Saturday, October 30, 2010

sojo's gloves come off

Stanley Hauerwas on Glenn Beck and More

What do Cornel West, Rita Nakashima Brock, Carol Rose, and Onleilove Alston have in common? They are all our recent guests on Iconocast, a podcast “exploring the anti-imperial implications of Jesus’ teachings within our modern imperial context.” Our latest guest Stanley Hauerwas covered topics like September 11, the Muslim community center at ground zero, his critiques of Mennonites, the problem with many intentional communities, racism, sexism, the national anthem being played at Goshen, Marxism, and pacifism.

Wow, shallow as depth, I see.

Stanley Hauerwas:

“[Glenn] Beck-like Christianity is idolatrous … and God will punish them. That sounds terribly harsh but, that they can claim to represent, or come close to representing Christianity, it seems to me to be a terrible judgment on the development of Christianity in America.”

“Christian language has been stolen by this kind of generalized civil religion that Beck and these people represent should be condemned.”

So, apparently, only if you've bought into the Sojo-type of Christianity (which apparently means that being in the US means you're somehow imperialistic or whatever, which given the trendy re: the current administration, may not be such a stretch), you're not Christian.

Wow, thanks, Sojo. You couldn't give me anything more than this. I've always suspected your all-inclusive holistic type of language was only a front and a farce, and now I know.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

an odd argument from sojo

Why I’m Not Tired of Reading About the Tea Party

Are you tired of reading about the Tea Party? The group represents 11 percent of our population, yet it has been on the front cover of every national newspaper for months now.

I found it odd that a Sojourners' writer should feel the need to try to disparage the Tea Party based on a statistic (I don't know from where) that it "represents 11 percent of our population". To maybe play a little game Wallis himself played last year in regards to the Congressman who dared to say that the President was lying, I think I can hear this phrase as being more like it "represents (only) 11 precent of our population".

But what I find odd is that, by and large, Sojo claims to be for those they consider the least, the lowest, the minorities, the outsiders, and all that. One would think that the fact that the Tea Pary (only) represents 11 percent of our population would mean that they would qualify as one of those least and lowly who most deserve to be heard.

But then, the Tea Party is the opposition. Silly me, their minority status must be a sign that they are wrong, not that Sojo is wrong.

Friday, October 15, 2010

sojo's permissiveness

Toward the House of Levi

So I confessed instead that in our work with homeless families, Mile High Ministries has unmarried couples living in our facility. I knew this wouldn’t be particularly good news for many in this particular evangelical congregation, but I was just warming up. We also serve undocumented immigrants, knowing full well that they are in the country illegally. Not only that, but I’ve been politically active in supporting changes in America’s immigration laws, including speaking at a rally denouncing a new anti-immigrant law in Arizona. The room was now very quiet, so I encouraged everyone to exhale.

After my final story, about how much I enjoyed a birthday party for a loved one at a lesbian bar, I was confident that people would have some words for me after church was over. Sure enough, some thanked me, because they too have a relationship with an undocumented person or a loved one who is gay. Others were chagrined that I could be so wrong on the critical issues of our day, or even that I had such poor judgment as to speak of such things in an audience where children were present.

One man promised to try to get our transitional housing facility shut down, and another told me that I was preaching from the wrong version of the Bible. A careful reading of the “authorized” text, he said, would clarify that Jesus had gone to Levi’s home precisely in order to preach repentance. I wonder why Pharisees would find that so offensive?

The text this person was using was Mark 2:13-17, which tells of Jesus' meeting the tax collector Matthew and going to his house to meet others that the text calls 'publicans and sinners'. Here is Mark 2 in an interlinear version. I choose this version, because it shows that the man mention in the last paragraph was at least on the right path. I don't know if Jesus was there to preach, the passage says he only ate with them, but Jesus does say that he had come to call sinners to repentence.

