My brief reflections on a great man, over at Out of Ur.com:
Central to Richard’s life and ministry was the drive to walk in the path of Jesus as a proud and faithful Native man. He challenged the institutional church with his bold and joyful worship of triune Creator through his traditional dances and ceremonies, and with his sharp theology that refused to allow the “cowboys” to co-opt the gospel. He had a vision of a Christ-sprung justice that joyfully drummed down racial barriers. He was bold in speaking the truth, often blending cultural confrontation with a dark, hilarious sense of humor that lightened a room while twitching the truth just a little deeper into our ribs.
Go read my new post on “Insider Movements” over on Out of Ur.
It seems that now (as always) Christ’s bride is preparing herself, secretly and smiling, in unexpected places. She is dressing in the temples and mosques of our Hindu and Muslim neighbors. She is even dressing herself in our churches, where some followers of Jesus are called to insider movements of a different kind.
Read the piece and share your thoughts.
From the latest issue of Leadership Journal comes a piece I edited by Richard Twiss, a prominent Native spiritual leader and theologian. Twiss (a Sicangu Lakota Oyate, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota) discusses the relationship of his Native heritage on his spirituality and theology, and some of the many difficulties that white paternalism brings with the gospel.
When Jesus came into my life and overwhelmed me with his love, I wanted nothing more than simply to follow him. I began a life of transformation because he rescued me from a life of addiction, abuse, self-destruction, and likely from a premature death. I longed for the same transformation for our people. Yet I found myself tripping over the cultural trappings of American Christianity. Following the ways of Jesus seemed one thing; becoming a white Christian quite another.
Yet, in spite of all of this, I find in Jesus the possibility for forgiveness, reconciliation, and the path toward Shalom alongside my fellow human beings. We are all ikce wicasa “common human persons” on this road, and Jesus shows us there is always hope for redemption.
I’ve had the opportunity to interact with Richard over the course of this piece, and hear him speak in Portland, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis. His commitment to Christ’s work of healing, forgiveness, and racial/social reconciliation is humble and well articulated. We desperately need more theologians like Richard to actively question the flawed cultural trappings of euro-centric Christian theology, while fully committed to the path of Jesus. He’s been influential in expanding my thinking, worship, and commitment to seeking mentors outside of the Christian mainstream.
Sorry for the paucity of posts recently, but I’ve been working on stuff like this.
Via the “Most Read” page on christianitytoday.org comes my recent Leadership Journal article. “The Big Reveal” focuses on a Wisconsin church’s challenges and strategies to increase biblical literacy and engagement.
Full article can be read here. Enjoy.
Photo credit. Cheers for the commons!
“…She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were tumbling toward heaven.
There were whole companies of white trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. Read the rest of this entry »
Though Andrew Rose Gregory (better known for his role in auto-tuned Youtube hits like “Bed Intruder” and “The Double Rainbow Song“) released The Song of Songs last September, this indie effort’s recent promotion on Noisetrade has brought it much deserved attention in the past week or so.
Gregory’s lush interpretation of the Song of Solomon is a quiet masterpiece, offering a cohesive musical experience while avoiding the thematic claustrophobia that often dogs concept albums. It makes for a gentle Americana opera, wedding ancient lovers’ lyrics to an array of tasteful folk instrumentation and vocal harmony.
You can listen to or purchase the album here. It’s well worth it, as strong as a tower, as lush as En-Gedi, as beautiful as an army with banners.
The unexpected juxtaposition of two of my favorite theologians.
via The Rabbit Room
A thoughtful article from the Internet Monk responds to Doug Wilson’s abysmal blog post on “effeminate worship” and coins a useful term for the old but increasingly virulent strain of churchianity that imposes funky cultural gender roles on our new humanity: “Esau Christianity.”
Just go read this excellent piece here, please.
Then go thou and do better.
Today, Christians commemorate Black Saturday, a day to contemplate and mourn the burial of Jesus. Tonight will begin the great Easter vigil – the end of the church year, and the start of our Easter celebrations.
Take a few minutes to enjoy this (quite creative!) video of a fitting scripture reading for a day we remember darkness. It comes from last year’s Easter vigil at our church.
via Church of the Resurrection. More creative Easter readings after the jump.
