Working at the Crossroads of this World and the Next

Towards Ecumenicalism.

A big thing that helps a Christian to stay away from the whole mean spirited theological discussions is the prioritizing of your doctrines.  In ecumenical (nice) irenic theological discussions, it helps to have your theological ideas categorized in three spheres:

1.)    Primary doctrines (dogma).  These are the doctrines that make a Christian a Christian.  These are the MAIN ideas that without which you couldn’t really call yourself a Christian.  Some people will say that the Apostles Creed represents the traditional agreed upon “Primaries” of Christianity.

2.)    Secondary doctrines (beliefs).  These are those ideas that are valuable, but aren’t necessary for one to be a Christian.  For instance, what is your theory on sinful nature?  What are your thoughts on the Holy Spirit?  The atonement?  Sure, it’s important to think about these things (and if you haven’t, it’s always a good time to start), but these are in NO WAY A NECESSARY PRECONDITION FOR FELLOWSHIP!

3.)    Tertiary doctrines (opinions).  These are ideas that are really just opinion.  Like styles of worship.  Like Bible translations.  Ironically, these are the things that Christians will usually fight over.  Technical difficulty.

As you can probably surmise, most churches, traditions and individual Christians will have a different opinion on what defines a “primary doctrine”, what defines “secondary doctrines” and what defines “tertiary opinions.”

As a way of generalizations, hardcore conservatives will lump all three of these areas into the primary areas … in other words, they’ll fight over anything!  Whereas hardcore liberals won’t fight over anything.  They move all their doctrines into the “tertiary” area.

When we can accept that withing our tradition there are things that are nonnegotiable, but many ideas that are negotiable, I think we can start have THEOLOGICAL CONVERSATION!

So, does this help?  Do you think that by categorizing ideas, it can help in ecumenical discussions?


(Some) reasons for meanness.

Have you ever noticed that you’ll fight with those you’re closest to?  You’ll fight with your brother or your sister … you might fight with your neighbor (but it’s unlikely) … but, unless you’re in a gang, you probably won’t fight with the people across town (West Side Represent!).  We also give less grace to those we’re closest to.  Like our spouses.  Am I the only one who’s noticed this?

It’s the same way with theology.  For the most part, those that we agree the most with concerning theology are also the ones we like to fight with the most … over the little things.  Like if your pastor has taught you a certain brand of theology and you start to disagree with some aspects of that brand.  Like when you drop one  or two of the letters of TULIP and maybe become just a LIP.

I don’t know the reason for this “closer you are the wronger you can be” phenomenon, or for the WHOLE theological fighting thing, but I have my theories:

1.) The only conspiracy theory that I hold to is this (wait for it) … we are actually more selfish than we realize.  I’m sort of a Freudian when it comes to selfishness.  Damn Id.  This selfishness and pride likes to believe that WE are actually – although we won’t say it – closer to the TRUTH than anybody else.  So, when somebody close to us starts to stray from our ideas the id kicks in and we get agitated.  Arg!  Monster you is unleased!

2.)  Or, we may – with good intent – actually believe we HAVE THE truth.  And when we see someone start to stray that whole brother-to-sister fight switch is hit.

3.) We’re the most comfortable with THAT set of TRUTH and we’re uncomfortable with other SETS of TRUTH.  So when someone close to us starts to believe the OTHER set, we get all funny, uncomfortable, start seeing the fires of hell.

4.)  I know tribalism is a part of the equation.  When we feel connected to a group by our idea sets and we start to value that group, we become protective gatekeepers who like to keep out those that might ruin the group with their erroneous thoughts.

5.) Lastly, like your annoying brother or sister, those closest to you know where to poke you.  For instance, let’s say you’re a pastor and your big theological thrust is something like the Satisfaction Theory of the atonement.  What happens when someone in your congregation starts to think differently?  They usually start pushing back (dialectially) against the things you pushed.  A better “for instance” would be the whole modern and postmodern thing that’s going on in the broader culture and in churches.

For older pastors and Christians, the modern emphasis on absolute truth — defined in modern terms — is being pushed back against by postmodern who don’t like all the associations that go along with “absolute truth.”   When you’ve been taught by someone, or you’re church teaches a set of ideas, when you or someone else begins to change in their thinking, they usually change in the emphasized areas of the church.  So moderns produce postmoderns and those postmoderns literally annoy the hell out of the moderns and vice versa (we’re going all Hegelian here).  Does that make sense?  You can only “rebel” against things you know.  And so, the “rebel” becomes like the little sister who knows where to push your buttons.  What do they call a rebel who rebels against nothing?  An innovator.  But, most of us aren’t innovators.

I know that doesn’t cover all the bases.  Any other thoughts as to why theology makes people fight?  I know there’s ones that I missed!

I’m always looking for an open door to fame and fortune. Call me an entrepreneur or a multpreneur or a fool, but my mind is always rolling the direction of a cheap product that can produce a rich bank account. Like silly bandz. Or, The Prayer of Jabez.

