Tag Archives: christianity

To Change the World

Media_httpordinarycom_kpgbm

An interview with James Davison Hunter for his book:  To Change the World has really captured my attention today.

Here is a quote:

“In contrast to these paradigms, the desire for faithful presence in the world calls on the entire laity, in all vocations—ordinary and extraordinary, “common” and rarefied—to enact the shalom of God in the world.  Christians need to abandon talk about “redeeming the culture,” “advancing the kingdom,” and “changing the world.” Such talk carries too much weight, implying conquest and domination. If there is a possibility for human flourishing in our world, it does not begin when we win the culture wars but when God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, reaching every sphere of social life. When faithful presence existed in church history, it manifested itself in the creation of hospitals and the flourishing of art, the best scholarship, the most profound and world-changing kind of service and care—again, not only for the household of faith but for everyone. Faithful presence isn’t new; it’s just something we need to recover.”

 This speaks directly to the kind of reflection and thinking that led me on a path of planting Ordinary Community some 10 years ago now and is continuing to sharpen our mission and presence as a people.  I need to unpack all of this a lot more in my own mind and heart, but it rings so true with my reflections for a decade.  The thirst for new, to be exciting, to be relevant, to be popular, to be politically powerful etc. etc., are not the ideas of the Kingdom of God, they are the dressings of American consumer culture in 2010 A.D. To be a people set apart, to live within our culture but to incarnate the Christ of the Kingdom in that place, that is my pursuit.  We don’t do this perfectly, but it is the intention of our hearts as a people.  Ordinary Community, let’s never stop asking the questions of what it means to be Church in our culture, in our context and in our time.peace,Marshall

Brian McLaren is not the anti-christ

Start here  (Mike Morrell does a good job of summing up the explosive issue here)

BRIAN MCLAREN IS NOT THE ANTI-CHRIST.  There, I said it.  Phew, glad I got that off my chest.  In fact, I may even go as far as to say that my experiences with Brian have revealed a Christ-like character (GASP to my fundie friends).  There, it’s out now, I’m out of the closet.  I think Brian is 1) just a guy  (not  lucifer’s son)  2) a good thinker (though I don’t agree with everything) and 3) most importantly someone I consider a friend  (he’s the shrimp in the left back corner of this photo behind my sasquatch-like friends at Mayhem in Cincinnati 2003)A few years ago, the last time I talked with Brian, we were on a panel discussion together with George Barna and a few other leaders in Seattle at an Off the Map Conference.   (Notice that while I am sitting next to him, I am not punching him in the face as some suggest is the right etiquette.  Most notably this guy). Brian has just released a new book, “A New Kind of Christianity” .  I have not read it, I may not, I haven’t read any of Brian’s books in about 5 years or so.  Not because I deeply disagree, I just have got the jist of who he is and what he is suggesting.  There are parts of it, the stuff I read 10 years ago or so that was absolutely lightning in a bottle for me.  Liberating, provoking, dangerous and full of life.  I loved it and read a lot of it while shaking my head in affirmation.  At some point I got the jist and moved to other authors and other viewpoints.I am not a card-carrying member of Emergent.  That’s another post altogether of why I’m not but in general, many of them I count as friends and would break bread with them regardless of where we put our emphasis in.  Me and my friends, we’re mostly practitioners, trying to work it all out in community and in context, we’re not thinkers first.  We spend our time doing and surviving, we don’t have time nor funds for conferences and think-tank sessions.  But I certainly don’t debunk those who do or can, the emerging church is not any one thing, idea or set of people, that’s for sure.I probably agree with about 50% of what McLaren has been suggesting/teaching of late, of what I’ve read, and that’s cool.  I mean, how much do we have to agree on to be friends or brothers?  How many of you like everything your biological brothers have to say?  But the character slander out there of a guy is not exactly intelligent dialogue, let alone representative of the Christ you claim to be defending. Here’s the bottom line to me.  I met Brian and worked with him on some projects at a time in my life when I was considering giving up completely on the Church and my voice in it.  I was vulnerable, broken, abandoned by my fundie church background, persecuted by my christian brothers because I was thinking differently and more creative about how to do church in the future.  I was seeking something more communal, more connected to the historic christian roots and something honest.  When I had no spiritual fathers, Brian came alongside me and believed in the gifts that were within me.  He spoke words of affirmation that have carried me to this day.  He used his platform to speak grace into my life.  He was a blessing and a fountain of living water in a desert period of my life.  Since then, I have sought to be that sort of influence to others.  I fully admit, for believing in me when no one else did, I am fiercely loyal to Brian McLaren.  I don’t agree with all his ideas/thinking, but I deeply believe in Brian the person and Brian the brother in Christ. I guess my point is, stop with the immature character assasination and maturely deal with the issues/ideas.  The anti-christ may be the one in the mirror.peace,marshall

