Thursday, May 29, 2008

A must see

Hey guys...i know i don't post much - but i had to this time.
I wanted to post this video - you really need to take the time to watch it.
I know that it is lengthy but it is worth it...
It shook me for some reason - sometimes I think I lose my way...
I needed this...

Monday, May 26, 2008

I’ve been formulating this entry for a while as I pondered how to get it off my chest.
By and large, American Christian Culture is disconnected from reality and in some respects, downright creepy. Yes, it's creepy. Downright weird. A mockery of that which we are re-born to proclaim.

It doesn't take long to see that our faith is lampooned in the media. The Simpsons (which I enjoy immensely) feature an evangelical Christian family led by patriarch Ned Flanders, who frankly makes me wince, as his noodly-doodly portrayal makes us wince when he comes out with such gems as he prays, "Lord, forgive me for the impure thoughts that I had about the girl on the raisin box." His children Rod and Todd are portrayed as robots incapable of generating a creative or original thought. Wife Maude is quoted saying that "I went to Bible Camp to learn to be more judgemental."

Laugh or cry, it demands a response, because this is how the media portrays us, as innocent but wacky Kool-Aid-guzzling weirdos proclaiming a faith that makes no sense, devoid of relevance. In some respects, they're right. Our faith would much rather imitate the world, rather than coming up with an original idea. I found a parallel rant from this blog:

People like Coldplay? Then let's find a band that sounds exactly like Coldplay, but injects Christian words and themes throughout their lyrics. Doesn't matter if they are unable to match the musical ability, creativity, and vocals of Coldplay. They remind people of Coldplay, and they sing about Christian stuff.

People like video games with violence? Then let's make a violent video game about the end times. We can slaughter enemies of the kingdom in the name of Jesus.

People like brand name t-shirts? Then let's slightly change the wording of the t-shirt to have a Christian theme.

To a world watching what we do, how we present ourselves, and how we function and communicate, Christians tend to come across more like a Disembodied Hand than they do an Easy Button. We've shortchanged the church by bypassing the difficult, yet so necessary creative/inventive/innovate process and instead we've chosen to rip off popular culture. With one hand we wag our finger, condemning popular culture for it's debauchery. With the other, we pick its pocket. And the result is a disembodied hand that looks downright strange to a culture we're trying to impact.

Are we really THAT weird? Disconnected from reality? Certainly, we've been called to be different, not participating in the evil practices of the world. But weird to the point that it alienates us from the rest of the world that we're supposed to be reaching?

I was dumbfounded when I read an article in Rolling Stone titled "Jesus Made me Puke," by Matt Taibbi. His article is an excoriating, embarrassing exposee on a Christian retreat that's beyond weird. A nonbeliever himself, he posed as a seeker and attended a weekend experience that is beyond strange. Granted, the practices that he experienced are way beyond the norm, but they are, I feel, how nonbelievers see us when we are in our element. He says,

When most Americans think of the Christian right, they think of scenes from television — great halls full of perfectly groomed people in pale suits and light-colored dresses, smiling and happy and full of the Holy Spirit, robotically singing hymns at the behest of some squeaky-clean pastor with a baritone voice and impossible hair. We don't get to see the utterly bats**t world they live in, when the cameras are turned off and their pastors are not afraid of saying the really dumb stuff, for fear of it turning up on CNN. In American evangelical Christianity, in other words, there's a ready-for-prime-time stage act — toned down and lip-synced to match a set of PG lyrics that won't scare the advertisers — and then there's the real party backstage, where the spiritual hair really gets let down. I was about to go backstage, to personally take part in the indoctrination process for a major Southern evangelical church. Waiting to board the bus for the Encounter Weekend, I had visions of some charismatic ranch-land Jesus, stoned on beer and the Caligula director's cut and too drunk late at night to chase after the minor children, hauling me into a barn for an in-the-hay shortcut to truth and freedom. Ridiculous, of course, but I really was afraid, mostly of my own ignorance and prejudices. I had never been to something like this before, and I didn't know how to act. I badly wanted to be invisible.
What followed is something that every believer needs to read. It's an embarrassing indictment of our practices and faith (even if we don't go to the extremes that this encounter reaches).

He nails the typical Christian male:

My disguise was modeled on other men I'd seen in church — pane glasses and the very gayest blue-and-white-striped Gap polo shirt I'd been able to find that afternoon. Buried on a clearance rack next to the underwear section in a nearby mall, the Gap shirt was one of those irritating throwbacks to the Meatballs/Seventies-summer-camp-geek look, but stripped of its sartorial irony, it really just screamed Friendless Loser! — so I bought it without hesitation and tried to match it with that sheepish, ashamed-to-have-a-penis look I had seen so many other young men wearing in church. With the glasses and a slouch I hoped I was at least in the ballpark of what I thought I needed to look like, which was a slow-moving hulk of confused, shipwrecked masculinity, flailing for an Answer.

