Because I like to go against the grain, I wanted to try to stick up for Tony Jones (or sympathetically deconstruct him?) since he’s taken a lot of heat (here, here, here, here) in the progressive Christian blogosphere lately for his exhibition of white male privilege, most recently a rant about “being called a racist.” I’m less interested in arguing with anyone else’s criticisms or reflections which have generally been useful and thoughtful than I am in looking more deeply at the specific context that got Tony into trouble for better diagnostic and learning purposes. Basically, the “emergent” theology that appeals to post-evangelicals who grow up in a privileged context is very different than the theology that attracts the poor in the Global South, with whom emergent post-evangelicals desperately want to be in solidarity and whose theological dissonance is a huge source of anxiety. This is what I would call the white emergentsia’s “Pentecostal problem.” Continue reading
Several months ago, someone from the United Methodist communications office emailed me to see if I could blog about the Methodist “Imagine No Malaria” campaign. She gave me statistics about how many kids in Africa die from malaria each year and tried to make a case for it being an important enough issue for me to write about. To my discredit, I didn’t take her up on the offer. Why? Because campaigns against malaria and the other quiet, methodical ways that God’s people change the world aren’t sexy enough. They just don’t get blog hits the way that scandals do! But this weekend, Methodist churches around the world will be doing a coordinated missions push called Change the World in which the world will be changed through hundreds of thousands of humble, unglamorous acts of Christian servanthood, even if people like me aren’t paying attention because we’re wrapped up in our favorite scandals. Continue reading
I just came across this video from Nathan Blanc, a 19 year old Israeli who has refused the mandatory time of service in the Israeli military because of his objection to the occupation of Palestine. Israeli law does not allow for conscientious objectors so they are sent to prison if they refuse to serve. Hear what he has to say and judge for yourself, and then check out this link to an article about other Israeli youth who are picking prison over occupation.
There has never been a time when somebody in our government was not misbehaving in some kind of way, whether it’s overthrowing democratically elected presidents of other countries or tailoring legislation to fill the pockets of campaign donors. The latest misbehavior has involved the surveillance of the Associated Press by the Justice Department as part of an investigation of leaks of classified information and the targeted scrutiny of conservative political “non-profits” by the IRS. The sad irony in these incidents is that the government is behaving undemocratically and very clumsily in response to issues that are legitimately undermining our democracy. Continue reading
The latest theater in the Methodist proxy war over homosexuality has involved attacks here and here on the “so-called” Wesleyan quadrilateral. It’s really painful to me to see the “so-called” adjective being added to it.To me, the quadrilateral is one of the jewels of Wesleyan theology regardless of its derivative status. I don’t see it as a method of Biblical interpretation per se, but rather open honesty about what everyone really does when they interpret the Bible using the plain meaning of the text itself, the church’s interpretive tradition, our deductive reason, and the meta-rational intuitions of our experience. The conservatives don’t like “experience” because it’s not something they can pin down and adjudicate decisively. But to drop-kick “experience” from Biblical interpretation is really to say that the Holy Spirit is not allowed to speak to us outside of the Biblical text. It’s very apropos for us to be having this conversation on the eve of Pentecost.
I came across the Biblical context of the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian perfection in yesterday’s Daily Office reading. It’s Hebrews 6:1-2: “Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teachings about Christ and not laying again the foundation: repentance from works of death and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”
In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt traces the history of European anti-Semitism through its many decades stewing as an ideology that became normative. It was like a dormant ideological virus until the right social catalyst transformed it into genocide: the economic devastation and social upheaval of Eastern Europe after the first World War and then the Great Depression. I’m genuinely concerned that the escalating anti-government rhetoric within the US is functioning similarly as a viral ideology that will turn bloody given the right social catalyst. This question will offend some people, but I think it’s my duty to ask it. If you say you’re collecting guns to protect yourself from government tyranny and you call the current president a tyrant, at what point are you going to start shooting? Continue reading
I listened to a second podcast today from Company of Burning Hearts, a British charismatic mystic group I recently discovered. It’s a bit out there in terms of the encounters of the Holy Spirit being described, but the theology is sound so far. In any case, Justin Abraham says in the podcast that the church today is a lot like Nicodemus. We don’t get what it means to be born from beyond. Actually he said a different word that I can’t remember, but “beyond” captures the sense of what he was saying. We think our conversion is about having an official datetime stamp when we can say that we were “born again” so that we get through security at the pearly gates, while what Jesus is actually discussing with Nicodemus are the implications of being born into a different reality. Continue reading
Today’s Monday Merton is a chapter in Thomas Merton’s No Man Is An Island that talks about “pure intention,” which is the term Merton uses for coming to a place where our will is synchronized with God’s will. Continue reading
I preached this weekend about the ascension of Christ. As I shared in a blog post earlier in the week, I think it’s important to consider why Jesus ascended to heaven instead of sticking around in visible fleshly form in His immortal body. The dialogue between Jesus and His disciples in Acts 1:6-11 helps to shed light on why His ascension was part of God’s plan. Below I’m sharing the sermon audio along with a written summary: