Beck

11. Can’t Complain – Nickel Creek
12. Twilight Zone – van Morrison
13. Rock House Boogie – John Lee Hooker
14. Sunset Soon Forgotten – Iron and Wine
15. Nothin' but the Blues - Ellis Marsalis


I now pass on this madness to ... Kallie Markle, Jeff Hall, and Eric Lee.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

with tears and sighs

Oh the irony! Last Sunday in our discipleship hour, which is basically Sunday school on steroids, we were looking at Acts 10. Our pastor commented on how God sometimes works unexpectedly and in very real and obvious ways. We were then asked to mention a time when God spoke to us in a very real, obvious, and unexpected way. I had nothing. Those questions always clear my mind.


This morning, however, was a different story. I don’t want to get into all the knitty gritty details about the stuff of my life, and so I won’t. I will say that I prayed for God to make Himself known to me today because I really needed to know that He was there. I think I used words about feeling God’s glory (density, thickness, weightiness), which in Kansas City right now would be a nice change from the humidity. I prayed that in all things I would know that the lamb has overcome the world (much thanks to the John’s apocalypse). And then I read this in the Philokalia:

“‘God does not want us to be lying idly on our backs; therefore he does not effect everything for Himself. Nor does He want us to be boastful; therefore He does not give us everything. But having taken away from each of the two alternatives which is harmful, He has left us what is for our own good.’ Truly does the Psalmist say: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain that build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain’ (Ps. 127:1). For it is impossible to ‘tread on the asp of basilisk and trample on the lion and the dragon’ (Ps. 91:13. LXX), unless you have first cleansed yourself as far as you can, and have been strengthened by Him who said to the apostles: ‘See, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and on the enemy’s power’ (Luke 10:19). It is on this account that we have been commanded to entreat the master not to ‘lead us into temptation, but to deliver us from the evil one’ (Matt. 6:13). For if we are not delivered from ‘the fiery arrows of the evil one’ (Eph. 6:16) through the power and help of Christ, and found worthy of attaining dispassion, we are labouring in vain, thinking that through our own powers or efforts we shall accomplish something. Therefore, he who wishes to ‘to stand against the wiles of the devil’ (Eph. 6:11) and render them ineffectual, and share in the divine glory, ought day and night to seek God’s help and divine succour with tears and sighs, with insatiable longing and fire in his soul. He who wishes to share in this glory purges his soul of all worldly pleasure and hostile passions and desires. It is of such souls that God speaks when He says: ‘I will dwell in them and walk with them’ (2 Cor. 6:16). And the Lord said to His disciples: ‘If a man loves me, he will keep my commandments; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and take up Our abode with him’ (John 14:23).”

St. Theodoros The Great Ascetic, A Century of Spiritual Texts

Of particular note, consider this again: “Therefore, he who wishes to ‘to stand against the wiles of the devil’ (Eph. 6:11) and render them ineffectual, and share in the divine glory, ought day and night to seek God’s help and divine succour with tears and sighs, with insatiable longing and fire in his soul. He who wishes to share in this glory purges his soul of all worldly pleasure and hostile passions and desires.”

Did I forget to mention that I had not read the Philokalia in months and that this was the first passage I read this morning? Needless to say, I did not need to read on.

I think I sometimes rely too much on coffee to be found a faithful disciple. Nonetheless, hostile passions creep in more than I would care for, but God has overcome the world! And so I will toil on.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

postures (1)


I think I will meander a bit in a sort of a reoccurring blog series called “postures” in which I will view different postures people assume in their everyday lives. To start off, I want to view the posture of one’s hands during prayer.

I wonder why when I was a child I was taught to fold my hands. I suppose it was so that I would not be distracted by objects with which to fiddle. On the one hand, this is a good thing as ought to teach children to focus on what they are doing, i.e. praying to God, not wondering what toys are near by or who is sitting next to me or even what sort of noise might come out if I pull the hair of the person next to me. We fold our hands so remain undistracted and focused.

But is this sort of a negative approach to what we are doing when we pray? Can we really remain focused when we are concerned with what not to do? It’s like telling someone standing in line not to think about the time. I wonder if a better practice might be to open our hands in a posture more symbolic of receiving and offering, which seems to be more specific to we are doing when we pray anyways. Can a posture of open hands help with the distractions as well as have a more positive formation on our lives?