“Whoever would be my disciple,
must deny themselves,
take up their cross daily,
and follow me.”
photo credit to flickr user carulmare.
At our church yesterday, our worship leaders debuted a simple, original arrangement of Ephesians 4:4-5. From pastor/musician Trevor McMaken comes a short video (and separate audio download) of this lovely, haunting song.
I’m so grateful – every Sunday – for the creativity of the artists in our congregation. As we prepare to enter the Lenten season of simplicity and reflection, this is a quiet reminder of the unity of the people of God.
Sparks and Ashes is pleased to welcome guest contributor David French in this post. Today, David examines the intersection between transhumanism and theology.
As technology shapes our world, culture, and bodies more than ever, David reminds us that transhumanism isn’t as new as we might think… and begins to ask important questions about what it—and we—really mean in the context of Christ’s redemption.
“Everything is different from now on. Something, something very
fundamental has changed, here.” –William Gibson, No Maps for These
“Transhumanism” was first defined by Aldous Huxley as “man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.” It’s a techno-philosophical movement, a train of thoughts and questions that has spread in our society and grown exponentially as the Internet has connected more and more of the world together. You may know it as sci-fi, cyberpunk novels, and the types of movies that feature replicants on the run, but it may very soon be more than fiction. Read the rest of this entry »
This morning, church leadership blog Out of Ur published a piece I wrote on questions of authority in the digital age.
Referencing dismissive comments about bloggers by a panel of Elephant Room pastors, and subsequent responses by the Christian blogosphere, I say:
“…The small spat raises big questions. How does the church view authority in a digital environment? How do we determine if a given voice – whether blogger or pastor – is reliable to shape our theology and practice?
Is legitimacy determined only by the massive number of followers of a celebrity pastor or blogger? If that’s not enough, then what gives weight to the words we speak, type, shout or tweet?”
What do you think? Please read and dialogue with the full piece here.
Trevor shares a simple, biblical perspective on the rhythm of “hallowing,” “ceasing,” and “celebration” that Scripture encourages us to enjoy. Read, listen, and rest a bit yourself.
Go here for audio and .pdf notes. More to find after the jump.
Sparks and Ashes warmly welcomes Dianna Anderson in this guest post, dealing with an old mystery and an important, complex question.
Dianna has a day job as a radio producer in Chicago, IL, where she is one of several producers on a program for English Language Learners. She moonlights as a feminist blogger, taking a critical eye to church, media, and country. Her blog can be found at http://www.diannaeanderson.net.
At my alma mater – a private Baptist institution of about 1500 students – every undergraduate student is required to take a class called “Christian Thought.” The class is a basic survey of [Baptist] theology, to make sure that all the students are on essentially the same page. I don’t remember much about the class, to be honest, except for one question that stuck with me: “What gender is the Holy Spirit?”
Looking back, I realize a couple of things:
1. The question is kind of brilliant in its absurdity (which is part of the point). It’s a Spirit. Does it need to have a gender?
2. My response reveals a lot more about me than it does God: “Of course the Spirit’s a ‘he’ because that’s how he’s referred to in the Bible.”
This question, in the hands of my more socially aware colleagues, would have been a cause for entire books. At 18 years old though, in a little bubble, “because that’s how it is in the Bible” seemed to be a fine response.
Two years after that, I spent a semester in Oxford, England. During a week spent on the language we use when referring to God, my tutor assigned Janet Martin Soskice’s “Can a Feminist Call God Father?” I honestly didn’t know what to do with the essay – I remember that it became a footnote in my essay that week. Not wanting to open that can of worms and only knowing the very basic elements of the conversation, I ignored it and went on to talk about what we mean when we say “God is a rock” – a somewhat easier philosophical conundrum.
And now, five years later, in establishing myself as a feminist blogger, my work is frequently preoccupied with the role that gender plays within the body of Christ, which every so often touches on the person and gender of God. I’m much more open and better suited to such a conversation now, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy one to have.