That message is a far cry from what the Sojo writer seems to be saying. His and his ministry seem to have no problems with allowing unmarried couple to live together in their facility, and we may assume they continue their immoral sexual activities. They also have no compunction in helping those who are breaking the law, and that it is a political statement of theirs, and that in helping them they are actively helping those people continue their illegal activities. Instead of offering help while also telling them that they need to obey the lawas of the land, they are helping them continue their illegal activities and occupation.

One can know, for example, that Jesus kept a group from stoning an adulterous woman, but in doing so He did not condone adultery. He did not condemn, but nor did He condone, and while Sojo is big in not condemning, they are not so solid in not condoning.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

wallis accuses Beck of inspiring violence

MLK and the “Progressive Hunter”

I read an alarming report last night on a recent interview with Byron Williams, who was arrested after a July 18 shootout with the police. He had a car full of guns and planned to kill people at the Tides Foundation and ACLU in San Francisco. Williams said in this interview that he sees Glenn Beck as his “teacher,” and that he was agitated by the virulent things his teacher had to say about the people at Tides. While it is unfair to blame Beck for everything his audience might do, it isn’t unfair to ask Beck to make the connection that King did between the violence of the tongue and that of the fist, and to take responsibility for how he speaks about those with whom he disagrees.

On a personal level, I was reminded of that connection in a conversation with my 12-year-old son, Luke. Last summer, I shared the story of how a far-right radio station and some local churches in Wisconsin tried to get me disinvited from speaking at a Christian youth festival there. All of their attack lines were right off of Glenn Beck’s blackboard — that I was a “communist” and that listening to me would put high school students attending the festival in “spiritual peril.” Despite their confrontation and intimidation, the festival hosts stood firm with my invitation, and I traveled to Wisconsin. The evening went very well as I talked about Jesus and our commitment to the poor, the response of the kids was very positive, and many parents (even very conservative ones) thanked the festival leaders for standing up against the intense political pressure from the Far Right.

Remember an incident from a few weeks ago, where a man entered the headquarters for a cable channel, and demanded that they air more programs that were aligned with his own view of things involving the environment and population growth?

Or how about the more recent ads from an environmental group which features people who dare to disagree with them blowing up?

Or the journalist from the infamous JournoList who wrote of hoping to see conservative radio host Limbaugh die of a heart ache, and laugh at him while he died?

I usually get to listen to a few minutes of Beck's show during the day, and I've heard him several times tell his listeners to refrain from violence. And if anything, an overwhelming degree of violent and hateful rhetoric comes not from the right but from the left.

For Wallis to try to say that Beck is somehow even indirectly to blame for the actions of one man is a stretch, especially since I haven't seen him or Sojo take even indirect blame for the environmentalists who want those who disagree to die explosively. It's simply more posturing on Wallis' part, nothing more and nothing less.

And the Sojophants eat it up, call him gracious and christlike, and that he's such a nice guy. It's enough to make one ill.

God as facebook

In modernity we created one theological connection point for the entire world: "You are a sinner who will die in your sins unless you repent. You must be born again." This sounds theologically correct, but is it really the case that this is the only connection with God through the Jesus story? I think not, though I think it is a connection to Christianity and has been the dominant mode of connection in the church post-Reformation. But is not the sole means. And in postmodernity, such exclusion has little chance of connecting with the seekers and practitioners of the new religious economy. Multiplicity, a network of connections, is necessary, making room for both the sinners and the sinned against, the broken and the whole. Speaking more of the writer Gadda, Calvino says, "Whatever the starting point, the matter in hand spreads out and out, encompassing ever vaster horizons, and if it were permitted to go on further and further in every direction, it would end by embracing the entire universe."
Barry Taylor, Entertainment Theology, p 198

Is the statement he claims was created in modernity really created in modernity?

If one has read the Bible and has even a basic understanding of it, how can one say that that is a rather accurate summation? Does the Bible not say that we are all sinners, and come short of the glory of God? Does it not say that the wages of sin is death? Was not the message of Jesus and the Apostles that people needed to repent and believe the Gospel? Did not Jesus Himself say the we must be born again?