I think so. At this point I might refer you to the quote in my profile as well as the name of my blog: Two Empty Hands. Torrance reminds us that our act of worship is not to first offer but to first receive. We must first receive the gift of Christ and His worship to the Father so that we might be found in Christ by the Holy Spirit and worship in the same faithfulness. Cyril of Alexandria often views the atonement as the Son’s offering the perfect human worship to the Father.

It might be time that we move away from “close your eyes and cross your hands” to something more intentionally formational.

Peace,
Scott

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Evan Almighty

Okay … I hate to do it. I really hate to do it! In fact … No! I won’t want to. But I have to. I have to be “that guy,” whoever he is. I know, okay! I know. Even Almighty, while displaying bits and pieces of truth, is merely a humanistic/Protestant liberal/social gospel interpretation of the biblical story of Noah, which ultimately distorts its interpretation at the most fundamental levels.

Okay … phew! Glad that’s done … But it is true.

Some thoughts:

[spoiler alert!! I might give some things away]
  1. God: God is a completely transcendent, non-Trinitarian being, although He show’s up looking like a human every now and then.
  2. Teleology: God seems to make it up as he goes. He comes across as a guy who has it all figured out but there really is no end in sight. He seems providential, but for what? This has huge effects on the movies anthropology.
  3. Anthropology: Three words: “Random Acts of Kindness,” or, ARK. That’s all God wants from His children. Oh, and more personal time with one’s family. We all have it in us to be a little bit better, although there is no standard or formation required to be better. It’s as if everyone just knows what it means to be kind.
  4. Sin: I am not quite sure what sin is in this world. While it seems that no one is really outside God’s saving grace, there is still some sort of evil reality. In this movie, John Goodman’s character personifies evil. I suppose this fits right along with a standardless understanding of what is good. Since we don’t know what is good we are free to decide on our own what is bad. But, doesn’t that make everyone wrong and everyone right?
  5. Christology: Ironic in all this is that God’s chosen pick for Noah is a politician who ran on the campaign slogan “change the world.” This blatantly undermines any understanding that the world changed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lest I dwell solely in the realm of deconstruction, I offer these bits and pieces of truth that the movie rips from more secure theological foundations. Thus, here are some well-intentioned themes the movie offers:

  1. Who are God’s people? Everyone! God has over 6 billion kids.
  2. ARK, or Random Acts of Kindness implies a very watered down and more vague notion of the historic understanding of the works of mercy. In other words, love one other. Be “charitable” to one another.
  3. God laughs and enjoys His creation. We see this in a scene where God shows up to see an old friend, which is a tree. Of course the implication of this is that God was for not with this tree, which is just not true. This is not to say that God communes with trees like he does with people, but at least the God of Even Almighty is not Pantheistic!
  4. More importantly, God wants to dance with us and enjoy our enjoyment of Him.

Why say all this? Because a short while ago the world picked up on the fact that it can make money off Christians. Over the next umpteen years we are going to see more surges in movies displaying obvious Christian themes. I am concerned that the Church might be to ignorant (please know that I say that as kind I possibly can) to call out those who make films like Even Almighty and offer critique on where they far and where they are near. Refer to my previous blog post and the play between analogy and parody.

Peace,
Scott

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

humbled and baffled

I came to this conclusion today as I skimmed through a book review on Graham Wards, Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice by Randi Rashkover. The review appears in the latest issue of Modern Theology.

Rashkover comments,
“Both Cities of God and Ward's more recent Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice, offer a Christian apologetics in which Christianity is both part of contemporary culture, committed to reading the signs of the times, and also outside that culture, committed to reading those signs through the lens of its own calculus of desire. Ward's apologetics arises from Augustine's analysis of the relationship between the city of man and the city of God. The encounter between the two cities is governed by two different logics, that of analogy and that of parody. On the one hand, the two cities share the same language and can provide occasions for mutual interpretation. On the other hand, the city of man is a parody of the city of God and can be read as a perverted imitation that is therefore subject to Christian critique. For the city of God, as the representative of eschatological reality, contextualizes and corrects the meaning and use of the city of man and its language; indeed, the intelligibility of the city of man is inextricable from its need for correction through the city of God.”
Talk about walking the line! Or maybe it’s not about walking the line. There is a crafty weaving of the wheat and the tares that somehow the Church must embrace. I am humbled by our task and confess my utter ignorance.

Peace,
Scott

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Anti-Gang czar for L.A. is chosen

"Jeff Carr, a minister with a liberal evangelical group, will oversee Villaraigosa's strategy of targeting eight zones across the city.

