We no longer buy your call to be "fastest growing" church in wherever. That is your need. You want a bigger audience. We won't be part of one.
Our ears are still ringing from the volume, but...Jesus is not our boyfriend - and we will no longer sing your silly love songs that suggest He is. Happy clappy tunes bear no witness to the reality of the world we live in, the powers and principalities we confront, or are worthy of the one we proclaim King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
You offered us a myriad of programs to join - volunteer positions to assuage our desire to be connected. We could be greeters, parking lot attendants, coffee baristas, book store helpers, children's ministry workers, media ministry drones - whatever you needed to fulfill your dreams of corporate glory. Perhaps you've noticed, we aren't there anymore.
We are The People formerly known as The Congregation. We do not hate you. Though some of us bear the wounds you have inflicted. Many of you are our brothers and our sisters, misguided by the systems you inhabit, intoxicated by the power - yet still members of our family. (Though some are truly wolves in sheep's clothing.)
One of my fav songs by Mr. Zimmerman is With God on Our Side, which he performed at his debut more than 40 years ago, towards the end of another war. I have been thinking recently about some of his lyrics:
But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.
In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.
So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.
Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.
From Nino Pepino
So it fascinated me when I ran across this in my news reader: ABC News: God Is on Our Side. Does That Mean War?
Does believing that "God is on our side" make it easier for us to inflict pain and suffering on those perceived to be our enemies? If we think God sanctions violence, are we more likely to engage in violent acts? The answer to both those questions, according to new research, is a resounding "yes," even among those who do not consider themselves believers.
"What worries me is when people use God as a justification for their violence. There are scriptures that say you should not take God's name in vain. This is the most extreme version of taking God's name in vain," he said.
It's just that simple, isn't it - we believe God is behind what we are doing, just as those who follow Allah or Buddha are convinced that God is behind what they are doing. We both defile that God & our faith when we use God as a weapon & rationale.
It trule makes me wonder, as the ABC writer does at the end of this piece:
Yet his (Bushman's) own research shows that whether people consider themselves believers or not, they are more likely to be aggressive, perhaps even willing to start a war, if they think God is on their side.
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if you do not know "know" from her work all over the web, she is a PhD candidate at the School of Information (SIMS) at the University of California - Berkeley and a Fellow at the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Communications
she gave a keynote this morning at etech entitled Incantations for Muggles: The Role of Ubiquitous Web 2.0 Technologies in Everyday Life
What are the spells we cast on one another, the spells that technologists cast on society, and what are the spells that practices cast back on us?
The social glue is magic not created by the creators, it’s magic.
We thru tech are shifting architecture in society. People are figuring out how to work around it. Do we keep being ostriches, or do we try to understand what people are doing?
- persistence: everything sticks around
- searchability: what does it mean that you can always be found?
- replicability: how do we know what truth or reality when you can copy and paste and cannot tell the original and dupe apart? Or conversations that move across and scale? MySpace break up with each other on MySpace comments… bc they know that anything can be taken out of context, they put it on myspace where it’s surely their original words.
- invisible audiences. What doe sit mean that we don’t know who is watching us? I have a sense right now of who I am talking to. But online you do not know the social context of who you talk to and what social context. I still feel really badly for the Star Wars Kid– big personal consequences. His life has changed since then.
Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Greetings everyone on the day in 1985 that Billy Dee Williams received a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame. While many find his role as Lando Calrissian to be their personal fav, I am quite partial to his title role in The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings. The Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings are loosely based on the Ethiopian Clowns, a barnstorming baseball team; Bingo Long is based on Satchel Paige, considered to be among the greatest baseball pitchers of all time.
Speaking of barn-storming – last year, more than 50 bloggers around the globe came together to share their reflections in a grid blog called Via Crucis during the week often called HOLY WEEK and in the week after EASTER. The name for this rag-tag effort comes from the Latin words for the Way of the Cross - Via Crucis. The response was astounding to this experiment in distributed global media, which was designed to draw on the creativity, diversity, and theological understanding of the blogging community to a moment in the story of folks practicing faith.
With the beginning of Holy Week (Palm Sunday – April 1) less than 1 week, I am hoping you might join the [Grid::Blog::Via Crucis 2007] - if you are interested please go here: viacrucis2007.org. Ashley Benigno introduced the concept of a grid blog (see details below) which is really quite simple:
during a period of time (from April 1 – May 27), folks would post their own reflection on their own blogs (including media of any type)
(a) [Grid::Blog::Via Crucis 2007] in their subject line and a consistent image in their post (this year’s image)
(b) include links to other gridblog for that day or station
We'd love to have you join this effort by:
* Signing Up! use your voice by posting on your blog reflections . You can choose the Day & the Station you will blog on – feel free to commit to more than 1. You can sign up by adding yourself below in the comments on viacrucis2007.org - please make sure you include your email and blog url in your comment.
* Naming It! For consistency sake, please title your post (s): [Grid::Blog::Via Crucis 2007]<then add your subtitle here>.
* Sending It! By sending your link(s) during this window of time to me
* Passing it on! Send this to 5 or more of your blogging pals and/or post the invite on your blog.
Satchel Page had a wonderful quote: "I never rush myself. See, they can't start the game without me." We can not start the grid blog without folks like you & your blogging friends !