After watching the awesomely poor half-time show last night, my fire for a successful failure was fueled again. So I’m going to speak out my personal and collaborative efforts at fortune with the hope – no … with the certainty – that my pot of gold is awaiting.

Idea #1. The Triple “F” Blog: Recording Your Fabulously Feral Flatulent. This was a collaborative idea with Phil. The thought is to have a place where nasty men, boys and extra nasty women can post their recorded farts.

Idea #2. The Obama Bible, or it could also be called, “The Barack Bible.” This wasn’t my idea, it was the very liberal Dwayne Waltons. But, being the good conservative that I am … I do anything to make $$$. This idea builds on the undercurrent in some communities that Obama is the Second Coming, so why not just come out with a Bible filled with Barack’s inspirational quotes?

Idea #3. This is a place where people who don’t have a social category can find one. This was Phil’s idea. He also thought that if people post on The Triple “F” blog, they could get a free six month trial on Unmatchable.

Idea #4. I realize that the above genius ideas are all male oriented, so I thought I’d give one of my ideas for the more feminine demographic: The Chef Fail. Have women post photos or video of their heartwarming dinner dishes gone bad. This one might really work. No, it WILL work!

How bout you? Feeling inspired? Got a good book idea? Invention? Or Blog? Please share … I promise I won’t steal it!

“We (African Americans) have been postmodern since 1619.” — Rod Garvin
Let me try to unpack this statement in this roughly written blog.
I’ve been reading some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work lately. When Bonhoeffer came to America from Germany, the only church he felt preached the Gospel in New York City was Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem … a black church that preached the Social Gospel. He was so blown away by the church that it knocked his whiteness right off of him. It’s said that when he was in the Nazi prison camp he was constantly singing the great spirituals he had learned in Harlem.
North America: 1619.
In August of 1619, Captain Jope’s ships brings the first batch of African slaves to the shores of America. He trades them for food and supplies, and essentially starts the slave trade and the resultant history you probably know.
According to the quote above, this is when black’s became postmodern. White people look at “modernity” and they see the positives, such as “science”, “progress” and “autonomy from superstition” because we were the ones reaping the positive benefits from modernity. But there is a view “from below” of modernity and this view is mainly held by non-Westerners who associate “control”, “colonialism”, “imperialism” and “progress at the poor’s expense”, etc. with modernity. It is this “view from below”, specifically proported by the Global South, women and minorities that has helped create this postmodernity explosion, especially in the more social conscience segments of Christianity.
The postmodern movement isn’t just a reaction against the philosophical pursuits of modernity, it is a reaction … from a sociological perspective … against the modern cultural pride that arose out of assuming “we knew the right way!” There is/were consequences to assuming that human reason could figure out THE truth … and those consequences were felt by those we colonized.
John Franke tells the story of how he went to Africa to teach about postmodernity. As he started teaching on postmodernity, he was interupted by one of the African Profs, who reminded John that the very term “postmodern” is a white, Western term … the rest of the world is using “postcolonialism”. The association by the African prof is this: modernity = colonialism. I wrote a blog about how modernism set in play the devaluation of the Global South and of women in general. So, if you’re interested in some farther explanation, check it out.
Let me get practical … There’s a reason Barack Obama has thrived in the present postmodern context in America. And the reason is this: black America has been postmodern – valuing local story, inclusivity, seeing things in non-absolutist terms – since they had a forced landing on the shores. See, blacks can move in this context better than us whites … especially us white males. You can understand, then, why Obama is so hated by white, liminal modern, Republicans – for one, he’s black, and two, he’s a Democrat and three, he’s the very first postmodern President.And this is also the reason why so many modern Christians find to so HARD to accept that Obama is actually a believer, despite beautifully eloquent testimonies like this from the article, “Praying with President Obama.
I know there’s a number of Republicans who read my blog (google analytics tells me the political party of those who read my blog … I know who you are … just kidding), so understand that I’m not saying that you should vote for Obama — we should vote our conscience — but I am saying that whites (especially of the Republican type) need to be more understanding of the context from which Obama comes.
In many white believers minds, Christianity can sort of associate with modernity, but Christianity can NOT associate with postmodernity, and so, they write Obama’s faith off, not realizing how offensive this is to their black brothers and sisters. We need to remember, or at least be understanding of how white “modernity” is interpreted by others. And one of the major “practical” indicators of how bigoted we can be is when we look at a man’s faith, like Obamas, and discredit it because it’s not like ours. I’m not assuming you do this … in fact, I’m sure you don’t judge people so narrowly! But, I’m sure that you, like me, have heard people look down on Obama’s faith because of some of his persuasions and don’t realize that in some aspects their practicing the very thing that has produced postmodernity.
As believers, we’re called to be incarnational. Incarnational doesn’t mean we accept everything in our context … in our culture. But it does mean, we – like Jesus did – enter the context with the intent to redeem both IT and those in it. Us white people can learn a lot from our black brothers and sisters as we learn to move in the postmodern context. We must learn. So, let me recommend a blog …


Rob Bell states that the word ekklesia (the word that Paul and others used to describe Jesus’ following, the word which is translated as “church” in our Bibles) was used in it’s “secular” context to describe the reactions of a city when they would greet their returning war heroes. They would be “called out” of their homes, not by rote, but by those who represented something larger than any one of them individually.