By Duke Helfand, Times Staff Writer
June 20, 2007

New Gang Czar

An ordained minister who has spent much of his career developing social service and youth programs in some of Los Angeles' poorest neighborhoods will be named today as the city's new gang czar, officials said.

Jeff Carr, chief operating officer for Sojourners/Call to Renewal, a liberal evangelical group based in Washington, D.C., will work directly for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as director of gang reduction and youth development programs.

Carr will coordinate an anti-gang strategy that Villaraigosa unveiled in April. The approach calls for police and social service agencies to target eight "gang reduction zones" in South Los Angeles, the Eastside, the northeast San Fernando Valley and other areas.

New Gang Czar

The new director of anti-gang efforts will oversee an evaluation of the city's existing 23 gang prevention and intervention programs and recommend which should continue.

Villaraigosa's office said the mayor picked Carr because of his ability to develop successful youth programs and his expertise at running nonprofit organizations. Officials said they thought his work in the faith-based sector would be an asset in his new public role, which will carry the title of deputy mayor.

"Jeff Carr has the perfect blend of organizational, financial and community-based experience to successfully quarterback the mayor's gang-reduction strategy," said Matt Szabo, a mayoral spokesman.

Villaraigosa has scheduled a news conference for this morning to introduce Carr at the California Endowment near downtown.

While at Sojourners/Call to Renewal during the last two years, Carr oversaw finances, personnel and marketing functions.

Before that, he spent 17 years at the Bresee Foundation, a faith-based Los Angeles organization whose programs provide more than 3,000 people annually with access to healthcare, education, technology, job skills and recreation activities.

Bresee focuses its programs in Koreatown, South Los Angeles and the Pico-Union and Westlake districts.

As the foundation's executive director, Carr oversaw overall development and direction. He established a pediatric medical clinic — negotiating a contract with a community healthcare provider for services for young people up to age 18, according to the mayor's office.

Carr also developed a first-time offender program to provide assistance to juvenile offenders, and he was responsible for development of the Bresee Youth Program, which serves people ages 11 to 21 with recreation activities, tutoring, job training, college scholarships and spiritual development.

Carr could not be reached for comment, but a Sojourners/Call to Renewal representative said he would be missed.

"Our loss is a real gain for the citizens of Los Angeles," said Jack Pannell, a spokesman for the group, which describes itself as a Christian ministry dedicated to social justice issues on national and international levels.

"Jeff is a creative visionary when it comes to real programs that affect people and communities."

Carr was raised in the Church of the Nazarene and followed his father by becoming an ordained minister in the church. He is married, with two young children."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thoughts on Aesthetics

So, I finally order a copy of David Bently Hart's, The Beauty of the Infinite. Even after the first fifteeen pages I am beginning to understand why it is so praised. I found these thoughts to be particularly interesting

"What Christian thought offer's the world is not a set of 'rational' arguments that (supressing certain of their premises) force assent from others by leavening them, like the interlocturs of Socrates, as a loss for words; rather, it stands before the world principally with the story it tells concerning God and creation, the form of Christ, the lovliness of the practice of Christian charity - and the rhetorical richness of its idiom. Making its appeal first to the eye and heart, as the only way it many 'command' assent, the church cannot separate truth from rhetoric, or from beauty" (4).

They shall know we are Christians by our love? Interesting.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Paedophilia, the unforgivable sin

When is caution taken too far? I have asked myself this question on many occasions since, oh, I guess it would have to be September 11, 2001 when as a rather ignorant and naïve college student I was forced to start paying attention. In recent years immigration has brought this question to mind, particularly in a post-9/11 world where safety and security by means of national defense is a way of life. But always lurking in the back of my mind is the Christian response to paedophilia.

A Guardian Unlimited article this week talks about “chemical castration” as means of control over sexual predators. In some cases they are talking about using satellites in order to monitor these people. I am convinced, as most everyone else is (hopefully), that “There are very few crimes more horrific than sex offences against children.” My concerns today, however, lie in what a Christian response might be.

I am not sure that I have any answers. But David Wilson's comments are interesting. He writes, “So too have I worked with those who have been chemically castrated - metaphorically had "their balls cut off" - but who still harbour desires to do awful things to children, because ultimately what motivates them has much more to do with psychology than physiology, and therefore what they can't achieve physically they can none the less achieve with …” Well, you can use your imagination as to what might be used.

This is an issue of privacy and information. I think the intentions of law’s like Megan’s law or Sarah’s law are attempting to do something good. But what are the implications? What are the implications of forcing someone out into the public without giving them a place to go? The problem lies deeper than physics, deeper than law. It is a moral issue that the current culture is not equipped to handle. I am convinced that this problem will increase if the Church does not create space in their communities for these people.

Of course the next question is one of space-making.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wisdom from a master

"For, though it is not an easy thing for a soul under the influence of error to repent, yet, on the other hand, it is not altogether impossible to escape from error when the truth is brought alongside it" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III.2.iii).

Monday, May 28, 2007

everyday people

I have worked as a bellman/valet at a hotel here in Overland Park, KS for the past two years. Although I am not the one to get star struck" I have always thought it pretty cool when famous people stay at our hotel. Until today I hadn't thought about all the people I have encountered. So, here are a few singled out folks.


1. Buzz Aldrin – He gave me an autograph picture as a tip.

2. Madalyn Albright – I thought it pretty exhilarating that after I helped her up to her room I got to say, "is there anything else I can help you with, madam secretary?" Who gets to say that?!

3. Artis "the A-train" Gilmore – Gilmore is a former ABA and NBA player. I talked to him today. He was actually brought to the wrong hotel (poor efforts by the limo driver). He is 7'2" and still looks like he can dominate in the paint. Check him out here. For an update on the A-trains recent activities try here.

4. Dennis Prager – He probably means nothing to anyone not from the West coast. He has an AM radio talk show mostly dealing with interfaith dialogue. You can check him out online here.

5. Al Roker – "Here's what's happening in your neck of the woods." Or, Al's neck.

6. Dr. Oz - This one makes the list because of my wife Katie. But, I did get to store his luggage for a few hours in the morning. As far as I could tell, no one noticed it was him in the lobby.


Anyways … working at a hotel has its more interesting days.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Telling God's Story

I just ordered a copy of John Wright's Telling God's Story: Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation. A must read for any and all preachers of the Word! Here is a brief, get-to-the-point, summary. Wright's goal in this book is to promote a way of preaching able to call people into an alternative way of living, i.e. out of the world into the church. At the heart of his argument for narrative preaching is hermeneutics. Wright offers a very helpful survey of the landscape of hermeneutical developments in the last 200 years (Schleiermacher, Heidegger, and Gadamer). In the end, preaching and interpretation (homiletics and hermeneutics) are intricately related when it comes to scripture, the church, and the world. The scriptures are always read in local, concrete communities, with certain presuppositions about the way things are that need to be recognized and corrected. In other words, the goal of preaching is that we might find our lives in God’s life, our stories in God’s story. Through the lens of preaching, Wright offer’s a critical analysis and survey of North American Christianity arguing that the church has diverged from such an understanding of preaching and interpretation resulting in the eclipse of the biblical narrative (47). When the biblical narrative is eclipsed, the interpretive and rhetoric(al) framework of North American Christianity becomes individualism, nationalism, and capitalism (the market), a world quite alternative the world of the bible. Promoting a rhetoric of turning, Wright offer’s practical instruction as to how preachers might weave the story of God. Turning involves repenting from one world into another. Turning involves what Wright as a tragedy as opposed to a comedy. The goal of comedic preaching, essentially, is to affirm one’s convictions about the way things are. Tragedy, on the other hands, helps one see that our world is indeed false and needs to be merged into God’s. Through preaching the preacher must interpret the ways in which the church is being malformed in order to call the church to faithful living. Here's a sample:

“Human beings live habitually. Cultural convictions are deeply embedded in the bodies of a gathered congregation – everything is the culture around them works to make such convictions seem ‘natural.’ To allow the congregation to be formed as a peculiar people, to allow the biblical narrative ‘to replace the naïve understanding, student [congregants] must reveal the latter [their previous understanding] and have the opportunity to see where it falls short.’ We must embrace this tragic moment of difference if repentance is to occur.

Our post-Christian environment provides a challenge and opportunity for the preacher. This setting allows the preacher to present the genuine difference between the biblical narrative and the narratives of the failure for a congregation to heart. Rather than coasting on the narrative presuppositions of the reigning culture, the preacher may engage the congregation and then turn them to form the church as peculiar people, living within the biblical narrative as a sign of God’s redemptive intent for all creation” (91).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On speaking truthfully and Jerry Falwell

The death of Jerry Falwell (1933-2007) has got me thinking. How should the church mourn/celebrate in death the life of those with whom they have fundamental theological differences? Interestingly, within this question I am proposing some aspect of ecclesial unity (which might not be the case). This is an interesting question when one considers the characteristics that mark a saint in the church. What are these marks? How do I speak faithfully and truthfully about one such as Rev. Falwell with who I disagree on many theological levels?

On a deeper theological level, does sainthood imply both unity and diversity? What are the common characteristics that mark a saint? In what way are characteristics of a saint allowed to be unique to the person? To add balance to the question, consider the person of Robert Weber (1933-2007) who, ironically, shared the same life span and Falwell. How do I, who perhaps share more in common with Weber than Falwell, speak about Falwell in a way that is faithful and true but not to the detriment of Christian unity?

I guess in a way I am asking if Falwell ought to be one of whom we teach our children to consider as an example of faithful Christian living. If not, then how do we speak in love about those that have gone before with whom we disagree? Consider Origen, who got shafted by the church just for thinking outside the box during a time when it was perhaps most permitted to be as creative in his thinking as he was. Only recently has his thought been reconsidered as faithful. Might we think the same about Falwell? Should we consider his views heretical if we disagree with them? If so, on what grounds? Is the church too divided to make such statements? Does the reality of such unique ecclesial diversity in our time permit us to be more critical (always in faith, hope, and above all love) of Falwell’s understand of what it means to be a Christian?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A question on Barth ... Please help!

I came across these sentences in Barth's Epistle to the Romans and I have a question. He says:

"...we men, living in time, perceive the Futurum resurrectionis [future resurrection], which is our true and positive conformity to Jesus. This is wholly distinct from such moral and actual experiences or dispositions of character as many accompany the perception" (197).

He's commenting on Romans 6:5

Is Barth recognizing that in there is a true conformity the begins in the Christian life? Or is he just Lutheran enough to place all real subjective change in the end (glorification)?

I'll leave this vague. Hopefully the conversation will lead to clarity.

Thanks Barthians!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

...Gregory, preaching, being moved, Panera...

I often wonder why I post reflectionless quotes on my blog. I think perhaps the answer might be that in some strange way I just want to be heard. That perhaps as I sit here in Panera, reading Gregory the Great's Pastoral Rule, and utterly moved by the following passage, I hope that some might share in my own experience, my own emotions, my own story. Anyways, at the risk of being ignored, I hope you preachers who frequent my blog (any maybe others) might be moved with me by these ancient words.

"Let them hear what is said to the preacher through Solomon, Drink water out of your own cistern, and running waters of your own well. Let your fountains be dispersed abroad, and divide your waters in the streets. Have them to yourself alone, and let not strangers be partakers with you (Prov. v. 15-17). For indeed the preacher drinks out of his own cistern, when, returning to his own heart, he first listens himself to what he has to say. He drinks the running waters of his own well, if he is watered by his own word. And in the same place it is well added, Let your fountains be dispersed abroad, and divide your waters in the streets. For indeed it is right that he should himself drink first, and then flow upon others in preaching. For to disperse fountains abroad is to pour outwardly on others the power of preaching. Moreover, to divide waters in the streets is to dispense divine utterances among a great multitude of hearers according to the quality of each. And, because for the most part the desire of vain glory creeps in when the Word of God has free course unto the knowledge of many, after it has been said, Divide your waters in the streets, it is rightly added, Have them to yourself alone, and let not strangers be partakers with you. He here calls malignant spirits strangers, concerning whom it is said through the prophet in the words of one that is tempted, Strangers are risen up against me, and strong ones have sought after my soul (Ps. liii. 5). He says therefore, Both divide your waters in the streets, and yet have them to yourself alone; as if he had said more plainly, It is necessary for you so to serve outwardly in preaching as not to join yourself through elation to unclean spirits, lest in the ministry of the divine word you admit your enemies to be partakers with you. Thus we divide our waters in the streets, and yet alone possess them, when we both pour out preaching outwardly far and wide, and yet in no wise court human praises through it." (Gregory the Great, Pastoral Rule, 3.24)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Lenten Reflection

I just discovered this poem on Christ's passion. While you want to avoid some of the Gnostic influences, it is a thoughtful encounter with the suffering that Christ endured (the writer writes from Christ's perspective). There are many aspects of atonement that would later be severed from each other that are represented here. I recommend reading it slow. Allow it to be sort of a drama unfolding as it is that one is called to reflect on Christ's passion within the context of worship as one approaches the middle of the temple. Reflections are always appreciated here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What changes your worldview?