I am missing a party this week, one I have been lucky enough to be a part of the past two years. My work needs will keep me close to home, but my heart will be with those who gather in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains.
During the last week of March, Jamie Callaway and Ann Winsor have gathered folks in the Episcopal tribe who are engaged in ministry with young people. For 3 days, we've gathered at Trinity Wall Street's gorgeous retreat & conference center on the Housatonic River in West Cornwall, Connecticut. There has been talking & praying, dancing and singing - feasting on great food and the fellowship of pioneers in missional dreaming & living. Not only are Jamie & Ann models of great hospitality - because they work with Trinity Grants, they have also helped provide the necessary resources to spur those dreams starting to come true.
I have been reflecting on ministry with young people, pulling on my own experience on both "sides" of ministry, my own experience with my 18 year-old daughter & my own journey being deeply perplexed by what is commonly called "ministry with young people".
As a gift to those gathering over the covered bridge in West Cornwall & a meditation on my own experience, I offer up this clip & my own reflections below:
A few weeks back, someone I admire had a blog post entitled Not As Bad As We Suggest, in which he used National Council of Churches data to indicate that the state of American Christianity is not as bad as we sometimes to make it to be. This fellow is a bit of a coyote, a clever trickster - so part of me thinks he might be inspired by a fav part of Monty Python & The Holy Grail:
King Arthur: [after Arthur's cut off both of the Black Knight's arms] Look, you stupid Bastard. You've got no arms left.
Black Knight: Yes I have.
King Arthur: *Look*!
Black Knight: It's just a flesh wound.
I wish I agreed with what appears to be an un-ironic statement that every thing is OK, in fact things have never been better. If it were the case that following Jesus "has never had more influence in the world" or that this is simply a case of "some brands are losing size, but over all things are up even from last year", then I would be giddy as Sidney Ponson after a new shipment of Jheri Curl.
My sense is a tad different - in fact, it strikes me as something closer to the popular myth of how to boil a frog:
There's an old folk warning that if you throw a frog in boiling water he will quickly jump out. But if you put a frog in a pan of cold water and raise the temperature ever so slowly, the gradual warming will make the frog doze
happily . . .in fact, the frog will eventually cook to death, without ever waking up.
The confluence of a bunch of things seems to have heated up the water in which institutions called churches exist, making them feel almost invincible like the Black Knight - a perfect storm of economic, political or cultural factors. There is a sense that one team is "winning" in America, that team is Church Goers (tm), and that the American Empire is God's right hand.
It feels to me like a hot tub - bubbly, hot - and filled with more germs that a public phone. In a Barna survey (see results below) of 2006 adults, age 18 and older, conducted in January 2007 indicated that since 1994, the percentage of adults who have steered clear of churches for at least the past six months has remained stable. When Barna's survey statistics are projected across the aggregate adult population:
the numbers are staggering. An estimated 73 million adults are presently unchurched. When teens and children are added, the total swells to roughly 100 million Americans.
Let that sink in. In a period of dominance - some would say oppression - from one "brand" of Christianity (Evangelicalism) in America, communicated with a brand consistency that would make McDonald's envious - not one percentage uptick. In a time period that many referred to as the "Decade of Evangelism" - not one percentage uptick.
While Barna's methodology might not be as rigorous as could be, it's hard to argue with that trend directionally. What fascinates me even more are a few of his insights into the rationale for this:
Now the NCC stats may be accurate (note to self: typing that rules out any fundamentalist ministry aspirations of mine). It may just be tired old brands like Montgomery Wards (in this case, what used to be called mainliners) dying off, to be replaced by Wal-Mart (in this case, mega-churches & multi-sites). If so, I am as happy as a coupon-clipper on Sunday morning.
But I think it's a frog that's boiling (or a cat that is bouncing). Just as the Mayan & Mesopotamian cultures crumbled in of their hubris, I think that the death of American Christendom is in full swing.
And truth be told, this prognostication on my part brings me joy. The Jesus story is one of transformation, of new life coming after death (not decline or denial). Our wounds are self inflicted - they are not minor flesh wounds. People are more hungry for the story of God made flesh - the reality of that story imprisoned in crumbling building seems like my beloved Black Knight:
King Arthur: Victory is mine!
[Kneels to pray]
King Arthur: We thank thee, Lord, that in thy mercy -
[Cut off by the Knight kicking him]
Black Knight: Come on, then.
King Arthur: What?
Black Knight: Have at you!
King Arthur: You are indeed brave, Sir Knight, but the fight is mine!
Black Knight: Oh, had enough, eh?
King Arthur: Look, you stupid bastard. You've got no arms left!
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Historically, as we all know, true shamans and spiritual people have been shunned by most communities. They have been ostracized. The shamans had to live in a tree and they were dirty and frightful people, and when they came to the edge of the village, it was only the fact that they had spiritual and healing powers that kept the people from beating them with sticks and destroying them. And it seems to me that the shaman's perspective is the one from which to question the genuineness of any spiritual package that doesn't transform you into a complete freak who has to eat worms and live in the desert, that allows you to still live in your community and not be an outcast. Because a palatable spiritual package, to me, runs the danger of not having enough energy or of not being spiritual enough-an effect of being pretty much just a dilettante's dabbling in superstition. I really think that the genuinely spiritual person is dangerous, and charged with a kind of frightful energy and antisocial power. And when they appear, they will be shunned....