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.
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.
“…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 »
Just last week, Sparks and Ashes featured musician Jonathan Rundman in the “Sparking Creativity” interview series (you can read his fantastic responses here).
Today, good friend and music aficionado Anthony Ashley reviews Rundman’s recently released 20 song retrospective album.
Whether it be semi-obscure Christian holidays, the human condition, death or theology, Jonathan Rundman’s songs deal with big ideas that matter. Rundman has just released a self-titled, twenty-track, retrospective album drawing from four of his albums released over the last decade and including new works and remixes.
The first song that really stood out to this writer is called Librarian. Being an incorrigible librophile, the song quickly found it’s way into my heart. In this librarian’s autobiography Rundman sings,
“I bring order out of chaos I shine light into the dark
because power comes from knowledge just like fire from a spark
Like Gutenberg and Luther with press and pen in hand
I take the message to the masses in a form they understand”
It’s at this point in the album I realize, this guy is smart and actually has something to say.
The unexpected juxtaposition of two of my favorite theologians.
via The Rabbit Room
Harrison Higgins builds furniture made to last literally hundreds of years. In this short film, the Virginia woodworker describes the theology behind his furniture-making—and the beauty revealed when we treat the creation as more than a resource or even a social cause, but as a sacrament.
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.
Over at faith/culture blog Two Handed Warriors today is an interesting brief piece by Jeff Goins. Responding to a previous blog post discussing the relationship of Christian art to “edgy” themes like sex and violence, Goins advocates for artists to do a bit of soul searching about their motives. Paramount though, is telling the truth through the things that we make. He writes:
Ultimately, we all want our work to matter. We want our creations to count. And the only way to do that is to approach our crafts with honesty and integrity. To write what is true even when it offends.
There’s nothing wrong with writing edgy, and there’s nothing wrong with writing not edgy. What is wrong — especially for a person of faith — is to write something that isn’t true to your deepest convictions and core beliefs. True to who you are and what you stand for. Denying that creative impulse would be a tragedy. . . we all need to write words that are honest.
Rage and Resurrection
The impulse to clean things up when we tell stories about the world is understandable. There is a universal human yearning for things to be different than they are, for the pain and disappointment of life to simply be gone. For the Christian, this yearning has a definite object: what Jesus calls (in the book of Matthew) “the restoration of all things.” We want this, want it desperately. When life cuts us, we rage back, with something inside telling us that there is a possibility of something different. Read the rest of this entry »
While children’s poetry is an unusual form for a Leadership article, this is what emerged after reviewing Andrew Sullivan’s thought provoking article, “The Forgotten Jesus,” in the April 9 edition of Newsweek. I’m glad that the disparity of church behavior with the teachings of Jesus is becoming a prominent national conversation, but it is often framed as a false choice between either Jesus or the church. Still, Sullivan’s piece is an important article on the institutional church and the gospel of Jesus in our current American context.
There once was a writer named Sullivan
who wanted to give Christ a mulligan,
so he said “people, please—ditch the Church so diseased,
and remember what Jesus taught us again!”
His article published in Newsweek,
caused Americans widely to now speak
about clergy corruption, and “Christian” eruptions
of behavior not loving or meek.
My thoughts on the matter? As follows:
his argument’s not at all hollow,
the critique is well taken, “churchianity” shaken,
an indictment we’d do well to swallow . . . Read the rest of this entry »
“Whoever would be my disciple,
must deny themselves,
take up their cross daily,
and follow me.”
photo credit to flickr user carulmare.
My friend Devon is currently working as a JET in Kumamoto City, Japan. Her blog is a great snapshot of life as an American in the Japanese culture, and a fun, fresh look at life in a fascinating and beautiful part of the world. Her recent post on observing her students’ practices of ”budō” is especially worth sharing.
“…budō is considered the “way of the warrior” and many students are asked to uphold certain practices that follow this path. Every day, students domokuso. This is a time to clear out one’s mind. It’s a brief moment of silent meditation that is historically practiced by martial artists before a training session. Students will do a brief mokuso as the school day begins, before and after each class, at the beginning and end of cleaning time and again at the end of the school day. With 6 classes in a day, this adds up to 16 points of silent meditation throughout the school day.
