Thursday, May 23, 2013

Interrogating Your Beliefs (w/ Peter Rollins)

Over the next week or so, we'll be posting a new series of videos/thoughts/challenges from Peter Rollins. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

You Gotta' Fight For Your Rights (or do you?)

I think that young folks today tend to think outside of the box more than the previous generation. We often look at a question, talk about it, and solve it in ways that seem illogical or wonky. This kind of thinking infuriated our parents when we were young and frustrated us when we took multiple choice tests. But now it has the potential to open up new possibilities for how we see the world and work to bring about God’s Kingdom.

I’ve lived in China for 9 years and during that time I’ve become really suspicious of our society and its love affair with “rights”. It seems like every argument in society revolves around rights – the right to life, the right to an abortion, the right to bear arms, the right to eat Grade D beef on a taco, etc. And a lot of the time when we find ourselves getting angry during the day it’s because someone has violated our rights, whether by intruding into our carefully painted lane on the road, breaking into line at the store, making us waste our precious time because they’re late, or worse.

And that’s why I love Paul’s words to some Christians in 1 Corinthians 6. The people he’s writing to are struggling with the exact same thing. They’re all caught up with defending their rights and arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong according to the law of the land. But Paul (in a very postmodern way) offers a totally different way of thinking. To those people caught up in the argument he says, “Who cares? Who’s right, who’s wrong – does it matter? Isn’t it better to just drop the issue and love each other?”

And as simple and unappealing as it might sound, I think there’s a bit of wisdom in there for us as Christians today. Instead of getting caught up in debates and trying to prove the other side wrong, I think that we can cut across the very current of the debates rather than getting caught up in them & we can short-circuit the whole situation by living out alternatives that are completely unexpected. What would it look like if Christians suddenly dropped out of the political debates surrounding gay marriage, guns, abortion, etc and instead started living out their answers? Is it realistic to think that we could actually address these questions in legitimate ways through love and creative action instead of arguing about our rights?

For too long, the typical response of the Church has been to dive head-first into these debates and try to prove our idea based on political ideas, logic, and “rights” language. But what if we just quit trying to be right and instead did like Paul said to those Christians in Corinth? What creative, love-filled, and Christ-like answers can you think of to the pressing issues of our society today?

**TODAY'S POST was written by PMP contributor Dale Taylor.  Dale is a Fuller Theological Seminary student, mission practitioner, and all around awesome guy...follow Dale here!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Driscoll = Robertson?

This story came out early this week and I'm curious of your thoughts...

(This is a combined post from Tim Suttle and Jonathan Merrit)

I’ve been pretty tough on Mark Driscoll in the past. I don’t like being that way about any other pastor. But I think he represents something truly dangerous to the gospel. I grew up with a lot of folks very much like him among the Southern Baptist circles in which I was reared – heavy bravado, always right, constantly leading through size and position. It’s a tired script.

I know what it means to be a man, and I don’t resonate with any version of that story that is based in fear, shame, or control. I think Driscoll preys on men and women who, in large part, have father/mother/abandonment issues and need an authority figure in their lives. People flock to him because he majors in certitude and isn’t afraid to tell people what to think and do, and isn’t afraid to shame them into doing it. When I look at Driscoll I don’t see a strong confident man/leader, I see a flaccid attempt to be a tough guy; a scared little boy who has taken being the bully all the way to fame and fortune. But his shtick has very little to do with the gospel.

Jonathan Merrit is a pretty good writer and I’ve always enjoyed his stuff. He’s written for USA Today and The Atlantic Monthly as well as this article on Mark Driscoll for RNS. He makes an interesting comparison between Driscoll and Pat Robertson. I can only hope that this is the way things go. I don’t think most evangelicals take Robertson very seriously anymore. I hope the same will soon be said for Driscoll. I know that God has done some great things through his ministry, but I think this is owing to the fact that God uses whatever broken thing he can find, and not because Driscoll’s approach is necessarily faithful. In fact I think that any pastor who has said what he’s said and done what he’s done should have been let go from his church long ago.
For example, he has said:
I really hope that Driscoll will stop saying outlandish things and come back to the pack a little bit. But I know that’s not how you get your name in the headlines and sell books. Here’s another excerpt from Merrit’s article:
Another growing similarity between the two men is the way they’ve been able to polarize even the core of their own Christian bases. Mainstream Christians desperately want to ignore both figures, but they can’t. They just can’t. There are too many broadcasts and podcasts, book sales and supporters. So instead, many work to distance themselves from either leader whenever their names arise in conversation.

When it comes to Robertson, Christians—even those who voted for him in the ‘88 primaries and watched his television show, “The 700 Club”—are now quick to assert they don’t support him. “I’m not a Pat Robertson kind of Christian,” someone might say.
The same is true for Mark Driscoll. He’s been heavily criticized by Christian voices across the spectrum, and according to reports, several attendees at the Catalyst Conference in Dallas walked out during his talk. He’s even being marginalized by some Reformed Christians (i.e. Calvinists) who precipitated his rise to prominence. “I’m not a Mark Driscoll kind of Calvinist,” some have remarked to me.

Over the years, both men have been pressured to issue apologies and clarifications. Ironically, when I received word of the comment made at Catalyst, I was in Malawi working with Christian brothers and sisters there who’ve been wracked by environmental devastation. I wondered why an American Christian leader would make insensitive and flippant comments about such a serious topic. One might make the case that in such a situation, it is beneficial for Christians who disagree with their perspectives to distance themselves. After all, when an influential Christian claims to follow Jesus but makes inappropriate remarks, those outside the faith may think they represent all Christians. Unless others speak up.

Unlike Mark Driscoll, I don’t believe that God is going to burn up the world with a literal fire, but I am reminded of another fire mentioned in the Bible. The Apostle James calls the tongue a “small spark” that can set a forest ablaze. When Christians produce leaders with a penchant for bombastic speech—as each generation does—we’re reminded again of the power of words. They can destroy or heal, burn up or breathe life. We get to determine how we use our words just like each generation gets to choose whether to support those who misuse theirs.

And you can take your SUV to the bank on that one.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

You Are What You Art.

The hope of this blog is to continually push ideas and thoughts that connect the dots between art, creativity, beauty, spirituality, and everything in between. 

Today is no exception.

You all know the phrase, "you are what you eat."

It's 100% true.  The molecular properties of the foods you consume are brought into your body, alter your own physical and psychological makeup, and produce everything from growth to moods, disease to genetics.

Now consider this phrase: "you are what you art."

Art has always been something that compels, confronts, confuses, and creates new worlds.  Cultures change because of art; politics are overturned, and the world is changed forever.

The artist has an incredible role within humanity.  The true artist has always been on the forefront of creating culture - not simply reacting to it.

Which brings me again, to the new phrase, you are what you art.

Biologist James Zull writes, "Neuroscience tells us that the products of the mind--thought, emotions, artistic creation--are the result of the interactions of the biological brain with our senses and the physical world: in short, that thinking and learning are the products of a biological process…This realization, that learning actually alters the brain by changing the number and strength of synapses, offers a powerful foundation for rethinking everything."

Art changes the mind, which changes the biology in one's brain and the physical world.

Consider the following artist…the chef who refuses to use genetically modified plants and animals to create a dish that is sustaining the biology of the consumer, as much as he/she is sustaining the environment. 

The culinary artist is transforming how we think about food, how we consume it, and even our most basic genetic and biological synapses.

Now consider the poet or songwriter…he/she writes to provoke and change a once held truth.  Over time these ideas and hopes become reality.  There's an incredible amount of power in the words, chords, melodies, and textures that the artist is creating; so much so, that our biological synapses are modified and we become a different person (in thought, reaction, and as society).

Are you creating beauty and tension and words and worlds in the listener/consumer that is worthy of biological change?

Consider your art in these terms. 
Consider the power of what you create. 
Because you truly are what you art.


Monday, May 6, 2013

The Parish is Perishing (PART V)

The Parish is Perishing
Because the structure of the traditional, parish-model, church in St. Louis hasn’t developed with the ever-changing cultures and surroundings, how it is able to effectively develop, disciple, and engage with its community is suffering.  This crisis is leading the average St. Louis church into a free-fall.  Churches are closing nearly every month, as young worshippers are leaving the church in droves.  Older worshippers are becoming more and more home-bound, moving to fixed incomes, and can no longer support church budgets, building campaigns, and missions.  Because the average worshipper in St. Louis is 61 years old (and getting older), the church is literally perishing. 

The spider-model of church structure has also prevented adequate development of future leaders.  The spider-model thrives with the paid-professionals, and as more and more congregations are laying off their staff(s), it is apparent that the model of Pastor or Priest determining belief, behavior, and belonging, has also prevented the laity from effectively developing a future plan, discipling others, or engaging their communities.  The heads are being cut off, and the organisms are dying.

