Thursday, October 25, 2007

And the Wheels of Church History Go Round and Round

This was a monster of a book but it was very true to its title. Bruce Shelley goes through all of the time periods of the church and puts it in terms that were easy to understand and in many cases there was never a dull moment. In fact, you would never guess by the size of the book, but at times, it seemed to me that he was skimming the service of many of the event, giving me just enough of a taste to want to cry out for more. The most powerful thing I learned that seemed to be an all-too-common theme is the constant temptation of the church to want to gain political power in order to control people from the outside-in, instead of doing the harder task of loving and serving people until God changes them from the inside-out. From Constantinople, to Rome, to Geneva, to New England and, dare I say, to the present, we see Christians gain political control believing that they now have the power to establish the kingdom of God here on earth. But in every case throughout all of history, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, absolutely. It is surprising to me that the early Christians who remember suffering persecution to the point of hiding in catacombs, now became the ones doing the persecution; or that great reformers like John Calvin and Martin Luther, who broke away from a church system that became corrupt and began inspiring people to look to the Bible for themselves, would then turn around and condemn to death people who come to different conclusions than them; or that places like England and Ireland would become countries of intense persecution between Catholics and Protestants.
So I guess my question is this: if all of these lessons in history are there for us to learn from, why is it that it almost seems we are on the verge of repeating the very same mistakes over and over again. The Reformers broke away from a church that allowed itself to become corrupt with power robbing people blind to fund their building projects. Have you seen any of these "Super Walmart" size churches going up all around? I would dare to guess just how much of their budget is actually a part of their empire-building as opposed to real ministry needs within their community.
As a college student in the late 80's I remember being sickened with what was considered evangelical television back then. It was full of charlatans, fakes and frauds yet they drew in the thoughtless masses because they put out a "christian pop-culture" that their mindless audiences ate up. And it really hasn't changed much since then. Now we have a Republican party that has essentially seduced the evangelicals of our country into thinking political power will solve all of our problems YET AGAIN! Read history! It doesn't work. It will not work. It will never work until Christ himself sits on the throne. Even then I have to believe that he will be proned to rolling his eyes at us idiots every once in a while wondering if he still has the free pass to smite us in the desert and start over again. It is time for the church in America to rise above politics and act as a unified body of Christ bringing the best of traditional and progressive thinking to the table and honestly debating the issues and seeking God through it all. And by all means, serving the poor, lost and persecuted. It is time for us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves why we seem like narrow-minded jerks to most of the people out there. Our actions should win people over to Christ, not repulse people away from Him (not Him really, more like us. Or as Bon Jovi would say, " We give God a bad name."). It is time we stop thinking that church history pauses at the end of the New Testament and then picks up with us! The absolute height of arrogance! We need to learn from the giants who came before us, in all of their ugliness and beauty, from every time period that came before us. We need to listen to their voices cry out so that we learn from their failures and flaws and see how God still used them anyhow. Since we are surrounded by such a great, great, great host of witnesses . . .

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wa boo-hoo!

  • Game 1: Dang, it's over.
  • Game 2: Oh, maybe I gave up to quick.
  • Game 3: yesssssss!
  • Game 4: YES!
  • Game 5: That's alright. We got 2 more chances.
  • Game 6: Damn.
  • Game 7: Noooooooooooooooooooo! You have got to be kidding me! Hey Ortiz, stop pointing up to the sky! Believe me, God is just as disappointed as I am. Cleveland is God's team! And Manny, you didn't even care whether you won or lost! At least Lofton had the dignity to come back to the team he loved!

The greatest achievement of the whole season: Sending the New York Yankees back home!

Stupidest thing I saw: LaBron James wearing a Yankees hat! Hey punk, remember where your paycheck is coming from. Being a Yankees fan in Cleveland is one thing you LEAVE IN THE CLOSET!