Upon what basis, then, can Taylor say that is not the sole means? How can he say that repentence and believing the Gospel is not the universal place where all must begin, the door through which all much enter? He may have a point that not all like that way, or like the door, but what does that mean? Does the fact that one doesn't like the door mean that one can try to climb in through the window? Does he give one scriptural source for his position? I've given the place where this paragraph may be found in his book, you may look for it and see for yourself--there is no scripture given in the context.

And when he starts writing about 'multiplicity' (wasn't that the name of an old Michael Keaton comedy movie, something about clones?) and 'a network of connections', does that strike you as him making God seem like Facebook, or some other social networking internet site? Have you made God your 'Facebook friend'? Have you left any comments lately on his wall?

Whatever Calvino or Gadda may have meant by that last bit Taylor quotes, I don't think there's any doubt what Taylor means by it--universalism. That only acceptable religious idea is one that would "end by embracing the entire universe". The most correct religious teachings are the one that embrace the most--the most people, the most other ideas, the most other beliefs--that that is embraced by the most--the most people, the most of the correct kinds of people, the most followers of other religions (so long as they are of the right beliefs, too), the most seekers and practitioners of what is considered the new religous economy.

If, in Taylor's view, God seems a lot like Facebook, Christianity becomes like Bill Clinton--everything must be polled and tested, to see what people want, and only then is a decision made about what to do and what to believe and what to teach. God, then, ceases to be the authority, and the power passes to the people--the correct kinds of people, of course.

Friday, October 8, 2010

waterworld as philosophy???

'Waterworld' is essentially a modern tale. The central dream is to get back to dry land, which, when finally discovered by Mariner and his newly fashioned and reconfigured family, is reminiscent of Eden. It is the return to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' rather than the discovery of new frontiers. The film represents the modernist's desire to return to the old order, achievable only in the cinematic imaginery, but still a compelling image to many. A key message in the movie is that real life and living as humans are possible only on dry land, the utopian tendency of modernity's universalizing binary oppositions. Mariner stands as a testament to the fact that life in other permutations is quite possible, somthing that is daily being explored in postsecular situations.
Barry Taylor, Entertainment Theology, p 91

First, I hope you will join me in a few chuckles, at the idea of using 'Waterworld' as a deeply philosophical metaphor. Sadly, Taylor doesn't seem to have gotten too far into the canon of works made famous (or infamous) by Mystery Science Theater 3000, so we will not get further philosophical breakdowns of such great works like how mythology meets science "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", or maybe the conflict between ancient religions and modern technology in "The Robot versus The Aztec Mummy", or the misadventures of modern people in their quest through the desert of the real and the perils of looking for a helping hand in the classic "Manos: The Hands of Fate".

No, we shall just have to accept that Taylor had to use what even he called a "box-office dud", p 89, to try to convince us that we live in a water-world of postmodernism.

"A key message in the movie is that real life and living as humans are possible only on dry land". Umm, yeah, we humans are just so made for life on the water. Don't we like to swim around in water, eat fish, and all that? So, come on, dive in, leave the dry land behind!!

One could get the impression that Taylor and those like him are trying to outdo even Jesus. Jesus, after all, only compared a man building a house on sand to one building it on the rock. These are going even further, saying that not only should be build our houses on water, but that it is a much better think than to build it on the rock.

Oops, don't stay under water too long. You may drown.

Wait, Costner's character had gills!!! You can...well...well.

Oh, that's right. It's Costner. And, it's a movie. The normal person doesn't have gills.

Oh, and there's the food, too. Yeah, we can eat fish, clams, and such things, for a while. But what about the vegans? Are they going to have to subsist simply on seaweed? And don't us normal omnivores need veggies every now and again, too?

"Mariner stands as a testament to the fact that life in other permutations is quite possible". Umm...Costner's character is fictional!!!! You know, made up, not real, likely not even possible. I know, one can find some science fiction that could be considered predictive, but I doubt that Waterworld falls in that category, especially when it comes to Costner's character and his sudden development of gills.