Guilt as a bad teacher

Media_httpordinarycom_acmgn

  I grew up around fundamentalist christian teaching where guilt was King.  It was the easiest way I suppose to get good christians to act right, give them a good short-term motivator in heavy doses and then wash, rinse, repeat until you die.  I guess we assumed that’s the way God wanted it, keep us on pins and needles, obsessively aware of our performance or lack thereof.  I think the model was to be a good christian was to feel perpetually poor about oneself and hope that the next good dose of guilt would be the magic pill we needed to get our act straight.  I mean christian summer camp was constant activity + sleep deprivation + guilt-induced teachings + a late night bonfire and its obvious metaphor of an entire lake of fire + a call to throw my stick in the fire this year and “reaaaaalllllyy” mean it this time = I’m a good christian again.  Whether this was because we thought it worked, or what we thought the Scriptures taught or was simply just cultural conditioning of previous generation’s assumptions and conclusions, it was what we got. So, here’s the problem.  Read the Gospels for yourself and look for the same approach.  I mean, go ahead, actually read them.  It’s not there.  Guilt as the King motivator is just noticeably absent.  You have Jesus at the well, with the adulterous woman, with Zachaeus, at Matthew’s house party, at a drunken party in Cana, with sinners or all sorts and yet in the narratives guilt is not King.  There is a call to a higher standard, a remorse and responsibility for wrong doing, but no guilt-induced lectures.  Rather, it appears Jesus “foolishly” chooses grace, mercy, trust, love and truth as his motivators (please insert sarcasm here).  He took the hard route and seemingly got long-term results.  It was like actual deep-life change instead of short-term external habits.  I guess you could say guilt is for like Micro-wave christianity where you just nuke the outside, and grace/love/trust teaching is like the crock-pot that slowly roasts the meat until its very nature changes and it falls off the bone.  (I’m a big fan of cooking analogies).  So if you want short-term results, go with the guilt approach and keep it coming early and often.  If you are interested in actual life transformation, I suppose try a different way.I think that authentic community is the best vehicle for long-term transformation of character and personhood.  Living life with people who genuinely love you and care for your soul perhaps even more than you do yourself.  The problem comes in the form of intimacy.  Being “known” is a scary thing and many of us have a natural instinct to “run” when we get to that place.  Better it seems to keep intimacy at a distance for our own comfort than stay and work it out.  Make no mistake, real community is an intimate thing and a scary thing at times.The other option as well is to care less about actually changing.  I mean, just see your christian spirituality as a static decision to have your sin problem taken care of so that someday you can go to a mythical place called heaven and leave this god-forsaken earth.  That’s a subject for another day.  I think that the conclusion to our Scirptures is something deeply more than this.  Real change is at the core of our self, not just our external habits.  Guilt is a powerful voice for shallow christianity, shallow teaching and shallow living.  I think we are called to something abundantly more potent.  It’s about the heart, always has been, always will be.

From today’s Aidan reading in Celtic Daily prayer: “Yes, I deal with guild every day.  What counts is my heart’s desire, only that my heart’s motives be pure, and that I strive for that . . .  day after day.”  – Ann Kiemel

Seek freedom, not guilt .peace,Marshall