And as we Cleveland fans always say year after year: Maybe next year!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sexual Preferences of Wizards

Okay! I have got to say this and get it off my chest. WHY? Why is this necessary? I am absolutely confused why J. K. Rowling would do this. If there are people out there that read Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and other such books and they really must know the sexual preferences of each character then let's leave them to their own speculations and fantasies. But I just don't understand why this is a question that she is being asked and why she decided to answer it the way she did. To bring in such a hot topic issue into an incredibly successful series of books after the fact that she has completed the series and has made her fortune doesn't make sense to me. I have read the entire series and never once did I think about the sexuality of who got it on with whom and what their preferences or sexual idiosyncrasies were. I spent years defending her books against the Religious Right who saw her as introducing witchcraft to their kids. I still stand solidly on the facts that J. K. Rowling is a brilliant and extremely creative writer and I love the film adaptations of her books. But to bring sexual politics into a book that is read by a lot of children I think is in poor taste. It is up to the parents to educate their children about sexuality when they believe that their children are at the stages to understand and process the necessary information. I personally am getting tired of a culture that want to try and beat parents to the punch by cramming their views on our kids at a younger and younger age.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A. J. Jacobs Goes Biblical!

I first saw A. J. Jacobs on the Today Show being interviewed about his new book "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible". Now to be honest, I have had my share of experiences attending and working in churches and christian schools where I lived around people who thought they were living the Bible . . . as literally as possible. And quit frankly, I am still dealing with the scars of those experiences. But as I listened to Jacobs I realized that this was going to be very different than an ultra-conservative elitist smugly looking down on everyone else. In fact, Jacobs confesses to being a liberal New York agnositic who after having his first child, realized he wasn't to excited about our culture instilling its morals and values as the primary source of socialization for his son. So he decided on giving Christianity a good hard look by living it out as literally as possible, following ever rule in the Bible for one whole year. And the results are hilarious, enlightening, inspiring and in may ways an incredible sermon that exposes the Law for the very thing it was intended to do: to show the insane impossiblity of trying in our own power to live according to the Law. Jacobs first off, becomes completely overwhelmed with the amount of laws there are to follow. But as he becomes more and more conscious of the law, he begins to realize just how often he is more of a law-breaker than he ever realized: coveting, lusting, lying, etc. Jesus delt with those who thought they were living up to the law in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus knew that many of the religious leaders of the day were dumbing down the law to make it achievable so that they came off looking oh, so righteous! But Jesus pushed the Law to the fullest extent showing that the Law isn't for us to attempt to achieve it but to show the IMPOSSIBILITY of keeping it, thus the point of a Savior!
Jacobs maintains a great sense of humor through the whole experience. He even goes so far as to stone a real adulterer. That story alone was worth the price of the book. But I guess the thing that took me by surprise was that there were many instances where I was genuinely challenged, convicted and inspired to grow in my faith - despite the fact that Jacobs does not convert to Chrsitianity at the end of his project! His work with the homeless, the lessons he learned about thankfulness, the significance of prayer, and the humanity that he portrayed in all of the people and places that he visited was incredible. His experiences at Thomas Road Baptist Church, the snake handling church, Israel with ex-uncle Gil, The Red-Letter Christians, his Jewish friends, The Purpose Christian Life and the rest of the Chrsitian culture that he explored showed a humanity and diversity of people within the church that was all amazing. In many cases where I thought he was going to see the pockets of insanity within the church he actually saw real people trying to the best of their abilities to live out their faith. Jacobs used humor not in a way to make fun of people but more often to make fun of himself throughout his quest. So A. J., thanks for sharing your journey! My only challenge to you is to read a book on the grace of God to balance out all of the lessons you learned about the Law (Philip Yancey's "What So Amazing About Grace?"). Then I think you will get a complete picture of the message of the Bible. Then after that, I sooooooooo want you to go back to the snake-handling church and complete the conversion!

The Miracle of Pope John Paul?!?!

Okay, is it just me or is anyone else slightly concerned about this fiery image that some claim, in a fervor of religious excitement, is the former pope waving to us from this bonfire? Now the last time I checked when an image of a person arises from the ground encased in flame, that was not a good thing! Looking up and seeing clouds that look like Jesus produce warm fuzzies. But ANYBODY emerging from the earth in fire is cause for running away very fast and hiding in a church. So I think it best to not associate Pope John Paul with the bonfire. I would like to think that he would not come back as the Torch to wave to us. Maybe we can find his image in a potato chip or a cinnamon bun! Or better yet a pirogie!