He recounts his experience in a small-group breakout where he was forced to tell his life history. I admittedly doubled over in laughter at how ridiculously funny it was (and reminded me of a few small group life-sharing experiences from my days in campus ministry), but the sad thing is that his small group bought the story:

"Hello," I said, taking a deep breath. "My name is Matt. My father was an alcoholic circus clown who used to beat me with his oversize shoes."

The group twittered noticeably. Morgan's eyes opened to tea-saucer size.
I closed my own eyes and kept going, immediately realizing what a mistake I'd made. There was no way this story was going to fly. But there was no turning back.
"He'd be sitting there in his costume, sucking down a beer and watching television," I heard myself saying. "And then sometimes, even if I just walked in front of the TV, he'd pull off one of those big shoes and just, you know — whap!"
I looked around the table and saw three flatlined, plainly indifferent psyches plus one mildly unnerved Morgan staring back at me. I could tell that my coach and former soldier had been briefly possessed by the fear that a terrible joke was being played on his group. But then I actually saw him dismissing the thought — after all, who would do such a thing? I managed to tie up my confession with a tale about turning into a drug addict in my midtwenties — at least that much was true — and being startled into sobriety and religion after learning of my estranged clown father's passing from cirrhosis. It was a testament to how dysfunctional the group was that my story flew more or less without comment.

That said, I don't expect for the world to understand us. Viewing the meaning and power of the Cross is backwards and upside-down to unbelievers. They can't grasp it. They see us as pig-eyed, bigoted, narrow-minded robots who have been programmed to view the world with racist eyes. Taibbi concludes:

By the end of the weekend I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that Christians of this type should learn to "be rational" or "set aside your religion" about such things as the Iraq War or other policy matters. Once you've made a journey like this — once you've gone this far — you are beyond suggestible. It's not merely the informational indoctrination, the constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc., that's the issue. It's that once you've gotten to this place, you've left behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent opinion about such things. You make this journey precisely to experience the ecstasy of beating to the same big gristly heart with a roomful of like-minded folks. Once you reach that place with them, you're thinking with muscles, not neurons.

When Peter (the Apostle, not Frampton) declared "that we were a peculiar people," he didn't mean wacked-out or creepy.

When I look at Jesus, he wasn't weird. He was certainly unconventional, but he did everything within the cultural context of the people that he wished to reach. Supernatural results followed him, but they drew people to God, rather than weird them out.

Maybe we've become disconnected from reality because we've become disconnected in some important way, from the Head of the body.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is Christ actually the "head of the body"? Or is that really a metaphor about authority delegated to apostles, elders, and ministers?

There is a minor discussion going on among some church leaders regarding what is a "biblical" leadership scheme.

Some seem to feel the bible teaches a basically top-down heirarchical organization, wherein a key principle is Heb 13:17 "Yield to your leaders and submit to them. They keep watch over you as men who must give account (jrb)." It is based on benevolent but binding authority, and leaders are the mediators of God's will for the church.

Others seem to feel that the New Testament teaches a bottom-up organism. A key here would be Eph 4:16, "From (Christ) the whole body, fit and held together by every bond, from the proper working of every part, grows and builds itself by love (jrb)."

The world has plenty of examples of organizations based on power relationships. The whole world is, right? Well, is it possible to have organizations based on just submitted LOVE RELATIONSHIPS, under the direct authority of Christ Jesus?

Monday, May 12, 2008

But Should They Get Stock Options?

Things have slowed down on the ol' Java Jesus blog, which could be attributed to three things:

1) spring weather;
2) busy jobs, busy families, and busy life;
3) complete and utter burnout on church-talk.

From the weary looks on your faces, I'm thinking #3 is probably the correct answer.

Too bad. The Internet masses are clamoring for a new topic.

Something that's been discussed briefly in these circles before is the notion of paid ministry staff. One could find Biblical backing for either argument -- to pay or not to pay. Old Testament Levitical priests were provided for. The New Testament apostles were, I assume, housed and fed as they went from city to city. Yet many of the people that were "teaching" still had a job (tentmaker, fisherman, that sort of thing) as a source of income.

The answer that I'm looking for here isn't so much "what's the Bible say to do?" I'm looking at this on a different level. I realize that in this day and age, it makes perfect sense to have full-time salaried "employees" who run the church, coordinate and administer the stuff, and teach or preach to the members. Yet at the same time, I wonder if all of that feeds our current "Sunday-morning-centric," top-down church ideology.

If the church was truly run by people that held day-to-day jobs, just like everyone else, would the average churchgoer feel like he or she had more of a vested interest in the happenings of the church? Would we feel more like part of the leadership? Would it help to dissolve that chasm between "minister" and "laymen"?

Or does appropriate 21st-century-pastoring truly require a 50-60 hour workweek?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Stuff Christians Like

I realize this is another in a long line of ripoffs from the "What White People Like" website, but I still found it quite funny (and often spot-on).

Stuff Christians Like