Mosiacs, Busters, and the Future Church of St. Louis
Gabe Lyons, in his book Un-Christian, paints a picture of American Christian culture and perception by his survey work with Barna.  He shows the "Mosaic" generation (born 1984-2002) and "Buster" generation (born 1965-1983) as a growing un-churched population.  He focuses on the perceptions that have caused this fallout, as well as the reality of the future demographics of the “church,” should no changes be made to its definition, practice, and inclusion.  Lyons shows how changing the perceptions, definitions, and practices of the church among 16-35 year olds can dramatically change the future (Lyons 2007, 17-19).

Lyons’ surveying is especially important to the church-culture in St. Louis, because it correlates almost perfectly with the disconnect in the average age of those that claim to be churched.  Lyons shows an aging American-church, with a growing, younger un-churched population.  This is a portrait of St. Louis.  His surveying asked 16-35 year olds for their top ten perceptions of the church. Christianity's image problem is not merely the perception of young un-churched individuals either. Those inside the church see it as well -especially Christians in their early 20's and 30's (Lyons 2007, 18).  The survey of perceptions is overwhelmingly negative (Lyons 2007, 29-30):

Anti-homosexual: Un-churched-91% Churched-80%
Judgmental: Un-churched -87% Churched -52%
Hypocritical: Un-churched -85% Churched -47%
Old-fashioned: Un-churched -78% Churched -36%
Too involved in politics: Un-churched -75% Churched -50%
Out of touch with reality: Un-churched -72% Churched -32%
Insensitive to others: Un-churched -70% Churched -29%
Boring: Un-churched -68% Churched -27%
Not accepting of other faiths: Un-churched -64% Churched -39%
Confusing: Un-churched-61% Churched-44%
Table 2.0

Lyons continues, by better defining the backgrounds of those surveyed (Lyons 2007, 31-32):

1. Perceptions not formed in vacuum, most Mosaics and Busters have enormous experience with Christians and Christianity.
2. Experiences at churches, relationships, input from other religions, and what their parents have told them are all major factors.
3. Secular media does affect how outsiders view Christianity, but less than you might think. 9% of outsiders and 1/5th of young churchgoers said that Christianity has received a bad reputation from television and movies.
4. Painful encounters with the faith.
5. These painful encounters are more common with young people than the older.
Table 3.0

Background information matters, because it speaks to the structure of the organization.  Because St. Louis is primarily a spider-structure, younger Christians have little to no voice in affecting the change that will positively influence their futures.  Not only is there a disconnect between the young and the church leadership, but there isn’t a working culture to develop, disciple, and engage younger (potential) leaders.  As I have shown in previous sections, the traditional parish model places the formation of all belonging, belief, and behavior in the hands of the dwindling paid staff.  

Lyons’ data also shows us that in previous generations of churchgoers, these starfish models haven’t been as important, or even seen as necessary.  However, moving out of modernism and into post-modernism, culture is changing, and the Mosaics and Busters think, communicate, learn, and interact, very differently than their predecessors.  Finally, understanding the perceptions of Mosaics and Busters allows us to understand St. Louis in 2012.  The average age is 38 years old, and the future of the church culture lies in the fate of these groups.

**more to come in a few days!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Word.

[Today's blog is by Postmodern Priesthood Contributor, Kevin Syes - read his bio at the end of the blog]

John 1:1-2
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

2 He was with God in the beginning.

Postmodernism is defined like this in “Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy”: a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyperreality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning.

If that doesn’t make a ton on sense, don’t worry. The univocity of meaning isn’t on any life-exams anytime soon, but you might want to throw it out there in conversation just to impress your friends. Despite this crazy definition, at the heart of postmodern thought is a shift in the way people view language. From a postmodern perspective, words begin to lose their objective meaning as they are changed by each person’s framework of understanding. This is often referred to as a shift towards relativism.

Language is so important. Words give meaning and value to the world around us. Words have so much power. I don’t think we often fully realize the power words hold in our lives. Whole cultures are changed by words wielded by news agencies. The life of a person can be forever altered by a few choice words delivered by the right person.

When God sent his Son, he sent the Word. That’s interesting. There are many ways the Scriptures describe Jesus, but “the Word” may be one of the most compelling in my book. In a world that is forever tossed in a sea of uncertainty, here is a word that is always true. In a world lost in translation, here is a word that is always clear. In a world that is looking for meaning, here is a word that is truly significant. Jesus, the Word, who spoke the world into existence.

-Kevin Syes
{***Kevin Syes is the Youth and Young Adult Pastor at Frederick Church of the Brethren, a large and vibrant congregation located in Frederick, MD with 1000 in weekly attendance. Kevin is also Contributing Editor at Crossings Book Club, the largest Christian book club in the country.}