Last night in our Ash Wednesday service we showed two movie clips as a part of the Liturgy. They appear at two separate times and pertained to particular Scriptures of Lent. They fit the moment very well.

Scene One, Schindler’s List: This was the scene where a large group of Jewish people were outside shoveling snow when a Nazi guard pulled one man and shot him in the head. The blood stained the ground as it ran down from his head to the tip of his fingers.

Scene Two, Crash: In this scene the Persian shop owners walks up to Daniel, the Latino locksmith who he thinks has destroyed his shop. There is yelling back and forth as Daniel keeps point at his daughter for her to stay inside the house. Scared, the daughter runs out to her dad with the mom right behind. (spoiler alert). As she gets to her dad the gun goes off right in the daughters back. The father let’s a cry from the bottom of his heart. The mom breaks down. We come to find out that the daughter has not been shot. The parents are thankful. The Persian man is confused.

Did I mention that we watched these scenes without audio?!? Amazing! Powerful! I could hear the cry of the father when he thought his daughter was shot ring in my head from when I watched the movie the first time. I heard it so clear.

Why I am saying this?

I say this because I am curious to know what movies, books, songs, poems, etc, whatever, become those resources that help move us, that help us live faithfully. What helps change our worldview to the kind of worldview formed by the liturgy? What helps us live out our baptisms Eucharistically? These are the questions with which I am curious? These kinds of things do not have to be “Christian” in the manner that we have “Christian music” and “non-Christian music.” U2 for example is a good example of “non-Christian” music. Crash then, in this sense, becomes a Lenten reality for us. I have been considering the Iron and Wine On Your Wings song as particularly Lentful (did I make up that word?).

God, there is gold hidden deep in the ground
God, there's a hangman that wants to come around
How we rise when we're born like the ravens in the corn
on their wings, on our knees crawling careless from the sea

God, give us love in the time that we have

God, there are guns growing out of our bones
God, every road takes us farther from home
All these men that you made how we wither in the shade
of your trees, on your wings we are carried to the sea

God, give us love in the time that we have

So, help me out. Help me think through this.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Herein lies the novelty of the Gospel, which changes the world without making noise."

On the Revolution of Love

It "Changes the World Without Making Noise" VATICAN CITY, FEB. 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This Sunday's Gospel has one of the most typical, yet most difficult, teachings of Jesus: Love your enemies (Luke 6:27).

It is taken from the Gospel of Luke, but it is also found in Matthew's Gospel (5:44), in the context of the programmatic discourse that begins with the famous Beatitudes. Jesus delivered this address in Galilee, at the beginning of his public ministry: It was something of a "manifesto" presented to everyone, which Christ asked his disciples to accept, thus proposing to them in radical terms a model for their lives.

But what is the meaning of his teaching? Why does Jesus ask us to love our very enemies, that is, ask a love that exceeds human capacities? What is certain is that Christ's proposal is realistic, because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and that this situation cannot be overcome without positing more love, more kindness. This "more" comes from God: It is his mercy that has become flesh in Jesus and that alone can redress the balance of the world from evil to good, beginning from that small and decisive "world" which is man's heart.

This page of the Gospel is rightly considered the "magna carta" of Christian nonviolence; it does not consist in surrendering to evil -- as claims a false interpretation of "turn the other cheek" (Luke 6:29) -- but in responding to evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21), and thus breaking the chain of injustice. It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behavior but a person's way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God's love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Loving the enemy is the nucleus of the "Christian revolution," a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power. The revolution of love, a love that does not base itself definitively in human resources, but in the gift of God, that is obtained only and unreservedly in his merciful goodness. Herein lies the novelty of the Gospel, which changes the world without making noise. Herein lies the heroism of the "little ones," who believe in the love of God and spread it even at the cost of life.

Dear brothers and sisters: Lent, which begins this Wednesday, with the rite of the distribution of ashes, is the favorable time in which all Christians are invited to convert ever more deeply to the love of Christ.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary, the docile disciple of the Redeemer, to help us to allow ourselves to be conquered without reservations by that love, to learn to love as he loved us, to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36)."

Benedict XVI

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced'

A worthy Lenten theme indeed!