Ancient Japanese marital arts have many ties with the Shinto religion. Many pieces of budō and Shintoism go hand in hand. Before eating lunch, students will hold their hands in a prayer pose and say “itadakimasu.” It is difficult to translate this phrase into English but it is basically an acknowledgement of gratitude to the life energy that is the food that sustains us. This is also why every student in my three schools will participate in a hands-on agriculture day and why many Japanese people become farmers after retirement. There is a deep respect for the cycle of harvest and consumption.”
I know little firsthand of Japanese culture, and am sure that they have deep cultural flaws as well as profound cultural strengths. I do know though, that Devon’s observation makes me wish that I and my American neighbors worked as hard to cultivate the positive aspects of a “warrior’s way.” We can use a dose of intentionality in our living.
American culture has historically had a tough time with discipline. Specifically, patience, silence, practice and responsibility are not exactly our strongest virtues. In our context, we have a lot to learn about living on purpose, living actively rather than reactively. The result is that a truly grounded person is rather difficult to find in our culture. We are usually content to trade broad for deep, fast for good, and easy for best. Read the rest of this entry »
Once a month, a group of friends from the magazine I work for get together to eat sack lunches and talk about writing. We usually read and workshop a piece written by someone in the group. On days where no one feels like bringing original material, we read an article on the writing process.
This week, the venerable Matt Woodley shared an outstanding essay – “Writing as Sacrament” by Ron Hansen. Hansen (author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, among other novels) argues persuasively that the art and craft of good writing is an act of deep meaning; for the Christian, it is an “occasion of encounter” between humanity and God.
He reacts strongly against books that “seem like the products of a market analysis,” preferring instead to read and write works that stem from “a writer’s private obsession.” Hansen’s commitment to sharp literary art, especially in fiction, is clear. He sees symbol and mystery in art as channels of God’s grace and truth, to the writer, to the reader, to the culture, to the church.
“To fully understand a symbol is to kill it. So the Holy Being continually finds new ways to proclaim itself to us, first and best of all in the symbols of Christ’s life, then in Scripture, and finally in created things, whether they be the glories of nature or art or other human beings. And those symbols will not be objects but actions. As theologian Nathan Mitchell puts it, ‘Symbols are not things people invent and interpret, but realities that `make’ and interpret a people. . . . Symbols are places to live, breathing spaces that help us discover what possibilities life offers.’ Read the rest of this entry »
From former pastor Ed Dobson comes “My Garden” – a recent video chronicling his admirable response to life with terminal ALS.
Ed reflects on the change in perspective that has accompanied his condition. He has had occasion to redefine himself, as a man, a follower of Jesus, and a human being very aware of both his fragility and his true worth.
Ed’s thoughts on leaving a “successful” mega-ministry to continue his search for Jesus during his last months are spot on, especially in our culture of absurd church-ianity and franchised ministry.
Rejecting the Christian cult of celebrity, Ed says:
“…You would think that influencing thousands is more important than influencing one, but I’m gradually learning that influence one on one is way more important.
ALS forced me into a situation where I grew in understanding what it meant to obey Jesus. It took me quite a while to find an alternative purpose, but the good news is that out there, there is a purpose for everyone, and when you arrive there, you’ll know it.” Read the rest of this entry »
From the newly redesigned site for Christianity Today comes “What is Your Hope For the Church?” – a simple, positive space for Christians to express their hope for our community.
In an age often characterized by vicious religious infighting, doom-mongering, and political machination, the Christian community hears far too few voices of authentic hope. We’ve become very good at chanting what we’re against, but are forgetting what we’re for.
CT’s page is a welcome reminder that our faith is one of affirmation, not naysaying, liberty, not legalism, and healing, not wounding. We have a great deal of hope. We don’t share it enough. We have hope, as a community, and as individuals. We need to share it.
So, in the interest of sharing, here’s my hope for the church today: Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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 »