Monday, October 4, 2010

emergents despising Christ's return?

Ever turn on religious television? Most of Christian TV is filled with people excited at the prospect of Jesus' return and the end of the world. How can a religion be so turned around that its adherents would wish, even pray, for the end of the world? And yet this seems to be some religions' focus today--driving the world ever closer to some kind of apocalypse, be it Christian, Muslim, or some other version.
Burke and Tayler, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, p 125

Yeah, you silly Christians, you should be happy with this world only, then with the good things to come. And never mind such passages as "Looking for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ".

In fact, if taken in context, this "blessed hope" has a far different result than the fear-mongering speculations of Burke and Taylor.

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" Titus 2:11-14

So, if waiting and longing for Christ's return is "driving the world ever closer to some kind of apocalypse", it's not because waiting and longing for Christ's return is wrong, but because the world is wrong.

"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." II Timothy 4:6-8

Apparently, Jesus will even reward those who "have longed for his appearing" on that day of judgment. Far cry, indeed, from the this-world-only focus of Burke and Taylor.

So, don't let the emergent's rob you of the legitimate hope we can have of Christ's return. It is perfectly legitimate and reasonable to, along with the Spirit, pray "Come". "The Spirit and the bride say 'Come!' And let him who hears say 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." Revelation 22:17

emergents' selective salvation

Archbishop William's book, Writing in the Dust, closes with a thought about this story and the dust Jesus wrote in: "He does not draw a line, fix an interpretation, tell the woman who she is and what her fate should be. He allows a moment, a longish moment, in which people are given time to see themselves differently precisely because he refuses to make the sense they want. When he lifts his head there is both judgment and release." The judgment is against those who want to make God, first and foremost, a judge and condemner of humanity. The release is for those bruised by life, by their own foolishness, yet who receive mercy and grace from God

This story represents a shift in God's character--or, if it makes you more comfortable, a change in our perception of God's character. Either way, if God or the perception of God had changed, the Jews could not remain unchanged. The problem was that they wanted to remain the same. This was the dilemma Jesus created among them. "We know youare a teacher who has come from God," Nicodemus says in the book of John. But the unspoken issue was that by acknowledging that Jesus came from God, the Jews either had to make him conform to and affirm their ways or had to shift their own thinking to embrace his new theology. They preferred the former, which, of course, didn't work because Jesus didn't come to conform to conventional standards of God's kingdom.
Burke and Taylor, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, pp 161-162

Is any of that true?

For example, was Jesus' condemnation directed at "those who want to make God, first and foremost, a judge and condemer of humanity"? Was his release directed at "those bruised by life, by their own foolishness"?

Since they seem to engage in some speculations, perhaps it gives me a bit of license to do so, too. What if, for example, the husband of the woman was among those in the crowd? Could he not be considered among those "bruised by life and (his) own foolishness", the foolishness of marrying a woman who was not faithful? If mercy was directly only at the woman, what about him?

And who did Jesus condemn in this story? Is there any condemnation at all? Can Jesus' words that the one without sin may cast the first stone be seen as him condemning them? Maybe, but it seems far from plain.

Yet if we want to look at the Gospels as a whole, then the idea of condemnation cannot be escaped. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil." John 3:16-19

This is, I think, a telling passage. God did not send Christ to condemn, but to save, but the further truth is that those who did not believe in Christ were already condemned. The judgment had been rendered--the deeds of the members of mankind, men and women, are evil, so they love the darkness.

Hardly a bright, cheery view of humanity. But there is hope--"Whoever believes in him is not condemned". Those who believe in Christ, believe in the Christ of the Scriptures and not a christ made up by men, are not condemned.

How simple, how so very simple. How very far from the physical-only salvation through works the emergents want us to buy into.

All are condemned, no matter their socio-economic status, the size of their pocket book, or whatever sad-sack story they can tell about their life. But all can believe and be saved, no matter their soci-economic status, the size of their pocket book, or whatever sad-sack story they can tell about their life. God sent Christ to save us, we who are sinners, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us".