I am thankful for Pope Benedict XVI’s Lent message. (Search February 13, 2007).

The Pope calls for the faithful to direct our gaze upon the cross where God's love was fully revealed. We are reminded to consider God's love as agape and Eros. Eros? That seems a bit odd. The Pope reminds us, however, that while God looks exclusively for our own good, He desires to possess our "yes;" and so Mary becomes important for us this season as we seek to follow her first yes with our own. God is Eros. "On the cross, it is God Himself who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of everyone of us." And so, let us look upon the one whom we have pierced, drawn to the glory of the God in the face of Christ on the cross and let us confess by the Spirit our sins and receive mercy. Let us receive that Eucharistic grace that we might more fully manifest the reality of our Baptisms. Drawn out of ourselves in Baptism let us spread the love of God as we learn it in the Eucharist.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Your help, please

A pastor that I know is working to help his Church embrace some of the deeper implications of the Eucharist and he asked me to list what books I had read regarding this. I figured that I could provide a few good books but thought that maybe you all who read this blog might suggest some of your own as well. So bring on the books lists! Here are a few of my own suggestions to get us going.

Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World
William Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist (chapters 5 and 6)

T. F. Torrance, Theology in Reconciliation (chapter 3)
Lawrence Welch, Christology and Eucharist in the Early Thought of Cyril of Alexandria

p.s. Articles are welcome as well.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Confession and Counseling

I am currently in the middle of a class called Pastoral Care and Counseling. The question of confidentiality and disclosure recently came up in one of our sessions. Someone mentioned that the pastor should always keep confidentiality with the parishioner unless mandated by State and Federal law. I questioned that assumption based on a Catholic understanding of the confessional. I have a few questions for consideration.

ONE: How different is the confessional space form a counseling session?

TWO: Is the confessional exempt from State and Federally mandate laws? e.g. Do you turn in a person who is confessing his/her struggles of child molestation, that is, he/she is actually doing the acts?

THREE: What is the significance of confessional space?

Friday, January 26, 2007

My Theological Meme

Charlie has tagged me to put my own theological meme. First, the rules of the game:

1) You do not talk about fight ... Oh, sorry. Wrong game.

Here we go. Rule number one (and there are one and a half rules).

1/2) You do not meme until memed upon (actually I made that one up).
1) Name three (or more) theological works from the last 25 years (1981-2006) that you consider important and worthy to be included on a list of the most important works of theology of that last 25 years (in no particular order).

So, without further ado.

1) T. F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith, 1995.
2) G. Simon Harak, Virtuous Passions, 2001
3) John Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 2002

Schmemann’s For the Life of the World did not make the cut because it was written in 1973. That would be my alternative fourth if the time frame ever changed. Or maybe Hauerwas’, The Peaceable Kingdom … Or even Cavanaugh’s Torture and Eucharist.

Tag, you’re it: Brian Postlewait, Matt Alexander, and J.R. Caines.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The incautious importunity of loquacity

"Rulers ought also to guard with anxious thought not only against saying in any way what is wrong, but against uttering even what is right overmuch and inordinately; since the good effect of things spoken is often lost, when enfeebled to the hearts of hearers by the incautious importunity of loquacity: and this same loquacity, which knows not how to serve for the profit of the hearers, also defiles the speaker."

Gregory the Great

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The city does not need Jesus

Over the past few weeks I was able to take c class through NTS called Urban Immersion: Los Angeles. The goal of the class is just that, to immerse one in many of the facets of the city. We were able to gain perspective on the social, political, and economic situation of Los Angeles through a lens of urban ministry.

Some of the highlights included a half-day walk through the downtown area. We spent a great deal of time in Skid Row, a shocking environment after one has toured “Bunker Hill”, which if you know anything about this area the most significant point might be made that it sits on artificially raised structures that serve to restrict unwanted visitors. The local security proves this point. The way the downtown area has founded itself structured provides a scene of hopelessness for those trapped in the plight of the city. I witnessed first hand the sweatshops located just above the shops that sell the products. Products marked too high that serve to pay workers at ridiculous wages. [If the U.S wants to rid the country of illegal immigrants then the best way is to stop buying the products made or the food grown by “illegal hands” … but that might leave the poor without a cloak or tunic, naked and helpless for all the world to see. Perhaps that might leave the powers naked and helpless for all the world to see.]

The city does not need Jesus, the world need only recognize His presence already there.

"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all [people] to myself."

Anyways…just some thoughts.