Looking at God in relationship to gender is very difficult. As God is a three-in-one being, it’s important, first and foremost, to decide which part of God we’re discussing, and each part has different implications. Assigning a gender to the Holy Spirit, for example, is problematic because, contrary to what my 18-year-old self thought, there’s not a clear depiction either way in the Bible – it is genderless.
The relationship becomes more complex when we discuss God the Father and Jesus the Son. God the Father is a topic for another day, and theologians like Soskice are much more qualified than I to discuss it. But I’d like to take a crack at Jesus as the Son.
Is it a problem that Jesus came to Earth as a man?
Yes and no. Read the rest of this entry »
Over at Blackbird Press is a re-print of my recent piece on the cultural impact of Scripture - “Does Anyone in the Church Ever Think About Literature?“
Go enjoy it all over again (or for the first time), and get to know a great little web magazine.
Following them (and exploring their extensive archives!) is well worth your time.
Unlike other unfavorable reviews of the popular latest book from the macho Seattle preacher, Rachel’s focus goes beyond Driscoll’s lack of manners or sound exegesis to focus on the twisted culture of “celebrity pastors” that has made his public career possible in the first place.
Evans manages to stay fairly kind in her critique–a quality that usually vanishes when Driscoll shows up, regardless of whether you’re shouting with or against him.
Link to the full post is here.
She begins her review with this gem:
“Evangelicals expect too much of their pastors. Read the rest of this entry »
Smith ran Holy Writ through an algorithm typically used to calculate “positive” and “negative” sentiments in a body of social media data, (such as crunching the cumulative tweets related to Nestle, for example), to spot trends in consumer attitudes. Black peaks represent positive sentiments, red shows negative ones. Their relative height shows the intensity of those sentiments.
The infographic is far from perfect due to its inability to accurately determine context (CT observes that the Resurrection is a “negative” event because of references to death). In spite of this, it is an interesting cultural artifact, a lens into how consumer marketing would begin to get their heads (and hands) around upping the Bible’s public image.
If you ever felt a little negatively about biblical laws for cleansing lepers or Jehu slaying Ahab’s descendants, well, now there’s a marketing algorithm that agrees with you! Doesn’t that feel nice?
What are your impressions of this infographic? Useful? Interesting? Waste of computing power?
All image credit to Christianity Today Intl.
As a follow up to my recent post dealing with the Bible’s complex relationship to literature (“Does Anyone in the Church Ever Think About Literature?“), here’s author and Pulitzer winner Marilynne Robinson in an outstanding piece from the NY Times.
Writing on “The Book of Books,” Robinson focuses much upon the iconic and prolific Christ-figure, used to great effect by, well… almost everybody. But especially Dostoyevsky and Faulkner.
“In our strange cultural moment it is necessary to make a distinction between religious propaganda and religious thought, the second of these being an attempt to do some sort of justice to the rich difficulties present in the tradition. The great problem for Christianity is always the humility of the figure in whom God is said to have been incarnate, and the insistence of the tradition that God is present in the persons of the despised and rejected ….
“In its emphatic insistence that the burden of meaning is shared in every life, the Bible may only give expression to a truth most of us know intuitively. But as a literary heritage or memory it has strengthened the deepest impulse of our literature, and our civilization.”
Read the full post here. This is strong, good stuff.
I recently stumbled across Eric Metaxas’ Fox News rant lamenting the sorry state of Scripture knowledge in the media (“Does Anyone in The Media Ever Read The Bible?“). Among other things, Metaxas is peeved with a recent flub by the NY Times. The gaffe credited W.B. Yeats with a quote modified from the Book of Hebrews – “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.”
To shorten a longish story, the quote is not original to Yeats, it was widely circulated by the press before the mistake was caught, and now everybody in Metaxas’ “middle America” (is that a thing now?) is grouchy about how bad the media is at reading Holy Writ. A subsequent correction by the Times was insufficient to calm things down.
Metaxas uses the situation (and a similar lyrical flub by rigorous biblical fact-checker Willie Nelson) as the latest evidence that the media and “Hollywood celebrities” are proving increasingly deficient in “basic Sunday School knowledge.”
While this is probably true, I think that reacting with slack-jawed astonishment at these and similar mistakes is a waste of time, as is finding it another opportunity to indignantly lament our culture’s slide to Sodomic destruction occasioned by the abandonment of cultural Christianity.