What happens when “GenMe” rebels?

I don’t know exactly, but I would guess, one avenue this rebellion could take will look something like the heart … the essence … of church (in it’s original secular usage and religious adaptation) : belonging inspired by something or someone who inspires.

The new Rebellion of Generation Me looks something like belonging. It looks something like self-sacrifice. It looks something like a movement for something higher.

This new church is emerging and we can be a part of it.

>The Prosperity Gospel … at least for me … has been like the Hegelian dialectic thesis that’s produced an antithesis of sorts in me. It’s been like Sarah Palin has been for the Republican party … a polarizing figure. When you have an outlier (Palin) who claims to represent the center, it makes those who might be more “moderate republican” leery, causing them to question whether or not they’re still a part of the camp.

Cause when the center shifts, everything shifts.

But, enough with politics, I want to talk about something less controversial … God.

The Prosperity Gospel is like Sarah Palin for some of us. It makes people who see it and don’t like it, go in the opposite direction. As another blogger has mentioned, it’s like Christian Porn. It’s all the fantasy Santa God without any honesty or qualification. “Brother, just pray this prayer and God will give you your heart’s desire” and those of us who have been burnt by that prayer grind our teeth and scoff.

The problem with polarizing ideas is that they can make you overlook the truth they contain … and they make you go to the other extreme. Take Lady GaGa as a “for instance.” I have a friend who does her limo work in Philly, and – being the conversationalist that he is – asked her if she likes negative attention. Her reply? “I love it … the more negative publicity, the more money.” Yet, with all her meat dresses and twitter butts, it’s easy to overlook the fact that she’s a good musician … unless, of course, you weren’t able to see that through all her antics.

The prosperity Gospel promises great things. So does God. Where the Prosperity Gospel gets it wrong is the great things are rarely material. I heard a quote once that said “the Prosperity Gospel is 99% true.” But, in my opinion, it’s not the quantitative want that makes P.G. wrong, it’s the qualitative part of it.

Is God concerned about your finances? Yes. But, he’d rather give you social capital. Is He concerned about your job? Your health? Your dying cat? Yes … all of those things and more (I don’t hold to dualism), especially if you find yourself living in the Third World, but I tend to think He’s more concerned about you becoming like Him. And as far as we know, Jesus lived poor, jobless and despised and yet …

Yet, look at his social capital … I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who’s richer … today … right now than Jesus. And it’s Jesus we’re following, right? It’s Jesus who is working himself in us.

Has anybody else been burnt by the Prosperity Gospel? Has it made it hard for you to believe in God’s generosity?

>Hipsters and Amish

>Yesterday I went to Wal-Mart to buy myself and my lady some workout accessories for the P90X adventure we’re about to embark on. As I walked through the sliding doors, I nodded to the greeter and then I saw a major cultural intersection: I saw a hipster* hitting on an Amish woman.

Maybe it was the fear of Tony Horton that was clouding my mind, or maybe I was rejoicing that my marriage just got that much more secure now that my wife found out that Jonathan Knight from New Kids on the Block is gay, but for some reason I just stopped and watched, not even thinking to take out my phone and snap a piece of sociological glory.
She was standing in the card isle looking at Valentine Cards and he was moving closer and closer as the conversation heated up. Again, I must of been thinking about what shorts I was going to wear for my “Before” and “After” photos for the P90X because I DIDN’T go clandestine on the Wal-Mart isle and listen in to the conversation.

You might be thinking, “Well, how do you know they were flirting if you didn’t hear the conversation?”
I want to be fair, so I’m almost certain they were flirting, but — in fairness — I was being presumptive assuming HE was hitting on HER! Maybe she liked his beard, musty scent and drab clothes and boots … maybe she was moving in on him. Maybe she mistook him for an Amish who’s straying a little outside the fold and thought she might use date-evangelism to pull him back in. Or, maybe she saw him putting corn in his car outside and she mistook it as the next evolution of buggy – horse combo.
The other thing I thought was, “Maybe he didn’t know she was Amish?” I thought about going up and telling him, “Look, she may look like your type, but she’s really not.” Then I second-guessed myself and just let love take it’s course. I mean, are hipster women and Amish women all that different? They both probably shave and bathe seasonally, they like wool, enjoy organic … everything, live green and like their men with beards.
Maybe it’s a match made in Lancaster.
I have some pick-up lines rolling around in my head from a Hipster to an Amish and vice versa … maybe YOU have one you’d like to share:
(Side note, when I use the term, “Hipster” I’m referring to the independent thinking, counter-cultural, buy used clothes, organic foods and ride your old bike/moped to work guys and gals who are the direct descendants of beatniks and hippies. I am NOT referring to the trend hunting posers who buy $80 distressed skinny jeans and $60 flannels so they can look like they just walked out of Goodwill.)

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