Instead, I think it’s an opportunity for believers and non-believers alike to pause for a moment and consider what and how the Bible contributes to our creative culture. This is a huge topic, far beyond my abilities to trace in a blog post. Really though, the root question here is pretty simple, and comes in two parts. First, how does the Bible contribute its wisdom, imagery, and language to a/our culture. Secondly, in what ways do we consider the Bible “static” literature, and in what ways do we consider it “living” literature? Read the rest of this entry »
Over at her blog MilkThistle, my lovely wife Emily reflects on the connection between the birth of our son a few days ago, and the advent season.
Birth is an experience that invariably shatters our personal illusions of control. But we still try to grab it.
When it comes to pregnancy, our culture is obsessed with due dates. Invariably if you’ve been pregnant, one of the first questions people ask is “When are you due?” I’ve found that people aren’t quite satisfied with a general answer such as “In the fall” or “Around the holidays” or even “Late November.” We want to know the precise day. As our little bundle came four weeks past my initial “due date,” I can’t help but chuckle that baby Jesus arrives on the “due date” we’ve created for Him every single year without deviation.
But she also sees a source for joy in the process of letting go what we never really had in the first place.
If we let go of our expectations and embrace the sacredness of the holy unknown, that is when we find joy. Stress, anxiety, and inner turmoil arise from our futile attempts to control what we shouldn’t try to hold in our hands. We like to play god and when we feel the limits of our power, we panic…
Read the full post here for the full connection to the Advent season. It’s worth it.
And here’s to a woman who’s writing 3 days after an unmedicated homebirth. She’s a keeper.
Over at the BBC, a well balanced article traces the history of the “What Would Jesus Do?” slogan, from its 1890s roots to modern day meme status.
Coined by Kansas minister Charles Sheldon in the novel In His Steps, the phrase gained modern popularity –and the WWJD? abbreviation– after its adoption by a Michigan youth group in the late 1980s. Decades since have seen it grow into a pop culture cliché; gracing t-shirts, bracelets, and window clings, and recently adopted by Occupiers.
But what are we really asking when we ask this question? Read the rest of this entry »
A warm welcome to great friend and guest contributor Luke Cirillo. You can find more of Luke’s writing at PDX and Things. Today, he invites us to consider the implications of Christ’s Advent as an ongoing process, lived out in the lives of his followers.
There has been quite a bit of conversation in recent times about the term “incarnational” and whether it’s a good idea to use the moniker when talking about the things Christians do now. The debate has basically hinged around whether incarnation as a theological concept can be applied only to the advent of Christ (example of this view here), or whether it can be more broadly used as a description of Christian mission (example of this view here).
You can spend many Blog-Years tracking this conversation across the internet and many real years reading books about it. Rather than rehash all of that, I want to talk about Advent and “incarnation.”
I think, without much qualification, that “incarnational” is an extremely valuable term in talking about Christian mission. One of the many reasons I believe that is because of the season we are celebrating right now: Advent. Read the rest of this entry »
Over at biblioblog Near Emmaus, Brian Leport offers a balanced perspective on the relationship of Jesus to the Occupy movement. His perspective is mine, that where the values of the Kingdom align with the values of Occupy, Christians should be vocal, on the front lines of engagement.
But Brian encourages us to remember that:
“We need to avoid minimizing Jesus into a set of principles oddly similar to our own (much like Jesus’ temple cleansing has been used as a parallel for anti-Wall Street demonstrations). I don’t know what the response is to a government that seems to make it more and more difficult on the least of these, but I think it is somewhere between challenging the State and acting as part of the solution ourselves. Often it is the second half of that equation that is far more difficult.”
Yes Brian, often it is.
Read Brian’s full post here.
Dr. Marc Cortez covers my exegetical work in the book of Zephaniah.
Several people remarked after my Spring presentation at the NW Regional ETS meeting that they’d like to read the paper. So, I’m posting it here.
Sorry for the delay.
If you’re ready to wade into some exciting intertextual arcana, here’s a full text copy of Echoes of Pure Speech.